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The War Room => Afghanistan / Iraq => Topic started by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 12:52:27 pm

Title: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 12:52:27 pm
Iraq: Continued violence, continued stalemate

The Common Ills

July 24, 2010

In Iraq's third-largest city, buildings are bombed out and scarred by thousands of bullet holes. But unlike in many parts of Iraq that have calmed significantly in recent years, much of the damage is recent.
Mosul and the surrounding province of Nineveh are a microcosm of Iraq's most explosive and unresolved conflicts as the United States prepares to draw down to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1. Kurdish and Sunni Arab leaders battle over disputed lands, provincial and central government officials wrestle for control, and Sunni insurgents continue to slip back and forth across the porous borders with Turkey and Syria.
"We will remain a thorn in the chest of the Americans," reads a graffiti tag on one Mosul building.

The above is from Leila Fadel's "Mosul struggles with ethnic divides, insurgency" (Washington Post). And that as Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead today in Mosul and a Mosul grenade attack which injured 18 people, plus a Basra roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and wounded four people (and may or may not have injured "foreign contractors") and 2 people kidnapped in Daquq -- including the son of the city's mayor. Meanwhile CNN notes that the US military is stating that Iraqi forces have killed "a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq leader".

And the political stalemate continues in Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and seventeen days without any government being established.

Today Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) weighs in:

Instead, Maliki and Allawi are playing factional politics, negotiating with avowedly sectarian or ethnically oriented groups in search of a majority coalition. Maliki has united with the conservative Islamist Shi'ite parties that favor more autonomy for Shi'ite majority southern Iraq, though he still doesn't have enough votes to form a government because radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the largest faction within the Shi'ite coalition, refuses to accept Maliki staying on as prime minister. For his part, Allawi is flirting not only with Sadr (on Monday, the two men met in Damascus and called for Maliki to step aside) but also the Kurds. This is surprising because Allawi and the Kurds were major rivals during the election and remain ideological opposites. (Allawi favors centralization in Baghdad, while the Kurds want more autonomy for Kurdish northern Iraq.)

The stalemate continues and what Time and Butters forget/don't know, is that private concerns over Nouri became public concerns in an open Congressional hearing this week. But, hey, let's all pretend that didn't happen, right? Let's all pretend the Congress isn't concerned that Nouri's attempting to stall the process until US forces are down to 50,000 at which point he announces he's a strong-man.

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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 12:58:25 pm
British deputy prime minister admits Iraq war was illegal

by Julie Hyland


WSWS, July 24, 2010

The statement by British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that the Iraq war was "illegal" leads to only one conclusion—that former Prime Minister Tony Blair and many others must immediately be arraigned on war crimes charges.

Clegg was standing in for Prime Minister David Cameron in parliament on Tuesday when he made his statement—one of the few truthful remarks to have been heard from the government dispatch box.

Responding to questions from Labour’s Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion of Iraq, Clegg said of Straw, "We may have to wait for his memoirs, but perhaps one day he will account for his role in the most disastrous decision of all: the illegal invasion of Iraq."

His charge was immediately attacked by Labour ministers and leading Army chiefs—and for good reason. As Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London, pointed out, such a "public statement by a government minister in parliament as to the legal situation" could be grounds for the prosecution of British officials in an international court.

That was far from Clegg’s intent. Almost immediately he retreated from his remarks, issuing a statement that they had been made in a "personal capacity". A spokesman said, "The coalition government has not expressed a view on the legality or otherwise of the Iraq conflict. But that does not mean that individual members of the government should not express their individual views. These are long-held views of the deputy prime minister.

"The Iraq inquiry is currently examining many issues surrounding the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the legal basis of the war. The government looks forward to receiving the inquiry’s conclusions."

The reference to the Iraq inquiry, currently being conducted by Sir John Chilcot, is a red herring. Its term of reference specifically excludes ruling on the legality of the war. The inquiry issued its own statement repeating, "The inquiry is not a court of law, and no one is on trial."

The Liberal Democrats have long made political capital out of their criticisms of the Iraq invasion. They had initially opposed the US-led war on the grounds of upholding the authority of the United Nations, but swung to supporting "our boys" once the invasion began. They had demanded a full and open inquiry into the war, which Clegg had described as the "biggest foreign policy mistake this country has made… since Suez" (the British-French invasion of Egypt in 1956).

Such public pronouncements were a significant factor in the vote the Liberal Democrats received in the general election earlier this year.

Clegg’s latest actions underscore the fraudulent character of his party’s "anti-war" stance. The deputy prime minister undoubtedly thought he could continue his political posturing against Labour without his statements having any real consequence. But the Liberal Democrats are now in a government that still maintains 400 troops in Iraq and plays a key role in the suppression of Afghanistan. Its coalition partners in the Conservative Party voted in support of the Iraq invasion and have defended it to the hilt.

The Tories backed up Clegg’s claim that his verdict on the Iraq war was solely a matter of personal opinion. Foreign Secretary William Hague, who voted for the war, said, "The deputy prime minister has a different history from mine" on the subject.

More fundamentally, the legality of the Iraq war is not a matter of "personal" opinion or individual historical interpretations. Under the precedent laid down by the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, the leaders of the United States and Britain are guilty under international law of the same criminal charge that was brought against the Nazis: the waging of aggressive war.

As the Nuremberg verdict stated, "War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime, it is the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole."

There is no question that the United States and the UK launched a war of aggression against Iraq so as to advance their own strategic geo-political interests in the Middle East.

It is a matter of record that on January 30, 2003 Britain’s then-Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, informed Prime Minister Tony Blair that the use of military force against Iraq was illegal without sanction by the United Nations Security Council. Despite the continued absence of such a sanction, just two months later, following a visit to Washington, Goldsmith changed his mind and ruled an invasion legal.

Amongst those giving evidence to the Chilcot inquiry in the last week was Carne Ross, former First Secretary for the UK at the UN between 1997-2002 and responsible for liaison with UN weapons inspectors in Iraq. His statement made clear that Iraq did not pose a threat to Washington and London, had no "weapons of mass destruction" and no links with Al Qaeda, and that the "exaggeration" and "misleading statements" made about Iraq’s supposed threat "were, in their totality, lies".

Ross stated, "In just war theory and international law, any country must exhaust all non-violent alternatives before resorting to force. It’s clear in this case that the UK government did not adequately consider let alone pursue non-military alternatives to the 2003 invasion".

The Iraq invasion destroyed an entire country and cost the lives of more than a million people. Through a pre-emptive assault, Washington and London overthrew a regime considered an obstacle to their interests, executed its leader and imprisoned and killed anyone who got in their way. The ongoing occupation continues to devastate lives, as seen in the record levels of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and birth defects that have been recorded in the city of Fallujah.

In addition, the Iraq war was accompanied by an array of measures abrogating democratic rights in the US and the UK under the guise of the "war on terror". Extraordinary rendition, the jailing of "suspected" terrorists without trial, a clampdown on freedom of speech and, in Britain, the cold-blooded murder of Jean Charles de Menezes, are just some of the outcomes.

As Clegg is well aware, Blair and his leading ministers have blood on their hands. They could never have achieved their criminal objective, however, without the active support of the intelligence services, the Conservative opposition, the media and a host of compliant civil servants.

That is why Clegg beat an immediate retreat. As the World Socialist Web Site has insisted, the necessary redressing of the terrible catastrophe visited on the people of Iraq—including the prosecution of the architects of the invasion and the payment of billions in compensation—can only be achieved through the independent mobilisation of the working class against imperialist war and the capitalist profit system that causes it.

Julie Hyland


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 01:08:15 pm
The Donkey Party

by Layla Anwar


July 25, 2010

This is serious stuff...not satire at all.

While some have been converting to Paul the Octopus sect, in the wake of his World cup football predictions, am happy to announce that am converting or more aptly joining the Donkey party of Iraq - called in Arabic Jamiat Al Hameer Al Iraqiya. The Iraqi Donkey's Association also known as the Abu Saber Party.

The headquarters of this party which has been approved by the Kurdish Regional Government - probably the only intelligent thing this latter has done - are in Suleimaniya.

But this is no chauvinistic party and is not limited to "Kurdistan". The founder Omar Glul, secretary general of the Party is nicknamed Abu Saber. Abu Saber is also a name given to Donkeys in Iraq. Saber comes from Sabr and Sabr means Patience...Abu Saber means the Father of Patience and who better represents that than a Donkey ?!

The HQ are located in a 5 stars hotel in Suleimaniya. And this party has found much support and mobilization amongst the Iraqi population, in particular its intellectuals who pride themselves to be "original donkeys". And am happy to be one of them.

The Donkey Party branches are called stables and its manifesto is very simple.

The founder affirms that we should all live like donkeys - zmal in Iraqi, because at least Donkeys don't kill one another for power, money or politics...and Donkeys don't lie.

I've said before on this blog that I have never been a member of any party quoting G. Marx - I will never join any club that will accept me as a member...but I am making an exception, and am hoping that the Iraqi Donkey party will honor me and accept me as a loyal lifelong member...

Abu Saber - the Donkey - is running for office on the next round of elections in "Free and Democratic" Iraq - Please show full solidarity and vote for him.

Long live the Donkey Party of Iraq - Long Live Abu Saber.

P.S : Thank you Firas for guiding me to the Iraqi Donkey party...hope you will join us too.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 01:28:51 pm
The Ultimate Truth about Iraq

by Hussein Anwar


Painting by Kennard Phillip

July 25, 2010

For a long time, I so much avoided writing this post, it was on my mind for a long time but I kept on delaying it and delaying it and delaying it, till I became so depressed, so not in the mood and a lump in my throat and said "**** it...its not going to make any difference if I add more salt to the wound."

The truth is...there is so much destruction in Iraq that it wont be repaired till all the Iraqis' bones have become fossil fuels, and there are things that wont get repaired at all, repairing the people who were beaten, raped, prisoned, tortured, lost a loved one... repairing them Psychologically in Rehab institutes...this is impossible...humans dont forget what bad has been done to them and what injustice has been done to them. Its just the way God created them...they dont have a delete button like a PC...they never forget.

Just like Layla Anwar said...its all in the head.

Iraq needs billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars if not trillions to be repaired, and I am not talking about investment...**** you and your investments. I am talking about repairing the infrastructure, the hospitals, the buildings, the economy, the farms that their palm trees were rooted deliberately.

And as I said there are things that wont be is just impossible to repair them, be my guest and read an article below from The Independent about Fallujah being worse than Hiroshima. Ever body knows that the bastard Americans used depleted uranium, internationally illegal weapons such as napalm and other sick chemical weapons. Iraq's soil and mainly Fallujah is so radioactive because of your sick depleted uranium and these are the results...RIGHT HERE!!!

The Iraq I knew and all the other Iraqis not coming back! that is the fact, this blog will not liberate Iraq, not even a Billion blogs, the main purpose of this blog is to make more people aware of the crimes that have been done to Iraq and the injustice.

Take for example the night life of Baghdad and other provinces. The Elite Society of Baghdad and by Elite I dont mean the rich ones, but I mean the educated ones from all classes, lower, middle and upper, the doctors, the intellectuals, the teachers, the young men and women from well known respected families, the social clubs, the restaurants, the stores...etc ITS NOT THERE ANYMORE!

They all left, the beautiful streets of Baghdad that match the perfect night life of Baghdad are all destroyed, the restaurants, stores and people are no longer there. These streets are being used as stores to store merchandise. The owners of the restaurants, clubs and stores all left and established a new business in other countries...what will bring them back? only an Iraq like before will bring them back...

The doctors are no longer there that this puppet Iraqi government imported Indian the 80s we had Irish, British and American doctors working for us. The doctors that hold a PHD and a Professors degree are no longer there...fresh graduates began teaching at Universities...Fresh graduates with no experience, not even a masters degree. The doctors that hold PHD and Professors and even Masters whether from Iraq or from England they all left...or were assassinated. Here is an incomplete list of the doctors, professors, engineers and intellectuals assassinated by the Iranian Militia in Iraq...HERE!

This list is incomplete, and God knows how many others were assassinated from that day...till today.

So tell can you repair such a country? The first step to repair it...the resistance must triumph...and then for every accident there is a we say in Iraqi.

The music below...every time I listen to it...Iraq comes to my mind...and all the dead with it like a video tape inside my mind.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 01:55:28 pm
Fresh accusations of Iraq war cover-up

by Louise Nousratpour

July 25, 2010

A former diplomat has accused the government of "covering up" key information from the Iraq inquiry to hide mistakes.

Carne Ross, who quit the Foreign Office in 2004 after criticising Britain's involvement in the war, said he had been denied access to key material before his recent appearance.

The former Iraq expert at the United Nations also claimed he had been subjected to "subtle intimidation" from Whitehall to drop references to a classified memo warning of inaccuracies in a paper prepared for Labour MPs.

Giving evidence to Sir John Chilcot's panel earlier this month, Mr Ross complained about a "culture of unaccountability and sometimes dishonesty" in government.

In a hard-hitting article published in a Sunday paper, Mr Ross renewed a call for all but a few of the "most secret" documents related to the 2003 invasion to be made public.

"Though profoundly embarrassing, there is little here that damages national security, except in the hysterical assessment of officials protecting their own reputation," he wrote.

Mr Ross said "most" of the key documents he had requested to see were missing from large files sent to him to look through before his inquiry appearance.

He was told certain records, including those related to a visit to Syria by then prime minister Tony Blair, could not be found - something he said was "simply not plausible."

Mr Ross warned that the inquiry was being given a "very one-sided account" to the panel that military action was "more or less unavoidable" because sanctions and containment were failing.

"The government is covering up its mistakes and denying access to critical documents," the ex-diplomat claimed. The true story is there to be seen in the documents."


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 02:05:41 pm
Iraq war whistleblower was probably assassinated

By Christopher King

Redress , July 26, 2010

Christopher King calls on Britain’s coalition government to release the postmortem report – so far kept secret – on the death of Iraq war whistleblower and UN weapons inspector David Kelly, who allegedly committed suicide but is suspected of having been murdered by US or Israeli agents.

Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve, respectively Britain’s new secretary of state for justice and attorney-general, have had time to settle into their chairs and start looking for things that need repairing after the disastrous Blair-Brown government.

One of the first things to settle is the death of the UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Dr David Kelly, who was hounded by the Blair government for correctly saying that its propaganda in selling the Iraq war was "sexed up". He was then found dead near his home, having allegedly committed suicide. The circumstances are suspicious and his postmortem report is secret.

At the present time I and a lot of other people are disposed to believe that he was assassinated, probably by the Americans or Israelis. If there’s no coverup, why did the Blair-Brown government seal the details of his death for 70 years? I wrote about this two months ago and there have been many calls for openness since Dr Kelly’s death. Suspicion of an assassination coverup is not going away. In January this year, Lord Hutton claimed that the postmortem report on Dr Kelly was available but no independent person has seen it yet. Doctors who have asked for it have been refused.

It’s worth reading the piece in the Independent by Tom Mangold who says that anyone who believes that Dr Kelly was murdered must also believe in the tooth fairy. This gentleman claims some sort of acquaintanceship with Dr Kelly, although not friendship, despite the Independent’s sub-title to this story. Mai Pederson, a lady who was a friend, believes that he was murdered. Until about a year ago I believed the suicide story. That is no longer possible however, either for me or Mr Mangold.
"The facts of Dr Kelly’s death are contained in his postmortem report. I, along with many other people, want to know what is in it."

As Tom Mangold is an investigative journalist he will be familiar with the material about the Kelly affair. It is therefore incomprehensible that he does not give weight to the first of two critical factors that cast doubt on the government’s story and does not mention the second:

* The government’s refusal to make Dr Kelly’s postmortem report public

* A group of seven medical practitioners has publicly stated that it was "highly improbable" that Dr Kelly died from the severed ulnar artery that Lord Hutton gave as the cause of his death.

Mr Mangold tells us what he "believes" about this case. Belief has no objective value. Anthony Blair, for example, believes to this day that he was right in getting rid of Saddam Hussein, although to do so he played a leading role in killing a million Iraqis, created four or five million refugees and devastated the country in the invasion that Dr Kelly opposed. Men have an infinite capacity to deceive themselves in their beliefs – and then attempt to deceive others. We need facts.
"The government constantly reduces our privacy on the basis that if we are innocent of wrong-doing we have nothing to hide. So will our new government continue to hide the facts?"

The facts of Dr Kelly’s death are contained in his post-mortem report. I, along with many other people, want to know what is in it. Nor is Mr Mangold a medical practitioner. If seven medical doctors state that it is extremely unlikely that anyone can die from a severed ulnar artery, it is very close to a fact that Dr Kelly’s death was not from this cause and is good enough to justify their request for release of his postmortem report – which should not be secret in any case. The government constantly reduces our privacy on the basis that if we are innocent of wrong-doing we have nothing to hide. So will our new government continue to hide the facts?

Let us not complicate matters at this point with yet another public inquiry. The situation is very simple. Seven well qualified doctors have formally asked the attorney-general to make the postmortem report available to them. The government should let them see it. No good reason has ever been given for its secrecy and none can be envisaged.

Delay means that conspiracy theories proliferate. There has recently been a report that Dr Kelly’s dental records were stolen and then replaced around the time of his death. Dental records are important in matters of identification. Does this mean that there might be doubt about the identity of the body that is described in the postmortem report under Dr Kelly’s name? Of course, delay assists a coverup by making investigations more difficult.

This matter is a straightforward test of the Cameron-Clegg government’s honesty which needs to be established following the lies and deceit of the Brown-Blair government. On the record of our politicians’ vote for the illegal Iraq war, it is no longer possible to accept any government as honest until proven deceitful.

Having been elected on a platform of support for the Afghanistan-Pakistan war, the successor to the Iraq war and with as little legitimacy, this government’s credentials have been poor from the beginning. Unhappily they are unlikely to improve. Judging by our "unapologetic pro-American" prime minister’s recent acceptance of the UK’s "junior parnership" to the United States, by his statement in the Wall Street Journal, we may expect the Cameron-Clegg government to continue to support US aggressive warfare, kidnapping, torture and assassination world-wide as well as the misuse of the UK’s armed forces in war crimes. To what end? Whatever our politicians’ reasons they have nothing to do with the best interests of the UK and its citizens. Particularly if the assassination of a UK citizen on UK territory might be part of this "special relationship" of fawning subservience.

Its abandonment of international law and unashamed, open practice of assassination is good reason to make the United States the prime suspect in the death of Dr Kelly.

Christopher King is a retired consultant and lecturer in management and marketing. He lives in London, UK.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 02:10:49 pm
Al-Iraqiya List warns of "internationalization" of cabinet file

Baghdad, July 25 (AKnews) - Al-Iraqiya List, led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, has warned today different political blocs of "internationalization of government formation file and make it on the table of talks the UN Security Council meeting early next month to resolve the crisis of forming the new Iraqi government.

" Our list warns of internationalization of the file to form a government, because to allow the UN Security Council and the United Nations to intervene in this case, which is an internal Iraqi affair, thing that would give rise to neighboring countries and the region to intervene in our internal affairs," Kamel Al-Dulaimi told AKnews.

Al-Dulaimi said that "the decision may be taken by the international community about the political crisis in Iraq, so as to transform (outgoing Prime Minister) Nuri Al-Maliki's government to the current caretaker government, and go to the formation of a national salvation government."

"If brought us up to this case, the political process will be blown up to the election results and will not have any regard for anyone, who would find themselves in a political disaster and popular accountability," he added.

This comes against the backdrop of the UN Security Council, which has set the fourth day of August next, as a schedule for a meeting to discuss forming the new government of Iraq, the timing comes just days after U.S. President Barack Obama's call on Iraqi politicians to find a way out of forming a new government.

The Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi on Saturday had called on the United Nations to urge the political field in Iraq to comply with the Constitution in a file cabinet. Hashemi expressed hope that the report submitted by the UN Representative in Iraq Ad Milkert precise descriptions of the political crisis thus contributing to the adoption of Security Council issue a statement confirming the commitment to the Constitution and respect the election results and recognize the right of the cluster as the winner of the Iraqi elections in forming the government.

It should be noted that the U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has visited Baghdad earlier this month and met with leaders of political blocs in a bid to urge them to expedite the formation of the Iraqi government.

The Shiite Cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr and the leader of the Al-Iraqiya List, Iyad Allawi, met on July 19 in Damascus at the invitation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to discuss the crisis of the formation of the Iraqi government and the stalled negotiations between the political blocs, despite the passage of more than four months after parliamentary elections that took place in March last.

The political scene is witnessing a wide range of mobility by the winners of the elections for the purpose of forming a government.

It is hoped that the heads of political blocs in the Iraqi Council of Representatives today would reach an agreement to hold a meeting of the Council of Representatives, on Monday, as the deadline for the previous extension, which was 15 days, approved by the leaders of the blocs on July 12 ultimo, although some said that the extension is a breach of the constitution.

SH (AKnews)


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 26, 2010, 02:16:53 pm
Tony Blair : A Bright Shining Lie. (Part two.)

by Felicity Arbuthnot


July 25, 2010

Part I  Here :

"If justice and truth take place,
If he is rewarded according to his just desert,
His name will stink to all generations."
(William Wesley, 1703-1791.)

It was a good couple of weeks of medal gathering for Charles Anthony Lynton Blair, QC. To add a lucrative and glittering array (1) he has added to the (30th June) announcement of the (US) National Constitution Center's Liberty Medal, the award of a second "Freedom Medal" (first, January 2009, from the US) on 10th July.

The man who scribbled: "I just do not understand this", in the margin of the advice from his top Law Lord, that the the invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a second United Nations Resolution, ignored, or dodged legalities, committing his country to the destruction of a sovereign nation, has been honoured again, this time, some might say, appropriately.

The awarding country is Kosovo, where the rule of law, it seems, has yet to become the rule of thumb.

According the the (US) Overseas Security Advisory Council, "Kosovo 2010 Crime and Safety Report", there is: " ... a high level of crime ... violent crimes can and do occur - even in downtown (capitol) Pristina ... stay alert ...If you normally carry a wallet ... put it in a front pocket and put your hand in your pocket to hold onto it when in a crowd. Better yet, leave your wallet with your driver’s license and U.S. department store credit cards in the hotel safe. When walking with a purse or bag (ensure) it is closed and tuck it under your arm ...

Do not leave your purse or bag over the back of your chair at a restaurant, watch that no one kicks your bag or purse out from under your table at a restaurant, and be particularly vigilant of where you place your belongings when at a sidewalk café. Make a copy of your passport data page and carry the paper copy instead of your actual passport ... it is inadvisable to use (credit cards) for incidental purchases, each use increases the chance of compromise." Using an ATM should be "avoided."

If the visitor decides the rural scenery might be preferable: "Driving is becoming increasingly dangerous (with) a 30% increase in traffic fatalities ... and a 55% increase in hit-and-run incidents. Defensive driving is a must (but) given the sharp increase in injuries and deaths, it may not be enough. Do not drive unless you really have to, and limit your driving to hours of daylight ..."

Avoid public celebrations, a magnet for pickpockets - and people are : "...occasionally, killed by the falling bullets." Still set on the ultimate living-on-the edge adventure holiday? ".... the relative availability of ... weapons has led to ... RPG attacks, grenade attacks, and use of automatic weapons—even in downtown Pristina."

"All international security and intelligence agencies regularly portray a dismaying image of the province, a sort of 'European Medellin or Cali.' " (3)

It also has to be wondered if "I'm a pretty straight forward sort of guy", Blair, has read any of the reports on the level of corruption in this State he supported with characteristic gung-ho righteousness:

"Drug barons in (neighbouring) Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia (with links to the Italian Mafia) had become the new economic elites, often associated with Western business interests. In turn, the financial proceeds of the trade in drugs and arms were recycled towards other illicit activities (and vice versa) including a vast prostitution racket between Albania and Italy." Albanian criminal groups operating in Milan: "have become so powerful running prostitution rackets that they have even taken over the Calabrians in strength and influence."

Further: "The application of "strong economic medicine', under the guidance of the Washington based Bretton Woods institutions, had contributed to wrecking Albania's banking system and precipitating the collapse of the Albanian economy. The resulting chaos enabled American and European transnationals to carefully position themselves. Several Western oil companies including Occidental, Shell and British Petroleum had their eyes riveted on Albania's abundant and unexplored oil-deposits. Western investors were also gawking Albania's extensive reserves of chrome, copper, gold, nickel and platinum.... " (4) In 1999, one mine owner told a journalist that the region including Kosovo, was "the Balkans' Kuwait."

And for the thrill seeker, just getting out of Pristina airport might present the challenge sought. In March 2009, the UN Secretary General's Office devoted a long Report on corruption levels at the airport, after an investigation by the UN's International Task Force. It included:

The Deputy General Manager of Pristina Airport having a criminal conviction for "the trafficking of persons across borders ..."

"Allegations of theft and corruption arising out of the collection of handling and landing fees and de-icing costs for passenger aircraft using Pristina Airport .."

And "The Task Force also received reports that some commercial Airlines had been the subject of extortion in the payment for landing slots ..." Eye watering amounts in fraudulent cargo charges were also also recorded as disappeared, and there was misappropriation of funds from everything from huge sums meant for ventilation, to heating to car park construction.(5)

In May 2009 The American Council for Kosova noted, in "Organised Crime in Kosova":
"As can be seen by the documents, cash and projects that should have helped the people, lined the pockets of crooks, cronies and dodgy officials ... it now appears that this money has disappeared, raising all kinds of questions about the ... unaccountable organisations running countries. (6)

This then, is the country to whom Blair is unreservedly, a hero. Streets are named after him. For his visit, Pristina was plastered with posters of Blair, lauding him as: "A Leader. A Friend. A Hero." Seemingly not one defaced with "Bliar", "Liar", "War Criminal" or "Blair Lied, Thousands Died." He was met by the Prime Minister, and "serenaded by the Kosova Ceremonial Guard."

In the main square (also named after him) it transpired that children too are named after him: "Tonybler" (not satire.) He met nine Tonyblers, all nine years old, honouring him for the 1999 bombardment, of the former Yugoslavia - as Iraq, without a United Nations Resolution, and largely cooked up with his friend Bill Clinton (who is to present him with the Liberty Medal.)

Bill Clinton has an eleven foot bronze statue in Pristina. Hope it is well bolted down, shame if it found its way to a smelt to be flogged off in small lots.

The Toniblers sang: "We are the World", in Blair's honour. "He is a very great man", said one little lad. Some still believed in fairies when they were nine. The gold Freedom Medal was presented to him by President Fatmir Sejdiu. The Tonibler's hero said what he always says of unmitigated atrocities: "I did what was right. I did what was just. I did not regret it then. I do not regret it now."

What was "right" and "just" included 35,000 bombing sorties between 24th., March and 11th., June 1999. As David North wrote ( three days after the bombardment ended: "Nearly all the major highways, railways and bridges have been extensively bombed. The electrical transformers, central power plants and water filtration systems upon which modern urban centers depend are functioning at only a fraction of their pre-bombardment capacity. Several hundred thousand workers have lost their livelihoods because of the destruction of their factories and workplaces. Several major hospitals have suffered extensive bomb-related damages. Schools attended by a total of 100,000 children have been damaged or destroyed." Cluster bombs were dropped on residential areas.

The great Danube river, 2,850 kms long - immortalised by Johann Strauss's haunting "Blue Danube Waltz" - which rises in the Black Forest and falls in to the Black Sea, defeated Charlemagne's tinkering in 793, and flowed through the centuries, but the pollutants unleashed in to it by the bombing, are reminiscent of some of the world's most catastrophic environmental vandalism. Fish and bird life floated, poisoned, on the surface, with eco-systems lost, decimated, beneath.

Further war crimes included the bombing of the building housing Serbia's state television and international networks, a passenger train on a railway bridge (twice) markets, the Chinese Embassy ("wrong map") a prison, killing eighty five prisoners - also bombed previously, killing a guard and three inmates - petro-chemical and car plants, industrial sites, releasing vast amounts of carcinogenic pollutants - and the use of depleted uranium weapons which has left the terrain, as Iraq and Afghanistan, a haunting of cancers and birth defects, to stalk not alone current, but future generations throughout the region. Kosovo may yet rue its gratitude.

There were some small setbacks in Blair-land over the same period though. It has transpired that when Prime Minister, he had over-ruled the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's efforts to provide a British citizen, held in Zambia, to provide Consular support to his return to the UK. He was subsequently "rendered' to Guantanamo. With five hundred thousand additional documents now having been identified as possibly relevant regarding the alleged relationship between the UK and US relating to possible co-operation over transfers to Guantanamo, under Blair's tenure as Prime Minister, a few clouds might yet be forming over "Teflon Tony."

In context, it is perhaps pertinent to record, that in the dying days of her Premiership, Margaret Thatcher, who many would argue, outdid stubborn and right wing: "... came under pressure from British spies to be complicit in the use of torture." She thought and consulted and: " ... in her very last days in power, issued instructions to the intelligence services: that they were not in any circumstances 'to use intelligence that might in any way have come from torture.' We know this from the extraordinary testimony of the former British Diplomat, Craig Murray,* who under questioning by MPs revealed that British policy on torture was explicitly changed under the Blair regime."(7) Trafficking for torture comes to mind.

His publishers, Random House might also be asking questions as to the wisdom of their £4.6 million advance on his memoirs, not officially due out until 1st September. He was reportedly forced to change the name from "The Journey" to "A Journey", the latter sounding "less messianic." Whatever, it can already be bought on Amazon for £12.37 (down from yesterday's £14.99) the official retail price being £25.00. Six new copies are available "from £6.38." Gravitas is further eroded by it being listed next to: "The Bartenders Assistant : A Guide for the Journey" (£4.99.)

Of Blair's book title, a less than generous spirited friend emailed: "To the Hague?" She is undoubtedly not alone.

But if all collapses, there will be a little corner of the world, that will, for the moment, for ever welcome "Tonybler." A place he could feel at home. Perhaps in a governmental advisory position. Honoury President - even advising the Deputy Manager of the Airport.

Pity this potential haven is slightly further tarnished by the arrest of the head of the Central Bank, Hashim Rexhepi, taken away in handcuffs just thirteen days after Blair's tumultuous hero's welcome, for alleged corruption, bribes, tax evasion and money laundering. Forty Special Unit eight armed police, were accompanied by EU Justice officials.

The transport and Telecomununications Minister is also under investigation for alleged embezzlement.

I wonder if he got that gold Freedom Award out, unscathed.

4. (Chossudovsky.)
* Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Biography, "Murder in Samarkand."
7. Peter Oborne, Daily Mail, 17th June 2010.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 27, 2010, 06:00:12 am
Published on Monday, July 26, 2010 by

John McCain on Iraq: 'We Already Won That One'

by Marjorie Cohn

On July 15, I attended a reception in Washington DC to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam. Geoff Millard and I spoke to Sen. John McCain. When Geoff introduced himself as chairman of the board of Iraq Veterans against the War, McCain retorted, “You’re too late. We already won that one.”

McCain is now the second U.S. official to declare “mission accomplished” in a war that continues to ravage the people and land of Iraq. “t would be a huge mistake to see Iraq as either a success story or as stable,” Juan Cole, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan, wrote on Informed Comment. McCain's declaration of victory in Iraq is as specious as the one George W. Bush made after he strutted across the flight deck of the Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003.

Gen. David Petraeus is often credited with reducing the violence in Iraq after the “surge” of 30,000 extra U.S. troops. But the violence continues unabated. Every few days there are reports of suicide bombings, car bombs, roadside bombs, and armed attacks in Iraq. About 300 civilians continue to die each month and more than two million Iraqis continue to live as refugees.

I wonder how McCain defines "victory" in Iraq. The U.S. mission there has never been clear since the invasion in 2003. First the search for weapons of mass destruction proved fruitless. Then it became evident there was no link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. Finally we were told the U.S. invaded Iraq to accomplish regime change and bring democracy to the Iraqi people. But if democracy is the goal, there has been no victory.

Neither Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki nor Ayad Allawi won a mandate in Iraq’s March election, which created a power vacuum. ”The shortages of power, which remain a chronic problem seven years after the American invasion, have combined with a near paralysis of Iraq’s political system and violence to create a volatile mix of challenges before a planned reduction of United States forces this summer,” according to the New York Times. Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, described the “elitist authoritarianism that basically ignores the people.”

Sunni Arab insurgents have taken advantage of the political vacuum to mount “effective bombing campaigns” and target the banks, says Cole. Last month, attackers in military uniforms tried to storm the Central Bank of Iraq in Baghdad, causing explosions and gun battles with soldiers and police. Fifteen people were killed and 50 were wounded.

Most Iraqis have less than six hours of electricity per day. Baghdad’s poorer neighborhoods have as little as one hour per day, leaving them without so much as an electric fan to withstand the blistering heat – 120 degrees in some places. The electricity shortages caused thousands of Iraqis to join street demonstrations in Baghdad last month.

The political situation in Iraq is worse than it was before the U.S. invaded. Although Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, he nevertheless raised the Iraqi standard of living to a respectable level. “Saddam [had] improved the school system in Iraq and literacy for women was phenomenal for that of an Arab country at the time," William Quandt, a professor of Middle East politics at the University of Virginia who has served as an adviser to the American government on Mideast policy, said on the PBS News Hour. "People didn't go hungry in those days in Iraq," Quandt added.

"We knew Saddam was tough,” Mr. Said Aburish, author of a biography of Hussein called ‘Secrets of His Life and Leadership,’ noted on PBS Frontline. “But the balance was completely different then. He was also delivering. The Iraqi people were getting a great deal of things that they needed and wanted and he was popular.”

Al Qaeda did not operate in Iraq before Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Now Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia terrorizes Iraqis in areas like Amil in Mosul. “They say you have to slaughter soldiers and police,” Staff Col. Ismail Khalif Jasim told the New York Times.

There is a campaign of assassinations aimed at government officials across Iraq, the Times reported a few weeks ago: “Some 150 politicians, civil servants, tribal chiefs, police chiefs, Sunni clerks and members of the Awakening Council [former Sunni insurgents now aligned with the Iraqi government and U.S. military] have been assassinated throughout Iraq since the election.” Speculation about those responsible includes Shiite militia allies, Sunni extremist groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, Kurdish political parties, and Iran.

Reconstruction of what we have destroyed in Iraq remains elusive. After six years and $104 million spent on restoring a sewage treatment system in Falluja, U.S. officials are walking away without connecting a single house. American reconstruction officials have also walked away from partially completed police stations, schools and government buildings in the past months. “Even some of the projects that will be completed are being finished with such haste, Iraqi officials say, that engineering standards have deteriorated precipitously, putting workers in danger and leaving some of the work at risk of collapse,” the Times reported earlier this month.

President Obama is scheduled to reduce the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq from 80,000 to 50,000 by the end of August. But that does not mean stability has been attained, nor does it mean the occupation will end. The U.S. is sending civilian "contractors" - perhaps more accurately called mercenaries - to replace them.

The number of State Department security contractors will more than double - from 2,700 to between 6,000 and 7,000 - according to a July 12 report of the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. The State Department has requested 24 Blackhawk helicopters, 50 Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles, and other military equipment from the Pentagon. The gigantic U.S. embassy and five “Enduring Presence Posts” (U.S. bases) will remain in Iraq. The contractors are simply taking over the duties of the departing soldiers.

Transferring military functions to civilians is “one more step in the blurring of the lines between military activities and State Department or diplomatic activities,” said Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security in Washington D.C.

The U.S. government has changed the language describing military activity in Iraq from combat operations to “stability operations,” but U.S. forces will continue to kill Iraqis. “In practical terms, nothing will change,” Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza told the Times. “We are already doing stability operations.”

Bush’s war of choice in Iraq has caused 4,413 American deaths. Iraq Body Count estimates that between 97,110 and 105,956 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Untold numbers have been seriously wounded. By September, we will have spent nearly $750 billion on this war and occupation.

John McCain should examine the actual state of affairs in Iraq. It he does, he might stop declaring victory.

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and past President of the National Lawyers Guild, is the deputy secretary general for external communications of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists..  She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law [1] and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent [2] (with Kathleen Gilberd).  Her anthology, The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration and Abuse, will be published in 2010 by NYU Press. Her articles are archived at




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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 27, 2010, 07:46:36 am
U.S. interest wanes in the mission that remains in Iraq

27/07/2010 06:00:00 AM GMT
Iran views 2010 as a year of opportunity: to make sure a friendly Shia government continues to hold the reins of power in Baghdad, and to progressively shunt aside the U.S.

By Charles W Dunne

( Iran summoned representatives of the prime minister Nouri al Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the pro-Iranian cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s bloc to meet in Tehran to hash out a compromise on Mr al Maliki’s candidacy for a second term

After the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by United States and coalition forces, a short but sharp war, and the declaration of “Mission Accomplished” aboard an American aircraft carrier, Iran felt isolated and encircled on all sides by U.S. might. Not so today.

Tehran has closely observed U.S. travails in Iraq over the years, and watched with satisfaction as the U.S. began withdrawing its forces in anticipation of a full withdrawal by the end of 2011.

Iran views 2010 as a year of opportunity: to make sure a friendly Shiite government continues to hold the reins of power in Baghdad, and to progressively shunt aside the U.S. as the country’s chief power broker. If anyone should feel strategically encircled at this point, it is the U.S. The problem is, Washington doesn’t seem to realise it yet.

America’s predicament was clearly illustrated by Iraq’s government formation politics over the last three weeks. The U.S. vice president Joe Biden, the Obama administration’s point man for Iraq, paid a lightning visit to Baghdad over the July 4 weekend to urge Iraq’s political leaders to form a new government quickly. He reassured Iraqis that the U.S. would continue to maintain a strong, effective, and multifaceted relationship with Iraq even after the troops go home.

The secretary of state Hillary Clinton echoed these views after her July 13 meeting in Washington with Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari. She too underscored the “crucial need” for Iraqis to form a government soon, and affirmed the U.S. commitment to Iraq. “We are committed to this relationship,” she said. “We are working every day to create a very strong foundation for a long-lasting relationship between the United States and Iraq, and the reduction in troops in no way reflects a decrease in American engagement with Iraq or our commitment to the Iraqi people.”

At the time, it seemed that Washingon finally was actively involving itself in the formation of a government, realising the gravity of the consequence should there be a power vacuum in Baghdad when the U.S. draws down to 50,000 troops at the end of August. But the White House made clear that the U.S.still would not take a position on candidates for prime minister or other ministerial slots. As one official travelling with Biden put it: “There was no discussion of individuals, there was no discussion of who gets what job, again there was no discussion of an American plan for Iraq because there isn’t one.”

Iran, by contrast, does have a plan. Tehran and its regional proxies proved quick to step in again as soon as Mr Biden left. Last week, Iran summoned representatives of the prime minister Nouri al Maliki’s State of Law coalition and the pro-Iranian cleric Moqtada al Sadr’s bloc to meet in Tehran to hash out a compromise on Mr al Maliki’s candidacy for a second term, to which the Sadrists insist they are adamantly opposed. State of Law subsequently offered Mr al Sadr a raft of concessions to win his support, including prisoner releases and ministry positions.

Iran’s ally Syria, meanwhile, hosted Mr al Maliki’s chief opponent, Iyad Allawi, for talks in Damascus. Mr al Allawi stayed on to meet with Mr al Sadr in a move undoubtedly co-ordinated between Tehran and Damascus to heat up the bidding war for Mr al Sadr’s affections.

Iran’s aim is simple: to force the main Shiite coalitions into a marriage of convenience in which religious Shiite parties maintain their grip on power, other parties – including Allawi’s coalition, the Kurds, and perhaps some token Sunnis – are nominally represented in the government, and the U.S. is marginalised.

So far it appears to be working.

Many in Iraq wonder what happened to the new American activism after Mr Biden left. They understand the principled position that Washington has taken – to refuse to dictate political outcomes in a nascent democratic society. However, they worry that this is the wrong moment for America to take its hand off the wheel.

As Mr Zebari recently told The Washington Post, the U.S. “role has not been active … They could do more. To say this is a problem for Iraqis, you deal with it, is fine – but after more than four months we are not making progress.”

The U.S. says it wants to maintain a vibrant bilateral relationship after withdrawal, and it has some important regional interests riding on this. Yet, the prospects for such a relationship will undoubtedly dim should Iran’s favoured scenario come to pass.

The U.S. should reassess its hands-off policy now. Mr Obama should become personally engaged. Mr Biden should maintain his active involvement, returning to Iraq to support the efforts of our diplomats as often as needed. The U.S. might also do well to engage its Gulf allies and Turkey to explore a quiet, co-ordinated approach.

By bringing to bear the considerable leverage it still possesses, the U.S. can prevent Tehran and Damascus from dictating the formation of the Iraqi government, and help form one that reflects the will of all Iraq’s people.

-- Charles W Dunne is a scholar with the Middle East Institute in Washington and a former director for Iraq at the US National Security Council.

-- Middle East Online


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 27, 2010, 07:49:09 am
In Iraq, Mullen to Review Plans for US Troop Withdrawal
27/07/2010 12:30:40 PM GMT

The US military's top officer flies to Iraq Tuesday to review plans for a troop drawdown and efforts to form a new governing coalition.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, was due in Baghdad after a two-day visit to Afghanistan, where he checked on progress in the nearly nine-year-old war. His visit to Iraq comes after twin car bombs killed 21 people Monday in the southern Shiite holy city of Karbala, while four people died in a suicide attack on a Saudi-funded television channel in Baghdad.
Mullen's meetings were to include President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the commander of US forces, General Ray Odierno, officials said. There are currently 77,500 US occupation soldiers in Iraq but all combat troops are due out by September 1, leaving a training and advisory force of 50,000 behind which is itself scheduled to withdraw by December 2011.
Source: Al Manar

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 27, 2010, 09:35:55 am,0,3856364.story

Pentagon can't account for $8.7 billion in Iraqi funds

The reconstruction money was from oil revenue it was entrusted with between 2004 and 2007, according to a newly released audit that underscores a pattern of poor record-keeping.

By Liz Sly, Los Angeles Times

9:13 PM PDT, July 26, 2010

Reporting from Baghdad

The Defense Department is unable to properly account for $8.7 billion out of $9.1 billion in Iraqi oil revenue entrusted to it between 2004 and 2007, according to a newly released audit that underscores a pattern of poor record-keeping during the war.

Of that amount, the military failed to provide any records at all for $2.6 billion in purported reconstruction expenditure, says the report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is responsible for monitoring U.S. spending in Iraq. The rest of the money was not properly deposited in special accounts as required under Treasury Department rules, making it difficult to trace how it was spent.

Though there is no apparent evidence of fraud, the improper accounting practices add to the pattern of mismanagement, reckless spending and, in some instances, corruption uncovered by the agency since 2004, when it was created to oversee the total of $53 billion in U.S. taxpayer money appropriated by Congress for the reconstruction effort.

"The breakdown in controls left the funds vulnerable to inappropriate uses and undetected loss," notes the audit report, a copy of which was obtained Monday by the Los Angeles Times.

Special Inspector General Stuart Bowen, who heads the agency, said repeated investigations have shown that "weak oversight is directly correlated to increased numbers of cases of theft and abuse."

In this instance, the audit focused on Iraqi revenue earmarked for reconstruction under a 2004 arrangement granting the Defense Department access to Iraq's oil proceeds at a time when the country did not have a fully functioning government and was unable to undertake urgently needed projects. The revenue was deposited in a special account in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq.

The report comes as Iraqis are increasingly frustrated with their own government's inability to provide basic services, or to explain how tens of billions of dollars' worth of oil revenue has been spent since 2007. The alleged U.S. mismanagement of Iraqi money is certain to revive grievances against the U.S. for failing to make a big dent in the country's reconstruction needs despite massive expenditures.

Iraqis are still angry about the failure to account for a separate $8.8 billion in Iraqi oil revenue spent by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003 and 2004.

If more money is found to be missing, "Iraq will definitely try to get it back," said Ali Musawi, a media advisor to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

Most of the money covered in the latest audit has been spent, but the study found $34.3 million that should legally have been returned to Iraq in 2007, when Iraq's government assumed responsibility for its finances.

The Defense Department has not said what it intends to do with the money, which is "at risk" of being spent, the audit said.

In response to the audit findings, the Defense Department concurred with recommendations that it establish better guidelines for managing such funds. But a letter from U.S. Central Command emphasized that failure to establish deposit accounts for the $8.7 billion does not mean it all cannot be accounted for.

The U.S. reconstruction effort is winding down as the military withdraws, and no more new U.S. funds are expected to be allocated.

Times staff writer Riyadh Mohammed contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 27, 2010, 10:51:00 am
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
17:17 Mecca time, 14:17 GMT
News Europe 
Hans Blix appears at Iraq inquiry 

Hans Blix has accused the US and UK of dramatising intelligence on Iraq's weapons [EPA]
Hans Blix, the former head of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq, has begun giving his testimony to a British public inquiry into the 2003 conflict.

The Swedish diplomat, who previously called the invasion a "tragedy" and "spectacular failure", is expected to speak about his tense relationships with former US and UK leaders in the run up to the war.

Blix revealed earlier this year that he had urged Tony Blair in the month before the invasion, to consider the possibility that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.

He has also accused the UK and US governments of dramatising the limited intelligence on Iraq's weapons, saying: "The allied powers were on thin ice, but they preferred to replace question marks with exclamation marks".

Blix, who conducted inspections in Iraq from November 2002 to March 2003, had warned Saddam of "serious consequences" if he failed to co-operate with his team and comply with UN Security Council resolution 1441.

'Retrospective gloss'

Earlier this year, Blair told the inquiry in London that Blix had been clear in his reports in the run-up to the war that Saddam was not complying with international demands.

"Hans Blix obviously takes a certain view now," he told the hearing.

"I have to say in my conversations with him then it was a little different."

Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, also suggested that Blix may have applied a retrospective "gloss" to his actions at the time.

"There are some of those who were involved who sought to give an account of what they were saying at the time without gloss," he told the inquiry earlier this year.

"There are others who have sought to give an account of what they thought they were saying at the time with gloss, and I think the jury is out on which camp Dr Blix is in."

But critics of the war say that Blix should have been given more time to establish whether or not Saddam was hiding stocks of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Blix is the first foreign witness to give evidence at a public hearing of the inquiry, though others have spoken to the five-member panel, headed by John Chilcot, a former civil servant, in private during visits to the US and France.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 27, 2010, 03:37:02 pm

by Layla Anwar

July 27, 2010

Been following the leaks from Afghanistan...the untold covered up stories, parts of them...people are getting very excited about the whole thing, as if they've just discovered dynamite.

This **** has been going on for 10 years now...suddenly Afghanistan is remembered again...which is good but it's a tad late...thousands of lives have been destroyed in an already poor ravaged country...

The same happened to Iraq - it must take a big story for people to remember...again, meanwhile a whole nation and thousands of lives have been totally destroyed...and the same goes for occupied Palestine, it must take something monumental for the world, the Western world in particular to react...

It's like you need to go and dig for that empathy, through torturous routes, and all that it takes is for some Western run agency or person to divulge parts of the Truth, (because trust me the whole truth is still buried down there), for any of it to become credible...for any of it to be listened be acknowledged...but for years and years...nothing much happened...I suppose people still secretly held on to the idea that the victim must have asked for it...must have deserved it somewhere...yes I know it sounds crude but damn it, it rings so true...and this is another chapter, a thorny chapter reserved for later...

And most likely nothing much will happen again...a big brouhaha that will soon abate until another scoop comes along...

This is truly sickening...truly sickening, because nothing that has been leaked is is not new is the barbarity of the US enterprise and that's not new knowledge...

So one layer of illusions has been torn away on one end and layers of skin have been torn away on the other end...and from the reactions I've been observing the message is clear to me - more layers of skin must be ripped apart before anything is believed ...the message am reading - give us more leaks about death and destruction so we can believe that we're not the people we believe we are...leak some more so we can slowly shed through illusions about our own in 20 **** years, maybe more...

And the other becomes more feed for you...for your self improvement.

This is too much...I will stop here for now.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 27, 2010, 03:41:23 pm
Iraq snapshot - July 26, 2010

The Common Ills

July 26, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed by bombings. London is slammed by the truth as a government official explains how he was censored before the Iraqi Inquiry, Wikileaks refuses to censor reality and does another document release, a peace conference is held over the weekend in the US, WBAI's Taking Aim prepares to devote the hour (tomorrow, 5:00 p.m. EST) to the case of political prisoner Lynne Stewart, and more.

Iraq is slammed by violence today proving that Democratic Governors are Democratic Liars. Splash a wave of Operation Happy Talk and prepare to get punked. So the fools today are Governor Jim Douglas, Governor Deval Patrick (aka Governor Who?), Governor Tim Pawlenty, Governor Jay Nixon and Governor Mike Rounds. Those fools, some of whom are up for re-election, honestly thought Iraq would be stable enough for their photo-ops. CNN reports a suicide car bombing in Baghdad today targeting al-Arabiya TV. Al Jazeera notes, "Initial reports said six people were killed in the attack in Baghdad's western Harithya area, but the channel's report put the death toll at four - three security guards and a cleaning lady. A Bangladeshi office assistant was also missing." If you're wondering about the numbers or the Saudi backed network, AFP covers what the others are missing, "Al-Arabiya closed its Baghdad office in June citing government warnings of a threat of insurgent attack." Aseel Kami, Suadad al-Salhy, Rania El Gamal and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) report that the mini-van exploded "close to the entrance of Arabiya's office" and that ten people were injured.  Make no mistake that the attack on a TV station -- in Baghdad, no less -- is bad enough.  But it didn't end there, does it ever? 

BBC News reports twin car bombings in Karbala have claimed at least 20 lives. Reuters adds that fifty-four were injured. AFP notes 21 dead and sources that to Karbala's health directorate Salim Kadhim who states, "Most of the killed and wounded are policemen and civilians."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 19 days. No government. This is what the 5 governors tried to sell as 'success.' They should be forced to explain the 'success' they saw and list all prescription medicines they are currently taking.  Sunday,
Arwa Damon (CNN) quotes Ayad Allawi calling for Nouri al-Maliki to step down: "I think he should acknowledge also that the transformation, the transfer of power, is very important in this country -- the peaceful transfer of power. It is only fair for our people to stick to the procedures of the elections and the results of the elections."  Allawi's call for Nouri to step down follows Senator John Kerry's publicly expressed concern last week (see the July 21st "Iraq snapshot," ) that Nouri may have no intention of stepping down.  Over the weekend,  Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) weighed in on the statemate:

Instead, Maliki and Allawi are playing factional politics, negotiating with avowedly sectarian or ethnically oriented groups in search of a majority coalition. Maliki has united with the conservative Islamist Shi'ite parties that favor more autonomy for Shi'ite majority southern Iraq, though he still doesn't have enough votes to form a government because radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr, who controls the largest faction within the Shi'ite coalition, refuses to accept Maliki staying on as prime minister. For his part, Allawi is flirting not only with Sadr (on Monday, the two men met in Damascus and called for Maliki to step aside) but also the Kurds. This is surprising because Allawi and the Kurds were major rivals during the election and remain ideological opposites. (Allawi favors centralization in Baghdad, while the Kurds want more autonomy for Kurdish northern Iraq.)

On the most recent Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), Jasim Azawi spoke with Iraqiya's Saleh al-Mutlaz and one-time fly-over jounralist to Iraq Patrick Cockburn of the Independent of London -- professional groupie whose face appears to indicate -- I'm not joking -- he needs to see a doctor for a full check up.  He can do that or not, I don't give a damn, but I did toss it out.  Early on, Jasim noted the targeting of Iraqiya which has led to the deaths of at least 2 Iraqiys members of Parliament and many other candidates and party members. 
Saleh al-Mutlaz: Well to decide who's killing these people because until now the government has not found or given any evidences on who is killing those people so we have to go to the objectives of those people. Who has the objective to create chaos and instability in Iraq and who has the objectives to ban people from going to the election -- either by killing them or by isolating them.  You will find out that the only country who is doing that is Iran.  And if you want an explanation for that,  -- we will -- we will go on and explaining why we think it is Iran.
Jasim Azawi: So you point to the figure of Iran.  Let me see, first of all, if Patrick will accept that explanation or he has a different reasoning for that. Go ahead, Patrick.
Patrick Cockburn: I think it's very doubtful that it's Iran behind it.  One can never be sure in Iraq, obviously.  I think it's much more likely that it's al Qaeda in Iraq.  They opposed the election, they assassinate people, they have a motive here.  I don't see why the Iranians should want to eliminate uh-uh members of Iraqiya. So, you know, you can never be certain in Iraq because such is the level of violence but I think it's much more likely that al Qaeda is behind these killngs.
Jasim Azawi: Before I go back to Dr. Saleh al-Mutlaz, let me ask you then, if it is al Qaeda behind these assassinations and assassination attempts, how come it is somehow limited to the Iraqiya list?  Definitely they cannot reach Kurdistan, there is nothing against the Kurds, but also, for instance, the State of Law or the National Iraqi Alliance have not been assassinated.  Why al-Iraqiya per se?
Patrick Cockburn:  Well, it's easier, I think, in Sunni areas for them to kill them. You know it could be difficult for al Qaeda to go and kill somebody in Nasiriya or in Basra.  That's one of the reasons for thinking it's al Qaeda who's doing it.  Likewise, you know, attacks in Mosul, it's unlikely that the Iranians will be able to do that there or have proxies able to do that for them there.
Jasim Azawi: You pointed the finger at Iran, Saleh al-Mutlaz.  Now it's your chance to explain, perhaps at length, what you mean by that. 
Saleh al-Mutlaz: Well what's happening in Iraq is definitely an external agent. So who has the benefit from that?  Let us name those who have the agenda in Iraq and they are external.  One is the United States. Two is the Arab countries.  Third is Turkey.  Fourth is Israel.  Fifth is Iran.  The United States has no interest now to create chaos and instability in Iraq because they want to leave and they want stable Iraq before they leave. The Arab countries, historically they benefitted a lot from a stable Iraq. Turkey has always benefitted from a strong and stable Iraq and they had huge amount of money delivered to Iran through the good relations between a stable Iraq and Turkey. You go to Israel, Israel has already done -- has already done what they wanted. They removed the regime, they made a weak Iraq which doesn't show any danger to them. So I think they had done in Iraq more than they wanted and they have stated that many times. The only one which is left is Iran. Iran has objectives to destabilize Iraq for many reasons. Historically, they have the revenge on Iraq. If you go to the -- also the benefit from that to the Iranian side, they want a weak Iraq because they are demanding compensations for what happened during the war. And they can only get that through a weak Iraq. When Iraqi is strong, they cannot get what they came for. And if you look also at the targets, the victims, who are they? They are the previous pilots who fought Iran, they are the previous politicians and the previous mililtary.  They are the one who has a national trend and they want to have a country which is led by a non-sectarian government.  Iran's always wanted a sectarian government in Iraq and they want a weak Iraq.  To answer Mr. Patrick, about al Qaeda, I agree with him, it is al Qaeda.  But who is supporting al Qaeda? The support of al Qaeda?  We have evidences that the training is being done in Iran and also if you look at the weapons, the explosives that are being used in Iraq --
And we'll stop there. (Jasim tossed to Cockburn at that point anyway.)  Cockburn's convinced that al Qaeda in Iraq is the solution-answer to everything, isn't he?  But if Sahwa can be targeted throughout the region -- with the press forever blaming al Qaeda in Mesopotamia -- why can Iraqiya?  It makes no sense.  Nor does pretending motive doesn't matter.  It's a good think Cockburn works in the world of fiction because he'd never make it anywhere that didn't require a huge suspension of disbelief.  ("Fiction" is writing that a woman who was stoned to death was, for example, "hanged.") We're repeatedly told -- including by Cockburn before Nouri taught him the meaning of that last name -- that al Qaeda in Mesopotomia is a rag-tag, tiny faction.  And yet it allegedly does all this damage repeatedly.  So which is it?  Or do conflicting storylines not bother Paddy Cockburn who appears to suffer from some mistaken belief that he's writing the show bible for EastEnders?  That's not fair -- EastEnders' plot lines are far more believable than Patrick Cockburn's writings.  Sultan al-Qassemi (Lebanon's Daily Star) writes of his belief that the political stalemate is a dire portent for Arabs: "Maliki has displayed tendencies usually associated with Arab dictators. Even before his refusal to give up power, Maliki is said to have appointed senior military and intelligence officials without going through the parliamentary approval process one normally associates with a democracy. Prior to the Iraqi elections, The Times of London reported that Maliki had taken a series of measures to consolidate even more power in his hands. Maliki's lack of popularity in the Gulf is an open secret. Unlike the popular Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and a host of other Iraqi politicians, he has never been invited to Riyadh. Last November Maliki, confusing person with state, declared on his website that 'all the signals confirm that the Saudi position is negative regarding Iraqi affairs,' before adding, 'we have used up [all] initiatives from our side'."  Meanwhile Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) explores Moqtada al-Sadr's possible role as kingmaker, "The only leader able to tip the balance in favour of either Allawi or Al Maliki is Al Sadr, who controls 40 seats in parliament. If he puts his weight behind Al Maliki's 89 MPs and the 30 MPs of the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), who are already his allies, the incumbent premier would have 159 votes in parliament -- bringing him very close to the majority of 163 required. If Al Sadr threw his weight behind Allawi, the former prime minister would have 131 seats. With Sunni backing in parliament, he too could get closer to the 163-seat majority required."
Iraq's rocked by violence and Iraq waves are felt around the world.  Let's hop over to England where BBC News reports, "The Foreign Office (FO) has declined to comment on claims by a former diplomat that it blocked key parts of his testimony to the Iraq Inquiry.  Carne Ross, the UK's Iraq expert at the uN from 1997-2002, said the FO withheld documents he requested, and warned him not to refer to a key memo." Yesterday, Carne Ross' column ran in the Observer and we'll treat it as public testimony:

After I was invited to testify, I was contacted by the Foreign Office, from which I had resigned after giving testimony to the Butler inquiry in 2004, to offer its support for my appearance. I asked for access to all the documents I had worked on as Britain's Iraq "expert" at the UN Security Council, including intelligence assessments, records of discussions with the US, and the long paper trail on the WMD dossier.                       
Large files were sent to me to peruse at the UK mission to the UN. However, long hours spent reviewing the files revealed that most of the key documents I had asked for were not there.                       
In my testimony I had planned to detail how the UK government failed to consider, let alone implement, available alternatives to military action. To support this I had asked for specific records relating to the UK's failure to deal with the so-called Syrian pipeline, through which Iraq illegally exported oil, thereby sustaining the Saddam regime. I was told that specific documents, such as the records of prime minister Tony Blair's visit to Syria, could not be found. This is simply not plausible.                       
I had also asked for all the Joint Intelligence Committee assessments on Iraq, some of which I helped prepare. Of dozens of these documents, only three were provided to me -- 40 minutes before I was due to appear before the Chilcot panel.
Playing by the rules, I had submitted my written testimony to Chilcot before my appearance. In the hours before my appearance, invited to visit the Foreign Office to see further documents (mostly irrelevant), an official repeatedly sought to persuade me to delete references to certain documents in my testimony.
He told me that the Cabinet Office wanted the removal of a critical reference in my evidence to a memo from a senior Foreign Office official to the foreign secretary's special adviser, in which the official pointed out, with mandarin understatement, that the paper sent that week to the Parliamentary Labour Party dramatically -- and inaccurately -- altered the UK's assessment of Iraq's nuclear threat.                                   
In a clear example of the exaggeration of Iraq's military capabilities, that paper claimed that if Iraq's programmes remained unchecked, it could develop a nuclear device within five years.               

Carne Ross testified to the Iraq Inquiry Monday, July 12th. Of the latest developments, Jamie Doward (Guardian) explains, "Ross claims he was told his evidence must not refer to a memo from a senior Foreign Office official. The memo, to the special adviser to the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, expressed concern that a briefing paper for the parliamentary Labour party had 'dramatically' altered the assessment of Iraq's nuclear threat. Ross says the 'paper claimed that if Iraq's programmes remained unchecked, it could develop a workable nuclear device within five years. The official's memo pointed out that this was not in fact the UK assessment, which was more or less the opposite: that the UK believed that Iraq's nuclear programme had been effectively checked by sanctions'." Ross writes Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) that the official response to his column misses two key points: "- that I requested particular documents (including those I wrote myself) and these were not provided me; - and that officials (from the FCO but, they said, acting on behalf of the Cabinet Office) attempted to stop me mentioning certain other documents, including the most damaging;". Henry Porter (Guardian) notes the need for New Labour to purge itself of its Iraq War crimes:
They believe they can finesse the record, yet some things are so serious they cannot be forgotten or ignored – Iraq, for example. Who doubts the truth of what Nick Clegg said when he classed the Iraq invasion as illegal, while being needled by Jack Straw as he stood in for David Cameron at prime minister's questions? Straw was at the heart of the decision to go to war and it seems mildly surprising that he showed his unembarrassed features in the Commons to confront Clegg just a day after the former head of MI5, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, gave her damning evidence to the Chilcot inquiry.                   

For an administration that made so much of its intelligence about Saddam's threat to Britain, it is astonishing how Blair's people ignored, or simply did not ask for, the advice of the head of MI5, who stated that there was a very limited and containable threat from Iraq and that there was "no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks". Lady Manningham-Buller's evidence was certainly useful but Carne Ross, the UK's expert on Iraq at the UN, claims in his article today that documents are being held back from Chilcot by the civil service and that the panel is in any case inept at cross-examination. This is deeply troubling and seems to suggest that New Labour's corruption entered, and apparently still remains, in Whitehall.

Forget slippery Jack. He is irredeemable. But on Iraq the four younger men aiming for the leadership surely could do more than shuffle their feet, mimic Blair's evasions and say they weren't sitting members, or in the cabinet at the time. One or more needs to come out with it and say what went wrong and why New Labour practised the great deceit on the British public, causing untold damage in Iraq and, as Lady Manningham-Buller suggested, to our relations with Islam. Was it merely contempt for the public? Or was it something buried deeper in the psyche of the Blair generation, an exaltation in power – their own and that of others – which allowed a few ministers to be impressed by America's might rather than by what was right and reasonable? Again, I exclude Diane Abbott, a constant critic of the war.                   

UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is scheduled to testify to the Inquiry tomorrow. Do you know what would be really embarrassing about the above news if you were a writer in the US?  Insisting that Iraq was no longer an issue in England.  Ah, poor stupid Amitabh Pal, always the loser, always the fool.  In the US, the big news is the latest release of documents from a whistle blowing organization?  Which one?  The only game in town.  Backstory,  Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Last week, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported earlier this month that he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted enough and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements.  Over the weekend at the National Peace Conference, a measure of support for WikiLeaks and for Bradley -- if he is the whistleblower (and the statement notes that he may or may not be) was passed. and signed by Veterans for Peace's Mike Ferner, War Is A Crime's David Swanson and World Can't Wait's Elaine Brower and Debra Sweet -- click here to read the measure at World Can't Wait.  Space permitting we'll come back to the Conference later in the e-mail but we also need to cover Lynne Stewart and a few other topics.  Sunday, WikiLeaks released more documents, this time on Afghanistan.  Newsweek explains:
Two sources familiar with material currently in the hands of Wikileaks, who asked for anonymity when discussing sensitive information, said on Monday that the next subject to be featured in media revelations based on documents leaked to Wikileaks was likely to be U.S. conduct of the Iraq War. The sources indicated the type of material likely to be the basis of anticipated forthcoming exposes would be similar to the military reports -- many of them from U.S. military units operating in the field -- which began to surface on Monday in reports published by The New York Times, The Guardian newspaper of London and the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel regarding U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and related dealings with authorities in Pakistan.   
Due to the sensitivity of the material, the sources declined to discuss any of the still-to-be-revealed documents about Iraq in detail. However, one of the sources characterised the material as describing the involvement of U.S. forces in a "bloodbath."

This isn't the "Afghanistan snapshot" and we're limited on space in this snapshot.  For details of what's in the leaked documents, use the links above.  Today Julian Assange held a press conference in London and you can stream that via CSpan. 
The White House went into damage control yesterday and the whole thing seemed like a throwback to the days of Tricky Dick. In fact, the only thing missing might have been G. Gordon Liddy.  Today, he emerges.  George Stephanopoulos (ABC News -- link has text and video) interviews him today and he condemns the leak.  Of course, these days, his name is Adrian Lamo but a convicted felon who tries to restyle as an uber-patriot will always be a G. Gordon Liddy and can ABC News please explain since when a convicted felon -- with no national security experience, please note, has any standing on this topic?  (That's right, he doesn't.)  Wait!  Convicted felon?  Oh, I can't leave it at that. Convicted felon and pervert.  If Adrian's going to continue whisper campaign -- and he did it again today to two reporters -- about Bradley Manning (floating various supposed sexual revelations but doing so 'off the record' as Lamo continues his efforts to poison the press against Bradley), then let's be very clear that you don't get much more perverted than Adrian Lamo and, in fact, ABC News should issue a warning to get children out of the room before they ever show Lamo on the TV screens.  To 'cover' the WikiLeaks story, little Ezra Klein (Washington Post) links to his ****-knocking buddy Spency Ackerman.  If you gave as much verbal head to get ahead as Ezra did, you'd think you'd have gotten further, don't you?  Like a male actor sleeping with Joel Schumacher who then pulls strings to get the actor on the cover of Vanity Fair and leaves the world pondering over a decade later how ___ became a so-called 'star,' Ezra's 'fame' (low-watt as it is) is all about the circle-jerk and he was damn lucky that the Columbia School of Journalism has no ethics or morals and refused to police their own.  So Ezra hopped in a hot tub with ___ and Ezra became a CJR star, rewarded with lavish public praise and with multiple links. (We're not implying sex, Ezra's too frightening to trade on sex.) That's how a **** becomes a name -- even when it's just such a tiny name.  And that whoring is what Ezra does today at the Washington Post whose reputation he trashes in order to do a reach-around on his boy pal Spency.  Remember that -- at the Washington Post now, it's not about reporting.  It's about lying to readers so that you can link to your friends who will then link back to you and Ezra just knows no one will ever be the wiser.  Considering that Ezra's Journolist was used to map out strategies and narratives, the Washington Post should not be allowing him to link to his circle jerk buds.  But Spency has to pay the bills!  And he's new to Wired!  And despite public statements, Wired management is now nervous about Spencer due to the Journolist. See, whether or not the strategy was implemented (it appears to have been implemented), Spencer's suggesting that the way to shut down coverage of a story was to scream "RACIST!" at people doesn't play well.  And Ezra decision to link-f**k Spency? Even if doing so risks the repuation of the Washington Post which, for the record, is not in the business of stifling debate by screaming "RACIST!" at those it disagrees with. [Late to the party on Journolist?  See Hillary Is 44's  "Hillary Was Smeared First - DailyCaller, Race-baiting JournoList, And DailyKos DailyKooks - The Big Media/Big Blog Cartel," "'Call Them Racists' - The New Racism And The Political Importance of JournoList JournoGate; JournoLister Ben Smith's Delusions; And Scooter Libby" and "The Barack Obama Campaign Started "Call Them Racist" - JournoList Followed - And A Shocking 'Hooray For Tucker Carlson'!") and this week's edition of Third.
Off topic but needed, congratulations to Mauro Paim.  The Brazilian blogger just celebreated his first anniversary of blogging. He blogs at Reality Observer and addresses LGBT issues worldwide.  If more people took those issues as seriously as Mauro does, homophobia would vanish in the blink of an eye.  Congratulations to him on his anniversary and on all the strong work he does. Back to Iraq, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan also needs congratulations, she has a new grandson, Cohen Andrew Sheehan who was born Saturday (Jade and Andrew Sheehan are the parents).  Back to the peace conference.  David Swanson writes about it at his site -- this is noted after checking with Rebecca, Cedric and Ann (for any community members wondering):
While Marcy [Winograd] provided the progressive candidate's view of the media, Wendell Potter gave that of a former corporate hack and a current whistleblower, Cohen that of a former television talking head and current media critic and university professor, and the always brilliant John Nichols laid out in concise detail the documented dying of the old media and the lack of any birth, as of yet, of a new media that can replace it.  Here's Cohen:

Also on Saturday, we shared notes in regional groupings, and I took part in the Southern one, where energy was high and planning eager.  Southern progressives are on the move and planning a regional conference, possibly in Atlanta.

Sunday morning, we split up along other lines, joining one or more of PDA's six Issue Organizing Teams:
• End War and Occupation IOT: Norman Solomon and Steve Carlson, table leaders
• Healthcare for All/Single-payer IOT: Donna Smith and Chuck Pennacchio, table leaders
• Stop Global Warming/Environmental IOT: Laura Bonham, table leader
• Accountability and Justice IOT: Susan Harman and David Swanson, table leaders
• Amend to Suspend Action Group (opposing corporate personhood): Dave Keeler, table leader
• Immigration Reform Action Group: Dan O'Neal, table leader

PDA is a major participant in immigrant rights struggles in Arizona and wants everyone to watch for big actions there on Thursday, July 29th.  Through the combination of two groups into a single meeting, and by running down the hall, I was able to take part in three of the meetings.  Each group laid plans for the coming months, assigned roles, and jumped to work, including taking on this week's expected House vote on war escalation funding.  At the same time, some of PDA's key anti-war leaders were attending and playing a leading role in a huge and hugely successful national peace conference in Albany, NY.  The peace movement is joining forces with the labor and civil rights movements this fall, and PDA is in the thick of that.  George Korn from Rainbow PUSH was at the PDA Conference planning a campaign for Jobs, Justice, and Peace with the United Auto Workers and others.

If those links don't work, go to his site.  In the e-mail they were sent in, they're open (not closed) tags and I've had to log on to edit them myself as we try to slim down the snapshot which is way too long.  But we're including Lynne.  David has a note in his piece about PDA and I'm not trying to spit on him by noting that I don't believe the answer comes from new members of Congress.  They've tried that strategy over and over.  After giving his word Dennis Kucinich -- the PDA poster boy -- still caved and stuck America with that horrid ObamaCare -- which is not universal, single-payer and doesn't have the weak-ass public option that little Harry Reid wanted to tell Nutroots Nation this weekend they might get if they worked really hard.  Golly, Harry weren't you the one elected, aren't you the member of the Senate, aren't you the Majority Leader, shouldn't your candy ass be working instead of tossing your responsibilites onto the voters?  Nutroots got covered, Swanson's gathering didn't.  For that reason, we're including and if we had more space, we'd include more of it.  But as repeatedly noted, I do not think that we do the same thing over and over.  (And if Marcy Winograd ever actually wants to win a seat in Congress, someone might try walking her through that.  She could have won this year but she and her campaign did everything wrong.  To defeat Jane Harman, Marcy needs to grasp, would mean losing a lot of pork Jane can provide via her seniority.  Marcy needs to make clear to the voters how Marcy in Congress means money for the district.  That was among the campaign's biggest mistakes. If she runs in 2012, she and her campaign need to rectify that.) 
Now for Lynne. Michael Steven Smith writes "The Sentencing of Lynne Stewart" at the Center for Constitutional Rights:

Lynne Stewart is a friend. She used to practice law in New York City. I still do. I was in the courtroom with my wife Debby the afternoon of July 19th for her re-sentencing. Judge John Koeltl buried her alive.             

We should have seen it coming when he told her to take all the time she needed at the start when she spoke before the sentence was read. It didn't matter what she said. He had already written his decision, which he read out loud to a courtroom packed with supporters. It was well crafted. Bulletproof on appeal. He is smart and cautious.               

After about an hour into his pronouncement, he came to the buried alive part. He prefaced it by citing the unprecedented 400 letters of support people had sent him, all of which he said he read. He noted Lynne's three decades of service to the poor and the outcast. He stressed that she is a seventy-year-old breast cancer survivor with high blood pressure and other serious health problems. And then he laid it on her: 120 months.                     

Everyone in the courthouse divided 120 by 12. He had given her a death sentence, we all thought. She'll never get out. He almost quadrupled the 28 month sentence he had originally pronounced. She had told him that 28 months was a horizon, that she had hope. But no more.           

Lynne's granddaughter gasped. Then started sobbing. She kept crying even as Judge John Koeltl kept reading. And reading. And reading. It was awful. The sentence was pitiless and cruel. How to understand it?               

Lynne's lawyer Jill Shellow Levine rose after the judge finished. She asked him why. He was candid. He was told to do it by his supervisors, the judges on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. This court is an institution of the elite. It is considered the second highest court in America next to the Supreme Court because it presides over the financial center of the empire, not its capital, that is in D.C., but its real capital. This court makes policy and Lynne Stewart was to be made an example of in "the war against terrorism" just as a half a century before, in the same court, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were condemned to death in the war against communism, told that they had caused the deaths of 50,000 U.S. soldiers in the Korean War, and found guilty of the ridiculous charge of "stealing the secret" of the atomic bomb, when there was no secret, it was only a matter of technology. The sentencing Judge Kaufman knew they would leave behind two orphan children, Robert and Michael, ages six and three.       

There's more, use the link. Michael Smith is a co-host -- with Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian -- of Law & Disorder (airs on WBAI Mondays and elsewhere around the country throughout the week) which this week speaks with Vinie Burrows about the Lynne Stewart case. Ralph Poynter is Lynne's husband. He made the following statement last week.

Ralph Poynter: Just a brief statement on Lynne Stewart's sentencing. It's perjury, thy name is the United States government. The president-elect begins lying when announcing candidacy only to reneg on every promise. War, health care, Social Security, economy, etc. To excuse the president, it is quoted, he must perjure him or herself to become president. It is an understood and unstated American way, accepted perjury. When taking the oath of office, the president swears to uphold the Constitution and then proceeds to support the dismantling of the Constitution: The Patriot Act, hypocritical perjury. In office, the president employs signing -- that is, after signing a bill, signing a statement saying he will not abide by the bill. Pre-meditated perjury. There's more perjury gone on in this administration in these few years than all of the Bush administration. When Lynne Stewart was attacked by the government for making a press release on the Sheik's behalf it was revealed that other attorneys had made press releases as she did. The New York federal prosecutor said they didn't know about them. The national federal prosecutor said other lawyers should be charged and arrested. The Second Circuit of Appeals said it was selective prosecution but they would not deal with it and that Lynne Stewart should be further prosecuted and given a harsher sentence. Prosecutorial perjury. Is there anyone on the planet who does not know that the landmark [stage?] was hatched and planned for by the U.S. government with an Egyptian operative named Emad Salem? Is there anyone on this planet who does not know that the F.B.I. directed every step of the plot while promising unemployed, hapless hangers on money to be involved this so-called plot? It was staged, financed and filmed by the covert operative Emad Salem with constant oversight by the F.B.I. They desired to credit the blind Sheik. The F.B.I. charged the Sheik for not reporting the F.B.I. operative to the F.B.I. The blind Sheik merely said, "I don't think this would be good for Islam and go pick another target" -- never acquiesing to a plan of Emad Salem's. National security perjury. The judge first rejected this case against Lynne Stewart as being vague. The judge reversed himself and allowed the case to proceed. The judge allowed Osama bin Laden in the case while saying it had only to do with the state of mind of a third defendant. He allowed the massacre of Luxor in the case -- I guess for dramatic effect -- although having nothing to do with the case. Finally, I want to talk about the perjury on the part of the part of the so-called progressive people who leap to embrace any and every petty accusation made about Lynne Stewart. She is arrogant. She would like to think she would support and defend the First Amendment, speech. She would like to think she would defend the right for people to have an attorney. She is not remorseful. And have people forgotten, have we forgotten bravery, courage, Patrick Henry, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer? Have we forgotten the principles of Lynne Stewart -- the principles that she stood by for 50 years? Have we forgotten who we claim to be? Progressive people, whose side are we on, brothers and sisters? Let us remember John Paul Jones: We have not yet begun to fight. Join us. Join Lynne. Join the struggle, the view of America that is inclusive and the view that we think America should have and should become.

Ruth transcribed that. And, as she noted, WBAI's Taking Aim this Tuesday (5:00 p.m. EST) is planning on using the full hour to discuss the case of Lynne Stewart (and Ralph's comment can be heard on last week's Taking Aim, already archived).


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 28, 2010, 06:23:43 am
Five killed in Iraq helicopter crash

Wed, 28 Jul 2010 08:43:23 GMT   

A Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter, similar to the one in the photo, crashed southwest of Baghdad, July 28, 2010.

An Iraqi military helicopter has crashed in a sandstorm southwest of Baghdad, leaving all five of its crew dead, the commander of the country's air force says.

The five-man crew of the helicopter was killed when it crashed as a result of a sandstorm in Ibrahimiyah on Wednesday, AFP quoted Gen. Anwar Hanna Amin as saying.

Defence ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari confirmed the crash, saying the helicopter was a Russian-designed Mi-17.

The Iraqi spokesperson further added that the accident was being investigated.

The incident occurred east of the holy city of Karbala, where rocket attacks launched by militants killed at least seven people on Wednesday and wounded several others.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 28, 2010, 06:26:15 am
12 killed in Karbala, Baghdad attacks

Wed, 28 Jul 2010 07:27:20 GMT

A rocket attack has claimed several lives in the Iraqi shrine city of Karbala as the capital Baghdad witnessed more deadly bombings.

"Several mortars landed at 11:00 p.m. (0800 GMT ) on Tuesday, killing seven pilgrims and injuring 46, in a neighborhood a few kilometers northwest of the center of the city," AFP quoted a Karbala police officer as saying on Wednesday.

The shells targeted Shia pilgrims who were coming from around the city to participate in the ceremony marking the birthday of Imam Mahdi -- the 12th Shia imam.

The mortar explosions also ripped through a number of nearby houses in the northwest of Karbala, which hosts the holy shrine of Imam Hossein -- the third Shia imam.

Meanwhile, a bomb detonated inside a restaurant at around 9:30 a.m. (0630 GMT) on Wednesday in Baghdad's northern neighborhood of Sadr City, killing five people.

A woman was among the victims of the blast which injured 13 more people, said officials from the defense and interior ministries who were speaking on condition of anonymity.

US and Iraqi officials have warned of a surge in violence as protracted negotiations on forming a new ruling coalition have failed to produce any results, more than four months after the March 7 parliamentary elections.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 29, 2010, 06:51:12 am
Four soldiers killed in Iraq attacks

Thu, 29 Jul 2010 09:30:03 GMT

Iraqi army soldiers stand near a massive crater outside the office of al-Arabiya television station after a suicide bomber driving a minibus struck in Baghdad on July 26. (file photo)

Four Iraqi soldiers have been killed and 22 people wounded in a series of bomb attacks in northern and central Iraq, security officials say.

In the first and deadliest attack on Thursday, three soldiers were killed and 12 others wounded when militants detonated an explosive-rigged car near an army base in al-Sharqat, 300 kilometers (190 miles) north of Baghdad in Salahuddin province, AFP quoted a police officer as saying on condition of anonymity.

In Fallujah, just west of the capital, one soldier was killed and five others, including two civilians, were wounded when a bomb on a parked motorcycle detonated near an army checkpoint north of the city.

In a separate attack in eastern Fallujah, five people, including three policemen, were wounded by a roadside bomb which targeted another checkpoint.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq claimed responsibility for this week's deadly car bomb attack on the offices of Saudi-funded al-Arabiya TV channel in Baghdad that killed four people.

"The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), the al-Qaeda-front in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the July 26th suicide bombing that struck the offices of al-Arabiya Television in Baghdad,” the SITE monitoring group said, citing an online statement by the militants.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 29, 2010, 08:14:28 am
18 Killed, 21 Wounded in Iraq's Car Bomb
29/07/2010 10:29:29 AM GMT

A car bomb near a mosque in the central Iraqi city of Baquba killed at least 18 people and wounded 21 others on Wednesday, security officials said.
The explosion near the Husseiniyah mosque in the district of Abu Sayeeda in east Baquba, north of Baghdad, occurred at around 6:00 pm (1500 GMT), an official from Baquba Operations Command said.
Iraqi officials have warned of the dangers of an upsurge in violence if negotiations on forming a new governing coalition continue to drag on, giving insurgent groups an opportunity to further destabilize the country.
More than four months after a March 7 general election, which gave no single bloc an overall parliamentary majority, the two lists which won most seats are still bickering over who should be the next prime minister.
Source: Al Manar

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 29, 2010, 08:28:10 am
'Brit army unwilling to join Iraq war'
29/07/2010 08:19:43 AM GMT

Former head of the British Army says the country's military had "no desire" to enter the Iraq war in 2003 as its war machine ground to a halt over different engagements.

In his testimony to the Iraq war inquiry on Wednesday, former British army chief General Francis Richard Dannatt said that the British army nearly seized up since it was conducting simultaneous operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the UK media outlet reported.

"There may have been a little bit of professional feeling that we should be doing this. But there was no desire to do it, there was no 'we would be happy to do it', and there was certainly a large element of 'we are very busy anyway so this will be difficult if we have to do it,'" said the former top commander.

"You can run hot when you are in balance and there is enough oil sloshing around the engine to keep it going. When the oil is thin, or not in sufficient quantity, the engine runs the risk of seizing up. I think we were getting quite close to a seizing-up moment in 2006," he added.

Dannatt also criticized the former Labor government for failing to provide more funding for helicopters and said, "It has been a definitive negative and we are paying to some extent the price for that in Afghanistan. You can't catch up just like that."

According to the top commander, the army was suffering from a fragile morale as the war dragged.

"My biggest concern was that that fragility could be turned into a sharp rise in exits from our trained manpower akin to going over a cliff edge. Once your manning has begun to plummet we would have been in all kinds of trouble trying to man two operations with units that were not fully manned. That would have spiraled into something of a nightmare," he further explained.

Following Washington's invasion of Iraq in 2003, the British-led coalition took control of Basra -- Iraq's third-largest city and a strategic oil hub.

Involvement in the US-led military campaign in Iraq came at a price for Britain.

Britain's military pullout from the war-weary Iraq took place in 2009 after more than 180 British troops lost their lives.

Source: Press TV

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 29, 2010, 11:05:16 am
Iraq snapshot - July 27, 2010

The Common Ills

Tuesday, July 27, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry hears from UN weapons inspector Hans Blix, the US House buys the wars again, an archbishop dies in Iraq, and more.
Today in London, the Iraq Inquiry continued hearing testimony. This morning they heard from Lt Gen Andrew Figgures and Gen Robert Fulton.  The issue of helicopters was explored -- much to the distress of Gen Fulton who came off agitated and anxious ("Yes! Yes! Yes!" at one point) as well as defensive (claiming that more helicopters provided would have just meant more requests for them). It was a comical exchange as he attempted to repeatedly maintain that all that was needed was provided to British forces while his speech, his demeanor, everything indicated otherwise. When  stalling, he liked to rock his entire body back and forth in his chair. When especially defensive, he liked to hug himself and rock (such as with "Should they have?" being asked by Fulton to stall). He's fortunate that a lot of the press skipped his testimony in anticipation of the day's big witness: Hans Blix. The former UN weapons inspector was the focus of attention. [For video and transcript options of today's witnesses, click here.]
Well, from the Cold War, of course, the Security Council was paralysed. The security system of the UN did not work during the Cold War, but I think it changed completely with the end of the Cold War. In 1991, 1990 the Russians and the others went along with the action against Iraq, and Bush the elder, the President, said that this was a new international order. Well, that collapsed with his son and I think that the world has changed dramatically with the end of the Cold War. It is only recently in the last few years some American statement with Samman and others have said, well, we ought to re-discover, the Cold War is over. So the Security Council in my view was not paralysed in the 1990s. They are still not paralysed. That's why it is reasonable to look to it and to have respect for its decisions.
That was Hans Blix refuting the concern/fear that the United Nations Security Council was powerless.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, a shadow has been thrown across the Iraq Inquiry.  That shadow falls on John Chilcot who is the Chair.  If, as Carne Ross maintains, he was prevented from referencing a document or providing full testimony, that issue falls on Chilcot because he is the Chair.  In what may have been a mistaken attempt at 'getting tough,' he felt the need to instruct Hans Blix as to what Blix's job was in his mind.
Chair John Chilcot: Your job was to say, "This is the evidence of the extent to which there is a breach of UN resolutions", based on the evidence you had. It was not to go further than that.
Dr. Blix: Well, I think you would have to distinguish between different types of revelations or evidence that you find. You know we were given sites to inspect by the UK and the US and we wanted these sites and felt, "These people are 100 per cent convinced that there are weapons of mass destruction, but they also then should know something about where they are".  We went to these sites and in no case did we find a weapon of mass destruction.  We did find engines that had been illegally imported, we found a stash of documents that should have been declared.  They did not reveal anything new.  So there is evidence of more or less grey things. Even the missiles I think falls into that category.  They certainly violated their obligations on the missiles, but we concluded that the Al-Samoud 2 type missile was prohibited, because it had a longer range than 150 kilometres and they had performed a test flight I think with 180 or 183 kilometres. So our international experts that we consulted concluded they were banned, but still it was on the margin.
[. . .]
Chair John Chilcot: Dr Blix, I have really a single question, which is about the burden of proof and where it lay. I know from your book you have formed a view about it. So here we are. We have resolution 1284. We have resolution 1441. Now we are at the end of 2002. There is much international concern about Iraq's failure to comply with the will of the international communiy and some nations more troubled than that about possible holdings of weapons. So it was up to Iraq to prove through your inspection regime that it, Saddam's regime, was innocent, or was it up to the international community through yourself to prove that Iraq was guilty? Which way did that go, because it was both a political question, I take it, and a legal question?
Dr Blix: I think the Iraqis tried to say that the general legal rule is unless you are proved guilty, you must be presumed innocent, and I tried to explain to them that this was not a parallel when it comes to a state, that a guy may be accused of having a weapon illegally and if he is not proved guilty, then he will be innocent. However, I said with regard to Iraq, you had these weapons, and people would laugh at me if I said I should presume you were innocent. We make no assumption at all. We do not assume you have weapons and we do not assume you don't have weapons. We will simply look for evidence. Of course, it was difficult for them. It is difficult for anyone to prove the negative, to prove they didn't have it. They said so, "How can we prove this?" I admitted in public, "Yes, it is difficult for you to do so but it is even more difficult for us. You after all have the archives and people, etc. You must make best use of this''.
Blix himself raised the criticism he received that his reports became more positive on Iraqi cooperation and how he responded, "Look here, if I am there to observe and the circumstances change I damn well ought to also change my reports" because "That is what happened, the Iraqis became more cooperative."  And to Committee Member Usha Prashar, Blix stated, "I think what was really important about this business of sites given was that when we reported that, no, we did not find any weapons of mass destruction, they should have realised I think, both in London and in Washington, that their sources were poor."  He noted he would have liked to have continued inspections through April but that Colin Powell (then-US Secretary of State) told him "that's too late" while Condi Rice (then-National Security Adviser), he suspected,  was eager to get the war started in March due to the fact that temperatures would continue rising and the date couldn't be pushed back any further.
A key moment in the hearing was this.
Dr Blix: The first reflection that occurs to me is that if the British Prime Minister or Bush had come to their parliaments and said, "Well, we are not sure that there are weapons of mass destruction but we fear they could reconstitute," I can't imagine they would have got an authorisation to go to war for that purpose.
Near the end of the testimony, Blix was asked by Chilcot for reflections and he noted he had already shared one.
Dr Blix: The other reflection I have is a broader one about the going to war. I am delighted that I think your intention is to draw lessons from the Iraq war rather than anything else, and I think that when states can go to war still remains a vitally importnat issue, and the UN Charter in 1945 took a giant leap forward in this and said, "No, it is prohibited to do except in the case of self defence and armed attack or authorisation by the Security Council". Well, here in the case of Iraq you can see how the UK in the summer 2002 or the spring 2002 said, "Yes, we might, but it has to be through the UN power". Self-defence against an armed attack was out. Regime change was out. Straw was adamantly opposed to a regime change. Authorisation by the UN, yes, that's the path. So they insist upon [UN resolution] 1441 and they get it, but it is a ****. 1441 is if they had shown or if the Iraqis had continued to obstruct, as it was expected, then they could have asked the Security Council for a second resolution and said, "Look, they are obstructing and we now ask for authorisation.' They never knew whether they would get that. Eventually they had to come with I think very contstrained legal explanations. We see how Mr Goldsmith, Lord Golsmith now, wriggled about and how he himself very much doubted that it was adequate, but eventually said, "Well, if you accumulate all these things, then that gives a plausible . . ." -- he was not quite sure that it would have stood up in an international tribunal. Most of your legal advisers did not think so either. Nevertheless he gave the green light to it. I think it shows the UK was wedded to the UN rules and tried to go by them, eventually failed and was a prisoner on the American train, but it is true at the same time that this rule against going to war is under strain.
The Telegraph of London reports the following of Blix's testimony:
He told the inquiry: "Once they went up to 250,000 men and March was approaching, I think it was unstoppable or almost unstoppable - the (US) president could have stopped it, but almost unstoppable.
"After March the heat would go up in Iraq and it would be difficult to carry out warfare."
He added: "The whole military timetable was, as rightly said, not in sync with the diplomatic timetable.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) notes that Blix criticized Bush and seemed to take the heat off Blair.  That was really ridiculous. (Not RN-T's observation, that is what Blix did, but Blix's assertion.)  Tony Blair went along with Bush.  The US did not hold the UK prisoner.  The idea of Tony Blair as damsel in distress would be hard to stomach even without all the Inquiry has exposed regarding the Crawford meeting or that -- even while the legal advice Blair was receiving said war without a second UN resolution would be illegal -- Blair was already telling Bush that they were in it together. 
Turning to Iraq, Rania El Gamal, Suadad al-Salhy, Jim Loney and Matthew Jones (Reuters) break the news: The Iraqi Parliament will not meet today. Though already in violation of the country's Constitution, they are not meeting for their second time. (The first lasted less than 20 meetings.) Unlike their last stall, they have not this time provided a date for when they might meet again. Why aren't they meeting? Meeting means proceeding with forming the government and there's no movement there. Salam Faraj (AFP) quotes MP Fouad Massum (who has been acting as spokesperson and leader) stating, "We are postponing the session until further notice because the political entities failed to reach any agreement. We held a meeting this morning with tthe heads of the parliamentary blocs and we agreed to give more time to political entities to reach agreement regarding the selection of a speaker and his two deputies."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 20 days. No government. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) explains, "Nearly five months after elections in March ended without a decisive winner, Mr. Maliki and the leaders of the other political blocs remain deeply divided over his efforts to stay in power for a second term and remain even more deeply suspicious of losing power to rivals."
The political stalemate has consequences.  Kari Lyndersen (In These Times) reported yesterday, "Last week electricity union offices across Iraq were raided under a July 20 decree from the Minister of Oil and Electricity, Hussain al-Shahristani, which banned trade unions in the energy sector and threatened serious legal action against union activity." While that's appalling by any standard, it should be noted that Hussain al-Shahristani is NOT the Minister of Electricity.  Karim Wahid was the Minister of Electricity until he resigned June 21st.  By June 25th, Hussain al-Shahristani was the acting electricity minister though the press reports were leaving out "acting."  Reality, he has NO power.  It's not just that Nouri's ass should have already been out of the prime ministership, it's that al-Shahristani has not been approved for that post.  He is the Minster of Oil -- a Western puppet in that position, but not enough of one that he got to become the Prime Minister as 2004 rumors swore he would be.  But he was approved for that post.
Yes, we're all aware Nouri al-Maliki thinks he is God.  But delusions aside, he can only nominate cabinet positions.  Check the Constitution -- I know no one bothers to, but laws are on the books for a reason.  Nouri can name anyone to the Council of Ministers but they don't have that position and title unless and until the Parliament approves the person.  The Parliament has never approved Hussain al-Shahristani to be the Minister of Electricity.  For those who have forgotten, the Parliament has only met once and for less than 20 minutes. No, they did not approve al-Shahristani for that post.  Let's repeat, Karim Wahid was the Minister of Electricity until he resigned June 21st. And the Parliament met once and only once when?  June 14th. Even if they'd wanted to approve al-Shahristani for another post (debatable), they didn't and haven't.  He has no powers.
But Nouri's refusing to step down and what has some US government figures concerned is the belief/fear that Nouri is dragging out the process because he thinks that it will be easier for him to refuse to step down after the US drawdown.  Kari Lyndersen adds, "International labor groups are calling the decree part of a systematic attack on unions in Iraq in recent years. US Labor Against the War (USLAW) says the 'anti-union decree is the latest in an escalating series of measures designed to incapacitate and destroy the Iraqi labor movement'." And this is why you don't let things drag out.  The US, under Bush, should never have gone along with a delay in the 2009 elections.  What 2009 elections?  That's when they were supposed to take place.  Bush went along.  Barack came in and went along with further delays.  Now all this time later, Nouri's still stalling the political process. And you have his henchmen acting without any legal authority.  That's why you don't let it drag on and why, if Barack's too much of a damn wimp, you bring in the United Nations immediately and force all parties to the table to hammer out something and do so quickly.  This was nonsense and happened under the US occupation. Happens under the US occupation.  US Labor Against the War is asking that people join them in protesting the attempts to destroy the electricity unions:
Police raided and shut down electricity unions across Iraq in mid-July, carrying out an order from the Minister of Electricity that could have been lifted from Saddam Hussein's rule book.   

The order prohibits "all trade union activities at the ministry and its departments and sites" and authorizes the police "to close all trade union offices and bases and to take control of unions' assets properties and documents, furniture and computers."  [Details below.]   

The Iraqi trade union movement is calling on trade union members and labor solidarity activists everywhere to raise their voices in protest.   


Hussain al-Shahristani, Oil Minister of Iraq, who was also appointed Electricity Minister, issued a decree that 

1. Prohibits all trade union activity and ceases all forms of cooperation and official discussions with the electricity sector unions;           

2. Directs management to help police enforce the closure of union offices and confiscation of documents, furniture, computers and anything else present;         

3. Orders all enterprises to take immediate legal action against anyone who threatens or uses force or causes any damage to public property under the 2005 anti-terrorism law; and           

4. Orders all departments and enterprises to repeal any benefits and privileges union members have gained.         

This outrageous action violates all of the norms of  internationally recognized labor rights.  It escalates a broad attack on unions that has been taking place in Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein that has included: 
* Continued enforcement of Saddam's ban on unions in the public sector and public enterprises; 

* Freezing union bank accounts and assets;   

* Banning union leaders from traveling outside Iraq without prior government approval; 

* Transferring union leaders to remote locations far from their homes, families and union members;   

* Issuing criminal charges against Oil Union Federation officers alleging they are undermining the Iraqi economy by protesting privatization of oil resources and companies;   

* Ignoring the requirement in the Iraqi Constitution calling for enactment of a basic labor rights law;   

* Violating ILO Convention 98 on collective bargaining to which Iraq is signatory.             

If you click here, US Labor Against the War has made sending e-mails to object very simple.
From war on the unions to other violence . .  .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left four people injured, a Karbala suicide car bombing which claimed the lives of 20 people with another fifty wounded, and a Mosul home bombing which wounded two people. (I think Karbala was yesterday, FYI, but it's billed as today.)
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion late last night in which 2 women were shot dead and an armed attack on a Mosul checkpoint in which 2 police officers were killed.
In other developments, Catholic News Agency reports a passing, Auxiliary Bishop Andraos Abouna, 67-years-old, died today in an Erbil hospital -- possibly from kidney complications.  The Auxiliary Bishop was ordained as a priest June 5, 1966 and had been working in Iraq all that time.  The Assyrian Democratic Movement notes, "Mar Andraos is known for defending and fighting for peace between Iraqi factions and has great stance in maintaining the unity of the people of our Chaldean Syriac Assyrian. H.E. Mar Andraos is also known for promoting a unified religious dialogue and strengthening the unity of Iraqis to safeguard and consolidate the national unity and supports the diversity of Iraq."  In January 2003, John L. Allen Jr. (National Catholic Reporter) filed a story on the Auxiliary Bishop:
During his Christmas Mass, the pope prayed that humanity will strive "to extinguish the ominous smoldering of a conflict that, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided." On New Year's Day, he spoke in similar terms. "In dealing with ongoing conflicts and tension growing more threatening, I pray that peaceful ways of settling conflicts be sought after, driven by loyal and constructive cooperation in accordance with the principles of international law," John Paul said.           
Few people were probably listening more attentively than Andraos Abouna, the new auxiliary bishop of Baghdad, who was personally consecrated by the pope along with 11 other new bishops on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6. Abouna will aid Patriarch Raphaël I Bidawid of Baghdad in shepherding a community of some 600,000 Iraqi Chaldean Catholics, who may soon find themselves at ground zero of the war John Paul is begging the world to avoid.
[. . .]
"We asked the Holy Father to pray for peace in Baghdad," Abouna said, "and you could see that he was moved. When he speaks about Baghdad, he does so from the heart, because this is the land of Abraham, the first believer in God. For us it is the Holy Land."       
Abouna said he also appreciates the letter from the U.S. bishops on Iraq, which he described as a "very, very good statement."             
Still, he is a realist about the potential impact of such interventions from religious leaders, given that John Paul opposed the Gulf War in 1991 and it didn't stop the bombs from falling.                             
"Politicians act in their own interest, often for economic reasons," he said. "They don't so much care what religious leaders say."

Vatican Radio notes his kidney problems two months ago and that yesterday the Auxiliary Bishop was taken to the hospital, yesterday afternoon, that the funeral was expected to be held this evening, that he was born in the village of Bedare/Zakho in 1943, entered the Monastery in 1975 (in Mosul), was ordained in Baghdad June 5, 1966 and had been a parish priest in both Basra (1967 to 1971) and Baghdad (1971 to 1991).
Turning to Turkey, Today's Zaman reports, "A long-planned Kurdish conference which was to take place in northern Iraq under the auspices of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) with the participation of delegates from Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Europe is now back on the agenda once more." The news comes as Press TV reports that 4 Turkish security forces were killed yesterday -- possibly by the Kurdish rebel group PKK.
 In the US, news comes that more billions of dollars supposedly spent on the Iraq War are missing. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports:

A US federal watchdog has criticised the US military for failing to account properly for billions of dollars it received to help rebuild Iraq.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction says the US Department of Defence is unable to account properly for 96% of the money.
Out of just over $9bn (£5.8bn), $8.7bn is unaccounted for, the inspector says.
The US military said the funds were not necessarily missing, but that spending records might have been archived.

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reminds this is far from the first audit which has turned up poorly or mismanaged funds in Iraq and that "In a written response to a draft of the audit, the Pentagon vowed to act on the inspector general's three recommendations to strengthen accounting mechanisms and dispose of the Iraqi money not yet relinquished. " Left unstated is that the Pentagon has repeatedly made similar promises. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) offers this context: "The report comes as Iraqis are increasingly frustrated with their own government's inability to provide basic services, or to explain how tens of billions of dollars' worth of oil revenue has been spent since 2007. The alleged U.S. mismanagement of Iraqi money is certain to revive grievances against the U.S. for failing to make a big dent in the country's reconstruction needs despite massive expenditures."

CNN notes Adm Mike Mullen, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has arrived in Baghdad. He is visiting the country to review the drawdown plans.

Yesterday's snapshot noted Wikileaks latest release of material on the Afghanistan War.  If you're late to the party, IPA issued the following today:
Solomon today wrote the piece "State of Denial: After the Big Leak, Spinning for War," which states: "Washington's spin machine is in overdrive to counter the massive leak of documents on Afghanistan. Much of the counterattack revolves around the theme that the documents aren't particularly relevant to this year's new-and-improved war effort. ...

"What has been most significant about 'the president's new policy' is the steady step-up of bombing in Afghanistan and the raising of U.S. troop levels in that country to a total of 100,000. None of what was basically wrong with the war last year has been solved by the 'new policy.' On the contrary."

Solomon, author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death and president of the Institute for Public Accuracy, visited Kabul last year. He is available for a limited number of interviews.

Stieber is a former soldier in the Bravo Company documented in the video "Collateral Murder," released earlier this year by WikiLeaks. The video shows, through a helicopter gun-sight, soldiers killing civilians including a Reuters photographer in Iraq and then shooting at people in a van attempting to rescue the wounded. After the release of the video, Stieber co-wrote "An Open Letter of Reconciliation and Responsibility to the Iraqi People" with Ethan McCord, another member of the unit.

McCord, who was in the first team of dismounted soldiers to arrive on the scene, spoke at the National Peace Conference in Albany, N.Y. this weekend.

Video of his graphic description of the "Collateral Murder" incident and the reactions of him and his commanders is available on YouTube: "Innocence Lost: Ethan McCord recounts aftermath of Iraqi civilian massacre."
In addition, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) did three segments on it today, here, here and here.  Meanwhile Newsweek reports:
The cache of classified U.S. military reports on the Iraq War as yet unreleased by WikiLeaks may be as much as three times as large as the set of more than 91,000 similar reports on the war in Afghanistan made public by the whistle-blower Web site earlier this week, Declassified has learned.                     
Three sources familiar with the Iraq material in WikiLeaks's hands, requesting anonymity to discuss what they described as highly sensitive information, say it's similar to this week's Afghanistan material, consisting largely of field reports from U.S. military personnel and classified no higher than the "Secret" level. According to one of the sources, the Iraq material portrays U.S. forces being involved in a "bloodbath," but some of the most disturbing material relates to the abusive treatment of detainees not by Americans but by Iraqi security forces, the source says.
Meanwhile, "Give Us One House And We'll End The War!" claimed the Democratic Party in the lead-up to the 2006 mid-term elections.  The mistake voters made, apparently, was giving them control of two houses of Congress.  With control of both the Senate and the House, the Dems were apparently too taxed to end the war.  And the additional burden of having the White House via the 2008 elections?  Well it means the wars continue. David Swanson (War Is A Crime) reports:

 On Tuesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill already passed by the Senate that funds a $33 billion, 30,000-troop escalation in Afghanistan.  The vote was 308 to 114.  What could the good news possibly be?

The first good news is that, while we had no more than 35 congress members who would vote against war funding a year ago, or perhaps 55 when it was an easy vote with no pressure, we've now got 114.  That's serious progress.  That's a far more dramatic increase than we've seen in the number of congress members willing to vote for a non-binding unspecified timetable for a withdrawal.  That number rose from 138 last year to 162 on July 1st (although the legislation was somewhat stronger this year).  In other words, willingness to express mild interest in ending the war has reached a plateau.  Willingness to take serious action to end the war is rapidly catching up.  Of course, both have to top 218 before we win.

The really good news is that we finally have an essential ingredient in any recipe for legislative change: a record of which legislators are with us, and which against us.  Almost any effective campaign to pass, or -- as in this case -- defeat, legislation requires at least three stages.  First you run a trial to identify who stands where.  Then you reward and punish at the polling booth in the next election.  Then you try again and possibly succeed.  Until now, we've been unable to reach step one.  The "leadership" in Congress has packaged war bills in unrelated measures, or -- as was done four weeks ago -- passed bills without holding a vote at all.  Now we finally know, unambiguously, who stands where.  The question is whether we're willing to act on it.
We'll close with this from Teresa Mina's (as told to David Bacon) "THIS LAW IS VERY UNJUST!" (New American Media):

I come from Tierra Blanca, a very poor town in Veracruz. After my children's father abandoned us, I decided to come to the U.S. There's just no money to survive. We couldn't continue to live that way.
We all felt horrible when I decided to leave. My three kids, my mom, and two sisters are still living at home in Veracruz. The only one supporting them now is me.
My kids' suffering isn't so much about money. I've been able to send enough to pay the bills. What they lack is love. They don't have a father; they just have me. My mother cares for them, but it's not the same. They always ask me to come back. They say maybe we'll be poor, but we'll be together.
I haven't been able to go back to see them for six years, because I don't have any papers to come back to the U.S. afterwards. To cross now is very hard and expensive.
My first two years in San Francisco I cleaned houses. The work was hard, and I was lonely. It's different here. Because I'm Latina and I don't know English, if I go into a store, they watch me from head to foot, like I'm a robber.
After two years, I got a job as a janitor, making $17.85 per hour. Cleaning houses only paid $10. But then I was molested sexually. Another worker exposed himself to me and my friend. When we went to the company and filed a complaint, they took me off the job and kept me out of work a month. They didn't pay me all that time.
That's when my problems started, because I called the union and asked them to help me. After that, the company called me a problematic person, because I wouldn't be quiet and I fought for my rights. Sometimes they wouldn't give me any work.
When you work as a janitor you're mostly alone. You pick up trash, clean up the kitchen and vacuum. These are simple things, and they tire you out, but basically it's a good job. Lots of times we don't take any breaks, though. To finish everything, sometimes we don't even stop for lunch.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 30, 2010, 06:24:10 am
Al-Qaida plants flag, burns bodies in Iraq attack


The Associated Press

6:08 p.m. Thursday, July 29, 2010

BAGHDAD — Militants flew an al-Qaida flag over a Baghdad neighborhood Thursday after killing 16 security officials and burning some of their bodies in a brazen afternoon attack that served as a grim reminder of continued insurgent strength in Iraq's capital.

It was the bloodiest attack in a day that included the deaths of 23 Iraqi soldiers, policemen and other security forces across the country who were targeted by shootings and roadside bombs.

The mayhem serves as a stark warning that insurgents are trying to make a comeback three months after their two top leaders were killed in an airstrike on their safehouse, and as the U.S. military presence decreases day by day.

The complex attack began when militants struck a checkpoint in the largely Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah, once a stronghold of insurgents that in recent years has become more peaceful. Then the militants set it on fire, burning several of the soldiers' bodies, according to an army officer who was on patrol in the neighborhood. Minutes later, attackers detonated three roadside bombs nearby.

Hospital, police and military officials all confirmed the death toll.

A large pool of blood and what appeared to be char marks could be seen on the ground near an Iraqi army truck. Authorities immediately sealed off the area. Police and army officials said between 16 and 20 assailants took part in the highly orchestrated attack; all appeared to have escaped.

A day before the Azamiyah attack, Vice President Joe Biden predicted there would not be an extreme outbreak of sectarian violence in Iraq as all but 50,000 U.S. forces leave the country at the end of August. He said the American troops left behind would be more than enough to help Iraqi forces maintain security.

"I can't guarantee anything, but I'm willing to bet everything that there will be no such explosion," Biden said on NBC's "Today" show. He was speaking from Ft. Drum in upstate New York where he and his wife were welcoming troops home.

Still, the Obama administration is keeping a wary eye on Iraq's security. White House officials said Biden is sending two of his top national security advisers to Baghdad this weekend to help push along Iraq's stalled political process in a sign of impatience and concern that sectarian tensions could escalate as the Americans forces withdraw.

It has been more than four months since Iraq's March 7 election, with little indication that a government can be formed before the Muslim holiday of Ramadan begins in mid-August and brings a halt to business in much of the Middle East.

As politicians bicker, Iraqis point to such violent attacks as Thursday's as a clear indication that the terror groups are trying to use the political instability to regroup.

Officials in Azamiyah said the provocative flag-planting and bold attack are part of an attempt by the terror group to once again infiltrate the Sunni neighborhood.

"Al-Qaida is trying their best to return to Iraq or to Azamiyah because they have no existence here now," said a member of the Azamiyah provincial council, Haitham al-Azami. "Al-Qaida, by this act intends to pretend that they have an existence and to show their muscles."

The daylight attack was the boldest move by militants since their commando-style assault on the central bank in June that left 26 people dead during morning rush hour. Suicide bombings, roadside bombs and nighttime assassinations have tended to be their pattern of violence.

The Azamiyah blast was the deadliest of a series of attacks around the country, aiming to kill and maim members of Iraq's security forces who are increasingly taking over security from Americans.

Earlier, a suicide bomber drove a minibus into the main gate of an Iraqi army base near Saddam Hussein's hometown north of Baghdad, killing four soldiers, said police and hospital officials.

In the western city of Fallujah, 40 miles (65 kilometers) west of Baghdad, two roadside bombs targeting Iraqi army patrols killed two soldiers, police and hospital officials in the city said.

In the northern city of Mosul, a bomb attached to a police vehicle killed one policeman and injured two others, a police official said.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The attacks underline the fact that militant groups can still strike with lethal force across Iraq, despite an improvement in the security situation over the last three years.

Also Thursday, an al-Qaida-linked group claimed responsibility for a bombing earlier this week that targeted the Baghdad offices of a pan-Arab television station killing six people, describing it as a victory against a "corrupt channel."

The Arabic-language news channel Al-Arabiya is one of the most popular in the Middle East but is perceived by insurgents as being pro-Western.

"We take responsibility for targeting this corrupt channel, and we will not hesitate to hit any media office and chase its staffers if they insist on being a tool of war against almighty God and his prophet," the announcement said.


Associated Press Writers Mazin Yahya, Lara Jakes and Barbara Surk in Baghdad contributed to this report.


July 29, 2010 06:08 PM EDT

Copyright 2010, The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on July 30, 2010, 10:55:32 am
Iraq snapshot - July 28, 2010

The Common Ills

Wednesday, July 28, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the VA can't account for millions, Congress wants to know why that is, and more.
"The US Dept of Veterans Affairs is the second largest agency in our system of government," declared US House Rep Bob Filner this morning as he called to order the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, "and each year, they are authorized billions of dollars to care for our nation's veterans. Miscellaneous obligations are used by the VA to obligate funds in circumstances where the amount to be spent is uncertain.  They are used to reduce administrative workload and to facilitate payment for contracted goods and services when quantities and delivery dates are unknown."  Bob Fliner is the Chair of the Committee and Steve Buyer is the Ranking Member.  In his opening remarks, Buyer noted that,  "The hearing today is very timely in light of the VA's  announcement to our offices that they plan to halt the development of what the Chairman just talked about -- our integrated financial accounting system [pilot program entitled Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise]. I, franky, was surprised the VA would take this step with the supposed blessing of OMB but without any plan for the real future other than to limp along.  That's what surprised me the most."  The main issue for the hearing was the VA's inability to track millions of dollars filed under "miscellaneous."
The Committee heard from three panels.  The first was made up of the GAO's Susan Ragland, the second by the VA's Edward Murry and the third by the VA's Jan Frye.  The first two witnesses were accompanied by others, Ragland was accompanied by the GAO's Glenn Slocum.  After Ragland finished her opening statement, she was asked a question.
Chair Bob Filner: If you had to give a grade between your initial report and now, what would you give?
Susan Ragland: Oh.
Chair Bob Filner: I'm a teacher, so.
Susan Ragland: Oh, I guess I'd say somewhere between a C+ or a B-. Somewhere in there.
Chair Bob Filner: Sounded like an F to me, but what do I know?
And we're opening with that because it's a call everyone can follow -- whether they agree with it or not (I agree with the call).  We're jumping ahead to US House Rep Cliff Stearns who picked up on the grade later in the hearing.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Ms. Ragland, you gave this exercise a B-. Now the report in 2008 was roughly 5.7 billion miscellaneous obligations that were unable to be identified as how they were spent and now it's 12 billion in 2009.  I mean, so it looks like it's jumped twice.  So the problem has gotten . . .
Susan Ragland: Twice as big. 
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Twice as big.  And wouldn't that mean that they flunked? I mean, wouldn't you have to be honest to yourself and say, "It appears to me that nothing's been done"?  I mean if this had, if you couldn't get $6 billion -- find out where it was spent in 2008 and now it's 12, following this extrapolation, it will be 24, 25 billion when you come back here again with your GAO report. At what point don't you think that there -- How can you say that they're passing?
Susan Ragland: Well you're making a really good point and really the thinking that I had behind my response was that I do think VA is making efforts in these areas and so --
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: So they get a B- because they're making efforts when it doubles?
Susan Ragland: Well.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Would you -- would you have a student that --
Susan Ragland: They do-they do have the policies and procedures in place and they are taking actions to monitor them and that's the information that we got from the MQAS [Management Quality Assurance Service] service, that they are doing inspections and finding these things which is what we would look for any agency.  That they are looking --
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: I, I understand you're being diplomatic. In reading the summary in your report, you say there are "serious longstanding deficiencies we identifed that are continuing." So here, 2008, 2009, you say these deficiencies -- serious long-standing deficiencies are continuing  and that's not very optimistic to me.  And then you went on to say that "serious weaknesses continue to raise questions concerning whether VA management has established the appropriate tone at the top necessary to ensure that these matters receive the full sustained attention." So in both the statements I gave you, it appears that the management's not connecting, that you've identified long-standing deficiencies that continue and these serious weaknesses raise further questions.  So I think you've done your job.  I think you have to be woman enough to say these folks are flunking and you've got to be a little bit more draconian in your statement.  Now let me ask you this question, you mention in your report they have outdated systems.  Does the VA have the technilogical capabilities to do this? What do you mean by outdated systems?
Susan Ragland: You can take that.
Glenn Slocum: There are -- VA systems sometimes revert to manual processes in order to produce its year-end finan --
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: So they haven't used computers? They haven't use the internet?
Glenn Slocum: No-no, they do have -- they do have all that.  But some of the reconciliations that they may need to do at year-end, uh, they have a MinX system which is used to, uhm, produce their year-end statements.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: It's done manually then?
Glenn Slocum: It's not manually -- it's not totally manually.  But there are, uh, reconciliations that take place that, in a better world, would be more automated. And it effects their inventory systems at pharmacies and that's what we're talking about.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: In 2008, did you bring that to their attention with the same statement that they had outdated systems?
Glenn Slocum: Well -- well there are two reports.  You know, there's one with miscellaneous obligation and I think that's the one that Ms. Ragland gave them a B- on.  The other report dealt with the financial report deficiencies and those are the problems  that have been around since 2000 or longer.  And maybe there would be uh -- [looks at Ragland] maybe you would give them a lower grade on that? I'm not sure.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Okay, well then the statement says "a lack of sufficient personnel."  Uhm, have you found that the personnel is one of the serious problems that they have?  Personnel that either don't have the appropriate knowledge or skills or they just don't have the personnel?
Susan Ragland: That's been one of the independent public auditors' findings in the financial reports.  And that's been over-over years.
US House Rep Cliff Stearns: Was that true in 2008? That same conclusion?
Susan Ragland: I'm  not positive, I believe so.
US House Rep Jerry McNerney noted that fraud seemed very likely in the conditions Ragland described in her opening remarks (at "a level that would be scandalous") and voiced the belief that they should ''bring that to light before the press does, before outside activities do."  McNerney also noted that the VA's plan for solving the problems, "those seem a little bit far off" (2011 and 2012).  Ragland noted that announcements by the VA in 2008 of deadlines to be met have not been kept by the VA and have been extended.
US House Rep David Roe: I would think that when you have a -- Obviously $12 billion is a lot of money and it's a lot to look after, but there should be a plan that when this isn't implemented and you don't find it, someone ought to be held accountable and-and-and heads ought to roll.  And clearly what Congressman Buyer said in the private sector [you get fired], that's clearly what happens. People get fired.
Susan Ragland: Yeah.
US House Rep David Roe: Is that what happens here? Or do we just don't do anything or what do we do?
Susan Ragland: Uh, I don't know if that --
Glenn Slocum: I would just say that OMB Circular A-50 addresses this point. You know, one of the things it talks about is holding people accountable for the remediation of these problems. But we have not looked at the extent to which that's actually taken place. It's part of a monitoring mechanism that should be there. But we haven't looked at that.
US House Rep David Roe: And I think -- and I agree with Congressman McNerney, my colleague, is that it reflects poorly on the VA which they don't want to be -- I mean, I understand that they want to do a good job -- and this Committee if we allow that to happen and if we come back a year or two years from now and the same thing's going on, what happens? Is there any corrective action that can be taken in your recommendation, Ms. Ragland.
Susan Ragland: I think that the only thing that we have is to come back to you all and-and point that out.  That's-that's our role.  Yeah.
If it reads like the Committee had a consenus building, you're not mistaken.  US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick would note, "And Mr. Chairman, I share the sentiment of the other members of this Committee, that this is a very serious problem that we really need to stay on top of."  Following that the Ranking Member would weigh in on a pattern, "I mean, right now, you could look back and the last three or four [VA] Secretaries -- I mean, they have, since 2000, increased these directives without execution." He also wondered that "the VA's own audits showed a continued disregard for your recommendations." 
Welcoming the second panel, Chair Bob Filner offered a warning: "I would not underestimate the anger that my colleagues feel on this on both sides of the aisle."  And for the second panel, refer to Kat who is reporting on that at her site tonight. 
A few decades on down the line, history will probably include all the many helicopter crashes in Iraq that crashed due to rebel/resistance attacks. Today, we instead get 'hard landings' (that was hugely popular for years with the press) and 'sandstorms.' Sinah Salaheddin (AP) wants to share this morning that 6 people are dead from an Iraqi helicopter crash due to, yes, "a sandstorm." ("A sandstorm downed an Iraqi military helicopter . . .") Could it have been a sandstorm? Yes, it could have. I wasn't there. (Though I did have the weirdest dream last night/this morning about Jane Arraf being in Mosul and having difficulty taking photos of an explosion.) So what's the problem. I'd say this is the problem (from the same report): "
The crash is under investigation, and no other details were immediately available, al-Askari said." When a crash is under investigation, the reasons for the crash are not known. Reasons may be suspected, but they aren't known -- hence the need for an investigation. Repeating, decades from now we'll no doubt learn just how many helicopters were downed during the Iraq War by something other than 'sandstorms' and 'hard landings due to mechanical failure'. Reuters notes 4 died in the crash and, unlike AP, don't attempt to pin a cause on a crash which is "under investigation." They also note 5 people are dead from a Baghdad bombing with twelve more injured. BBC News also notes 5 dead in the helicopter crash

As noted, Mullen was on a whirlwind trip and we'll blame jet lag for many of his more dubious statements. Dan De Luce (AFP) reports he hailed what he termed "stunning" progress (only on security and only by cheating the scale and referring to the last three years -- if you can't use 2007 as your benchmark, you can't claim 'success' -- stunning or otherwise). While Mullen praised the 'stunning' progress, it was left to his underlings to note the week's violence and to US Deputy Sec of State Jacob Lew to explain, "The events of the last few days are horrific, and they are sobering, but they don't deter us from the process that we're in." Which would be the drawdown. But interesting that the main speaker declares "stunning" while the lesser lights have to deal with reality. Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports on Mullen's meeting with Nouri al-Maliki and Nouri's laughable claim that, "The regional interference is the reason behind hampering a new government, and we have repeatedly demanded such interference in our internal affairs be halted. We are going forward in the formation of the new government as soon as possible." Jet lag doesn't excuse Nouri's lies. But Mullen was under the weather. Press TV offers a quote, see if you catch it, ""We're still on track to reduce the number of troops to 50,000 by the end of August and to have all combat troops out of Iraq by 2011." Combat troops -- a laughable designation -- are supposed to be out at the end of next month, not "by 2011."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 20 days. No government.
Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) offers, "Nearly five months after elections in March ended without a decisive winner, Mr. Maliki and the leaders of the other political blocs are divided over his efforts to stay in power for a second term. With no clear resolution in sight, many politicians now say that the impasse could extend after the United States officially ends its combat mission here after more than seven years of war and reduces the number of troops to fewer than 50,000 by the end of August." Ross Colvin (Reuters) notes that US Vice President Joe Biden has asked that the politicians "get on with the business of governing." The International Crisis Group's Joost Hiltermann weighs in with thoughts on the stalemate in an essay for the New York Review of Books:
What is holding things up, however, is the fear among many Iraqis that whatever party wins the right to form the government and appoint the prime minister will proceed to concentrate power around itself, using gaps and ambiguities in Iraq's new constitution to its advantage. Maliki's detractors point to his record during the past four years -- he has done little by way of concrete governance, but instead has spent much effort to carve out a power base, including setting up security agencies that have no basis in the constitution. In addition to Iyad Allawi and his mainly Sunni constituency, Maliki's critics and competitors include the Kurds and his Shiite rivals in the Iraqi National Alliance (INA). This last is a loose grouping that includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Sadrist movement, and a variety of smaller parties and independents, among them the US's erstwhile friend and current nemesis, Ahmed Chalabi. Moreover, Allawi asserts that since his list won the most seats -- ninety-one, compared to Maliki's eighty-nine -- he has the right to take the first stab at forming a government.
Maliki has questioned the election results, hinting in not so unambiguous terms that a "foreign power" -- understood to be the United States -- has defrauded him by manipulating the vote, the count, and the recount in Baghdad. Even now, while resigning himself to the decision by the federal Supreme Court to certify the original results in early June, he continues to challenge Allawi's bid to form the government. His main tactic has been to pursue an alliance with his Shiite rivals in the INA, in order to become the largest bloc in parliament, gain the right to form a government, and thus deprive Allawi of his presumptive right to become prime minister.                         
Whatever their opinion of Maliki and his autocratic tendencies, Shiite politicians fear most of all losing the position of prime minister, and they are convinced that although Allawi would have a hard time collecting by himself the necessary number of seats (a simple majority of 163 in Iraq's 325-member legislature), a hidden hand -- again, the United States -- will somehow assist him and through trickery and deceit cheat the Shiites out of the dominant position they have acquired since 2003, after what they see as the long years of Sunni oppression.               
What is striking about the Obama administration's current approach to Iraqi politics, however, is not its presumed preference for one party, Allawi's, but its unexplained lack of will to push for a solution, something much noted by politicians of all parties.             
Moving to London where the Iraq Inquiry continued public testimony today with Gen Richard Dannatt and Gen Mike Jackson appearing before the Inquiry (link goes to video and transcript options).  Chris Ames notes that the remarks by Dannut about the British military was stretched to the point where it was on the verge of breaking in 2006.  The helicopter issue (specifically yesterday's testimony) was rejected, by the way.
As noted this morning, Hans Blix's testimony yesterday to the Iraq Inquiry was a joke.  Chris Ames, writing at the Guardian, feels differently and feels it said a great deal about David Miliband:
That is Miliband in a nutshell. Too clever for his own good. There are the usual weasel words about voting "to support the government" rather than for war. He wanted to show that he had done his homework but has ended up saying that he supported the invasion on the basis of Saddam's behaviour in the 90s and was thus seeking regime change rather than peaceful disarmament.
Chris does great work at Iraq Inquiry Digest and is always worth reading on this subject.  (And Chris has been working this story before anyone.) But I strongly disagree with his take (a) that there was much of value in Blix's idiotic testimony, (b) that the testimony said that about David and (c) that Ames would ever know what was or wasn't "Miliband in a nutshell."  As disclosed before I have known David and Ed Miliband forever and a day.  That is not David Miliban in a nutshell.  Let's move to Blixie. (And for qualifiers/disclosures on my opinion, click here.)  Hans Blix was, as usual, all over the map with his ridiculous testimony yesterday. His half-baked testimony provided a little for everyone and nothing of substance for anyone.  Should inspections have continued? In retrospect, he believes they should have. And in real time? He wanted them to go on through April. At one point in his testimony. He wanted them to go on for months, at another point. He wanted armed inspectors to roam through Iraq for years, he offered at another point.

With his meandering and ever changing opinions, Bush could well argue that what Blix did find (no WMD, no real violations but some small issues) and Blix' refusal to clear Iraq and say they had no WMD, his move was forced.  Was he forced?  Of course not. It's an illegal war. And it's a war of choice. It's in violation of the UN charter and every international law -- including those the US has signed on to. But if your argument is based on Blix, Bush can shoot back, "Blix supported me!" Because Blix' wishy-washy b.s. does just that.  Blix is forever inconsistent.  Giving a broadcast interview, he tosses charges around freely only to then walk it back after the interview airs. He was asked about some statements from a print interview yesterday and explained that he wasn't responsible for any remarks in an article unless he authored it. 
Hans Blix was the white-wash witness and you have to wonder if, in fact, that's why he was called. Hans Blix appeared before the Inquiry and told a pleasing (for British ears) fairytale. "Sleep easy, England, Tony Blair is not a bad person." That's Blix' testimony in a nut shell. The US, apparently led by Condi Rice (whom Blix is obsessed with), controlled everything and pushed the poor British around. The British, Blix insisted, wanted to follow the UN rules. Really? That's in direct contrast to every British official in the legal department. Are we supposed to forget that? But it was a runaway train on the railroad and the US was driving while the poor British officials were stuck in the caboose unable to disconnect from the rest of the train.

Hans Blix is one of the main reason the illegal war started. That shined through in his testimony. He hedged every statement. No government official would have taken him seriously. (Except for his constant repeating that he believed Iraq had WMD. He repeated that to everyone. And this is our hero? This is who the peace movement wants to support?) He was a joke and he was an idiot.  Doubt it? Go to page 30 of the testimony and read him insisting he believed (up until after the war started) that Iraq had anthrax ("we were very suspicous") and "I came out right from September 2002 on to the very end when I said, 'Yes, there might be weapons of mass destruction'."  The idea that he was a calm voice or one not echoing the stove-piped intell is really a joke.  Caroline Crampton (New Statesman) offers a selective reading of his testimony and attempts to rescue Blix:
He felt that once his team began reporting back that no evidence had been found at any sites, the US and UK should have changed their policy -- that, he feels, is the main lesson that should be drawn from the situation. His only regret, he says, is the "harsh tones" he used in the January document, which consituted a warning to Iraq to improve co-operation, which it then did.
His job was to find WMD or to clear Iraq.  He failed at both.  That's reality.  He did not clear it ahead of the war.  Nor did he find WMD -- he couldn't because there was no WMD in Iraq.  And yet he felt they had it.  That's reality, that's what he testified to.  His enablers and rescuers can pretty it up as much as they want but Blix is as much at fault as Bush and Blair for the illegal war.

And it was a damn shame that someone who knew SO DAMN LITTLE was allowed to testify about so much. If you don't get that, you missed his white washing of all crimes. There are no more war crimes today, Blix wanted to insist. The stupid idiot declared that the US back then "was high on military" but "this has changed with Obama." What the hell does that piece of s**t know about what "changed" or didn't "change"? Is he unaware that he's supposed to be testifying only to what he has witnessed. Is he unaware of what's going on in Afghanistan? Or Pakistan? Or what continues in Iraq? "Obama says yes, they will retain the rights to -- they reserve the possibility to take unilateral action but they will try to follow international rules."

If that statement shocks you (page 28 of the testimony, lines 1 through 4), that may be due to the fact that a number of outlets have 'improved' it to make it say something else. Stream the video, that's what he said.  And Blix is praising Barack for that crap? Where's the 'change'? Barack "says yes, they will still retain the right to -- they reserve the possibility to take unilateral action but they will try to follow international rules." That's not a change? That's exactly what Bush said before the Iraq War for months and months.

His entire testimony exists to whitewash reality, to insist that the problem was George W. Bush (via Condi Rice) and that, with Bush out of office, the threat is gone.  It's the sort of fairytale that exists to keep people ignorant of their governments' actions and motives. It's the sort of fairytale that reduces everything to a simple cartoon. There was no honesty in the garbage. And, if you were British, you may have been thrilled that sweet and cute Tony Blair really wasn't at fault after all. It was Bush . . . led by Condi.

John F. Burns (New York Times) reports on Blix's testimony here. And, yes, if Burns -- Mr. Establishment -- is reporting on it (and not questioning it) then Blix exists to Whitewash and give Empire a pearly smile.
Jalal Ghazi (New America Media) notes that WikiLeaks' latest revelations echo earlier reports by Arab media:

In many cases, Arab media used testimony by American soldiers themselves to validate their reports about U.S. responsibility for civilian casualties. For example, Al Jazeera English reported on March 15, 2008 that hundreds of U.S. veterans of the war in Iraq say the American military has been covering up widespread civilian killings in Iraq. The soldiers who testified said that there have been routine cover-ups of indiscriminate killings of Iraqi civilians.
Former U.S. Marine Jason Washburn, for example, told Al Jazeera English: "We would carry these weapons and shovels so in case we accidentally shot a civilian we would toss the weapon on the body and we would say that he was an insurgent."       
U.S. Army veteran Jason Hurd said, "We would fire indiscriminately and unnecessarily at this building. We never got a body count and we never got a casualty count afterward." He added, "These things happen every day in Iraq."             
The veterans also showed videos supporting their claims. The testimony of the U.S. veterans also highlights the mental state of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan that may have led to acts of violence against civilians.                           
Al Jazeera English journalist Omar Chatriwala wrote in a blog ("WikiLeaks vs. the Pentagon") that the WikiLeaks documents are supported by reports from the ground by Al Jazeera English.     

Today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) continued her coverage of the WikiLeaks Afghanistan revelations and spent the hour with WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.  We'll note him on Bradley Manning (a suspect who has never issued a public statement on whether or not he leaked to WikiLeaks) and on Iraq.  On Bradley:
JULIAN ASSANGE: In relation to a military source, alleged military source, Bradley Manning, who has been charged with supplying --the charges don't say to us, but supplying to someone the helicopter video showing the killing of two Reuters journalists in Baghdad in July 2007, he is now being held in Kuwait itself. A bit of a problem. Why isn't he being held in the United States? Is it to keep him away from effective legal representation? Is it to keep him away from the press? We're not sure. But there doesn't seem to be any reason why he could not be transferred to the United States. We obviously cannot say whether he is our source. We in fact specialize in not knowing the names of our sources. But nonetheless, he is a young man being held in dire circumstances on the allegation that he supplied this material to the press, and we were the initial publisher of that Iraq video. So we are trying to raise money for his legal representation. We have committed $50,000 of our own funds, that if the general public could contribute or other people could contribute, I know that his military counsel would find that of significant value. The lawyers that we have spoken to say that his representation will cost $200,000, assuming that it's a regular sort of trial, it goes ahead. People can go to, where there is a grassroots campaign that his friends and family and some internet activists have become involved to try and support him.
On Iraq:
AMY GOODMAN: And do you have more documents to release on Iraq?

JULIAN ASSANGE: We have an enormous backlog of documents, stemming all the way back to January. During the past six months, we have been concentrating on raising funds and dealing with just a few of our leaks and upgrading our infrastructure to deal with the worldwide demand. So that huge backlog is something that we are just starting to get through, and this latest Afghan leak is an example of that.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan gets the last word on she contemplates the meaning of these continued, illegal wars:
Deep down inside of me, there is the Cindy who is raging against the Democratic Congress's passage of the recent war-funding bill, but so I don't explode, I am outwardly calm. Pissed off Cindy has to be in here, or I wouldn't be writing this piece--but the rhetoric that I have written hundreds of times is now having the feeling of "been there, done that." Well, I am numb, I think, because I have visited this topic continually and words are just not cutting it. How many words are there for: murder, death, destruction, slaughter, starvation, predatory Capitalism, war profiteering, war, illegal, immoral, war crimes, callous, greedy, ****, pillage, plunder, blah, blah, blah!           

We live in an Empire that on a daily basis murders dozens of people without blinking even before I drink my first cup of coffee and which always ignores the basic needs of its own citizens. But its citizens are quietly complacent and materially complicit in these crimes. Slaves of, and to, The Empire.               

I am numb, I think.             


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 01, 2010, 09:23:13 am
 Associated Press

 - August 01, 2010

July deadliest month for Iraqis in 2 years with more than 500 dead

   BAGHDAD (AP) — July was Iraq's deadliest month in more than two years, according to new official figures, suggesting that a resilient insurgency is successfully taking advantage of the months of deadlock in forming a new government.

The figures released late Saturday show that 535 people were killed last month, the highest since May 2008 when 563 died, heightening concerns over Iraq's precarious security situation even as the U.S. troops are reducing their numbers.

The U.S. military vehemently rejected the casualty numbers Sunday afternoon, however, countering that its own data showed that only 222 Iraqis were killed in July. "We do our very best to be vigilant to ensure the numbers we report are as accurate as can be," spokesman Lt. Col. Bob Owen said.

The military's rejection of the Iraqi figures, compiled by the ministries of defense, interior and health, comes at a delicate time. The American military has pronounced Iraq's security as stabilizing and is going ahead with plans to send home all but 50,000 troops by the end of the month.

The increase in violence has been linked to insurgent attempts to destabilize the country as it struggles to sort out the inconclusive results of national elections nearly five months ago.

The political impasse deepened this weekend, when a Shiite bloc nominally allied with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition publicly announced its rejection of his candidacy for a second term in office.

In an announcement, the Iraqi National Alliance said it was also suspending contacts with al-Maliki's State of Law bloc until it puts forward another candidate for the prime minister's job. The merger between the two blocs, which leaves them just a few seats shy of a majority, however, remained intact, it said.

Opposition within the alliance to al-Maliki has long been known, but the announcement was significant for its emphatic tone.

With the holy month of Ramadan scheduled to start in the second week of August, there seems to be little hope of a political breakthrough before at least mid-September.

The pace of life slows down considerably in Ramadan, when devout Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking from dawn-to-dusk. This year's fast is expected to be especially challenging in view of Iraq's unforgiving summer heat.

The monthly toll released by Iraqi authorities also showed 1,043 people were wounded last month. Of those killed, the ministries identified 396 as civilians, 89 as policemen and 50 as soldiers.

Bombings and mortar attacks targeting Shiites on two religious pilgrimages last month, a bombing against anti-al-Qaida Sunni militiamen south of Baghdad and another that hit a Shiite mosque north of the capital killed at least 160 people and boosted the July death toll significantly.

Bombings, assassinations and gunfights remain daily occurrences in Iraq, particularly in the capital, although the overall level of violence has dramatically declined since 2008. However, concerted attacks on Shiite civilians blamed on al-Qaida militants are thought to be designed to re-ignite the sectarian strife that pushed the country to the brink of all-out civil war in 2006 and 2007.

Civilians also accounted for the overwhelming majority of the wounded in July — 680 of the 1,043. There were also 165 soldiers and 198 policemen among the wounded, according to the ministries.

The figures also showed that Iraqi security forces, which continue to be supported by the U.S. military in high profile operations, killed 100 insurgents and detained 955 suspected militants.

The high casualty figures point to the resilience of the insurgency seven years after it began in 2003, despite the death and capture of thousands of its fighters by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

With U.S. forces out of Iraqi cities since June last year, the insurgents seem to be focusing their attacks on Iraqi security forces and Shiite civilians.

When all but 50,000 American troops are left in Iraq by the end of this month, the U.S. military will shift its mission from warfare to training Iraqi security forces. The U.S. military said late last month that troop levels in Iraq had dropped to below 65,000.

Casualty figures for U.S. forces have mostly been in single digits in recent months, a fact that points to the diminishing visibility of the U.S. military on the ground when Iraqi security forces seem to be struggling against the insurgency and Washington determined to stick to its withdrawal timetable.

According to an Associated Press count, four U.S. troops were killed in July, only one of them in combat.


Associated Press writer Lara Jakes contributed to this report.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 01, 2010, 09:27:45 am
U.S. grows isolated on aggressive war 

31/07/2010 02:30:00 PM GMT
The growing global consensus holds that not only was the invasion of Iraq illegal but that accountability should follow, that such crimes should result in severe personal consequences for who plan for war.

( U.S. -led invasion of Iraq was a crime.

By Peter Dyer

Though the U.S. political/media establishment remains in denial, an international consensus is building that the 2003 U.S. -led invasion of Iraq was a crime -- a profound and catastrophic violation of international law.

The crime was aggression: the waging of unprovoked war on a sovereign state.

The growing global consensus holds that not only was the invasion of Iraq illegal but that accountability should follow, that – at least in the future – such crimes should result in direct and severe personal consequences for leaders who plan for war and give the orders to start.

Two recent developments, in London and in Kampala, Uganda, highlight this movement away from impunity and toward personal responsibility for aggression -- referred to in the judgment of the first Nuremberg trial in 1946 as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

In London, the Chilcot inquiry, the official British examination of the Iraq War, has produced powerful testimony from leading ex-government figures that Operation Iraqi Freedom was illegal and was known to be so at the time by many senior officials.

Sir Michael Wood, chief Legal Adviser to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), the British equivalent of the U.S. State Department, told the Chilcot Inquiry in January:

“I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law. In my opinion, that use of force had not been authorized by the Security Council, and had no other legal basis in international law.”

The FCO Deputy Legal Adviser, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, told the inquiry: “I regarded the invasion of Iraq as illegal, and I therefore did not feel able to continue in my post.”

Ms. Wilmshurst also testified that her perspective was shared unanimously among all the FCO Legal Advisers.

Testifying on July 20, Baroness Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Director General of MI-5 (Military Intelligence-5, the British Security Service) from 2002 to 2007, further undermined the “self-defense” justifications for invading Iraq, cited by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Asked for her assessment of the possibility that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would have threatened western interests by combining weapons of mass destruction with international terrorism, she answered:

“It is a hypothetical theory. It certainly wasn't of concern in either the short term or the medium term to my colleagues and myself.”

When asked if she gave any credence to assessments that Saddam Hussein provided support for al-Qaeda and might have been involved in 9/11, Manningham-Buller said:

“No. …there was no credible intelligence to suggest that connection and that was the judgment, I might say, of the CIA. It was not a judgment that found favour with some parts of the American machine, …which is why Donald Rumsfeld started an intelligence unit in the Pentagon to seek an alternative judgment.”

When asked for her reflections on the invasion, she said: “The main one would seem to me to be the danger of over-reliance on fragmentary intelligence in deciding whether or not to go to war. If you are going to go to war, you need a pretty high threshold. … The intelligence was not substantial enough upon which to make that decision.”

Only the United Nations Security Council can legally use or authorize armed force across borders (UN Charter Article 41) unless a country has been attacked or an attack is imminent (Article 51).

The UN Security Council did not authorize the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Neither the US nor the UK had been attacked by Iraq. Neither was there anything remotely resembling an imminent threat of Iraqi armed attack on the US or the UK

By the numbers the invasion of Iraq was a monstrous crime, generating massive trauma for the Iraqi people.

In the resulting conflict somewhere between 100,000 and one million people lost their lives. About four million people lost their homes.

Yet, it remains highly unlikely the men and women who brought about these horrors will ever be arrested and tried. That’s mostly because the superpower status of the United States and the nature of internal U.S. politics make serious accountability hard to envision, at least in the foreseeable future.

The principle of “equal justice under the law,” so fundamental to the American way that the phrase is engraved on the front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building, is cast aside when U.S. authorities authorize the killing of foreigners in the name of national security, even when the justification is bogus.

Outside the U.S., though, momentum is building for equal justice under international criminal law.

This perspective was dramatically affirmed recently at the International Criminal Court Review Conference in Kampala, Uganda. On June 11, the ICC reached agreement to amend the ICC Charter, subject to a vote in 2017, to include a definition of the crime of aggression.

The ICC Charter, established in 1998, gave the court jurisdiction over genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

But finding an agreement on the definition of aggression and the conditions of jurisdiction proved so difficult that the delegates finally agreed that the ICC could not actually assume jurisdiction until (Article 5 Section 2) “a provision is adopted…defining the crime and setting out the conditions under which the Court shall exercise jurisdiction with respect to this crime.”

In 2002, shortly after the ICC Charter entered into force, the States Parties (countries which have ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute, the founding document of the ICC) established a special working group on the crime of aggression.

In Kampala, almost eight years later, 84 of the 111 ICC States Parties reached agreement on a definition as well as on jurisdiction.

Also participating in the discussions were 30 “observer nations:” countries such as the United States, Russia and China which are not yet States Parties and thus could not vote but which still exerted influence.

It's worth noting the Obama administration’s modest concession to the international rule of law. Though the United States remains outside the ICC, the presence of an American delegation at the review conference is a repudiation of the Bush administration, which not only refused to engage the ICC but actively worked against it.

The Bush administration, by threatening reductions in aid, pressured over 100 countries to sign “Bilateral Immunity Agreements” whose purpose was to ensure that these countries would not transfer U.S. nationals to the jurisdiction of the ICC.

The Kampala agreement on aggression was based on a series of compromises, a major portion of which had to do with sorting jurisdiction, between the ICC and the UN Security Council, for the finding of aggression.

Not surprisingly the permanent members of the Security Council (the ones with veto power: US, UK, France, Russia and China) were reluctant to share the power to determine aggression conferred by United Nations Charter (Article 39).

The Draft Resolution compromise provided that under certain conditions the ICC could exercise jurisdiction over aggression by States Parties, but the Security Council would have ultimate veto power.

Dr. Kennedy Graham, a New Zealand Member of Parliament who went to Kampala as an observer with Parliamentarians for Global Action, made some comments reflecting the mixed reaction at the conference to the United States agenda:

“At present, the US is ‘prepared to constructively engage’ without joining. Of course it is…. [It] is quite prepared to refer [to the Security Council] any issue of crimes in bello [during war], since it can veto any of its own.

“What it is not prepared to do is cede any competence to the Court to determine aggression (crimes ad bellum). … So, more of the same from the U.S. , right now. But the time will come. They cannot hold out forever.

“When the rest of the world has moved, the leader of the free world will come inside the tent. When peace and justice truly merge on the negotiating table, the U.S., with its strategic partner of the night, Israel, will turn up for dinner. They should be made welcome.”

Still, despite the compromises, the Kampala agreement was remarkable. The major hurdles to including aggression as a crime that can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court have been overcome.

The days when national leaders can wage war with impunity may be slowly coming to an end.

Perhaps someday, as Kennedy Graham envisions, all countries will come inside the tent. If and when that happens even the leaders of the world's most powerful countries, when contemplating slaughter of the citizens of another country for political gain, will want to pause to consider the prospect of arrest, trial and imprisonment.

Humanity will then have taken a giant step toward the founding goal of the United Nations: a world without war.

-- Peter Dyer is a freelance journalist who moved from California to New Zealand in 2004. He can be reached at

-- Middle East Online


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 01, 2010, 09:34:36 am
Iraq snapshot - July 30, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday, July 30, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Nancy A. Youssef continues to LIE about Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange tells US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, "We will not be suppressed. We will continue to expose abuses of this administration and others," the Army releases a report on the increased number of suicides, and more.
Starting in the US, Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) reports, "At a time of record-high military suicides, commanders are ignoring the mental health problems of American soldiers and not winnowing out enough of those with records of substance abuse and crime, a United States Army report has concluded."  The report is 234 pages of text entitled [PDF format warning] "ARMY: Health Promotion Risk Reduction Suicide Prevention REPORT 2010." The report opens with a note from Gen Peter W. Chiarelli which explains Fiscal Year 2009 saw 160 suicides among active duty soldiers and 239 suicides in the Army Reserves.  Page i conveys that the Army wants to appear alarmed: "This is tragic!" It's very rare you encounter an exclamation point in a government report. So what has the Army been doing -- and the report covers only that branch of the military, the Army and Army reserves -- to address the problem?
Concrete steps taken by the Army may included the following (list is from page 126 of the report):
* June 2009, accessions waivers were reduced for adult felony (major misconduct) convictions; and drug/alcohol positive tests; misconduct (misdemeanor)/major misconduct for drug ues; possession; or drug paraphernalia, to include marijuana.  This means over 4,000 recruits were not accepted into the Army compared to 2008.
* Revised legacy protocols for investigating and reporting suicide.
* Standardized a council at every post, camp and station to integrate all aspects of health promotion, risk reduction and suicide prevention into the community.
May?  The list continues on subsequent pages and also insists that they have "Reduced the stigma associated with counseling services and maintained continuity of care by requiring all Soldiers to be in- and out-process through Behavior Health (BH), Social Work Services and ASAP."  No, they haven't reduced the stigma.
And it's so stupid for them to continue to claim that.  There are officers -- high-ranking ones -- who have sought counseling.  They need to be encouraged to step forward and put a face on the issue.  The stigma doesn't vanish from saying "There's nothing wrong with it."
over and over.  The stigma vanishes when General Joe or Joanne Martin steps forward and says, "I went through a period where I was feeling really low.  I couldn't understand that period or my mood, so I sought help. It made me a better soldier, it made me a better commander."  That's what ends the stigma.  When the enlisted can see that it helped someone high ranking and can see that there's no punishment or fall out for them seeking help.  When a general stands up and makes such a statement, the thoughts no longer are a sign of 'weakness' but are natural thoughts that anyone could have and seeking help for them becomes a duty a soldier has to those he/she serves with and to his/her self.  Until those in leadership start speaking out, serving as the Army's own personal PSA, nothing's going to change.  And it's going to require men and women speaking out in the officers ranks because there are men and women serving.  But it's especially going to require men coming forward because the stigma is there and 15 women generals, majors and lieutenants can come forward and it will not make a difference for a number of male soldiers because they will dismiss it with something like, "Well women are better in touch with their feelings." 
The report does have objections and criticisms.  Gen Peter Chiarelli shared with NPR last night that he feels that there are a number of factors at play including repeat deployments. He's probably correct on about the factors because the three he gave are interelated. Finances and family life and, if you're doing repeat deployments, you are limited in how far you can get ahead in a job that i not the US military due to the fact that you're constantly deployed. Constant deployments also affect your family. So the three are interrelated.  And all three can wear on anyone and cause grief, shock, sadness, any number of emotions in the normal -- perfectly normal -- human range.  The report focused on the Army.  Today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio), Wade Goodwyn reported on Mary Gallagher who has had to survive and live with her husband James Gallagher's decision to take his own life.  James Gallagher was an Iraq War veterna, a Marine.
Mary Gallagher: Most Marines were not ones to really talk at all. Jim always said he'd placed it right in his heart and he said I'll carry it forward because that's what I have to do and that's how I'll get through it. I'm sure he saw a lot of ugly things, but I just don't know, you know, all the ugly he did see.  [. . .] To me, he just seemed sad. You know, he was, you know, not quite himself but, you know, again -- I just had no idea that he was really struggling as bad as he was. And obviously he was struggling a lot. And that's the hardest part for me, you know? It's something I carry with myself every day -- that I didn't notice, that I didn't realize how much he was hurting.
Mary Gallagher is a member of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) -- an organization for the loved ones of service members who have taken their own lives and which explains at their web site, "We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether it is just to talk, or meet others with shared experiences and understanding, or to find support and information from our professional network of resources."
From service members to veterans, we noted in yesterday's snapshot there was a press release from a Republican member of Congress but we didn't have room for it.  Steve Buyer is from Indiana and serves on the House Veterans Affairs Committee where he is Ranking Member.  His office released the following:
Continuing in his efforts to improve the lives of veterans and the Department of Veterans' Affairs, Congressman Steve Buyer (IN-04), Ranking Member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, offered three amendments during the House consideration of the Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (MILCON VA) on Wednesday.  Congressman Buyer offered five amendments to the House Committee on Rules, though only three of the amendments were accepted by the committee.  Of the Congressman's accepted amendments, the House passed all three by a voice vote.
The first amendment offered by Congressman Buyer would require that $10 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to increase the number of VA employees available to provided vocational training and rehabilitation to veterans with service-connected disabilities.   The goal of VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program is to put disabled veterans back to work, or for the most severely disabled, to live as independently as possible.           
The Congressman explained that the VA's counselors currently have an average caseload of over 130 disabled veterans.  Because of the heavy workload which includes a significant amount of case management and regular interaction with their clients, the wait time for a disabled veteran to actually enter vocational training is nearly six months.  That is on top of the average of the 6 months it takes to receive a disability rating needed to even become eligible for this benefit.           
"The $10 million included in my amendment would fund one hundred additional professional level staff and reduce the caseload to a more manageable average of one hundred cases per counselor thereby shortening the time it takes for a veteran to begin their training.  For many veterans and servicemembers VR&E training is the bridge to meaningful and productive employment," stated the Congressman.           
The second amendment offered by the Congressman would require $162 million of the $508 million appropriated for VA construction of minor projects be used for renewable energy projects at the VA's medical facility campuses.  Congressman Buyer for the past three years has worked with the Department to increase the VA's use of renewable energy.  In 2009, the Congressman was responsible for securing funding to allow VA's renewable energy projects to continue in fiscal year 2010 -- and the amendment would continue this work.                 
"As the second largest Federal department operating the largest health care system in the nation, the VA is uniquely positioned to advance the use of alternative sources of energy," noted Buyer.  "Savings accrued from an increased reliance on alternative energy, would allow additional resources to be devoted to improving the care and services offered to our veterans and reducing the rising budget deficit."             
The last amendment offered by Congressman Buyer requires that $8 million of the $2.6 billion appropriated for VA General Operating Expenses be used to fund the adaptive sports grant program and that an additional $2 million be used to provide supplementary funding for the Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events.  The Congressman notes the $10 million would be used to fund the second year of the VA/U.S. Paralympics Adaptive Sports Program for disabled veterans.               
"Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the U.S. Olympic training center in San Diego.  I was inspired by the attitude and positive example of our Olympians that train there, which they continue to set for all Americans.  It truly was a remarkable place, and as I have said before, I learned that there is never a 'bad' day at the Olympic training center," expressed Buyer.           
The Congressman went on to explain the amendment's purpose, "The US Paralympic program establishes partnerships with local adaptive sports programs.  US Paralympics currently has over 100 of these partnerships in place across the nation.  These local programs submit a proposal describing how they intend to attract disabled veterans to their adaptive sports programs.  The types of programs run the gamut of sports from track and field to marksmanship, water sports, volleyball, and wheelchair team games like basketball, soccer and rugby.  In short, there is a sport for any disabled veteran.  The US Paralympics then chooses the best proposals and submits a funding proposal to VA. My amendment would provide $10 million to fund the second year of a 4-year program."
That's the US Congress.  Iraq really has no Congress currently.  It's met once, for less than twenty minutes in that last four months with no plans to meet again anytime soon.  What's going on?  The political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 23 days.  Today Andrew England and Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) report that a US diplomatic mission is planned for August -- by which point, the current nominee for US Ambassador to Baghdad, James Jeffrey, may have been confirmed. 
In today's violence, Reuters reports a Baaj roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier last night and left three more injured while a Buhriz roadside bombing today targeted Sahwa and killed 4 family members. Asia News reports Yonan Daniel Mammo, a Chalean Christian, was kidnapped in Kirkuk as he left work: "After he was abducted, he called his wife by phone, saying that he had been taken. Since then, there have been no news from him. Many believe he was kidnapped for ransom."
Moving to the US, we'll note this exchange from the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) with guest host Susan Page of USA Today.
Susan Page: You had Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, on the Today Show this morning, on NBC, saying -- imploring WikiLeaks not to post more of those documents from the Afghan War.  What is the White House concern here, Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: Well WikiLeaks has said that it has an additional 50,000 documents that have yet to be published. These documents are believed to be State Dept cables and to be a little bit more detailed -- some would argue damaging -- than the 75,000 that have already come out.  And I think the real concern is  in the 75,000 that have been released so far  there are names of Afghan informants and families who have come forward, who have done things as innocuous as handing over weapons to providing useful tips to American soldiers. The Taliban has said, through their spokesman, that they're going through those documents now and there's a real worry that those Afghans will be killed for-for working with the allies. And the reality is the US doesn't have the resources to protect these Afghans who are living in remote villages and parts where we might not have the right resources to give them the kind of protection that they need?
Before we deal with Nancy, let's deal with some facts. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements.
Back to Nance. I thought Nancy Youssef was a member of the press.  She's a member of the military now?  What is that "we"?  It certainly explains that piece of garbage explanation.  A war is going on.  WikiLeaks isn't enlisted.  It's not its job to take sides.  How stupid of Nancy to feel that "we" have a right to ask an independent body to do what is best for, presumably, "us."  WikiLeaks exists to release information.  There's nothing puzzling about it unless you're so simple-minded that you confuse yourself with the US military when you are allegedly a reporter.  "We"? 
Nancy went on to spread rumors about Bradley Manning again.  We'll get to who he is in a moment.  Nancy, the rumors from Iraq in 2006 were about you.  Do we need to go into those?  We can.  We can treat them as fact if you like.  There is  a list.  We can treat it as fact, if you like.  I assumed it was jealousy on the part of your male colleagues but maybe it wasn't?  Maybe we should WikiLeak your ass?  What do you think, Nance?
Nancy A. Youssef:  One of the key suspects of the leak is a Private by the name of Bradley Manning who has said that he leaked 287 documents to WikiLeaks, that he did it while humming to Lady Gaga's "Telephone."
Nancy, Bradley Manning has not said a damn thing.  You need to quit lying.  If you can't, you better believe that list floating around -- made by your male colleagues when you were in Iraq -- will be widely circulated.  Repeating, I believed it was a lie by men jealous of your scoops.  But if you're going to lie about Bradley Manning, if you're going to present rumors as truth, well we can turn the spotlight on your glass house, Nancy.  Later in the program, Nancy Youssef won't "want to conjecture" about the military but she's more than happy to try and convict Bradley Manning despite the fact that he has thus far never spoken in public and has admitted to nothing that anyone's aware of. 
Nancy's basing her 'Bradley said' on claims put forward by Felon and Drama Queen Adrian Lamo.  Felon Lamo has trashed Bradley in public and launched a behind the scenes whisper campaign which the press should have walked the hell away from after the repeated press embarrassments of the 90s. But they're just as eager to convict as they were when they 'just knew' Richard Jewel was guilty. (He wasn't.) Ashley Fantz (CNN) is the latest to participate in backdoor gossip that is not passed on to the news consumer but which is influencing the way this story plays -- and check out the Joan Crawford-style portrait Lamo supplies CNN with.

In a regular court of law, convicted felon Lamo would make for a questionable witness at best. Somehow the press has embraced him fully and you have to wonder if that isn't part of selling the prosecution's case? Making the case for the prosecution? Well Julian E. Barnes really couldn't hack it at the Los Angeles Times so now he pairs with Miguel Bustillo and Christopher Rhoads to 'report' for the Wall St. Journal. What does the prosecution offer? They try their case in public via the apparent legal aid provided by the press. Oh look, here's CBS News trying the case for the prosecution. Why is the press reporting on what the prosecution claims -- outside of court -- to have?

While Manning is kept from the press -- and has just been transferred out of Kuwait to Virginia -- the government continues to attempt to sway public opinion and the press just goes along with it. Does no one remember innocent until proven guilty? Does no one remember that the press is supposed to be objective.

On the word of a deranged felon -- Adrian Lamo -- Bradley's been drug through the mud and the press has never stopped to question that nor has it bothered to point out to its audience that the government is trying the case in public while maintaining a lockdown on Bradley. They say whatever they want -- and the press runs with it as fact -- while Bradley Manning is not allowed to make any statement. This is justice? It's not reporting, that's damn sure, but it's also not justice.

Is the WikiLeaks whistle blowing like the Pentagon Papers? Daniel Ellsberg tells BBC World Service, "Oh very much so. There's a fundamental, very strong comparison here." So, in other words, David Sanger's an idiot.  The New York Times reporter or 'reporter' was on The Diane Rehm Show today and blathering on about how the WikiLeaks papers were not the Pentagon Papers. Scott Horton interviewed Julian Assange of WikiLeaks Wednesday (link has audio and transcript) on Antiwar Radio:

Horton: Is it true that -- I guess there was a CNN report that said that WikiLeaks has received, I guess especially since the "Collateral Murder" video was published, a deluge of new high-level leaks from people inside the U.S. government?


Assange: Yes, that is true. And we are, as an organization, suffering, if you like, under this enormous backlog of material we're trying to get through. It will cause substantial reform when that material is released. Bar a catastrophe, that's going to go ahead, not just from the U.S. -- we have a six months' backlog to go through because we were busy fundraising and reengineering for this period of intense public interest. So it'll be interesting days ahead.


Horton: Yeah, it sounds like it. So I'm interested -- one of the things we like to cover on the show a lot here is American involvement in the war in Somalia since Christmastime 2006, and --


Assange: Well, that's good, that's good. That's very underreported. The first leak that we ever did was about Somalia.


Horton: Well, I'd read that, and I wonder whether you have any information about the renditions going on there, CIA, JSOC intervention inside Somalia on behalf of the Ethiopians and African Union forces there?       


Assange: We have a little, although nothing -- I don't know in the queue, how much material there is there relates [sic]. But certainly there are some classified orders and policy material related to that. We also released a rendition log from Kenya -- where most of the Somalis end up passing through -- for about 103 people were -- I have to be careful on this number actually -- but somewhere between 50 and 150 people were renditioned through Kenya, most of them from Somalia, and we have the flight logs, which we put up about a year ago.

In an apparently uncoordinated joint-effort, Hamid Karzai, the US-installed war lord in Afghanistan, and Robert Gates -- US Secretary of Defense -- have both condemned Wikileaks in the last 24 hour news cycle with Gates going so far as to declare that WikiLeaks has "blood on its hands."  CNN posts a video of Julian Assange's response to that claim:
We are disappointed in what was left out of Secretary Gates' comments. Secretary Gates spoke about hypothetical blood but the grounds of Iraq and Afghanistan are covered in real blood. Secretary Gates has overseen the killings of thousands of children and adults in these two countries. Secretary Gates could have used his time, as other nations have done, to announce a broad inquiry into these killings.  He could have announced specific criminal investigations into the deaths we have exposed. He could have announced a panel to hear the heartfelt dissent of US soliders who know this war from the ground.  He could have apologized to the Afghani people. But he did none of these things. He decided to treat these issues and the countries effected by them with contempt. Instead of explaining how he would address these issues, he decided to announce how he would suppress them.  This behavior is unacceptable. We will not be suppressed. We will continue to expose abuses of this administration and others. 
"But it wasn't the Iraq War that did the Labour Party in, since the British people, like their American counterparts, are keen to forget that fiasco," scribbled eternal dumb ass Amitabh Pal at The Progressive in May. (Rebecca called him out here.) And that bag gas baggery just keeps on giving. Gas baggery, for the uninitatied, is what takes place on the Sunday chat & chews where woefully underinformed 'journalists' weigh in on every topic under the sun despite being immensely unqualified to offer anything even adjacent to an informed opinion. We're really not supposed to get gas baggery from so-called independent media; however, it's cheap to produce so it swams 'independent' media the same way it does the yack-fests. And Amitabh Pal's gas baggery is worth calling out so frequently because -- as Labour polls ahead and following the election demonstrated -- the Iraq War did have a huge impact on the elections and the Iraq War continues to be a significant topic in England.
Take yesterday when those vying for leader of the Labour Party met up for a BBC Radio 5 live debate moderated by Victoria Derbyshire (link has video of excerpt below).
Ed Balls: I was in Parliament at the time. I took a decision. It was the most agonizing process I have ever been through in my life. I have been over it and over it ever since. The reason I voted for the war was because the leader of the Iraqi Kurds pleaded with backbench Labour MPs to vote for the war because he said his people had no chance ever of being free from Saddam. The weapons inspectors, if they'd done their job and then eventually come to the conclusion that there were no weapons, that probably would have been a very bloody civil war in Iraq. With hindsight we look back. You know I look back at the lack of post-war planning and it horrifies me. But when I go back to that vote, did I do the right thing for the right reasons? And I believe I did and I'm not going to change that position just because I'm standing for the leadership position.
Victoria Derbyshire: Okay, would you --
Ed Miliband: First of all, first of all, I did tell people at the time that I was against the war -- you asked me. But secondly --
Ed Balls: Well you didn't tell me.
Ed Miliband: -- it's a really, it's a really fundamental --

Victoria Derbyshire: Sorry, what was that Ed Balls?
Ed Balls: Well I, you know I have to say, in 2005, the Times [of London] newspaper asked us whether we would have voted for the war? I said in 2005, I would have voted for the war. Ed didn't answer the question of the Times' newspaper --
Ed Miliband: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I --
Ed Miliband: -- when I was standing for selection, my constitencuency party asked me if I was against the war and I said I was. But look, but look, the real issue here is not some great claim of moral superiority in 2003, the real issue is do you recognize the mistakes that were made and do you recognize the fact that we hitched our wagon to the United States on foreign policy in a way that was a profound mistake. And-and it's not just about the loss of trust that there weren't WMD, it is a profound issue about our foreign policy and about whether we're willing to say that actually there are times when we can't just go along with what the US says.
Victoria Derbyshire: So if you were to become leader, you would apologize, would you?
Ed Miliband: Yes, I would.
As disclosed many times before, I know and like both Miliband brothers.The Press Trust of India reports on the latest polling which has David Miliband in the lead with 37% of respondents, followed by his brother Ed Miliband with 29%, Diane Abbot with 12% and Ed Balls with 11%. In the May election, Labour suffered huge losses and a power-sharing coalition between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats is now in charge. The latest poll leads Mehdi Hasan to declare, "The next Labour leader will be called Miliband" (New Statesman). And click here for an analysis of the race by Hasan that was written before the latest polling.

Staying in England where the Iraq Inquiry heard testimony today from Deputy Prime Minister (May 2, 1997 to June 27, 2007) John Prescott (link goes to text and transcript options). Taking time away from his very busy days of non-stop tweeting via his BlackBerry, Prescott mourned the loss of those who died in Iraq -- except for the Iraqis.  He then whined about the Middle East process (he wanted 9-11 to mean Palestinians received "social justice" -- a term he didn't define). He blathered away about the intelligence.  He felt it was spotty and incomplete.  Did he vote for the Iraq War? Yes, he did. Which makes his judgment of the evidence today and his actions puzzling.
Committee Memeber Roderic Lyne: Did it [intel] convince you that Iraq posed a serious and growing threat to the region and to UK and western interests? YOU way it wasn't very substantial. 
John Prescott: I think you are right, there was a threat to the region anyway by its actions whether it was an invasion of Kuwait or whether it was primarily this war between Iran and Iraq. It was obviously not a very stable situation there. I didn't need JIC to tell me that. Where we were concerned with the intelligence on JIC was to whether he was coopearting with the resolutions from UN in giving information as to whether he was actively involved in weapons of mass destruction. So to be fair to the intelligence agency, when they said in our report which led, in fact, to the information produced on the document, that there might be something happening in 45 minutes, they have this ability, they have these missiles, you do tend to accept that's the judgment and there must be something in it.  I didn't totally dismiss it. I didn't have any evidence to feel that they were wrong, but I just felt a little bit nervous about the conclusions on what I thought seemed to be pretty limited intelligence.
And yet still he went along with the war.  Okay.  With this round closing, John Chilcot, who chairs the Inquiry, made some closing remarks which included:
Chair John Chilcot: Ove the coming months we will be analysing and integrating all this evidence and information as we begin to write our report. as we do his, we may find conflicts or gaps within the evidence. If we do this, we will need to consider how best to get to the bottom of what actually happened. This may be through seeking additional written evidence or, where we wish to probe more deeply, through holding further hearings, possible recalling witnesses from whom we have heard before. If, and I stress the word "if," we decid to do this, these hearings will probably take place in the late autumn. The Inquriy also hopes to visit Iraq. We want to see for ourselves the consequences of UK involvement, to hear Iraqi perspectives and to understand the prospects for Iraq today. For security both of the Inquiry team and those we wish to meet, we shall not publish any further details in advance of a visit. If we are able to visit Iraq, we shall provide a summary afterwards, as with all our other oveseas visits.
But Chilcot doesn't get the last word.  It goes instead to Michigan's Green Party:
 **  News Advisory  **
**  -------------  **
    July 30, 2010

For more information . . .
About the meeting:
Lynn Meadows -- Meeting Manager <>
   (734) 476-7101

About the agenda:
Fred Vitale -- Co-Chair <>
   (313) 580-4905

About the candidates:
John Anthony La Pietra -- Elections Coordinator <>
   (269) 781-9478

Michigan Greens Hold Convention This Weekend
Nominating at All Levels for November 2 Ballot;
Will File Papers Monday to Make Candidates Official

Who:    GPMI members from all over the state.

What:   GPMI state nominating convention

When:   Saturday, July 31 -- 9am to 5pm;
        Sunday, August 1 --- 9am to 4pm

Where:  Meeting Room, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant
        4832 West Saginaw Highway, #1
        Lansing, MI  48917
          (Saginaw Highway is M-43 and Business I-69;
           the restaurant is about 2-1/2 miles east
           of Exit 93 off I-69/I-96)

Why:    To nominate Green candidates for Federal,
        state, and local office to appear on the
        November 2, 2010 general-election ballot.
        GPMI will file the appropriate nomination
        paperwork with the Bureau of Elections
        (and county clerks as necessary) on Monday,
        August 2 to certify the convention results.

For information on the issues, values, and candidates of the Green Party of Michigan, please visit the party's homepage:

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 01, 2010, 09:37:04 am
Iraq snapshot - July 29, 2010

The Common Ills

Thursday, July 29, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the Congress explores the education and employment processes for veterans, Spain puts out warrants for three US service members, and more.
"I am glad to see we are joined by representatives from the Department of Defense which is responsible for training our men and women in uniform to meet the demands of their respective military career," declared US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin this afternoon bringing to order the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity.   "I am also glad to see the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor who both oversee these unique benefits and programs that may help our nation's veterans gain meaningful employment after their military service."  She explained that the Subcomittee was continuing their work on the issue of the unemployment rate for veterans (21.6% in 2009). Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is the Chair of the Subcommittee, US House Rep Gus Bilirakis is the Ranking Member.  In his opening remarks, Bilrakis noted, "Too often our men and women are required to repeat education already gained in military service. To me, that means that states need to be more flexible in recognizing military training and skills. I'm disappointed that the National Governor's Associated declined once again to join us here today.  To me, the states hold the key to solving this dilemma."
The first panel was composed of Veterans of Foreign Wars' Eric Hillerman, the American Legion's Joseph C. Shapre Jr., the Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri and Monster Worldwide's Vince Patton.  We'll note this exchange from it.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin:  From all of's transition career tools, which ones have been in the greatest demand by service members and veterans? Is it the mentor network?
Vince Patton: Yes, ma'am.  The mentor network definitely is one of the best demand because what we have found is by not just having the technology itself,  but our veterans would like to have somebody to connect with one another.  And this is probably one of the successes of the internet as a whole, that people are connecting with one another. By using our veteran career network where the veterans are connecting and talking to each other, helping them with writing resumes, it's been very, very helpful.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: For Mr. Hilleman and Mr. Shapre, you had both stated in your testimony -- I think one of the recommendations, Mr. Hilleman, was to fund a study of all MOSs [Military Occupational Specialty]. And Mr. Shapre you had stated that it would be helpful to have a system that could be devised to translate the full nature of a service members' skills and abilities. Do you think that having a study that would look at all MOSs and having a system designed in that way is -- would provide something that either currently isn't providing or is not capable of providing at this point?
Eric Hilleman: Um, Madame Chairwoman, currently ACE [American Council on Education] does study specific school houses and specific MOSs with the exception of the air force because the air force has their own junior college or community college within the air force.  That gives transferrable credit for education.  But the contract between DoD and ACE is at the request of DoD so it does not study every single MOSs or every single course, it's just what DoD is contracted with ACE to study.  That and ACE currently only has partners with our  credit reciprocity or credit acceptance of 30 -- excuse me, 2300 universities nation wide.  So quite a few universities. But that -- The list is not fully encompassing so I think we'd like to see if we could improve that through the academic sphere.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin:  Yes, so your focused on the study so that it would look at the transfer of credits into colleges and universities versus the career transition into direct employment.
Eric Hilleman: I think there needs to be a wall between two studies.  The focus on what's going on with ACE and currently with DoD and then take a look at also -- and I think unfortunately this-this has to go on an industry-industry basis and state by state.  The Army Nursing Program that we mentioned in our testimony. Nowhere on the sight does it say that Air Force, Navy or Coast Guard nurses are excepted from the same tests that the Army Nurses are expected to sit for.  So there's high degrees of variances from state to state.  And I think that is the largest challenge to developing some agreement where credits transfer  the military into the private sector.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mr. Shapre?
John Shapre: I agree with everything that Mr. Hilleman has stated but we also -- The other thing we're really focusing on is we would like to see a lot of this done prior to the person's transition out of the military.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mm-hmm.
John Shapre: They should know exactly what their MOS training will allow them to do once they leave.
 Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin:  Well that raises another very important question on TAP.  I know Secretary Jefferson's commited to reforming TAP. But I think Dr.  Patton, you had some testimony as it relates to your perspective on how TAP doesn't always provide service members with what they need. I have had a mixed bag of responses from my constituents. Most recentlly two different members of 20-years plus of different branches of the armed forces who separated from military service. One thought TAP was fabulous, and the other thought it was completely useless.  And they didn't take the program in the same place.  Otherwise I would think we would have had more consistent response.  What are your thoughts as it relates to TAP, any of you, how do we restructure this if necessary?
Vince Patton: Madame Chairwoman, I'll use my own personal experience when I went through TAP two years before I retired. I'm going through my TAP class and my needs are a little bit different than some of the other people that were sitting in that TAP class.  Sitting next to me was a young man with three-years in the Coast Guard, a paygrade E4.  He's got a total different focus on what's going to happen to him at the end of his time as what's going to happen to mine?  I'm getting a retirement, my resume is a little bit more padded than his is.  He's focused on trying to get into using education.  So  what happens in the TAP class is -- I have no problem with the content and  I don't think  anyone does. The problem is that it's not a one size fits all. But the system has kind of set that to be by virtue of getting everybody with different military walks of life into one setting and trying to come out with something of a commonality.  What probably needs to happen, in my opinion, is more of looking at how we can reinforce that information before TAP, during TAP,  as well as after TAP.  So-so the whole TAP process is something that's evolving that should continue on well past the individual leaving the service.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Any other comments on TAP?  I'm over time but I'm going to recognize the Ranking Member and come back for time.  Any other comments on TAP?
John Sharpe: Well we know that the Dept of Labor is in the midst of redoing their entire TAP program. They're modernizing the program, something that we strongly agree with. A lot of the recommendations that are going into this new program is coming from the businesses that set on their veteran advisory board. A couple of years ago, we all went to a number of TAP programs across the country and looked to see how it could be improved. And a lot of the recommendations that came from various business owners -- we just -- we do think they're on the right road. We're still concerned with the fact that many service members are still not getting access  to the TAP program.
The second panel was composed of the Dept of Labor's Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment and Training Service's Raymond M. Jefferson, DoD's John Campbell accompanied by DoD's Ron Horne and the VA's Margarita Cocker.  We'll note this exchange.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Now according to your written testimony and I think you touched on it just now as well, the VA provides certification preparation tests. Can you specify for which specialities and how you determine if the veterans eligible for participation in the preparation tests.
Margarita Cocker: Yes, ma'am. Preparation tests can be provided to any service member or veteran that requires it in order to be able to pass the exam. The process will involve the VRC -- the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor -- sitting down with the veteran and preparing the rehabilitation plan including any preparation test that might be needed. Depending on the industry standard for those types of exams and whether a preparation exam is typically expected  to help the individual pass, that could be a given in the rehabilitation plan that the preparation test would be written in. However, if during the progress of the plan -- If it had not been written into the plan, it can be added later if the veteran feels that they're not confident enough to pass the test without a preparation course.
Chair Stephanie Herseth: And then on average, how long would it take for a service member or veteran to complete a transferable skills assessment from the point where they go through the vocational exploration phase, then receive an individualized and comprehensive plan until they're employed in their chosen field?   Do you have a rough average?
Margarita Cocker:  I do not have an average. I can take that question for the record. However, what I can say is that that is very individualized and dependent upon the level of education that that veteran will need to complete to get to the point of licensing and certification if it's required for that occupation.  The evaluation process, the comprehensive assessment which includes the transferable skills assessment is conducted during the initial phase and I can certainly provide average numbers for the evaluation and planning phase. I can take that question for the record.
Chair Stephanie Herseth:  Okay, I appreciate that. And can you give any examples from different career fields where it's been particularly challenging to secure licensing or certification?
Margarita Cocker: I don't have any specific occupations where I can say it's been challenging to achieve that?
Chair Stephanie Herseth: Any states?
Margarita Cocker: I can take that for the record though and research it further.
Rick Maze (Air Force Times) covered yesterday's House Veterans Committee hearing and is probably at the largest news outlet that did cover the hearing.  It's rather surprising -- especially in the current poor economy, that billions of unaccountable dollars is not a story to other outlets. If you're late to the party, see yesterday's "Iraq snapshot" and Kat's "The House Veterans Affairs Committee was pissed." And very quickly noting a few highlights of yesterday's hearing.
The GAO repeatedly outlines the problems and the VA refuses to address them. US House Rep Cliff Stearns established this with his line of questioning and established that the VA has repeatedly been asked to get with the program but never can seem to do that.  The same conclusions over and over by the GAO and each year billions go missing from the VA. As Ranking Member Steve Buyer observed, "I mean, right now, you could look back and the last three or four [VA] Secretaries -- I mean, they have, since 2000, increased these directives without execution."

Maybe the press ignored the story because there was consensus on both sides of the aisle?

* US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick: "And Mr. Chairman, I share the sentiment of the other members of this Committee, that this is a very serious problem that we really need to stay on top of."

* Chair Bob Filner: "I would not underestimate the anger that my colleagues feel on this on both sides of the aisle."

If it was a lack of conflict that had them see it as a non-story, they missed it when the VA showed up for the second panel: The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance Edward Murray, the Chief Financial Officer W. Paul Kearns III and Chief Procurement and Logistics Officer Frederick Downs, Jr.

How much money is missing/unaccounted for? According to testimony from the VA to the Committee yesterday (specifically from Kearns):

2007: $6.9 billion     
2008: $11 bilion               
2009: $12 billion             
2010: $12 billion*       

2010 is an estimate from Kearns ("We're on track this year to be right at about the same level."). So add that up and the VA can't account for $41.9 billion.

$41.9 billion is missing/unaccounted for and that's not a story?  This week a much, much smaller amount of unaccounted for US tax payer money has dominated the news cycle (money that was supposed to go to Iraqi reconstruction efforts and may or may not have -- no one knows where the $9.1 billion went).  $41.9 billion isn't a story?

We have a Republican press release that will be noted tomorrow.  It's on veterans issues -- and I'm not opposed to noting press releases from Republican Congress members; however, there's just not space for it in today's snapshot.  The hearing today was interesting and there were a large number of visitors that e-mailed about the hearing earlier this week noting what would be helpful to them in the coverage.  (These are veterans and veterans spouses.)  So that's what I based the excerpts on.  And since that's based on input, I really can't cut any of those excerpts. We'll note the press release, in full, tomorrow.
One thing we have to note, on the issue of service members is stop-loss.  That's the back door draft, where you've served your time but your 'stopped' from leaving because the US military is suffering too many losses (from discharges, recruitment, demand, etc).  There's a new development for thos who have been stop-lossed.
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff If you are a service member or veteran who was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss between Sept. 11, 2001, and September 30, 2009, you are eligible for Stop Loss Special Pay. Be sure to send in your claim form before the Oct. 21 deadline; the average benefit is $3,700. See for more informa...tion. If you know someone who may be eligible, tell a friend!
See More
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay - The official website of the United States Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense, DoD, Defense, Defence, Military
Let's move over to Democracy Now! to note Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez' interview with Patrick Cockburn today:
JUAN GONZALEZ: Patrick, I'd like to ask you about this whole other issue of the report on -- by Chris Busby and some other epidemiologists about the situation in Fallujah and the enormous increases in leukemias and cancers in Fallujah after the US soldiers' attack on that city. Could you talk about that?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Sure. I think what's significant, very significant, about this study is that it confirms lots of anecdotal evidence that there had been a serious increase in cancer, in babies being born deformed, I mean, sometimes with -- grotesquely so, babies -- you know, a baby girl born with two heads, you know, people born without limbs, then a whole range of cancers increased enormously. That this was --when I was in Fallujah, doctors would talk about this, but, you know one couldn't -- one could write about this, but one couldn't really prove it from anecdotal evidence. Now this is a study, a scientific study, based on interviews with 4,800 people, which gives -- proves that this was in fact happening and is happening. And, of course, it took -- you know, it has taken place so much later than the siege of Fallujah, when it was heavily bombarded in 2004 by the US military, because previously, you know, Fallujah is such a dangerous place to this day, difficult to carry out a survey, but it's been finally done, and the results are pretty extraordinary.

AMY GOODMAN: What were the various weapons that were used in the bombing of Fallujah in 2004?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Well, primarily, it was sort of, you know, artillery and bombing. Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed.
We're stopping Cockburn because he's leaving out an important fact (did you catch it?).  First Democracy Now!'s coverage of white phosphorus includes the November 8, 2005  "U.S. Broadcast Exclusive - "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" on the U.S. Use of Napalm-Like White Phosphorus Bombs" -- they've covered the topic many times.  November 2005 was an important month because while Scott Shane and the New York Times were sneering (and mocking the documentary), DN! also aired  "A Debate: Did the U.S. Military Attack Iraqi Civilians With White Phosphorous Bombs in Violation of the Geneva Conventions?" (November 8, 2005).
That second story, broadcast November 8, 2005, is what needs to be noted. It was on that broadcast -- not in the pages of NYT -- that the US military finally confirmed the use of white phosophorus in Iraq.  Excerpt:
AMY GOODMAN: So are you confirming that you used white phosphorus in Fallujah, but saying that it's simply not illegal?           

LT. COL. STEVE BOYLAN: White phosphorus has been used. I do not recall it was used as an offensive weapon. White phosphorus is used for marking targets for both air and ground forces. White phosphorus is used to destroy equipment and other types of things. It is used to destroy weapons caches. And it is used to produce a white smoke which can obscure the enemy's vision of what we are doing.             

AMY GOODMAN: And you're using it in Iraq?         

LT. COL. STEVE BOYLAN: We have used it in the past. It is a perfectly legal weapon to use.             

AMY GOODMAN: Maurizio Torrealta, news editor for the Italian state broadcaster, RAI 24. Your response?                       

MAURIZIO TORREALTA: Well, the United States, as the UK and Italy, signed the convention about prohibition of chemical weapons. And the convention define precisely that what make forbidden an agent, a chemical agent, is not the chemical agent itself. Because as Lieutenant said, the white phosphorus can be used to light the scene of a battle. And in that case, it's acceptable. But what make a chemical agent forbidden is the use that is done with it. If you use white phosphorus to kill the people, to burn and to block them, people and animals, even animals say the convention that we all sign, Italy, United States and UK, this is a forbidden chemical agent.                                 
And we are full of picture that show bodies of young people, of children, of women which have strange -- particular, they are dead with a big corruption of the skin and show even the bone. And the clothes are intact, untouched. And that shows there has been an aggressive agent like white phosphorus that has done that. And we have all the number of those bodies and the place where they have been buried. So any international organization that wanted to inquire about that has all the tools and information to do it. And even the witness -- the U.S. military that we interview confirmed that the use of white phosphorus was against the population. And we have even picture of the fact that has been told by the helicopter down to the city, not by the ground up in the air to light the scene. Also the images, they spoke by themselves.

Cockburn states today, "Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed."  It requires noting that "later this was confirmed" took place on Democracy Now!  Back to today's report:
PATRICK COCKBURN: I think one shouldn't lose sight of the fact, in this case, that before one thinks about was depleted uranium used and other things, that just simply the use of high -- large quantities of high explosives in a city filled with civilians and people packed into houses -- often you find, you know, whole families living in one room -- was, in itself, going to create, lead to very, very high civilian casualties. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the increase in cancers and so forth, and the suspicion that maybe depleted uranium, maybe some other weapon, which we don't know about -- this is not my speculation, but of one of the professors who carried out the study -- might have been employed in Fallujah, and that would be an explanation for results which parallel, in fact exceed, the illnesses subsequently suffered by survivors of Hiroshima.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, it's interesting, under President Bush, Afghanistan was the forgotten war; under President Obama, Iraq is the forgotten war. Patrick?

PATRICK COCKBURN: Yeah, it's interesting, and it's very depressing, I think, you know, that -- I suppose the great success of the surge wasn't really militarily, but to get Iraq off the front pages and leading television news in the United States. And, you know, people speak of Iraq being better. I suppose it is better. You know, we only have about 300 people murdered every month rather than the 3,000 a month we had a few years ago. But it's still extremely bad. But, you know, it's sort of -- it is very strange that, you know, last weekend we had forty pilgrims killed in a southern Iraqi city by a bomb, and really you would have to hunt through the media to find any mention of this at all. And this is, you know, continually happening. But it was as if Iraq had returned to some sort of peace. Well, actually, it remains one of the most violent countries in the world. Maybe Somalia is worse, but not many other places.
Let's stay with the violence.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Falluja roadside bombing which wounded four police officers, a second Falluja roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left five more wounded and, dropping back to Wednesday for the rest, a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives (including Imam Ehsan Abdul Lateef Al Duri) and a Zimmar roadside bombing wounded one woman.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Iraqi soldiers were "tied-up" and then shot dead in Baghdad " Iraqi police, army and firemen were heading to the site as another four roadside bombs exploded in different routes in a quick secession about 15 minutes for all roadside bombs, targeting the first responders. 16 were killed including 7 civilians and 14 were injured including seven civilians," and, dropping back to Wednesday for the rest, a Mosul home invasion in which 1 woman and her son were killed and 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul.
The violence continues, so does the political stalemate.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 22 days.  Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari greeted Shoji Ogawa today in Baghdad (Japan's Ambassador to Iraq). Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that Zebari called the stalemate "embarrassing" and quotes him stating, "It's embarrassing to be honest with you, for me, and I have avoided a number of foreign visits."
Turning to England, Brendan O'Neill offers "Hans Blix's Stalinist rewriting of history" (Spiked):
Blix put Iraq in a no-win situation. Before setting off to inspect it in 2002/early 2003, he told a reporter that 'not seeing something, not seeing an indication of something, does not lead automatically to the conclusion that there is nothing'. So if he found weapons there would be war, and if he didn't find weapons, well, there might still be war. The pro-war lobby saw what it wanted to see in Blix's suspicions-filled final report to the UN in January 2003, with one account rightly arguing that it 'greatly strengthened the American and British case for war'. Far from trying to prevent war, the weapons inspectors -- with their demented scaremongering between 1998 and 2003 -- provided Washington and London with the perfect justification for their military venture.                       
Only a fool would idolise Blix. The spat between him and the US and the UK is no principled stand-off between anti-war and pro-war camps. Rather it is a struggle amongst clashing invading forces, with Blix defending the right of his people to occupy and blackmail the 'moral lepers' of Iraq for the rest of time, while Bush and Blair preferred to launch all-out war against those 'moral lepers'.
Former UN weapons inspector Blix testified Tuesday to the Iraq Inquiry -- here for a critique of it -- and offered a bunch of self-grandizing statements, a bunch of inconsistent remarks and a lot of justifications for the illegal war. O'Neill is correct, "Only a fool would idolise Blix." Blix has made a semi-name for himself by basically coming over to Margie's house and trashing everyone and then going over to Sally's house and when people object to his remarks at Margie's, Blix immediately disowns them -- even going so far as to claim he was misquoted. He has offered conflicting tales over and over for the last seven years. His testimony was in keeping with his desire to reinvent 'reality' and aided no one. Meanwhile Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) takes issue with recent coverage from the Independent of London which he feels misreads the testimonies and the documents, "Again, this is to confuse what the Inquiry has done in its public hearings with what it has found out behind the scenes. Given that the Independent has done so much to highlight the unpublished documents, this is surprising. If the Inquiry is not able to publish any further information and thus confront witnesses with the contradictions, it may as well draw its public hearings to a close. But Chilcot's options are not constrained by the lack of decisive new evidence, just limits on what he is able and willing to make public."
In England today, Iraq was a topic as two brothers each sought to be the leader of the Labour Party.  Patrick Wintour (Guardian) reports:
In a two-hour Radio 5 hustings, David Miliband claimed that his brother Ed was in the same position over the Iraq war as all the other candidates save Diane Abbott, since she alone had vocally opposed the conflict at the time.
[. . .]           
The pointed exchanges started when Ed Miliband sought to distinguish himself from his brother, saying: "One of the differences between David and myself is I think I am more critical of some of the things we did in government, and more willing to move on from some of the mistakes that we made, not just on foreign policy, like Iraq, but on the economy and the fact that we have left lots of people on low wages."               
David Miliband countered: "I do not believe we lost the 2010 election because of Iraq and we fool ourselves if we think [we lost] places like Stevenage -- that we won in 2005 -- because of Iraq."
As noted before, I know and like both David and Ed Miliband and I hope the above excerpt was balanced to give each a word. In legal news, Emma Ross-Thomas (Bloomberg News) reports that Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz has issued arrest warrants for US service members Sgt Thomas Gibson, Capt Philip Wolford and Lt Col Philip de Camp over the April 8, 2003 death of journalist Jose Couso who was killed in an US assault on the Palestine Hotel.  We'll close with this -- on the US -- from David Swanson's "Peace Movement Adopts New Comprehensive Strategy" (War Is Not A Crime):
Last week 700 leading peace activists from around the United States met and strategized in Albany, N.Y.    ( ).  They discussed, debated, and voted for a comprehensive new plan for the coming months.  The plan includes a new focus and some promising proposals for building a coalition that includes the labor movement, civil rights groups, students, and other sectors of the activist world that have an interest in ending wars and/or shifting our financial resources from wars to where they're actually needed.  The full plan, including a preface, is available online.

The plan includes endorsements and commitments to participate in events planned for Detroit on August 28th, and Washington, D.C., on August 28th and October 2nd, as well as a national day of actions led by students on October 7th, and a week of anti-war actions around the country marking the start of Year 10 in Afghanistan on October 7-16.  Dates to put on your calendar now for 2011 include mid-March nationally coordinated teach-ins to mark the eighth year of the Iraq War and to prepare for bi-coastal spring demonstrations the following month, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles mobilizations on April 9, 2011, and blocking of ports on May Day.

Here is the full list of actions agreed upon:

1.The Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the United Auto Workers (UAW) have invited peace organizations to endorse and participate in a campaign for Jobs, Justice, and Peace.   We endorse this campaign and plan to be a part of it.  On August 28, 2010, in Detroit, we will march on the anniversary of that day in 1963 when Walter Reuther, president of UAW, Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders joined with hundreds of thousands of Americans for the March on Washington.  In Detroit, prior to the March on Washington, 125,000 marchers participated in the Freedom Walk led by Dr. King. At the march, King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech for the first time before sharing it with the world in Washington. This year, a massive march has been called for October 2 in Washington.  We will begin to build momentum again in Detroit on August 28th.  We also endorse the August 28, 2010 Reclaim the Dream Rally and March  called by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network to begin at 11 a.m.. at Dunbar High School, 1301 New Jersey Avenue Northwest.

2.Endorse, promote and mobilize for the Saturday, October 2nd "One Nation" march on Washington, DC initiated by 1199SEIU and the NAACP, now being promoted by a growing coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO and U.S. Labor Against the War, and civil rights, peace and other social justice forces in support of the demand for jobs, redirection of national resources from militarism and war to meeting human needs, fully funding vital social programs, and addressing the fiscal crisis of state and local governments.  Organize and build an antiwar contingent to participate in the march. Launch a full-scale campaign to get endorsements for the October 2 march on Washington commencing with the final plenary session of this conference.

3.Endorse the call issued by a range of student groups for Thursday, October 7, as a national day of action to defend education from the horrendous budget cuts that are laying off teachers, closing schools, raising tuition and limiting access to education, especially for working and low income people. Demand "Money for Education, not U.S. Occupations" and otherwise link the cuts in spending for education to the astronomical costs of U.S. wars and occupations.

4.Devote October 7-16 to organizing local and regional protests to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan through demonstrations, marches, rallies, vigils, teach-ins, cultural events and other actions to demand an immediate end to the wars and occupations in both Iraq and Afghanistan and complete withdrawal of all military forces and private security contractors and other mercenaries.  The nature and scheduling of these events will reflect the needs of local sponsors and should be designed to attract broad co-sponsorship and diverse participation of antiwar forces with other social justice organizations and progressive constituencies.

5.Support and build Remember Fallujah Week November 15-19. 
Full list?  Use the link to read in full.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 01, 2010, 09:39:27 am
A Post Script ...

by Layla Anwar


July 31, 2010

Postscript. I have not used that word in ages...

A postscript -- there is a script and there is a post script, another script that comes after the main script...

What I retain is the word - script.

I have affinities with this word - script. Maybe because deep down I believe we are all living out a script...a personal script, a collective script...and I don't understand how come no one has ever paid attention to the script...

I am not trying to be pedantic or anything...seriously. Am just interested in scripts...

I was asked today what's the postscript for Iraq ? The person who asked me this question formulated it in good faith - ok she was a foreigner, but still in good faith. (it happens sometimes i.e to be a foreigner and in good faith). She said she wanted to understand...

I said - understand what ?

She said - understand, now that the "dictatorship" is over and done with, how come people in Iraq are still massacred daily...after 7 years of American "liberation"

I told her it was postscript. She did not understand what I meant...

I felt I had to go back to square 1, square zero...and I could not be bothered..

Over 7 years have elapsed, and thousands of dead and I was expected to go back to square 1, square zero, square infinity...

She said - you're from there, you must know...

I said - I did know but how much of a difference would it make if she understood or not ?!

She said she was curious...she wanted to understand why all this blood, now that the "dictatorship" was over.

I tried to keep it simple...

I said - Iraqi blood is still being spilled, maybe because dictatorship has only just begun...

She was at loss, she did not understand...

Only those who have written the script will, and only those who live the postscript do...

Painting : Iraqi female artist, Betool Fekaiki.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 03, 2010, 10:49:34 am
August 3, 2010

Does Obama's New Iraq Plan Violate the Law?

Operation Infinite Occupation


The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by President Bush in late 2008 legally required the U.S. to withdrawal all troops from the country by the end of 2011.  The Bush administration was never keen on the plan, which was forced on U.S. leaders by Iraqi political official who were set on ending the occupation, in accord with the wishes of the vast majority of the Iraqi people.  If Bush had remained in office long enough, there is little doubt that he would have opposed a full withdrawal, as setting a timetable for removing U.S. troops was long opposed by the President, who consistently and vigorously demanded that “conditions on the ground” dictate the removal or adding of forces.

President Obama has performed a rhetorical trick in his promises of withdrawal from Iraq.  Obama promises that all “combat troops” will be removed from the country by this year, and that a full withdrawal will take place by December 31, 2011.  A closer examination, however, leads one to re-evaluate Obama’s rhetoric in light of a more Machiavellian backpedalling from the president.  A spokesperson for New York Republican House Representative John McHugh reports that Obama promised him that the promise for a full withdrawal may be reconsidered prior to the end of 2011, and is dependent upon conditions on the ground and whether they merit a full pullout.  The president reported went on record promising that there was a “Plan B,” if the administration decides that troops need to remain.

Jim Miklaszeswki, NBC’s correspondent at the Pentagon, reports that the U.S. military is now considering plans for thousands of troops to remain in Iraq for years to come after 2011, perhaps for another 15 to 20 years.  Such plans are premised upon assumptions that Obama will “renegotiate” the Status of Forces Agreement by applying tremendous pressure on Iraqi leaders to agree to an indefinite continuation of the occupation.

Many of the major U.S. bases in Iraq were always meant to be permanent, as the Bush administration announced during their construction that they would remain for the indefinite future.  Obama appears to be continuing Bush’s original policy of an indefinite occupation, despite legal requirements of a full withdrawal.

It’s interesting to see how the story of Iraqi “withdrawal” has been reported in the U.S. media, which prefers Obama’s public rhetoric to his private concessions that the occupation may never end for the foreseeable future.  The August 2nd headline for the New York Times, for example, uncritically reads: “In Speech on Iraq, Obama Reaffirms Drawdown.”  The story reported that “The drawdown will bring the American force in Iraq to 50,000 troops by Aug. 31, down from 144,000 when Mr. Obama took office. The remaining ‘advise and assist’ brigades will officially focus on supporting and training Iraqi security forces, protecting American personnel and facilities, and mounting counterterrorism operations.”  Similarly, the Washington Post headline from the 2nd of August states that “Obama Tells Veterans That End of Iraq War is About to Begin.”  The story depicts Obama as carrying out his electoral withdrawal promise “largely on schedule,” and uncritically repeats Obama’s promise that “our commitment in Iraq is changing – from a military effort led by our troops to a civilian effort led by our diplomats.”  Clearly, any plans for an indefinite occupation make such a promise null and void.

Any last minute announcement that the U.S. will be remaining in Iraq is bound to be met with controversy.  The U.S. will be coercing the Iraqi government into revoking a past agreement that enjoys the support of the Iraqi masses, in addition to the American public. CNN polling shows that, as of May 2010, 62 percent of Americans oppose the war in Iraq.  Sixty-four percent support the Obama announcement “that he will remove U.S. troops from Iraq by August of this year, but keep 35 thousand to 50 thousand troops in that country longer than that.”  Polling from December 2009 by NBC and the Wall Street Journal finds that 70 percent of Americans support a full withdrawal by the end of 2011, in line with the United States’ legal requirements.  The state of public opinion on Iraq is well known today.

Whether Obama will follow the wishes of the U.S. people in Iraq, however, remains an open question.

Anthony DiMaggio is the editor of media-ocracy (, a daily online magazine devoted to the study of media, public opinion, and current events.   He has taught U.S. and Global Politics at Illinois State University and North Central College, and is the author of When Media Goes to War (2010) and Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2008). He can be reached at:


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 03, 2010, 12:28:41 pm
Twin blasts kill 30, wound 80 in Iraq

Tue, 03 Aug 2010 16:10:50 GMT

Twin bomb explosions have killed at least 30 people and wounded 80 others, including women and children, in the southern Iraqi city of Kut, security officials say.

"We have so far received 30 corpses and 80 people have been wounded," the head of the emergency services at Kut hospital told AFP.

"Two cars, parked 10 meters from each other, exploded at the same time at al-Amel crossing," said police Lieutenant Ismail Hussein.

The explosions also damaged several nearby shops badly and destroyed multiple cars.

Earlier in the day, at least five policemen were killed in Mansur neighborhood in the capital city of Baghdad.

The Iraqi government said that a total of 535 Iraqi people, 396 of them civilians, were killed and over 1,043 people were wounded in attacks across the country in July.

The latest death toll for July 2010 was the highest since May 2008.

However, the US military disputed the figures in a statement, claiming that 222 people were killed last month, and 782 people were wounded.

The dispute comes amidst a surge in violence, months after the March 7 parliamentary elections in Iraq, which have yet to result in the formation of a new government.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 03, 2010, 01:32:47 pm
Iraq snapshot - August 2, 2010

The Common Ills

Monday, August 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Barry offers more pretty lies, Nouri thinks Iraqis want a weak prime minister, Iraq sees more violence last month than in the last two years, and more.
Princess Tiny Meat took both inches to Atlanta, Georgia where he addressed the Disabled American Veterans. (Click here for the speech at the White House website.) Remember kiddies, vote for a fool who worships Ronald Reagan, don't be surprised by the s**t that flows out of his mouth. Which is how we got stuck with the hoariest of right-wing lies, "Many of you served in the jungles of Vietnam. You also served with honor, but were often shunned when you came home." Princess Tiny Meat's suffering from Rambo damage and apparently jerking both inches raw to a Bedtime for Bonzo poster. What now, Tom Hayden, now that your man's broken your heart yet again?
Celebrity in chief Barry O declared: "As a candidate for President, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end. Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010 America's combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing -- as promised, on schedule."
That was the promise? No, that wasn't the promise. Travel back with us to the July 4, 2008 snapshot:
Turning to the US presidential race. Barack Obama? Arab News notes, "For Obama, who recently changed his positions on campaign finance and a wiretapping law, the suggestion that he was also changing course on a central premise of his candidacy holds particular peril. While Obama has long said he would consult commanders in the field when withdrawing troops, that point might have been lost on many Democratic primary voters who supported his call to end the war." What's going on? A bit of reality on War Hawk Barack. Suzanne Goldenberg (Guardian of London) puts it this way, ".Barack Obama was yesterday fending off charges from right and left that he had abandoned the core premise of his candidacy - the withdrawal of all US combat forces from Iraq within 16 months of taking office - in an attempt to attract voters from the political centre." Suzanne's a little out of it. So were Katrina vanden Heuvel and Arianna Huffington on ABC's This Week last Sunday. Withdrawal in 16 months? That's 'so January 2008.' Barack promised withdrawal of all (combat) troops within 10 months in a speech in Houston, Texas. Always one to carry water for Barack, Tom Hayden immediately penned "End the War in 2009" (which popped up online at The Nation, Feb. 20th and elsewhere a bit later). Hayden: "In his victory speech in Texas Tuesday, Barack Obama promised to end the Iraq war in 2009, a new commitment that parallels recent opinion pieces in The Nation. Prior to his Houston remarks, Obama's previous position favored an American combat troop withdrawal over a sixteen-to-eighteen-month timeframe. He has been less specific on the number and mission of any advisors he would elave behind." (The Texas primary was in March. Barack was in Texas campaigning, for any more confused than usual by Tom-Tom's bad-bad writing.) Texas community members saw the 10 month 'promise' pushed in advertising as well as on the campaign trail. Those were his words (and Tom-Tom notes 'words matter') so let's all drop the nonsense that Barack's plan was 16 months (or at least leave the lying to Katrina who's become so very good at it). Goldenberg's uninformed, ignorant or lying -- take your pick. In her piece (dated tomorrow), she traces the uproar to Thursday when Barack said he might 'refine' his Iraq 'plan.' If that's when the uproar started, is Arianna Huffington psychic? Arianna was calling him out for 'refining' on Iraq Sunday on This Week. More water carrying from the allegedly 'independent' Guardian of London (which never wrote about the Downing Street Memos because 'independence' did not include informing people that Tony Blair lied England into an illegal war -- no time for 'truth-telling' while Blair was in office at any rate.) CNN reports that presumed GOP presidential candidate John McCain and the RNC are calling Barack a "flip-flopper" and they quote Barack's 'clarification' where Barack lies and says he has always said 16 months. No, Barack, you went to ten months in February. AP reports he celebrated the 4th of July in Butte, Montana (Kansas, he's done with you, he got what he needed) eating a hot dog. Tom Baldwin (Times of London) observes, "Grassroots activists whose energy and donations have helped to propel Barack Obama towards the White House are suddenly choking on the bitter pill of disillusion. In less than a month since clinching the Democratic nomination, he has performed a series of policy pirouettes to assuage concerns about his candidacy among a wider and more conservative electorate." Geoff Elliott (The Australian) points out, "Barack Obama has started a dramtic reversal of the policies that helped him defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidential nomination, softening hardlines stances on the Iraq war and troop withdrawals.
Campaigning in North Dakota, Senator Obama said that while the US could not sustain a long-term presence in Iraq, his trip to the Gulf nation this month might prompt him to "refine my policies" on the war." John Bentley (CBS News) quotes Brian Rogers of the McCain campaign stating, "Today, Barack Obama reversed that position, proving once again his words do not matter. He has now adopted John McCain's position that we cannot risk the progress we have made in Iraq by beginning to withdraw our troops immediately without concern for conditions on the ground. Now that Barack Obama has changed course and proven his past positions to be just empty words, we would like to congratulate him on taking John McCain's principled stand on this critical national security issue. If he had visited Iraq sooner or actually had a one-on-one meeting with Gen. Petraeus, he would have changed his position long ago." Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) terms it Barack exploring "the possibility of slowing a promised, gradual withdrawal from Iraq". NPR has two audio reports here.
He started campaigning by promising sixteen months -- and Barack's groupies never called out his grandstanding proposal/demand on Bush in 2007 that would have forced Bush to pull out sooner had it passed -- and he quickly dropped it to ten. Words mattered, whine Tom-Tom Hayden. At least once upon a time. Ten months went and now 16 months have passed by. Tom's old man, poor Tom Hayden.
Go look at your eyes
They're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies, just pretty lies
-- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, from her seminal benchmark Blue
I don't need any one to tell me pretty lies. Reality is that Barack didn't keep his promise. That's reality. Reality is also that screaming "We want to end the war and we want to end it now!" as his tent revivals of the Cult of St. Barack led many people to believe that the sixteen month or ten month 'withdrawal' meant all US troops home. It was "We want to end the war and we want to end it now!" Not "We want to end the war and leave behind 50,000 US troops!" (Or, for that matter, militarize the State Dept.)
Pretty men who tell you pretty lies. Just pretty lies.
Barry O exclaimed, "Today -- even as terrorists try to derail Iraq's progress -- because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it's been in years." He's as bad a liar as Bush. First off, AFP led the pack Saturday with the report of July's violence (see "Over 535 people killed in Iraq in the month of July") making July the deadliest month for Iraq in two years and two months time. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports, "July was the deadliest month in Iraq since May 2008 [. . .] The figures show a sharp upswing in the level of violence nearly five months after parliamentary elections which have yet to result in the formation of a new government and as the United States continues a major withdrawal of its forces." And this was Iraqi figures, furnished by the Iraqi government. A government notorious for undercounting the dead. As for "terrorists," try Iraqis. Iraqis unhappy with a government installed by the US. Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Obama's positive words about Iraq, both at West Point and Monday in Atlanta, were reminiscent of former President Bush's talk of 'mission accomplished' and implanting 'democracy' in Iraq. Republican leaders are already suggesting the 'Obama as Bush' response they are preparing for the president as he draws attention to the transition in Iraq."
A sample of the reaction to Barack's speech at England's Guardian newspaper includes:
Armstrongx15: You wonder what happens to these people as they get into power -- They tell the same convincing lies that past politicians in other wars spread. They disgust me so utterly I'm glad I've not had my lunch.
AlanMoore: They're still there, still fighting . . in what was is this the end of anything?
BlueMoonRising: [Quoting Barack] "Let us never forget -- it was Afghanistan where al-Qaida plotted and trained to murder 3,000 innocent people on 9/11." So why did you kill 500,000 iraqis then? Oh i remember, all that oil your stealing...."
LorienQuestion: Should be interesting to see what happens in 2011, when all of the US troops will supposedly be withdrawn. My guess, is that in insurgency will be so strong by then that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will have a change of heart in 2011 and ask for some "Non-Combat?'' America troops to remain. What amazes me the most is this, we seen how terrorist/insurgencies/violent anti-government/etc/ forces operate never before has an insurgency force remain so active and competent for so long. Taken in the consideration, that the opposing force is so technically advance, and numerous; usually as time goes on resources get used up, veteran insurgency officers get killed or captured, all of these things should be difficult to replace and have a detrimental effect on the insurgency efforts, especially with 85,000 American troops etc.
smellyecoli2: I believe every word said by our dear President Obama.I believe in the tooth fairy,the man in the moon and I do speak with Elvis each night as we have dinner!!!
Iraqi reaction? Kathleen Hennessey and Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) quote women's rights activist Basma Khatib, "Iraqis had hoped they would have a strong independent government by now, but no one expected it to drag on this long. It's a big mess and things might get a lot worse if we don't have a government soon."
In the US, Stephen M. Walt (Foreign Policy) offers this take, "Obama didn't get us into Iraq, and he's doing the right thing to get us out more-or-less on the schedule that the Bush adminstration negotiated back in 2008. But it's now clear that the much-vaunted 'surge' was a strategic failure, and Iraq could easily spin back out of control once U.S. forces are gone. Even in the best case, Iraq can only be judged a defeat for the United States: we will have spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of lives in order to bring to power an unstable government that is sympathetic to Iran and unlikely to be particularly friendly to the United States. Americans don't like losing, however, and Obama is going to get blamed for this outcome even though it was entirely his predecessor's fault." Brian Montopoli (CBS News) takes on the issue of "non-combat" troops:
Last year, I asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to explain the difference between combat troops and "non-combat" troops. The "non-combat" troops, I noted, will still be capable of engaging the enemy. Gates insisted there would be a significant difference between the activities of combat and non-combat troops.
"All of the combat units will be out of Iraq by the end of August [2010] and those that are left will have a combat capability," he said. "There will be, as the president said, targeted counterterrorism operations. There will be continued embeds with some of the Iraqi forces in a training capacity and so on."
He continued: "So there will be the capability, but the units will be gone, and, more importantly, the mission will have changed. And so the notion of being engaged in combat in the way we have been up until now will be completely different."
So while the troops will be "non-combat," they will still be engaged in "targeted counterterrorism operations" and working and fighting alongside Iraqi forces, according to Gates.
Meanwhile US House Rep Dennis Kucinich issued the following statement:
The wars since 2001 have cost more than $1 trillion, thousands of American servicemen and women have been killed our wounded, and more than a million innocent Iraqis have lost their lives. Even as our emphasis has shifted to the war in Afghansitan, civilian casualties are still higher in Iraq. The majority of American people do not want this war and they are looking to their leaders to end this disastrous misadventure. We cannot end the war and leave 50,000 U.S. soldiers behind. We cannot be in and out at the same time; we cannot put this war behind us until we end it; we cannot end it until all the troops are home. Although the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which was negotiated by the Bush Administration and governs the U.S. presence in Iraq, states that all U.S. forces must leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the Agreement could be renegotiated. Private security forces, operating under the Department of State, could replace American service members. The SOFA originally called for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops by June of last year. The Adminsitration pushed back the deadline for withdrawal due to increasing violence in Iraq. Even as American combat troops are withdrawn over the next month, the Iraqi government faces increasing sectarian violence and civilian casualties, as a coalition government is yet to be formed. Further complicating the U.S. status in Iraq is a recent report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction which states that the Department of Defense cannot properly account for $8.9 billion in Iraqi oil funds meant for reconstruction efforts.
Jason Ditz ( also notes the State Dept, "The US State Department is currently creating its own alternative army to continue the war past a prospective military pullout at the end of 2011." We'll highlight an exchange from the James Jeffrey's confirmation hearing July 20th (see the 20th snapshot and the 21st snapshot and Kat covered it at her site with "Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "Kaufman and Casey," and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Kerry, Lugar and Feingold.")
Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, sir. The State Dept is planning to make up for the departure of US troops by doubling its security contractors. Even though such contractors often don't have the essential security capabilities that are provided by our troops. I'm concerned this will be dangerous and also lead to a situation where we don't have meaningful control over our own contractors. What alternatives have you considered?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: Senator, this is an extremely important point. Uh, if confirmed as chief of mission, my first responsibility will be for the safety and security of the personnel under my supervision and I've put a lot of time and effort into looking at this. Uhm. The -- after the incident in 2007 in Baghdad involving the Blackwater security people, the State Dept did a very thorough investigation called the Kennedy Report. I've read that report. It concluded -- and I think that this conclusion remains true today -- that the State Dept has done a very good job in an extremely lethal environment protecting its people and keeping them alive and safe; however, there needed to be certain steps, technical steps, rule of engagement steps, coordination steps -- coordination both with the US military and with the Iraq authorities, and more supervision. Now we put, uh, a direct hire State Dept officer or person with all movements So -- And we have more technical control through, uh, basically recordings, audio and video equipment and such so that we're able to determine what happened and review any incident and since then there has not been a serious incident. But I want to underscore, this is a very, very difficult mission. This is, uh, uh, a defensive mission, not an offensive one, but it involves thousands of people, many movements in a very lethal environment and it is something we have to remain very concerned about.
Ranking Member Richard Lugar: While making fewer headlines, the situation in Iraq continues to be vital to the national security of the United States. Iraq held parliamentary elections on March 7, 2009, but an agreement on who will be the Prime Minister may not be concluded for several months. The redeployment of American forces in Iraq has begun, and by September, all but 50,000 U.S. troops will have departed the country. President Obama has said that by the end of 2011, all US troops will be out of Iraq. Plans submitted by the Administration suggest that US involvement in Iraq will remain robust well beyond that with more than 5,000 diplomats and civilian advisers working with civil society and the Iraqi government. The uncertain political situation creates risks for our transition plans. Our military has been involved in areas of governance far beyond security and turning over those critical responsibilities will be challenging. The State Dept has asked for more than $800 million in start-up costs for a police mentoring and training program. The program envisions having 350 advisors at three camps who will fan out to 50 sites in the country, about half of which would be reachable by ground and the rest requiring air support. With the military's departure, we are told, the Dept may hire as many as 7,000 contract security personnel. An AP article last month suggested the Iraq mission would need the equivalent of a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters, 50 ambush-protected vehicles and equipment to protect against rockets and mortars. It is important that the Administration flesh out how all the pieces of this unprecedented operation will fit together in Iraq as American troops depart.
Turning to the violence, last night we noted how you could find news of the violence at Al Jazeera, but at other places, no one wanted to offend the US military brass which had long laid down the rule that the ethnic cleansing period ("civil war" -- 2006 to 2007) would be the benchmark for violence and nothing else would matter. NPR, go to their Iraq page, did feature a report by Kelly McEvers -- a lengthy report -- in the hourly news during Weekend Edition but somehow they never got around to posting that report to their website. No, they didn't. Voice of America -- a US propaganda outlet which cannot legally broadcast in the US -- had the story of the ncrease in violence up at their website, but NPR didn't. And it wasn't just NPR. Sure, you can find it at the wire services (AFP, Reuters, UPI, AP). You can find CNN's wire service (which a number of papers are beginning to carry more regularly including the San Francisco Chronicle). You can find it via China's Xinhua. But, on Sunday, where wa the New York Times, where was the Washington Post, where was the Tribune papers (LA Times, Chicago Tribune, etc.), where was McClatchy, where was the Wall St. Journal, where was the Christian Science Monitor? All the US dailies that still have Iraq desks apparently went out for drinks early yesterdy and are still tying one on. Binge drinking is certainly a nicer hypothesis than a news blackout to assist the government, so let's just go with that, okay? Of the major US daily newspapers, only the Wall St. Journal (here) and the Washington Post (here and here) even bother to post wire stories on the violence at their websites (both go with AP stories). Violence is up but US outlets have a really difficult time telling you about that. Why is that? Are they serving the news consumer or are they serving the military brass?
They were serving the military. Tim Arango explains that in today's New York Times. Arango's mistaken that AP had the story first. AFP had the story first and I know that because it was an AFP editor that called me Saturday and told me about the story while they were breaking it. AP didn't even have the story at that point. In fairness to Arango, AFP is foreign based and he may be just be noting AP because it's US-based. At any rate, is Iraq a soverign country?
Apparently not.
And, apparently, we don't have a free press in the US.
Arango explains that US news or 'news' outlets were given the figures by the Iraqi ministries but that the US military disputed the figures.
The Iraqi ministries keep these figures, these figures are usually a vast undercount, and the press runs with them each month. Except for July. For July the same ministries provide the figures that the press always runs with and now they want to stop because the US military is dictating what?
The US military is running Iraq? The US military is running the press? Both? What's the deal?
Arango's report informs you that when the US military says "stop the presses" our so-called free press complies. If it's a free country, if it's a sovereign country, than the numbers released by the Iraqi ministries really shouldn't have resulted in a "stop the presses!" move by the US military. What a shameful and telling moment about the state of the US press, a government -- an alleged sovereign nation -- releases official statistics from their ministries -- as they do each month -- and because a foreign military (the US military) disagrees with the numbers, the press fails to report on them.
Let's cover violence.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Sunday Mosul roadside bombing which left five people wounded. Sahar Issa also reports a Baghdad roadside bombing today which claimed 2 lives and left four people injured, a Mosul bombing which injured six people, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded "two little girls," a Mosul roadside bombing which left two members of the police force wounded, a Mosul car bombing which claimed two lives and a Garma home bombing which claimed the lives of 1 police officer, "his wife and 11-year-old son" while leaving a seven-year-old son injured. Reuters adds that two Mosul hand grenade attacks resulted in six people being injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqiya bodygurad was shot dead in Mosul today.
Meanwhile Lara Jakes (AP) quotes Nouri al-Maliki stating, "I do not sweet talk. They say they want a weak prime minister." Strangely, that wasn't Little Nouri's campaign pitch as he attempts to remain prime minister.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 26 days. Sunday Ernesto Londono (Washingont Post) reported that the Iraqi National Alliance has broken off talks with Nouri's State Of Law -- apparently damaging Nouri's efforts to remain a strong-man/dictator in Iraq -- and MP Bahaa al-Aaraji is quoted stating, "We found that our negotiations with State of Law weren't serious." Yes, that might be why Nouri's whining today. Saturday Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported Ayad Allawi was predicting that "a breakthrough is unlikely before September or October because little official business is conducted during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-August."
We'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "More War Crimes Exposed - Now, What Do We Do? " (World Can't Wait):

3 days after documents of 8 years of war crimes against the people of Afghanistan were leaked, what does the U.S. government do? Admit or apologize for the crimes? No -- go after the leakers! Pentagon Launches 'Manhunt' for Document Leaker. Cut off the funding for the wars? No, vote another $59 billion! On Friday U.S. Conducts Afghan massacre - On Tuesday Congress Votes to fund more death. The massive release of documents by only proves what our movement has been saying for years: the illegitimate occupation is built on regarding all civillians as potential enemies, killing them in strikes from the air, detaining them indefinitely, depriving them of safe havens from either the Taliban, the war lords in Karzai's government, or US troops, and carving up the resources under Afghanistan for foreign use. In the name of a war for empire, everyone here and there is less safe.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 04, 2010, 06:55:18 am
Middle East
Aug 5, 2010 
Obama drops pledge on Iraq

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - Seventeen months after President Barack Obama pledged to withdraw all combat brigades from Iraq by September 1, 2010, he quietly abandoned that pledge on Monday, admitting implicitly that such combat brigades would remain until the end of 2011.

Obama declared in a speech to disabled US veterans in Atlanta that "America's combat mission in Iraq" would end by the end of August, to be replaced by a mission of "supporting and training Iraqi security forces".

That statement was in line with the pledge he had made on February 27, 2009, when he said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."

In the sentence preceding that pledge, however, he had said, "I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months." Obama said nothing in his speech on Monday about withdrawing "combat brigades" or "combat troops" from Iraq until the end of 2011.

Even the concept of "ending the US combat mission" may be highly misleading, much like the concept of "withdrawing US combat brigades" was in 2009.

Under the administration's definition of the concept, combat operations will continue after August 2010, but will be defined as the secondary role of US forces in Iraq. The primary role will be to "advise and assist" Iraqi forces.

An official who spoke with Inter Press Service (IPS) on condition that his statements would be attributed to a "senior administration official" acknowledged that the 50,000 US troops remaining in Iraq beyond the deadline would have the same combat capabilities as the combat brigades that have been withdrawn.

The official also acknowledged that the troops would engage in some combat but suggested that the combat would be "mostly" for defensive purposes. That language implied that there might be circumstances in which US forces would carry out offensive operations as well.

IPS has learned, in fact, that the question of what kind of combat US troops might become involved in depends in part on the Iraqi government, which will still be able to request offensive military actions by US troops if it feels it necessary.

Obama's jettisoning of one of his key campaign promises and of a high-profile pledge early in his administration without explicit acknowledgement highlights the way in which language on national security policy can be manipulated for political benefit with the acquiescence of the news media.

Obama's apparent pledge of withdrawal of combat troops by the September 1 deadline in his February 27, 2009, speech generated headlines across the commercial news media. That allowed the administration to satisfy its anti-war Democratic Party base on a pivotal national security policy issue.

At the same time, however, it allowed Obama to back away from his campaign promise on Iraq withdrawal, and to signal to those political and bureaucratic forces backing a long-term military presence in Iraq that he had no intention of pulling out all combat troops at least until the end of 2011.

He could do so because the news media were inclined to let the apparent Obama withdrawal pledge stand as the dominant narrative line, even though the evidence indicated it was a falsehood.

Only a few days after the Obama speech, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was more forthright about the policy. In an appearance on Meet the Press on March 1, 2009, Gates said the "transition force" remaining after August 31, 2010, would have "a very different kind of mission", and that the units remaining in Iraq "will be characterized differently".

"They will be called advisory and assistance brigades," said Gates. "They won't be called combat brigades."

But "advisory and assistance brigades" were configured with the same combat capabilities as the "combat brigade teams" which had been the basic US military unit of combat organization for six years, as IPS reported in March 2009.

Gates was thus signaling that the military solution to the problem of Obama's combat troop withdrawal pledge had been accepted by the White House.

That plan had been developed in late 2008 by General David Petraeus, the Central Command chief, and General Ray Odierno, the top commander in Iraq, who were determined to get Obama to abandon his pledge to withdraw all US combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.

They came up with the idea of "remissioning" - sticking a non-combat label on the combat brigade teams - as a way for Obama to appear to be delivering on his campaign pledge while actually abandoning it.

The "remissioning" scheme was then presented to Obama by Gates and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen in Chicago on December 15, 2008, according a report in the New York Times three days later.

It was hardly a secret that the Obama administration was using the "remissioning" ploy to get around the political problem created by his acceding to military demands to maintain combat troops in Iraq for nearly three more years.

Despite the fact that the disparity between Obama's public declaration and the reality of the policy was an obvious and major political story, however, the news media - including the New York Times, which had carried multiple stories about the military's "remissioning" scheme - failed to report on it.

The "senior administration official" told IPS that Obama is still "committed to withdrawal of all US forces by the end of 2011". That is the withdrawal deadline in the US-Iraq withdrawal agreement of November 2008.

But the same military and Pentagon officials who prevailed on Obama to back down on his withdrawal pledge also have pressed in the past for continued US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011, regardless of the US withdrawal agreement with the Iraqi government.

In November 2008, after Obama's election, Odierno was asked by Washington Post correspondent Tom Ricks "what the US military presence would look like around 2014 or 2015". Odierno said he "would like to see a force probably around 30,000 or so, 35,000", which would still be carrying out combat operations.

Last February, Odierno requested that a combat brigade be stationed in Kirkuk to avoid an outbreak of war involving Kurdish and Iraqi forces vying for the region's oil resources - and that it be openly labeled as such - according to Ricks.

In light of the fact that Obama had already agreed to Odierno's "remissioning" dodge, the only reason for such a request would be to lay the groundwork for keeping a brigade there beyond the 2011 withdrawal deadline.

Obama brushed off the proposal, according to Ricks, but it was unclear whether the reason was that Iraqi political negotiations over a new government were still ongoing.

In July, Odierno suggested that a United Nations peacekeeping force might be needed in Kirkuk after 2011, along with a hint that a continued US presence there might be requested by the Iraqi government.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

(Inter Press Service) 

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 05, 2010, 01:00:41 pm
Iraq snapshot - August 4, 2010

The Common Ills

Wednesday, August 4, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the costs of war are noticed, Barack's broken promises are as well, and more.
Today United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon addressed the issue of Iraq in a report the the United Nations Security Council.  His [PDF format warning] remarks included:
I am concerned with the overall human rights situation in the country, notably the high rate of indiscriminate and targeted attacks against the civilian population. Ongoing violence and targeted assassinations also continue to be reported against government officials, newly elected members of the Council of Representatives, media workers, minority and ethnic and religious groups.  In May, approximately 100 Christian students travelling in buses to the University of Mosul were injured and a bystander was killed when two roadside bombs exploded as the buses passed.  In April, approximately 50 civilians were killed as the result of bombings in Shi'a neighbourhoods in Baghdad.  Between May and June, political figures were also the target of indiscriminate attacks: five family members, including three children, of an Awakening Council member were killed in Baghdad; a newly elected member of the Council of Representatives, Bashar Hamid al-Egaidi, was assassinated in Mosul; and a parliamentary candidate, Fares Jasim Al Jabour, was killed in his house in West Mosul on 5 June. Journalists and media workers continued to be targeted in attacks aimed at restricting freedom of expression and opinion. A 23-year-old freelance journalist, Sardasht Othman, was kidnapped outside the Salahaddin University in Erbil and was later found shot dead on 6 May near the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan office in eastern Mosul. Mr. Othman was known for his writing critical of members of the Government. KRG is currently investigating the matter.
The UNAMI Human Rights Office continued to monitor government detention centres in Kirkuk, Basra and Erbil, in which poor conditions have been reported. In the detention cenre in Basra, the Human Rights Office reported that the physical conditions of the prison did not meet minimal international standards. In another incident of concern, on 12 May, seven detainees suffocated while in transit from Al-Taji detention centre to Al-Tasfirat pretrial detention facility in Baghdad. It was reportedly the result of Iraqi army personnel transporting 100 detainees in two windowless vheicles whose capacity was for only 15 persons.
Not quite the rah-rah Barack Obama spun earlier this week.  He also spoke of the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 28 days.  The Secretary-General noted:
[. . .] I am concerned that continued delays in the government formation process are contributing to a growing sense of uncertainty in the country. Not only does this risk undermining confidence in the political process, but elements opposed to Iraq's democratic transition may try to exploit the situation. The number of recent security incidents throughout Iraq, mainly in the north of the country and in Baghdad, including attacks against newly elected members of parliament and religious pilgrims, are of particular concern.
In this context, I urge all political bloc leaders to work together through an inclusive and broadly participatory process to end the present impasse. After exercising their right to vote on & March, there are high expectations among the Iraqi people that their leaders will adhere to the Constitution and ensure an orderly and peaceful transition of power. I firmly believe that this will contribute to the country's stability and the prospects for national reconciliation.  In accordance with their mandate, my Special Representative and his team in UNAMI stand ready to assist.
Salam Faraj (AFP) reports that Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya is supposed to be in a better position currently as a result of the split between the Iraqi National Alliance and State of Law over Nouri's insistance that he remain prime minister.  Tariq Alhomayed (Al Arabiya) ponders the stalemate:
[. . .] what is the difference between Nouri al-Maliki and Saddam Hussein? Al-Maliki is saying that Allawi won the elections by only one vote, and that he does not consider this to be an election defeat, while Saddam used to say that the Iraqis had elected him with 100 percent of the vote; therefore what is the difference between them? The most important question that must be asked here is, in this case, why did the US forces even topple Saddam Hussein, if they are going to allow another Saddam -- Nouri al-Maliki -- to rise up and appear to us and the people of Iraq, but this time with democratic cover?
Still on the stalemate, dropping back to the April 26th snapshot: "At The Huffington Post, former Booz Allen Hamilton employee, current Truman National Security Project fellow and Georgetown PhD candidate Peter Henne advocates for Ayad Allawi as the new prime minister:"  Today at the Huffington Post, he again advocates for Allawi:
This latest phase in Iraq's struggle began with March's parliamentary elections. Allawi, a secular Shiite and former Prime Minister who was initially placed in power by the United States, won a slim majority over the incumbent Nouri al-Maliki. Allawi won in part through support from secular-minded Iraqis, but also through the votes of many Sunnis -- who were wary of al-Maliki -- and divisions between al-Maliki and some of the religious parties who had been his partners. The vote was too close to call, however, and al-Maliki refused to relinquish power. The ensuing stalemate continues -- despite intervention by Vice President Biden -- resulting in sectarian tensions and degraded government capabilities.
My arguments about the danger al-Maliki poses still hold true. Al-Maliki proved willing to stir up sectarian sentiment when it benefited him politically, then reframed himself as an Iraqi nationalist when facing opposition among some Shiites. His attempts after the election to hold on to power, which included threatening comments about his role as commander of the military and a move to disqualify some candidates in Allaawi's bloc due to reputed Baathist ties, demonstrate he is still likely to place personal advancement over Iraq's stability.         
Yet, there is also much going for Allawi besides not being al-Maliki. Despite becoming Prime Minister while Iraq was under U.S. control, Allawi proved a responsible and effective leader, albeit one undone by his U.S. ties. Moreover, his Shiite identity and secular tendencies make him legitimate to a majority of Iraqis and less threatening to its Sunni and Kurdish minorities than the more Islamist al-Maliki. Finally, his Sunni-Shia coalition gives him cross-cutting appeal. This provides Sunnis a stake in the system and Allawi a disincentive to draw on sectarian tensions to increase his political standing, as this would alienate many of his supporters.
For those late to the party, you have not missed this site's endorsement.  I'm not an Iraqi.  Their leader is a decision for them to make.  Nouri is a thug and he's always been a thug and we've called him out since he first showed up as the compromise candidate.  Iraq would be a lot better off if Nouri were out of office for a number of reasons.  But other than that, we're not making any calls because the issue goes to Iraq to decide.  That should not be read as, everybody kick back and relax.  The White House has done an awful job of helping to resolve this crisis.  Iraq continues to receive money from the US and it continues to receive special status that other countries (Iran, for one) do not.  It would be very easy to convey that if talks are not conducted and a leader not chosen quickly, certain favors and actions will be placed on hold.  The US could have done that and should have done it. Long gone are the White House claims that Iraq would install a new government long before the August drawdown.  Does the press even remember those claims?  They don't appear to. 
But instead of the White House doing the above, insisting that the groups come up with a leader, they've interfered.  It's one thing to say, "We'll take this back, we'll place this on hold."  That's fine.  It's another to say, "You will choose this person."  And, as UPI again reminds today, the White House continues to insist that a deal must be worked out (okay so far) which allows Nouri and Allawi to share power. 
No, no such deal MUST be worked out.  In fact, such a deal isn't even genuinely possible in Iraq's Constitution.  Part of the reason for the stalemate has been that instead of putting pressure for parties to come to a decision, the US government has felt the need to tell Iraqis, "This is what your decision will be."  That's how colonialism worked (or 'worked') and how empire works (or 'works') but it's not how democracy works.
Since the White House appears to have forgotten the Iraqi Constitution (or maybe Barack never knew it -- Joe Biden used to know it), let's go over how it works.  Parliamentary elections are held.  Votes are counted and certified.  The political slate or party receiving the most votes has first crack at forming a government.  They need 163 seats in Parliament to become the ruling government.  If they get that either due to the results of the Parliamentary elections or due to being able to assemble a power-sharing government with other slates and parties, then that's that.  If not?  First crack only. If, after the first attempt, others want to form their own, that's fine.  It's a scramble and whomever can get to the magic number first (163) is the government.  That's how it works.  It's a winner take all system.  There is nothing in the Constitution about "You be prime minister this year, then I'll be prime minister.  We'll share the term."
By insisting that Nouri and Allawi enter into such an agreement, the US government is sending a number of messages and none of them are appropriate.  The most irresponsible message is: If you don't like what the Constitution says, just ignore it.  The March elections were only the second Parliamentary elections since the start of the Iraq War.  If the Constitution is being tossed aside now, don't expect it to last through a third round or Parliamentary elections.
By insisting that Nouri and Allawi enter into a power-sharing arrangement, the US is also guaranteeing Nouri a seat at the table -- the government table, not the formation.  And yet one of the biggest stumbling blocs has been Nouri.  State Of Law was supposed to trounce everyone and come in far ahead of the others.  That didn't happen and the fact that it didn't happen is a reflection of the will of the Iraqi people.  The will of the bulk of Iraqi leaders is that Nouri needs to go.  That's why the alliance between State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance just collapsed.  As Iraqi leaders work to convey the message of the people (as well as their own message) that Nouri's not welcome, the US government should not be demanding that Nouri get a spot in the new government.
And to be clear, my criticism above is of the White House and the 'leadership' provided by Barack Obama.  Peter Henne can have any opinion he wants and is free to express it (and, having expressed it, he's open to any and all criticism -- that's life in the public square).  I'm not slamming him for his opinion and I'm not endorsing his opinion.
Right or wrong, many feel that the political stalemate has resulted in increased rates of violence in Iraq. 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing late last night left "two traffic police" injured and a Shirqat roadside bombing left one Iraqi soldier wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad early this morning while Sahwa member Mohammed Abu al Jeez was shot dead in Diyala Province.
Well over one million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war.  Iraq is a nation of one million widows.  Some of the widows share their story with BBC News and we will note Adawyia Mutar Hussein:
I lost my husband while I was pregnant with our daughter, who is now six years old. She became fatherless even before she was born.                   
My husband was killed in 2004 in a family dispute and left me with two daughters to take care of, alone. I have tried to get my husband's entitlements but no-one seemed to help, neither the government nor my family.       
My first source of income is from my neighbours and well-wishers who collect money for me every now and again. My second source is from working as a cleaner at party and wedding venues.     
More than half of my income goes on rent for the house that I live in at the moment, which consists of one room. I currently live with my two daughters and my 35-year-old orphaned nephew who is completely disabled.             
We want only one thing from the government, and that is a small piece of land to build the simplest house just to keep the family all together under one roof.
Barack didn't speak to or of the Iraqi widows in his 'big speech' at the start of the week.  Dale McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service) observes, "Obama will be giving a series of speeches this month, drawing attention to the fact that his administration had met the Aug. 31 deadline 'as promised and on schedule.' But Operation Iraqi Freedom has left behind a familiar litany of problems -- armed Shiite and Sunni gangs, Kurdish separatists in the north, a meddling Iran on its borders, al-Qaida seeking to regain a foothold ,and dysfunctional power grids and oilfields."  Abdel-Karim Abedl-Jabbar tells Anthony Shadid (New York Times), "Wherever the Americans go, the situation is going to stay the same as it was. If anything, it's going to deteriorate.  The peace Obama's talking about is the peace of the Green Zone."  But did Barack keep his promise?  Gareth Porter (IPS via Asia Times) provides a walk-through:
That statement was in line with the pledge he had made on
February 27, 2009, when he said, "Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end."
In the sentence preceding that pledge, however, he had said, "I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months." Obama said nothing in his speech on Monday about withdrawing "combat brigades" or "combat troops" from Iraq until the end of 2011.
Even the concept of "ending the US combat mission" may be highly misleading, much like the concept of "withdrawing US combat brigades" was in 2009.
Under the administration's definition of the concept, combat operations will continue after August 2010, but will be defined as the secondary role of US forces in Iraq. The primary role will be to "advise and assist" Iraqi forces.
An official who spoke with Inter Press Service (IPS) on condition that his statements would be attributed to a "senior administration official" acknowledged that the 50,000 US troops remaining in Iraq beyond the deadline would have the same combat capabilities as the combat brigades that have been withdrawn.
Thomas R. Eddlem (New American) also questions the claims put forward by Barack Obama on Monday:
Part of that "transition" to civilian control is the construction of a new U.S. army in Iraq managed by the State Department rather than the Defense Department. The U.S. military's Stars and Stripes magazine announced on July 21: "Already, however, the State Department's requests to the Pentagon for Black Hawk helicopters; 50 mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles; fuel trucks; high-tech surveillance systems; and other military gear has encountered flak on Capitol Hill."
And Obama's announced withdrawal does not include the army of private security contractors employed by the United States in Iraq. National Public Radio reported on August 3 that the "Pentagon estimates about 86,000 private contractors in Iraq and more than half of those contractors are American."
There's much in the exchange to note but the most telling moment may have been at the end. Melissa Block asked, "And, Tom, another deadline coming up at the end of next year, 2011, when every U.S. soldier is supposed to be out of Iraq. Is that a realistic timetable?" Once upon a time the only answer -- remember how we were lied to? -- was the SOFA means the US leaves!!!! Remember Jar-Jar Blinks and all the other liars -- many of whom have attacked this site for stating the obvious and providing a legal analysis of the SOFA from the start (one that is and was accurate)? Tom Bowman replied, "You know, many people I talk with say it's not realistic. That deadline is part of a deal signed two years ago by the U.S. and Iraq, and we may see that agreement renegotiated. That's because the Iraqis will still need these trainers, logistics help, maybe even security help at the end of 2011. So the sense is some number of soldiers will end up remaining, not to mention American contractors."  The SOFA replaced the UN mandate. Another agreement will replace the SOFA, that's a given. Whether or not it allows for US forces in Iraq is the only question.

Along with all the deaths, the Iraq War has had other costs.  "So thinking about the war in Iraq, America, you already bought it -- but do you have any of the price?"  John Hockenberry asked that question today on PRI's The Takeaway.  He and Lynn Sherr (sitting in for Celeste Headlee) spoke to economist Linda Blimes.
John Hockenberry:  You know, when we spoke quite awhile ago, your estimates [for the financial cost of war] were theoretical.  We're much less theoretical now.  Is there a running tally of what's actually gone out the door and -- versus what we're committed to?
Linda Blimes: Well I think that people are familiar with the fact that we've already spent close to a trillion dollars in real terms on combat operations in Iraq. But what is less well known is that there are still trillions of dollars of costs more that we have already incurred but not yet paid out.  So drawing down the number of troops doesn't save nearly as much money as you would think.
John Hockenberry:  And when you say what we're committed to, when you say trillions, is that two trillions or is that going to be six trilliion?  You know, you used plural. 
Linda Blimes: Well when you think about the costs that we still have ahead -- There are several costs which are going to add.  We have estimated a minimum of two trillion dollars more ahead.  And first of all we should just be clear that we're still going to have 50,000 troops or so in Iraq for the next year and a half.
John Hockenberry:  Right.
Linda Blimes: And we also have troops, thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar and our Navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn and who are supporting them.  So it costs billions of dollars every month just to keep them there. But there are at least five big costs that are still ahead. First of all veterans disability claims.
John Hockenberry:  Right.
Linda Blimes: And two million US troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and already about 450,000 of those who have returned have filed for disability compensation. 
John Hockenberry:  And that's a huge fraction.
Linda Blimes: I mean, that is huge fraction because --
John Hockenberry: It's 20%.
Linda Blimes: Well it's more than that because half of the troops are still deployed.
John Hockenberry:  There you go.
Linda Blimes: So it's about 40%.
John Hockenberry:  Wow. 
Linda Blimes: And the vast majority of these claims will be approved and the government will be paying out benefits for many decades.
Lynn Sherr: And you're saying that figure is not counted in up front?  That's a -- that's a lag figure?
Linda Blimes: That is a lag figure, that's a good way of putting it.  That is not counted up front.  Even though we know from previous wars that the peak year for paying out disability payment comes many, many decades later.  But in this war we have fortunately a much higher survival rate, so that means we have a much higher rate of those who are wounded or for whom something happens to them during their period of service.
PRI's The Takeaway continues their week-long look at Iraq tomorrow with a focus on the Kurdistan region.  Staying on the topic of Iraq War veterans,  Bradley Manning.  Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported last month that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press.  The Bradley Manning Support Network is organizing a rally for this Sunday (at noon) outside the Quantico Marine Corps Base when Bradley's being held.  Military Families Speak out has issued the following press release:
August 3, 2010                         

Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace, 419-729-7273                   

Deb Forter, Military Families Speak Out, 617-983-0710                   

Jose Vasquez, Iraq Veterans Against the War, 917-587-3334           

As organizations, we represent veterans and military families.  We have personally carried the burden of the war in Afghanistan, along with wars past. We are glad that the truth about the war is getting out to the public with the recent 92,000 documents on Wikileaks.  Hopefully, this will inspire a massive outcry against this war that is wreaking so much destruction to our exhausted and demoralized troops and their families while draining our national coffers.                               

Obama administration officials are trying to spin events in their favor.  Their words must be carefully examined. On the one hand, in an effort to downplay the significance of the release, we are told the documents contain no new information.                     

On the other hand, some high ranking members of the U.S. military are trying to: 1) intimidate anyone else from doing the same thing and 2) turn public opinion against whoever leaked the current documents.  Towards those goals, we are told that grievous harm will surely come to many Afghans and U.S. military personnel -- if not now then certainly later.   

A more damning statement could hardly be imagined than this one from Admiral Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "The truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."                           

While we certainly do not wish to see one additional person put at risk in this tragic, wrongheaded war, we must state the following as clearly as we can.                                                                       

As veterans and families with members in the military, we consider statements like Admiral Mullen's to be nothing more than calculated attempts to turn public attention away from the real problem – the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan that has already caused the deaths and injuries of many thousands of innocent people all the while millions of Americans are jobless and face foreclosure or eviction.                     

This suffering in Afghanistan and this bleeding at home will continue as long as our troops remain in that country.  Congress must stop funding this war.  We must bring our troops home now, take care of them properly when they return and pay to rebuild the damage we have caused to Afghanistan.

# # #         

Veterans For Peace is a national organization in its 25th year, with military service members from WWII and every conflict and period since then.

Military Families Speak Out is an organization of people opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who have relatives or loved ones who are currently in the military or who have served in the military since the fall of 2002.   

Iraq Veterans Against the War is a national organization comprised of active duty, guard, and reserve troops and veterans who have served since 9/11. We call for immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, reparations to the people of those countries, and full benefits for returning service members.     


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 07, 2010, 06:41:02 am
Published on Thursday, August 5, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

The US Isn't Leaving Iraq, It's Rebranding the Occupation

Obama says withdrawal is on schedule, but renaming or outsourcing combat troops won't give Iraqis back their country

by Seumas Milne

For most people in Britain and the US, Iraq is already history. Afghanistan has long since taken the lion's share of media attention, as the death toll of Nato troops rises inexorably. Controversy about Iraq is now almost entirely focused on the original decision to invade: what's happening there in 2010 barely registers.

That will have been reinforced by Barack Obama's declaration this week that US combat troops are to be withdrawn from Iraq [1] at the end of the month "as promised and on schedule". For much of the British and American press, this was the real thing: headlines hailed the "end" of the war and reported "US troops to leave Iraq".

Nothing could be further from the truth. The US isn't withdrawing from Iraq at all – it's rebranding the occupation. Just as George Bush's war on terror was retitled "overseas contingency operations" when Obama became president, US "combat operations" will be rebadged from next month as "stability operations".

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times: "In practical terms, nothing will change" [2]. After this month's withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, "advising" and training the Iraqi army, "providing security" and carrying out "counter-terrorism" missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.

Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called "the dumb war" goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked for the fifth month in a row in the Green Zone. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan: 535 last month alone, according to the Iraqi government – the worst figure for two years.

And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers and al-Qaida – Bush's gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces.

Meanwhile, the US government isn't just rebranding the occupation, it's also privatising it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly "third country nationals", typically from the developing world. One Peruvian and two Ugandan security contractors were killed in a rocket attack on the Green Zone only a fortnight ago.

The US now wants to expand their numbers sharply in what Jeremy Scahill, who helped expose the role of the notorious US security firm Blackwater, calls the "coming surge" of contractors [3] in Iraq. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000 [4], to be based in five "enduring presence posts" across Iraq.

The advantage of an outsourced occupation is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq. It also helps get round the commitment, made just before Bush left office, to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. The other getout, widely expected on all sides, is a new Iraqi request for US troops to stay on – just as soon as a suitable government can be stitched together to make it.

What is abundantly clear is that the US, whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City, has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon. One reason for that can be found in the dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq's biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies, including three of the Anglo-American oil majors that exploited Iraqi oil under British control before 1958.

The dubious legality of these deals has held back some US companies, but as Greg Muttitt, author of a forthcoming book on the subject, argues, the prize for the US is bigger than the contracts themselves, which put 60% of Iraq's reserves under long-term foreign corporate control. If output can be boosted as sharply as planned, the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people, on the other hand, and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 "worked" and that Iraq has come good after all.

It's not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Even without the farce of the March elections, the banning and killing of candidates and activists and subsequent political breakdown, to claim – as the Times did today – that "Iraq is a democracy" is grotesque. The Green Zone administration would collapse in short order without the protection of US troops and security contractors. No wonder the speculation among Iraqis and some US officials is of an eventual military takeover.

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq's independence has only just begun.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Seumas Milne is a Guardian columnist and associate editor.


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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 07, 2010, 06:42:18 am
Iraq snapshot - August 5, 2010

The Common Ills

Thursday, August 5, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee considers bills and amendments, governmental proxy weigh in to note their distaste for WikiLeaks, military and veterans suicides continue at an alarming rate, and more.
Today in the US, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a mark up hearing on various bills.  Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Committee, Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member of the minority party.  Chair Akaka opened the hearing declaring, "Now that we have a quorum of nine, I invite a motion to proceed to the agenda items and according to tradition we'll vote on the agenda items and then as long as five members remain present including one member of the minority amendments will be in order."  Senator Jay Rockefeller made the motion to proceed. After it was unamiously approved, Chair Akaka noted the importance of the process and that any amendments to the bills would result in his seeking additional input from all the stakeholders in the system.  Ranking Member Richard Burr spoke out against the tuition stipend in the Post-9/11 GI Bill which some people find -- his terms" "unweildy, confusing and unpredictable."  He didn't state it but there are some who find it unfair.  (There are also some veterans who  have no problem with it.)  Kat will, as usual, cover a unique remark by Burr and he had one today so check her site. Ava's going to blog at Trina's site tonight to note Senator Scott Brown.

For an overview, we'll note that Chair Daniel Akaka's office issued the following release on the hearing today:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, chaired by Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), approved comprehensive legislation to help veterans find jobs, simplify and improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill, get disabled veterans accurate and timely compensation, and make various improvements to VA health care.


"We must never forget that the care and benefits veterans have earned is a cost of war, and must be treated as such.  I am pleased with the bipartisan input that has produced these bills, and I will work with my colleagues to move them forward during this session of Congress," said Akaka.  Chairman Akaka's full opening statement is available here.

The Committee approved the following bills:


S. 3234, Veteran Employment Assistance Act of 2010 (Committee Print, as amended).  To improve employment, training, and placement services furnished to veterans, especially those serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and for other purposes.


S. 3447, Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 (Committee Print).  To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve educational assistance for those who served in the Armed Forces after September 11, 2001, and for other purposes.


S. 3517, Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2010 (Committee Print, as amended).  To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the processing of claims for disability compensation filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes.


S. 3325, Veterans Telehealth and other Care Improvements Act of 2010 (Committee Print, as amended).  To improve the quality of health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, to increase access to health care and benefits provided by the Department, to authorize major medical facility construction projects of the Department, and for other purposes.


S. 3107, Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2010.  To amend title 38, United States Code, to provide for an increase, effective December 1, 2010, in the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and the rates of dependency and indemnity compensation for the survivors of certain disabled veterans, and for other purposes.


S. 3609.  A bill to extend the temporary authority for the performance of medical disability examinations by contract physicians for the Department of Veterans Affairs.


An original bill -- S. ____ (Committee Print, as amended).  To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance and Veterans' Group Life Insurance and to modify the provision of compensation and pension to surviving spouses of veterans in the months of the deaths of the veterans, and for other purposes.


The bills approved today will be reported to the full Senate for consideration.  For a copy of today's agenda, testimony and webcast, visit

Kawika Riley

Communications Director and Legislative Assistant

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman   

S. 3234, the Veterans Employment Assistance Act of 2010 had an amendment attached to it by Burr.  Akaka noted he wasn't sure he could support it.  Rockefeller noted his opposition to the Burris amendment and Senator Sherrod Brown introduced a new amendment on behalf of himself, Senators Patty Murray, Rockefeller, Bernie Sanders, Senator Roland Burris and Senator Arlen Specter regarding VA employees collective bargaining abilities.  We'll note this portion of exchange.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Is there any objection to making this a separate bill?
Senator Jay Rockefeller: Mr. Chairman, when you say a separate bill, does that mean it would not be -- couldn't be accepted as an amendment?
Chair Daniel Akaka: Well I feel that this is an important question that you raise here. We're only trying to skip a procedural role call vote.  What I'm asking is if we can agree to debate this amendment individually?  And of course, you will have an opportunity to speak and propose an amendment to this.
Senator Jay Rockefeller: Mr. Chairman, I don't mean to be anymore obnoxious than I usually am, but I thought that's what mark-ups were for?
Chair Daniel Akaka: Yes, Senator Rockefeller.  We would like to separate this so that we can handle it separately and not be --
Senator Sherrod Brown: Mr. Chairman, I understand Senator Rockefeller's at least partial reservation.  I know he's a co-sponsor of the amendment.  Does the stand-alone -- I understand the stand-alone would make its chances of becoming a law greater then if it's part of a bill that there may be some objections to pay-fors on the floor and all of that. There won't be -- I assume there won't be those kind of objections on this.  I'll do whatever the Chairman wants.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Senator?
Senator Jon Tester: Chairman, I support it as an amendment or a stand-alone bill so I ask unamious consent to be added to it as a co-sponsor. Secondly, if it increases the possibility of passage as a stand-alone, I support that. If it increases the passage of an amendment, I would support that. So as a co-sponsor of the bill I will go with whatever expedites it the quickest.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Any other comments?

Senator Jay Rockefeller: Mr. Chairman --
Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Rockefeller.
Senator Jay Rockefeller: -- I would withdraw my comments. It is my understanding that this would make it easier to make it become law because of negotiations with the House.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Are there any objections to separating this bill? . . . So no objections, it will be separated. Let me further say that there is merit to this amendment of Senator Brown's I agree that employees should be allowed to grieve as has been mentioned over correct compensation to which they are entitled. So let me call on any further comments.  Senator Burr?
Ranking Member Richard Burr: Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I understand the intent behind the amendment.  But I'm worried that we are flying blind here without having the views of the administration and others on how this amendment might impact providing care to veterans. As you know, Title 38, employees can bargain over everything except matters concerning (1) the professional conduct or competence, (2) peer review or (3) employee compensation. Senator Brown's amendment would make all compensation matters except basic rates of pay open to collective bargaining.  Here are my concerns.  The law granting only certain collective bargaining rights to VA employees has not been amended in 20 years.  Doing so without views and without an impact assessment concerns me greatly.  In this Congress, and in the last Congress, we had bills proposing to expand collective bargaining rights, both the prior administration and the current one strongly objected arguing patient care would suffer. I understand your amendment is narrower in scope. But I'm still concerned that it would have unintended consequences on care.  Here's a brief list of items under your amendment which would be open to collective bargaining: market pay, performace pay, premium pay, on-call pay, [. . .] special salary rates, requirement and retention and bonuses and nurse locality pay. Are we prepared to say that we understand how extending the ability to collective bargaining over these matters will effect operations of the VA health care system?  What about the cost associated with doing this?  What effect does this have on our veterans health care? Do we know any of the answers to those questions? Again, I truly believe we're legislating without all the facts. Therefore, I would urge my colleagues to oppose this amendment and to wait until we have an opportunity to have some of the answers to these questions.
Chair Daniel Akaka:  Senator Brown, did you --
Senator Sherrod Brown: Yes.  Let me give you an example of what -why this amendment matters. A nurse in Buffalo worked all weekend to deliver H1N1 vaccines to veterans.  It wasn't her normal shift, she should have been entitled by contract to 25% additional pay.  She had stepped forward for work that weekend because she wanted veterans to have access to flu shots and they worked during the week.  She stepped forward to assist those workers on the weekend. On her paycheck, it didn't reflect the premium pay she was entitled to. She asked her union to help out but was told she couldn't grieve this issue through the union. Now that speaks pretty clearly that this is amendment is narrow and it doesn't make any changes -- It changes the compensation exclusion in the law. It doesn't make changes to the other two exclusions: peer review and direct patient care. It has no impact -- absolutely no impact -- on management's right to determine the best medical procedures or practices for the patient.
And it continued.  And we're noting it because half the hearing was spent on this. Was there really a need, for example, for Akaka's motives to be questioned?  Did anyone think the Chair was secretly plotting to torpedo the proposal?  Part of the exchange was give-and-take, fine.  Part of it was just time wasted.
A roll call vote was called with Senators Rockefeller, Murray, Bernie Sanders (by proxy), Brown, Jim Webb, (by proxy), Tester, Mark Begich, Burris, Arlen Specter (by proxy) and Chair Akaka voting yes; Burr, Johnny Iaskson, Roger Wicker (by proxy), Mike Johanns (by proxy), Scott Brown and Lindsey Graham (by proxy) voted no.  In other words, the vote was strictly on party lines.
We'll come back to the topic of veterans in a moment.  Switching to today's violence in Iraq . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing which wounded one police officer.  Reuters notes a Ramadi car bombing in which 1 person was killed and three were wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 people shot dead (eight more wounded) at a Baghdad currency exchange, a Wednesday night home invasion in which 1 police officer 'His wife and a guest" were shot dead, 1 police officer shot dead Wednesday night on the streets of Baghdad and an attack on a Mosul checkpoint today in which 1 assailant was killed.  Reuters

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 07, 2010, 12:23:01 pm
Iraq snapshot - August 6, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday, August 6, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, 2 US service members died Monday but no one wanted to 'cramp' Barack's style by announcing it, and more.
Jaimee Lynn Fletcher (Orange County Register) reports 300 soldiers with the California National Guard's 1-140th Aviation (Air Assault) Battalion deploy to Iraq this weekend.  "Air Assault" -- doesn't sound like non-combat forces.  And they're "also known as Task Force Long Knife." B-b-but, Monday, Barack Obama, President of the United States, stood up in front of cameras and creation in Atlanta, Georgia and insisted that no combat troops would be in Iraq after the end of this month.  Are those California National Guard soldiers deploying for a few weeks and then flying back to the US? 
And about that 'wowie' speech . . . 

Elise Labott: Well he said that the US would maintain a longterm cariment -- commitment to Iraq in terms of the ever growing civilian presence on there but he spoke about bringing the war in Iraq to a responsible end and he's saying that the August 31st deadline for the military to bring their troops down to 50,000 is the closing of a chapter and that the US is going to be transitioning towards a more normal relationship with Iraqis as it does with many other countries. I mean, this is really for the US kind-of signaling the end of so-called occupation .  But you -- What you have right now is a five-month deadlock on the government forming up, you have the drawdown of US troops and a lot of the, you know, instability in the country.  You've seen a lot more violence. al Qaeda is doing a lot more recruiting to try and fill this void right now that the government isn't meeting because it's very much deadlocked.  And the US is concerned that it's going to be leaving the country as there's more instability in the country. And you even saw Tariq Aziz, the Deputy to Saddam Hussein, say, "Don't leave Iraq right now! You're leaving them to the wolves!" So it kind of signals that the US is growing increasingly worried that the government won't be in place before all of these troops come out and America's clout diminishes further.
Susan Page: But you know in a way there was no news in President Obama's speech? He's simply reaffirming what he said before. So why -- why give the speech?
Jonathan S. Landay: Oh, I think there was -- I'm going to be really cynical about this.  You're facing -- he's facing these Congressional elections coming up in Novmeber in which his party has got an uphill battle -- basically an uphill battle. And at the same time, he sent an additional at least 52,000 more American troops to a place called Afghanistan. The other thing that I feel when I look at this in a cyncical way is the fact that he's meeting requirements that were actually negotiated with Iraq by the Bush administration. And it seems the deadline for getting American troops -- combat troops out, the deadline for getting all American troops out, the fact is that he seemed to be trying to take credit.  He used -- he used the expression all American combat [clears throat]. Excuse me.  American combat troops will be out by the end of this month "as promised and on schedule."  As if he's the guy who's fulfilling this promises when, indeed, these are required under an agreement that the Bush administration negotiated with the Iraqi government.
That's Susan Page filling in for Diane Rehm on today's The Diane Rehm Show (second hour) where she was joined by Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy Newspapers), Elise Labott (CNN) and James Kitfield (National Journal).  Cynical? 
How could anyone be more cynical than the White House was.  As Barack Obama was still boning up on his speech, the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War stood at 4413.  However, last night Reuters reported 2 US soldiers killed on Monday -- and we only learn now. USF/MNF has nothing posted. When on Monday did they die?. Barack began speaking in Atlanta a little after 11:30 a.m. EST. That would have been 6:30 p.m. in Baghdad. Were they already dead by then?

The White House knew while spinning all day Monday and continuing on Tuesday that two US service members were dead, killed by a bombing (a third wounded). But they didn't want you to know because it would interfere with Barack's messaging. It would hurt Brand Obama.

Thursday, Ari Shapiro (All Things Considered, NPR) reported, "The White House has been on a good news streak this week, accentuating the positive every day in areas ranging from Iraq to the BP oil well to the auto industry." But it's easy to have a 'good news' streak if you control what information gets out and what information doesn't.

Barack Obama grand-standed on the backs of 3 US service members -- two dead, one wounded. That announcement, which USF should have made on Monday, was killed because Barack needed some sweet-ass headlines.

First order of business for the White House, finding a fall guy or gal to blame the decision to bury the news of the 2 deaths Monday. Tony Karon (Time magazine) notes:
Major U.S. combat operations in Iraq were first declared to have ended in March 2003, in President Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" address aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. Seven years and many thousands of casualties later, President Barack Obama made a similar announcement this week. But it remains to be seen whether his note of finality has any more traction than that of his predecessor.

Yesterday Paul Jay (Real News Network --link has text and video) interviewed Gareth Porter about Iraq realities.

JAY: And weren't they also committed to having all troops out, and not just combat, by, what is it, the end of 2011?
PORTER: They are in fact committed not just by a policy, but by the US-Iraq withdrawal agreement, which was signed in November 2008, to getting all US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011. That's now a treaty commitment, or at least a formal international commitment, if not a treaty.

JAY: Of course, unless Maliki, their guy, happens to say, well, you can stay longer.
PORTER: Well, that's right. And of course we know that US military leaders have been saying, since even before that treaty or that agreement was signed in November 2008, they wanted to keep US troops there long, long beyond, way beyond 2011. We know that even after Obama was elected, the month of the signature of this agreement, November 2008, that General Odierno, the commander of US troops in Iraq, told Tom Ricks of the The Washington Post, when he was asked what kind of US military presence do you foresee in 2014-2015 (that's four years after the supposed event of US military presence under the agreement), his answer was: I foresee, and what I would like to see, is 30,000, 35,000 US troops remaining, and that they would still be on combat mission.
It's the fifth anniversary of the first Camp Casey and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan reflects on the 'changes' in US policies (here at Peace of the Action, here at Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox):
Back sometime after the Nobel Laureate was installed on top of the IDH, the mission that killed my son was renamed: "Operation New Dawn." So every single one of our troops and Iraqis that have been killed since Obama's reign have been killed in something that resembles dish-washing detergent and most certainly the selling of it. "Operation New Dawn: New and Improved with more Lemony Freshness -- and, boy, does it cut through grease!" Grease is the only thing that Operation New Dawn cuts through, though -- since many of my fellow USAians want to believe that Obama is the "New and Improved" George Bush.                   
Now, Obama has taken back a promise to have "Combat Troops" out of Iraq by September 1st of this year and now has pledged to have them out by the end of 2011 -- but of course, he has again redefined the mission and the troops are now on a "support and train" mission instead of a combat mission, so the Bots will believe that there is a new "Mission Accomplished." There will be some troops movement and more empty rhetoric about this as the next presidential season is rapidly coming to assault us with more Madison Avenue Trickery. And people on the so-called left and so-called antiwar movement were upset with John McCain when he said that troops would be in Iraq for "100 years?" Well, that is upsetting to me, also, but troops will be in Iraq for 100 years because WE only come out to fight when a Republican is in office and it is apparent that The Empire can tenaciously hang in there until the next cycle when a Democrat takes the "con" of The Empire and neutralizes the "Left" for another four to eight years.       
Since I camped in Crawford, Texas beginning August 6th, 2005 --there has been little to celebrate and virtually no progress in a progressive direction regarding any policy.                                     
Bush's troop "surge" in Iraq that was bought and paid for by Pelosi's Democratic Congress only "worked" because just about everybody that could be killed or displaced in or out of Iraq has been. In 2003, Iraq had a population of roughly 25 million and about 5 million of those have been killed or displaced -- that's 1/5 of the population. Devastating figures -- that would be comparable to 60 million USAians being killed or displaced! Significant and tragic figures that mean very little to most daily consumers of what passes for news here in the U.S.
Casey Sheehan died serving in Iraq.  Some Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans (as well as some in the military who have not deployed) are dying at their own hands.
"They gave me a gun" he said                 
"They gave me a mission                   
For the power and the glory                 
Propaganda **** on 'em               
There's a war zone inside me                   
I can feel things exploding                   
I can't even hear the f**king music playing                 
For the beat of, the beat of black wings"               
[. . .] 
"They want you they need you         
They train you to kill               
To be a pin on some map               
Some vicarious thrill               
The old hate the young       
That's the whole heartless thing           
The old pick the wars               
We die in 'em
To the beat of, the beat of black wings"                   
-- "The Beat Of Black Wings," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In a Rainstorm           
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, the Marines released their suicide data and have classified 28 this year as suicides.  Last year they saw 52 suicides and the Army saw 160.  Today Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted that "another 146 [Army in 2009] died by other violent means, such as murder, drug abuse or reckless driving while drunk; another 1,700 attempted suicide."  He and Amy Goodman spoke with Gregg Keesling, the father of SPC Chancellor Keesling who was in Iraq on his second deployment when he saw no other solution but to take his own life on June 19, 2009, and with Joyce and Kevin Lucey, the parents of Iraq War veteran and Marine Jeffrey Lucey who received no help from the VA while repeatedly struggling to find some solution other than taking his own life and finally did that June 22, 2004.  Excerpt (and remember DN! is watch, listen or read -- video, audio and text formats):
KEVIN LUCEY: I think when we decided to try to bring him to the hospital, we had been trying to negotiate with him for over a month. We had actually hired a therapist to be able to help us get them into the hospital. On Friday, May 28th, 2004, the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend, Jeff finally went to the hospital. He had no intention of staying. And they did say that he needed to stay. And so, finally, we did an involuntary commitment. It took about six hours to do it.  During the three-and-a-half days that he spent there, we thought that he was being assessed, assessed for PTSD and assessed for treatment, but regretfully, they didn't assess him. What they stated was that he had to be detoxed, and they were just trying to detox him. And then he was going to have to stay sober, completely substance-free, for a period of three to six months. And I looked at him, and, in this age of dual diagnosis, I couldn't understand how they could even say that, because I went with the naive belief that the VA were the experts in regards to PTSD.
Despite Jeff divulging how he had bought a hose to kill himself, that he had plans, what happened is that they ended up discharging Jeff three-and-a-half days later. Two days after that, Jeff got into a single car accident, totaled our family car. He was unscathed. And he saved the two coffees that he went to get for his mother and for himself. And then, that weekend, we tried to bring him back, because it had gotten much more severe. And the VA, they didn't even bother calling a person who had the authority to enter him involuntarily. And he just came back home. And at that point, I was furious. I lost faith in the VA.                 

JOYCE LUCEY: And I'd like to say that my dad did go along with Jeffrey on that second time, along with my daughters, and that he begged. He begged the VA to do something to help his grandson. My dad lost his brother in World War II at twenty-two years old, and he was now seeing his grandson going downhill right before his eyes. And nobody was there to help. So, to me, that -- that's heartbreaking. It really is.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And you, obviously, had no doubt from the beginning that the changes in his behavior, in his activities, his destructive activities, were as a result of being in the war, that he was -- he had been fine before he enlisted and went to Iraq?

JOYCE LUCEY: Absolutely, absolutely. His girlfriend said that, a year prior to this, he would never, never have thought about taking his life. I mean, that wasn't Jeffrey. That wasn't Jeffrey at all. And to listen to him when he came back and to sit on the deck -- and I remember sitting there going, "Who is this person? This isn't my son." I didn't understand what he was saying. It just seemed like it was my son's body, but the person was no longer my child. He was totally changed, and he was lost. He was in his own world, of everything going through his head, not really looking at me, just kind of staring out and reliving things, you know, saying things in fragments, so that you never really got the whole story. But you knew whatever he had gone through was horrific to him.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Hot Line is 1-800-273-TALK.  Talk is something you can apparently do easier in foreign media.  The Hindu minces no words when analyzing 'Barry ends the war':
Thirdly, Washington's talk of reduction covers only combat troops and conceals the fact that the U.S. will maintain a network of gigantic bases in Iraq. The one at Balad, about 100 km north of Baghdad, can house 20,000 personnel; it covers 40 sq km and has an internal bus service and the usual American facilities. Inside, U.S. law applies and staff need not even set foot outside. The Al Asad base, 160 km west of Baghdad, holds 17,000 troops; one of its runways is 4.26 km long. The base is to be connected to the national electricity grid. Other U.S. stations in Iraq include Camp Falcon-al-Sarq at Baghdad, and Camp Victory near Baghdad International Airport, which can take 14,000 troops. The plan is apparently to maintain 70,000 troops and 200,000 contractors, or mercenaries by any other name, in Iraq.
The terms "enduring bases" and "permanent access" do more than evade the Congressional ban on permanent bases in foreign countries. The creation of such huge outposts in Iraq is entirely consistent with the Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Strategy, both of which in effect put U.S. interests above the sovereignty or independence of other states.
In Iraq, a letter's been delivered.  Not just any letter.  Barbara Slavin (Foreign Policy) reports the letter is to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and is from Barack and it calls on al-Sistanit "to prevail upon Iraq's squabbling politicians to finally form a new government".  The timeline on the letter?  After Biden's visit at the start of last month -- "shortly after."  Which would appear to indicate that nothing came of it.  Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) offers, "The letter from Obama to Sistani should simply be seen as the US pulling out all the stops for an Iraqi government. However, should it fail in its objective, which is quite likely, then it could be yet another depressing sign of Washington's diminishing influence in the country."  However, Press TV reports, "Sadr City's Friday Prayers Leader Seyyed Muhammad al-Musawi accused the US of trying to portray the Iraqi government and security forces as weak and incapable of providing security for the Iraqis in order to justify the country's occupation."  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 4 months and 28 days.
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured, another left fifteen wounded (and may have claimed 2 lives -- according to a "police source"), a third one claimed the life of 1 police officer (five people injured), a fourth left six people injured and one late yesterday left two people wounded.
Yesterday the US State Dept released "Country Reports on Terrorism 2009." There are 12 paragraphs in the Iraq section:
Iraq remained a committed partner in counterterrorism efforts. As a result of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, Iraqi security forces assumed primary responsibility for the security and stability of Iraq, with support from Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Together, U.S. and Iraqi security forces continued to make progress in combating al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) and affiliated Sunni terrorist organizations, as well as Shiite militia elements engaged in terrorism. A significant reduction in the number of security incidents throughout much of Iraq, beginning in the last half of 2007, continued through 2009, with a steady downward trend in numbers of civilian casualties, enemy attacks, and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks.
Still, terrorist organizations and insurgent groups continued their attacks on Iraqi security forces, civilians, and government officials using IEDs, including vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), and suicide bombers. Although a scattering of small scale attacks continued to hamper the country's progress toward broad-based security, terrorist elements focused their efforts on high-profile and deadly attacks in Baghdad, as demonstrated by attacks on August 19, October 25, and December 8. The three sets of attacks targeted Iraqi government buildings with simultaneous, multiple suicide and/or remote-detonated VBIEDs in Baghdad. While AQI claimed responsibility for the violence, some Iraqi government officials publicly blamed Syrian-based individuals with alleged ties to the former Baath Party.
U.S. forces conducted full spectrum operations with the Iraqi forces to defeat the evolving threats employed by AQI. Their efforts to defeat AQI cells, in addition to an increasingly violence-weary Iraqi public, forced AQI elements to consolidate in Ninewa and Diyala provinces. Despite being limited to smaller bases of operation within Iraq, AQI retained networks in and around Baghdad and in eastern Anbar. In Ninewa, U.S. and Iraqi security forces focused efforts against AQI and other Sunni extremists through operations targeting warranted individuals and judicial detentions of senior leaders, and targeted the terrorists' operational support systems. AQI, whose apparent goal in 2009 was to discredit the Iraqi government and erode its security and governance capabilities, targeted primarily the Iraqi security forces, government infrastructure, Sons of Iraq (SOI) groups, and tribal awakening movement members. Despite the improved security environment, AQI, fueled in part by former detainees, still possessed the capacity to launch high-profile attacks against Iraqi civilians and infrastructure.
In addition to reducing the strength of AQI and Sunni extremists, Iraq made progress in containing other terrorist groups with differing motives, such as Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party that advocates the removal of occupation forces from Iraq) and Kata'ib Hizballah (a Shia militant group with ideological ties to the militant wing of Hizballah).
The flow of foreign terrorists from North Africa and other Middle Eastern countries greatly diminished, although they continued to enter Iraq, predominantly through Syria. AQI and its Sunni extremist partners mainly used Iraqi nationals, including some females, as suicide bombers. Terrorist groups receiving weapons and training from Iran continued to endanger the security and stability of Iraq; however, incidents of such violence were lower than in previous years. Many of the groups receiving ideological and logistical support from Iran were based in Shia communities in central and southern Iraq.
Iraq, Turkey, and the United States continued their formal trilateral security dialogue as one element of ongoing cooperative efforts to counter the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). Iraqi leaders, including those from the Kurdistan Regional Government, continued to publicly state that the PKK was a terrorist organization and would not be allowed a safe haven in Iraq. The trilateral discussions and other efforts continued through the end of the year, with a ministerial in late December.
The Iraqi government increased its efforts to garner regional and international support against terrorism. The Expanded Neighbors Process continued to provide a forum for Iraq and its neighbors to address Iraq's political and security challenges in a regional context. In October, the Iraqi government sent representatives to Egypt to participate in the sixth Neighbors Process working group on border security, in which the group sought ways to enhance and integrate border security systems in preparation for Iraq's 2010 parliamentary elections. Iraq also became a more active voice at the UN in 2009.
The Iraqi government pressed senior Iranian leaders to end support for lethal aid to Iraqi militias, and the Iraqi army carried out operations against extremists trained and equipped by Iran in Basra, Baghdad, and other areas. Although attacks by militants have sharply decreased, concerns remain that Iranian-supported Shia groups may be stockpiling weapons to influence the elections or the subsequent government formation. Shia militant groups' ties to Iran remained a diplomatic and security challenge and a threat to Iraq's long-term stability. National unity efforts to involve Iraqi Shia groups with Iranian ties, such as Asaib ahl al Haq (League of Righteousness) in the political process, decreased Shia-linked violence.
The Iraqi government faced internal and external pressure to relocate the Mujahadeen-e Khalq (MEK) organization, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, from the group's current location in eastern Iraq. The Iraqi government committed to act with respect for human rights in any efforts to relocate the group, and UN and international observers monitored the situation.
The Iraqi government attributed security gains to Iraqi security force capability and proficiency, as well as to increasing popular support for Iraqi government actions against AQI and other extremist groups. SOI and other groups provided U.S. and Iraqi forces with valuable information that helped disrupt terrorist operations and exposed large weapons caches. The SOI began integration into Iraqi security forces in 2008, and many more transitioned to non-security ministries throughout 2009. Sunni tribal awakening movements continued alliances with U.S. forces against AQI and extremist groups. AQI targeting of Christian and other minority churches, schools, and institutions indicated that AQI pursued strategies that required the least resources and yielded the highest payoff in the media and minds of Iraq's citizens. Despite this, ethno-sectarian violence continued to decline.
On June 30, U.S. combat troops pulled out of cities, villages, and localities, in accordance with the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, and after that conducted all kinetic operations in partnership with Iraqi security forces. The focus of U.S. operations moved from urban to rural areas where international support will remain critical for the Iraqi government to build its capacity to fight terrorist organizations. All U.S. military operations are conducted with the agreement of and in partnership with Iraqi authorities.
Iraq's intelligence services continued to improve in both competency and confidence but will require ongoing support and legislative authority before they will be able to adequately identify and respond to internal and external terrorist threats.
 Meanwhile an Iraq War veteran remains imprisoned in Iraq. Danny Fitzsimons served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo as well as Iraq. He returned to Iraq last fall as a British contractor, or mercenary, accused of being the shooter in a Sunday, August 9th Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. From yesterday's snapshot:

PA quotes Danny stating, "I'm making a direct plea to Mr Cameron asking him, telling him that it's a disgrace that I'm here. I served nine years for Queen and Country and I served another five years serving big British business in Iraq, you know. So, in a way that's five years serving the country as well. [. . .] I should be in hospital in Britian, in a mental hospital getting the treatment that I need. You know, I shouldn't be in a dungeon in Baghdad. Worst case scenario is guilty and death by hanging. I don't want to die. I don't want to end it here." Chris Jones, Peter Devine and Sunday Mirror reporters (Manchester Evening News) quotes Danny's step-mother Liz Fitzsimons stating, "Eric is on anti-depressants because of the terrible conditions Danny is behind held in, and it has all been a very, very stressful situation with no end in sight. Danny feels like he has been abandoned by the military. Some of the people who have been held in Iraqi prisons, and whom we have spokenw ith, have said they would rather face the death penalty than serve a life sentence in those conditions. Mentally, it must be a very, very tough for Danny because he is not being allowed outside, not getting adequate food and water and he is sharing a cell with 17 others who don't speak English, and we are very concerned. He is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder."

Amnesty International issued the following yesterday:

Responding to a new televised appeal to David Cameron made by Danny Fitzsimons, the British security contractor detained in Iraq and awaiting trial for murder, Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:
"It's obviously right that private military and security contractors are made fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we're very concerned about this case.
"Iraq has an appalling record of unfair capital trials and there's a definite danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process.
"David Cameron should certainly seek assurances from the Iraqi authorities that Mr Fitzsimons will receive a fair trial and that the death penalty will be ruled out from the beginning."
Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world. Last year Iraq executed at least 120 people, the third highest of any country in the world. Approximately 1,000 prisoners are currently on death row, many reportedly close to execution.

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Joan Biskupic (USA Today), Gloria Borger (CNN) and Eamon Javers (CNBC) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "What's to Celebrate, Mr. President?" This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with a number of female panelist on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast (Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings) features a discussion on WikiLeaks, the Gulf Disaster, prison reform and more. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Cost of Dying
Many Americans spend their last days in an intensive care unit, subjected to uncomfortable machines or surgeries to prolong their lives at enormous cost. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video


The Patriarch
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the 300 million-member Orthodox Christian Church, feels "crucified" living in Turkey under a government he says would like to see his nearly 2,000-year-old Patriarchate die out. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video


Chef Jose Andres
Pioneering Chef Jose Andres takes Anderson Cooper's taste buds on a savory tour of his culinary laboratory, featuring his avant-garde cooking technique, molecular gastronomy. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, August 8, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 08, 2010, 08:30:31 am
Bombings kill 32, injure 63 in Iraq

Sun, 08 Aug 2010 09:31:40 GMT


At least 32 people have been killed and 63 others have been wounded in two bomb explosions in central Iraq, according to witnesses.

The blasts occurred in the restive al-Anbar province on Sunday, a Press TV correspondent reported.

The first car bombing left 30 people dead and 50 others injured in the city of al-Ramadi.

The second explosion targeted an army patrol in the town of al-Saqlawiyah, killing two people and injuring 13 others.

The attacks followed Saturday's triple bombing, which claimed the lives of at least 60 people and injured 70 others in the center of the southern port city of Basra.

Iraq has been under daily attacks and bombings since the United States and its western allies invaded the country in 2003.

Countless number of civilians have been killed and injured and forced to flee their homes to save their lives.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 10, 2010, 11:34:30 am
Iraq snapshot - August 9, 2010

The Commonills

Monday, August 9, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, al Qaeda in Iraq blamed/credited yet again, DoD identifies a service member who died over the weekend, the political stalemate continues, Nouri cozies up to the Kurds, and more.
Atul Aneja (The Hindu) dubbed it the "weekend of violence" and indeed it was. By midnight US time last night, Saturday and Sunday's reported tolls were at least 77 Iraqis killed and at least 303 injured. It was just Monday that Barry Obama was happy talking violence in Iraq -- two days after the US military was attacking official Iraqi ministry figures on the July death toll. How long ago it now seems. Basra was rocked by bombings Saturday with a death toll that rose to 43. That would be Basra in the south. The south. Where US military brass have told reporters for three weeks now that there are no problems. Any violence remaining, the brass has insisted, is in the north. But, fact, Basra is in the south. And apparently so shocking that many attempted to spin it by insisting to the press it was a generator exploding and not a bombing.  Appearing Sunday on ABC's This Week with Christiane Amanpour, Gen Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq, was one of the few who didn't attempt to spin.
Christiane Amanpour: Well, let me ask you about the violence. This weekend alone in Basra in the south there has been a big explosion that's caused dozens of deaths. What is it? Do you know what it is, in fact, was it a terrorist attack?
Gen Ray Odierno: Well, I think it probably was. We're still sorting through that, because there was conflicting reports, but my guess is it was probably some sort of an improvised explosive device that went off.
Odierno's guess was correct. Arwa Damon and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) report today, "Basra's police chief had said over the weekend that the explosions were caused by a power generator. But the U.S. Forces-Iraq's deputy commanding general for operations, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, told reporters Monday that the explosions were caused by two car bombs and two roadside bombs. They left 43 people dead and 103 wounded." So many deaths, so many wounded.  What's the US military brass to do?  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports, "Though weakened by the deaths of top leaders and a drop-off in foreign funding, al-Qaeda in Iraq's 'cellular structure' remains 'pretty much intact,' Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Higgins said in his first interview since taking command in Baghdad last fall." So it's time to trot out al Qaeda in Iraq again. The homegrown, illegal war created group that the US military was swearing was waning and that the 'capture' and killing of various alleged high-ranking leaders had thrown into disarray. Interestingly, Michael Jansen (Irish Times) appears to be the only one offering anything other than that, "The rise in violence is attributed to two factors. First, analysts say al-Qaeda, which has claimed a number of recent attacks, is reviving because it is recruiting former members of so-called 'awakening councils', made up of Sunni militiamen who joined the US in the 2007-2008 war against al-Qaeda and its allies." Jansen goes on to note how Nouri never did supply the jobs the Sahwa needed.  But possibly noting that explanation would underscore just how much the violence is Nouri's fault?
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that US Lt Gen Robert W. Cone stated they expected to see violence continue to increase "as the holy month of Ramadan begins this week". This follows Wang Fengfeng, Ran Wei and Xiong Tong (Xinhua) Saturday report that, "With the United States scheduled to withdraw all its combat troops from Iraq by the end of this month amid political stalemate and rising violence in that country, worries are mounting in Washington and elsewhere about the situation in Iraq after the drawdown."
The violence didn't stop today. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi traffic police officer and 1 civilian while injuring ten other people and Faraj notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, fighting to keep his job after narrowly losing the election, insisted the security situation was not getting worse, 'but some gaps have opened up, here and there, from time to time'." Nouri the comic. Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib medical complex bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left two people wounded, a second Mosul roadside bombing left six people injured, 1 man was shot dead in Kirkuk and, dropping back to Sunday for other violence, notes Sinan al-Shibibi's bodyguard was injured in a Baghdad shooting and 1 "official" was shot dead in Kirkuk and two of his bodyguards were injured.
Over the weekend, another US service member died in Iraq.  DoD issued a statement today noting "the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.  Spc. Faith R. Hinkley, 23, of Colorado Springs, Colo., died Aug. 7 in Baghdad, of wounds suffered when inusrgents attacked her unit in Iskandariya, Iraq. She was assigned to the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash."   
On last Monday's speech by Barack, we'll highlight this from Bill Van Auken's analysis for WSWS last Tuesday:
One would never know from this lyrical description that the US had waged a criminal war of aggression that has cost the lives of over a million Iraqi men, women and children and left an entire country in ruins.               
Nor, for that matter, would one guess from his words that the speaker was a candidate who won the Democratic nomination less than two years ago by proclaiming that the Iraq war "should never have been authorized and never been waged." One could be excused for thinking instead that it was George W. Bush.
Also weighing in on the speech, Eric S. Marolis (Gulf Times) observes, "Has America's goodbye to Iraq really begun? One suspects it's more a question of re-branding than retreat. The 50,000 US troops left in Iraq will supposedly 'advise and assist' and perform 'anti-terrorism' missions, and training. To this old war correspondent, that sounds a lot like white officers leading native troops."  Sunday Saad N. Jawad (Lebanon's Daily Star) observed, "The former US ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, recently described the Iraqi elections and their aftermath as 'high drama and low comedy.' It is the perfect description, yet he should have added that this was a natural outcome of the occupation, Iraq's vague and divisive Constitution, Washington's insistence on standing by the corrupt and failing people who came in with American forces after the invasion, and the sectarian-quota policy." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 2 days.
Al Jazeera notes many of the problems facing Nouri al-Maliki's desire for a second term as prime minister. Press TV reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani -- strangely they give him no title (not so strange, they don't recognize the KRG) -- stated, "Maliki's visit to Kurdistan is not aimed at the formation of a new alliance, but is to reinforce an old alliance and a start to put an end to all the problems Iraq is suffering from." Again, the meeting will lead to rumors that Nouri's willing to give away Kirkuk.  Liz Sly and Riyadh Mohammed (Los Angeles Times) shared their belief that Nouri "received a boost" by a non-endorsement from KRG President Massoud Barzani whom he met with today. That would be difficult for that to translate into a boost. The KRG does not have enough votes to put him over the top and any embrace by the KRG of Nouri will be interpreted by Shi'ites as an under the table deal being made on Kirkuk which has long been a tug-of-war point between Shi'ites and Kurds. Just meeting with Barzani leads to those accusations, cries of "Nouri's giving the Kurds Kirkuk!" Which should make it hard for Nouri to pull off support from the Iraqi National Alliance (which is his only hope short of making some deal with Iraqiya). Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports Iraq's Shi'ite Vice President and member of the Iraqi National Alliance Adel Abdul Mehdi is calling out Nouri for Nouri's statements blaming everyone "but himself" which Mehdi finds contradictory and beneath the position of prime minister.  Pakistan's The News International speculates on the sort of deals Nouri could make to continue as prime minister:

Maliki becomes prime minister, a Sunni member of Iraqiya gets the speaker's post, and Allawi becomes head of the National Security Council with broad authority.                             
Maliki becomes prime minister, and Allawi president. This is hard to imagine. Sunnis say they would regard Allawi as an honorary Sunni as prime minister, but not if he is president. Kurds would likely object to this scenario as well.
Maliki becomes prime minister, and Iraqiya picks half the government. This scenario is possible, but it hinges on Sunni leaders within Iraqiya sacrificing Allawi or on Allawi sacrificing himself for the benefit of Iraqiya.
Iraqiya combined with Maliki's State of Law would have 180seats in the 325-seat parliament.           
An Iraqiya deal with INA, including ISCI and the Sadrists, would give the combined bloc 161.               

On the latest edition of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), Teymoor Nabili was joined by State of Law and ministry adviser Saad al-Muttalibi, Arab Lawyers Association president Sabah al-Mukhtar and, from the US, noted 'scholarship' provider Jack Burkman. We're not noting Burkman.  He wants to show his ass to the world, he can.  It's a shame many Al Jazeera viewers will think that's how Americans are -- that we snicker and laugh while someone else speaks and then immediately ridicule them.  It's a shame he had no parent or guardian who cared enough to instill manners in him. 
Teymoor Nabili: Well let me allow Sabah al-Mukhtar to respond to this.  The idea or notion that the ability to criticize a non-existent government somehow represents progress, tell me about that?
Sabah al-Mukhtar: Well Mr. Saad is living in the Green Zone so, of course he feels --
Saad al-Muttalibi: No, I don't live in the Green Zone --
Sabah al-Mukhtar (Con't) -- that --
Saad al-Muttalibi: No, I don't --
Sabah al-Mukhtar: All of you live in the Green Zone. All of you live in the Green Zone.  All of you work in the Green Zone.  And when you go out, you have thirty people protecting you from the people. So the idea that somehow that the life of people does not matter because you can speak and because you have 20 newspapers or some satellite station while people can not even go to --
[Pushy, Ignorant American John Burkman attempts to interrupt even though it is not his turn to speak.  The Ugly American: John Burkman.]
Sabah al-Mukhtar: -- and work without being bombed and killed and the figures show that and that's what we're discussing.
Jack Burkman: [. . .]
Teymoor Nabili: Let me stop you there and not ask that question, John, if I may, because that's not really the question at issue here.  Let me put a question to you, when General -- when General -- when General Ray Odierno says that when the Americans pull out they may well have to send a peace keeping force to keep the peace in Kurdistan, you've got to ask yourself whether anything has been achieved.
Jack Burkman: [. . .]
Teymoor Nabili: Well alright, I'll tell you -- I'll tell you why -- I'll tell you why there's a degree of skepticism being raised, not necessarily by me, but by a lot of people, and I'll put this to Mr. al-Muttalibi, and that is the question of comparing it now to what it was seven or eight years ago, is not necessarily the right one because the question is what's going to happen when they leave. Now if there's trouble in Kurdistan, if as we have seen and our reporter has reported, the attacks in July represent evidence that the insurgency or some kind of violent tendency remains fairly strong then once the 'combat' operations or however President Barack Obama wants to phrase it decides to move on, those forces of anarchy and violence remain and will once again reassert themselves.  Do you not have that fear?
Saad al-Muttalibi: You see with the military disengagement now taking place in Iraq, we will see or we're hoping there will be a political engagement by the free world with Iraq, helping Iraq, pass this very critical time.  I must disagree with your guest in the United States because we cannot compare between now and Saddam Hussein because they're two different worlds completely.  Now if we go back to your question, sir, yes, there are elements of unrest, there are elements of differences between how the Kurds see the circumstances in Iraq and how the Arab side see the political situation with their northern colleagues. There are differences, there are problems.  But we are all resorting to resolving these differences through dialogue.  If you have noticed in the last few months, we don't view political violence between competing political parties. There is an open dialogue and the dialogue is taking place. The insurgency have gone down tremendously.  As you know, I am in charge of reconciliation and I deal with insurgents every single day. It's my job.
Jack Burkman: [. . .]
Teymoor Nabili: Let me give Sabah al-Mukhtar, another-another comment here because he hasn't had too much of a say.  Go ahead.
Sabah al-Mukhtar: The reconciliation is taking place between the people who are actually in power. You know when you have a Hakim, a Maliki and and Ayad Allawi having reconcilation, this is an absolute abuse of the terminology. Reconcilation is beween people who differ.  Those people have all come with the Americans, they all have the same agenda. They all want the Americans to stay.  They all will leave before the Americans leave.
Meanwhile in the US, Peter Maass (Foreign Policy) explores oil and attempts to figure out the reason for the Iraq War:
"I made a mistake," Mohammed said. "I just hope I will be allowed to go back to Riyadh. I want to leave."
He would not be going home soon. A U.S. military advisor, dressed in jeans and with a pistol strapped to his thigh, was monitoring my talk with Mohammed. The Iraqi who interpreted, also with a pistol on his hip, was an overweight police official. The Saudi, the American, and the Iraqi in this room were in a deep mess, as were their homelands. There were many reasons, and a core one was evoked when Mohammed ventured a guess as to why Iraq had been invaded.
"The Americans want to control Iraq's resources," he said. "They came here for oil."
And, Maass continued:
Shortly after the Marines rolled into Baghdad and tore down a statue of Saddam Hussein, I visited the Ministry of Oil. American troops surrounded the sand-colored building, protecting it like a strategic jewel. But not far away, looters were relieving the National Museum of its actual jewels. Baghdad had become a carnival of looting. A few dozen Iraqis who worked at the Oil Ministry were gathered outside the American cordon, and one of them, noting the protection afforded his workplace and the lack of protection everywhere else, remarked to me, "It is all about oil."             
The issue he raised is central to figuring out what we truly pay for a gallon of gas. The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reminded Americans that the price at the pump is only a down payment; an honest calculation must include the contamination of our waters, land, and air. Yet the calculation remains incomplete if we don't consider other factors too, especially what might be the largest externalized cost of all: the military one. To what extent is oil linked to the wars we fight and the more than half-trillion dollars we spend on our military every year? We are in an era of massive deficits, so it pays to know what we are paying for and how much it costs.               
The debate often hovers at a sandbox level of did-so/did-not. Donald Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, insisted the invasion of Iraq had "nothing to do with oil." But even Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, rejected that line. "It is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows," Greenspan wrote in his memoir. "The Iraq war is largely about oil." If it is even partly true that we invade for oil and maintain a navy and army for oil, how much is that costing? This is one of the tricky things about oil, the hidden costs, and one of the reasons we are addicted to the substance -- we don't acknowledge its full price.
Peter Maass' latest book is Crude World: The Violent Twilight of Oil which is out  tomorrow in softcover.
And A.N.S.W.E.R. weighs in on the WikiLeaks releases and along with the text below, the link also includes a video of A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Brian Becker discussing the documents:
The release of 90,000 secret U.S. military files by the whistleblower website Wikileaks, in its broadest context, reveals that the Obama administration and the Pentagon brass have been and still are fully aware that they are not only losing the war in Afghanistan, but also have no possibility of winning. 

The documents present a powerful indictment against the Pentagon, the Obama administration and the Bush administration for their failure to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan. They provide documentary evidence of the killing of hundreds and perhaps thousands of civilians by U.S. and NATO troops.   

The files reveal that the Pentagon set up a secret commando unit called Task Force 373 that is nothing other than a death squad. Task Force 373, made up of Army and Navy Special Operatives, is seeking to assassinate individuals from an assembled list of 2,000 targets. 

And despite rosy-sounding publicity missives coming from the Pentagon, the information released on Wikileaks shows an obvious pattern of intensifying bomb attacks against U.S. and NATO forces. 

The decision by the Obama administration to send 60,000 additional troops to Afghanistan in 2009 is exposed as nothing other than a decision to send more human beings to their death in an ongoing war that cannot be won, so as to avoid taking the political responsibility for a military setback. That is the rule that all U.S. policymakers abide by. No matter what, they must avoid the appearance of military defeat at the hands of an armed resistance. 

The White House condemned the release of the classified documents in the most disingenuous and hypocritical way. It denounced those who provided the files for putting "the lives of U.S. and partner service members at risk." That is turning reality upside down. It is the Obama administration that is putting the lives of U.S. service members and Afghan civilians "at risk" every day by continuing a war just so that it can avoid the political backlash for suffering a defeat on its watch.   

The released documents paint a grim picture that is repeated over and over again involving a large number of previously unknown incidents where U.S. and NATO troops shot and murdered unarmed drivers and motorcyclists. 

The documents reveal another incident where French troops used machine guns to strafe a bus full of children in 2008. A military patrol machine gunned another bus, wounding or killing 15 of its civilian passengers. In 2007, Polish troops rained mortar fire down on an Afghan village, killing a wedding party, including pregnant women, in a revenge attack for an earlier insurgent assault.                         

In April of this year, Wikileaks published the now-famous classified video of a U.S. Apache helicopter murdering 12 Iraqi civilians and seriously wounding children. The Pentagon arrested Bradley Manning, a 22-year-old intelligence analyst in Iraq and has been holding him incommunicado in recent months. Wikileaks has not disclosed whether Manning was the source of the leak of the classified video or the recently released documents, but has announced that it will help provide legal assistance for Bradley Manning.                     

For months now, the web of lies spun by the White House and Pentagon about the Afghan war has started to come undone. Public support for the Afghan war, along with support from inside the military ranks, continues to decline. But it will take a resurgent anti-war movement to convert this latent frustration into a powerful political force that can finally bring the criminal occupation to an end.



Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 11, 2010, 01:44:21 pm
Iraq snapshot - August 10, 2010

The Common Ills

Tuesday, August 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Sawha remains targeted for violence and now they're also a target for money according to the Guardian, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, veterans express frustration with the Obama administration and more.
On the alleged withdrawal due to supposedly (and slowly) follow this month's drawdown of US forces in Iraq, Voice of Russia seeks out the Russian Academy of Sciences' Pavel Gusterin for his take on it:
"The statement by [the top US commander in Iraq] General [Ray] Odierno does not correspond to the current realties in Iraq. Iraqis cannot cope with the security of their nation by themselves, even if the US gives them money and equipment. At issue is not providing security in the ordinary sense of the word. The security of a country must be sustainable, but Iraq is a much more complex nation; fighting is ongoing and a country which has no functioning government cannot provide tangible security for the citizens."     
"General Odierno spoke the words that are music to the ears of his listeners, especially US voters who want to see an end to the Iraqi military campaign. In truth, the military presence of the US in Iraq will be maintained for a long time to come. The Iraqi oil fields are a plum that cannot be given up easily."
Should the US military 'leave' Iraq, the Carr Center plan will be implemented putting thousands of foreign contractors on the ground to do military operations which will be coordinated by the US Ambassador to Iraq and other US government staff.  Renee Montagne (NPR's Morning Edition) spoke with Nada Naji about some of the current knowns today.  Nada Naji revealed that her hopes for a free Iraq vanished as the war continued ("nothing change and the suffering of people is just increased") and how random violence is the new norm -- leading her to pull her oldest child out of kindergarten -- and takes place with no explanation and or reason leaving everyone wary and unsure of whom to trust.  She states, "Every day people dying here without any reason, only because they were in wrong place and time."  In the same segment, Steve Inskeep speaks with Deborah Amos about the status of Iraqi refugees. Amos is back from Lebanon, Syria and Cairo.  and explains that the slow number of refugees who have returned has gotten even slower so you're most likely looking at a refugee class of people for some time to come.
Steve Inskeep: And let's just emphasize here, is this turning into almost a permanent refugee population, a permanent population of Iraqis who will be outside their country the same way that there are Palestinians who have been outside of the Palestinian territories for decades now?
Deborah Amos: It begins to look that way.  Not that there was ever a flood of returnees, there wasn't, but 2010 has been less than 2009. And people are making this calculation, that as long as there's a government crisis as the Americans drawdown, why would you go back now?  It is not easy to be a refugee.  It's likely that your kids are out of school. It is likely that your diet is a mess, that you're probably eating mostly, you know, sugared tea and bread, for at least two of those meals.  The international community's largesse -- while never large, is less. People want this crisis to be over.
Steve Inskeep: And I suppose if you had another round of sectarian warfare, you'd have to be prepared for that possiblity of another million people coming across the border at some point. 
Deborah Amos: You know, 18 months ago that was the nightmare scenario.  As Americans drewdown, there would be a return to the full out sectarian war.  It doesn't look like that's going to happen.  However, it is this randomness of the violence and, more important, it is the inability of this government to find some power sharing agreement between Sunnis and Shi'ites.  As you know, the majority of the refugees outside are Sunnis and Christians. They are watching a government that cannot come to terms with a Sunni-backed political coalition that won the most seats in Parliament, and yet has not been able to use that power to come into the prime ministership. Every country in the region is now meddling in Iraq because of the weakness of the state. And so, it is very difficult for them to consider returning. Better to wait, better to wait and see what happens.
Deborah Amos new book is entitled Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.  As Amos noted, a large portion of the Iraqi (external) refugee population is Sunni and/or Christian.  Catholic News Service reports, "The ancient Christian communities that one thrived in Iraq 'now face potential extinction,' said U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, urging the United States to develop a postwar plan to help Iraq resolve the humanitarian consequences of the seven-year war." Meanwhile Steve Schmidt (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports on the Chaldean refugees resettling in the San Diego and El Cajon area and how St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Catherdal 's Father Michael "Bazzi will speak Thursday to more than 200 schoolteachers and education staffers who want to get a better fix on the immigrants and what brought them here." Schmidt notes "a recent San Diego State University study" found that "one out of four Iraqi refugees coming to the U.S. ends up in San Diego County."  Refugees International issued the following last Thursday:

As the Security Council seeks to renew the mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Refugees International urges the UN to put humanitarian objectives, and not only development needs, at the forefront of its work in Iraq. Craig Johnstone, Refugees International interim president, stated:

"Security rules have restricted UN staff's access to people, who desperately need their help and protection. The UN needs to relax these restrictions, so that humanitarian needs can be properly addressed. The staff of RI have traveled without security escorts throughout most of Baghdad, and in other locations, so it is possible to do more."

"There are an estimated one and a half million displaced people in Iraq, 500,000 of whom live as squatters in slums. These people have no land rights, no access to basic health and sanitation, and are almost entirely dependent on the UN.

"Many of these families live under cardboard, alongside polluted rivers and amongst garbage dumps. Some are completely dependent upon the UN to provide clean water. Refugees International urges the UN to work with member states to help these people until long term solutions become available. They should not resort to such desperate measures. Displaced people have the right to more protection."

Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. .
For Immediate Release: August 5, 2010
Contact: Refugees International, Gabrielle Menezes
P: 202-828-0110 x225/ 347 260 1393
And the Iraqi refugee crisis is not the only thing continuing.  Also continuing is the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 3 days.

And today Alsumaria TV reports that State Of Law's Ali al-Dabbagh states that there will be no formation of a government this month and that "it is not easy to set dates to announce the formation of the new Iraqi government." Nouri went to the KRG Sunday seeking their support and leading to many rumors of what he might be bargaining/bartering with. The report by Namo Abdulla and Hemin Baban (Rudaw) won't calm any fears among Shi'ites:

Maliki reiterated in Erbil that he is best candidate for prime minister and not going to compromise.                       
"Just like any other side, we have our own candidate for the post of prime minister" Maliki said.                           
Maliki expressed his full support for Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, a package that could annex the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to Kurdistan, through a referendum it calls for.             
Maliki's words were not taken as serious by Kurds as they were five years ago when he made a pledge to implement the article. He has never done it, though.                 
"No one will be able to block article 140," said Maliki.             

In addition, Alsumaria TV reports, "Member of Iraqi Kurdistan Alliance Ala Talabani said that the coalition of the Kurdish blocs back Al Maliki for a second term and pointed out to the importance of political accordance and the formation of a national partnership government." Arab News offers this analysis:

There are two clear dangers here. The first is already manifest. The power vacuum continues to be exploited by those who are opposed to the American occupation with bombings and murders. The bloodshed may not be on the scale of the past, but as the police and security forces battle with them, they carry the disheartening knowledge that they are acting in the name of a political process that is proving itself spectacularly incoherent or incomprehensible to outsiders.             
The second danger is perhaps less well appreciated. It is that Iraqis will become used to living without a government and will fall even further back upon the support and resources of their different communities. Though in some respects this may not be a bad thing, we should not forget that Iraq is a country deeply polarized by war and occupation. In such a situation it is easy for anybody -- the occupying authorities, disgruntled Iraqis or neighbors -- to sharpen the divisions between the communities and with these schisms, the death squads will return to the streets, butchering innocent individuals purely because they come from a different confessional or ethnic background.

The refugee crisis didn't stop, the political stalemate didn't stop.  The violence?  You know it didn't stop.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people and 3 Baghdad bombings "in quick succession" which claimed 4 lives and left twenty people injured.  Reuters notes  a Jurf al-Sakhar home invasion in which Sahwa leader Malik al-Janabi and 3 of his bodyguards were murdered, a Baghdad roadside bombing in which two people were injured and last night, Alsumaria TV adds that "rockets fell in the US Embassy campus in the Green Zone, the damages were not determined yet, police sources told Alsumaria News. As soon as the rocket fell sirens wailed inside the Green Zone and helicopters roamed in the surrounding."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports  Adnan Khidhir ("owner of a currency exchange business") was shot dead in Kirkuk "late Monday," a Salahuddin Province attack left a football player and Kurdish intelligence officer injured, and a Monday Mosul attack which left six people wounded.

Reuters notes 1 corpse (handcuffed) discovered in Jurf al-Sakhar.
Sahwa remains under attack.  Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot to note the one reporter going beyond "al Qaeda in Iraq!":
Interestingly, Michael Jansen (Irish Times) appears to be the only one offering anything other than that, "The rise in violence is attributed to two factors. First, analysts say al-Qaeda, which has claimed a number of recent attacks, is reviving because it is recruiting former members of so-called 'awakening councils', made up of Sunni militiamen who joined the US in the 2007-2008 war against al-Qaeda and its allies." Jansen goes on to note how Nouri never did supply the jobs the Sahwa needed.  But possibly noting that explanation would underscore just how much the violence is Nouri's fault?
Today Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:
Al-Qaida is attempting to make a comeback in Iraq by enticing scores of former Sunni allies to rejoin the terrorist group by paying them more than the monthly salary they currently receive from the government, two key US-backed militia leaders have told the Guardian.                         
They said al-Qaida leaders were exploiting the imminent departure of US fighting troops to ramp up a membership drive, in an attempt to show that they are still a powerful force in the country after seven years of war.
Meanwhile, as Gen Ray Odierno prepares to be "outgoing" commander in Iraq, he tells Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) that Iraq's security forces need lots of money.  We're also supposed to hiss and boo that when Ray & company requested $2 billion, 'mean old' Senator Carl Levin cut it down to one billion.  Having spent $18 billion of US tax payer moneys on 'security forces' in Iraq already, the $1 billion is not only more than generous, it's honestly more than American can afford.
And note all that gets ripped off and ignored to toss over that $1 billion as well as other wasted monies.  Noting Barack Obama's weekly address given Saturday, Sarah Kliff (Politico) reports, "The address came shortly after the administration launched a months-long, multimillion-dollar television campaign featuring Andy Griffith to promote health reform's free preventive care and lower prescription costs." A multi-million dollar campaign? To sell what? A piece of crap legislation. Where's the money going? It's a PSA, where is the money going? Though no one in the press will bother to ask that question (look for those faux news segments on your local news trumpeting ObamaCare), note where it's not going: to address PTSD and veterans suicides.

July 14th, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on veterans' suicides, chaired by US House Rep Harry Mitchell. From that hearing we'll note this:

US House Rep John Hall: Thank you. I know I'm over my time. But I would just mention that this committee has -- the full Veterans Affairs Committee on the House side has voted to give funding not just for PSA, as Ranking Member Roe mentioned, but for paid advertising. And IAVA who will hear from shortly partnered with the Ad Council in one effort to put together an ad that was more powerful than the average PSA -- Public Service Announcement -- shown in the middle of the night because that's when the time's the cheapest and the TV station will give it up to do there public service whereas what we really need is advertising during the Superbowl, during American Idol, during the highest rated shows, during prime time where the half-hours -- I mean, the thirty-second spot costs the most money. But we're willing to do that to advertise "Be All That You Can Be" [Army recruitment ad], or "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" -- you know, the lightening bolt coming down onto the sword. And if we want to recruit and attract people to go into the armed services and to go fight for our country, we'll spend the money for prime time advertising but when it comes time to help them find the resources that they need to stay healthy after they come home, we want to do it on the cheap. And just do it at 3:00 a.m. in the morning on a PSA. And I think that needs to change, something we in Congress should fund so that the outreach is just as strong afterwards as it is before they were recruited.

Millions aren't being spent on that. Despite the large number of veterans taking their own lives, despite the large number of service members taking their own lives. But the White House has multi-millions to waste as a campaign tool? US tax payer dollars being wasted for what really is nothing but propaganda purposes. The Baxter Bulletin notes today:

If they haven't yet captured the attention of the American public, the suicide rates in the U.S. Army have sounded alarms among veterans groups and in the active-duty military.
The Army suicide rates doubled from 2001 to 2006, even as civilian rates of suicides remained the same. Last year, 160 soldiers killed themselves -- the Army says 60 percent were "first-term" soldiers, or those with one or no deployments to war zones -- and more than 1,700 soldiers made attempts on their lives.

It's not a minor issue and Mark Benjamin (Salon via Veterans Today) reports that many veterans are beginning to express frustration with the administration over the lack of focus on PSTD and on suicide -- including veterans who, in 2008, were part of Veterans For Obama:
The flagging support among veterans results from a combination of unforced errors by the White House in basic constituency relations, coupled with rising frustration that the Obama administration is not aggressive enough in tackling wartime crises that continue to escalate, like suicides in the military. The damage is serious enough that it threatens to lurk as a political liability for Obama in 2012, since disgruntled surrogates might refuse to help the next time around.
"Suicides are skyrocketing, people are being deployed to war with PTSD, people are being denied their healthcare benefits, and the Obama administration is allowing the Department of Defense to punish people who are suffering from PTSD rather than giving them the medical care they deserve," said Steve Robinson, a retired Army Ranger and longtime veterans advocate who has worked for a number of veterans' organizations. Robinson closely advised then-Sen. Obama on veterans policy and was prominently featured in a video tribute to Obama made by the campaign that played at the Democrats' 2008 convention in Denver. "I am confident that he believes in this generation and that he is actually putting into practice what he believes," Robinson said about Obama, from a huge TV screen at the convention. The Democratic nominee fought for vets, he added, "by stepping out, by speaking up, by legislating, by holding government accountable to take care of this generation when they send them to war."                     
Now, Robinson says he can't get his e-mails returned. "There is a deafness in the White House," Robinson said. "Let's forget about the idea that you might want to do the right thing and keep your campaign promises. It is politically stupid."
And lastly, Iraq Veterans Against the War issues a call for accountability:
At its seventh annual national convention in Austin, Texas, IVAW called for the prosecution of senior Bush administration officials for allegedly conspiring to manipulate intelligence in order to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.                 
IVAW alleges that Bush administration officials conspired to create the perception that Saddam Hussein presented an imminent threat to the United States in order to bypass an uncooperative U.N. Security Council and secure a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq. The growing body of evidence, including testimony from British officials in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry, indicates that Bush officials could be charged with criminal offenses against the United States and violations of international law for making false claims to national self-defense.           
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution vests the power to authorize use of military force in the Legislative Branch, not the Executive. In order to do so responsibly the Congress must be provided with accurate and objective intelligence. Bush officials' alleged distortion of the intelligence picture created a climate of fear and uncertainty in which the constitutional power of Congress was subverted.                   
IVAW further alleges that the Bush administration's alterations to Iraqi laws were made for the intended benefit of U.S. multinational corporations and are illegal under international law. Efforts to pressure Iraqi officials to open up the country's oil industry to foreign investment exacerbated the insurgency and undermined the U.S. military's ostensible mission there.                     
IVAW finally asserts that senior Bush officials are responsible for the illegal treatment of Iraqi and Afghan officials in U.S. custody and that this treatment was detrimental to the security of American citizens.
Tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths have resulted from the Bush administration's disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. Millions of Iraqis have been internally displaced and hundreds of thousands are forced to subsist as refugees in neighboring countries. Thousands of American men and women have lost their lives and tens of thousands suffer from wounds sustained while fighting there. Families and communities across the United States are now suffering from veteran suicides, homelessness, substance abuse and domestic violence. The long-term cost of this war, including the provision of VA support for our returning veterans, is estimated to run into the trillions.             

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 11, 2010, 03:18:00 pm
State Dept. faces skyrocketing costs as it prepares to expand role in Iraq

By Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londoño
Wednesday, August 11, 2010; A01

As the last U.S. combat troops prepare to leave Iraq this month, the State Department is struggling to implement an expanded mission that it has belatedly realized it might not be able to afford.

Beginning in September, the State Department will take over all police training in Iraq from coalition military forces, and it has proposed replacing its current 16 provincial reconstruction teams spread across the country with five consular offices outside Baghdad.

But since planning for the transition began more than two years ago, costs have skyrocketed and the money to pay for them has become increasingly tight. Congress cut the State Department's Iraq request in the 2010 supplemental appropriation that President Obama signed late last month; the Senate Appropriations Committee and a House subcommittee have already slashed the administration's $1.8 billion request for fiscal 2011 operations in Iraq.

Gen. Ray Odierno, the outgoing commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and other U.S. officials are urging lawmakers to reconsider their plans, citing concerns that waning resources could jeopardize tenuous security gains.

"We can't spread ourselves so thin that we don't have the capacity to do the job in the places where we put people," said Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew, who has told Congress that State will not deploy civilians where it cannot protect them. "If we don't put people in a place where they have mobility, where they can go out and meet with the people and implement their programs," he said, "there's very little argument for being in the place we send them."

The State Department has signaled in recent weeks that it will need up to $400 million more than initially requested to cover mushrooming security costs, but lawmakers seem in no mood to acquiesce.

"They need a dose of fiscal reality," a senior Senate aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity amid ongoing negotiations over the State Department funding.

"If they miscalculated by hundreds of millions of dollars, they need to tell us where they propose to find the money," the aide said. "It's not going to come from [funds allotted to] Afghanistan or Haiti."

Lew, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies last week, indicated that State might be forced to revise its plans, including limiting the number of police-training facilities to fortified, central locations in major population areas. "That means there will be other places that we don't have a police-training capacity," he said, although "anyone who has done police training in difficult environments knows that it's much better to be out in the field, working one-on-one, than to do classroom training."

Other officials have said that at least one of the "embassy branch" offices, or consulates, will have to be eliminated, most likely in Diyala province, and that at least two others will have to be scaled back.

To undertake unprecedented tasks in what is still a highly dangerous environment, the State Department plan calls for replacing protection for civilians that the U.S. military now provides with what amounts to its own armed force. It proposes to triple the current 2,700 security contractors and reinforce facilities where diplomats and police trainers will work to specifications beyond what the military considers safe for its own personnel.

To transport civilians around Iraq, including medical evacuation if necessary, State has asked the Pentagon to leave behind two dozen UH-60 helicopters and 50 bomb-resistant vehicles, heavy cargo trucks, fuel trailers and high-tech surveillance systems -- all of which are to be maintained and operated by contractors yet to be funded. Pending since April, the requests were still under military consideration as of this week.

"We don't have a yes, and we don't have a no," Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick F. Kennedy said, adding that "a good dialogue" was underway. If the military does not provide the equipment, he said, it will have to come at an "enormously expensive" price from contractors.

The administration and Congress disagree over whether the State Department is asking for additional funds or for a reallocation of what it has already requested. To some extent, the question is irrelevant, because Lew, now Obama's nominee to head the Office of Management and Budget, warned appropriators that if there was no more money for State's operations budget, it would have to be taken out of development assistance programs in Iraq and elsewhere.

"So now you have security, but no programs," a senior House aide said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity. "That's what drives us nuts about them. They screwed this one up, and we have to fix it."

Congress hasn't bought the argument, first articulated by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton when she introduced the budget in February, that State's Iraq proposal is a bargain compared with the $16 billion overall the U.S. government will save in reduced military costs after a reduction to 50,000 U.S. troops at the end of this month.

While defense appropriators are used to such funding levels, they are astronomical to lawmakers overseeing the State Department, whose global operations budget request totals about $16 billion for 2011. An additional $36 billion has been requested for worldwide foreign assistance programs.

But even the defense committees are balking at what Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has called an unsustainably bloated Pentagon budget and continued expenditures for Iraq. The military's request for $2 billion to equip and bolster the Iraqi armed forces next year -- on top of $18 billion spent since 2003 -- was cut in half by the Senate Armed Services Committee this summer. Defense officials have asked for the decision to be reconsidered.

"They've got a surplus of oil revenue," Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), whose Armed Services Committee halved to $1 billion the Iraq military equipment request, said in an interview last week. "And we've got a tight budget here. Connect that with the fact that we've got a damned big budget deficit of our own. A billion dollars seems to me to be a very generous contribution."

In an interview, Odierno said there was a "misinterpretation that Iraq has this huge amount of wealth now," adding that it is unlikely the country will substantially boost its output of crude oil before 2013.

Money for the Iraqi military is important, he said, to help "mitigate the risks associated with U.S. forces leaving." The 50,000 U.S. troops who will remain in Iraq after Sept. 1 are due to leave by the end of next year.

Officials in Washington said that the Defense and State cuts were interconnected in several ways, including the expectation that the Iraqi military could assist in providing security for an increased American civilian presence as the U.S. military relinquishes that task.

But while Iraqis are providing some help, officials said they were not yet comfortable depending on them. "We want to work with both the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police in bolstering our security," a senior administration official said. "That has to be worked out in terms of the availability of trained personnel, and it will take time to achieve it.

"I'm not saying it's never going to happen. I'm just saying it's not going to happen tomorrow."

Londoño reported from Baghdad.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 12, 2010, 08:02:20 am
Will the US Really Pull Out of Iraq?

by Eric Margolis

President Barack Obama just restated his vow to pull all US combat troops out of Iraq by August, 2010, and the remaining US garrison by the end of 2011. While campaigning for the presidency, Obama had promised to withdraw all US troops in 2010, but the Pentagon prevailed on him to extend the date.

Has America’s long goodbye to Iraq really begun?

Perhaps. But don’t bet on it.

The 50,000 US troops left until 2011 will supposedly "advise and assist" and perform "anti-terrorism" missions and training. To this old war correspondent and military historian, that sounds an awful lot like the British Empires employment of native troops under white officers.

These remaining US troops will likely be six armor-heavy combat brigades, backed by warplanes from US air bases in the Gulf. A US brigade withdrawn from Iraq will go to neighboring Kuwait. Most of the rest will transfer to Afghanistan.

No word about the fate of 85,000 US-paid mercenaries (aka "contractors") in Iraq.

Under the current status of forces agreement between the US and Iraq, the US retains all air rights over Iraq. How long this will continue is uncertain. But it will be a key bellwether of Washington’s intentions since air power is the key to US military power around the globe. Any Israeli attack on Iran would most likely pass through Iraqi air space.

In his impressive new book, "Oil," writer Tom Bower notes America’s trinity is "God, guns and gasoline." Iraq’s oil reserves are an estimated 112 billion barrels, the world’s second largest after Saudi Arabia. Canada ranks third. Iraq also has vast natural gas reserves, an increasingly important fuel and raw material. Oil-hungry India and China are eying Iraq.

America’s once mighty oil firms, the "seven sisters," have been elbowed out of most of the world’s oil fields by nationalist governments and replaced by state petroleum companies. Iraq’s ruler, Saddam Hussein, kicked US, British and French oil firms out of Iraq, and so sealed his fate. Big Oil moved back into Iraq behind invading US troops in 2003, and is taking over Iraq’s oil production and exporting.

The US does not yet need Iraq’s oil, but controlling it gives the US potent influence over its importers, such as China, India, Japan and Europe. Control of Mideast oil remains a pillar of US geopolitical world power.

It seems unlikely the US will cut Iraq loose. Washington seems to be following the same control model set up in the 1920’s by the British Empire to secure Mesopotamia’s oil. Namely: install a puppet ruler, create a native army to protect him, leave some British troops and strong RAF units in desert bases ready to bomb any miscreants who disturbed the Pax Britannica – and keep cheap oil flowing.

Washington is building a US $740 million new embassy in Baghdad for 800 personnel, as well as giant new fortified embassies in Kabul and Islamabad, Pakistan (cost $1 billion) that may hold 1,000 "diplomats." Osama bin Laden calls them, "Crusader Fortresses."

The US hopes the Shia Maliki regime it installed in Baghdad will keep a lid on Iraq while allowing almost independent Kurdistan to remain a Kuwait-like US protectorate. But given Iraq’s fractured history, this seems unlikely.

American "liberation" left Iraq politically, economically, and socially shattered, "killed" in the words of former foreign minister, Tariq Aziz. Republicans in the US crow about victory in Iraq thanks to the famous military "surge" advocated by John McCain, but this canard hides the grim truth.

Reputable studies estimate Iraq’s death toll at mid-hundreds of thousands to one million, not counting claims by UN observers that 500,000 Iraqi children died from disease as a result of the US-led embargo before 2003.

Four million Sunni Iraqis remain refugees, half abroad, victims of Shia ethnic cleansing. Death squads haunt the land.

Washington spends untold millions bribing Sunni fighters to lay down their arms.

Large numbers of Iraqi doctors and scientists have been murdered – many Iraqis believe, without any hard evidence, by Israel’s Mossad. A maze of US-built concrete walls cut up and control major cities. Electricity only sputters a few hours daily in 40 C heat. Cancers from depleted uranium fired by US cannon are becoming epidemic, as they are in Afghanistan.

"They create a desert, and call it peace," as Tacitus memorably said of Rome’s final solutions.

Iran, fearful of attack by the US, also played an important role in damping down resistance to the US occupation by ordering Iraq’s Shia militia, the Mehdi Army, to cease fire and temporarily cooperate with the Maliki regime.

If all US troops are removed, the Maliki sock puppet regime won’t last long. A real Iraqi regime nationalist would likely re-nationalize oil, rearm, rebuild the ruined nation and rejoin the Arab confrontation against Israel. Or, Iran would end up dominating much of oil-rich Shia Iraq. It’s unlikely Washington would accept either outcome.

Iraqi armed resistance to foreign occupation has abated as the pullout date nears. US casualties have fallen sharply because US troops are being kept on their bases. But this could quickly change.

The highest-ranking surviving Ba’ath Party leader, Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, just declared a new push against the occupiers and their Shia allies.

The outlook for Iraq is probably more violence and turmoil. US troops may have to remain to protect America’s oil companies and prevent Iraq from disintegrating.

The excuse, of course, will be "fighting terrorism," but the real reason, as in Afghanistan, will be oil which – of course, is next to God.

Invading battered Iraq was easy. But getting out will probably prove far more difficult. US troops may have to remain there permanently. But that, of course, may also be part of Washington’s long-term plan for its Mideast Raj.

August 10, 2010

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 12, 2010, 08:07:42 am
The US isn't leaving Iraq, it's rebranding the occupation

Obama says withdrawal is on schedule, but renaming or outsourcing
combat troops won't give Iraqis back their country

by Seumas Milne
Wednesday 4 August 2010 21.30 BST

For most people in Britain and the US, Iraq is already history. Afghanistan has long since taken the lion's share of media attention, as the death toll of Nato troops rises inexorably. Controversy about Iraq is now almost entirely focused on the original decision to invade: what's happening there in 2010 barely registers.

That will have been reinforced by Barack Obama's declaration this week that US combat troops are to be withdrawn from Iraq at the end of the month "as promised and on schedule". For much of the British and American press, this was the real thing: headlines hailed the "end" of the war and reported "US troops to leave Iraq".

Nothing could be further from the truth. The US isn't withdrawing from Iraq at all – it's rebranding the occupation. Just as George Bush's war on terror was retitled "overseas contingency operations" when Obama became president, US "combat operations" will be rebadged from next month as "stability operations".

But as Major General Stephen Lanza, the US military spokesman in Iraq, told the New York Times: "In practical terms, nothing will change". After this month's withdrawal, there will still be 50,000 US troops in 94 military bases, "advising" and training the Iraqi army, "providing security" and carrying out "counter-terrorism" missions. In US military speak, that covers pretty well everything they might want to do.

Granted, 50,000 is a major reduction on the numbers in Iraq a year ago. But what Obama once called "the dumb war" goes remorselessly on. In fact, violence has been increasing as the Iraqi political factions remain deadlocked for the fifth month in a row in the Green Zone. More civilians are being killed in Iraq than Afghanistan: 535 last month alone, according to the Iraqi government – the worst figure for two years.

And even though US troops are rarely seen on the streets, they are still dying at a rate of six a month, their bases regularly shelled by resistance groups, while Iraqi troops and US-backed militias are being killed in far greater numbers and al-Qaida – Bush's gift to Iraq – is back in business across swaths of the country. Although hardly noticed in Britain, there are still 150 British troops in Iraq supporting US forces.

Meanwhile, the US government isn't just rebranding the occupation, it's also privatising it. There are around 100,000 private contractors working for the occupying forces, of whom more than 11,000 are armed mercenaries, mostly "third country nationals", typically from the developing world. One Peruvian and two Ugandan security contractors were killed in a rocket attack on the Green Zone only a fortnight ago.

The US now wants to expand their numbers sharply in what Jeremy Scahill, who helped expose the role of the notorious US security firm Blackwater, calls the "coming surge" of contractors in Iraq. Hillary Clinton wants to increase the number of military contractors working for the state department alone from 2,700 to 7,000, to be based in five "enduring presence posts" across Iraq.

The advantage of an outsourced occupation is clearly that someone other than US soldiers can do the dying to maintain control of Iraq. It also helps get round the commitment, made just before Bush left office, to pull all American troops out by the end of 2011. The other getout, widely expected on all sides, is a new Iraqi request for US troops to stay on – just as soon as a suitable government can be stitched together to make it.

What is abundantly clear is that the US, whose embassy in Baghdad is now the size of Vatican City, has no intention of letting go of Iraq any time soon. One reason for that can be found in the dozen 20-year contracts to run Iraq's biggest oil fields that were handed out last year to foreign companies, including three of the Anglo-American oil majors that exploited Iraqi oil under British control before 1958.

The dubious legality of these deals has held back some US companies, but as Greg Muttitt, author of a forthcoming book on the subject, argues, the prize for the US is bigger than the contracts themselves, which put 60% of Iraq's reserves under long-term foreign corporate control. If output can be boosted as sharply as planned, the global oil price could be slashed and the grip of recalcitrant Opec states broken.

The horrific cost of the war to the Iraqi people, on the other hand, and the continuing fear and misery of daily life make a mockery of claims that the US surge of 2007 "worked" and that Iraq has come good after all.

It's not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and 4 million refugees. After seven years of US (and British) occupation, tens of thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is divided by 1,500 checkpoints and blast walls, electricity supplies have all but broken down and people pay with their lives for speaking out.

Even without the farce of the March elections, the banning and killing of candidates and activists and subsequent political breakdown, to claim – as the Times did today – that "Iraq is a democracy" is grotesque. The Green Zone administration would collapse in short order without the protection of US troops and security contractors. No wonder the speculation among Iraqis and some US officials is of an eventual military takeover.

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq's independence has only just begun.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 12, 2010, 11:19:31 am
Iraq snapshot - August 11, 2010

The Common Ills

Wednesday, August 11, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Chris Hill offers America another chance to play Are You As Stupid As A US Ambassador?,  Sahwa remains under attack, a maternity doctor is slaughtered in her home, the political stalemate continues, more talk of how SOFA doesn't always make it right, the Iraq Inquiry seeks input from Iraq War veterans, and more.

Is there a bigger idiot than Chris Hill? Well, there's always the one that appointed him to his current post. The outgoing US Ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill manages to public embarrass himself yet again, this time in an interview with Steve Inskeep on today's Morning Edition (NPR).
First up, Chris Hill offers a break down of population but somehow forgets the Kurds. Don't think they aren't paying attention. Don't think it didn't register: "Did that fool just include Turkomen but forget us?" How typical, how very much like his embarrassing confirmation hearing. Hill never understood the Kurds, never understood the dispute over Kirkuk and, let's be honest, he never made the effort to.
Steve Inskeep: As you prepare to leave Baghdad, do you leave Iraq thinking that this a country that still could collapse?
Chris Hill: Actually, I look at this in pretty optimistic terms. Its obviously a complex country. Its where the Shia world meets the Sunni world. Its where the Turkmen world meets the Arab world. There are a lot of complexities here. And I think its a very important country to our interests, and I dont mean that from an ideological point of view. I mean that from the point of view of looking at a map. So I think there's a lot at stake here, but I think its also a place thats going in the right direction. They signed 11 major oil deals while I was here. I mean these are oil deals with all the major oil companies. Indeed, they are oil deals with all the companies from all the countries who are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. So Iraq is no longer just Americas problem; other countries have a real stake in its success.
That's progress? That's progress to Hill who rarely left the Green Zone with one exception: He acted as tour guide from time to time for Big Oil. There's something rather disturbing about the US government whoring out the ambassador for Big Oil. But maybe the logic was: "It's not a real ambassador, it's just Chris Hill"?
Steve Inskeep: Ambassador Hill, as you know very well, the United States if formerly reducing its role in Iraq this month. And even as that happens, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, very respected voice on foreign affairs, in looking over the accomplishments or lack of them over the last couple of years, wrote recently: National reconciliation, which the surge, the surge in American troops, was supposed to create the space for, has not occurred. Is that correct? There's been no national reconciliation?               
Chris Hill: Well, first of all, there has been national reconciliation. But there are people known as unreconcilables. I mean, people, you know, firing rockets in the Green Zone or, you know, exploding car bombs. I mean these are not people who are going to be bought off by, you know, by giving them the Culture Ministry and a government formation exercise. But I would say, in terms of main political groupings, I would say there's been a lot of reconciliation here, but obviously more needs to be done. National reconciliation? Inskeep asked him about it. Did he mention Kirkuk? There was supposed to be -- it's in the 2005 Constitution -- a referendum on Kirkuk. That's part of national reconciliation. So is the de-de-Ba'athification process.
National reconciliation?  It's a benchmark, one of the 18 benchmarks by which progess in Iraq was to be measured, signed off on by the US government and by the Iraqi government and Chris Hill has no idea what it is.
He's an idiot.  How the hell did someone who didn't even know the benchmarks -- and obviously never bothered to learn them -- get nominated for the post to begin with?   Okay, the US, via Paul Bremer (Bremer was ordered to do this though Colin Powell likes to pretend otherwise in a last ditch attempt to salvage his own reputation), implemented de-Ba'athification in Iraq following the invasion.  This was a purge of numerous senior officials in the government who were Ba'athists.  To get ahead politically in Iraq, you had to be Ba'athists.  Ba'athists were not just Sunni, they were also Shi'ite.  Ayad Allawi is one example of a Shi'ite who was a Ba'athist.  Long before Saddam Hussein was overthrown, Allawi had left the Ba'ath Party (and left Iraq). The Ba'ath Party was, regionally, part of a Ba'ath movement, a Pan Arab identiy.  Saddam Hussein and others rode the Ba'ath Party into power.  By 1979, Hussein had eliminated all of his one time Ba'ath allies and, in Iraq, had total control of the Ba'ath Party.
de-Ba'athification as carried out under Paul Bremer targeted the top levels of the Ba'ath Party.  That de-Ba'athifcation, the Iraq Inquriy has been repeatedly informed, played out on the ground as a mistake.  British witnesses have repeatedly told the Inquiry they were opposed to the idea.  That included the ones who learned about it shortly after Bremer arrived and that Bremer intended to implement it right away.  They spoke with Bremer about their concerns which did not alter the orders he had (as the witnesses testified) and de-Ba'athification was pushed through.  British government witnesses have stated that the policy wrapped up too many people and it should have been much more narrow.  It was agreed by all witnesses offering testimony to the Inquiry on this topic that de-Ba'athifcation helped ensure paralysis in the government because those experienced in the process were no longer allowed to work for the government.  While some witnesses may (or may not have) been offering statements that benefitted from hindsight, certainly those who warned Bremer before the policy was implemented were able to foresee what eventually happened.
So, for example, John Sawers testimony on December 10th:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions?  Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them.  Can you take us through that story.
John Sawers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.
John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and tehy were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy.  At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary.  And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.
As noted after that snapshot, it's John "SAWERS" and not "SAWYERS" as it reads in the December 10th snapshot.  It's corrected above. (Refer to the May 28th snapshot for Bremer's statement to the Inquiry.) Even the US government realized (finally) it was a mistake which is why they began encouraging reconciliation and ended up putting it into the 18 benchmarks.  From the Iraq Inquiry, we'll note the testimony from January 8th as one example of the discussion of de-Ba'athification:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Going beyond the military, we heard from earlier witnesses how a lot of teachers, doctors, civil servants, competent professionals, who had to be in the Ba'ath Party in order to do what they did, were excluded.  Do you feel that that has now been corrected?
John Jenkins: I do not have a real sense of that.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Do you want to comment on that?
Frank Baker: If I could. I would comment more about government employees in Ministries across Baghdad where I think it is certainly the case that a large number of Sunnis, and, therefore, by definition, former Ba'ath Party members, are now being employed -- have been employed, in fact, for the last two or three years.  If you look at, for example, the Ministry of Water, where a lot of them are technocrats, but the Minister for Water had made an effort to bring back a lot of the previous Ba'athist experience in order to try to get the Ministry up and running properly back in about 2007/2008. So I think the indications there are, yes, they have done so. I think, if I may, just to revert to your previous question about the democratisation, I think these two are related because on of the big changes we have seen since 2005 has actually been the re-emergence of the Sunnis as a political force in Iraq, with the Sunnis having essentially taken their toys out the pram and walked away.  Back in 2004, not actually partaking in the 2005 provincial elections, not really being a part of the 2005 national elections, and, in fact, what we saw in 2009 was that they played a full part in that and they are going to play a full part in the national elections scheduled for March this year. In that sense, we are seeing the Sunnis now coming back and trying to play a full role -- a large part of the Sunni movement.
So de-Ba'athification was implemented in 2003.  Following the 2006 mid-terms, the US White House came up with a list of 18 benchmarks. Reunification was number two: "Enact and implement legislation on de-Ba'athifcation reform."  In other words, de-de-Ba'athifcation.  By early 2008, Iraq's Parliament had passed a questionable law.  The Center for American Progress noted in January 2008 of the Accountability and Justice Law, "the controversial legislation, passed with the support of less than a third of Iraq's members of parliament on a day when the body barely achieved a quorum, has received significant criticism from former Ba'athists and some Sunni groups. [. . .] More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials, and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation. According to Khalaf Aulian, a Sunni politician, the de-Ba'athification law 'will remain as a sword on the neck of the people'."  Which ended up very true.  Ahmed Chalabi used the commitee and the law to purge various candidates ahead of the election -- to purge various political rivals ahead of the elections.
Steve Inskeep noted that the escalation ("surge") was supposed to create space of the diplomacy and that no national reconciliation had taken place.  Chris Hill was, as ever, clueless as to what the issue being discussed actually was.
Asked about the five months of political stalemate, he insisted that was "politics." Then he went on to cite 'progress,' Iraq had signed 12 oil deals.  Even for someone who opposed Hill's confirmation, it was appalling to hear that interview. You were stuck with the realization of just how little he cared for or thought of the Iraqi people. He never mentioned the lack of potable water, he never mentioned the electricity shortage, he never mentioned the assault on Iraqi Christians, he never mentioned anything.
So like a ghost in the snow
I'm getting ready to go
'Cause, baby, that's all I know --
How to open the door
And though the exit is crude
It saves me coming unglued
For when you're not in the mood
For the gloves and the canvas floor
That's how I knew this story would break my heart
When you wrote it
That's how I knew this story would break my heart
-- "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart," written by Aimee Mann, first appears on her album The Forgotten Arm.
No need for broken hearts just yet, the war hasn't ended and it doesn't appear it will end in 2011.  Tim Arango (New York Times) speaks with a variety of people including the former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker about the Status Of Forces Agreement:
The reality in Iraq may defy that deadline, because many American and Iraqi officials deem the American presence to be in each nation's interest.                   
"For a very long period of time we're going to be on the ground, even if it's solely in support of its U.S. weapons systems," said Ryan C. Crocker, who was the American ambassador in Baghdad until 2009 and helped to negotiate the agreement that tethers the two countries and mandates that all American troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011.                 
Even as that deadline was negotiated, he said, a longer-lasting, though significantly smaller, presence of American forces had always been considered to be likely.                             
The SOFA never meant the end of the war. Peace talks were not what the SOFA was about and how idiotic that so many people who should have known better (they lived through the Paris Peace Talks) instead whored it out as "End of war." That's never what it was. It replaced the UN mandate for the occupation of Iraq by foreign forces -- a yearly mandate. The SOFA was a three year contract which had a kill clause (but, after activated, the SOFA dies in 12 months -- meaning it's pointless for either side to kill it now). For the uninformed, a peace treaty never ends 3 years from now. That's not how they work. A large number of the once-upon-a-time informed either developed Alzheimer's or decided to lie. Take it up with them. Meanwhile AFP reports: "The Iraqi army will require American support for another decade before it is ready to handle the country's security on its own, Iraq's army chief of staff said on Wednesday. Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said Iraq's politicians had to find a way to 'fill the void' after American troops withdraw from the country at the end of next year under a bilateral security pact."  Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports that Iraqi Lt Gen Babakir Zebari is stating that Iraq's military "will not be fully trained until 2020 and that the army would not be able to cope without the support of the Americans."
In addition, the militarization of 'diplomacy' means R.M. Schneiderman's "Mercenaries to Fill Void Left By U.S. Army" (Newsweek) covers some of the details of the continued Iraq War:

An influx of mercenaries will become especially important for the State Department, as the military leaves and as Iraqi security forces -- while much improved -- remain unable to provide the necessary security for what Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, calls "a major expansion" of the department's postwar presence. Indeed, the number of private security contractors employed by state will grow from roughly 2,700 to as many as 7,000. And those figures don't include the more than 1,000 tasks that state will inherit from the military once it leaves, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bipartisan government panel created in 2008.
These tasks -- which include clearing travel routes and driving armored combat vehicles -- do not involve attacking, and thus are not military functions, Kennedy argues. But they do potentially increase the chances that "people acting in the name of the U.S.…can get the U.S. involved in perceptions of misconduct," says a spokesman for the contracting commission.

Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report that this transition/transformation was agreed to "more than two years ago" and that the economic climate today is different with skyrocketing costs and a Congress increasingly concerned about rising costs: "The State Department has signaled in recent weeks that it will need up to $400 million more than initially requested to cover mushrooming security costs, but lawmakers seem in no mood to acquiesce."

Progress, Chris Hill insisted, was the oil deals.  This tied Iraq, he maintained, to permanent members of the UN Security Council and other nations.  Iran doesn't sit on the UN Security Council but it has been strengthening it's diplomatic ties to Iraq. Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Iran's new ambassador to Iraq promised to double trade volume and bolster economic ties between the two countries, the latest economic outreach by Tehran as its influence here grows. The move also comes amid fresh sanctions against Iran by the United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union, aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Analysts said Tehran could be redoubling efforts at building economic ties with Baghdad to help limit the impact of those measures." Iran's Press TV adds:       

Hassan Danaeifar made the remarks in his first press conference at the Iranian embassy since arriving in the Iraqi capital to replace former Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi, a Press TV correspondent reported.                             
Calling Iraq a niche market for Iranian goods, Danaeifar reiterated that "the sanctions will not affect economic relations between the two countries."
The new ambassador said that Iran is currently supplying 750 megawatts of power to electricity-starved Iraq daily, in addition to fuel to a number of power stations across the country. He added that two Iranian banks -- Parsian and Karafarin -- recently received preliminary approval to open branches in Iraq.               

But a cloud rises over the diplomatic horizon. Tehran Times reports, "The Iranian parliament is drafting a plan to obtain war reparations from Iraq, MP Eivaz Heidarpour announced on Monday. The Iraqi government inflicted a $1 trillion loss on Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, and the plan will require that the government demand compensation from Iraq through international channels, Heidarpour, who is a member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told the Mehr News Agency." In other cloudy diplomatic news, Alsumaria TV reports, "Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied any dispute between Syria and Iran over the nomination of a Prime Minister in Iraq stressing that the Iraqi people will soon reach an understanding in order to establish its government without any foreign interference. Velayati denounced news saying that his country has special requests in the regard."
"It's politics," insisted Chris Hill to Steve Inskeep when asked about the political stalemate. Just politics?   March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 3 days.  As many Iraqis enter into a lengthy observation of a religious holiday, many Iraqi politicians are noting no progress is likely to be made on the issue of creating a government.  For example, yesterday  Alsumaria TV reported that State Of Law's Ali al-Dabbagh states that there will be no formation of a government this month and that "it is not easy to set dates to announce the formation of the new Iraqi government."  Federico Manfredi (Huffington Post) offers an analysis of where things stand currently:
Now the National Alliance may decide to form a coalition with Allawi, even though he heads a secular list. Wahil Abdul Latif, a judge and a member of parliament within the National Alliance bloc, told me that he personally supports Allawi because of his ability to reach out to the Sunni minority. He also said that the National Alliance would be willing to join forces with Allawi and support his bid to become the new prime minister, if only he accepted to remove certain "tainted" Sunni leaders from his list. Among these, he named Vice-President Tariq Al-Hashimi, the leader of one of the main Sunni political parties, and Saleh Al-Mutlak, another Sunni, whom he accused of conspiring with Ba'athist reactionaries to overthrow the Iraqi government.           
Allawi, however, is unlikely to exclude these individuals from his list, since they represent pillars of his cross-sectarian outreach strategy.                   
When I asked Abdul Latif how long it might take the various leaders to reach an agreement on the formation of a new government he laughed and said: "This could take another two months. Perhaps more." Such a delay, though, could severely strain Iraq's fragile institutions, since it would not only protract the current state of governmental paralysis but might also lead the army and police to question the constitutional authority of their leadership.
Also weighing in on Iraq today was Kenneth M. Pollack.  At the Brookings Institution, he held an online chat:
12:32 [Comment From Jennie: ] What do you make of this seeming inability to put together a new government since the elections last March? What would it take for Allawi and Maliki to get together?                   
12:32 Ken Pollack: This is the $64,000 question. Both Maliki and Allawi KNOW that the best outcome for both of them is a coalition of their two parties. But the problem is that they really don't like each other, and both want to be the senior partner in the coalition. So far, no one has been able to get around that. I think the Administration is on the right track by trying to farm out some of the powers that the PM has accrued to other official positions -- both to make people more comfortable that the next PM won't emerge as a dictator, and to create additional positions that would be acceptable to the two of them and other important groups who will also want to have a key position of authority. My concern is that what the US, UN and Iraqis have been talking about -- some new positions and legislature to give force to their authority -- may not fix the situation, and might even make it worse. As PM, Maliki has demonstrated an ability to subvert and work around other such new positions that were created as counterbalances to his office. That suggests that he, or whoever is the next PM, might be able to do so again if that is all we do. In addition, especially with the new parliament, the PM will probably be able to manipulate the CoR fairly easily to get legislation repealed or merely ignored. It is why I'd like to see constitutional changes to shift the role of commander-in-chief and responsibility for the security services to the Presidency. That would create a real balance of power between the Presidency and the PM, and would create two positions that I think either Maliki or Allawi would be willing to take.
He took questions on many Iraq topics, so refer to the chat for other issues and, for any late to the party, we don't worship at the feet, midsection or head of Brookings which was infamously wrong about the illegal war and Pollack was one of their chief analysts then and remains so now.
The never-ending violence continued today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left one person injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two police officers wounded, a Salahuddin Province bombing which claimed the lives of 5 Sahwa members and, dropping back to Tuesday, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left one person injured and a Baghdad mortar attack which left two people injured.  Meanwhile Sadiya is slammed with a bombing. BBC News reports that Iraqi soldiers were shot at from a home and as they were about to raid the home in Saadiya, it blew up. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds 11 people died in the bombing. Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports at least five Iraqi soldiers were injured and that at least 2 of the dead were civilians: "In the morning, Iraqi security forces and civil a defense tram removed the debris of the collapsed house and found bodies of a man and a woman who were shot dead before the explosion of the house, the source added. The insurgents apparently attacked the house earlier at night and killed the two victims, and then they planted bombs in the house before they sent a false information to the security forces saying that hostages were kept in the house, the source said."  Reuters notes a Baghdad rocket attack which claimed 1 life and left three people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad rocket attack last night injured one woman and one child. Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) notes the bombing of a Kurdish pipeline last night and that it remains ablaze.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad invasion of the home of Dr. Intisar Moahmmed Hasen ("Administrator of Ilwiyah Maternity Hospital") in which she was assassinated and her son and husband were left "hand-bound and blindfolded".  Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead in Baghdad.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad yesterday.
5 Sahwa killed.  Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq."  They are Iraqis the US military paid (with US tax payer monies) to stop attacking US military equipment and US service members.  Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported yesterday that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was offering money to Sahwa in an attempt to get them to return to fighting with al Qaeda. 
Turning to London.  The Iraq Inquiry now would like to hear from Iraq War veterans.  Inquiry Chair John Chilcot [PDF format warning] issued the following invitation.
To: Military personnel who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2009
The Iraq Inquiry will be holding an event at Tidworth Garrison on 14 September to hear the views of military personnel (serving or retired, regular or reserve) who were deployed to Iraq between 2003 and 2009. The purpose of this event is to gain insights from those who are in a unique position to talk about how the campaign was conducted and the impact it had upon their lives. This event is an opportunity for you to ensure that your voice is heard and your views feed into the lessons that the Inquiry identify.   
My colleagues on the Iraq Inquiry Committee and I believe it is vital that we hear direct from those most affected by the Iraq campaign. In the latter half of last year we met the families of some of the 179 service personnel, and other British citizens, killed in Iraq. We heard how they have been affected by their losses and their views on what they would like the Inquiry to address.  We also held an extremely useful event earlier this year at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham where we met service personnel who served in Iraq.
The Inquiry is primarily about learning lessons so these meetings are crucial to our work. We need to understand what went well and what could have been done better. I hope that the lessons the Inquiry identifies will help us, as a nation, to continue to improve in many areas, including the way in which we approach expeditionary campaigns and nation building, and the impact on military personnel.
If you would like to express an interest in attending this event please contact the Iraq Inquiry ( before noon on Friday 10th September.
This event is not the only means by which you can give your views to the Inquiry. We are happy to receive the toughts of anyone who served during the campaign or from relevant groups or associations on behalf of their members. If you would like to send a written submission to the Iraq Inquriy please use the address above. [Iraq Inquiry: 35 Great Smith Street, London SW 1P 3BQ]
The Committee is grateful for your help in this aspect of the Inquiry's work and looks forward to receiving your views in person, or in writing.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 14, 2010, 08:37:04 am
Iraq snapshot, August 12, 2010

The Common Ills

Thursday, August 12, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the spinning continues, Robert Gates lets some 'withdrawal' talk slip,  Lt Col Victor Fehrenbach takes on the Air Force, Big Oil gets richer, and more.
Today Teri Weaver (Stars and Stripes) quotes US Maj Gen Terry Wolff stating, "The ministries are still operating. It's not like they're shut down."  What the heck is he talking about?  He's minimizing the political stalemate.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 5 days. 
And the ministries are not 'still operating.'  There's no Minister of Electricity and if any Ministry in Iraq needs leadership, it would be the Ministery of Electricity.  Iraq is plauged with blackouts, has electricity in most areas for only a few hours each day.  There is no Minister of Electricity.  He tendered his resignation months ago.  Nouri al-Maliki has one of his cronies acting as the minister but the Constitution is very clear that ministers are approved by Parliament and Parliament's never approved this 'acting' minister who is also the Minister of Oil.  Erdal Safak (Sabah) explains, "The Iraqis have access to electricity for only three or four hours a day and they do not have access to [potable] water.  Iraqi politicians gather every day and negotiate for hours and hours. Although five months have passed since the elections in Iraq, the chances that a government will form are bleak. President Obama is so desperate that he sent a top secret letter to Shiite leader Ali al-Sistani, encouraging him to step in and use his influence."
What a stupid thing to say, "The ministries are still operating. It's not like they're shut down."  The elections were supposed to take place in 2009.  Everyone's ignoring the fact that Nouri is operating in some quasi-legal territory when he pretends to be Prime Minister.  His term expired. Can you imagine the outcry if, in the US, Bully Boy Bush had attempted to occupy the White House through May 2009? 
If oil is all that matters, Maj Gen Terry Wolf, then you are indeed sitting pretty.  Jung Seung-hyun (JoongAng Daily) reports on the announcement by the Korea National Oil Corporation, "After 10 months of work drilling 3,847 meters (12,621.4 feet) into the earth from October 2009 to August this year, the KNOC estimated a maximum 970 barrels of crude oil and 3 million cubic meters of natural gas could be produced at the site every day.  The average daily production expectancy for crude oil was placed at 200 barrels per day."  Meanwhile London South East reports, "Shares in Gulf Keystone Petroleum rise as much as 9 percent touch a year high after the oil explorer says tests at its Shaikan-1 well in Iraq's Kurdistan show a ten-fold increase in flow rates, raising expectations for future production rates." AMEinfo explains, "Baker Hughes announced it has signed a three-year strategic alliance with Iraq's South Oil Company (SOC) to provide technical services to SOC's wireline logging department in Burj Esya, Basra south Iraq.  Under the terms of the technical services agreement (TSA), Baker Hughes will supply wireline technologies to SOC and other Iraqi oil and gas producers as well as help develop local Iraqi wireline logging capabilities."  Dow Jones notes that the Kirkuk pipeline that was carrying oil from Kirkuk to Turkey and was bombed earlier this week is 'back in business' having "resumed the pumping at 11 p.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Wednesday."  And Al Bawaba notes:
The exploration of Iraq's rich oil and gas fields will be under the spotlight during a top meeting of oil executives and Iraqi energy regulators in Istanbul in October as global companies that have won contracts prepare to start the development of various fields.                     
The programme director of Iraq Future Energy 2010, Claire Pallen, says "with the recent awarding of rights to develop various oil and gas fields in Iraq the world's oil and gas executives now await the formation of the government bodies following the recent general elections as well as the eagerly awaited third licensing round that is scheduled for September. Top representatives from global oil giants as well as lawmakers from Iraq will meet in October to prepare for the road ahead with regards to the short to medium term development of Iraq's oil and gas sector".
Of course, Iraqis can't eat oil and the tag sale on their national assets will ensure that the Iraqi people don't profit from the boomtown.  And IRIN notes that over "a tenth of Iraq's 2009-2010 wheat crop has been infected by a killer fungus, according to authorities."  But Maj Gen Terry Wolf thinks Iraq's functioning just fine.  How Iraq's functioning was addressed today on Morning Edition (NPR -- link has audio and text) when Steve Inskeep discussed the country's current status with Thomas E. Ricks.
Thomas E. Ricks: The problem in Iraq is none of the basic political questions facing the country have been solved, and this is one reason that weve gone so many months now without the formation of an Iraqi government.  But the basic questions are: How are these three major groups in Iraq going to get along? How are they going to live together? Are they going to live together? How are you going to share the oil revenue? What's the form of Iraqi government? Will it have a strong central government or be a loose confederation? What's the role of neighboring countries, most especially Iran, which is stepping up its relationship with Iraq right now, even as Uncle Sam tries to step down its relationship?
All these questions have been hanging fire in Iraq for several years, in fact before the surge.
Steve Inskeep: Aren't --
Thomas E. Ricks:  All of them have led to violence in the past and all could easily lead to violence again. The only thing changing in the Iraqi security equation right now is Uncle Sam is trying to get out.
Steve Inskeep: Aren't these last few months helpful in some way? Ambassador Hill in his interview suggested that while Iraqis have gone months since this election without forming a government, at least they're talking and maybe making progress.
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah. It strikes me as whistling past the graveyard. I think what's happening in Iraq is everybody is waiting for Uncle Sam to get out of the way so they can get on with their business. No one wants get in a fight with Uncle Sam again. The American troops know Iraq well, the commanders know how to operate there, and they can smack down anybody who turns violent. But President Obama has said we're not going to get involved in that. And so I think a lot of people in Iraq are simply keeping their powder dry.
Steve Inskeep: Is America really getting out of the way? There still going to be 50,000 troops there, for example.
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah. And actually, the mission becomes more violent and more dangerous with the passage of time, not less violent. I would much rather be on an American combat infantry patrol than, say, be with an advisor to Iraqi forces. That's a more dangerous position to be in. Also, as you draw down American forces, you withdraw a lot of the forces that make things safe and/or limit the consequences of violence. For example, a medical evacuation of wounded people. Intelligence - these are the type of support functions that get cut because youre trying to bring down the troop numbers but are essential to somebody whos wounded, to getting them treatment quickly and getting them out of the country.
As Arnie (Leonardo DiCaprio) tells Gilbert (Johnny Depp), "We're not going anywhere, Gilbert. We're not going anywhere, you know? We're not going anywhere" (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?), Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports:

Iraq will need U.S. military support for up to another decade to defend its borders because the Iraqi army won't be ready to guard the country when American troops leave at the end of 2011, according to U.S. and Iraqi commanders.
Commanders say they are reasonably confident in the Iraqi security forces' ability to keep order while facing insurgents or other internal threats. But when it comes to their capacity to protect against attacks from other nations, it is inconceivable that the Iraqi army will be able to stand alone by the time U.S. troops go home, said Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, commander of the U.S. military training program in Iraq.

Al Jazeera adds:

A top White House advisor meanwhile suggested that the US military presence in Iraq after the main pullout in 2011 could be limited to "dozens" or "hundreds" of troops under the embassy's authority.
"We'll be doing in Iraq what we do in many countries around the world with which we have a security relationship that involves selling American equipment or training their forces, that is establishing some connecting tissue," said Anthony Blinken, national security advisor for vice president Joe Biden.
"When I say small, I'm not talking thousands, I'm talking dozens or maybe hundreds, that's typically how much we would see."

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "On Wednesday, a senior Iraqi military leader, Gen. Babaker Zubari, stated publicly what most Iraqi officials say more privately – that he believed there would need to be a continuing US presence here after 2011. Under current plans to expand Iraq's armed forces, destroyed and dismantled by the US in the war, Iraq will not have the capability to secure its land borders and air space for almost another decade." Bob Higgins offers his take at Veterans Today. Hugh Sykes (BBC News) offers his take here (sidebar mid-page). Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has made a sudden visit to senior defence officials a day after the country's most senior soldier declared his forces would not be capable of securing Iraq's borders until 2020."  As the White House and Nouri continue to soft-peddle a US presence/occupation after 2011, Lara Jakes (AP) reports on what slipped out of the cabinet today:
But within hours, while talking to Pentagon reporters en route to a military ceremony in Tampa, Fla., Defense Secretary Robert Gates left open the door that troops could stay in Iraq as long as Baghdad asks for them.                               
"We have an agreement with the Iraqis that both governments have agreed to that we will be out of Iraq at the end of 2011," Gates said. "If a new government is formed there and they want to talk about beyond 2011, we're obviously open to that discussion."             
"But that initiative will have to come from the Iraqis," he said.
Joseph A. Kechichian (Gulf News) offers, "A beaming US Commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, freshly reiterated that US forces will stay as long as the Iraqi government wishes them to, ostensibly to deny foreign powers -- read Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia -- from meddling in the country's internal affairs. Still, it was unclear what that actually meant, especially after President Barack Obama prognosticated that the US has not 'seen the end of American sacrifice in Iraq'. While few should expect a White House banner on August 31 to claim 'Mission Accomplished', combat missions will then fall under a new soubriquet: training Iraqis to fight on their own."  Meanwhile the US is avoided by Iraqi candidates the way Democrats in tight races avoid Barack Obama.  Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports that Iraqiya's Jamal "Al-Battikh criticized the US role and said 'the United States is the origin of the disease afflicting Iraq, especially as it has helped complicate the situation', adding that 'it wants a candidate acceptable to Iran and a friend to it and this is what it is working for behind the scenes'."  Meanwhile Stephen Farrell (New York Times) gauges Iraqi reactions via the media, "This year the Iraqi channel Al Sharqiya has been promoting a satirical comedy, 'Kursi Tamleek.' Roughly translated as 'Holding on to the Chair', it is a sideswipe at Iraq's reluctant-to-depart caretaker government headed by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. A musical number from the show has already become popular and made its way onto YouTube."  And an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers shares this at Inside Iraq:

Since the March election, we have been waiting for the new government forming and it looks that we are going to wait for another month or maybe even more. Every day, we hear and read news about new agreements and new negotiations among the political parties but nothing really happens, no progress at all. Today and while I was watching TV at the office, a politicians said during an interview on TV that forming the government might not take place before the new year.           
In spite of this long period and although the winning blocs are only four main blocs that represent most of the Iraqi people, they could not reach any kind of agreement about anything and they are still blaming each other for the delay. Each bloc claims that it is the patriotic one and that it is the one that aim to (SERVE THE IRAQI PEOPLE) The painful truth is the following. These blocs which fight now for the privilege of ( SERVING IRAQIS ) are the very same blocs which formed the government in 2005. The very same government that did nothing for Iraqis.
No one is expecting any announcement on a government in the coming days or weeks.  For one thing, many Iraqis are in the midst of regligious observation.  Yesterday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered this message:


On behalf of the United States Department of State, I wish all Muslims around the world a happy and blessed Ramadan.             

Ramadan is a time for self-reflection and sharing. American Muslims make valuable contributions to our country every day and millions will honor this month with acts of service and giving back to their communities.       

Along with dozens of our Embassies, I will host an Iftar in Washington, DC, for Muslims and non-Muslims to join together and reflect on our common values, faith and the gifts of the past year. At our Iftar, we will also celebrate dozens of young American Muslims who are helping shape the future of our country with their energy and spirit. These young business and social entrepreneurs, academics, spiritual leaders, and other young Muslims around the world are leading the way to a new era of mutual respect and cooperation among all the citizens of our world.             

During this month of peace and renewal, I wish the 1.5 billion Muslims around the world Ramadan Kareem.                           

In violence being reported today, Reuters notes an attack on a Mosul checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (one more injured), a Baaj car bombing yesterday which injured four people and an attack on a Garma police checkpoint yesterday which claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured five people.  "Almost daily attacks on police and traffic police in Baghdad and Anbar Province west of the capital in the past two weeks have killed almost 30 police," Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) observes.
Yesterday Barack Obama had a "national security" meeting on Iraq at the White House and it's telling that whatever outlet you go to (try here, for example, or here), you fail to get a complete listing of who attended the meeting. What did Jackson Browne once say? "I want to know who the men in the shadows are, I want to hear someone asking them why, they can be counted on to tell us who are enemies are but they're never the ones to fight or to die." Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) notes one attendant, NSA James L. Jones, and his recap he offered on CNN (blather) as well as his remarks on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Read the following that he stated on CNN and see if you don't find it offensive: "The standard for service in the armed forces of the United States ought to be based on good order and discipline. And we found ways to modify eligibility to serve in the armed forces for other groups, you know, whether it was based on race or religion or whatever."  Eligibility was 'modified'?  As if "race or religion or whatever" couldn't meet the benchmark?  As though the problem wasn't the racism, wasn't the religious bias?  There was never any reason that, for example, an African-American male couldn't serve except for racism.  And there's no reason today that a gay man or lesbian can't serve except for homophobia.  Or, in the words of the White House philosopher James L. Jones, "whatever."
"Whatever."  It's not whatever to the many men and women losing their jobs and, in many cases, their identies because they see themselves as members of the military but the military can only see them as gay or lesbian.  Lt Dan Choi is an Iraq War veteran.  He is also a strong fighter who publicly fought the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.   July 22nd, he learned he had been discharged for the 'crime' of being gay.  The following day, he appeared on PRI's The Takeaway.
Lt Dan Choi: A big surprise. It's painful as much as much as I'm prepared for that.  Anytime somebody knowingly breaks Don't Ask, Don't Tell for the sake of integrity and telling the truth about who we are, we still have to be prepared for the consequences --
John Hockenberry: Which were what?  What did your commander say to you?
Lt Dan Choi: He said that I'd been discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
John Hockenberry: You're out.
Lt Dan Choi: I'm fired.
John Hockenberry: He said fired or he just said -- 'You're being honorably discharged'?
Lt Dan Choi: I'm being honorably discharged. That is an end to an entire era that I've started since I was age 18 --
John Hockenberry: How long have you been in the service?
Lt Dan Choi: -- I'm sorry.  I have not been a civilian since then.  And as much as you might be interested in how it was said and what was in the letter, to me, it's all a summation of the entire journey and it says it's all over.  As much as you can prepare yourself and build up the armor to get ready for that, it's hard, it's very painful to deal with that.  I think about every moment of being in the military since starting from West Point eleven years ago and preparing for deployments and infantry training and then going to Iraq and coming back and then starting a relationship and then all of the emotions of this entire journey just came right back at that moment when he said that your - your - your service is now terminated.  I got the letter. He e-mailed me the letter, I got the letter yesterday morning, and in very cold words, it just said that I'm finished. 
Earlier this month, Trina addressed the homophobia involved in these discharges and the systematic hatred behind them.  Lt Col Victor Fehrenbach is taking the issue to the courts as the Air Force attempts to discharge him for the 'crime' of being gay.  Servicemember Legal Defense Network (which is representing him) explains the basics:
* Lt. Col. Fehrenbach will reach his 20-year retirement in September of 2011; just 14 months from now. He has been on desk duty at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho awaiting the results of nearly two years of investigations and discharge proceedings. If Lt. Col. Fehrenbach is discharged, he will lose his retirement benefits.
* In May of 2008, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach was notified that his commander was seeking to separate him from the US Air Force under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) after the Air Force received information from a civilian. He decided to fight his discharge after hearing then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama pledge to end Don't Ask, Don't Tell.     
* Lt. Col. Fehrenbach served in the Former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He flew the longest combat sorties in his squadron's history, destroying Taliban and Al Qaeda targets in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. And after the Sept. 11th attacks, Fehrenbach was hand-picked to protect the airspace over Washington, D.C.   
* Lt. Col. Fehrenbach's awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, nine Air Medals -- including one for Heroism -- the Aerial Achievement Medal, five Air Force Commendation Medals and the Navy Commendation Medal.
James Dao (New York Times) reports, "Lawyers for Colonel Fehrenbach assert that his case is among the most egregious applications of the policy in their experience. The Air Force investigation into his sexuality began with a complaint from a civilian that was eventually dismissed by the Idaho police and the local prosecutor as unfounded, according to court papers. Colonel Fehrenbach has never publicly said that he is gay. However, during an interview with an Idaho law enforcement official, he acknowledged having consensual sex with his accuser. Colonel Fehrenbach's lawyers say he did not realize Air Force investigators were observing that interview; his admission led the Air Force to open its 'don't ask' investigation."
In other news, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is on a diplomatic mission to Denver this week (he's D.C. based most weeks) and Al Bawaba notes, "In addition to his official events and meetings, Mr. Talabani's top priority while in Colorado is to express the deepest gratitude from the people of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to the U.S. Military and their families for their role in liberating Iraq from tyranny. While in Colorado, he will also visit with families who paid the ultimate price of losing a loved one in the fight for Iraq's freedom and democracy."
We'll note this from Debra Sweet's "How YOU Can Help People See the Truth Exposed by Wikileaks" (World Can't Wait):

When an activist from World Can't Wait sent me a link to Thursday's Pentagon press conference, and called Geoff Morell, their spokesman a "pompus ass," I thought that wasn't really a news flash.

But really, to get the full impact of the government's threat to Julian Assange & Wikileaks for revealing the government's "property," you have to see Morell's sneer as the Pentagon reacted to Wikileak's posting of its huge "insurance" file, presumably designed to make sure the information is still available if their sites are shut down, or they are rounded up.
Tired of Democrats who abandon their base, who mock the left and sneer at it?  There are many other choices -- including choosing not to vote.  Mid-terms can be the ideal time to send Democrats in office the message that if they don't work for you, you'll hire/elect someone who will.  And with that, we'll close with this from the Green Party of Michigan:

Green Party of Michigan   
** News Release **         
** ------------ **
August 11, 2010     

For More Information, Contact:
Dianne Feeley         
(734) 272-7651       

John A. La Pietra, Elections Co-ordinator / GPMI           
(269) 781-9478               

Green Party of Michigan Holds Nominating Convention
(Lansing) -- The Green Party of Michigan selected candidates over the July 31-August 1 weekend at its nominating convention in Lansing. Harley G. Mikkelson, from Caro, is the Green Party's candidate for governor with Lynn Meadows, from Ann Arbor, as lieutenant governor.                 

In the wake of the oil spill on the Kalamazoo River, Mikkelson pointed out that "accidents always happen" when our society is dependent on oil and coal. "In a state known for its manufacturing we have to prioritize an alternative energy policy. Manufacturing plants running under capacity or closed should be converted into building mass transit. If private business is unable to do this, the state government should be working with communities and the work force to begin this transition."         

The oil spill points to the intersection of two central issues in the 2010 Green Party campaign: tying the need for jobs to the need for move away from using non-renewable energy, whether oil or hydrocarbons, and transitioning toward wind, water and geothermal power. The party also opposes nuclear energy as a solution -- it also poses grave safety issues.         

In the interim, as Julia Williams, of Fraser, who is running for U.S.
Congress in the 12th District, pointed out, regulations must be strengthened: "We need to get away from allowing corporations to write the laws. They can't be dictating our future. That means tough regulations and an oversight process that prioritizes safety and sustainability. We need to walk the walk when we talk about protecting our water and our air."         

It was clear to Green Party activists attending the convention that both the BP oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico and the 35-mile long Enbridge Energy Company spill along the Kalamazoo River are the result of depending on corporate promises to do the right thing. But both cases are examples of how inadequate and unprepared the corporations really are. Both have been cited by various agencies but did not face immediate shutdown or takeover.       

For those who ask, "Where can the money come from to convert our manufacturing?", Green Party candidates point to a federal war budget that only brings more war and destruction as well as starves our social programs and infrastructure. As Harley Mikkelson remarked: "The first priority naturally has to be people. We need to make education, continuing education and early education, more and more available. That has to be the number one priority, that and the environment, passing on an environment that's better than what was passed on to us."                   

For more information about all Green Party candidates in Michigan, go to:           
# # #     
created/distributed using donated labor       
Green Party of Michigan         
548 South Main Street           
Ann Arbor, MI 48104                         

GPMI was formed in 1987 to address environmental
issues in Michigan politics. Greens are organized     
in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Each           
state Green Party sets its own goals and creates its         
own structure, but US Greens agree on Ten Key Values:         

Ecological Wisdom   
Grassroots Democracy   
Social Justice   
Community Economics   
Respect for Diversity   
Personal/Global Responsibility   
Future Focus/

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 15, 2010, 07:11:47 am
Iraq snapshot - August 13, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday, August 13, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, rumors swirl throughout Iraq, and more.
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane discussed Iraq with  Daniel Dombey (Financial Times), Yochi Dreazen (National Journal) and Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy).

Diane Rehm: And now we have Iraq's most senior soldier saying the Iraqi army will not be ready until 2020.  What does that mean, Dan?
Daniel Dombey: Well I think one of the things that it really means is that if you were a betting person, I think you would be very advised to bet that there will still be US soldiers in Iraq after the 31st of December 2011.
Diane Rehm: The question is how many?
Daniel Dombey: Well at the moment there supposed to come down to 50,000 by the end of this month. That from a peak of over 140,000 when President [Barack] Obama took office. I have to say they talk a lot about the combat mission ending. I would say a large part of that is just semantics. They're still going to be involved in counter-terrorism, they're still going to be an essential part in terms of communication and logistics and transport -- all the really difficult actions against al Qaeda or against insurgengents are going to likely rely on US forces for some time to come, I would say.
Yochi Dreazen: Two quick points.  One on this issue of semantics, it's important also to look at what General Zubari -- Babaker Zubari -- was actually saying.  He was asked about Iraq's ability to defend its borders externally.  Which is a very different issue when it has Iran on one side, Turkey on other side, I mean it has multi-powerful countries on almost all of its borders.  That's a very different question from its ability to patrol within its borders. And clearly the US focus rightly has been can you get Iraqi security forces capable of fighting insurgents, controlling areas, operating on their own.  And there's been really  remarkable progress.  I mean, admist all the bad news from Afghanistan, I've spent a lot of time with Iraqi forces over the years, they've gotten markedy, markedly better. So the question of what their main mission is in the near future, they're already doing it.  I would also add that I totally agree with Dan's point. I think that there's no question in the mind of anyone I talk to in Afghanistan -- I'm sorry, in Iraq or the Pentagon, that there will be an amendment to the deals to allow for some number -- usually in the low thousands is the number I hear -- to stay after 2011 when they're supposed to all leave.
Susan Glasser: I think those are all really important points. I think a couple of things I would add.  One, is Iraq unlike Afghanistan had a large standing army that was to maintain internal and external order.  This was Saddam Hussein's police state which functioned in a very militarized way so they had something they were reconstructing there which is very different from in Afghanistan which has hadn't a very meaningful army in a long time.
Could Yochi explain this: "One on this issue of semantics, it's important also to look at what General Zubari -- Babaker Zubari -- was actually saying.  He was asked about Iraq's ability to defend its borders externally.  Which is a very different issue when it has Iran on one side, Turkey on other side, I mean it has multi-powerful countries on almost all of its borders."  Is he implying that Iraq installed new borders after 2003 (when the illegal war started)?  Or is he implying everyone overseeing the illegal war is so stupid they didn't know basic geography?  Iraq's borders were well known.  I believe a considerable amount of press ink was spent in 2002 and 2003, for example, on how Turkey might or might not allow the US to fly over (they decided not).  Iraq's defense is its borders.  It's stupid to act as if this just popped up or to say, "Woah, they can do the internal, just not the external!"  That's stupid and crazy.  And, point of fact, Iraqi forces can't protect the country internally. As AP notes, "Bombings continue almost daily in Baghdad and around the rest of Iraq, a grim reality illustrated by the fact that the number of civilians killed by insurgents in July was the highest in two years. Though violence is far lower than it was between 2005 and 2007, when revenge attacks brought the country to the edge of civil war, Iraq is far from secure." Matthew Rusling (Xinhua) speaks with Statfor's military analysist Nathan Hughes who also sees realities different than Yochi.
Michael Jansen (Irish Times) observes, "Iraq has just begun to receive some of the equipment it needs to defend the country. Eleven of 140 US battle tanks have arrived but crews will not be trained and the rest of the tanks will not be in service until mid-2012. Iraq has no independent air cover, an essential component of any defence strategy. Last March the government contracted to purchase 18 US F-16 fighter jets, but these are not set for delivery before 2013."  Arab News notes the following in an editorial:
Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari went on to claim his troops might not be able to take control of the military situation for another decade. It is hard to imagine what the general thought he was going to achieve by this outburst, which surely cannot have been authorized by any government figure, if for no better reason than the deplorable fact that over five months after elections, Iraq still has no proper government.   
It will be suspected, of course, that Washington may have been behind Zebari's words, since they constitute an invitation for the US to continue its occupation. However, there are powerful factors arguing against US complicity. Barack Obama won the presidency with a clear promise to quit Iraq. The American message has been that the Iraqi police and armed forces have reached a level of competence and equipment where they can assume responsibility for security. Indeed in recent months, much has been made of the fact that very few US troops have been out on the streets, leaving the job of dealing with the violence to the Iraqis. Only in the field of sophisticated signals intelligence is the US likely to have any future role alongside the Iraqi military. That contribution probably need not involve the continued presence of US boots on the ground.
Besides, if Washington's assurances about the standards achieved by the Iraqi security forces really are nonsense, what does it say about similar protestations over the level of training and efficiency currently being claimed for the Afghan police and military?
And the line Yochi's attempting to draw -- "security" relegated to internal -- is as false as the claim that "combat" missions are now over and the US has housed Iraq with "non-combat" troops.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 6 days. Andrew England (Financial Times of London) visits the Parliament and speaks with an unidentified MP who tells him, "Ten per cent of parliamentarians [those involved in political negotiations] are active, the other 90 per cent have nothing to do. The whole of Iraq is a vacuum, for God's sake. You know when you get a black hole in the universe? It's exactly the same now."  Hayder Najm (Niqash) states:
Iraqis have no idea when both the US and Iran have agreed to throw their combined support behind Nouri al-Maliki's candidacy for Prime Minister . The leader of the State of Law coalition has never been a 'key ally' to Tehran or Washington. In fact, he has probably been more of a source of concern for both.             
The US and Iran have managed to align their interests on the future of Iraq, despite their clashes over many issues.                     
The US accuses Iran of supporting armed groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan. Iran is critical about Washington's stances on Israel at the expense of its neighbours' interests. The Iranians recently detained three US citizens who crossed the border, who it accuses of spying. Iran's nuclear ambitions also remain on the US file.
Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) runs through a number of possibilities on what's taking place (including that the stalemate lives on).  As Azzaman notes, many rumors are flying around and they provide a list of some of the more popular ones:
·         The crime of killing medical doctors is back in Baghdad in full force.

·         Al-Qaeda is luring Sahwa Councils -- the Sunni militia the U.S. raised and armed -- by paying them salaries higher than those the U.S. offers.

·         The Iraqi army is asking U.S. troops to extend their occupation of the country for another decade. The reason is that the army comprises mainly candidates from sectarian parties who are not capable of guarding the country.             

·         Iran wants free shipments of Iraqi oil in return for compensations of the 1991 Gulf War.                 

·         The bombing of fixed U.S. military bases is easier than smoking a cigarette.                     

·         Militia leaders have returned to Baghdad camouflaged in parliamentary garb and quiet and moderate turbans.         

The Iraq War did create some things.  Such as the refugee crisis.  Michael Otterman pens a column about the refugee crisis for the Christian Science Monitor:
And there are currently 4.5 million displaced Iraqis languishing on the outskirts of Iraqi cities and scattered throughout nearby Jordan and Syria. This represents the largest urban refugee crisis in the world.   
Most displaced Iraqis fled Iraq amid the height of the civil war in 2006 and 2007. At the time, as many as 30,000 Iraqis per month poured into Syria. Thousands fled to Jordan everyday. The torrent slowed by 2008, but the refugees remain.
Dozens of them have shared their stories with me.                     
"I don't own a thing and even if I owned the world, if Iraq would become a country again, I would never return," said an Iraqi I met two years ago in Jeramana, a hub for Iraqis in Damascus, Syria. He told me between sobs about the kidnapping of his youngest son, whom he later found dead in an abandoned Baghdad schoolyard. He fled to Syria with his wife and two surviving children the day after he recovered the body.                       
"Everything is gone," an Iraqi living in a crumbling apartment in East Amman, Jordan, told me in 2008 while his pregnant wife paced nearby. In 2006, his house in Baquba, Iraq, burnt down amid crossfire between Iraqi insurgents and US forces. He sat at home and smoked cigarettes while pondering the future. "I never want to go back. [Iraq] will be divided," he said.
The Iraq War was also a 'growth industry' for ophans.  Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered) reports, "The war in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on children, many of whom saw their own family members kidnapped, tortured and executed during the brutal sectarian fighting from 2006 to 2008. More recently, orphanages are filling up with children left without parents after attacks from insurgent groups, including al-Qaida. But there are very few services for Iraq's estimated 4 million to 6 million orphans. Plans to open the country's first ever child-psychiatry clinic have been approved. But the project has stalled because there is still no government amid political wrangling after the March election."
And file it under "rumor," Samir Sumaida'ie is weighing in with his 'knowledge.'  Caroline Alexander and Margaret Brennan (Bloomberg News) report that the the Iraqi Ambassador to the US is insisting that all US forces will be out of Iraq at the end of next year.  Realities come in Jamal Dajani's column for the Huffington Post:
But will the U.S. actually withdraw from Iraq?                             
Not really. Tens of thousand of U.S. troops will remain in the country to train the Iraqi army and provide it with logistical support. If need be, they will be engaged in combat missions. Meanwhile, the number of private contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq in sectors such as security, communications, utilities, and commerce is estimated at 100,000. This number is likely to increase significantly once the "combat forces" are gone, especially in the security sector.                                                   
Move on US Marines, here come Xe Services (better known as Blackwater)!
This week on Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. Click here for the interview at Antiwar Radio and here for it at Peace of the Action. Excerpt:

Cindy Sheehan: Well, you know I've learned in the last five years, I think I've learned -- I couldn't even measure how much I've learned. But I know in the last five years I've learned more than the previous years I lived put together. And I've learned, Republicans will be Republicans. And you know they're very unapologetically pro-war. Not every Republican but, you know, most Republicans are unapologetically pro-war. The faction that I learned the most about, I think, would be the anti-war movement or the so-called anti-war movement. The people who are supposedly on the left, the progressives. And, you know, it's just very disheartening that all of my -- my colleagues -- most of my colleagues, or friends or associates that I worked with before Obama was elected have basically fallen off the face of the earth or they support now what Obama is doing or they're not as energetically against it as they were when Bush was president. So the major thing that I've learned, I think, is that we have one party system in this country and it's the War Party. And it just depends on if you have an "R" or "D" after your name if you support what's happening or if you're against what's happening. So that's what I've learned. There's no noble cause for war, there never has been, there never will be. And, you know, we just have to stop being such hypocrites and such supporters of empire depending upon who is president. It doesn't matter who's president. The empire is what has the momentum, not political parties.
Scott Horton: Well, you know, I think one of the things about your story that really captured everybody's attention is the specificity of your complaint -- particularly that your son was sent off to die for -- in a war that should have never been fought. That he was betrayed. And I read -- you know me, Cindy, I'm, into this. I read about it all day. And yet still the casualty reports come in -- 'A couple of soldiers died in Iraq today.' That's still going on. Summer of 2010 here if you're listening to this on MP3 format years from now, doing your thesis on it. Soldiers still dying. Soldiers still dying obviously more than ever in Afghanistan as the war escalates there. And often times, even for those of us who deliberately try to not think this way or whatever, you know, 'a number's a number. Some soldiers died, some soldiers died.' But, you know, I've been reading -- you just get desensitized to it. It's not a scene that you see. It's words and a headline, you know what I mean?
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Scott Horton: That's what you get to picture -- is the shape of the news article, not the event that actually happened. So I've been reading The Good Soldiers by David Finkel which is about a group of guys, a battalion, that were part of the surge in 2007 in Baghdad. And they were basically -- they were part of the ground crew from that Collateral Murder video actually. But anyway, it's the story of 'Hey these are real people driving around in aluminum Humvees getting their bodies torn apart by EFPs and IEDs on the side of the road, getting their brains sniped out by some guy hiding behind a wall. These are -- you know, there names are Gary and Dave and Bob and DeShawn and, you know, Juan and whoever, they're our friends and our neighbors. Their names are Casey.

Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Scott Horton: And they're out there dying for nothing. Real people, individuals, crippled for life, brains scrambled by shock waves and by the things that they've seen. And that's if they're lucky! That's if they come home with their arms and legs and life intact. This is not playing around. It's not some movie scene we're talking about here. These are people's sons and brothers and brand new husbands and fathers in a lot of cases as well.
Cindy has her own radio show, Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and this Sunday the guest is Tommy Chong.  This past Sunday, she had on Ethan McCord, Iraq War veteran and on the ground during the assault captured in the Collateral Murder video and who says there was no threat and he perceived no threat prior to the assualt.  Ralph Lopez (OpEdNews) reports of the interview:
At one point McCord criticized media war analysts, whom he called "these supposed war analysts [who] were going over this video, who knew nothing of what happened that day..."
In the wide-ranging interview with Cindy Sheehan on her weekly radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, McCord also again attested to witnessing a high-level war crime, that of random execution of civilians in retaliation for an attack on U.S. forces, a crime which was successfully prosecuted after World War II. McCord's allegation was broadcast widely across the Internet two months after he first made it in an interview in April.
Turning to the isssue ov violence, Reuters notes 1 police officer was shot dead last night in Garma and that an attack in Samarra on a Sahwa leader and police with over eighteen injured.  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a Baghdad home invasion which claimed the life of 1 woman who was stabbed to death. In other violence news, the PKK has declared a ceasefire for the holiday and state the ceasefire will last through September 20th. 
Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Pig-Pen Ambassador," from April 5, 2009, commented on Chris Hill's confirmation hearing (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th snapshot ). Today Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reports Chris Hill is out of Iraq and "Hours before his departure from Baghdad, he said a power-sharing arrangement between the main winners in the March election was just weeks away." Though Hill makes that assertion, Shadid notes Iraqi officials are not rushing to agree with it. It's a portrait of the manic depressive Hill that comes as close as the press will probably ever come to telling the truth about the uninformed Hill. The Iraqis are the most honest in their assessment. Hill spoke no Arabic and struggled with the basics. He goes on to outline some of James Jeffrey's past work experience (Jeffrey is the new US Ambassador to Iraq) and see how many in 'independent' media bother to comb over that.

Also worth noting is this from the article, "Preparation for the election, the vote and the negotiations on a new government have dominated the tenure of Mr. Hill, who took over the American Embassy at a time when Iraq was less violent and more stable, but only in comparison to the anarchic months of 2006 and 2007." Good for Shadid for not applying the false baseline/benchmark when evaluating the violence. Alsumaria TV reports, "In an interview with a US TV station, Hill explained that the political situation in Iraq is normal and doesn't differ from any other country where the difference is slight between two winning parties." Hill has a tendency to repeat himself (heavily scripted) in one interview after another; however, they may be referring to the interview Steve Inskeep did with him for NPR's Morning Edition earlier this week.
The National Lawyers Guild has issued their [PDF format warning] Summer/Fall 2010 publication. You can check out a photo of the new federally trademarked NLG Legal Observer caps with Heidi Boghosian and Joel Kupferman wearing them and Jamie Munro contributes "Lynne Stewart re-sentenced to 10 years in prison" which contains this quote from NLG President David Grespass.

It appears that being a vigorous and conscientious advocate
for one's clients is becoming ever more dangerous. As
you know, our former president, Peter Erlinder, was held in a
Rwandan jail for the better part of a month because of his
representation of a client before the ICTR. From Puerto Rico
to the Philippines, lawyers who display principle and courage
face dire consequences, including assassination. I know it is
cold comfort, but you have long since joined that
illustrious company. Our colleagues in Pakistan were arrested and
beaten for defending the rule of law but they, in the end,
triumphed. We hope the same will be said of you and we
remain committed to you and to doing all we can to secure
your freedom. Whatever you call upon us to do, we stand

There's much more in the issue but those are two things that stood out. And remember that Heidi co-hosts Law and Disorder with Michal Ratner and Michael Steven Smith -- WBAI airs it on Mondays and other radio stations air it throughout the week.  Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Charles Babington (AP), Dan Balz (Washington Post), Todd Purdum (Vanity Fair) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Leaning Left and Right: Why Labels Won't Help This Year." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with US House Rep Donna Edwards, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Darlene Kennedy and Sabrina Schaeffer on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is an interview with Nancy Pelosi. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast (Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings) features a look at youth violence in Chicago. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Swiss bank accounts offered people, including American tax cheats, a safe place to hide money. But Switzerland's largest bank has given authorities formerly sacrosanct information on its American customers because of tips provided by whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, who tells Steve Kroft some of the secrets Swiss bankers never tell. | Watch Video


130 Million Tons of Waste
If coal ash is safe to spread under a golf course or be used in carpets, why are the residents of Kingston, Tenn., being told to stay out of a river where the material was spilled? Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video


Al Pacino
In a rare sit-down interview, Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino talks to Katie Couric about his films and how he prepares for them, including his latest movie in which he starred as Dr. Jack Kevorkian. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, August 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 16, 2010, 11:45:07 am
The Iraq withdrawal: An Orwellian success


U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division board a C-17 aircraft at Baghdad International Airport as they begin their journey to the United States, July 13.

August 15, 2010

The symbolic end of America's involvement in the war has arrived, but the propaganda rages on

As the Second World War drew to a close, George Orwell looked back on the various prognoses of war and peace that had emerged in recent years. "All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way," he observed. "People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome."

Over the next several years, Orwell would elaborate a dystopian vision of the emerging Cold War, a vision in which warring superpowers would use distorted and self-serving political rhetoric to battle each other and their citizens.

In recent weeks, we have reached another historic juncture. The Iraq war, or at least the American military’s role in it, is drawing to a symbolic close. To mark this moment, the U.S. Ministry of Information has put its spin machine in high gear. Orwell would have had a field day with this one. He could not have invented a more Orwellian tale than the actual story of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Here is the official version, championed in its earlier moments by President Bush, Gen. Petraeus and the congressional hawks, and now trumpeted almost as loudly by the White House and State Department: Violence is down. Iraqis are finally (it’s about time, guys) taking responsibility for their own security. The March elections were a great step forward. Iraq, we can safely say, is on the path to a brighter future.

This story marks the last chapter in the surge narrative that took root in 2006, a narrative in which Petraeus is credited with turning the war around. Proponents of this story know better than to declare victory, a word that has largely fallen out of the official lexicon. But the word "success," which has taken its place, is everywhere. And while it doesn’t quite afford that nationalist sense of superiority to which Americans have long been accustomed, success does provide a certain contentment and satisfaction over a job well done. It allows for that perennial optimism that never quite goes out of fashion in the American way of war.

It is telling, though not surprising, that Obama chose a military audience to deliver his official remarks on the nominal end of America’s seven-year occupation of Iraq. Like all American (and especially all Democratic) presidents, Obama rarely misses a moment to pay tribute to the troops -- perhaps the only thing that no loyal American can question regardless of how unjust the wars America fights may be. "As we mark the end of America's combat mission in Iraq," President Obama declared, "a grateful America must pay tribute to all who served there."

There is nothing fundamentally new in this story. It is just the latest version of a long-standing nationalist narrative in which, no matter how the story begins, the U.S. always ends up on the right side of history. For the most loyal devotees of this narrative, even Vietnam is not an exception. Were it not for that cheap Congress, those pesky journalists, and those traitorous antiwar activists, they insist, we would’ve won that war too. Never mind that we had allied ourselves with a corrupt government that cared little about the people of Vietnam. Never mind that the enemy saw this as just the latest in a decades-long war against foreign occupiers. Never mind that, as Daniel Ellsberg has said, we were not just "on the wrong side" of this war. "We were the wrong side."

As with the hawk’s version of Vietnam’s ignominious conclusion, the tale of America’s withdrawal from Iraq is characterized by contradictions, half-truths and huge blind spots. It is a story told by officials with jobs and reputations to protect. It is a myth bought and sold by Americans who want to believe in a benevolent image of their country in the world. And most important of all, it is a fairy tale that systematically elevates the good news about Iraq and avoids any talk of the long-term devastation this war has wreaked on the people there.

In recent months, as the deadline for troop withdrawal has neared, Ambassador Christopher Hill has become a more visible prop in the administration’s official spin machine, deflecting any arrows aimed at the armor that is the official success narrative. When NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked him whether Iraq might still collapse, Hill said that he looked at the situation "in pretty optimistic terms." That’s easy for him to say. Hill is leaving Iraq this month to become the dean of the international relations program at Denver University.

The success story is a bit harder to feed to the Iraqis who actually experience the realities on the ground in Iraq, and who, unlike Hill, will continue to face these realities on a daily basis. In an interview on Al Al-Jazeera’s "Inside Iraq" television show in April, Jassim Al-Assawi challenged the ambassador’s rosy assessment of the March parliamentary elections, pointing out that a number of elected ex- Baathist officials had been denied seats in parliament. When questioned about the legality of this measure, as well as other serious problems of Iraqi governance, Hill tried to convince his interviewer that he was not the Iraqi government. "I’m just the U.S. ambassador," he said. "I’m not the prime minister" of Iraq. "I’m not a judge in Baghdad."

Good thing. Because, according to the most recent Brookings index of Iraq, 135 of 869 judges in Iraq have been removed on charges of corruption. Overall, when it comes to corruption, Iraq ranks 176 out of 180 countries. Thus, it should come as no surprise that $9 billion of oil revenue intended for reconstruction has gone missing.

Of course, the state of Iraq’s political and judicial institutions have never been the strongest thread in the success narrative. The security story, on the other hand, is ostensibly on firmer ground, and has therefore figured prominently in the official version of the story. Here’s Obama on the progress of security in Iraq:

Today -- even as terrorists try to derail Iraq's progress -- because of the sacrifices of our troops and their Iraqi partners, violence in Iraq continues to be near the lowest it's been in years. And next month, we will change our military mission from combat to supporting and training Iraqi security forces. In fact, in many parts of the country, Iraqis have already taken the lead for security.

In this effort to play up the security achievements of Iraq, Obama bracketed the spikes in violence in recent months and used the word "terrorist" to avoid the deeper and more complex political history of both the Sadrist and Sunni insurgencies.

There is no denying that violence is down from its highest levels, and that is a good thing. But the Ministry of Information distorts all reality when it suggests that the Iraqi army and police are ready to "take the lead" in maintaining this security. As of December 2009, there were 664,000 Iraqi security forces. This reflects only the number of authorized personnel, however, and is not an indicator of operational readiness.

In September 2009, the Iraqi army had close to 250 battalions. But only about 50 of them were deemed capable of planning, executing and sustaining counterinsurgency operations on their own. The rest were either completely incapable or required assistance from coalition forces. This isn’t news to Iraqi military leaders. Lt. Gen. Babker Zerbari, Iraq’s most senior military officer, has said that his security forces won’t be able to take the lead until 2020 and has asked the U.S. to delay its planned withdrawal.

While the weavers of the success story have distorted the security situation in Iraq, they have hardly said a peep about the disaster that is Iraq’s infrastructure and essential services. As of February 2009, 80 percent of the population still lacked access to sanitation services, 55 percent lacked access to potable water, and 50 percent still had serious electricity shortages. As late as May 2010, Brookings estimated that 30,000-50,000 private generators were making up for shortages in the national grid.

Healthcare is also in dire straits. New studies reveal soaring cancer rates in Fallujah and other cities that were heavily targeted by U.S. forces. This news comes against the backdrop of a mass exodus of doctors from the country. Twenty thousand of Iraq’s 34,000 registered physicians left Iraq after the U.S. invasion. As of April 2009, fewer than 2,000 returned, the same as the number who were killed during the course of the war.

The shortage of doctors in Iraq is just one facet of the much bigger population displacement as a result of the war. As of January 2009, there were still 2 million Iraqi refugees living outside of the country, and as of April 2010, there were 2,764,000 internally displaced people living in Iraq.

"War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it." -- George Orwell, New Statesmen (1937)

In 2002, the State Department’s "Future of Iraq" group predicted that the toppling of the Saddam regime would usher in a period of great economic boom. That turned out not to be the case, at least not initially. Iraq’s instability kept multinational corporations out of Iraq for awhile, but in recent years, the situation has changed. In 2008 and 2009, Foreign Direct Investment went up tenfold in Iraq. Not surprisingly, officials have been framing this as great news for the country. In 2009, the website of Operation Iraqi Freedom proudly advertised that the governor of Anbar was named FDI magazine’s "Global Personality of the Year." What the website does not advertise is that the huge oil and natural gas companies competing for Anbar’s natural resource wealth have little interest in helping the people of Anbar, but are instead focused on their bottom lines. That entails plans for using cheap foreign labor from China and other countries. It is unlikely that anything more than a small portion of their earnings will actually trickle down to ordinary Iraqis.

The oil and gas companies are not the only ones who will profit from the postwar order in Iraq. The United States military and defense industry will make out well, too. Despite claims to the contrary, this is not the end of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. In addition to the several bases that will remain active, housing the soldiers and private contractors whose titles will change to advisors, there will be an indefinite state of dependency on U.S.-manufactured weapons and technology. Defense companies, such as ARINC will continue to make hundreds of millions providing Mi-17 helicopters and other military hardware and logistics to Iraq.

While the Ministry of Information does not advertise the reality of America’s enduring military presence in Iraq, it is quick to announce a civilian "surge" in the country. Along these lines, officials have been boasting about the massive U.S. embassy in Baghdad. "Along with the Great Wall of China," said Ambassador Hill, "its one of those things you can see with the naked eye from outer space. I mean, it’s huge." Indeed. At 104 acres, it is the largest U.S. embassy in the world. In addition to six apartment buildings, it has a luxury pool, as well as a water and sewage treatment plant. Stop for a second and reflect on these last two amenities. They give you some measure of what American officials really know but aren’t saying about the state of drinking water and sanitation in Iraq. The State Department has requested a mini-army to protect this Fortress America -- including 24 Black Hawk helicopters and 50 bomb-resistant vehicles. Again, stop for a minute and ask yourself what this really suggests. The shadow army says a lot more than the official pronouncements do about the true state of security in Iraq.

"Who Controls the Past Controls the Future. Who Controls the Present Controls the Past" -- George Orwell, "1984" (1949)

Given all the damage that remains in Iraq, it is no wonder that some Iraqis are confused and angry at the rosy pronouncements about Iraq’s path to progress. Without masking his hostility and frustration, Jassim Al-Assawi pressed Ambassador Hill to explain why, despite all the problems Iraq is currently experiencing, he remains so optimistic. After waxing poetic about the heroism and drive of the Iraqi people, Hill simply insisted, "There’s no going back, only forward."

This last statement encapsulates what is perhaps the most important function of the success narrative. All this talk about moving forward is also an insistence on not looking back, especially not to 2003. The U.S. has sought to control the past of the Iraq war by rejecting and effectively erasing it, willfully marginalizing the very act that got this whole story going in the first place. The Bush administration needed to scratch 2003 out in order to minimize its own role in the destruction of Iraq and the suffering of its people. Now, the Obama administration has picked up the eraser in order to convince everyone that this is a "responsible" withdrawal.

No matter how much the U.S government erases the past or predicts the future of Iraq, ordinary Iraqis will continue to face the more messy and complicated realities of the present. I dare Obama and everyone else in the spin machine to go to Iraq and look a child in the eyes. A child who, seven years after the U.S. invasion, still lacks adequate housing, drinking water, sanitation, electricity and education. Now, tell that child that the war in Iraq was a success.

Hannah Gurman is an assistant professor at NYU's Gallatin School. She is currently working on a book about the history of counterinsurgency in American foreign policy. More Hannah Gurman


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 17, 2010, 05:46:02 am
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
11:40 Mecca time, 08:40 GMT
News Middle East 
Bomber strikes Iraq army centre  

Army and security forces recruitment centres have been prime targets for attacks for years [Reuters]
At least 45 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack at an army recruitment centre in the Iraqi capital.

Iraqi officials said at least 121 other people were wounded in the blast on Tuesday, when a suicide attacker detonated a bomb as men queued outside the centre in central Baghdad.

The attack occurred at the historical site of former defence ministry, a building that was turned into an army recruitment centre and military base after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, said the centre was busy on Tuesday because the defence ministry had recently called on new recruits to join the army.

"According to a police source they were standing in the hundreds," he said.

"Then a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt [and] wearing an army uniform was talking to those recruits, pretending that he was trying to get their names, so people gathered around him and he detonated his charge.

"This is the deadliest attack since the start of [the Muslim holy month of] Ramadan, and the deadliest perhaps in the last month or so."

Target of attacks

Security forces have been frequent targets of attack since the start of army restructure after the US-led invasion.

Tuesday's attack comes two weeks ahead of a US deadline to cut its troop numbers to about 50,000 and a day after Iraqi lawmakers suspended talks on forming a new government.

The Iraqiya bloc headed by Iyad Allawi, Iraq's former prime minister, said on Monday that it had suspended talks with the State of Law bloc headed by Nouri al-Maliki, the country's incumbent prime minister, in protest against al-Maliki's "sectarian tone".

Our correspondent said different armed groups appear to be trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in Iraq, as lawmakers squabble over positions in a new government more than five months after an inconclusive March 7 election.

"Everyone you speak to here is concerned that attacks could get more frequent because of the US withdrawal plans and months of political uncertainty in Iraq," he said.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 17, 2010, 07:39:10 am
Iraq snapshot - August 16, 2010

The Common Ills

Monday, August 16, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, withdrawal isn't coming (though an agent for a foreign country can be found all over the web insisting otherwise), talks between Iraqiya and State Of Law break down as the stalemate continues, calls continue for an inquest into the death of Dr. David Kelly and more.
Today the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- One United States Forces -- Iraq Soldier was killed when a patrol was attacked in Baqubah, Diyala province yesterday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin.  The incident is under investigation." The announcement comes 14 days after Barack Obama gave his "mission accomplished" speech in Atlanta and it brings the ICCC number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the war to 4415.  USF-I also 'mourns' the 'passing' of a drone: "BAGHDAD -- A U.S. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) crashed yesterday evening in Iraq's Diyala province, approximately 2 kilometers northeast of Muqdadiyah. The small UAV impacted an open area outside of a residential suburb after experiencing engine problems. No one was injured during the accident, which remains under investigation."

Meanwhile Michael Christie and Nina Chestney (Reuters) report a Muqdadiya car bombing claimed the lives of 4 Iranian pilgrims, 1 Iraqi and left nine people injured.  Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Falluja, 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul and 1 civilian shot dead ("and his son wounded) in Mosul. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing wounded one person.  South Korea's Ariang TV notes violence raged over the weekend as well.  Sunday there were 18 reported deaths and 49 reported injured and 5 dead and 5 wounded reported Saturday for a two-day total of 23 dead and 54 injured. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) observes, "While insurgents have sought to make dramatic gestures lately -- raising their flag in prominent Baghdad neighborhoods and burning the bodies of policemen they have killed -- more remarkable is the drumbeat of assaults day after day on Iraq's security forces."
In addition, Josh Pringle (580 CFRA News) reports that unknown assailants robber four commerica ships which were docked near Basra. When?  Sunday.  No, not yesterday.  Sunday the 8th.  Reuters explains the authorities are only now talking and notes, "The attackers targeted the Antigua-flagged Arminia, North Korea's Crystal Wave, Syria's Sana Star and the American ship Sagamore last Sunday and took personal belongings from the crews, Lieutenant John Fage of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet said."
And the political stalemate continues.  Yesterday Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reported, "Senior Iraqi politicians involved in forming a new government said they are weighing the creation of a new federal position that could break the nearly six-month logjam over which faction gets the coveted premiership."  Dagher reveals that the idea gained traction during Joe Biden's visit and that if it is put forward, some believe it will be Parliament's first order of business.
No one appears bothered by the larger reality. A political stalemate exists and the answer being pushed is not to obey the laws, not to follow the Constitution but to create a new post (with the apparent hope that Nouri willw ant the new post). That's the lesson the US government has imparted to Iraq.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 9 days.

And in an attempt to end the stalemate by September (not this week, by sometime in September), the US is 'suggesting' that the whole process be chucked aside and a new position created out of whole cloth.  This fits in with another weekend report by Dagher about the disastification Iraqis are feeling over the stalemate: "One show, a 'Chair for Ownerhip,' on the popular Sharqiya television station, pokes fun at a prime minister called 'Abu so and so,' who refuses to leave power, a thinly veiled jab at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."  Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saad Fakrildeen (Los Angeles Times) report that the White House isn't the only one hoping Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani will step in, some Iraqis are as well and former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is quoted stating, "If the civilians continue to flail over the next three-four years, the chances of a military coup are likely to go up. That could bring with it something like the 1958 revolution."  Today BBC News reports that al-Iraiqya "has suspended talks on forming a coalition, five months after the inconclusive vote."  Why? They're demanding Nouri apologize for calling them "the party of the Sunnis.''  Ammar Karim (AFP) speaks with Allawi's spokesperson Maysoon al-Damaluji who states, "We ceased negotiations with (Maliki's) State of Law. We are not a Sunni bloc, we are a nationalist project. [. . .] We have asked him to apologise. Without an apology, we are negotiate with him anymore." Citing an unnamed source, UPI declares "that Maliki's primary political party, Dawa, has decided to move forward with another as-yet named candidate for prime minister."

Nouri al-Maliki met last Sunday with KRG President Massoud Barzani. As noted then, rumors would run rampant as to what sort of deal Nouri was attempting to make with most assuming it was Kirkuk that was being bargained away.  Salah Bayaziddi (Kurdish Globe) reports:                   

When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki--at a joint press conference last week with Massoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil--called for the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution on the status of the city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, it created a mixed feeling among the Kurds. While forming an alliance between Kurds and Maliki is still uncertain, this sudden visit has produced different reactions and interpretations among Iraqi politicians and policymakers in the region. Nevertheless, it seems one thing is for certain: When most political observers have argued that Maliki has agreed to most of the Kurdish demands--especially the implementation of Article 140--in return for Kurds' support for his premiership, after seven years scrambling over these contentious issues, one short sentence should be enough: It is little too late for him.

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution demands a referendum on the issue of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is oil rich and it is disputed territory. Kurds state that it is historically Kurdish territory and want it to be part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The census and the referendum were supposed to take place long ago. Nouri has delayed the census (that's a national census, by the way, not just a Kirkuk census) offering one excuse after another. In 2007, the Kirkuk referendum was supposed to have taken place; however, Nouri began using the lack of a national census as an excuse for stalling on the referendum.   On the issue of the meetings between Nouri and the KRG President, Iran's Press TV feels differently: "The latest intense round of talks between former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who heads the Rule of Law coalition, and Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, took place within the same framework of political consultation. The meeting is deemed a great step forward in resolving Iraq's current political impasse, provided that other leaders also accelerate talks aimed at forming a national unity government."   Kurdistan is the topic of the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) and we'll note that tomorrow.  In the meantime, the big targets in the last two weeks have been police officers (of all stripes -- including traffic police) and Sahwa.  The latter is also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq."  They are fighters the US military put on the payroll so they would stop attacking US military equipment and US military forces.  Federico Manfredi (Huffington Post) interviews Sahwa leader Sheik Ali Hatem.
FM: Since the March 7 elections, violence in Iraq appears to be rising again. Do you believe that the security gains of the past few years are now slipping away?               
AH: Yes, and this is the fault of the irresponsible and self-interested Iraqi politicians. It was the Awakening that crushed Al Qaeda in Al-Anbar, in Baghdad, in Diyala. We did it. After that the Iraqi government told me that my men would be able to join the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. Fine, I said, I want what is best for my country. But now it has become clear that the Iraqi government does not want to keep its word. The politicians just wanted to take credit for our military successes.
Thousands of former Awakening fighters are still jobless. And many of those who did join the Iraqi security forces have been kicked out. They accused them of being Ba'athists and terrorists, but these are just lies. It is the people who run the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense who are using sectarianism to advance their interests. They are thinking that if they exclude the Sunnis from the police and the army they will be able to give more jobs to the constituencies of their parties. No, I have no respect for these politicians. They are scum. And we are paying for their mistakes in blood.
FM: Do you think the marginalization of the Awakening Councils may lead some of its former members to return to the insurgency?           
AH: We are already seeing this. And mark my word: Security will deteriorate further. You will see it in the coming weeks and it's not going to stop.
There is no withdrawal, it's one of the great myths of the Obama administration. Linda J. Bilmes (San Francisco Chronicle) explains the basics (again explains the basics) everyone tries to ignore: 

Second, even after the last U.S. troops leave Iraq, we still will have thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar and on Navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn. And while combat troops may go home, an army of contractors will be staying on. The American Embassy in Baghdad - already the biggest in the world - will be supplemented with five additional regional consulates. The State Department will increase its 2,500 private security contractors to 6,000 or 7,000 once the military pullout is complete. Other contractors will be hired to do medical evacuations, fly aircraft, drive armored vehicles, issue ID cards and do all the other functions that the departing military is transferring to the State Department.                   

In addition, Andrei Fedyashin (Eurasia Review) offers the following:   

The withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the reconfiguration of the combat mission into a stabilization campaign may sound impressive, but behind that rhetoric, there seems to be no intention to truly end this war. Major General Stephen Lanza, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, has admitted that not much will change there in practical terms following the pullout. Military operations will continue, albeit with intensive outsourcing and privatization. The number of private contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq in sectors such as security, communications, utilities, and commerce has already reached 100,000. Of these, 10,000 work for private security firms. This number is likely to double once the "combat forces" are gone. This is a good deal for the Obama Administration, obviously. With most security positions filled by non-American contractors rather than American service members, possible terror attacks against the U.S. embassy will not cause as much resonance back home, and, consequently, there is less chance for a dramatic shift in public opinion against Americans' continued presence in Iraq.           
How will the withdrawal play out for Iraq itself? The most knowledgeable experts maintain that the term "withdrawal" is a misnomer, as no meaningful withdrawal is actually taking place. They also say that if a new cabinet is formed in Iraq after the holy month of Ramadan, the ministers will rush to petition the U.S. to postpone the withdrawal.                           

As the Iraq War continues, greater opposition is needed. World Can't Wait is getting the word out on an upcoming action:
We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.           
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?                 
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!       
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.           
The Iraq War continues.  Except at one site where someone's spinng for Obama.  Question for the day: What aging socialite is running the spin of a foreign agent?  Did you guess Arianna?  You guessed correctly.  We're not linking to the crap but when you see his byline, remember he is an agent for a foreign power and remember that the Blueprint Negev Project -- which he takes money for -- is not a two-state solution. Make that: "It's not a three-state solution" because the project requires ripping off the land rights of the Bedouin tribes.  You might ask again why Arianna's allowing herself to be a stooge and a puppet?  And you might ask why, after the uprooting of the Palestinians is damn well know -- widely known and discussed, she's allowing a supporter of similar treatment to the Bedouins -- specifically the Negev Bedouins -- to publish at her site?
Staying in the US, Mark Walker (North County Times) reports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't being mentioned by candidates in Congressional campaigns in the San Diego and Riverside County areas.  Not all candidates across the country are so silent. Jennifer Jacobs (Des Moines Register) notes Rebecca Williamson who is running against two men -- Democrat Leonard Boswell (current member of the House) and Republican Brad Zaun.  Rebecca is with the Socialist Workers Party.  She's quoted asking a crowd, "Iowa has sent many, many soldiers to fight and die in the war. But for what? The war is being organized to defend the capitalist government and protect the interests of the rich." Jacobs summarizes Williamson on the issues as follows:
Every unemployed worker should receive unemployment benefits until they find a job. Half the state is rural and rural Iowans don't have enough access to good health care, including abortion services. Home and farm foreclosures should stop. Unemployment continues to deepen, especially for African Americans. Flood damage to homes and crop land "could be dealt with if the wealth that's produced by working class people is allocated toward a public works program that would rebuild and improve the infrastructure and levees. … This would also put millions of people to work."
The Militant notes that the Socialist Workers Party in Iowa "collected more than 2,100 signatures to place" Williamson and others on the November ballot. Chuck Geurra (Militant) notes that Rebecca is a twenty-eight-year-old "assembly worker" running in Iowa's District 3.  A SWP press release notes, "Rebecca Williamson for U.S. Representative, 3rd Congressional District. Williamson, 28, is an assembly worker in Ankeny. She has been part of union organizing efforts in Chicago, IL and St. Paul, MN. A women's rights activist, she helped defend Dr. Leroy Carhart's Bellevue, Nebraska abortion clinic from rightist harassment last year. Williamson is fluent in Spanish."

In London, Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) rushes in to insist David Kelly was not murdered but still advocates for an inquest. As a general rule, Gilligan should find another topic to write about. He's done more than enough damage when it comes to David Kelly. The late doctor disputed Tony Blair's lie -- proven a lie in the Iraq Inquiry -- that Iraq could attack England with WMD in 45 minutes. Andrew Gilligan reported on the 'sexed up' documents and eventually revealed Kelly as his source. Kelly was found dead under questionable circumstances and the official story is he took his own life. If you're late to the story, CNN has a timeline of major events here. The editorial board of Gilligan's own paper argues for an inquest:

Almost from the moment his body was discovered in woods near his home in July 2003, conspiracy theories have surrounded the death of Dr David Kelly. The government weapons inspector had been disgracefully exposed by ministers as the source of critical comments about the so-called "dodgy dossier" on the Iraq War. His death seemed, to all intents and purposes, a suicide prompted by the inordinate pressure to which this very private man had been subjected as a consequence.                 
This was, indeed, the conclusion reached by Lord Hutton in his inquiry into the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death, which superseded the normal requirements for an inquest. In retrospect, it was a mistake to have combined the findings as to the cause of death with a wider investigation into the political shenanigans that led to his being drawn into such fierce political controversy. They should have been held separately to establish clearly how Dr Kelly died.

The Guardian polls its readers on where it's "now time for an inquest into David Kelly's death?" and it currently stands at 86.7% say: "Yes, a formal inquest is the best way to resolve unanswered questions" while 13.3% say: "No, Hutton's findings were sufficient." James Slack and Miles Goslett (Daily Mail) report on another poll, "According to an exclusive Mail opinion poll, only one in five people accepts the Hutton Inquiry's finding that the government weapons inspector took his own life. The survey also reveals that eight out of ten people want a full inquest. With senior MPs making the same demand, the Coalition is under strong pressure to act. It comes as a medical report says it was 'impossible' that Dr Kelly bled to death in the way described by the inquiry." Simon Walters and Glen Owen (Daily Mail) report that MP Michael Howard is attempting "to force a full inquest into the death of Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr David Kelly."         

As Simon Alford (Times of London) reminded last December, "Dr Kelly was identified as the source for a report by Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme in May 2003, in which it was claimed the Government wanted the weapons dossier "sexed up". Dr Kelly denied the claims and on July 15 2003, three days before he was found dead, he appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee." And in September of 2003, Warren Hoge (New York Times) reported on Gilligan's testimony to the Hutton Inquiry:

Mr. Gilligan's apology came in response to an earlier disclosure that after he had testified to the foreign affairs panel himself, he sent an e-mail message to three of the committee members suggesting a tough line of questioning to entrap Dr. Kelly.
"It was quite wrong to send it, and I can only apologize," Mr. Gilligan said today. "I was under an enormous amount of pressure at the time. I simply was not thinking straight, so I really want to apologize for that."
Finally, David Bacon reports on migrant workers in Maine (at ImmigrationProf Blog) and the report includes photos:
Agustin Martinez, Juan Rayas and Martin Martinez are all migrant blueberry pickers who come to Maine every year from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. Agustin workerd for three years during the bracero contract labor program, which ended in 1964. He came across the border each year at Calexico, where he remembers being given X-rays, and dusted with DDT, supposedly because workers from Mexico were "flea-ridden." He worked picking tomatoes in Sacramento and Oxnard, in California. A thousand people slept in a huge barracks, he remembers. On loudspeakers they'd be called by numbers to the bathroom to wash, to the dining hall to eat, and to go to work. Juan Rayas also remembers working in that program, although he went to Georgia and Arkansas to pick cotton.                     
The three men live most of the year in a huge labor camp operated by Jasper Wyman, the world's largest blueberry producer, in Deblois. The labor camp in Maine is not so different from the old bracero barracks, Agustin thnks. His hand is injured, and he fears he won't be able to continue working. Workers get paid $2.25 per 23 point box, the same rate growers were paying in 1975, when it had the purchasing power of $8.50 today.                         
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 18, 2010, 06:22:39 am
Middle East
Aug 19, 2010 
The shadow over Iraq

By George Friedman

It is August 2010, the month when the last United States combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq. It is therefore time to take stock of the situation in Iraq, which has changed places with Afghanistan as the forgotten war.

This is all the more important since 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq, and while they may not be considered combat troops, a great deal of combat power remains embedded with them. So we are far from the end of the war in Iraq. The question is whether the departure of the last combat units is a significant milestone and, if it is, what it signifies.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 with three goals. The first was the destruction of the Iraqi army, the second was the destruction of the Ba'athist regime and the third was the replacement of that regime with a stable, pro-American government in Baghdad. The first two goals were achieved within weeks. Seven years later, however, Iraq does not yet have a stable government, let alone a pro-American government. The lack of that government is what puts the current strategy in jeopardy.

The fundamental flaw of the invasion of Iraq was not in its execution but in the political expectations that were put in place. As the Americans knew, the Shi'ite community was anti-Baathist but heavily influenced by Iranian intelligence. The decision to destroy the Ba'athists put the Sunnis, who were the backbone of Saddam’s regime, in a desperate position. Facing a hostile American army and an equally hostile Shi'ite community backed by Iran, the Sunnis faced disaster. Taking support from where they could get it - from the foreign jihadists that were entering Iraq - they launched an insurgency against both the Americans and the Shia.

The Sunnis simply had nothing to lose. In their view, they faced permanent subjugation at best and annihilation at worst. The United States had the option of creating a Shi'ite-based government but realized that this government would ultimately be under Iranian control. The political miscalculation placed the United States simultaneously into a war with the Sunnis and a near-war situation with many of the Shia, while the Shia and Sunnis waged a civil war among themselves and the Sunnis occasionally fought the Kurds as well. From late 2003 until 2007, the United States was not so much in a state of war in Iraq as it was in a state of chaos.

The new strategy of General David Petraeus emerged from the realization that the United States could not pacify Iraq and be at war with everyone. After a 2006 defeat in the midterm elections, it was expected that US President George W Bush would order the withdrawal of forces from Iraq. Instead, he announced the surge. The surge was really not much of a surge, but it created psychological surprise - not only were the Americans not leaving, but more were on the way. Anyone who was calculating a position based on the assumption of a US withdrawal had to recalculate.

The Americans understood that the key was reversing the position of the Sunni insurgents. So long as they remained at war with the Americans and Shia, there was no possibility of controlling the situation. Moreover, only the Sunnis could cut the legs out from under the foreign jihadists operating in the Sunni community. These jihadists were challenging the traditional leadership of the Sunni community, so turning this community against the jihadists was not difficult.

The Sunnis also were terrified that the United States would withdraw, leaving them at the mercy of the Shia. These considerations, along with substantial sums of money given to Sunni tribal elders, caused the Sunnis to do an about-face. This put the Shia on the defensive, since the Sunni alignment with the Americans enabled the Americans to strike at the Shi'ite militias.

Petraeus stabilized the situation, but he did not win the war. The war could only be considered won when there was a stable government in Baghdad that actually had the ability to govern Iraq. A government could be formed with people sitting in meetings and talking, but that did not mean that their decisions would have any significance. For that there had to be an Iraqi army to enforce the will of the government and protect the country from its neighbors, particularly Iran (from the American point of view). There also had to be a police force to enforce whatever laws might be made. And from the American perspective, this government did not have to be pro-American (that had long ago disappeared as a viable goal), but it could not be dominated by Iran.

Iraq is not ready to deal with the enforcement of the will of the government because it has no government. Once it has a government, it will be a long time before its military and police forces will be able to enforce its will throughout the country. And it will be much longer before it can block Iranian power by itself. As it stands now, there is no government, so the rest doesn't much matter.

The geopolitical problem the Americans face is that, with the United States gone, Iran would be the most powerful conventional power in the Persian Gulf. The historical balance of power had been between Iraq and Iran. The American invasion destroyed the Iraqi army and government, and the United States was unable to recreate either. Part of this had to do with the fact that the Iranians did not want the Americans to succeed.

For Iran, a strong Iraq is the geopolitical nightmare. Iran once fought a war with Iraq that cost Iran a million casualties (imagine the United States having more than 4 million casualties), and the foundation of Iranian national strategy is to prevent a repeat of that war by making certain that Iraq becomes a puppet to Iran or, failing that, that it remains weak and divided. At this point, the Iranians do not have the ability to impose a government on Iraq. However, they do have the ability to prevent the formation of a government or to destabilize one that is formed. Iranian intelligence has sufficient allies and resources in Iraq to guarantee the failure of any stabilization attempt that doesn't please Tehran.

There are many who are baffled by Iranian confidence and defiance in the face of American pressure on the nuclear issue. This is the reason for that confidence: should the United States attack Iran's nuclear facilities, or even if the United States does not attack, Iran holds the key to the success of the American strategy in Iraq. Everything done since 2006 fails if the United States must maintain tens of thousands of troops in Iraq in perpetuity.

Should the United States leave, Iran has the capability of forcing a new order not only on Iraq but also on the rest of the Persian Gulf. Should the United States stay, Iran has the ability to prevent the stabilization of Iraq, or even to escalate violence to the point that the Americans are drawn back into combat. The Iranians understand the weakness of America's position in Iraq, and they are confident that they can use that to influence American policy elsewhere.

American and Iraqi officials have publicly said that the reason an Iraqi government has not been formed is Iranian interference. To put it more clearly, there are any number of Shi'ite politicians who are close to Tehran and, for a range of reasons, will take their orders from there. There are not enough of these politicians to create a government, but there are enough to block a government from being formed. Therefore, no government is being formed.

With 50,000 US troops still in Iraq, the United States does not yet face a crisis. The current withdrawal milestone is not the measure of the success of the strategy. The threat of a crisis will arise if the United States continues its withdrawal to the point where the Shia feel free to launch a sustained and escalating attack on the Sunnis, possibly supported by Iranian forces, volunteers or covert advisers. At that point, the Iraqi government must be in place, be united and command sufficient forces to control the country and deter Iranian plans.

The problem is, as we have seen, that in order to achieve that government there must be Iranian concurrence, and Iran has no reason to want to allow that to happen. Iran has very little to lose by, and a great deal to gain from, continuing the stability the Petraeus strategy provided. The American problem is that a genuine withdrawal from Iraq requires a shift in Iranian policy, and the United States has little to offer Iran to change the policy.

From the Iranian point of view, they have the Americans in a difficult position. On the one hand, the Americans are trumpeting the success of the Petraeus plan in Iraq and trying to repeat the success in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the secret is that the Petraeus plan has not yet succeeded in Iraq. Certainly, it ended the major fighting involving the Americans and settled down Sunni-Shi'ite tensions. But it has not taken Iraq anywhere near the end state the original strategy envisioned. Iraq has neither a government nor a functional army - and what is blocking it is Tehran.

One impulse of the Americans is to settle with the Iranians militarily. However, Iran is a mountainous country of 70 million, and an invasion is simply not in the cards. Airstrikes are always possible, but as the United States learned over North Vietnam - or from the Battle of Britain or in the bombing of Germany and Japan before the use of nuclear weapons - air campaigns alone don't usually force nations to capitulate or change their policies. Serbia did give up Kosovo after a three-month air campaign, but we suspect Iran would be a tougher case.

In any event, the United States has no appetite for another war while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still under way, let alone a war against Iran in order to extricate itself from Iraq. The impulse to use force against Iran was resisted by president Bush and is now being resisted by President Barack Obama. And even if the Israelis attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran could still wreak havoc in Iraq.

Two strategies follow from this. The first is that the United States will reduce US forces in Iraq somewhat but will not complete the withdrawal until a more distant date (the current Status of Forces Agreement requires all American troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2011). The problems with this strategy are that Iran is not going anywhere, destabilizing Iraq is not costing it much and protecting itself from an Iraqi resurgence is Iran’s highest foreign policy priority.

That means that the decision really isn't whether the United States will delay its withdrawal but whether the United States will permanently base forces in Iraq - and how vulnerable those forces might be to an upsurge in violence, which is an option that Iran retains.

Another choice for the United States, as we have discussed previously, is to enter into negotiations with Iran. This is a distasteful choice from the American point of view, but surely not more distasteful than negotiating with Stalin or Mao. At the same time, the Iranians’ price would be high. At the very least, they would want the "Finlandization" of Iraq, similar to the situation where the Soviets had a degree of control over Finland's government. And it is far from clear that such a situation in Iraq would be sufficient for the Iranians.

The United States cannot withdraw completely without some arrangement because that would leave Iran in an extremely powerful position in the region. The Iranian strategy seems to be to make the United States sufficiently uncomfortable to see withdrawal as attractive but not to be so threatening as to deter the withdrawal. As clever as that strategy is, however, it does not hide the fact that Iran would dominate the Persian Gulf region after the withdrawal.

Thus, the United States has nothing but unpleasant choices in Iraq. It can stay in perpetuity and remain vulnerable to violence. It can withdraw and hand the region over to Iran. It can go to war with yet another Islamic country. Or it can negotiate with a government that it despises - and which despises it right back.

Given all that has been said about the success of the Petraeus strategy, it must be observed that while it broke the cycle of violence and carved out a fragile stability in Iraq, it has not achieved, nor can it alone achieve, the political solution that would end the war. Nor has it precluded a return of violence at some point. The Petraeus strategy has not solved the fundamental reality that has always been the shadow over Iraq: Iran. But that was beyond Petraeus' task and, for now, beyond American capabilities. That is why the Iranians can afford to be so confident.

(Published with permission from STRATFOR, a Texas-based geopolitical intelligence company. Copyright 2010 Stratfor.)

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 19, 2010, 07:56:15 am
US Announces Second Fake End to Iraq War

by Jason Ditz, August 18, 2010

It was another of those great TV moments. Embedded reports filming as the “last” brigade of American troops in Iraq cross the border into Kuwait bringing over seven years of unhappy conflict to its final, conclusive end. America was, at last, at peace.

But like so many other great TV moments, this one was a scripted fantasy, a fake exit done purely for political gain by an increasingly unpopular president trying to look like he is keeping at least one campaign promise.

It was perhaps a different sort of scripted, mythical end to the Iraq War than the last one, the May 1, 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech of President Bush, but it was no more real, as over 50,000 US troops remain on the ground in Iraq tonight.


The “end of the war” may bring some measure of relief to the American people, but it must be something of a sombre moment for those 50,000 troops, as they continue to go into combat operations with the bulk of the American public believing, because their president told them so, that the war is over and combat operations have ended.

Officials have been pretty straightforward about what really happened, not that it has been picked up by the media, which has preferred the more pleasant narrative of a decisive military victory. Instead, the US simply “redefined” the vast majority of its combat troops as “transitional troops,” then removed a brigade that they didn’t relabel, so they could claim that was the “last one.” Even this comes with the assumption that the State Department, and a new army of contractors, will take over for years after the military operations end, assuming they ever do.

And it worked, at least for now. All is right with the world and the war is over, at least so far as anyone could tell from the TV news shows. But as violence continues to rise across Iraq, and July saw the worst violence in over two years, it will likely be difficult for the Obama Administration to keep this war a secret for much longer.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 19, 2010, 08:42:04 am
Iraq snapshot - August 17, 2010

The Common Ills

Tuesday, August 17, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad slammed by a bombing, 8 judges around Iraq are targeted and only six remain living, a total of  at least 71 deaths are reported (161 injured), the political stalemate continues, Ayad Allawi increases talks with a Shi'ite political party, and more.
Today Baghdad is slammed by a bombing. Alsumaria TV, citing "health sources," puts the death toll at "at least 60" with "another 157" injured from a suicide bombing this morning. Fan Chunxu (Xinhua) quotes a Ministry of the Interior source explaining, "The explosion targeting an army recruitment center at Bab al- Muazem area in Baghdad occurred at local time 7:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), it was an old building of the Defense Ministry, now up to 45 people were dead and 121 others were wounded." Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports, "Outside a blue-domed mosque near the scene of the attack on Tuesday, Sgt. Muhammad Hassan, 28, said the latest bomber had clearly intended to attack the Army recruits."  Farrell quotes him stating, "I was here from the early morning. We searched everybody.  One exploded himself among a group of soldiers and recruits. The recruiting has been going on for at least a week, and this was the last day. We were not expecting it because it was the final day."   BBC News adds, "The BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says that a suicide bomber walked up to the army recruitment centre where hundreds of people had been queuing for hours - some since Monday evening." At the top of the hour news briefs on NPR this morning, listeners heard Sykes state that no protection was provided for "men looking for employment." The New York Times' Stephen Farrell told PRI's The Takeaway this morning, "how a suicide bomber had just walked up to the recruiting station at 7:30 a.m., waited until he was surrounded by as large a crowd as he could get and then blew himself up." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) adds, "An interior ministry official said a person wearing a suicide vest triggered the explosion a few minutes past 8:00 a.m. local time." Channel 4 News states, "An army source suggested two bombers could have been involved in the attack as recruits gathered outside the centre in large groups to seek work." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "The senior officer said they believed the bomber had accomplices who helped him stow a pair of pants with explosives attached near the site and put them on in addition to the pants he was wearing. Some of the potential recruits had lined up before dawn."  Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) quotes recruit Ahmed Kadhim stating, "After the explosion, everyone ran away, and the soldiers fired into the air.  I saw dozens of people lying on the ground, some of them were on fire. Others were running with blood pouring out."  Aziz Alwan and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) describe the aftermath, "Hours after the bombing, families searched frantically for their relatives as casualties were transported to hospitals. An elderly woman collapsed in the middle of the street, screaming just a few yards from al-Midan square, where the recruits were killed. She slapped her face and wept as young boys tried to calm her." Andrew England (Financial Times of London) adds, "Another policeman pointed to bloody footprints left by survivors as he described how they fled in panic. Nearby, dozens of sandals belonging to the victims and a small heap of clothes were stacked in piles, while large pools of blood were left to congeal in the sun." PBS' Margaret Warner is in Iraq and she may have a report on tonight's The NewsHour.
The Guardian has video footage of some of the survivors after they were taken to the hospital. ITN offers a photo of one survivor in the hospital.  BBC News displays a photo essay on the aftermath.  Damien Pearse (Sky News) provides a text and video report. BBC News' Hugh Skye also files a video report:
Hugh Sykes: One of Baghdad's main hospitals was suddenly overwhelmed shortly after 7:30 this morning. The suicide bomber exploded his bomb in a large crowd. Dozens of men, some with terrible shrapnel and impact injuries, were taken to hospital after the attack.
Saleh Aziz: We were standing at al Muatham and the army and the officers were registering our names for recruiting when a bomb went off. I don't know exactly if it was a bomb or not.  All the young men and the officers were killed. I was wounded in my arms and, thanks God, I managed to run away.
Hugh Sykes: It happened on the other side of the Tigris River from the hospital in a square called the Maidan.  Hundreds of men had been waiting there all night hoping for a good place in the que for the army recruitment center and then the suicide bomber arrived. This bomb is part of a clear pattern of targeted attacks on the security forces here. Baghdad traffic policemen and federal police have been murdered in significant numbers over the past few weeks. Members of the government-backed, mostly Sunni Sahwa militia, the "Awakening" movement, have been attacked too and now these men simply queing for jobs in the army in a country where unemployment is running at 60%.
Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) observes of the bombing, "It marks a resumption of a previously successful tactic aimed at discouraging Iraqis from joining the police and army." Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) note, "It was the bloodiest single attack in months, and came less than two weeks before U.S. forces draw down to 50,000 and formally end their combat mission. Tensions have been rising as the deadlocked negotiations for a new government drag into a sixth month, and there are fears insurgents will try to take advantage of the political and security vacuum to stage a comeback." Sean Alfano (New York Daily News) notes, "Tuesday's bombing marks the fourth time in August Iraqi police or military have been attacked by insurgents."
The Economist notes, "By the end of next year even its military advisors expect to be gone, so they say, unless the Iraqi government asks them to stay (which is looking more likely now that American-made tanks and choppers are arriving in defence ministry lots)." Terry Patar of IHS's Iraq Focus Group tells Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News), "The longer the things go without a government being formed properly, the more of a driver there is for militant groups." The political stalemate.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 10 days.

Yesterday talks between Iraqiya and State Of Law broke down after Nouri declared on state television that Iraqiya was a "Sunni party." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "[Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon] Al-Damalouji said they were demanding an apology to the supporters of al-Iraqiya. Allawi, a secular Shiite, heads the cross-sectarian al-Iraqiya list, which won the largest number of seats in the March 7 national elections. Al-Iraqiya garnered most of the Sunni Arab vote." Leila Fadel and Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) observe, "The move by Allawi's group further isolates Maliki, who is intent on staying in power. This month a coalition of Shiite groups also halted talks with Maliki's group." They also note that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill (now former US Ambassador) just left the country (James Jeffrey has been confirmed as the new ambassador) and that Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, is set to leave Iraq September 1st. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) points out of Nouri, "Only the Kurds, who do not have enough votes to give Maliki a second term, have somewhat unenthusiastically said they do not reject him." Lindsey Hilsum (Channel 4 News) adds:
According to the think tank Stratfor, many of Mr Maliki's allies are taking their orders from Tehran, which is doing its obstructionist utmost.
"There are not enough of these politicians to create a government, but there are enough to block a government from being formed. Therefore, no government is being formed," said the most recent Stratfor analysis. Others blame Mr Allawi's grouping, which brings together both Shia and Sunni politicians, for refusing to accommodate Mr Maliki's faction.
With no government, even the illusion of stability cannot be maintained. Today's bombing of an army recruitment centre, with nearly 50 dead, is a sign of how dangerous the situation is.
Meanwhile Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) is reporting that Allawi is increasing talks with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and Ibrahim cites an announcement Allawi made yesterday, "In the next few days and thereafter, we are going to intensify our discussions to reach an important, mutual stance on what needs to be done to form the next government."
Earlier this month (August 6th), On The Media (NPR) addressed the issue of media with Deborah Amos (link has audio and text):
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The media echo chambers that we talk about so often are thriving in Iraq. People watch the channel that confirms their own views. And yet the phenomenon is not as strong there as it is here.
DEBORAH AMOS: Indeed, the studies show that Iraqis watch at least five different channels. They are crossing sectarian lines to watch different newscasts.
A Harvard professor who's done these kind of studies in the American media, he uses a wonderful term, which is "cognitive misers." That's what Americans are. We are cognitive misers. We don't like to watch stations that don't necessarily agree with our political opinion. It's too much trouble. And there's nothing really at stake for us to cross the lines. For Iraqis, there's plenty at stake. What are the other sects doing that I need to know about so that I can make some serious decisions about is my neighborhood safe? Do I send my kid to school tomorrow? Can I get to my job tomorrow? So it really matters for them to cross those lines.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The whole idea of a sectarian press is considered anti-democratic, and yet the newspaper environment of America 200 years ago, when our democracy was emerging, was incredibly sectarian.
DEBORAH AMOS: That's exactly right. And Iraq is mirroring an old system, in particular because it is not yet a commercial system. These channels are all funded by political parties, Islamists, Arab businessmen. Sharqiya may be the most popular because they are the most commercial. And once you become a commercial station, then you do have to broaden your appeal because you just don't have enough consumers in your particular sect. So it is possible that as all of these channels have to survive, not simply by funding of political parties but funding by commercial, that it may open that political space.
And while it's an interesting conversation with much to offer, we're noting it in this section, on the elections, for a reason.  Deborah Amos was brought on to discuss her recent paper [PDF format warning] "Confusion, Contradiction and Irony: The Iraqi Media in 2010."  Of prime interest:
In Iraq's short history of free elections, Shiite candidates have a demographic advantage. Shiites are approximately 60% of the population, and Iraqis voted almost exclusively along sectarian lines in the 2005 national elections and the 2009 provincial vote.  Maliki also had a media advantage.  The state-run national news network did not accept paid campaign advertisements, but freely broadcast extensive reports of Maliki's election appearances and campaign speeches in evening news bulletins. On the eve of the vote, state TV broadcast a documentary highlighting the Prime Minister's visit to security checkpoints around the capital. 
And guess who's political slate received the "highest positive coverage"?  Nouri's. 
So explain it to us, did alleged reporters just sit around on their asses watching Iraqi TV in the lead up to the election?
That would certainly explain the NPR embarrassment that is Quil Lawrence (who needs to get his Afghanistan reporting right real quick or we may start including Afghanistan in the snapshots).  For those who've forgotten, Iraq held elections March 7th.  The morning of March 8th, Quil Lawrence was announcing the Nouri al-Maliki was "the winner."  Not just that his slate got the most votes -- which it didn't -- but that Nouri was the winner.  NPR's never explained how that happened.  NPR's never bothered to address why the day after the election -- when no vote count, not even partial, was complete -- Quil was allowed to go on the air and declare Nouri the winner.  So what was it? The White House wanted Nouri to win.  (A Nouri win always meant an easy extension for the SOFA.)  Was Quil 'reporting' based on Iraqi media or was he schilling for the White House?  And why has NPR's ombudsperson never addressed the issue of a reporter calling the election when the votes weren't counted?
That's a serious question and it demands a serious answer.  Deborah Amos is a serious journalist (for NPR) and she is also the author of the new book Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.  The book addresses the exiles, the refugee crisis created by the violence and instability in Iraq.  The Baghdad bombing wasn't the only violence reported in Iraq today.  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that judges were also targeted today: in Baghdad Judge Kamal Jabbar Bander "was seriously injured" by a roadside bombing while in Diyala Province two other judges were wounded by a roadside bombing.  In addition to the targeting of those 3 judges, Reuters notes five more were targeted with bombs and 2 of those were killed, a Baghdad explosion (a generator and it may or may not have involved a bomb) which claimed 5 lives and left twenty-five injured, a Baghdad assault in which three people were injured after being shot by unknown assailants, 2 police officers shot dead in Kirkuk, a Baghdad grenade attack in which two people were injured, Hasan Abdul-Lateef (Trade Ministry's head of the audit department) was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 police officer was shot dead in Hamman al-Alil, 2 corpses (woman and a man) were discovered in Mosul (inside a car) and 1 employee of Badosh prison was shot dead in Mosul.  If we use Reuters' conservative count of 57 killed in the Baghdad bombing at the recruitment center and 123 injured, we're left with 71 reported deaths and 161 reported injured.
Staying with violence, last week, the US State Dept issued a warning on visiting Turkey which opened with:

There is an overall increase in violence and a continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout Turkey. The August 15 anniversary of the first PKK (also known as the Kongra-Gel (KGK)) attack against Turkish government installations has historically provided an excuse for an escalation of violence. While the PKK's intentions for the anniversary are unclear, the potential for violence or unrest warrants increased awareness during this period. The Mersin and Kız Kalesi areas in southeast Turkey have been put off limits for American military personnel from August 13–15.         
As discussed in previous Warden Messages, the PKK terrorist group has recently threatened increased violent activity in urban areas in Turkey, and there is credible information that the PKK intends to target tourist areas. There have also been recent clashes involving security forces and the PKK in parts of Turkey outside of the PKK's usual operating area in southeast Turkey.         
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey to be alert to the potential for terrorist-related violence and the possibility of increased PKK activity in urban and tourist areas, as well as throughout southeastern Turkey. We encourage all U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution and maintain a low profile throughout Turkey. We reiterate Department of State advice to take prudent steps to ensure your personal safety: remain vigilant and aware of surroundings, listen to news reports, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and vary times and routes for all travel.
That's in contrast to the report the Turkish government was trumpeting in the Turkish press.  Missed it?  The US press wasn't interested. The State Dept's Office of Inspector General issued a report that's interesting not in its praise for Turkey but in it really being beyond the scope of an auditor to produce.  Someone will have to explain that.  We'll come back to the State Dept.  Today Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Turkey and the United States have sped up talks over their cooperation in the U.S. forces' pullout process from Iraq, local newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on Monday. The two countries have increased the frequency of talks on using the Turkish soil to transfer U.S. troops, arms and logistics equipment out of Iraq, the newspaper quoted unnamed Turkish Foreign Ministry sources as saying."  Turkey's began a crackdown (yet another) on PKK and "PKK" and that will not play well in nothern Iraq.  It may not play well in the US. Ivan Watson (CNN) reported yesterday afternoon that Turkey was holding American citizen Jake Hess and claiming he was part of the PKK.  25-year-old Hess tells CNN, "I am being targeted for criticizing the Turkish government and criticizing human rights abuses. The prosecutor accused me of waging a smear campaign against the Turkish republic."  Patrick Cronin (SeacoastOnline) reports that hess is stating he is going to be deported.  Friday the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement which includes the following:
The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Turkish authorities to release American journalist Jake Hess, who is being detained in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, according to the Turkish daily Hürriyet. Hess is accused of collaborating with the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), referred to in news reports as the "urban wing" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).   

Hess, who is a contributor to the Inter Press Service new agency, was detained on Wednesday evening, according to Serkan Akbaş, his lawyer. Akbaş told CPJ that Hess "wrote several articles that angered the authorities." He added that when Hess was arrested the police said he was being detained on allegations of "aiding the PKK" and that his name was in the government's file on the KCK.

The lawyer told CPJ that Hess' name was in the KCK file likely in connection with a translation job he did in 2009 for a nongovernmental organization in Turkey called the Human Rights Association, which has reported extensively on human rights violations related to the Kurdish issue. Akbaş said that the timing of the arrest "clearly shows that they got annoyed with his articles." Hess wrote about human rights violations against Kurds. His latest piece, about Kurdish refugees who had fled to northern Iraq after the Turkish army attacked their villages, was published on August 4.

From Turkey to its border neighbor the KRG, the most recent episode of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing on Friday), Teymoor Nabili discussed the Kurdistan Regional Government with Iraqi MP Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, the KRG's representative in Baghdad Mohammad Ihsan and Iraqi political and economic expert Kamil Mahdi.
Teymoor Nabili: Kamil Mahdi, let me start with you if I may.  The situation in Kirkuk is being touted by the people there as the most stable in Iraq and certainly somewhere where they are hoping to attract foreign investment and encourage a degree of progress.  None the less, there are still a number of issues unresolved.  Give us an overview of how you see the situation in Kurdistan and its relationship with Baghdad.
Kamil Mahdi: Well relatively speaking, the situation in Kurdistan is indeed stable and it's secure unlik the rest of Iraq but the emphasis is on it being relatively the case. One of the sources of instability in Kurdistan -- in fact the ideology and the politics of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- is the emphasis of this government on resolving issues of longstanding claims in areas that are not under its control at the moment. And that is really a source of instability for Iraq as a whole and for the Kurdistan Region.  I think the Kurdistan Government, if it were to emphasize the economic prospects --
Teymoor Nabili: But --
Kamil Mahdi: -- in the region and to also move towards resolving problems in the region -- issues of jobs and services
Teymoor Nabili: Alright, but --
Kamil Mahdi: -- above all the issue of corrutpion in Kurdistan.
Teymoor Nabili: You're talking about instability and we're getting a general sense of perhaps a few problems but nothing serious but on the other hand there does seem to be and there has always been this constant fear that Kurdistan wants to secede and doesn't see itself as part of Iraq. That seems like more than just a little instability.  That seems like the potential for some serious division, don't you think?
Kamil Mahdi: This is the point that the emphasis of the Kurdistan Regional Government on resolving issues of conflict with Iraq is seen as a prelude to a demand for secession. Now the question is if this was the intention of the Kurdistan Regional Government then it should come clean --
Teymoor Nabili: Alright --
Kamil Mahdi: -- and not meddle too deeply into Iraqi politics.
Teymoor Nabili: Well let's put that too a member of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Mohammad Ihsan, the Kurdistan Government is advertising itself as "the other Iraq." It would seem to suggest that you don't want to be part of the existing Iraq. Is secession the ultimate goal? 
Mohammad Ihsan: The concept of "the other Iraq" [. . .] is not on the basis that we don't want to be part of Iraq. We wants to show better pictures of Iraq or better view of Iraq.  What people outside of Iraq, looking at Iraq.  This doesn't mean that there is a war or that there is sabotage operations or that there is a conflict.  We want to pursue our message to show the international community that we have part of Iraq which already exists, the economy is booming, you have stability, you have peace, and wait for us in the near future.  The other part of Iraq is also going to be the same.  That's our target for describing our process as "the other Iraq," not that we want to isolate ourselves or to show that we are not Iraqis, we are --
Teymoor Nabili: Well the relationship -- the relationship between [KRG President] Massoud Barzani and Nouri al-Maliki doesn't seem to suggest that there is a great deal of common interest.
Mohammad Ihsan: It's not a common interest. We have to accept that we are leaving a transitional period of time. Iraq after 2003, we moved to a totally different part of our history. A lot of things have been changed. We adopted new political system. We are adopting new economical system.  We are facing a war of terrorists.  We are facing a lot of things at the same time. This is why we have to accept that there will be a lot of differences. Disagreement among leaders in Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq or among Shia themselves, Sunni themselves.  We are at the stage of reforming the country, reforming the political system, reforming the national identity --
Teymoor Nabili: Alright.  Let me ask
Mohammad Ihsan -- as well.  We are doing all of these things at the same time.
Teymoor Nabili: Let me ask -- let me ask -- let me ask Abdul Hadi al-Hassani then.  Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, what do you think about the Kurdistan Region wanting to reform Iraq politics?
Abdul Hadi al-Hassani: I think [. . .] I believe Iraq is in a phase of transitional period and reforming period altogether. Let's not forget Iraq capital is Baghdad and the changing that's taken place in Baghdad not in the year 1991 or 1990 as the KRG had benefit from really. A lot of really security and assistance from the international world as a green zone. And this really transition and reformation, it need coherent cooperation between all Iraqi people whether they are in the north or the south, the KRG or in the rest of Iraq.
Teymoor Nabili: Why does Nouri al-Maliki think the only time he needs to particularly nice to the Kurdish politicians is when he needs their support in Parliament?
Abdul Hadi al-Hassani: [Long pause] Maliki or any prime minister of Iraq has to be really close to everybody in Iraq whether in the KRG or the south. We have one Constitution. We have on state. Furthermore, we believe we have to have on fiscal system, one political system which is democracy and election.
Turning to the United States, at the US State Dept yesterday, Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Corbin and the Defense Dept's Colin Kahl held a joint-press conference.  Listen to Kahl and laugh (it's okay, he's a War Hawk and an idiot and oh, so much more):
Moreover, as Michael explained, the U.S. interagency is focused very intensely at the moment on transitioning to a civilian-led mission in Iraq. I think contrary to the perceptions of some, this transition in the nature of U.S. presence in Iraq does not imply strategic disengagement. Instead, it signals a transformation in our bilateral relationship, and in many respects an increase or a deepening of our engagement in a way that's sustainable over the long term. I've traveled to Iraq in three of the four official visits by Vice President Biden and this is something that he makes a point of emphasizing, both in public and in private with Iraqi officials, is that we're not disengaging from Iraq; our engagement will increase. It's just the ratio of military versus civilian engagement is changing over time, as it should and as the Iraqis want it to.

At stake during this major transition, both for Iraq and the United States, is not only ensuring that stability in Iraq is enduring and that the Iraqi Government is able to meet the needs of its citizens, but also the consolidation of a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq that contributes to the region's peace and security. Given this variety of strategic issues, I want to take a few minutes to discuss the Administration's policy toward Iraq from a DOD perspective. I think my points will complement Michael's nicely. My brief remarks will basically skim over the surface of some current security trends, some of the remaining political drivers in our overall approach to dealing with them in – as we continue to draw down and support this transition.
So let me say a few things about where we are on the security front. Iraq's security situation, I think, is generally positive. The number of violent incidents in Iraq remains at its lowest levels of the war. According to USFI data, the number of security incidents and casualties -- that is, Iraqi civilian casualties, Iraqi security force casualties, and U.S. casualties -- for the first five months of 2010 are the lowest on record. We should expect to see periodic spikes.
No, it's not at the "lowest levels of the war."  And that the press didn't challenge that false claim goes to how in the tank they've all gotten (except of course for the ones who were just bored by the whole press conference).  What an idiot.  It didn't take today's violence to make him an idiot.  And the War Hawk works for the Defense Dept.  And is on board with the militarization of the US Embassy in Iraq.  Start making the connections, don't wait on the press because they're never going to point it out.  There's no withdrawal.  But look to Kohl, follow him down his rabbit hole, and you'll start to see who will be over the Samantha Power plan of militarizing diplomacy.  Two gal pals sitting around War Hawking apparently.  (It's not Hillary, kids, but the woman may take Gates' job.) Michael Schwartz speaks with Ashley Smith about the non-withdrawal (US Socialist Worker):
Secondly, the State Department actually has a small military force of its own. It has made public pronouncements that it's going to increase that military force to a tremendous size to protect all of the American civilians in Iraq. It made requests to take over the five major military posts that remain in Iraq, each of which is meant to accommodate about 10,000 soldiers.
Third, the U.S. has flooded Iraq with civilian contractors and bureaucrats--what U.S. officials call their "civilian presence." They built the largest embassy in world history, and they plan to expand it quite considerably to accommodate almost twice the 1,000 diplomats it was built to hold. These civilians will constitute a very important presence for the U.S., different from the military, but nevertheless constituting pressure on the Iraqis to conform to U.S. policies.
But even with these surrogates, the U.S. military leadership has repeatedly said that it expects a modification of the SOFA that will permit a continued American military presence. The fact that it isn't dismantling the five major bases suggests that it expects to get some kind of agreement to retain a significant military force to control the country.
U.S. officials are determined to do so because the Iraqi government has not been compliant with American wishes. When the current political impasse since the election gets resolved, we should not expect the next Iraqi government to be any more compliant. Therefore, the U.S. will need a military force to discipline the Iraqi government.
Also in the US, World Can't Wait is getting the word out on an upcoming action:

We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.         
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?         
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!               
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.
Lastly, go to War Is A Crime for more on this but David Swanson is endorsing David Segal and we'll close with  some of the following:
On Thursday, August 19th, show up at 5:30 p.m. at Local 16 on U Street to help David Segal get elected to Congress from Rhode Island.

There are lots of ways to change Congress that falsely appear easy, that would alter the rules and patterns of behavior if only Congress were already fixed and willing to make the changes, or if we owned the television networks, or if people could suddenly hear what they're paid good money never to hear. But I've got a way to change Congress that is actually easy.

Congress lacks leadership. There is a progressive caucus, but it has never fought for anything. It doesn't fund its members' campaigns. It doesn't withhold votes needed for passing bills. It just does rhetoric. There are committees, but they don't subpoena, they don't send the police to pick up witnesses, they don't fine witnesses who refuse to answer questions. Congress thinks oversight was an oversight. If asked to put future generations into debt to fund wars, Congress asks "Would you like a side of drones with that?" Congress doesn't want power.
[. . .]

Here's audio of an interview I just did with David Segal: mp3.

Here's the transcript:

Swanson: This is David Swanson and I'm speaking with David Segal, candidate for Congress from Rhode Island, and someone I think that political progressives from around the country might want to be taking an interest in. David, thanks for speaking with me.

Segal: Thank you, and thank you for saying all those nice things.

Swanson: Well, I wonder if you could say from your own point of view what is your background that brings you to this and why you think people outside of Rhode Island might want to be paying a little attention.

Segal: I was a city councilman in Providence first elected as a Green in 2002 and then in the state legislature since 2006 as a Democrat. And if you want to talk about why I decided to make that transition from one party to another I'm happy to in more detail. But my work throughout those eight years has entailed pushing back against powerful, typically wealthy corporatist interests, against leadership within my own party when I was a Democrat, against the powers that be in Providence to try to do right by working families in Providence and Rhode Island, to try to push back against the standard fare corporatist interests that run the country and also run the state and also run the city. And work's happened on basically every issue front that a progressive might care about.

Swanson: I know a couple of areas that you've been involved with. One is proposing to cease funding out wars overseas should you be elected to Congress. I set up a list called A Coalition Against War Spending (, and you or your campaign immediately signed you on there with many other candidates. But many of them are Greens, many of them are Libertarians, and many are Democrats. What is your thinking in being willing to say you'll stop voting to fund the wars, because as you know, a great many members of Congress are willing to say they oppose the wars and they are critics of the wars but will not come within many miles of saying, "I won't fund the wars."

Segal: Right. Well, I'll start by saying I'm a vegetarian and wouldn't hurt a fly. I've been against the wars since before they began. I was, my first act on City Council in Providence was to sponsor an antiwar resolution in 2003 through the Cities for Peace program, which was obviously not a, it was going to end the war or prevent the war in its own right, but it was a necessary step between here and there. It had cities assert that the war was clearly going to have negative impacts on cities and their ability to function, fund municipal services and education, and so on. And it has, of course, had all of those effects. So my first act as a councilmember was to oppose the war in Iraq. And I represent the area around Brown and RISD and helped restart antiwar mobilization on campus which was waning during the sort of 2004, 2003-2004 era where there was this full Washington consensus that the war was OK and the war was going kind of well, even. And left activists were demoralized. We restarted a chapter here and I've helped organize and spoken at countless rallies about the war.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 19, 2010, 08:44:27 am
Iraq snapshot - August 18, 2010

The Common Ills

Wednesday, August 18, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, judges remain targeted, the political stalemate continues, the refugee crisis continues, tomorrow is World Humanitarian Day, and more.
CNN reports that James Jeffrey "presented his diplomatic credentials" today in Baghdad.  He is the new US Ambassador to Iraq.  (Most recently, he was the US Ambassador to Turkey.)  Arthur MacMillan (AFP) quotes him stating, "It is a great honour for me to return to Iraq. I look forward to renewing old frienships, strengthening our ties with Iraqi leaders and deepening our civilian egnagement for the long term throughout this historic land." Return?  MacMillan notes that June 2004 through June 2005 saw Jeffrey serve "as deputy chief of mission and then charge d'affaires" in Iraq.  It's also notes he was "deputay national security adviser" under Bully Boy Bush.  NSA.  Pay attention to that term if you want to know where US involvement in Iraq is headed.
Jeffrey is the new Ambassador to Iraq.  The old US Ambassador to Iraq sat back and did nothing as Iraq entered into a poltical stalemate.  Atul Aneja (Hindu) observes, "Analysts point out that the significant spurt in Iraq violence in recent months can in large measure be attributed to the political vacuum after the March parliamentary elections."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 11 days.

Last night, Flavia Krause-Jackson and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reported on the old ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, and his ludicrous farewell conference. As they note, he pinned his hopes on Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani stepping in to end the political stalemate. Here's Hill talking about al-Sistani:

It's really hard to say. I mean, we know that he's following this issue on a daily basis. He obviously has a lot of wisdom about the political process. He knows it very well. He knows the players very well. All the players have gone and seen him. They're in constant communication with him. So I suspect that any role he can play, he's playing. And I suspect that he is playing it in the best way he can to ensure that there's a positive outcome here. He believes -- and everybody agrees there, just about everybody agrees -- that when the government is finally formed, you will see Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds in that government together. You will see a government that's very much balanced. When you look at the offers made to Iraqiya, they have been offered -- Iraqiya, as a party that -- where most of the Sunnis voted, you will see substantial offers of important positions there. So I think everyone understands the need to bring all, as they say in Iraq, components -- that is Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia -- together. And I think Sistani has made very clear his view on that and how he is conveying that view is probably best less to him -- left to him.
Not addressed in the press briefing was the rumors that the US government (via Jeffrey Feltman) has threatened the Iraqi officials with the declaration of a State of Emergency is the stalemate is not ended -- maybe that's an example of the "advise-and-assist role" Hill was blabbering away about.
"And that's why we monitor very closely this issue of Sons of Iraq and making sure that payments are being received and issues like that," Hill maintained in the press conference and no one challenged him on that -- even though the checks aren't coming and that's one of the reasons al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is allegedly trying to recruit from Sahwa.
Today Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports on the Freedom City in Najaf, which the Mahdi Army vows they will fill up as they attack US forces should US forces not leave on December 31, 2011. That's the date in the Status Of Forces Agreement. Hill was asked about the treaty yesterday and replied:
Now, that overall Status of Forces Agreement extends till December 31st, 2011. That is the basis on which we have any forces in Iraq, and I think any future forces, any speculation about that, would have to depend on a new agreement, and there is no agreement right now. So the agreement that people are focusing on is the agreement that ends in 2011. So I'm not going to stand here and speculate what will happen in a year and a half from now, except that there needs to be a new Iraqi Government, they need to look at the implementation of the current agreement, and they need to look at what they see as necessary in the future after the expiration of the agreement.
The Status of Forces Agreement was dealt with on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer yesterday as they addressed that day's violence. George Stephanopoulos filled in for Diane as anchor. For their Baghdad section, he was joined by Martha Raddatz.
George Stephanopoulos: Baghdad was rocked by two deadly bomb attacks today, exactly two weeks before the last US combat troops leave Iraq. It's the kind of carnage we saw constantly when the war was raging. A suicide bomber killed dozens of people at an Iraqi army recruiting station and later a fuel truck bomb killed at least 8. So let's bring in our Martha Raddatz for more on that and clearly, Martha, some are trying to take advantage of this turnover that's coming in just a couple of weeks.
Martha Raddatz: It sure seems that way, George. This was really a horrific bombing. There were Iraqi recruits trying to join the Iraqi army. Thousands of them lined up, they had been there all night, desperate for jobs. Someone walked in, apparently wearing a suicide vest, mingled among all these recruits and blew himself up. The vest was packed with nails. They say as many as 60 were killed, about a hundred injured. And there was also that fuel truck bombing that you mentioned where eight were killed so very, very reminiscent of the early days of the war, George.
George Stephanopoulos: Despite these bombings, no second thoughts by the Americans or the Iraqis.
Martha Raddatz: Well absolutely no second thoughts yet. Of course, American troops are supposed to be out of Iraq completely in 2011, the end of 2011. Only the Iraqis can change that and, I have to tell you, George, most of the people I talk to believe the Iraqis eventually will decide to change that and have many American troops remaining in country.
Similar statements about the SOFA were made yesterday by Hill and Monday in the joint-news conference the State Dept's Michael Corbin and DoD's Kahl Colin held and Kahl replied to a question asking about US forces remaining in Iraq after 2011,  "The second question you asked about the post-2011 situation, I mean, it's a hypothetical so I can't comment on it because we don't have an Iraqi Government yet. The terms of the security agreement are clear, though, right? The terms of the security agreement, where were negotiated by the last administration and the Iraqi Government are that remaining U.S. forces will depart by the end of 2011. Any revision to that would have to be initiated by an Iraqi Government. We don't have a new Iraqi Government yet, and so it's -- and so if we have a new Iraqi Government and they come to us with a specific set of requests -- I don't think we can answer that question." And pair it with Corbin's assertion that "we're not leaving"  in the following exchange:
QUESTION: Could I follow up on that, please? In your discussions with Turkey about the drawdown, are you talking about the possible Turkish military presence in the north of Iraq to ease the concerns of (inaudible) about the PKK?             

MR. CORBIN: Colin, I don't know if you have anything to say. We -- our drawdown is based on our -- President Obama's plan for our presence in Iraq and we are, of course, consulting with all our regional neighbors and explaining that, but we don't -- and we do, as -- we consider the PKK a terrorist organization and we do work closely with the Iraqi Government and the Turks together and the representatives of the KRG on means to combat PKK terrorism. But we --                   
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. What about after you leave? I mean, do you think Peshmerga is --

MR. CORBIN: Well, the first thing is we're not leaving and this type of civilian cooperation, which is led by, for example, in this trilateral process that we have, it's led by civilians. It's the ministry of interior from the Turkish side, it's the Embassy with support from USFI on our side, it's the Kurdish minister of interior equivalent, and it's the – it was the Iraqi minister of state for national security affairs who was running this. So this type of cooperation has got to continue and it's important.           
Violence? At least 12 reported deaths and 31 reported injured.  The targets today were primarily police officers, Sahwa and Iraqi soldiers.  Yesterday, attempts were made to kill 8 judges and 2 were successful attempts.  Today, another 2 judges are reported assassinated. 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two people, two more Baghdad roadside bombings left ten people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack injured two people, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (two other people were injured), a Ramadi roadside bombing which wounded three people (including one police officer) and a Kasma Kilo car bombing which left three police officers and four by-standers injured. Reuters notes a Tikrit roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left two people wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad assassination of 1 "government employee," the Baghdad assassination of Judge Jabir Jumaa and the Baghdad assassination of Judge Najim al Talabani (which follows yesterday's targeting of 8 judges, three of which were killed), a Baghdad Sahwa checkpoint was attacked leaving 1 Sahwa dead and two more wounded,  1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul, 2 police officers shot dead in Kirkuk and, dropping back to Monday, 1 man shot dead in Mosul "and his young son" left wounded.

Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul
Yesterday CNN and the network's Alexander Mooney reported on the latest CNN - Opinion Research Corp poll which found "69 percent oppose the war in Iraq -- the highest amount of opposition in any CNN poll." And while respondents support a withdrawal they do so with eyes open to the possible issues arising when a withdrawal takes place: "Six in 10 say they are not confident in the Iraqi government's ability to handle the situation in that country." That's bad news for War Hawks.  Opposing withdrawal, War Hawks always want to whine, "Think what will happen!"  Americans, juding by the poll, are aware of the possibilities.  They're also probably aware that the alternative is permanent occupation which they don't favor. Sentiment against the illegal war hardened sometime ago.  And the poll indicates that attempts by War Hawks to insist the illegal war continue for 'humanitarian reasons' (so Samantha Power) will not work as a scare tactic.  Iraq will rise or fall on its own when US forces leave -- whenever that is.  The Iraqi people will determine their future and that may include determining that the exile class installed by the US government does not represent them or their country's best interests. 
The violence already exists in war-torn Iraq and has never vanished.  It's created the Iraqi refugee crisis, the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948.  Tomorrow is World Humanitarian Day.  The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) explains:
 Thursday marks an important occasion for the staff of UNHCR and all humanitarian workers. It is the day that militants detonated a massive truck bomb in Baghdad in 2003, killing 22 people including 18 UN staff members and injuring dozens more. Last year, the UN and other humanitarian organizations began honouring the anniversary as 'World Humanitarian Day' in order to recognize the contribution made by humanitarian workers worldwide.
Here at UNHCR, we spoke to a handful of our staff about their experience on the job. One story that we are publishing today, which is available here, reports on the unique challenges of working in Iraq and the broader Middle East. In another, which can be read here, Vincent Cochetel, who was kidnapped and held for nearly a year in Chechnya while serving as head of UNHCR's north Caucasus office, discusses the ordeal and the lessons it holds for his colleagues in the field.

To learn more about World Humanitarian day, go here.

Wafa Amr, Helene Caux, Farah Dakhlallah, Nabil Othman and Sireen Khalifeh look at the Iraqi refugee crisis on behalf of the UNHCR: Depending on the organization estimating, there are between 3.9 million refugees and 4.5 million.  Iraq's population (non-refugee) is largely young (only 59% are estimated to be over the age of 15).
For UNHCR Iraqi staff member Wafa, just going to work and returning home at the end of the day is a life-threatening experience. Elias Shalhoub, a psychologist and protection officer in Lebanon, says the challenge for him lies in discussing the needs of refugees and not knowing whether he can help. Martha Kow-Donkor, a field officer for UNHCR in Yemen braves tribal checkpoints and mine fields to help deliver aid to internally displaced people there. Her main worry is failing to reach people in time.             
All three are struggling to balance the hardships, dangers and frustrations of their work with the UN Refugee Agency with the goal of helping some of the world's neediest people.
Andrew England (Financial Times of London) observes of the refugee crisis, "This enduring tragedy shows few signs of easing even as US troops prepare to leave Iraq next year. After the British-American invasion of 2003, Iraq sank into the bloody chaos of insurgency and sectarian violence. Entire neighbourhoods of the country's cities, particularly Baghdad, were cleared of either their Sunni or Shia inhabitants."  Jonny Abo and Abdul Jalil Mustafa (DPA) note al-Mortagi Abdel-Moneim al-Kaabi, an Iraqi who became a refugee following being shot multiple times and who says, "I still suffer from a lot of diseases but thank God I'm alive, although I feel like I am psychologically bleeding because I cannot forget the painful memories."  Now he and his wife (who has breast cancer and is receiving treatments for which charitable assistance -- from the UN -- only pays 40% of the cost ) live in Syria.  Syria and Jordan have the bulk of Iraq's refugee population.   Fiyaz Mughal (Daily Star) explains, "The Syrian government estimates that there are 1 million refugees in the country, the overwhelming majority coming from Iraq. In Jordan, estimates for Iraqi refugees range from 600,000 to 700,000 and the influx has led to a steep rise in real estate and food prices in urban areas. As a result, many Jordanians harbor increasing resentment toward refugees."  Lebanon and Egypt also have a large amount.  The western world has not done a very good job on the issue -- despite a lot of public pronouncements.  Andrew Ward (Finanical Times of London) reports Sweden cares little for Iraqi refugees as evidenced by the tape interview of Iraqi Riyad with Swiss immigration officials.  Riyad explains his brother was, beheaded, that, "They murdered my brother and would have done the same to me."  To which the immigration official replies, "Yes, I know that. But it doesn't count that they might do the same thing to you; you have to prove there is an actual threat."  Riyad's brother can prove it -- but of course that required his dying.  Apparently, when Sweden deports Riyad, if he's killed in Iraq, they'll say, "Well, you proved it.  You're dead, but we'll give you citizenship after-the-fact.  Congratulations." A very small number make it to the US.  (Detroit, the San Diego area and Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas in Texas have been among the areas many Iraqi refugees have settled in.)  Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) reports on Iraqi refugee Elham who lives with Ayd (her husband) in Maryland where she now works "as a doctor's assistant."  In Iraq, Elham was a doctor, a gynecolist.  She states, "Before we arrived, we were told that as doctors we would be welcomed with open arms. But when we got here, everyone told us we were over-qualified and that we should not mention our degrees, so that I could get a job as a housekeeper. [. . .]  I was respected in Iraq as a doctor and now I come here and I am nothing. It's very difficult for me to accept this idea."
Among the hardest hit communities -- probably the second hardest hit when you break it down into percentages (the Jewish community in Iraq has vanished, they would be the worst hit) -- in the country is the Mandaeans which now counts, Stephen Starr (Asia Times) notes, 70,000 external refugees and only 5,000 still in Iraq.  Starr offers this background:
Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist and moved from the Holy Land to the expanses of today's southern Iraq and southwest Iran around the second century AD. Their religious origins are thought to have been drawn independently of Christianity and may even be older. They are monotheists - thought to be the oldest in the Middle East - believing in a single god.                   

Mandaeans are also Gnostics, believing in mysticism and a heightened role of the natural world. Very little has been recorded of the Mandaean religion and traditions and in principle people cannot convert to, or leave, the religion. They speak their own language and have quietly been struggling to keep their customs alive for almost 2,000 years.
Mission Network News released the following on Monday:
Iraq (MNN) -- "Get up! Grab your things. We need to go!" Imagine these words said in panic, as you and your family are given less than 24 hours to gather your belongings and leave your home in Iraq.                                 

Open Doors USA says for thousands of Iraqi Christians, this scenario has become a real life nightmare, as extremist Muslims force them to either leave their homes or pay with their lives.                     

Often, believers only have time to grab a few essentials and leave with the clothes on their back. Among these items is usually a Bible, as they cling to it and its message of hope.

To help these refugees, Open Doors is aiding in the set up medical projects, as well as distributing emergency packs, which include basic necessities.                     

However, their response is dependent on faithful supporters lending their gifts and prayers.

Pray that God will grant courage to these fleeing families. Pray that they will not back down from their faith, even in the midst of persecution.                       

Also, you can give financial support to Open Doors USA's relief efforts by clicking here.

Deborah Amos' new book is entitled Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.  It covers the refugee crisis.  August 10th, she and Steve Inskeep discussed some troubling realities about the refugee crisis on Morning Edition (NPR -- links has text and audio):
Steve Inskeep: And let's just emphasize here, is this turning into almost a permanent refugee population, a permanent population of Iraqis who will be outside their country the same way that there are Palestinians who have been outside of the Palestinian territories for decades now?       
Deborah Amos: It begins to look that way.  Not that there was ever a flood of returnees, there wasn't, but 2010 has been less than 2009. And people are making this calculation, that as long as there's a government crisis as the Americans drawdown, why would you go back now?  It is not easy to be a refugee.  It's likely that your kids are out of school. It is likely that your diet is a mess, that you're probably eating mostly, you know, sugared tea and bread, for at least two of those meals.  The international community's largesse -- while never large, is less. People want this crisis to be over.             
Steve Inskeep: And I suppose if you had another round of sectarian warfare, you'd have to be prepared for that possiblity of another million people coming across the border at some point.             
Deborah Amos: You know, 18 months ago that was the nightmare scenario.  As Americans drewdown, there would be a return to the full out sectarian war.  It doesn't look like that's going to happen.  However, it is this randomness of the violence and, more important, it is the inability of this government to find some power sharing agreement between Sunnis and Shi'ites.  As you know, the majority of the refugees outside are Sunnis and Christians. They are watching a government that cannot come to terms with a Sunni-backed political coalition that won the most seats in Parliament, and yet has not been able to use that power to come into the prime ministership. Every country in the region is now meddling in Iraq because of the weakness of the state. And so, it is very difficult for them to consider returning. Better to wait, better to wait and see what happens.                 

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 20, 2010, 11:44:01 am
Iraq snapshot - August 19, 2010

The Common Ills

Thursday, August 19, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Michael Gordon offers a critique of electronic media, Tony Blair tries to wash the blood away, and more.
Today on PRI's The Takeaway, John Hockenberry spoke with Michael R. Gordon of the New Yourk Times.
John Hockenberry: When we say noncombat troops -- it almost sounds like an oxymoron -- but noncombat troops, is that a semantic distinction or is there something real in that term.
Michael R. Gordon: Well it's not even accurate. I think that what happened yesterday was largely symbolic and to some extent hyped by the electronic media.  The uh -- What's happening is there are combat troops remaining in Iraq. The 50,000 troops include six brigades which are essentially combat brigades.  But these combat brigades have been renamed assist-and-advise brigades and they've been given a task of helping to train the Iraqi army but that doesn't mean they're not made up of combat troops. They are. And in addition, the US is still helping the Iraqi special forces carry out counter-terrorism missions against al-Qaeda operatives and all of that and that fits my definition of "combat."
Before we get to that, we're again dropping back to Monday's State Dept press briefing by the "Near Eastern and North African Affairs Bureau Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Michael Corbin and Defense Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Middle East Affairs Colin Kahl." So that's US State Dept and DoD both represented. We've covered it repeatedly and probably will again in the future. So the two were explaining the militarization of diplomacy in Iraq. Here's Corbin:

We're going to have two consulates in Iraq, and the Council of Ministers recently signed off on having two consulates -- one in Basra and one in the north, in Erbil. And these consulates provide a recognized important diplomatic platform for all the types of programs that we want to do now and that we'll want to do in the future. And consulates around the world used to be a very key element of our diplomatic presence. We'll have two of those consulates. And obviously, one is in the Kurdish region in the north and the other is in Basra, which has enormous economic importance as the -- being close to Umm Qasr, the only -- Iraq's only port, being close to the new oil fields, the ones that have been exposed in the latest oil bid rounds. So we're going to have different interests in these consulates, but they serve as platforms for us to apply all the tools of a diplomatic presence.

And, in case you're wondering, in Baghdad -- the Green Zone section -- the US Embassy will remain. So three buildings -- Nope. Citing "this transition from the military to civilians" as the reason more is needed, he explained their would be "embassy branch offices" "in Kirkuk and in Mosul . . . An embassy branch office is a diplomatic termthat is recognized as a way diplomats can have presence, but these are going to be temporary presences, as Deputy Secretary Lew has explained. These are a three to five-year presence . . ." If you're trying to calculate, he's referring to 2011 (or 2012) so add three and five years to that.             
Asked about the air space and Iraq needing the US to continue to provide protection for the air space, Kahl responded, "You're right about the air sovereignty, what the U.S. military calls the air sovereignty gap. For all the right reasons, we've focused on building Iraq's ground forces to provide for internal security and be able to conduct counterinsurgency operations. We've also made a lot of progress in building up their air force, but largely kind of the foundation for a capable force, as opposed to one that can fully exercise and enforce Iraq's air sovereignty. We can expect that the Iraqis will have requirements for air sovereignty that extend beyond 2011, which is one of the reasons they've expressed interest in purchasing a multi-role fighter to provide for their own security. All their neighbors have it, et cetera." Asked to elaborate on "provide assistance," Kahl responded, " You're right about the air sovereignty, what the U.S. military calls the air sovereignty gap. For all the right reasons, we've focused on building Iraq's ground forces to provide for internal security and be able to conduct counterinsurgency operations. We've also made a lot of progress in building up their air force, but largely kind of the foundation for a capable force, as opposed to one that can fully exercise and enforce Iraq's air sovereignty. We can expect that the Iraqis will have requirements for air sovereignty that extend beyond 2011, which is one of the reasons they've expressed interest in purchasing a multi-role fighter to provide for their own security. All their neighbors have it, et cetera."                   

With that background, today Michael R. Gordon reports on the current realities.Speaking to Ryan Crocker -- the former US Ambassador to Iraq -- Gordon is informed that the US needs to be flexible and that a request to extend the SOFA would be in the US' "strategic interest." From Gordon's article:                             

With the Obama administration in campaign mode for the coming midterm elections and Iraqi politicians yet to form a government, the question of what future military presence might be needed has been all but banished from public discussion.                                     
"The administration does not want to touch this question right now," said one administration official involved in Iraq issues, adding that military officers had suggested that 5,000 to 10,000 troops might be needed. "It runs counter to their political argument that we are getting out of these messy places," the official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, added. "And it would be quite counterproductive to talk this way in front of the Iraqis. If the Iraqis want us, they should be the demandeur."                       

This morning, Ross Colvin (Reuters) provided an analysis on the possibility that US would withdraw in 2011 and notes various public statements but here's the key passage:

The U.S.-Iraq military pact that came into force in 2009 provides the legal basis for U.S. troops to be in Iraq. Under the agreement, all U.S. troops must be out by 2012. But U.S. negotiators say that even as the pact was being negotiated, it was considered likely it would be quietly revised later to allow a longer-term, although much smaller, force to remain.

And now we go back to PRI's The Takeaway:
John Hockenberry: First of all, do you see no US military presence in Iraq for America after 2011, is that possible?             
Michael R. Gordon: I think it's unlikely. And in the view of a lot of Iraqis and people like Ambassador Ryan Crocker -- who served as abassador in Iraq from 2007 to 2009 -- undesirable. The Bush administration signed an agreement to get all troops out by the end of 2011.  The Obama administration is -- which is in a campaign mode now as it approaches the midterm elections, has promised to honor that but, really, there are going to be a lot of tasks that remain. For example, Iraq will have no air force.  Well who's going to patrol the Iraqi skies? It almost certainly will be the United States.  Iraq is buying M1 tanks and artillery. Well who's going to help them field it and learn how to operate it?  It's almost certainly going to be the United States. al Qaeda militants and Iranian-backed militias are going to remain in Iraq in some measure. They've been attacking US forces over the last several months. Certainly, it seems very likely that there will be some sort of US role in advising or helping Iraqi special operation forces to go after them. And there's going to be a very large civilian role.  There's going to be 2,400 odd civilians -- State Dept and other officials carrying out functions not only in Baghdad but in Kirkuk and Mosul, trying to tamp down Kurdish-Arab tensions. And they're going to rely, under current plans, on private security contractors.  It's kind of ironic that the Obama administraion is going to be preside over a more than doubling of private security contractors in Iraq, but that's the current plan. If we negotiatea new agreement with Iraq to keep some US forces there, maybe that burden will be reduced somewhat.               
As Gordon notes, electronic media is making a big deal about the departure of combat brigades.  Setting aside the theatrics of renaming, did the last US 'combat' brigade pull out of Iraq as everyone's insisting?  Apparently not. Xinhua reports, "An U.S. official from the Defense Ministry has denied that the U.S. combat troops have completed withdrawal from Iraq, the official Iraqia television reported Thursday. 'What happened was a reorganization for these troops as some 4,000 soldiers had been pulled out and the rest of the combat troops (will leave) at the end of this month,' Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quoted as saying. His comments came after some U.S. media said earlier that the last brigade from the combat troops has left Iraq Thursday morning two weeks before the deadline of Aug. 31." Calling it the "second fake end to Iraq War," Jason Ditz ( observes:
Officials have been pretty straightforward about what really happened, not that it has been picked up by the media, which has preferred the more pleasant narrative of a decisive military victory. Instead, the US simply "redefined" the vast majority of its combat troops as "transitional troops," then removed a brigade that they didn't relabel, so they could claim that was the "last one." Even this comes with the assumption that the State Department, and a new army of contractors, will take over for years after the military operations end, assuming they ever do. 

And it worked, at least for now. All is right with the world and the war is over, at least so far as anyone could tell from the TV news shows.

And James Denselow (at Huffington Post) notes, "As US combat units pulled back into Kuwait today a single soldiers was spotted shouting 'we won, we won'. What has been won is perhaps the narrative which states that despite regular bloodletting, Iraq is a success that the US can depart from with honor."   northsum32 (All Voices) explains, "To move around Iraq without United States troops, the State Department plans to acquire 60 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, called MRAPs, from the Pentagon; expand its inventory of armored cars to 1,320; and create a mini-air fleet by buying three plans to add to its lone aircraft. Its helicopter fleet, which will be piloted by contractors, will grow to 29 choppers from 17. There are to be 6 to 7 thousand private security contractors. This is bound to cause conflict with the Iraqi government which has been very critical of private security firms."   For more on that topic, refer to Michele Kelemen's report for All Things Considered (NPR).         
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 12 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.  Today the New York Times' Anthony Shadid spoke with Steve Inskeep about the stalemate for NPR's Morning Edition:
Mr. SHADID: Well I think, Steve there's a real question here about power and the question of power. How powerful is the prime minister? How powerful is the cabinet? Basically what system is going to arise here that's going to govern this country? Those questions are unanswered. They're at the core of the negotiations. There's a lot of disputes on where to go and how to get there. But I think there's even a deeper question here, and I think this is whats alarming to a lot people who have spent a lot of time here, and that's the almost utter disenchantment among the public for the political elite. There's a real divorce here, between governed and governors, between ruler and ruled. And that, I think, is one of the more unpredictable factors we see going on right now.             
INSKEEP: In a few seconds - are people thinking again, as they were a few years ago, about the country falling apart?                 
Mr. SHADID: You know, there's a lot of worry that the longer this stalemate goes on, the worse it's going to get.             
Today David Ignatius (Washington Post) observes, "It's now five months after the March elections that gave a narrow victory to former prime minister Ayad Allawi over incumbent Nouri al-Maliki. The Shiite parties that were once allied with Maliki have mostly abandoned him, yet he hangs on as though he were prime minister for life, Arab-style. Meanwhile, the bombs keep going off in Baghdad."  And the violence continued today with at least 8 reported deaths and seven reported wounded.
Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports a Ramadi roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and a Falluja sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people and three Mosul roadside bombings which injured four police officers.
Reuters notes a Kirkuk attack on "the headquarters of the Kurdish intelligence services" in which 1 assailant was shot dead (and injured another), 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Kirkuk, 1 civilian shot dead in Mosul and 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.
Turning to England where Tony Blair's latest 'antics' have caused further uproar.  The War Hawk and former prime minister is publishing his autobiography -- not titled, despite rumors, What I Did For Love and George W. Bush -- and apparently hoping for some good press, he decided he would donate the profits from the book for a military rehabilitation facility.  The editorial board of the Independent of London notes the current political stalemate in Iraq, the rise in violence and concludes, "As the impassioned response to Mr Blair's donation has shown, however, this war remains as fresh in the memory -- and almost as divisive as it was when it began. That there will now be a positive aspect to Mr Blair's legacy, and one that implicitly recognises the human cost of his fateful decision, deserves to be recognised. But it cannot erase, nor will it compensate for, the irreversible damage that has been done."  At The Economist blog Britain Blightly, J.G. blogs this thought, "The alternative criticism, that the donation is just a cynical PR stunt, seems less wilfully deluded. But it still strikes me as mistaken. Mr Blair is portrayed as both a shallow, image-conscious salesman and as a messianic ideologue driven by stupidly fixed convictions. He cannot be both."  Yes, he can.  The term would be "dichotomy."  I thought the British were supposed to be good with the English language. Not to mention good at drama since dichotomy's lend themselves so well to portraits of tragic figures.  At England's Stop The War, we'll note this from Robin Beste's "All Neptune's oceans could not wash the blood from Blair's hands:"

Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hands? asks the mass murderer Macbeth in Shakespeare's play.                   

Tony Blair clearly thinks that by donating the millions he is being paid for his memoirs to the British Legion he will wash his hands clean of the hundreds of thousands of civilians and the 179 British soldiers killed as a result of war in Iraq.

It won't stop Peter Brierley, whose son was killed in Iraq, who says his aim is still; "that one day we will see Tony Blair in court for the crimes he committed. Peter famously refused to shake Blair's hand at a memorial service for soldiers who died in Iraq, saying, "Don't you dare. "You have my son's blood on your hands."           

Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son, Fusilier Gordon Gentle, was killed in Basra in 2004, said she was pleased injured troops would benefit but said it would not change the way she felt about Blair. "It is OK doing this now but it was decisions Blair made when he was prime minister that got us into this situation. I still hold him responsible for the death of my son."               

The money Blair is donating from his memoirs will be welcome for those soldiers it helps who have been seriously injured in Britain's wars.                   

But no amount of money can buy Blair innocence or forgiveness for the series of lies he told against the best legal advice which told him the war was illegal under international law, or for his defiance of the vast majority of people in Britain, who protested in unprecedented numbers to tell Blair that his warmongering was "not in our name".                 

And before anyone gets duped by the "generosity" of Blair's donation, we need to recall how shamelessly he has exploited the contacts he made from his war crimes. 

And as  we're all supposed to pretend the illegal  war ended today, we'll instead close with reality from Peace  Mom Cindy Sheehan's "Racketeers for Capitalism by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy Sheehan's Soap Box):

I happen to believe that the wars and everything else became Obama's problems on January 20, 2009, but in reading comments about today's carnage on that bastion of centrism, the Huffington Post -- many people either believe that the Afghanistan occupation just became Obama's War today, or that (in the case of at least one commenter) -- Obama was forced to send more troops, and when one sends more troops, more of them will die. The matter-of-fact callousness of this remark stung like a hornet to me, and I bet the mothers of numbers 1227, 1228, and 1229 did not feel so cavalier when the Grim Reapers in dress khakis knocked on their doors today.                     
As little as we hear about U.S. troops, as is our custom here in the Empire, the tragic slaughter of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan doesn't even deserve a blip on our radar screens. I watched three hours of MSDNC(MSNBC) tonight and the manipulative gyrations to find out how many ways that they could talk about the "distraction" of the "mosque" at ground zero without talking about the one-million plus Arabs (Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc) that the psychopathic U.S. response to September 11, 2001 has killed, was pathetic and frustrating to watch.               
There has been a bumper sticker saying for years that goes: "What if they gave a war and no one showed up?"         
Well, "they," the ones that give the wars are not going to stop. "They""have too much at stake to give up the cash cow of wars for Imperial Profit, Power, and Expansion. "They" use the toady media to whip up nationalistic and patriotic fervor to get our kids to be thrown together with the victims in a meat grinder of destruction and we just sit here and allow them to do it.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 21, 2010, 08:33:41 am
US Troops Say Goodbye to Iraq

Torture. Corruption. Civil war. America has certainly left its mark

By Robert Fisk

August 20, 2010 "The Independent" - -When you invade someone else's country, there has to be a first soldier – just as there has to be a last.

The first man in front of the first unit of the first column of the invading American army to reach Fardous Square in the centre of Baghdad in 2003 was Corporal David Breeze of the 3rd Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. For that reason, of course, he pointed out to me that he wasn't a soldier at all. Marines are not soldiers. They are Marines. But he hadn't talked to his mom for two months and so – equally inevitably – I offered him my satellite phone to call his home in Michigan. Every journalist knows you'll get a good story if you lend your phone to a soldier in a war.

"Hi, you guys," Corporal Breeze bellowed. "I'm in Baghdad. I'm ringing to say 'Hi! I love you. I'm doing fine. I love you guys.' The war will be over in a few days. I'll see you soon." Yes, they all said the war would be over soon. They didn't consult the Iraqis about this pleasant notion. The first suicide bombers – a policeman in a car and then two women in a car – had already hit the Americans on the long highway up to Baghdad. There would be hundreds more. There will be hundreds more in Iraq in the future.

So we should not be taken in by the tomfoolery on the Kuwaiti border in the last few hours, the departure of the last "combat" troops from Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule. Nor by the infantile cries of "We won" from teenage soldiers, some of whom must have been 12-years-old when George W Bush sent his army off on this catastrophic Iraqi adventure. They are leaving behind 50,000 men and women – a third of the entire US occupation force – who will be attacked and who will still have to fight against the insurgency.

Yes, officially they are there to train the gunmen and militiamen and the poorest of the poor who have joined the new Iraqi army, whose own commander does not believe they will be ready to defend their country until 2020. But they will still be in occupation – for surely one of the the "American interests" they must defend is their own presence – along with the thousands of armed and indisciplined mercenaries, western and eastern, who are shooting their way around Iraq to safeguard our precious western diplomats and businessmen. So say it out loud: we are not leaving.

Instead, the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan – in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year – they brought the infection of al-Qa'ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib – a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam's vile rule – after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together.

And because the Shias would invariably rule in this new "democracy", the American soldiers gave Iran the victory it had sought so vainly in the terrible 1980-88 war against Saddam. Indeed, men who had attacked the US embassy in Kuwait in the bad old days – men who were allies of the suicide bombers who blew up the Marine base in Beirut in 1983 – now help to run Iraq. The Dawa were "terrorists" in those days. Now they are "democrats". Funny how we've forgotten the 241 US servicemen who died in the Lebanon adventure. Corporal David Breeze was probably two or three-years-old then.

But the sickness continued. America's disaster in Iraq infected Jordan with al-Qa'ida – the hotel bombings in Amman – and then Lebanon again. The arrival of the gunmen from Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp in the north of Lebanon – their 34-day war with the Lebanese army – and the scores of civilian dead were a direct result of the Sunni uprising in Iraq. Al-Qa'ida had arrived in Lebanon. Then Iraq under the Americans re-infected Afghanistan with the suicide bomber, the self-immolator who turned America's soldiers from men who fight to men who hide.

Anyway, they are busy re-writing the narrative now. Up to a million Iraqis are dead. Blair cares nothing about them – they do not feature, please note, in his royalties generosity. And nor do most of the American soldiers. They came. They saw. They lost. And now they say they've won. How the Arabs, surviving on six hours of electricity a day in their bleak country, must be hoping for no more victories like this one.

Then and now

3,000 The estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed last year. That's less than a tenth of the 34,500 killed in 2007 but it's still testament to the dangers faced each day by Iraqis.

200 The number of Iraqis known to be still held in US custody – a fraction of the 26,000 held in military prisons three years ago.

15.5 The average number of hours of electricity a day Baghdad receives, a marked impovement from the six hours it got three years ago but still not up to pre-invasions standards, when Iraqi cities could rely on 24-hour power.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 23, 2010, 06:11:41 am
U.S. Occupation of Iraq More Than Doubles Poverty, Sickness -- Leaves Country a Total Disaster

The American public has no idea just how terrible we've made conditions in Iraq.

By Adil E. Shamoo, Foreign Policy in Focus
Posted on August 22, 2010, Printed on August 23, 2010

Iraq has between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life. What a havoc the United States has wreaked in Iraq.

UN-HABITAT, an agency of the United Nations, recently published a 218-page report entitled State of the World’s Cities, 2010-2011. The report is full of statistics on the status of cities around the world and their demographics. It defines slum dwellers as those living in urban centers without one of the following: durable structures to protect them from climate, sufficient living area, sufficient access to water, access to sanitation facilities, and freedom from eviction.

Almost intentionally hidden in these statistics is one shocking fact about urban Iraqi populations. For the past few decades, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent. Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent: 11 million of the 19 million total urban dwellers. In the past decade, most countries have made progress toward reducing slum dwellers. But Iraq has gone rapidly and dangerously in the opposite direction.

According to the U.S. Census of 2000, 80 percent of the 285 million people living in the United States are urban dwellers. Those living in slums are well below 5 percent. If we translate the Iraqi statistic into the U.S. context, 121 million people in the United States would be living in slums.

If the United States had an unemployment rate of 25-50 percent and 121 million people living in slums, riots would ensue, the military would take over, and democracy would evaporate. So why are people in the United States not concerned and saddened by the conditions in Iraq? Because most people in the United States do not know what happened in Iraq and what is happening there now. Our government, including the current administration, looks the other way and perpetuates the myth that life has improved in post-invasion Iraq. Our major news media reinforces this message.

I had high hopes that the new administration would tell the truth to its citizens about why we invaded Iraq and what we are doing currently in the country. President Obama promised to move forward and not look to the past. However problematic this refusal to examine on the past -- particularly for historians -- the president should at least inform the U.S. public of the current conditions in Iraq. How else can we expect our government to formulate appropriate policy?

More extensive congressional hearings on Iraq might have allowed us to learn about the myths propagated about Iraq prior to the invasion and the extent of the damage and destruction our invasion brought on Iraq. We would have learned about the tremendous increase in urban poverty and the expansion of city slums. Such facts about the current conditions of Iraq would help U.S. citizens to better understand the impact of the quick U.S. withdraw and what are our moral responsibilities in Iraq should be.

Adil E. Shamoo, born and raised in Baghdad, is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

© 2010 Foreign Policy in Focus All rights reserved.
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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 23, 2010, 07:35:45 am
Middle East
Aug 24, 2010 
A Syrian Taif for Iraq

By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS - Arab media are reporting talk of an upcoming conference for all political parties in Iraq, aimed at solving the haunting political gridlock that has gripped Iraqis since parliamentary elections last March.

Sources are referring to the conference as another Taif - similar to the 1989 meeting in Saudi Arabia that put an end to the bloody Lebanese civil war. If a "Syrian Taif" does materialize, reportedly in September, this would cement Syria's role as an ultimate broker in Iraqi affairs - the only regional heavyweight with both a will and a way to bring normalcy back to its strife-stricken neighbor.

Such a pivotal role is much needed, as US troops come down to 50,000 by the end of August, ahead of their complete withdrawal by 2011. A political vacuum already exists and is likely to intensify in the weeks to come unless solutions are devised immediately.

Reportedly, the "Syrian Taif" is backed by strong players in the neighborhood, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and stands unopposed by the Barack Obama administration, which is very worried over the political vacuum in Baghdad.

To date, nothing official has been released regarding a Syrian Taif, but such a conference seems all the more logical as scores of Iraqi politicians, from every end of the political spectrum, have been visiting Damascus in recent months for talks with top Syrian officials.

To date, ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi, who controls 91 seats in the newly elected parliament, has paid two visits to Damascus, and so has Ammar Hakim of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), whose bloc has a total of 70 seats, and Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands 40 of the 70 seats held by the National Iraqi Alliance (NIA).

Their visits remind the world of the endless trips made on a daily basis by scores of Lebanese figures to the Syrian capital in the late 1980s and early 1990s - notably among them being former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, parliament speaker Nabih Berri, then-president Elias Hrawi and current member of parliament Walid Jumblatt.

The only Iraqi heavyweight still expected to make the Damascus visit is incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who controls 89 seats in parliament, and whose relations with Syria were strained in the summer of 2009.

None of the Iraqis groups commands the 163-majority needed to form a cabinet, making a parliamentary alliance absolutely necessary to produce a new government. Given the tremendous amount of political bickering among various players, it seems only logical for them to rely on a regional heavyweight to help them sort out their differences.

Saudi Arabia, for ideological reasons, would find it difficult to accept for many Shi'ite heavyweights, while Iran is offlimits to Sunni hardliners. Egypt is too distant from Iraqi affairs to host such a conference and so are Lebanon and Jordan, making Syria the best - in fact only - option for such a reconciliation conference.
If we were to revisit the shuttle diplomacy that preceded the Taif Accords, we can find that the only prerequisite for attendance was acceptance of Saudi Arabia's impartial role in the Lebanese conflict, and a pledge to go to Taif with an open mind, and firm objection to reach creative solutions, at any cost.

That also would have to be a must should a Syrian Taif materialize and this rests on the wisdom of various Iraqi players. The Taif agreement was negotiated by surviving members of Lebanon's 1972 parliament and pledged to restructure the National Pact of 1943; a gentleman's agreement reached between the country's Maronite president and Sunni prime minister, over the division of power in Lebanon.

According to the 1989 agreement, certain powers long held by the Maronite community would be reduced, like the president's right to name his Sunni prime minister. After Taif, the prime minister became responsible to parliament and was to be named by a parliamentary majority.

The agreement also provided for disarmament of all militias, and increased parliamentary seats to 128, divided equally between Christians and Muslims. As a result, Lebanese lawmakers successfully elected then-president Rene Mouawad to power; 409 days after the post had been left vacant by ex-president Amin Gemayel.

The Iraqi premiership vacuum, only 165 days since March, seems suddenly bearable when compared to what the Lebanese went through back then.

Much of that can be revisited and implemented today in Iraq. Revisiting the distribution of power, in place since downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, needs to be done. According to the new Iraqi system, the president is a Kurd, the prime minister is a Shi'ite, and the speaker of parliament is a Sunni. Iraqi Sunnis, who have controlled Iraqi politics since the 1920s, are clearly unhappy with the new system, which gives Shi'ites the upper hand, often at their expense.

For seven years they have been demanding a restructuring of the political system, asking for greater representation in government, along with a general amnesty to set Iraqi Sunnis free, thousands of whom were arrested with no warrants, on the sole charge of having been members in the Iraqi Ba'ath Party.

They have been calling for disarmament of all militias, be they Sunni or Shi'ite, and for preserving the unity of Iraqi territory and Arabism of the Iraqi Republic. All suggestions of granting greater autonomy to the Kurds, or similar status to the Shi'ites, are curtly refused by Iraqi Sunnis. Such autonomy, they argue, would give the Kurds control of oil in the north, and Shi'ites of oil reserves in the south, leaving the Sunnis in central Iraq, where there is no oil. Legislators bracing themselves for a reconciliation conference - be it in Syria or elsewhere - have to take these demands very seriously.

A Syrian Taif would have to produce an absolute mandate for the Iraqi government to give more power to the Sunnis, revisit the balance of power in Baghdad, disarm militias from all communities, pledge to refrain from any further carving of Iraqi territory - and to find a replacement to Maliki.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 23, 2010, 07:46:58 am
Iraq snapshot - August 20, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday, August 20, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military suffers another death in Iraq, some in the media try to set the story straight about what's taking place in Iraq while others spin like crazy, the US Army's latest suicide statistics, and more.
The Scripps Howard News Service reports, "As the last combat troops leave Iraq, one Kentucky family learnst their son has died there." Christopher Wright of Lewis County, Kentucky is the fallen. Misty Maynard (Ledger Independent) reports he was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and she speaks to the family's pastor John Moore, of Tollesboro Christian Church, "Moore said it had been at least a year since he had seen Christopher Wright. One of the most vivid aspects of Wright, Moore said, was his passion for the military and his hopes to attend jump school and become a Ranger or a Green Beret." Elizabeth Dorsett (WKYT) quotes James King, who works for Joe Cochran (Christopher Wright's father), on the family learning the news, "When the military guys came in, they didn't have to say anything."  ICCC's current total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq is 4416.  Strangely USF never announced the death.
The war didn't end yesterday.  The one good thing about so many pushing the myth that it did is that so many people are weighing in. If you're noted, you were among the best weighing in but that doesn't mean we happen to agree with you in part or in total.  Let's start with US Senator Russ Feingold:
"While I applaud President Obama for sticking to his redeployment timetable, more than 50,000 U.S. troops are still serving in harm's way in Iraq. I urge the president to redeploy those remaining troops as promptly and safely as possible so we can reduce the strain on our military and our budget.           

"While our departure from Iraq is taking much longer than it should, it does show that setting a timetable for redeployment can help contribute to stability and enable us to focus on combating al Qaeda's global network. Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to expand in places around the world like Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere.  Rather than send more troops to Afghanistan, where there is no military solution, the president should lay out a timetable for ending our military involvement there so we are better able to combat al Qaeda's global network without needlessly risking American lives and spending dollars we don't have."
No, Barack didn't keep his pledge, but we'll note that after Matthew Rothschild (link is audio):
I'm Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive, with my Progressive Point of View which you can also grab off our website over at  Barack Obama is to be commended for keeping his pledge to pull US combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August and congratulations to the soldiers and the families of the soldiers coming home. But let's remember that 4,415 members of the US military never came home and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in this immoral and illegal war that Bush and Cheney launched for no good reason. And let's also remember that the US still has 56,000 troops in Iraq who may well see combat in the year ahead and by the end of next year, it's not like the American presence will vanish. The State Dep is building new fortresses in Iraq to go along with the massive embassy in Baghdad. It's spending upward of one million dollars on outposts in Erbil, Mosul and Kirkuk and Basra.  And instead of soldiers guarding these facilities and the diplomats who work there, the State Department is going to be relying on 7,000 private contractors -- mercenaries by any other name. This is good news for the like of DynCorp and Blackwater, but not for Iraq and not for us. I'm Matt Rothschild and that's how I see it.
I'm disgusted and that's how it is.  'Barack Obama is to be congratulated . . . but that mean nasty State Dept!!!'  What?  Barack got congratulated (despite the fact that it was not his campaign promise -- or is basic math not a progressive value? -- April 2010 was one campaign pledge and, in Texas in Feb. 2008, he lowered it October 2009).  But not held accountable.  But not held accountable?  Who is over the State Dept, who is over the entire federal government in the United States?  That would be the president who would be Barack Obama.  It's real cute the way Matthew Rothschild parcel's out praise for Barack (unearned praise, Matt Rothchild) but can't hold him accountable.  Now the militarization of diplomacy was Samantha Power's plan -- presented to Barack in 2007.  But he signed off on it.  He's the one seeing that it's executed.  He's the one putting all the national security types -- past and present -- on it.  And that's why we're calling it the "militarization of diplomacy."  When no one was talking about or writing about it, we called it the "militarization of the State Dept" but this really won't be State Dept led.  This will go under the national security and that's why those people -- including the gangbusters for it woman who is so convinced she gets Robert Gates' job if he does step down in 2011 -- are the ones at the meetings and why so many meetings take place without State even being present or in the loop.  It's also why the new US Ambassador was selected. (Or are we ignoring his national security background as well?)  About the militarization of diplomacy, yesterday, Michele Kelemen (All Things Considered, NPR -- link has audio and text) reported:

Michele Kelemen: Overseeing contractors will be another key challenge, he says. Security contractors will be needed not just at the embassy but also at the other diplomatic outposts that are being opened if diplomats are going to be able to get out of their buildings to do their jobs. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Corbin says there will be two consulates - one in the southern city of Basra and one in Erbil in the Kurdish north. There are also plans for temporary branch offices in Mosul and Kirkuk.

Michael Corbin (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State): These are a three- to five-year presence. And we chose the Kurd-Arab fault line, as we like to call it, it's not what the Iraqis call it. But there are issues in Kirkuk and in Mosul that have not only to do with Arab-Kurd issues but also Iraq's minorities.
On this week's CounterSpin, Peter Hart speaks with Hannah Gurman about Iraq.  Excerpt:
Peter Hart: Goodbye Operation Iraqi Freedom, hello Operation New Dawn. The Iraq War is ending, we're told, with TV crews back in Iraq, capturing footage of the final combat troops exiting the country. One might reach for the term Orwellian to describe such events, perhaps because there is no fitting way to convey the "up is down, black is white" sense of what has happened in Iraq and what is happening there now. Our next guest wrote about this for under the headline "The Iraq Withdrawal: An Orwellian Success." Hannah Gurman is an assistant professor at New York University's Gallatin School.  She joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Hannah Gurman.
Hannah Gurman: My pleasure.
Peter Hart: Well here's the official story: Violence is down, Iraqis are stepping up, as ABC's Christiane Amanpour put it recently, "The surge, let's face it, has worked." These are basically the indisputable facts in our media discussions about Iraq. In what ways do you think this Iraq narrative might qualify as Orwellian, as you put it?
Hannah Gurman: Well it's really hard to say where to begin.  By almost every measure with respect to security, the state of Iraqi politics and maybe most importantly Iraqis to basic resources and the state of Iraq's infrastructure.  There are things that the mainstream story just isn't illuminating.  In terms of infrastructure, for example, there are still many, many Iraqis who do not have electricity.  They have about two to three hours of electricity a day. And the latest Brookings Index shows that there are 30 - 50,000 private generators making up for that gap between the national grid and what people actually need. So that's just one example of the basic situation on the ground that we don't really hear that much about from Obama or from Ambassador Christopher Hill when they are touting the success of the surge narrative.
Peter Hart: It's interesting, those Brookings numbers used to be widely cited in the media when they wanted to cite progress in the Iraq War.  You don't hear them cited as often now. Perhaps because the findings are rather dismal.
Hannah Gurman: Yeah and that gets to heart of really what Iraqi citizens see on the ground and they point to the every day situation. So it is interesting that that's one of the things that we're really not hearing very much about in terms of the surge narrative.  We're hearing a lot more about the decreases in violence, we're hearing a lot more about the optimism of Iraqi politics and even with respect to their things, there are things to be questioned.
Peter Hart: Speaking of Orwellian, I'm looking at the Washington Post headline the day we record this show, "Operation Iraqi Freedom Ends As Last Combat Soldiers Leave Baghdad." The article [by Ernesto Londono] notes that there might never be an acknowledged end to the Iraq War. The real point seems to be this: US commanders are also stressing that this is no longer America's war to lose. The end it would seem is not about winning then, it's about not losing.
Hannah Gurman: Yeah and it does also point to the strange shift from the concept of victory which used to be the way people thought about America's goals in war to now success so even if we don't win, we still don't lose. There is this prominent word "success" and you see it everywhere in discussions of the Iraq withdrawal -- that we are "successfully" handing over this situation to Iraq.
Peter Hart: Also today, the day we record this show [Thursday], the New York Times has this piece [by Michael R. Gordon] that's somewhat muddled. It tells us there's going to be this tiny military presence in Iraq. Experts are quoted saying this will be insufficient for the task, we may need to send more troops. At the same time, this presence will exist alongside thousands of private security forces, five massive compounds, massive amounts of State Dept planes and helicopters, there will be private security guards.  The Times explains these are "quick reaction forces" to rescue citizens in trouble. And it also tell us that Iraqis object to these forces because they have a history of killing civilians. What are the mechanics of the Iraq occupation in this post-war phase.
Hannah Gurman: Well you heard that today, or Thursday morning Iraqi time, the last combat brigade pulled out of Iraq so now you have by the end of this month, 50,000 troops are going to be in Iraq and they're going to be simply transferred or relabled from "combat battallions" to "advise-and-assist battallions." And so they'll be there training or continuing to train the Iraqi security forces. What they actually do on the ground, I think, is very much up in the air whether and when they will actually be participating in combat, I think, is very much up to debate.  Then you have this other story you've been discussing which is the transferring over, in many ways, the transferring over military responsibilities to the civilian personnel in Iraq. And, in essance, it's a shadow army.  It's very paradoxical because on the one hand it really raises the responsibility of the civilian presence in Iraq but, on the other hand, it's really a civilian presence that is operating security appartaus in Iraq.  And there are many military and even senior civilian officials who believe that that civilian presecne is going to have to be upped or eventually supported by a more conventional military presence. So they really don't know.
Moving over to today's second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today, Diane and her guests David Ignatius (Washington Post), Laura Rozen (Politico) and Thom Shanker (New York Times).
Diane Rehm: Thom Shanker, the last American brigade left Iraq yesterday.  Wasn't  this earlier than the actual deadline?
Thom Shanker: Well it's very interesting, Diane.  We have to be careful of the words we use and the labels we apply. I mean what the American military force in Iraq has been doing for the past six to nine months is very similar to what they'll be doing throughout the rest of this year and 2011. What the military did is they waived their hand and symbolically said 4-2 Stryker brigade from Fort Lewis is the brigade that's leaving and will not be replaced. So that brigade has left Baghdad and crossed the border into Kuwait on its way back to the United States.  But there are six brigades left in Iraq, still 56,000 troops whose mission officially changes on September 1st, from combat to advise-and-assist, but that's been going on. In fact we should note the 4-2 Stryker brigade that's gotten so much attention did not lose a single soldier to a combat death during its entire 12 months there.  So clearly the mission has been changing. I think it's sort of a case, if we could rephrase the great John Lennon song, it's not exactly peace, but all we are saying is give the non-combat-advise-and-assist mission a chance.
Diane Rehm: What about the contractors who were left behind? What kind of role will they play?
Thom Shanker: They will only have an increasing role.  When the American military officially ends its presence under the Status Of Forces Agreement at the end of next year, the State Dept takes over. We've already seen statistics. The State Dept will have to hire up to 7,000 security contractors to protect its 5 hardened sites across the country. The State Dept's looking at a security operations bill of a billion dollars once the American military leaves and, with it, helicopters, armored vehicles, security patrols. I don't think the American people understand the cost and extent of the commitment to sustain whatever progress has been made.
Diane Rehm: Laura Rozen, I don't get that the State Dept is going to be taking over the security measures.
Laura Rozen: Well that's actually the point the State Dept and Defense officials have been trying to make this past week is that, you know, in the effort to normalize the US-bilateral relationship with Iraq, the State Dept will be taking the lead from the Pentagon in managing US relations with Iraq. And they've actually been Defense Dept and State Dept officials going together to Congress to try to ask for the kind of appropriations Thom is talking about.  And the State appropriaters in Congress just aren't used to these 5, 6, 7 billion dollar appropriations requests from the State Dept. You know, they spent monthly, for the Pentagon in Iraq. So the Pentagon and the State Dept have been quite frustrated. They had to downsize a bit the US diplomatic presence that will be in Iraq over the next several years to five total diplomatic offics.
Diane Rehm: David Ignatius, I'm totally confused by this.
David Ignatius: Well welcome to Iraq.  You shouldn't imply that the State Dept is going to have responsibility for security. It won't. The contractors who will be coming in, many of them will be doing force-protection to protect these State Dept officers. They're not a military force. They need in today's Iraq people to travel with and keep them safe.  The problem is that Iraq is kind of now really excited about getting its sovereignty.  Excited but not all is efficacious in dealing with it. And the issue of contractors is a very, very prickly one for the Iraqis.  We've had incidents in which Blackwater people shot people up in downtown Baghdad. So it's a real problem. The State Dept is going to need people to protect them but the people doing the protecting may be very unpopular in Iraq.
Diane Rehm: Thom Shanker, what about training Iraqi soldiers?  Just before the brigade pulled out, you had Iraqi recruits killed in a suicide bombing.
Thom Shanker: That's exactly right, Diane.  Even though the overall violence levels are far, far below what they were at the worst of 2006, the insurgents and the militants are still capable of spectacular attacks. What's happening between September 1st when the Operation Iraqi Freedom, the invasion war plan, becomes Operation New Dawn, anadvise-andd assist mission for the Americans, 50,000 American military personnel that stay through the end  of next year are doing exactly what you said, Diane. They'll be training, advising, trying to make certain if they can that the Iraqi security forces can do it all once they leave at the end of 2011 unless, unless, the Iraqis ask for a continued American presence.
Diane Rehm: David.
David Ignatius: Diane, I think when we're talking about Iraq, we ought to just know the really sad point from the standpoint of view which is as the designated withdrawal of the last combat brigade happens, Iraq doesn't have a government yet.  Five months after the elections, if you want to put any kind of positive spin on this terrible, painful experience in Iraq it's that the US brought democratic elections, Iraq has elected a Parliament but that Parliament is frozen. In talking with an Iraqi friend of mine, who's part of the government, yesterday, he said they just don't see any way forward right now.  The administration here in Washington is working very hard to try to broker a deal between Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya faction -- he's a former prime minister -- and the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his State Of Law faction that would add a new position that presumably would be given to Allawi where he would run a national security council and have some security -- It's a kind of jury-rigged system for a country that can't make the positions its got already work in a functional manner, the idea of adding a whole new layer, strikes some people as crazy.  But that's the current administration plan for breaking the logjam.

Diane Rehm: And let us not forget that the US death toll -- the US death toll has been 4415 soldiers--  men, women.   And that does not even touch the Iraqi civilians who've been killed in the process.
Thom Shanker: That's exactly right to weave that point and the smart point that David just made.  I was having coffee with some smart army colonels yesterday at the Pentagon.  Officers who have had multiple tours in Iraq. They have made peace with the sacrfice of their colleagues and comrades because they are soldiers, they are patriots. They've made peace with the initial mission for the invasion: Weapons of Mass Destruction proving false. They've made peace with the under-resourcing of the war. But as the last combat troop leaves, as the 50,000 remaining advise-and-assist, what really troubles smart military officers is: Will the Iraqis take advantage of the great sacrifice of American blood and treasury that's made this possible? And as David so correctly said, that's the question mark today.
I called out Matthew Rothschild, so we'll note of the above exchange a few points.  First off, Diane noted the US death toll and that was good.  That's one of the things she does best.  However, she then went into civilians.  Civilians?  Iraqis.  Iraqis.  No matter what you label them, they live in their own country.  This nonsense of a US death count but only an Iraqi civilian matters? Do we think the US military sent civilians into Iraq with guns? No, they sent a fighting force into a foreign country.  Iraqis who fought back an invasion and continue to fight it are defending their country.  And the history of Iraq will decide whether they are heroes or scoundrels.  But what they are right now is Iraqis and their deaths need to be counted regardless of whether they are civilian or 'insurgent,' regardless of whether they are civilian or military.  In fact, there's something really disgusting about the US trumpeting its own military death toll but repeatedly the White House (under Bush and under Barack) spins and the press runs with this idea that only Iraqi civilians deaths matter.  We count the US dead and we take that seriously -- the US military dead.  Why are Iraqi soldiers and police officers less important?  They're not. Again, I do not subscribe to these classifications which I find insulting (I do not believe Diane was trying to be insulting and this didn't originate with her) to the suffering of the Iraqi people.
The suffering of the Iraqi people.  This 'great gift' the US gave ("under false pretenses" as a listener e-mailed)?  It's really not a great gift.  You may show up at Sue's house with a juicer.  But Sue has a juicer already that she doesn't use and doesn't want.  You can go all over town telling people you gave Sue a great gift.  Actually, Sue, the one who received it, will determine whether it's a great gift or not. She's the one who will use it (or toss it).  The Iraqi people are not all in agreement on what the US 'gave.'  There feelings -- little explored in the press -- need to be taken into account.  I could go on and on but I'll leave it at that.  As noted, a listener brought up objections.  Thom Shanker responded but it is not his place -- does he not get this -- to hail what has happened in Iraq as "a truly historic opportunity".  Iraq may or may not want democracy.  That's why it hasn't taken root, pay attention, they haven't been allowed to decide.  The exiles have ruled over them, put in place by the US government.  It is not for Thom Shanker, an American citizen, to decide that what was done in Iraq is "a truly historic opportunity" for the Iraqis.  The Iraqis -- who are not being asked or reported on -- are the ones who will decide whether the alleged 'gift' is a good one or a bad one.  It's their country.  Do we not get that?  Democracy is self-determination.  They could determine tomorrow they want a dictator.  That would be a democratic move in making that decision if that's the choice they wanted to make.  It is not on the US to decide for the Iraqis.  Thom Shanker is a smart person and an often gifted reporter so it is very maddening that the objectivity that is such a hallmark of his reporting is out the window when he's talking about Iraq and its future -- its future, not his.  "I think we can all agree that democracy is better than dictatorship."  Who is "we"? Americans?  Yes, I suppose most Americans, having grown up in a democracy, are comfortable with it.  But democracy is not a one-size fits all nor, in fact, is it pret-a-porter.  It is not off-the-rack, one-size-fits-all.  Democracy is a garmet that fits you best because it has been designed to your needs and wants. Democracy requires input of the governed and the governed in Iraq are the voices no one is hearing from and the ones Shanker seems unaware of.  And, again, he's smart and often a gifted reporter. But democracy cannot be grafted it has to come from the people -- continued democracy stands no chance -- in any country, even the US -- without the consent of the people. As Jeremy R. Hammond notes a Foreign Policy Journal:
This view of "Many Iraqis" is offered a voice. The view of the majority, as indicated by public opinion surveys, however, is excluded. Back in December 2007, for instance (and there's little reason to think Iraqis' views have since reversed), the Post reported that "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S.military last month." The focus group's report stated that most Iraqis "would describe the negative elements of life in Iraq beginning with the 'U.S. occupation' in March 2003".
Last night on The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, video and audio), Judy Woodruff spoke to Margaret Warner (Warner was reporting from Iraq).  On violence, Warner noted the uptick and the concerns including: "And we went to see the sheik who is essentially the city council chairman. And I asked him the question you just asked me. And he said, you know, we really had a good handle on this. In 2008, he said, this was one of the safest cities in Anbar. And, in 2009, it was in good shape. But he said, in the last two-and-a-half months, he said that security is being breached, and they have had IED attacks. They have had attacks on police force members. He suspects some members of the police force of being involved."  Let's move over to Kenneth J. Theisen's "A Combat Brigade Leaves; U.S. War of Terror Against Iraq Continues" (World Can't Wait):
 The country is divided by sectarianism. Months after the election, Iraq's politicians can not agree on a government that will collaborate with the U.S. occupiers. Militias still function as independent military forces and are run by warlord politicians. Iran still controls or influences many of the various political factions that exist in the country, and that along with other disputes and contention with the U.S. imperialists, could lead to war between the U.S. and Iran. (Admiral Mike Mullen, one of the top U.S. military leaders, recently stressed that the military options are still on the table in regard to Iran.)                   
The bottom line is that Thursday's withdrawal of the "combat" brigade is not a "historic moment." It is just one more piece of propaganda and one more step in the continuing U.S. war of terror. In addition to the tens of thousands of troops still in Iraq, tens of thousands of others are nearby either in other Middle East bases or in the waters near Iraq on nuclear task forces. If the U.S. needs to do so it can rapidly reintroduce combat forces within days.
The Iraq War is not over, despite claims by what Michael R. Gordon has termed the "electronic media." It's a nice photo-op, it's just not reality.  Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (link has text and video), Couric (in Afghanistan) spoke with one-time top commander in Iraq (replaced by Gen Ray Odierno) Gen David Petreaus.

Katie Couric: Having been in Iraq with you, I have to ask you now that the combat troops are leaving Iraq, is this the right time? I mean you have an uptick in violence -- 61 recruits were killed -- lots wounded. No clearly formed government. The head of Iraqi military says it won't be until 2020 until they can really provide security for the country. Is this a success?

Gen David Petraeus: Well, first of all we are not leaving. There are 50,000 U.S. troops that are remaining in Iraq albeit in a support role rather than in a -- a leading combat role. But that's an enormous capability.
Lauren Seifert (CBS News) reports on CBS' Juan Zarate's comments to Bob Orr today on Washington Unplugged (the link has text and the option to stream CBS' online program):
"For me there are two unanswered questions," he added. "One, for the United States, where are we taking this; we're supposed to be drawing down all of our troops come 2011. I think that question is going be up in the air depending on what happening on the ground in Iraq."               
"Secondly, I've got a question as to how the president and this administration will portray Iraq and our policy in Iraq," Zarate said. "The President is in a tough position. He didn't like the war, he opposed it, he talked about withdrawing but he's the American president, how does he portray what it was that we sacrificed and did in Iraq at the end of the day."
Meanwhile there is the political stalemate. Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) goes to Brooking Institution voices for feedback and Ken Pollack states of the militarization of diplomacy, "What the State Department is being asked to do is not in their DNA" and "Michael O'Hanlon, a military affairs scholar also at Brookings in Washington, says he actually sees three transitions going on in Iraq, making for a particularly difficult moment in the country. In addition to the US military-to-civilian shift and the Iraqi stalemate over forming a new government, he says the top tier of US leadership in Iraq has changed all at once." Rebekah Mintzer (Xinhua) speaks to NYU professor Patricia DeGennaro, "DeGennaro said she sees the current lack of a national government as 'hurting the country as a whole in the long run,' but does not believe that recent events will change the U.S. established timetable for withdrawal. She stressed that the United States is maintaining some troops in Iraq until the end of 2011 in order to continue to train Iraqis to deal with insurgent attacks and other violent incidents."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 12 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

Voted? Reuters reports that the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission had a death -- an employee was discovered dead from gunshots, his corpse hidden in a Baghdad car and they note a Baghdad roadside bombing killed 2 people (six more injured).
Those deaths are reality.  Reality isn't that the US is down to 50,000 troops. RTT News reports the Defense Dept puts the number at 52,000 currently. Frank James (NPR's The Two-Way blog) notes that combat brigades remain in Iraq.  In the spin cycle passing for a news cycle, we're not only seeing media deceptions, we're seeing the emergence of self-deceptions and that's really important to grasp.

Vietnam was not judged a 'success' or 'good thing' or any such during the final years of war or immediately after. What happened? Jane Fonda explained explained in the amazing documentary Sir! No Sir!, "You know, people say, 'Well you keep going back, why are you going back to Vietnam?' We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."

And that is how revisionary history works. A people are in agreement largely but a faction continues to pollute the public square with distortions and misinformation. It's how we end up with a pathetic Barack Obama repeatedly distorting that time period -- please note, a time period that he loves to whine "I was only 8 years old!" about when asked to explain his one-time friendship with Bill Ayers (Bill was drop-kicked under the bus) but he wants to lie repeatedly about Vietnam. And he gets away with it because people don't want to go back. So he's lied about veterans being physically spit on as they returned to the US, he's lied about them being shunned by the public (the government shunned them, the public never did -- whether they were pro-war, anti-war, or apolitical).

It's really something to see and amazing to watch people fail to call him out. Even George W. Bush pulling this nonsense was considered newsworthy. August 22, 2007, Bully Boy Bush spoke to the VFW and, as Jim Rutenberg, Sheryl Gay Stolber, Mark Mazzetti, Damien Cave and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) observed: "With his comments Mr. Bush was doing something few major politicians of either party have done in a generation: rearguing a conflict that ended more than three decades ago but has remained an emotional touch point." As Jane said, "We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."

It's probably not going to be different with the Iraq War. And that may surprise you if you didn't live through the Vietnam period. How could it ever change? A number of reasons but mainly because the War Hawks will invent a new hypothesis, test it out, if it has some form of acceptance, they will begin selling it repeatedly. They will sell many such claims, often all in contradiction with one another, muddying the water, confusing the facts and, in less than ten years after the illegal war ends (it hasn't ended yet), you'll have a large number of people unaware how massive opposition to the Iraq War was.

At Gallup, Jeffrey M. Jones breaks down the latest poll on the Iraq War (1,013 respondents, poll taken from August 5th through 8th, margin of error +/-4%):

More Americans believe history will judge the Iraq war as a failure (53%) rather than a success (42%). These views have varied little over the past few years even as Americans have become more positive in their assessments of how the war is going.
To a large degree, Americans' predictions on how history will judge the war mirror their basic support for the war -- 55% say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, while 41% disagree. War opposition has eased only slightly in recent years from a high of 63% in April 2008.

The Associated Press and GfK Roper Public Affairs published a [PDF format warning] poll today. 1,007 respondents, surveyed from August 11th through 16th, with a +/- 4.5% percent margine of error.  31% "favor" the Iraq War, 65% "oppose" the Iraq War.  3% need to be called in a few years because they're not sure how they feel.  The respondents identified themselves most often as "conservative" (41%), second highest self-designation was "moderate" (33%) and "liberal" followed that (25%).  (2% aren't sure what they are.)
Those numbers will not change significantly . . . for those who lived through it. That's true of the Vietnam era as well. The War Hawks can't trick the ones who lived through it. But that's not what they're about. They're about tricking future generations, they're about lying and rewriting history. Because the lessons and Vietnam and Iraq are very similar: Want to go war, then you better lie to the people.

That's not the message the War Hawks want passed around and imparted to future generations. So they try to hide behind service members and act as if they're speaking on their behalf when all they're doing is attempting to free the government to start more wars based on lies, to trick and deceive the American people and to send more people (on all sides) into early graves.

If you're reading this in 2010, our numbers will stay the same. We're not the target for the revisionary history. It's the future generations that are the targets. If Vietnam and Iraq can't be revised into 'good wars,' if the facts can't be left out, then generations can grow up knowing that their government has lied in the past and, patterns hold, will lie again in the future. Future generations will know to strongly question assertions made by elected officials allegedly acting on behalf of the American people's best interests. And that's what War Hawks, and their strong streak of authoritarianism, can't tolerate.  For more on current feelings about the Iraq War, see The Takeaway's listener feedback page.
Today the Defense Dept issued the following release on Army suicides:
The Army released suicide data today for the month of July.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides:  three were confirmed as suicides, and nine remain under investigation.  For June, the Army reported 21 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, 10 have been confirmed as suicides, and 11 remain under investigation.   
            During July 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides.  For June, among that same group, there were 11 suicides.  Of those, five were confirmed as suicides and six are pending determination of the manner of death.
            "Suicide prevention is much more than thwarting that last final act of desperation.  It is increasing awareness and education in order to preclude members of the Army family from ever getting to the point where suicide might be considered an alternative to asking for help," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.
            "The Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report released last month is the result of a 15-month effort to better understand high-risk behavior and suicides in the Army.  The report is intended to inform and educate on the importance of recognizing and reducing high-risk behavior related to suicide and accidental death, and reducing the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health treatment," Philbrick said.             
            Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center.  Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
            The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is  Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location. 
            The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at       
            Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at:   and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at       
            Suicide prevention training resources for Army Families can be accessed at (Requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials.)
            The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at and at   
            Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at   
            American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: 
            Suicide Prevention Resource Council: 
Remember that the military's suicide hotline is 1-800-273-TALK.  And the National US Suicide Hotline (for anyone in the US not just those serving or veterans but veterans and those serving who are not comfortable for whatever reason with calling the military's suicide hotline can use this as well) is 1-800-448-3000.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Helene Cooper (New York Times), Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "An Unplanned Aberration: A peek behind the curtain at the PBS NewsHour." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Melinda Henneberger, US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton and Princella Smith on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion of marriage equality re: California verdict. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcasts Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and they examine religious history (lower Manhattan) and Iraq as well as speak with author Gary Shteyngart. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Blowout
Scott Pelley investigates the explosion that killed 11, causing the oil leak in the waters off of Louisiana, and speaks to one of the oil rig platform crew survivors who was in a position to know what caused the disaster and how it could have been prevented. | Watch Video


The Russian Is Coming
Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his purchase of the N.J. Nets basketball team, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, August 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.



:: Article nr. 69056 sent on 22-aug-2010 16:36 ECT


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 23, 2010, 07:49:49 am
A glimpse of the Iraq I knew

by Hussein Anwar

August 22, 2010

This is a small glimpse of the Baghdad and Iraq I knew throughout my youth...

The 70s and 80s are considered by many the golden age of Iraq, peace existed among people even though there was political instability and later the Iraq-Iran war. When I was 17 turning to 18 before moving to in DiIyala was simple with the villagers and farmers, people were more generious even if they dont know you, you can stop by a stranger and ask him for directions and he will insist on receiving you as a guest even if he had only bread and cheese at his home, even if they were poor. people were more of the type that puts good intentions first, not suspicious, social, there was green land, there were farmers who took joy in planting there land, sleeping early and waking up early for salat and then to work. life outside Baghdad among simple people was very enjoyable and entertaining even if it was just in a tent with fire and arabic coffee and a long night of conversation.

Baghdad was different, MY Baghdad was a beauty, the nightlife of Baghdad was very beautiful and active, just like Cairo and Alexandria I hear. people were classy, restaurants, clubs, social clubs, light everywhere, and even the cosmopolitan areas were beautiful, coffee shops everywhere the traditional ones, you can find a man with a single table on the side walk grilling lamb or pigeons...that is what he does for a living, and yet it is delicious food. nice words were on the tongues of many people, my dear, my brother, my sister, my father, my uncle, thank you, ure welcome, god bless you, may you see peace in your life, allah ywafqak...etc to strangers.

You can have a million dollars in a bag and sleep in the street and no one will ask you what are you doing or what do you have in your bag. life was easy, with 600 dollars a month even during the 80s you would live as a sultan or a queen, 600 equivalent to 200 dinars at the time. people were really happy, people were relaxed, health insurance good, food is cheap, education for free, soldiers fought well because they know if they died...there is a government that will not forget his family and still secure a decent respectable life for them.

Relationship with neighbors was just so amazing, so pure, so built on love and mutual respect whether you are muslim, christian, saibian, kurdish and even jewish etc religion was not an issue, money was not an issue, hatred among people did not exist, we all loved one another like our own families. even alcoholic people had ethics, they would not harass you in the street or something of that sort, people generally had a sens of embarrassment and shyness.

The smell of Baghdad in the morning was just so pure, a smell that I cant describe for you, a smell of pure air before the first car in baghdad was driving in the streets, at dawn I mean, you find people happily going to work, even cleaners in the street. birds in the sky, oh my God Baghdad's sky was never ever empty from pigeon floks, in Baghdad at night...there was always something to do whether you are young or old. There was peace, there was love, there was honesty...

Prostitution was a taboo, even though it existed but it was a taboo, brothels were very very limited that they were known to people, there was not many corruption in Iraq, people got shocked easily by a drunk man or a man with a prostitute in a car, parties where hookers came were done with silence and privacy, on the suburbs of Baghdad, people were very respectable, you find conservative women and liberal women, but a **** in the streets of Baghdad was something unusual, people will find it a blasphemy, theft was not an issue, if a thief broke into a house in will hear all Baghdad talking about it next morning.

Let alone the river banks, oh they were so beautiful, coffees and restaurants scattered on the river banks, lights everywhere, everyone minding his own business, no one bothers another, people will stay coming and going till the early morning, you always find fisher men in the rivers and behind them the beautiful view of hundreds of palm trees, a typical view of Iraq. there was a life in Iraq...people had a it is no longer there thanks to the Americans, Israelis, Iranians and unwise political decisions from my Baathist government.

This was my Iraq, this was the Iraq my president built. I went once with President Saddam Hussein to a friends house (his friend) this was two months before the Iraq-Iran war broke, as he left the house, holding his friend from his hands, he looked at the sky and told him:

" you see this Baghdad of ours? I swear I will make a beautiful piece of Baghdad that the entire world will talk about, this is my Baghdad, I will build it and make it the most beautiful city on the face of the earth."

As for me how I became so aware of the internet, blogging and twitter. two years ago I only learned how to log in and read my email, I looked down at myself when I called my son asking him how to do this and how to do that, one day I was reading the news paper early in the morning and saw an advertisement for a 6 months teaching course, teaching about windows, the internet, websites etc, so I registered, and bit by bit I learned, it wasent easy for me in the beginning because there were lots of buttons on the screen, many places to go to etc, I was confused for a man my age, plus I was very slow trying to find my way on the keyboard.

My son suggested that if I like writing, why dont I register for a blog? I did not know what a blog is, I though if I wanted my own space...I though I had to purchase it just like any website, he showed me where and he showed me how, and the good thing about me is I like to explore, I click on a button even if I dont know what it is, then there was this fashion of facebook and twitter and I also explored them.

All through my life I hanged around with people of different ages, I even went out with people younger than me15 years or so even 20. I have this belief that if you socialize with young people constantly you will remain young at heart and flamboyant, and if you are young and hang around with old people...eventually you will feel an old cripple.

I may be an old man, even though my health is good alhamdulilah, but I remain young at heart, that is why I dont get along with some of the men my age, not all but some. Plus...I have a western side of me and some typical arabs my age dont like that.

Tres Romantique...


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 23, 2010, 09:44:21 am
The King of Iraq

As U.S. troops leave the country, one man stands to benefit above all: Moqtada al-Sadr.



It would be hard to imagine a more unlikely meeting. Late in July, the tempestuous Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr traveled to Damascus from Iran, where he's been living in exile for the past three years. The trip looked at first to be a routine photo-op for Sadr and Syrian President Bashar Assad. That is, until Sadr met with Ayad Allawi, a top contender for the prime minister post in Iraq and one of the cleric's sworn enemies. Their mutual enmity dates back to a showdown in the holy city of Najaf in the summer of 2004. Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters had taken over the city and were using the Imam Ali shrine, one of the holiest sites for Shiites, as a base of operations. Allawi, who was interim prime minister at the time, gave American and Iraqi troops the green light to take them out, killing dozens of Mahdi militiamen in the process.

So it was no small thing for the two to meet in person. And they didn't just talk; they were laughing and hamming it up as if they were the best of friends. The photos and video footage from that meeting are some of the only public examples of Sadr smiling (the more common profile is a scowling Sadr, wrapped in a white martyr's shroud, pounding a pulpit). Sadr had good reason to be happy: He now holds the fate of his one-time enemy in his hands.

Sadr -- feared by some, reviled by others and revered by a broad swath of Iraq's urban poor -- is now a kingmaker in Iraqi politics. It's a role that Sadr, the scion of a prominent clerical family, has been building toward since 2003. Immediately after the U.S. invasion, thousands of his supporters packed the dusty streets of Baghdad's Saddam City neighborhood (later renamed Sadr City) for Friday prayers week after week. Sadr rallied their ranks around his parliamentary list in the 2005 elections, making a strong showing, and then used his political clout to help push Nouri al-Maliki into the prime minister slot in 2006. But the friendship didn't last: Sadr bitterly split from Maliki when the latter allowed American troops to attack his militia members. Depending on whom you ask, Sadr either sensed he was next to be targeted and fled to Iran or was convinced of that fact by Iranian officials, who urged Sadr to leave for his own safety. Now, as U.S. troops withdraw and negotiations are underway in Baghdad to form a new government, Sadr may be planning his return. If he does, he will no doubt face jubilant crowds once again.

Sadr's political comeback was the result of careful and deliberate planning. More than a year before the elections in March, Sadr and his top aides set up an election strategy committee they dubbed the "machine." The goal was to game the electoral system as best as they could. A team of seven pored over the election law, dissected district maps, and built an extensive database of voters in every province. In the end, Sadr's Free Movement party won 39 seats in parliament, giving his followers a decisive vote within the National Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shiite bloc of which they are part. And that's exactly why Allawi shuttled to Damascus for the meeting: He needs Sadr if he hopes to become prime minister.

It would be easy to write off Sadr's electoral success as a fluke. But the reality is that the cleric's brand of religious nationalism, coupled with his carefully cultivated image as the defender of the Shiite community, has struck a deep chord with tens of thousands of Iraqis. Moreover, he's got the one thing that his rivals don't: "street cred." Sadr can, rightfully, claim that his movement is one of the few on the Iraqi political scene that's homegrown. Compare this to the Sadrists' top rivals in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). For years, they've tried to fight the image that they were brought in on American tanks and are beholden to both Washington and Tehran,  even changing their name because the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq sounded too Iranian. They tried appropriating the image of Iraq's most senior cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, to woo more supporters (there are still posters up around Baghdad showing the late ISCI leaders Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Hakim and Abdul Aziz Hakim beside Sistani). Nothing worked. ISCI got wiped out at the polls in March and also had a pretty dismal showing during provincial elections last year.

The Sadrists, by contrast, aren't going anywhere -- which puts Washington, among others, in a bind. Sadr's supporters are more than just a political party. The cleric is clearly following the Hezbollah model, creating a populist political movement backed by a battle-hardened militia. The language Sadr uses when discussing the U.S. presence in Iraq -- resistance, occupation, martyrdom -- could easily have been taken from a speech by Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah. All this has discouraged U.S. officials from holding talks with Sadr -- something they've never done since 2003. It's not exactly like Sadr has gone out of his way to open up a dialogue, either. In fact, Sadr and many of his top aides have made it clear that the Mahdi Army won't disarm as long as there are American troops on Iraqi soil.

So what does Sadr want? One issue that has come up again and again in the negotiations to form the government is detainees. In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Sadr estimated that there are as many as 2,000 detainees linked to his movement, most swept up in U.S. operations in 2007 and 2008, whom he would like to see released. The cleric has claimed that he doesn't want to mix the issue of detainees with the negotiations to form the government, but representatives from major political blocs who have held talks with the Sadrists dispute that claim, noting that Sadr has blasted Maliki for holding the prisoners and withheld his support. No doubt whichever candidate Sadr ultimately backs for the premiership will have to make major concessions on the detainees. He may also have to promise to lay off the Mahdi Army.

But the detainees are only a short-term bargaining chip. What Sadr is after is power itself -- and if his past record is any indication, he won't be shy about using it. There are any number of issues he could block or help push through parliament. Sadr has previously butted heads with Kurdish groups about the final status of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that the Kurds claim as their capital. He is a proponent of putting oil revenues under central government control, a position at odds with the Kurds as well as some rival Shiite groups, such as ISCI. Women's rights groups have already voiced strong concerns that the Sadrists could block their attempts to reform laws that cover property ownership, divorce, and child custody. Some even fear that Mahdi fighters will again target women's rights activists, as they did in Basra in 2007 and 2008.

Sadr's ambitions don't cover Iraq's domestic agenda alone. His high-profile trips to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere indicate that he wants to be seen as a prominent regional player. He would like to promote his Mahdi Army as a member of the so-called "axis of resistance" made up by Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which have made their names by confronting the United States and Israel.

For now, Sadr is undoubtedly pleased by his opportunity to have a key vote in who becomes the next prime minister. And it's hard to miss the irony from a man who has built his image on being among the people. He's not casting that vote from Baghdad, where he could rally millions of supporters, but from a comfortable perch hundreds of miles away in neighboring Iran.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 23, 2010, 01:11:01 pm


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 24, 2010, 06:21:39 am
Middle East
Aug 25, 2010 
US troops marching out - or are they?

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - When the Barack Obama administration unveiled its plan last week for an improvised State Department-controlled army of contractors to replace all US combat troops in Iraq by the end of 2011, critics associated with the US command attacked the transition plan, insisting that the United States must continue to assume that US combat forces should and can remain in Iraq indefinitely.

And indeed, all indications are that the administration expects to renegotiate the security agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a post-2011 combat presence of up to 10,000 troops, once a new government is formed in Baghdad.

However, Obama, fearing a backlash from anti-war voters in the Democratic Party who have already become disenchanted with him over Afghanistan, is trying to play down that possibility. Instead, the White House is trying to reassure its anti-war base that the US military role in Iraq is coming to an end.

An unnamed administration official who favors a longer-term presence in Iraq suggested to New York Times correspondent Michael Gordon last week that the administration's refusal to openly refer to plans for such a US combat force in Iraq beyond 2011 hinges on its concern about the coming congressional elections and wariness about the continuing Iraqi negotiations on a new government.

Vice President Joe Biden said in an address prepared for delivery on Monday that it would take a "complete failure" of Iraqi security forces to prompt the United States to resume combat.

Obama referred to what he called "a transitional force" in his speech on August 2, pledging that it would remain "until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of the next year".

He also declared an end to the US "combat mission" in Iraq as of August 31. But an official acknowledged to Inter Press Service that combat would continue and would not necessarily be confined to defending against attacks on US personnel.

The administration decided on the transition from military to civilian responsibility for security at an inter-agency meeting in the week of July 19. It made the broad outlines of the plan public at an August 16 State Department news briefing and another briefing the following day, even though crucial details had not been worked out.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle Eastern Affairs Colin Kahl and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Michael Corbin presented the administration plan for what they called a "transition from a military to civilian relationship" with Iraq.

The plan involves replacing the official US military presence in Iraq with a much smaller State Department-run force of private security contractors. Press reports have indicated that the force will number several thousand, and that it is seeking 29 helicopters, 60 improvised explosive device-proof personnel carriers and a fleet of 1,320 armored cars.

The contractor force would also operate radars so it could call in air strikes and fly reconnaissance drones, according to the New York Times on August 21.

Kahl argued that the transition was justified by security trends in Iraq. He said al-Qaeda was "weaker than it's ever been", that Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army had been "largely disbanded", and that there was no strategic threat to the regime.

That provoked predictable criticism from those whose careers have become linked to the fate of the US military in Iraq and who continue to view the United States as having enormous power to decide the fate of the country.

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, a frequent visitor to Iraq at the invitation of General David Petraeus and his successor General Ray Odierno, dismissed the idea of giving the former US military role in Iraq to the State Department and said Kahl's assessment of security trends was far too optimistic.

Some officials were talking "as if we're on the five-yard line," Pollack told the Christian Science Monitor. "We're on more like the 40 - and it's probably our 40."

Pollack argued that the US had great influence in Iraq, which it must use for "persuading" Iraqi leaders to do various things. If the US troop presence ended in 2011, he argued, that US power would suffer.

Other variants of that argument were offered by Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, both of whom have been frequent guests of the US command in Iraq and who have generally hewed to the military view of Iraq policy.

Former ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who shared the media spotlight and adulation of the US Congress with Petraeus in 2007-2009 before retiring from the Foreign Service, opined that the military needed to keep enough presence in Iraq to encourage Iraq's generals to stay out of politics.

The real position of the administration over the issue is not much different from that of its critics, however. In answer to a question after a briefing on August 17, Kahl said, "We're not going to abandon them. We're in this for the long term."

Then Kahl observed, "Iraq is not going to need tens of thousands of [American] forces." That is consistent with the figure of 5,000 to 10,000 being called for by the military, according to the administration official quoted in New York Times on August 18.

At another point, Kahl said, "We'll just have to see what the Iraqi government will do," adding that the "vast majority of political actors in Iraq want a long-term partnership with the United States".

It is been generally assumed among US officers and diplomats and the Iraqi officials with whom they talk that once a new Iraqi government is agreed on, it will begin talks on a longer-term US troop presence, as former National Security Council official Brett H McGurk told the New York Times last month.

At a Pentagon press conference on February 22, Odierno, US overall commander in Iraq, referred to the purchase by the Iraqi government of "significant amounts of military material from the United States", including M1A1 tanks and helicopters.

Odierno said he expected it would require a "small contingent" to "train and advise" the Iraqis. That formula implicitly anticipated a continuation of the US combat presence in the guise of "advisory and assistance" units.

But the administration apparently made it clear to Odierno and others that they were not to contradict the administration's public posture that US troops were being withdrawn by the end of 2011.

During the inter-agency meeting that adopted the Obama administration transition plan, Odierno told reporters at a breakfast meeting on July 21 he expected US troops to be down to zero by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, the Nuri al-Maliki government is not admitting publicly that it would consider such an extension of the US troop presence. A spokesman for Maliki said on August 12 there were alternatives to keeping US troops in the country, such as signing "non-aggression and non- interference pacts" with neighbors.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published in 2006.

(Inter Press Service) 

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 24, 2010, 06:24:37 am
Middle East
Aug 25, 2010 
A homecoming parade of Iraq war truths

By Ramzy Baroud

The soldiers of the US 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hollered as they made their way into Kuwait. "We won," they claimed. "It’s over."

But what exactly did they win?

And is the war really over?

It seems we are once again walking into the same trap, the same nonsensical assumptions of wars won, missions accomplished, troops withdrawn, and jolly soldiers carrying cardboard signs of heart-warming messages like "Lindsay & Austin ... Dad’s coming home."

While much of the media is focused on the logistics of the misleading withdrawal of the "last combat brigade" from Iraq on August 19 - some accentuating the fact that the withdrawal is happening two weeks ahead of the August 31 deadline - most of us are guilty of forgetting Iraq and its people. When the economy began to take center stage, we completely dropped the war off our list of grievances.

But this is not about memory, or a way of honoring the dead and feeling compassion for the living. Forgetting wars leads to a complete polarization of discourses, thus allowing the crafters of war to sell the public whatever suits their interests and stratagems.

In an August 22 Washington Post article entitled "Five myths about the Iraq troop withdrawal", Kenneth M Pollack unravels the first "myth": "As of this month, the United States no longer has combat troops in Iran." Pollack claims this idea is "not even close" because "roughly 50,000 American military personnel remain in Iraq, and the majority are still combat troops - they're just named something else. The major units still in Iraq will no longer be called "brigade combat teams" and instead will be called "advisory and assistance brigades". But a rose by any other name is still a rose, and the differences in brigade structure and personnel are minimal.

So what if the US army downgrades its military presence in Iraq and re-labels over 50,000 remaining soldiers? Will the US military now stop chasing after perceived terrorist threats? Will it concede an inch of its unchallenged control over Iraqi skies? Will it relinquish power over the country’s self-serving political elite? Will it give up its influence over every relevant aspect of life in the country, from the now autonomous Kurdish region in the north all the way to the border with Kuwait in the south, which the jubilant soldiers crossed while hollering the shrieks of victory?

The Iraq war has been one of the most well-controlled wars the US has ever fought, in terms of its language and discourse. Even those opposed to the war tend to be misguided as to their reasons: "Iraqis need to take charge of their own country"; "Iraq is a sectarian society and America cannot rectify that"; "It is not possible to create a Western-style democracy in Iraq"; "It’s a good thing Saddam Hussein was taken down, but the US should have left straight after". These ideas might be described as "anti-war", but they are all based on fallacious assumptions that were fed to us by the same recycled official and media rhetoric.

It’s no wonder that the so-called anti-war movement waned significantly after the election of President Barack Obama. The new president merely shifted military priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan. His government is now re-branding the Iraq war, although maintaining the interventionist spirit behind it. It makes perfect sense that the US State Department is now the one in charge of the future mission in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq, while it promises much violence and blood, is now a political scheme. It requires good public relations.

The State Department will now supervise future violence in Iraq, which is likely to increase in coming months due to the ongoing political standoff and heightened sectarian divisions. An attack blamed on al-Qaeda in an Iraqi army recruitment center on August 17 claimed 61 lives and wounded many. "Iraqi officials say July saw the deaths of more than 500 people, including 396 civilians, making it the deadliest month for more than two years," reported Robert Tait in Radio Free Europe.

Since the March elections, Iraq has had no government. The political rift in the country, even among the ruling Shi'ite groups, is large and widening. The disaffected Sunnis have been humiliated and collectively abused because of the misguided claim that they were favored by Saddam. Hate is brewing and the country’s internal affairs are being handled jointly by some of the most corrupt politicians the world has ever known.

Washington understands that it needs to deliver on some of Obama’s many campaign promises before the November elections. Thus the re-branding campaign, which could hide the fact that the US has no real intention of removing itself from the Iraq’s military or political milieus. But since the current number of military personnel might not be enough to handle the deepening security chaos in the country, the new caretakers at the State Department are playing with numbers.

"State Department spokesman P J Crowley said [a] plan would bring to some 7,000 the total security contractors employed by the government in Iraq, where since the 2003 US invasion private security firms have often been accused of acting above the law," according to Reuters.

It’s important that we understand the number game is just a game. Many colonial powers in the past controlled their colonies through the use of local forces and minimal direct involvement. Those of us oppose the Iraq war should do so based on the guiding principle that foreign invasions, occupations and interventions in sovereign countries’ affairs are a direct violation of international law. It is precisely the interventionist mindset that must be confronted, challenged, and rejected.

While it is a good thing that that thousands of American dads are now coming home, we must also remember that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi moms and dads never did. Millions of refugees from the US-led invasion are still circling the country and the Middle East.

War is not about numbers and dates. It’s about people, their rights, their freedom and their future. Re-branding the army and the war will provide none of this for grief-stricken and vulnerable Iraqis.

The fact is, no one has won this war. And the occupation is anything but over.

Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 24, 2010, 09:28:11 am
59 Killed, 100 Wounded in Iraq Army Recruitment Centre Attack
24/08/2010 10:29:54 AM GMT

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded army recruitment centre in Baghdad killing 59 people Tuesday, officials said. The attack, the deadliest this year, wounded at least another 100 people and came a day after Iraq's two main political parties suspended talks over the formation of a new government five months on from elections, and as the US withdraws thousands of its soldiers from the country.
"We have received 59 corpses this morning," an official at Baghdad morgue said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A doctor at Medical City hospital, close to the scene of the attack, said they had so far received 125 wounded.
The bomber blew himself up around 7:30 am (0430 GMT) at the centre, a former ministry of defense building that now houses a local security command, in the Baab al-Muatham neighborhood of central Baghdad. An interior ministry official said the majority of the victims were army recruits but that some soldiers who were protecting the recruitment centre compound were also among the casualties.
Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area following the attack, and security was stepped up across the capital, leading to traffic gridlock during the morning rush hour.
Also on Tuesday, two separate bomb attacks against judges in Baghdad and the central city of Baquba left four of them wounded, security officials said. The recruitment centre explosion was the bloodiest single attack in Iraq since December 8, when a series of coordinated blasts in the capital killed 127 people.
Iraq is mired in a political stalemate, with the winner of its March election breaking off talks with his main rival Monday evening, dampening already faint hopes that a government could be formed before the holy month of Ramadan ends in the middle of September.
Source: Al Manar

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 24, 2010, 11:27:53 am
Iraq snapshot - August 23, 2010

The Common Ills

Monday, August 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continues, the US military announced another death on Sunday, Joe Biden serves up a course in creative speaking, Margaret Hassan's killer has escaped from an Iraqi prison,  Ayad Allawi tells Vladimir Putin that the US wants Iran's approval of any Iraqi government, Medea Benjamin tangles with Blackwater and more.
The Hindu explains, "Over 50,000 U.S. troops are to remain in Iraq, and their numbers could rise to 70,000. They will be called 'Advise and Assist brigades'; they have warplanes and helicopters and will accompany Iraqi troops into combat. The U.S. also has several big, effectively permanent military bases in Iraq; and intends to maintain about 200,000 mercenaries as 'protectors' of western business and other interests across the country." Before we get to anything else, we need to grasp that reality.  A lot of spin was spun today.
In the United States this morning, Vice President Joe Biden gave a very strange speech.  Matt Negrin (Politico) has the money quote if not the analytical ability to realize what he has: "Don't buy into 'we have failed in Afghanistan.' We are now only beginning, with the right general and the right number of forces, to seek our objectives."  Anyone see the problem?  That's a swipe on Stanley McChrystal.  So McChrystal was the wrong general?  Well darn that Bully Boy Bush for putting McChrystal in charge of Afghanistan.  Oh wait, McChrystal was Barack's choice.  Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post), June 3, 2009: "Army Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, President Obama's choice to lead the war in Afghanistan, said yesterday that violence and combat deaths will intensify as more U.S. troops surge into Taliban-held areas, but he vowed to execute a "holistic" strategy in which killing insurgents would be subordinate to safeguarding Afghan civilians. McChrystal, a former Special Operations commander, pledged that if confirmed he will take extreme measures to avoid Afghan civilian casualties -- a problem that has long tarnished the U.S.-led military campaign -- putting civilians at risk only when necessary to save the lives of coalition troops."  So Barack's been overseeing a war for how long?  He chose the wrong general and it took him how long to realize that?
Biden was there to talk about Iraq and, though he knows better, he gave the usual sap and sop.  Instead of talking about how the service members should have the public's 'gratitude,' he should have offered the government's sympathy for sending them off to fight an illegal war and a war built on lies.  Joe was in crowd pleaser mode and nothing he said matched with the facts.
"You would not recognize the country today!" he insisted.  As proof he pointed to the ethnic cleansing/civil war of 2006 and 2007.  That would be the ethnic cleansing which created the Iraqi refugee crisis.  After you create 4.1 million refugees (higher by some estimates), you would see less violence but, of course, the thugs need someone new to target and it's a damn shame, A DAMN SHAME, that neither Joe Biden or Barack Obama has said one damn word about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community.  It is as shameful as the long silence Ronald Reagan had on AIDS and they -- Joe and Barack -- better accept how ugly this will look historically on their record.  The LGBT community targeted and they never said a word.
On the t hetargeting, at Huffington Post, Jennifer Utz notes:
Last October, New York Magazine published a horrifying article about the persecution of gays in Iraq. The article describes men presumed to be homosexuals being hunted down, tortured, and shot dead at close range. The militias that commit these horrific acts often leave the bodies on the side of the road, with the word "PERVERT" taped to their chests.                     
But an even more brutal method of torture and murder has been adopted. Militias use super glue to close the men's anuses, and then force them to drink a fluid that induces diarrhea, causing them to explode from the inside.                       
As a filmmaker, I spent eight months living in Syria documenting the lives of gay Iraqi men.                     
One of them, a 24 year-old, left his Baghdad home after a note arrived on his front door reading "If your gay son doesn't leave the country, we'll kill the whole family." He told me he considered himself lucky -- "at least they warned me."                               
Jennifer Utz has started Iraqi Refugee Stories to tell the stories of the world's largest refugee crisis.  Joe Biden heaped praise on the drawdown of 'combat troops' and declared this morning, of Iraq's security forces, that they "are 650,000 strong and already leading the way to defend and protect their country."  Robert Fisk (Independent of London via ZNet) observes:
So we should not be taken in by the tomfoolery on the Kuwaiti border in the last few hours, the departure of the last "combat" troops from Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule. Nor by the infantile cries of "We won" from teenage soldiers, some of whom must have been 12-years-old when George W Bush sent his army off on this catastrophic Iraqi adventure. They are leaving behind 50,000 men and women - a third of the entire US occupation force - who will be attacked and who will still have to fight against the insurgency.           

Yes, officially they are there to train the gunmen and militiamen and the poorest of the poor who have joined the new Iraqi army, whose own commander does not believe they will be ready to defend their country until 2020. But they will still be in occupation - for surely one of the "American interests" they must defend is their own presence - along with the thousands of armed and indisciplined mercenaries, western and eastern, who are shooting their way around Iraq to safeguard our precious western diplomats and businessmen. So say it out loud: we are not leaving.


Defend and protect their country?  They don't even have the capabilities to secure their own borders which is, traditionally speaking, the first measure of a nation-state's level of security.  (For those in doubt, look to Greece.)  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that attempts are being made to integrate the Kurdish and the Iraqi forces and quotes US Lt Gen Michael Barbero stating, "The Iraqis realize they have to get the Iraqi Army focused on defending the sovereignty of Iraq. There is a realization that we have to move on and start doing this and get as far down the road as we can in the next 16 months."  Arraf reminds, "Iraq, carved out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire by the victors of World War II, borders six countries -- Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Turkey, Jordan, and Iran."
On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing on Friday), Jane Dutton explored the current state of Iraq. 
Jane Dutton: Iraqis have endured invasion, economic stagnation, wars, sanctions and internal conflict for decades. Today in the aftermath of the seven year war in Iraq, citizens lack even the most basic of services leaving many of them feeling helpless, desperate and in utter disbelief that their homeland is still in a state of chaos. Now the United Nations is promising to create a better future for the people of Iraq. The UN will work closely with a government, civil organizations, academia and the private sector to achieve a series of development goals in Iraq.  These goals are: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and create global partnership for development. To find out more about the Millenium Development Goals and whether the UN will be able to achieve in developing them, I'm joined from Erbil by Christine McNab.  Ms. McNab is a director of the office of development and humanitarian support at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and also the United Nations' resident and humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.  And from Baghdad, by Ali Babin, the Iraqi Minister of Planning and Development Cooperation.  Welcome both of you to the program. Ms. McNab, the very comendable goals, these Millineum Goals, but how do you plan to go about achieving them?
Christine McNab: It's not really a matter of whether they're comendable, it's a matter of the fact that they are very, very good shorthand for a developmental agenda of any country. And even in a country like Iraq which is still struggling with the impact of conflict.  They do give us very clear guidelines of what needs to be done.  They're not just development goals because they also concentrate on the most vulnerable.  So they're also humanitarian goals.  Can we achieve them by 2015? It's possible. It's going to be very, very difficult -- partly because of the violence. But we are working closely with the ministries and the Minister of Planning is one of our close partners. We have a network of 600 UN workers across the country -- these are national staff.  We have another 150 international staff who are working in and out of the country as possible. And this is done in close coordination -- as you said -- with local NGOs.  And the local NGOs and our staff are going to be the real heroes of the Millenium Development Goals because we can help them and we can support them with government.  And, especially with the local government and local societies, they are already making a difference.
Jane Dutton: But this is a very big week for Iraq.  You touched on the violence, it's one of the bloodiest months since the invasion.  The US troops have pulled out which will eventually leave Iraq with only 50,000 support troops. There's sewage running down the street in certain parts of the country. The basic services aren't there.  Who really cares about these goals?  Who has the desire to push them forward?
Christine McNab: Are you still asking me --
Jane Dutton: I'm asking you Ms. McNab.
Christine McNab:  -- or are you asking the Minister?
Jane Dutton: I am asking you.
Christine McNab: Okay, well who has the desire?  I certainly have the desire and my team has the desire but that's not enough. It has to come from within, it has to come from the country. And I don't quite recognize the picture you painted because although there is terrific violence going on, there's also normal life going on in many parts of the country, many governorates.  People are actually able to go about their business. Hospitals have been rebuilt or new hospitals built. We have been rebuilding the schools. The access to clean water is increasing. And I would be the first to admit it's not fast enough.  Sanitation still is a huge issue. And the environment has been terribly neglected.
Jane Dutton: Mr. Baban --
Christine McNab: Women are getting --
Jane Dutton:  Excuse me --
Christine McNab: -- better access.
Jane Dutton: Okay, Mr. Baban do you support these goals, do you think that this is something that is achievable in your country?
Ali Baban: Of course, we achieve a lot. But the problem, as you diagnose it, the  lack of stablity in the country. The country face many challenges.  The chaos, the political antagonism, the lack of stability -- this is the main problems and challenges the country faces. I think without defeating, without overcoming those problems, we cannot achive a lot.  You cannot -- You are not talking about a normal country.  You are talking about an extraordinary situation. So we should take that in our consideration.
Jane Dutton: How do you think these goals which are often cited as being better suited to Africa, how do you think they fit into this middle-income country of yours?
Ali Baban: Of course the humanitarian need is equal -- are equal around the world. So I think the problem now that Iraqi people can overcome their antagonism -- political antagonism -- and go for work for development.  Iraq, as you know and as all people know, is a rich country. So there is no lack of money and we have everything in this country. We have the fortune. But the problem mainly concentrate on development
Jane Dutton: Let's put that to Ms. McNab.  How does the UN view this political standoff at the moment. Five months on and there's still no credible government or there's no government at all.

There is no goverment.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 16 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

And Joe Biden, with a straight face, declared to the VFW today, "It's because politics and nationalism has broken out in Iraq."  [Jon Garcia, Karen Travers and Jake Tapper (ABC News) quote him stating, "Politics, not war, has broken out in Iraq."  I'm sure they are correct that he said that but I'm going by the speech as it was written, working from the prepared text.]  Politics have not broken out in Iraq.  They've broken in Iraq.  Five months after an election and you still can't form the government?  That's a broken process.  US national security types threatening Iraqi politicians with "state of emergency" being declared if they don't form a government?  That's a broken process.  US suggesting that a new position -- that Allawi or Nouri could take -- be created out of whole cloth and contrary to the country's Constitution?  That's a broken process.  Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported: on the stalemate yesterday and quoted Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister, stating, "In Washington, I told them, 'It would be embarrassing if you left and there's no government in place.' The U.S. will still have a substantial force here, but it needs to use it to produce results. . . . The Iraqi leaders are at an impasse, and we need help from our American friends."  Doesn't sound as sweet as the words flowing from Joe's mouth.
Andrew England (Financial Times of London) reports that State Of Law and Iraqiya are supposed to begin talks again today and that the break off in talks over Nouri al-Maliki's assertion (on state TV) that Iraqiya was a "Sunni" party/slate have been mitigated by an elaboration/explanation on Nouri's part. Talks have broken off before and may again. Meanwhile the Voice of Russia reports that Ayad Allawi is supposed to make a trip to Russia shortly to, in the words of an Iraqiya spokesperson, "establish trust relations between Iraq and its friends."
Joe was crowd-pleasing so much, his nose should have grown 17 inches.  Certainly he was orbiting the earth and no longer bound by gravity or facts when he declared that Iraqis voted for the people they wanted to and none of these candidates "were wanted by Iran."  Uh, no, Joe.  No.
In fact, that's not just wrong, that's grossly wrong, that's insulting.  Did the Iraqi people get to vote for the candidates they wanted to?  Does no one remember the Justice and Accountability Commission that purged multiple candidates from the lists?  And Ahmed Chalabi and his pal Ali al-Lami were working on whose authority?  Iran.  So not only were voters denied the chance to vote for some candidates they would have liked to have, Iran pretty much ran through the lists.  And the winners?  Nouri's beloved by Iran.  (The US wants Nouri because Nouri's indicated -- according to State Dept friends -- that he will gladly go along with extending the US occupation if he is made prime minister.  So it's no surprise that Joe is spinning so wildly for Nouri.)  Politics have broken out, declared Joe today but the Financial Times of London points out, "The reality is that the political space the surge was meant to open up created a vacuum that remains unfilled. Iraq's elections are the Arab world's freest, but nearly six months on from the last polls politicians have still not managed to form a new government. And not only the state, but Iraqi society is broken. One in six Iraqis, disproportionately middle-class professionals, have fled their homes, around half for other countries."
Earlier today the Voice of Russia reported that Ayad Allawi was to make a trip to Russia in order to, in the words of an Iraqiya spokesperson, "establish trust relations between Iraq and its friends." Alsumaria TV reports he has met with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Allawi stated the US opposed him becoming prime minister and that they will not back anyone who does not have "good relations with Iran".
Joe insisted, "I am absolutely confident that Iraq will form a national unity government that will be able to sustain the country."  Really?  It hasn't so far.  And that includes the 2005 election that led to the formation (April 2006) of Nouri's government.  That government did not sustain the country.  Saturday in Nasiriyah, there was a demonstration.  Bassem Attiya (AFP) reports that nineteen people were injured in the demonstration with people shouting, "Where is the electricity?"  Press TV adds that 40 people were arrested.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) estimates 200 people participated in the protests "over power outages and bad basic services."  Nouri's been prime minister for over four years now -- in large part because he kicked back the elections (missing the scheduled date) and in part because he refused to step aside -- so that's all on him, Joe.
Turning to legal news, David Batty (Guardian) reports that the only person convicted (Ali Lufti Jassar) in the 2004 kidnapping and killing of CARE International's Margaret Hassan has escaped from prison at some point and appears to have been aided in his prison break. Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN add:

[Deputy Justice Minister Busho] Ibrahim said officials did not know of al-Rawi's escape until a month ago. The British Embassy last month said Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke of the matter to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. "Mr. Zebari assured Mr. Hague that the Iraqi government were aware of the case and were keen to ensure justice," an embassy statement said.                 
A spokesman for Hassan's family said in a statement last month that al-Rawi had been due in court July 16 as part of an appeal against his conviction. Concern was growing over his fate, as he had missed some earlier hearings, the statement said. The court was told he had escaped in an "incident."                     
"Jassar is known to be part of the gang that kidnapped and killed my sister," said Deirdre Manchanda, Hassan's sister, in the statement. "We have fought for justice for six years, only to find that not one member of this gang can be brought to justice."                               
Hassan's family only wants to know where her remains are and bring them home for burial, she said. "We can only ever hope to do that if he is recaptured and brought back to face justice."               

AFP reports the British Foreign Office issued the following statement: "Justice must be done for this dreadful crime, committed against someone who dedicated her life to helping all Iraqis."  The Irish Independent adds, "Last night, one of Mrs Hassan's sisters, Geraldine Riney, said the family was still looking for Margaret's remains to be returned to them."  In other prison news, Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports that Salem, her driver who was assisting the US military, was released from jail finally but now is living an underground life to avoid retaliation from Shi'ite militias and that his two sons remain imprisoned.
Sunday the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq – A United States Forces -- Iraq Soldier was killed today in Basra province while conducting operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." Martin Chulov (Guardian) explains, "Details of the incident were not released, but Basra airport base, which is still home to about 4,000 US forces, had experienced increased numbers of rocket attacks in recent weeks as the deadline drew near for the withdrawal of combat troops. Two soldiers suffered minor wounds in a rocket strike early last week, and rockets have hit the Green Zone in Baghdad almost daily for the past month."  The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War since it began to  4417.
In today's reported violence, Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) reports at least 3 people died in Baghdad "overnight and early Monday" and at least twenty more were left injured -- two died from mortar shells (three wounded), 1 Iraqi soldier killed in Ramadi (six people wounded), three Iraqi soldiers wounded in a Mosul grenade attack.  Reuters notes a Sulaimaniya mortar attack (from Iran) which injured one person and 5 people shot dead in Haditha. Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN explain the five were employees of the Oil Ministry and that the killers escaped with a ton of money (approximately $400,000 in US dollars). Meanwhile Hugh Sykes (BBC News) reports, "Iraqi police have broken up an alleged al-Qaeda gang whose members have been killing traffic police in Baghdad, officials said."
The top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno hit the US airwaves yesterday. James Gordon Meek (New York Daily News) told CNN's State of the Union that the US "could be there [in Iraq] beyond 2011." For many other outlets the 'news' was something else. AP thinks the news is that Odierno stated the US could resume combat operations (unlikely, says Odierno, but possible). Don Lee (Los Angeles Times) thinks that the big and new news too. By contrast, Xinhua leads with the same point Meek sees as news:

Top U.S. commander in Iraq Ray Odierno said on Sunday that the United States could have a military presence in Iraq well after 2011 when all U.S. troops are set to leave.                             
Less than two weeks before the scheduled end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Odierno told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday talk show "State of the Union" that he could imagine a scenario where "we could be there beyond 2011."                 

So which is the big news?

That call can be made. The news is that the US could be in Iraq beyond 2011. That's news thanks to the news industry. Despite a cranky CBS gas bag's claim that the internet is repeating rumors (I would guess that would be AM Talk show radio hosts, actually, but Bob Schieffer's not going to go there and risk being called out on radio) while CBS doesn't repeat rumors. (CBS legal department came to a different conclusion, Bob, or have you forgotten the AWOL Bush story on 60 Minutes II?) The reality is that CBS is among the multitude of outlets that have spent the last 18 months plus insisting that the Status Of Forces Agreement means that the Iraq War ends in 2011. That's not what it means, that's never been what it means. But the media outlets have overwhelming 'reported' otherwise. That makes Odierno's statements on that aspect news.  And he told Bob that Sunday on Face The Nation (CBS News -- link has text and video), "If they ask us that they might want us to stay longer, we certainly would consider that.  That would obviously be a policy decision that would be made by the national security team and the president over time."  The "national security team"?  Ray Odierno spoonfed press types a mouthful in that statement but watch them all play dumb again and pretend Hillary's running Iraq. And if you're still not getting it, read "Blame Hillary" at Third, and key point for those who can't grasp reality:
Let's set aside reality for just a moment and pretend Hillary will be over 'an army' in Iraq. If that's true (it's not true), why would there be anger at Hillary? If Barack was putting Hillary in charge of such an apparatus, the anger should be aimed at him.           
Or have we all forgotten the Christ-child's fabled 'superior sense of judgment.' You know, the super power which allows him to, after the fact, know what should have been done? Some call it Monday morning quarterbacking, others call it Barack Obama's glorious know-how.                         
And remember how in campaign appearance after campaign appearance and debate after debate, he declared himself right on Iraq and Hillary wrong? Have you forgotten that?   
If Hillary were being put in charge of Iraq, it would be the biggest slap in the face to Barack Obama's primary supporters you could imagine. They'd elected to vote for him and not Hillary due to the Iraq War and, yet, she's being placed (by him) in charge of the Iraq War?
It's not happening but, if it were, the Cult of St. Barack should be storming the barricades and issuing cries of, "Barry, how could you!!!!"

So Bob and CBS, where was your SOFA reporting in real time?  Where did you explain to the American people that the SOFA didn't mean the end of the Iraq War?  That's right, you never did.   The didn't lie on the other aspect: US troops returning to combat. They just rarely reported it; however, they did report it.

You can refer to the November 2, 2007 "Iraq snapshot" the Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" and the latter is based on the transcript of the interview conducted by Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny with then-candidate Barack Obama (the transcript was much more illuminating than what Gordon and Zeleny wrote up for the article that the paper ran).

In the case of the SOFA, the media -- with very few exceptions -- has repeatedly and wrongly 'informed' that it means the end of the Iraq War. They practiced -- as we noted in real time -- prediction, prophecy, etc. but they were not practicing reporting. Reporting is telling readers what has happened. Barack's plan to send combat troops back into Iraq after pulling them out if things went badly was reported on. It wasn't emphasized -- didn't fit the falese image the press was attempting to paint for the Cult of St. Barack -- but it was reported.

The SOFA? They're still misreporting it. Take a look at the USA Today editorial board today serving up this crap: "Seven years after the invasion and 16 months before the last U.S. soldier is scheduled to depart, few would be bold enough to proclaim victory in Iraq or foolish enough to declare defeat. Instead, U.S. operations seem destined to end in a slow, unsatisfying fadeout as Iraq muddles its way into an uncertain future. This will leave the U.S. to play a high-stakes endgame with steadily decreasing sway." Scheduled to depart? There's no such schedule at current, there never has been. Contract law isn't a tricky thing. We went over this repeatedly in the last nearly two years. And yet it's still a 'surprise' and 'news' to many because the media continues to get it wrong. And that, Bob Schieffer, is far more damaging than an opinion someone holds about whether or not someone else belongs to this religion, that religion or no religion. And, in fact, what Simmi Aujla (Politico) does is so questionable, Politico should review Aujla's resume (Aujla emphasizes the combat aspect but insists that Odierno "said the country will be ready for the U.S. withdrawal to be completed in Sept. 2011" without noting that Odierno stated US forces could remain in Iraq after 2011.

A few people are telling the truth about what did and did not happen last week (no, Virginia, the war did not end).  We'll try to spotlight a few of them each day this week and we'll start with two today.  Last week Barack offered some pretty lies and the media ran with them. Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observed:

The White House and the Pentagon, assisted by a servile media, have hyped Thursday's exit of a single Stryker brigade from Iraq as the end of the "combat mission" in that country, echoing the ill-fated claim made by George W. Bush seven years ago.
Obama is more skillful in packaging false propaganda than Bush, and no doubt has learned something from the glaring mistakes of his predecessor. Bush
landed on the deck of the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 to proclaim -- under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished" -- that "major combat operations" in Iraq were over. A captive audience of naval enlisted personnel was assembled on deck as cheering extras.
Obama wisely did not fly to Kuwait to deliver a similar address from atop an armored vehicle. He merely issued a statement from the White House, while leaving the heavy lifting to the television networks and their "embedded" reporters, who accompanied the brigade across the border into Kuwait and repeated the propaganda line fashioned by the administration and the military brass.

Anthony Cordesman offered similar thoughts in "Iraq: 'Mission Accomplished' Mark II":

Well, he did not wear a flight suit, stand on a carrier deck, or have a "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him. The fact remains, however, that President Obama did issue a second "mission accomplished statement on Iraq on August 18th, and one just as wrong and irresponsible as the one given by President Bush:

Today, I'm pleased to report that -- thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq -- our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops...By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.

Political posturing is the norm in Washington, and claiming victory and an end
to a war is far more popular than bearing the burden of leadership and dealing
with reality. The Iraq War is not over and it is not "won." In fact, it is at as critical a stage as at any time since 2003. Regardless of the reasons for going to war, everything now depends on a successful transition to an effective and unified
Iraqi government, and Iraqi security forces that can bring both security and stability to the average Iraqi. The creation of such an "end state" will take a minimum of another five years, and probably ten.

Iraq still faces a serious insurgency, and deep ethnic and sectarian tensions. In spite of its potential oil wealth, its economy is one of the poorest in the world in terms of real per capita income, and it is the second year of a budget crisis that has force it to devote most state funds to paying salaries and maintaining employment at the cost of both development and creating effective security forces.
Other voices telling the truth that we'll highlight in the week are Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin and, on the latter, we'll close with the opening of Medea's "Blackwater vs. Pinkwater: The Wife of Eric Prince Picks a Fight With CODEPINK" (War Is A
It felt surreal to be inside the home of Erik Prince, the founder, owner and chairman of Blackwater (or Xe, as it is now called). Prince, a former Navy Seal, provides security for the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department. His company trains 40,000 people a year in skills that include personal protection. Yet his home in McLean, Virginia, has no security. None. Not even a fence or a guard dog or a No Trespassing sign. And his mother-in-law, who helps care for his young children, invited a total stranger--me--into his home without hesitation.   

I had gone to Princes' home, together with two CODEPINK colleagues, assuming it would be empty. I'd read in the New York Times that Mr. Prince and his family had moved out of the country, fleeing from a series of civil lawsuits, criminal charges and Congressional investigations stemming from his company's contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the news, "In documents filed last week in a civil lawsuit brought by former Blackwater employees accusing Mr. Prince of defrauding the government, Mr. Prince sought to avoid giving a deposition by stating that he had moved to Abu Dhabi [which is in the United Arab Emirates] in time for his children to enter school there on August 15." Susan Burke, the lawyer seeking the deposition, announced that she was flying to the Emirates to find him.
I had been feeling particularly upset about Blackwater lately. Seeing the combat troops leaving Iraq, I'd been thinking about the banner CODEPINK members held in countless anti-war vigils: "Iraq War: Who Lies? Who Dies? Who Pays? Who Profits?" Politicians lied about weapons of mass destruction, Iraqis and American soldiers died, U.S. taxpayers paid, and companies like Blackwater make a killing. In just a few years, Blackwater received over $1 billion in U.S. government contracts, contracts that accounted for 90 percent of its revenue. Erik Prince, the company's sole owner, was now taking his profits, trying to sell the company and running away to the Emirates, a country that has no extradition treaty with the United States.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 24, 2010, 11:47:38 am
Video: The Last US Combat Forces in Iraq?

Riz Khan Interviews John Pilger

August 23, 2010


Who should be held accountable for the invasion and occupation that has left hundreds of thousands dead?


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 24, 2010, 02:14:41 pm
Iraq's Kurdish Army Chief Serves His American Masters

By Muhammad al-Ammary, Iraq News Agency


Iraq's Army Chief Babakir Zebari:

August 23, 2010

Translated By Nicolas Dagher

Iraq - Iraq News Agency - Original Article (Arabic- August 14, 2010)

I neither care for nor follow the scum who lick the boots of the American invaders, nor do I waste my energy acquainting myself with those who sell their souls for bargain-basement prices, so I don't know exactly how and when Babakir Zebari obtained the rank of chief of staff of what is now referred to as the new Iraqi Army. Yes - I refer to that mighty force, the leadership of which sways to and fro due to its lack of patriotism and professionalism, despite the enormous sums that have been put at the disposal of its leadership. And then there are the majority of its senior officers who answer to political parties, caucuses, and ethnic, sectarian or tribal groups, that issue them non-negotiable orders that need never be explained, and which originate in regional countries that are openly hostile to Iraq and its people.

The chief of staff of the new Iraqi Army, "Protector of Peace!!" told Agence France Presse a few days ago that his "courageous" forces won't be prepared to maintain security and stability in Iraq before 2020 [see video below]. During his "extremely valuable" speech about the alleged U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the chief of staff of the "Iraqi military" spoke to Iraqi politicians - if they can be described as such - saying: "The U.S. military should remain until the Iraqi Army is ready in 2020."

It's obvious that this man, if he possessed one iota of decency, honor and dignity before joining the military, would never have uttered such shameful comments, which stink of pleading to those who were and remain the main cause of every catastrophe and misery of today's Iraqis, not to mention the destruction of every institution of state - military, civic and social alike. Even ordinary citizens aren't safe from the sectarian-religious virus and racist evil that resulted in a nobody like this "Kurdish" Babakir Zebari becoming the chief of staff of the Iraqi Army, a force with a glorious history and whose remarkable exploits are well-documented.

The defense minister of the Green Zone, Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi, successful described the dire state and daily failures experienced by their super army. His "Dishonorable-Excellency" said that "what has been occurring in different parts of the country recently" - in the name of Allah, he could have said the same for the last seven years - "is due to negligence, a lack of follow-up, a failure to apply the lessons learned in battle and failure to be properly alert." What battle is this genius talking about - and where do these lessons and commands come from? Naturally this genius of a minister has no actual authority, prestige or influence, which is the norm among his colleagues in the collaborator-government of Nouri al-Maliki, which has lost any legitimacy. And why hasn't he told us of the punishments imposed on the people in the Defense Ministry and commanders of his "courageous" army, who failed to apply these "teachings of battle?"

In stark contrast with what he himself and the Army chief of staff had to say, the Green Zone minister of defense commented: "The process of ramping up our readiness has begun" (What was he doing up to now, and what's taking his so long getting his men ready?), "and is proceeding with the integration of ground and tactical air support, and taking control of the security situation in cities from multi-national forces" (he means the invader U.S. forces, but is too ashamed to admit it) "leading to the completion of our plans to control overall national security." Great. But if your army is so prepared, then why does Babakir Zebari - excuse me, I mean Iraq's Army chief of staff - want to keep U.S. forces here until the year 2020? What's the motive of the Kurd, Babakir Zebari, of having his American masters squatting on the chests of Iraqis like a black nightmare?


The attachment to their American masters and protectors of the chief of staff of the so-called Iraqi Army, Babakir Zebari, his great Zionist friend, [President of Iraqi Kurdistan] Massoud Barzani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (another Zibari), whose star has also fallen recently, is nothing strange or new. But it fits perfectly with their decades-long treachery and brand of politics, which is devoid of any ethical or moral commitment, and involves putting oneself at the disposal of any country hostile to Iraq and its people.

Babakir Zebari's comments were not due to a concern for the interests of Iraq or its people, or any wish to build an Iraqi force capable of repelling external aggression, as the mouthpieces of the Kurdish media have tried to assert. On the contrary, those people, and by that I mean the collaborator Kurdish parties, don't recognize Iraq, its flag, its laws or its government, although they are an essential part of it. Everything they do, at all levels, stems from the fact that they are a sovereign and independent state, or so they think - and one filled with hatred, bitterness, plots and conspiracies.

They sit and wait for opportunities to pursue their agenda - and in these treacherous times, there are many. They collaborate with the Satans and demons of the planet to harm Iraqis and their homeland. Thus the Americans, be they occupiers, invaders or employers, remain for every traitor, collaborator or mercenary, regardless of gender, color or ethnicity, as a leading supporter, mentor and guarantor. But however long they stay, it won’t be forever. This is something Babakir Zebari deliberately ignores.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 27, 2010, 11:24:10 am
Iraq snapshot - August 26, 2010

The Common Ills

Thursday, August 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa is targeted today, the new US Ambassador to Iraq pounds the (new) war drums, the political stalemate continues, Iraqis weigh in on the drawdown, peace activists take a stand, and more.
Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with bombings and Jason Ditz ( counts 92 dead from violence with 379 more people left injured. The press consensus yesterday appeared to be that security personnel were the primary targets of yesterday's violence. Violence continues today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Baquba attack today has claimed 6 lives. The target? Sahwa members. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq," are fighters (mainly Sunni -- but according to Gen David Petraeus's April 2008 Congressional testimonies, not exclusively Sunni) who were paid by the US military to stop attacking US military equipment and US military personnel. In 2008, as Congressional members began to get vocal about the financial cost of Sahwa (approximately $300 per member per month with over 96,000 Sahwa), the transition to Iraq's government or 'government' out of Baghdad picking up the bill was supposed to take place. Despite claims in November and again in early 2009, as late as the summer of 2009, the US was still footing the bill regularly for many Sahwa. Despite claims by Nouri that he would absorb a number of Sahwa (about 20%) into Iraq's security forces, that really didn't come to be and Sahwa members began waiting weeks and weeks for late monthly payments and then came the targeting of them, followed by attempts to disarm them, followed by more targeting.
Al Jazeera puts the number dead at 8 (cites police sources for the number) and notes that 52,000 Sahwa continue to remain unemployed/unabsorbed into Nouri's 'new Iraq." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes that al-Iraqiyah TV is reporting 8 deaths as well and reminds, "The U.S. hailed the decision of its Sunni Muslim members to turn against al-Qaeda as a key to a country-wide decline in attacks about a year later." The Morning Star also reports 8 dead and states that the bombing "killed four of the guards immeidately before gunmen reportedly finished off the survivors." Reuters adds, "A second simultaneous assault on another Sunni militia group in the same province was thwarted, with one attacker killed and two arrested, Interior Ministry and provincial officials said." AFP quotes police Cpt Firas al-Dulaimi stating, "Several members of al-Qaeda attacked a Sahwa office when nine people were inside. Six Sahwa were killed, two were wounded and one was unhurt." 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 Sahwa killed in the attack and also notes a Diyala Province bombing in which 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed and two more were wounded. Reuters notes an Abu Saida clash in which 1 person was killed and two more were arrested as they attempt to assault Sahwa, a Mosul car bombing which injured Nezhat Ali of the Turkmen Front as well as five other people, a Hawija roadside bombing which injured one person and, dropping back to Wednesday night for the rest, a Mosul bombing which injured one adult and one child and  Kirkuk attack in which one person was wounded in a shooting.
Meanwhile Arthur MacMillan (AFP) reports on Sahwa Sahwa reaction to the news of the drawdown which is fear in light of the targeting leading Sahwa's Samarra commander Majid Hassan to ask, "If our houses are being attacked and destroyed by the terrorists even before the withdrawal, what will happen to us when the US forces leave?"  For Morning Edition (NPR), Mike Shuster files a report about other reactions to the waves of violence.
Mike Shuster: They did the bombings because of the Americans, said Abu Salman at his butcher shop in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. They claim that when the Americans leave, there will be more bombs in Iraq. Abu Mohammed, a construction worker, agreed. "They do think the Americans are weaker now, so let's do it," he said. Abu Salman added, "They are getting stronger because there's no government and there's no protection in the street."
Meanwhile the Arab Times reports on a poll by Asharq Research Centre which surveyed 1,150 Iraqis (18 and older) from August 15th through 23rd and found:
* 59.8% stated that the it wasn't the right time for US forces to leave; 39.5% felt it was
* 53.1% did not agree that "combat" operations should end August 31st; 46.2% did agree
* 51% felt the drawdown would have a negative effect; 25.8% felt it would be positive
* Does Barack Obama care about the situation in Iraq?  No = 41.9%; Yes = 39.8%; don't know = 15.5%
Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) observes, "The attacks exposed as a fiction the Obama administration's long-standing claim that the Iraqi forces were ready and able to take over from U.S. troops. While that claim may have played well with war-weary Americans, Iraqis have never been fooled: only last week, the commander of the Iraq military said his forces would not be fully ready until 2020. The bombings don't automatically mean all (or even much) of Iraq is once again in the  grip of the insurgency. But they suggest the country is in for a great deal more violence in the months ahead."  The Hindu adds, "The spate of murderous attacks in cities across the whole of Iraq over the last 10 days has taken the August 2010 death toll to 535, with nearly 400 wounded. This exceeds the July total of 500 deaths; the authorities attribute the bombings to Sunni-militant followers of al-Qaeda. Only one attacker was stopped in advance: in Mosul, Iraqi soldiers spotted and killed a suicide bomber before he could blow his car up. Above all, the intensified attacks show how little control the United States and the Iraqi authorities have."
Surveying the landscape, The Economist offers, "American commanders were quick to remind Iraqi and American audiences this week that their troops could still return to patrolling the streets if needed. That is meant to be reassuring, and to a growing number of Iraqis it is. But it does not address the underlying problem, namely the inability of the Iraqi state to function effectively, including running the police. Many Iraqis expect the police to respond to the latest attacks by hiding behind even more sandbags and blast walls." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 19 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
While the stalemate goes on, the US Ambassador -- new US Ambassador -- to Iraq, James Jeffrey is getting 'comfortable.'  You've been advised to pay attention to his background ("national security") and to who's running things on the US side now.  If you have, you'll find the report by Michael Christie and Jon Hemming (Reuters) not at all surprising, if you haven't, your jaw may drop.  War with/on Iran can't just spring up, it has to be sold. Today Jeffrey informed the reporters that "he believed groups backed by Iran were responsible for a quarter of U.S. casualties in the Iraq war but that Tehran was not as infuential in Iraq as thought." Give the 'diplomat' time, he'll offer more 'thoughts' and 'beliefs' and watch the way they skew. 
As Kat explained last night, "First off, Margaret Warner (The NewsHour, PBS) is in Iraq and if you have a question about the war, you can write her and there going to pick through the questions."  The NewsHour notes: "You can e-mail your question, name and hometown to or send a tweet to @NewsHour. We'll collect questions for a few days, and Margaret will answer as many as she can here on The Rundown."
In the US, Marisa Guthrie (Broadcast & Cable) reports, "On Aug. 31, President Obama will deliver a primetime speech from the Oval Office about the end of combat operations in Iraq. The speech, which will be about 15 minutes long, will begin at 8 p.m ET. All of the major networks will carry it live. Diane Sawyer will anchor ABC's coverage of the speech. She'll be joined by George Stephanopoulos. Brian Williams will anchor NBC's coverage, and Harry Smith will be on hand for CBS' coverage. Fox, which has on occasion demurred in handing over prime-time for the President's addresses, also will carry the speech live." The drawdown didn't end the Iraq War and repeating the lie it did effects many. Ann Rubin (KSDK) reports some soldiers in Iraq are afraid their pay is going to be cut as a result of the creative terminology the spin is pushing. US House Rep Russ Carnahan tells Rubin, "The bottom line is they're in a dangerous part of the world, but we've got to continue to do everything we can to be sure they get that support." Meanwhile Jarrod Wise (KXAN) reports that 800 members of the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division are preparing to deploy to Iraq where they will be stationed in Basra and the 800 include people like Bank of America's Charles Clemons and police officer Stephanie Dugan. Jennie Huerta (KVUE) adds that the 800 head to Fort Lewis at the end of next month and will be in Iraq following Thanksgiving for what "is only the second major deployment of the 36th Infantry Division headquarters since World War II, when the T-Patch soldiers were the first American troops to land in Europe." Nikasha Dicks (Augusta Chronicle) notes that the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion's Bravo Company had a send-off ceremony on Saturday as Bravo Company prepares for a year-long deployment in Iraq and quotes Colen Ortiz whose husband Sgt Ortiz is among those deploying, "The very first three [deployments], I just had to worry about myself. Now I have someone else to worry about." Colen Ortiz "is expecting the couple's first child in October."  Heath Druzin (Stars and Stripes) explains, "On Sept. 1, the date the U.S. mission in Iraq officially changes, troops will still patrol the dusty fringes of this violent insurgent stronghold. They may raid the house of a suspected terrorist. They will continue to face the ever-present danger of roadside bombs. What they won't do is conduct combat operations, at least on paper."  At least on paper.  The Iraq War didn't end and won't end September 1st.
Early Monday morning, a major action took place as a group of activists joined in an action to block a troop deployment at Fort Hood in Texas.  They chanted and held a huge banner "TELL THE BRASS: KISS MY ASS YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU MORE."  The group was originally longer but the time on Sunday for the troops to leave in their bus was repeatedly changed.  It left early in the morning and several dedicated activists were still present.  Stephen C. Webster was present to report for Raw Story (and was among those harassed by the police) amd reports that the activists managed to halt the deployment "for approximately 10 seconds while police and military personnel shoved them out of the road," that those participating feel it was a success (it was, my opinion) and that "not a single one of them was arrested." One of those participating in the action was Matthis Chiroux who explains (along with others at the link) why he participated:
I am a former Army sergeant and war resister. I was press-ganged into the Army by the Alabama Juvenile "Justice" System in 2002. While in the military, I occupied the nations of Japan and Germany for more than four years, with shorter tours in the Philippines and Afghanistan.

I was a Public Affairs noncommissioned officer specializing in strategic communications. In reality, I was a propaganda artist. I was discharged honorably to the Individual Ready Reserve in 2007.
While I have always been against the war in Iraq, I began resisting it actively in 2008, after I received mobilization orders for a year-long deployment to Iraq. I refused those orders in Congress in May of 2008, calling my orders illegal and unconstitutional. I believed appealing to Congress would end the war. When 13 Members signed a letter of support for my decision and sent it to Bush, I thought we had won a victory for peace. This was more than two years ago. The president has changed, and the wars and destruction drag on.
Today, I am blocking the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with my fellow vets and military family members because the wars will continue to victimize our communities until we halt this bloody machine from within. I am putting my body on the line in solidarity with the people of the Middle East, whose bodies have been shot, burned, tortured, raped, and violated by our men and women in and out of uniform. I cannot willfully allow Americans in uniform to put their lives and the lives of Iraqis in jeopardy for a crime. We are here because we have a responsibility to ourselves as veterans and as humans of the world. I will not rest until my people, ALL PEOPLE, are free.
The others participating who write of their actions are Bobby Whittenberg-James, Crystal Colon and Cynthia Thomas. Monday, World Can't Wait reported, "Five peace activists successfully blockaded six buses carrying Fort Hood Soldiers deploying to Iraq outside Fort Hood's Clarke gate this morning at around 4 a.m."  Alice Embree (The Rag Blog) reports:
Under darkness at about 4 a.m. this morning, buses carrying the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) to planes were stopped by a group of five protesters that included two Iraq veterans, one Afghanistan veteran, and one military spouse whose husband had been deployed to Iraq three times.               

The Fort Hood Disobeys group clambered down from a highway overpass where supporters held banners and signs. Holding banners that said, "Occupation is a Crime" and "Please Don't Make the Same Mistake We Did. RESIST NOW," the protesters spread across Clarke Road. Police with automatic weapons and dogs beat them out of the roadway. They were not arrested.
You can find photos of the action taken by Malachi Muncey here, photos by Jeff Zavala here,  Cindy Beringer (US Socialist Worker) quotes attorney James Branum stating, "The most amazing thing was troops in buses raising clinched fists as buses drove by the protest.  Solidarity!"
In a video Jeff Zavala made about the issue several of the activists share their thoughts.  This is an excerpt:
Geoff Gernant:  I think it's important people resist the occupations -- the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think it's important to do that in a such way that it's the people themselves resisting in a direct action and not doing something like lobbying Congress or writing letters to Congressmen or relying on politicians to do something -- which they've shown that they're not willing to do which is end this war.  We all need to start doing, actively opposing it ourselves.  And I've been involved in activsim here, Under The Hood, for like a year or so.

Crystal Colon: Because I think it's time that people do something about these wars. I don't feel like there's enough support for the  wars in the American population. But there aren't enough people actually getting out there and doing something about it, trying to stop it. And I want to be one of the people that goes out there and says, you know, "This is exactly what I think, this is how I feel about this and I am going to try and stop you from doing this anyway I possibly can. I came out to Under The Hood -- I've been here since June for two months just organizing around Fort Hood, doing all the protests that we've done, like the one at the East Gate and the Col Allen banner that we made specifically for the 3rd ACR.  I just really want these soldiers to know that this is not something that they have to do because I know if someone would have done this for me when I was in, I wouldn't have gone back a second time. I probably wouldn't have gone the first time if someone would have done this for me back in '06. So I really just want soldiers to know there's support for them out there, that what they're feeling -- If they're feeling like this is not what they want to do, this is against their moral values and it's against their feelings and they feel like this is not the right thing for them to do, we are there to support them and that's what I want them to see.
Bobby Whittenberg: War in our time always kills innocent civilians, it kills children, it kills women and it destroys families both in the Middle East and here in the United States.  The United States has always been predatory, has always been violent -- a country built on the land of slaughtered Native people.  It was built by slaves. The United States is always killing innocent people to take things that do not belong to them. I do not lend my consent to the actions of the United States government. I'm here today to say no more.  A lot of us have just been talking and, you know, holding signs -- that's great.  But we decided that it's time that we moved beyond that and what we're planning is totally non-violent but it's definitely a sign to say that we've had enough and that we can't trust the politicians, the capitalists to end these wars because they make them more wealthy and consolidate their power. So if we want to see any change, we have to do it ourselves. They always say, if you want something done right, do it yourself.  Right?  That's what we're doing, do it yourself.
At The Wilder Side, Ian and Kimberly Wilder note a Green Party candidate:
New York State Green Party US Senate Candidate Cecile Lawrence Says that the War in Iraq Continues Despite Fanfare over departure of "last" Combat Troops
New York State peace and social justice activist Cecile Lawrence and Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate remembers being amazed at former President Bush's advice to Americans after planes hit the towers at the bottom of Manhattan that we all should go shopping.                 
Less than two years later, the U.S. attacked Iraq in an invasion dubbed "Shock and Awe." Major cities in Iraq were later bombed into the Middle Ages, as at least one commentator put it.     
Dr. Lawrence, running for the seat to which Kisten Gillibrand was appointed by Governor Paterson last year, is aghast at the likelihood that the Obama administration is playing with words by announcing that he's ending the war in Iraq with the departure from that country of the last full Army combat brigade. With 50,000 members of the U.S. military to remain in Iraq, Lawrence is convinced that the war continues but just under a new label.
Lawrence added that every since Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed Senator, she has regularly voted for more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.       
From Lawrence's perspective, this move of some military out of Iraq is a game of smoke and mirrors. According to the State Department the numbers of private security guards will be massively increased and a "small army" of contractors will remain. Lawrence noted that a member of the military commented, "Combat operations is a sort of relative term." Lawrence also noted that the American people have no clear picture of the roles of these private security guards and contractors, who are highly specialized and well trained. Their private status excludes them from the scrutiny that troops would have. Lawrence agrees with the conclusion that this move is simply a privatization of the occupation.
Lastly, on another topics, Alexandra Tweten explores suffrage in "The Echoes of Suffrage" (Ms. magazine) which is fitting considering today. Women's Voices, Women's Vote explains:
Today is Equality Day, the celebration of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.  Join the celebration by registering to vote, or by encouraging the women in your life to register to vote.                 

Did You Know?           

Ninety years ago, one mother's plea to her son helped pass the 19th Amendment by one vote and gave American women the vote. After thirty-five of the necessary thirty-six states had ratified the amendment, the battle came to Nashville, Tennessee. One young legislator, 24 year-old Harry Burns, had previously voted with the anti-suffrage forces. But a telegram from his mother urging him to vote for the amendment and for suffrage made the difference. Burns broke a 48 to 48 tie making Tennessee the 36th and deciding state to ratify. One vote does matter. Your vote matters. Today, even though women turnout at equal or great numbers than men on election day, more than one in four American women is still not registered to vote.  If you're one of them, celebrate Equality Day today by visting Women's Voices. Women's Vote website and registering to vote. If you are already registered, use your voice to talk to five women you know about the importance of voting.   

Read more on Equality Day from Women's Voices. Women Vote President Page Gardner on Huffington Post.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 28, 2010, 07:48:20 am
Lies About Iraq are the Focus of U.S. Strategy

Rekondo Txente, Rebelión


PRAVDA.Ru, August 27, 2010

Several years ago, leaders in Washington shaped an entire advertising campaign to invade and occupy Iraq. The set of lies and accusations that later proved false were the backbone of the American script. And now, as then, many media outlets are repeating the American version without flinching.

Therefore, Obama's statements and moves, announcing with much fanfare that he is fulfilling his promise to withdraw troops from that country are cheered by that same news media that once also "saw" Saddam's relations with al Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction and other false arguments of those who then were never heard from again.

It was George Bush who declared in the past that "the war has ended" and now we are repeating the same song after the announcement of Obama. And all this prepared with a triumphant victory speech and presenting the current situation as the final victory of the United States.

Some intend to present the current situation as close to stability, but the only thing that has stabilized is that there is a situation of war, close to a low intensity war, the result of which Iraq and Afghanistan have once again changed their roles. If for some years the Iraqi centrality placed Afghanistan in a secondary role, now, according to U.S. strategy, the roles may be reversed.

Recently, a local journalist pointed out that there were some signs that could substantiate this alleged stability. It was mentioned about the gradual recovery of Abu Nawas, the famous area of the capital on the banks of the Tigris which concentrates a good apart of the nightlife, or the road to Baghdad to Tikrit or linking the capital to Najaf, two-routes that a few years ago were classified as "very dangerous" and apparently its traffic has "normalized." But, at the same time, he admits that the extraordinary installation of sixty military checkpoints on the road has been instrumental to the situation.

The desperate search of the occupants for a picture of victory, a picture that from the beginning of the occupation resists them, makes them present "another" reality of Iraq, in line with the script designed from Washington.

Nevertheless, Iraq shows another reality. After three wars, thirteen years after the criminal embargo with the bombing of the U.S. and Britain and the last seven years of foreign occupation, we find a failed state, unable to provide the people with necessary services and run by a political lobby that uses the umbrella of so-called "security" to hide all their miseries and shortcomings.

And if the recent occupation has been the final push that has put Iraq on the brink of the abyss, we should not forget that the previous steps (embargo and seizures) have been keys to destroying the country. Well beyond the current situation, genocide against the Iraqi people is the direct result of implementing these strategies.

Today, "thanks" to these policies, the agricultural sector, once one of the pillars of the Iraqi economy, is destroyed and the population is forced to abandon their fields and consume imported products with the rising cost that this entails. The IMF has also "collaborated" in the impoverishment of Iraq. Its actions have made the price of gasoline soar, when in the past its purchase was subsidized by the state.

Environmental degradation and its implications for the population also tends to erase the picture. The effects of depleted uranium used by the occupants during the period prior to the invasion, or those who inflicted all the restrictions of the embargo are part of that "new reality" with fatal consequences. Furthermore, the destruction of the agricultural sector has brought an increase of desertification and sandstorms that sometimes force the closing of public buildings and airports due to the lack of visibility.

And other aspects of Iraq, since there are thousands of exiles (and their difficulties in returning), internally displaced persons, unemployment, almost daily attacks, the fear of "the other" (a direct result of the sectarian politics of these years), or uncontrolled privatization of all strategic sectors of the country "disappear" from the guidelines set from Washington in dealing with the alleged U.S. withdrawal.

With an incompetent and corrupt political elite, with an army in the process of reconstruction, but unable to assume its role without the support of the occupants, and a clear institutional deadlock, to speak of normalization in Iraq is a sarcasm.

So the fine print of the Obama announcement calls into question the statement made. How can you claim that U.S. combat troops are leaving Iraq? Anyone who defends this thesis does it for ignorance or for a specific special interest. The truth is that 50,000 American soldiers will remain in that country who have conveniently changed their name (combat troops are now going to be called assistance brigades). Calls have emerged for permanent bases in Iraq like mushrooms and Washington has no interest in abandoning them. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad is one of the largest worldwide, with very mixed personnel.

To all this we must add also the presence and the arrival of thousands of "mercenaries" and other members of private security (sometimes also presented as advisors). And do not forget that the absence of an Iraqi armed force causes the local army to depend entirely on the "air services" of the U.S. (which will last at least until 2018), or the role they have to play in so-called 'units of special operations" that will remain in Iraq.

The occupation of Iraq is illegal under international law, something that many have wanted to forget. The consequences of the strategy of the occupants is a suffering Iraqi society, with fatal consequences.

This self-proclaimed victory leaves behind a trail of blood, a country devastated, ravaged, plundered and divided. A society that will take a long time to heal the wounds, but that today closely collaborates to demand the withdrawal of all occupation forces from its territory.

Above all, it presents to us a country that is still the center of interests and maneuvers of foreign powers, all ready to capitalize on the situation to their advantage. In this sense it will be necessary to see the maneuvering in the coming days with countries like Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and realize that the U.S. is willing time and again to implement "covenants against nature" in defense of their interests, and especially at the expense of the people of Iraq, who will continue to be affected by the tragic consequences of their politics.

Other players will also attempt in the coming months to profit from media attention, especially before the news about the country goes off to focus on Afghanistan instead, and plunges Iraq into a kind of "low intensity warfare" that erases it with a pen stroke and the wires of the media.


Translated from the Spanish version by:




Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 28, 2010, 07:49:59 am
Iraq snapshot - August 27, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday, August 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the American people continue to see the Iraq War as a mistake and worse, greater attention comes to prolonging the illegal war,  who's trying to overthrow Iraq's labor unions, and more.
Last week, Gallup and AP polls were released offering the findings that most Americans are opposed to the Iraq War and feel it should never have been started.  Gallup found 53% judge it as a failure, 55% judged it a failure.  AP's poll with GfK Roper Public Affairs found that 65% opposed the Iraq War.  Now Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports on CBS' poll (but doesn't explain why the New York Times took a pass) which finds "nearly six in ten say it was a mistake to start the battle in the first place, and most say their country did not accomplish its objectives in Iraq." The number saying it was a mistake is 59% which is in stark contrast to March 2003 when a majority, 69%, stated the US was correct to declare war on Iraq (the US-led invasion began in March 2003) and only 25% of respondents then (March 2003) said it was a mistake. The most telling response is to question eleven:
Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?
Only 20% of respondents say the war was worth the costs while 72% say it was not worth the costs. Looking at the costs to the US, 72% are, in fact, calling the illegal war a mistake.

57% of Americans believe the Iraq War is going well (don't blame them, blame a media that's forgotten Iraq) and who do they credit for that? Montopoli reports that "one in three say both the Obama and Bush administrations [deserve credit]. Twenty-six percent credit the Bush administration, 20 percent credit the Obama administration, and 19 percent say neither deserves credit." Cynthia English reviews Gallup's latest poll which sureveyed Iraqis and found a five-percent drop in approval of US leadership from 2008 (35%) to 2010 (30%) and an increase in approval of Iraqi leadership during the same time (2008: 28%; 2010: 41%).

Jim Michaels and Mimi Hall (USA Today) report on USA Today's poll which found 60% expressing the belief that the Iraq War was not worth it. The reporters then survey a variety of people about the war and we'll note this section which includes Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan:
"I don't think there's been any measurable thing that we could cite that this occupation of Iraq has made better. We achieved exactly nothing," says Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war activist. Sheehan says the war made things worse for Iraqis and others.               
"My work has gone from trying to stop these wars to trying to alert people to the problems of being subjects of a military empire," she says.
Empire as a shell game?  That would require the Orwellian use of language to misdirect the citizens and misidentify what is going on.  In other words, that would be Barack Obama calling the military "non-combat" forces and calling bases "outposts" and calling the continuation of the Iraq War the 'end.' Today the Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviews the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf.
Bernard Gwertzman: President Obama is planning to give a speech on Iraq next week marking the pullout of U.S. combat troops from the country. Does their departure make a big difference in Iraq?
Jane Arraf: It really doesn't. A lot of that is because it isn't a development that has had much of an impact on the ground. Some have called it a "rebranding" of the conflict, and there is some truth to that. What we've got left are fifty thousand other troops, a substantial number, and a lot of those are actually combat troops. Any brigade here is erady, equipped, and trained for combat. It's just that the mission is changing.  So with that many troops on the ground, the latest withdrawals really don't have that much of an impact, particularly since we haven't been seeing the United States in unilateral combat missions since June of last year. As part of the security agreement signed by the Bush administration, the U.S. forces are taking ab ackseat to the Iraqi forces.  The bottom line is that nothing will change on September 1. What we're really looking at is what happens as next year's deadline of December 31, 2011, approaches for all the troops to leave.
[. . .]
Bernard Gwertzman: Will the United States be providing long-term air defense? Or is that supposed to end next year too?
Jane Arraf: Everything ends next year, so it really all has to be negotiated. The commanding general in charge of training Iraqi forces told me they are in the midst of negotiating an agreement to allow NATO to continue training. Such an agreement of course to replace the Iraq-U.S. security agreement will actually have to be negotiated by whatever new government is formed. The assumption is that it will be a pro-Western, pro-U.S. government, but that's not a certainty. What if, for instance, the Sadrists have a large role to play in the new government?   What if it's a much more Iranian-friendly government than some people are suggesting? They could turn to Iraq for a security agreement.
On public radio today, the security agreement was briefly touched upon. On the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane was joined by Courtney Kube (NBC News), Moises Naim (El Pais) and David Wood (PoliticsDaily).
Diane Rehm: Let's turn to Iraq. For the first time since the US invasion in 2003, US troop strength in Iraq has dropped below 50,000.  Is Iraq prepared to defend itself, Courtney?
Courtney Kube: Well I think you have to remember -- I don't think you'll find many average Iraqis on the street in Baghdad or anywhere in the country that would say that just because Operation Iraqi Freedom is technically ending in a few days, Operation New Dawn begins, US combat forces are out, I don't think the average Iraqi believes that that means a light switch is going to flick off and violence is going to end.  The Iraqi security forces are certainly going to be tested in the coming days, weeks, months probably.  But the US force that exists there now -- it's still almost 50,000 troops, they're not going anywhere, they're not going any beyond this until next summer.
Diane Rehm: But you did have a wave of coordinated attacks in thirteen cities just --
David Wood: Yeah, just a horrific thing.  Mounted apparently by al Qaeda in Iraq, the sort of home grown, foreign directed, Sunni terrorist organization.  What was particularly striking, I thought, was that after these bombs went off in these thirteen cities in a two hour period, the Iraqi people rushed in to help and people stoned them and shouted at them and were very angry and yelled: "Why can't you protect us!"  And it was, I thought, "Uh-oh."  It was a real uh-oh moment because clearly the Iraqi security forces cannot keep this kind of thing from happening.
Diane Rehm: Moises?
Moises Naim: August was the deadliest month for Iraqi security forces in the past three years, at least 265 have been killed in June alone. And if you look at these places where the attacks took place.  They bring back names that had gone out of the news. Falludi, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra.  These were places where we used to talk about them all the time and then they disappeared. This is a way of telling the world and telling Iraqis, we are still here -- on the part of insurgents in Iraq.  And explaining the fact that the US troops are leaving is creating -- plus -- the very important backdrop to this story is that Iraq doesn't have a government.  They had an election several months ago.  That election does not yield a clear result. And now they have been struggling to create a functioning government.
Diane Rehm: How are these 50,000 so-called non-combat troops going to be able to stand back and watch as this kind of desecration happens.
Courtney Kube: Well they won't be standing back at all.  I mean 20,000 of those 50,000 are assigned to advise-and-assist brigades that -- Just today, there was an advise-and-assist, some US troops that went out with Iraqi security forces, arrested seven al Qaeda in Iraq suspected members.  They won't be sitting back. Almost half of those forces are going to be involved in combat missions, frankly, it's just that they cannot do it alone.There really hasn't been a big change in posture of US forces since last summer, since the US forces were no longer allowed to operate on their own, no longer allowed to conduct missions within Iraqi cities.  So the only real difference that we're seeing right now is the numbers are down a little bit, the combat troops that were assigned to, you know, so-called combat brigades are now out and they're now reassigned to advise-and-assist.
Diane Rehm: There is more than a little ambiguety here, David Wood.
David Wood: I think it's deliberate. I want to pick up on something Moises was saying and that was that there's no Iraqi government in power, of course. There's been a lot of political turbulence since March when there were presidential [C.I. note: Parlimentary elections] elections and nobody won a clear majority or enough to put together a government in Parliament. One of the -- one of the upshots of that is that the United States is supposed to be, by law, withdraw all of its military forces from Iraq by December 31st of next year.  I think that agreement was made in the last months of the Bush administration with the understanding that it would be renegotiated because, if it were carried out, you wouldn't even be able to have Marine guards at the US Embassy.  With no government, you can't regnegotiate it. And the clock is ticking. And al Qaeda in Iraq has noticed and the statement they issued after this bombing was: "The countdown has begun to return Iraq to the embrace of Islam and its Sunnis with God's permission." Pretty chilling stuff.
Diane Rehm: Moises.
Moises Naim: So the story here again is one of calendars versus conditions.  There is a political -- a Washington based or a US politics-centered calendar that people are following and then there are realities on the ground. And these two are clashing.  The realities on the ground in Iraq are not in synch with deadlines and with timelines and the calendar that has been decided by purely domestic US politics kind of consideration and calculations.
Diane Rehm: So next week President Obama is going to make an Oval Office speech, next Tuesday. What's he expected to say, Moises?
Moises Naim: He's going to confirm two things that may be a bit contradictory.  I think.  One is that the troops are going out and this was his campaign promise and that Iraq is in better shape than before and so on.  But at the same time he's going to claim the continuing support and commitment of the United States to the building of a democratic Iraqi nation.
Staying on the 'end of war' 'treaty' 'requirement,' Gareth Porter (IPS via Dissident Voice) reports, "All indications are that the administration expects to renegotiate the security agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a post-2011 combat presence of up to 10,000 troops, once a new government is formed in Baghdad But Obama, fearing a backlash from anti-war voters in the Democratic Party, who have already become disenchanted with him over Afghanistan, is trying to play down that possibility. Instead, the White House is trying to reassure its anti-war base that the U.S. military role in Iraq is coming to an end."  The editorial board for the Seattle Times notes the drawdown is phase one, "Remember, the operative description is Phase One. The departure of all U.S. military is supposed to come at the end of 2011.  Do not confuse that goal with an end of U.S. presence or involvement in Iraq. Parsing out the future depends on definitions and interpretations. The exist of designated combat forces still leaves 50,000 American troops in Iraq, with another 79,000 U.S. contractors. Men and women in uniform are essentially replaced by taxpayer supported mercenaries who attract a lot less public attention."  Elise Labot (CNN) reports:

For the people of Iraq, the withdrawal of U.S. forces will be largely symbolic. The average Iraqi has not seen U.S. forces since June 2009, when they redeployed to the outskirts of Iraqi cities under the terms of the 2008 security agreement between the United States and Iraq.
Since then, Iraqi forces have been in charge of urban areas: manning most checkpoints, conducting operations against extremists and maintaining law and order.
But for the United States, the transfer from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn is monumental. The handover will put the U.S. State Department in an expanded and indeed unprecedented role, one it is forced to scale back before it even starts due to budget constraints.
All of the above is the reason people like Amitabh Pal (The Progressive) come to the conclusions they do about the 'end' of the illegal war:
Besides, the United States is not actually leaving the country. As Chris Toensing, editor of the Middle East Report (a must-read for understanding the area), points out, there will still be 50,000 troops left behind in an "advisory" capacity.
"The essential realities of the Iraq War remain the same: Iraq is oil-rich and strategically located at the head of the Persian Gulf. Its ruling elites are fractious and weak," Toensing writes. "Our continued troop presence is an insurance policy against disaster for the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi politicians, who would otherwise fear violent overthrow, and the White House, which would otherwise fear Iraq's takeover by unfriendly elements."
A lot of people will be paying for George Bush's folly for a long time to come.
And Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) points out, "In addition to the fantasy reporting, American military and civilian authorities are conducting fantasy arguments behind closed doors about whether the U.S. is going to withdraw all of its military forces, regardless of the nomenclature, by the end 0f 2011 - as required by solemn agreement with the Iraqis. One faction favors deploying a force of up to 10,000 mercenaries, complete with their own armored trucks, air force and missile-firing drones. But powerful figures in the Obama administration say they are confident they can talk the Iraqis into allowing 10,000 uniformed American troops to stay in the country after the deadline. Certainly, billions of dollars in bribes can sometimes work wonders - but U.S. plans for an eternity in Iraq have repeatedly been thwarted by the Iraqi people, themselves."
As Diane and her guests noted, a political stalemate exists currently in Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 20 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
One of the biggest roadblocks for the process -- before, during and after -- has been Ahmad Chalabi.  Babak Dehghanpisheh (Newsweek) notes:
Salih Mutlak can only wonder where in Iraq he might find justice. As one of the country's leading Sunni politicians, he was puzzled and angry to learn shortly before this spring's parliamentary elections that the Accountability and Justice Commission had barred him from running, along with roughly 500 other candidates. Prominent Sunni politicians like Mutlak were particularly targeted. So he picked up the phone and called the commission's head, Ahmad Chalabi, who was relaxing in Beirut. "I had nothing to do with it," Chalabi calmly asserted. "Come on, Ahmad," Mutlak persisted. "What does the committee have against me?" Chalabi told him there was a letter showing that Mutlak had cooperated with Saddam Hussein's notorious secret police, the Mukhabarat. "That's nonsense!" Mutlak snapped. Chalabi promised to look into the matter and try to resolve it.
But it was not resolved. With the March elections looming, Mutlak's brother Ibrahim took over the vacant slot -- and won. That didn't stop the commission from stepping in again with dubious authority and disqualifying the substitute candidate retroactively. Today, the fate of Ibrahim Mutlak and a dozen or so other similarly disqualified candidates remains an open question. "It's a disaster that Ahmad Chalabi would have such an influence in this country," says Salih Mutlak. "He wants to bring sectarianism back. He wants to damage the reputation of the Americans. He wants to spoil everything here!"
Michael Christie (Reuters) notes of the stalemate, "But the longer the political impasse continues, the longer it will take to address public anger about poor public services, such as a lack of electricity in the stifling summer heat. The perception may also grow that democracy in Iraq does not work, and Iraqi leaders are incapable of governing, raising the risks of public disturbances, coup attempts and increased meddling by often troublesome neighbours."  But the stalemate hasn't prevented targeting of labor unions in Iraq.  David Bacon (Truthout) reports:
Early in the morning of July 21 police stormed the offices of the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union in Basra, the poverty-stricken capital of Iraq's oil-rich south.  A shamefaced officer told Hashmeya Muhsin, the first woman to head a national union in Iraq, that they'd come to carry out the orders of Electricity Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to shut the union down.  As more police arrived, they took the membership records, the files documenting often-atrocious working conditions, the leaflets for demonstrations protesting Basra's agonizing power outages, the computers and the phones.  Finally, Muhsin and her coworkers were pushed out and the doors locked.                   
Shahristani's order prohibits all trade union activity in the plants operated by the ministry, closes union offices, and seizes control of union assets from bank accounts to furniture.  The order says the ministry will determine what rights have been given to union officers, and take them all away.  Anyone who protests, it says, will be arrested under Iraq's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005.       
So ended seven years in which workers in the region's power plants have fought for the right to organize a legal union, to bargain with the electrical ministry, and to stop the contracting-out and privatization schemes that have threatened their jobs.         
 The Iraqi government, while it seems paralyzed on many fronts, has unleashed a wave of actions against the country's unions that are intended to take Iraq back to the era when Saddam Hussein prohibited them for most workers, and arrested activists who protested.  In just the last few months, the Maliki government has issued arrest warrants for oil union leaders and transferred that union's officers to worksites hundreds of miles from home, prohibited union activity in the oil fields, ports and refineries, forbade unions from collecting dues or opening bank accounts, and even kept leaders from leaving the country to seek support while the government cracks down.                   
At the U.S. Embassy, the largest in the world, an official says mildly,  "We're looking into it.  We hope that everybody resolves their differences in an amicable way."  Meanwhile, however, while the U.S. command withdraws combat troops from many areas, it is beefing up the military and private-security apparatus it maintains to protect the wave of foreign oil companies coming into Basra to exploit the wealth of Iraq's oil fields.
 David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. 
Overnight, violence continued in Iraq. Reuters notes a Baaj attack in which 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 Iraqi military officer were shot dead, a Falluja roadside bombing apparently targeting police which wounded seven people and was followed by a second bombing when police arrived (wounding three) and a Shirqat attack on Sahwa which led to two Sahwa being killed and four more injured. AFP reminds, "When full control of the Sahwa passed from the US military to the Iraqi government in April last year, Baghdad promised to integrate 20 percent of its men into the police or army, and find civil service jobs for many others. But 52,000 are still waiting for new employment."  Reuters notes today's violence included a Kirkuk home invasion in which 1 child was slaughtered and three members of the child's family were left injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and injured four more people, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Mosul mortar attack injured one adult male and the corpse of a Christian male was discovered in Mosul (the man had been kidnapped earlier in the week).

Turning to England, Mark Stone (Sky News) observes of the British inquiry into the Iraq War, "At the top of that list, surely, is the civilian death toll. I wrote about it on this blog last month. There was an expectation then that the subject would be raised with ex-Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram. It was. For about a minute. Other than that, it's hardly been mentioned."  Ian Dunt (Politics) reports that Iraq Body Count (IBC) -- infamous for undercounting the dead in Iraq -- has hurled insults at the Iraq Inquiry, labeling it both "flawed" and "derisory" and has released their correspondent with Committee Chair John Chilcot in which they advocate for the inquiry to (quoting from correspondence) "fully and properly investigate Iraq casualties" and Dunt closes by noting that the Inquiry will go to Iraq. Only they "won't." They may. That was always the point. Chilcott has made two public statements about that. They would like to, they hope to. Whether they go or not, nothing is concrete at this point. Jonathan Steele (Guardian) grasps that reality, "The five-person Chilcot inquiry team plans to visit Iraq briefly in the next few weeks but the IBS says this appears to be 'an afterthought'." Channel 4 News adds, "Iraq Body Count (IBC) co-founder John Sloboda told Channel 4 News: 'Some of the deaths and injuries caused must have been breaches of British and international law, so some sort of judicial inquiry would seem to be in order'."
Meanwhile, Professor Robert Jensen (at Dissident Voice) explores the ethical issues and implications:
The legal case is straightforward: Neither invasion had the necessary approval of the United Nations Security Council, and neither was a response to an imminent attack. In both cases, U.S. officials pretended to engage in diplomacy but demanded war. Under international law and the U.S. Constitution (Article 6 is clear that "all Treaties made," such as the UN Charter, are "the supreme Law of the Land"), both invasions were illegal.                   
The moral case is also clear: U.S. officials' claims that the invasions were necessary to protect us from terrorism or locate weapons of mass destruction were never plausible and have been exposed as lies. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in 2001, when sensible changes in U.S. foreign policy and vigorous law enforcement in collaboration with other nations could have made us safer.                         
The people who bear the greatest legal and moral responsibility for these crimes are the politicians who send the military to war and the generals who plan the actions, and it may seem unfair to deny the front-line service personnel the label of "hero" when they did their duty as they understood it. But this talk of heroism is part of the way we avoid politics and deny the unpleasant fact that these are imperial wars. U.S. military forces are in the Middle East and Central Asia not to bring freedom but to extend and deepen U.S. power in a region home to the world's most important energy resources. The nation exercising control there increases its influence over the global economy, and despite all the U.S. propaganda, the world realizes we have tens of thousands of troops on the ground because of those oil and gas reserves.
While Jensen attempts to explore the complexities, Mr. Pretty Lies Barack Obama is already reducing it all to a simplistic bumper sticker -- one full of lies -- such as today's claim that Americans are "safer" as a result of the Iraq War.  Notice that only a War Hawk or a War **** can sell and spin an illegal war.  The Cult of St. Barack damn well better decide which Barry is: a War Hawk or a War ****.  He certainly isn't a truth teller.  We need to highlight two today who told the truth about the illegal war.  First up, Justin Raimondo's "All Lies, All The Time" (
This farcical "withdrawal," which amounts to merely increasing the number of mercenaries in the region, is a complete fabrication, motivated by pure politics and an infinite faith in the cluelessness of the Average Joe, who is too busy looking for a job to care. As to what they'll do when the insurgency starts to rise again, not to worry: no one will notice but the soldiers in the field. Surely the American media won't be so rude as to point it out, unless the Green Zone goes up in flames and they have to evacuate stragglers by helicopter as they did in Vietnam. In that case, the visuals would be too good to pass up.         
Everything that comes out of this administration, from its pronouncements on the overseas front to its own unemployment numbers, is a lie: it's all lies, all the time. Even in small matters, the default is a fib, such as in the case of the Pentagon's denial that it was ever in touch with WikiLeaks about minimizing the alleged damage done by the next Afghanistan document dump. After all, why would WikiLeaks make up such a story? The feds just want the documents "expunged," thank you. I doubt they really believe it's possible to "expunge" the Afghan war logs from the internet. If so, they are dumber than anyone has so far imagined. And so much for the myth that the Pentagon really cares about any danger to Afghan informants, who might be compromised by the release of more documents: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have given them their chance to safeguard the identities of US collaborators, and the Pentagon flat out rejected it. So be it.
And we need to note CODEPINK and Global Exchange's Medea Benjamin strong column (at OpEdNews):
It's true that Iraqis suffered under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein but his overthrow did not lead to a better life for Iraqis. "I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college," Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told me. "I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything--electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein."       

Dr. Al-Arabi has joined the ranks of the nearly four million Iraqi refugees, many of whom are now living in increasingly desperate circumstances in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and around the world. Undocumented, most are not allowed to work and are forced to take extremely low paying, illegal jobs or rely on the UN and charities to survive. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported a disturbing spike in the sex trafficking of Iraqi women.

There were many truth tellers and that was a great thing.  This week, we've attempted to highlight some each day but there wasn't room on Thursday.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Charles Babbington (AP), Eamon Javers (CNBC), Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) and Pete Williams (NBC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Why We Love It When the President Goes Away." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Kim Gandy, Christina Hoff Sommers and Avis Jones-DeWeever on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is an exploration of whether or not there's any link between sex and schoolwork. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and it explores hydraulic fracturing and the salmonella egg outbreak. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Stealing America's Secrets
"60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy that offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China's spying may pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S. Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video


The Bloom Box
Large corporations in California have been secretly testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money. Will we have one in every home someday? Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video


In the latest craze that has killed several extreme sports enthusiasts, men don wing-suits, jump off mountaintops and glide down at speeds approaching 140 miles per hour. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, August 29, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 28, 2010, 07:52:18 am

by Layla Anwar

August 27, 2010

I am devastated...I learned that my relative K. has been taken away again...

Every cell in my body is in revolt, enraged, and terribly sad...Mom said this time K.will not make out alive.

He was sitting with his family, breaking the fast, when the "Iraqi" forces, the shiite fascists barged in and arrested him...

It took 5 years for him to be released from his dirty cell, American cell, then Iraqi shiite sectarian cell, I did write about him and his torture, the man is over 65 years old, I am not sure we will see him again this time...

I don't even know in which cell, in which dungeon he is lingering away...I don't even know how much money they are going to extort again...

During his previous prison stay, no charges were pressed against him, he was tortured and rotted away for 5 years, his only crime he is an Arab Sunni, who said that Iraqis must rise against the American occupation...he said it...

How dare he say such a thing ?! One should never rise against the dumb **** of an occupier, against the psychopaths from America, against the rapists and torturers of the new world order from North America, against the killers and the thieves from that **** hole of a country and that **** of a culture called America. gone cells are red, bright red, burning with fire...that nothing will extinguish...

A whole wave of arrests is being carried by the Shiite sectarian shits, mainly in Adamiya - the Sunni area, arrests and arbitrary killings.

The whole of Baghdad knows, on the other hand that the latest spate of explosions is the work of none other but Maliki and his Shiite shits of
parties...He, that murderous clown said it not long ago - he said : I will never hand it over (it meaning power).

Well, I don't really care about Maliki, or his Shiite shits, nor about that dumb British agent called Allawi, nor about the garbage in power who call themselves Iraqis, they are rot, they are vermin...each single one of them...all I care about is K. And I just have a feeling that last time I saw K. is indeed the last time...

I pray to be wrong...please Dear God make me wrong.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 28, 2010, 02:11:56 pm
Maliki warns of joint Qaeda, Baath strike
28/08/2010 04:30:00 PM GMT


Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki


The Iraqi premier has put the nation on alert, warning of joint terror projects by al-Qaeda militants and the outlawed Baath Party of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Speaking on Saturday in the wake of the death of some 60 people in nationwide violent attacks, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned of more acts of terrorism in the country.

Maliki said the violence sought "to create fear and chaos and kill more innocents."

"We direct the Iraqi forces, police and army and other security forces to take the highest alert and precautionary measures to foil this criminal planning," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

The warning came two days after Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari cautioned that the political gridlock in the country would be conducive to the growth of militancy.

"Here you have a government paralysis, you have a political vacuum," Zebari said, adding that "in such environment, these terrorist networks flourish actually and would love to deepen division among Iraqi politicians to apportion blame on each other in order to create as much chaos as possible."

Tension has raged on across Iraq ever since the March 7 parliamentary elections, which failed to produce a clear winner for the establishment of a new government.

Baghdad had initially banned some 500 suspected Baathists from contesting the sensitive elections.

Following a reported intervention by US Vice President Joe Biden, however, the prohibition was lifted a month before the event, prompting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to warn that Saddam sympathizers could stage a military coup and undo all the achievements of the Iraqi nation.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 31, 2010, 07:38:14 am
Iraq - An End or an Escalation?

By Rep. Ron Paul


Global Research, August 31, 2010
Rep. Ron Paul, US Congress - 2010-08-30

Amid much fanfare last week, the last supposed “combat” troops left Iraq as the administration touted the beginning of the end of the Iraq War and a change in the role of the United States in that country.  Considering the continued public frustration with the war effort, and with the growing laundry list of broken promises, this was merely another one of the administration’s operations in political maneuvering and semantics in order to convince an increasingly war-weary public that the Iraq War is at last ending.  However, military officials confirm that we are committed to intervention in that country for years to come, and our operations have in fact, changed minimally, if really at all.

After eight long draining years, I have to wonder if our government even understands what it is to end a war anymore.  The end of a war, to most people, means all the troops come home, out of harm’s way.  It means we stop killing people and getting killed.  It means we stop sending troops and armed personnel over and draining our treasury for military operations in that foreign land.  But much like the infamous “mission accomplished” moment of the last administration, this “end” of the war also means none of those things.

50,000 US troops remain in Iraq, and they are still receiving combat pay.  One soldier was killed in Basra just last Sunday, after the supposed end of combat operations, and the same day 5,000 men and women of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood were deployed to Iraq.  Their mission will be anything but desk duty.  Among other things they will accompany the Iraqi military on dangerous patrols, continue to be involved in the hunt for terrorists, and provide air support for the Iraqi military.  They should be receiving combat pay, because they will be serving a combat role! 

Of course the number of private contractors - who perform many of the same roles as troops, but for a lot more money - is expected to double.  So this is a funny way of ending combat operations in Iraq.  We are still meddling in their affairs and we are still putting our men and women in danger, and we are still spending money we don’t have.  This looks more like an escalation than a draw-down to me!

The ongoing war in Iraq takes place against a backdrop of economic crisis at home, as fresh numbers indicate that our economic situation is as bad as ever, and getting worse!  Our foreign policy is based on an illusion: that we are actually paying for it. What we are doing is borrowing and printing the money to maintain our presence overseas. Americans are seeing the cost of this irresponsible approach as our economic decline continues. Unemployed Americans have been questioning a policy that ships hundreds of billions of dollars overseas while their own communities crumble and their frustration is growing.  An end to this type of foreign policy is way overdue. 

A return to the traditional American foreign policy of active private engagement and non-interventionism is the only alternative that can restore our moral and fiscal health.

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 31, 2010, 07:53:36 am
Armistice and Governance in the Iraqi Government-Formation Process: The US Position

by Reidar Visser

August 30, 2010

As the end of the US combat mission in Iraq is drawing to a close (31 August), there are two basic approaches to the ongoing, stalemated process of government formation in Iraq.

The first approach assumes that Iraq’s citizens are more interested in issues like security, health and services than in sectarian bickering and that it is possible to form a government based on common views on basic political issues instead of taking into consideration calculations relate to ethno-sectarian identities. Typically, this kind of government would be a "minimum-winning" one, i.e. just above the 163 mark needed to secure a parliamentary majority (and hence strong enough to pass whatever legislation it wishes to pass) but not much above that (in order to maximise the prospect for developing internal coherence and avoiding the multiplication of sinecures inside government). This kind of government would offer the best chances of maximising the autonomy of the Iraqi government versus a hostile regional environment. It is also the approach that presents the best fit with the Iraqi constitution; by way of contrast the idea that all winning lists need to be represented or that all ethno-sectarian groups must be included in government has no constitutional basis as such.

The second, opposite approach, is focused on armistice rather than governance. It presupposes that no proper, issue-based government in Iraq is possible due to assumed insurmountable ethnic and religious tensions, and that the aim should therefore be to make sure as many players as possible are "inside the tent" where they would be less likely to create trouble. These ideas do not come from the constitution; rather they are inspired by Western models of "consociational" democracy and power-sharing and point in the direction of an oversized cabinet with a weak prime minister. It is therefore important to point out that the case of Iraq fits badly with the standard criteria cited by theoreticians of consociational democracy as prerequisites for success – including a relatively low case-load on the political system, a public willingness to accept backroom politics (or the existence of alternative means of expressing the popular will when government becomes invisible, such as frequent referendums), and not least internal coherence in the sub-communities included in government through a formula of power-sharing. Typically in the Iraqi case it would be vitally important that the Sadrists be represented if this kind of "armistice" approach is followed, since the whole idea is to make a compact between what is believed to be the "main tribes" of the community instead of transcending tribal and ethnic loyalties altogether (as in the governance-focused approach). Needless to say, this kind of government is unlikely to develop any internal coherence and will often experience paralysis. It will, in other words, easily fall prey to the schemes of regional powers.

After some initial confusion as far as Washinghton’s preferences are concerned (first it seemed there was a desire to see all four big winners included in an "armistice government", then some suggested there was interest in a "governance government" of just Iraqiyya and State of Law) it is now possible to situate US policy within this dichotomy. Firstly, it seems clear that the idea of building an issue-based, progressive government is not seen as realistic by Washington: Ambassador Chris Hill recently repeated the view that the Kurds "had to be included", simply on an ethno-sectarian basis. Thus the US proposal for Iraqiyya and State of Law to move closer together does not really seem to be based on a vision of them excluding the others; rather the idea seems to be that the two would take the most important positions and give the rest to the others in what would still be an oversized power-sharing formula.

Secondly, Washington has now introduced a specific suggestion for how to solve the tug-of-war between the leaders of the two biggest blocs, Nuri al-Maliki and Ayyad Allawi, regarding the premiership. The proposed solution would involve giving one of the two men (i.e. the loser in the premiership contest) compensation in the shape of the presidency for the national security council. Conceptually, then, this kind of proposal – described by American officials as a "way of increasing the number of chairs" – seems to be leaning towards the "power-sharing" end of the government-formation typology, since governance in Iraq today would mean reducing the number of chairs, not increasing them. This is especially so because the security council chosen as the key device for solving the problem (let’s face it, the idea is to create two premierships and kick the problems further down the road), is conceptually related to other institutional innovations supported in particular by the Kurds in the post-2005 period with the aim of further reducing the prospect of a strong government in Baghdad. There are striking similarities between the composition of the national security council of 2006 and the oil and gas commission proposed in 2007 (unsurprisingly, the president of the Kurdish region is supposed to sit on both), and the aim of having consensus decisions in these forums means that they are likely to remain ineffective and weak.

Whatever one may think of this US strategy, the challenges and the uphill struggle it faces seem rather obvious. Firstly, at the procedural level, and judging from leaks from the talks held so far, it seems designed to fit a scenario in which Maliki would continue as premier and Allawi would get the newly revived post as head of the national security council. There are several problems here. In the first place, Allawi does not seem particularly interested, since he is still hoping for the premiership instead. Secondly, if Maliki is to continue as premier he also needs to be the candidate of the biggest bloc in parliament, meaning that unless he allies with Allawi in a bloc (in which case no further partners would be needed and a more governance-focused cabinet could be formed instead of a power-sharing one), a Maliki premiership, as per the apparent US preference, is predicated on the survival of the Shiite alliance of both State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance, i.e. Iran’s preferred scenario (otherwise Maliki would not have the seats to form the biggest bloc).  Again, absent a bilateral deal with Iraqiyya, the sole legal path to a second Maliki premiership is a perpetuation of a Shiite alliance on the pattern of the United Iraqi Alliance in 2006, and even that would be disputed by Iraqiyya for being a much too flexible reading of the constitutional article 76 on the entitlement of the biggest bloc to form the government since it involves post-election bloc formation.

In other words, this outcome would be the exact opposite to what Joe Biden and other US leaders have been telling Washington lately about a supposed decline in Iranian influence in Iraq. Not a big surprise, though: Ambassador Chris Hill told a USIP audience in Washington last week that he expected the next Iraqi premier to be a Shiite – an assertion that completely lacks any basis in the Iraqi constitution and represents exactly the kind of sectarian paradigm of Iraqi politics that Iran prefers. One cannot fail to get the impression that either US policy is grossly contradictive, or there is an unspoken underlying policy of détente with Iran in Iraq, at the expense of the governance of that country and its citizens. Had Washington truly put Iraqi interests first, it would instead have aimed to draw a wedge between the two Shiite-led alliances by having one inside government and the other on the outside, thereby allowing the one in government to develop a more lasting bond with the other main forces in Iraqi politics, without being susceptible to cheap tricks like the de-Baathification revival that brought Iraqi politics to a standstill earlier this year.


Constitutionality, or rather lack of constitutionality, is the second main issue with the US proposal. The problem, of course, is that the national security council does not even exist in the constitution (although Hill seemed to think so at USIP last week); it was created in 2006 and has been dormant for most of the time since its inception. The pro-Iranian parties have already dismissed the scheme as unconstitutional and rightly so: In short, it would be a major risk for Iraqiyya to accept this kind of position in lieu of the premiership since it would require some instant constitutional fixes to get the whole process going. Rest assured that other ideas would come up, too, if the broader question of constitutional revision were reopened in the midst of the government-formation process.

That in turn points to the third problem, relating to the likely outcome if an attempt to implement the US proposal were in fact to go ahead. Most significantly, perhaps, after so much talk about their right to form the government as the biggest winning bloc, it is really hard to see how Iraqiyya could accede to that kind of arrangement without collapsing internally and leaving the next government with the "Tawafuq syndrome" of the 2006–2010 period. Equally possible is perhaps the scenario of a full Iraqiyya withdrawal; this would leave half or Iraq’s governorates unrepresented in government in a situation where they neither have nor want autonomy on the Kurdish pattern. Additionally, the idea of excluding the Sadrists (an idea which seems to enjoy support in some American circles) would make this kind of power-sharing arrangement particularly problematic since it would then violate a central premise of consociational theory, namely the importance of coherent sub-communities. A classical example of how this can go wrong is the case of the emergence of Hizbollah in Lebanon; non-representation of the Sadrists to the advantage of ISCI could mean the same thing in Iraq since a power-sharing government is unlikely to develop the kind of strength that a more compact, united government would be able to muster to deal with the challenges presented by the Sadrists.

Finally, as far as the Iraqi perspectives on the process are concerned, there is unfortunately not much sign of rapprochement between State of Law (SLA) and Iraqiyya towards a governance-focused, two-party government. State of Law have increasingly began referring to sectarian governing formulas ("a Shiite must be prime minister"), and their talks have lately focused more on the idea of union with the other main Shiite list, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), than on dialogue with Iraqiyya. Iraqiyya, for its part, is increasingly expressing exasperation in its talks with INA, perhaps realising that this is probably all a game in which they are being exploited in the internal Shiite tug-of-war between SLA and INA for the premiership. They keep talking about a Sadrist miracle, with or without Syrian help, and of course if the Sadrists or indeed all of INA were truly prepared to give the premiership to Allawi then this would represent a meaningful step towards a restoration of Iraqi distinctiveness in the region and a clarification of the Byzantine Syrian role between Iran and the Arab world, even if the resultant government would look ideologically incoherent in the extreme. Right now, however, it is the scenario of INA and SLA trying to force their way to power via the putative all-Shiite alliance that seems to dominate, with the possibility of a showdown with the Kurds and their maximalist demands further down the road marking the main difference with the situation in 2006 (the Kurdish votes can be dispensed with this time because the two-thirds majority requirement for selecting the president is gone). Iran appears comfortable with this kind of end game, and the United States does not seem to be doing anything to stop it; in fact at times it seems to be pushing in exactly the same direction.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 31, 2010, 08:27:52 am
Why Moqtada Haunts the White House

by Kelley B. Vlahos, August 31, 2010


There will be plenty spirits of Iraq policy past, present and future crowding the dais tonight as the President announces a “successful” transition and “a promise kept” for the drawdown of American troops from Iraq.

There’s George W. and Dick Cheney and their ghoulish courtiers – Donald Rumsfeld and his number two Paul Wolfowitz, not to mention coalition provisional authority viceroy L. Paul Bremer and Douglas Feith, all who dragged the country into Iraq and then botched it irreparably.

Hovering close by are our military demigods, Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, gently plucking and pulling the strings of the president who is trying to convince the American people that Iraq is all but over, despite leaving 50,000 soldiers and a civilian force of at least 10,000 staff and heavily armed security contractors behind.

But the real phantasm casting a pall over the proceedings is an Iraqi one and he represents it all – the past, present and more importantly, the future of Iraq. Moqtada al Sadr, once dismissed by Washington neoconservatives as a desperate, washed-up five-cent firebrand, is now an Iranian-supported kingmaker who will not only help determine the next government and prime minister, but has threatened to activate the armed wing of his low-lying Mahdi Army, the Promised Day Brigade, if the American “occupier” doesn’t pack up and leave entirely.

The “Promised Day Brigade” will “prepare quietly to launch qualitative attacks against the occupiers (U.S. forces) if they stay beyond 2011,” said Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi, to the Associated Press, in May. “It will have a big role to play to drive them out of Iraq.”

Sadr is of course, an awkward subject for an administration attempting to project the best, most optimistic image in the rear-view. This was Bush’s war, and Obama seems eager to keep it that way, more so, to move on and to focus on his mess in Afghanistan. But he is having a hard time fully extricating – Odierno has already suggested scenarios in which the U.S combat mission might have to resume – and the fact that there is no government, and may not be any government without Sadr’s say-so, must be very difficult to stomach back in Washington.

Says writer Babak Dehghanpisheh, in his August Foreign Policy piece, “The King of Iraq“:

“The Sadrists … aren’t going anywhere – which puts Washington, among others, in a bind. Sadr’s supporters are more than just a political party. The cleric is clearly following the Hezbollah model, creating populist political movement backed by a battle-hardened militia. The language Sadr uses when discussing the U.S. presence in Iraq – resistance, occupation, martyrdom – could easily have been taken from a speech by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. All this has discouraged U.S. officials from holding talks with Sadr – something they’ve never done since 2003. It’s not exactly like Sadr has gone out of his way to open up a dialogue, either. In fact, Sadr and many of his top aides have made it clear that the Mahdi Army won’t disarm as long as there are American troops on Iraqi soil.”

From the start, the 37-year-old cleric, politician and militia leader has openly denounced the security agreement allowing for the gradual drawdown of troops by 2011. When the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was signed in 2008 by Bush and Sadr’s political rival, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr promised blood in the streets unless the U.S left sooner.

“I repeat my call on the occupier to get out from the land of our beloved Iraq, without retaining bases or signing agreements,” said Sadr, who has been in religious training, and managing his political affairs from a safe perch in Iran for the last three years. “If they do stay, I urge the honorable resistance fighters … to direct their weapons exclusively against the occupier.” His words came a month after tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets in Baghdad against the SOFA.

In a piece called “The Bad Boy of Iraqi Politics Returns,” Mohamad Bazzi points out how “Sadr’s political ascendance threatens to stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq,” which are particularly acute as a wave of violence, reportedly sparked by remaining al Qaeda factions in Iraq, have killed hundreds in the country over the last several weeks. While American leaders appear to downplay it, the fact that an anti-American Shia who once tested U.S military resolve in Najaf, Karbala, Basra and Baghdad, is gathering himself up for a big political victory and possibly, a future Shia revival, seems to be the silent ugly truth of Obama’s “successful” troop drawdown.

“Under the circumstances, (Sadr’s) power and influence inside Iraq’s Shia community is both permanent and growing,” noted retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor. “He is unlikely to lead the country, but he and his supporters will wield decisive influence.”

But We Thought He Was Dead!

Maybe not dead, but certainly defeated. A number of times – or at least it always seemed so. But he always comes back. Sadr is the son-in-law of a Shia martyr and the fourth son of the beloved Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was murdered in 1989 along with two of Sadr’s brothers, allegedly by Ba’athists working for dictator Saddam Hussein. Because Sadr’s father had sacrificed his life by remaining in Iraq rather than fleeing to Iran during Saddam’s dictatorship, his family name invokes great respect and authority among the Iraqi Shia to this day. Baghdad’s Sadr City was later named for his martyrdom.

Moqtada al Sadr has only enhanced this influence and legitimacy among Sadrist Shia followers during the U.S war, for rebelling against and not consorting with “the occupier,” nor bending to the wills of Maliki or even Iran. Just last week, Sadr told his hosts in Iran that he will leave them and set up shop in Lebanon if they continue to exert pressure on him to join Maliki in a coalition government. The political situation has been in a stalemate since March when parties backed by Sadr and former prime minister Iyad Allawi won enough seats to break Maliki’s grip over the formation of the future government.

Sadr does not support, nor trust Maliki, after the Iraqi prime minister took up common cause with the Americans and helped lead a series of crackdowns on Sadrist strongholds, particularly Sadr City, in 2007 and 2008 as part of the infamous “Surge.” At the time, throughout several wobbly ceasefires and Sadr’s exile to Iran, his movement appeared doomed to the dustbin. Since then, Maliki’s forces have fully penetrated Sadr City, the remaining loyalist fighters seemingly melted away.

According to the Washington Post, Sadr froze the Mahdi Army’s activities in 2008 and “has since divided most of his men into two unarmed civic organizations called Mumahidoon, ‘those who pave the way,’ and Munasiroon, ‘the supporters,’ to provide services to the poor, protect mosques and study religion. The aforementioned Promised Day Brigade is the Mahdi’s only armed wing. Offshoots of the old army, referred to by the U.S military as “special groups,” operate independently, and often contrary, to Sadr’s leadership and goals.

But Moqtada’s influence among the Shia has always been second-guessed by American analysts. During a wave of Mahdi Army uprisings in 2004 in which Sadr’s forces briefly gained control of key Shia cities over American forces, neoconservative Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute called Sadr “a desperate man,” who wanted to “cash in on his family’s name,” and whose “support has hemorrhaged over the past several months.” A month later, Charles Krauthammer declared that Sadr’s militia, was “systematically taken down by the U.S military.”

Not quite – it turned out they had a few good fights left in them. Sadr, meanwhile, was not so disregarded by the Shia that he wasn’t able to influence the 2006 elections. Sadr-backed candidates won an impressive 30 seats in the election and helped to propel Maliki to the head of the government. Sadr’s political sway was only matched  – and surpassed – in this way in March, when his candidates won 40 seats and a coveted place at the bargaining table.

“Sadr has once again shown greater political skill than the United States and his Iraqi rivals usually give him credit for,” wrote Mohamed Bazzi in July. Patrick Cockburn, author of Moqtada, told Antiwar Radio’s Scott Horton recently that Sadr represented “the only grassroots movement in Iraq.”

As Cockburn explained in his book, while U.S media and government “demonizes and belittles” Sadr, his political – and physical – survival belies a strength that Americans may not be fully prepared to understand or ultimately overcome. “Moqtada and his followers are intensely religious and see themselves as following in the tradition of martyrdom in opposition to the tyranny established when Hussein and Abbas were killed by the Umayyads on the plains of Karbala fourteen hundred years ago,” writes Cockburn.

In other words, while the American lens might see Sadr as just another ambitious man seeking political control of Iraq, it may be missing the bigger picture, that Sadr is studying in Iran to become an ayatollah in the tradition of his family, perhaps seeking to become an authoritative, supreme religious leader who commands the politics and steers Iraq into a more purist Shia vision – one that has no place for the America’s own strategic vision for the Middle East.

The prospect for this should be what tickles the back of Obama’s neck as he takes to the podium this evening.

“The key point,” says Macgregor, “is we spent a trillion dollars, sacrificed and destroyed thousands of US lives and millions of Arab lives with the result that we changed nothing of significance inside Iraq.”

Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on August 31, 2010, 02:05:14 pm
Iraq snapshot - August 30, 2010

The Common Ills

Monday, August 30, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack gets ready to spin illegal war and guess who he plans to telephone, Joe Biden does a layover in Iraq, the political stalemate continues, and more.
On the most recent broadcast of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), guest host Teymoor Nabili spoke with Phyllis Bennis, Hoshyar Zebari and Bradley Blakeman about the Status Of Forces Agreement, the drawdown and other issues.  Excerpt:
Teymoor Nabili: Well the Washington p.r. machine has been at pains to portray the remaining US troops as advisers to the soveign Iraqi government and security services.  But is that an accurate representation of the situation?  I'm joined on today's program by Hoshyar Zebari who is Iraq's Foreign Minister -- he's in Baghdad -- in Washington D.C. Phyllis Bennis is the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and, also in Washington, Bradley Blakeman a former senior advisor to the former US president George Bush and now a professor of politics and public affairs at Georgetown University.  Welcome to the program all of you.  Thank you for being with us. Phyllis Bennis, I'll begin with you if I might.  The phrasing of this drawdown has been very cautious. The last combat brigade has left Iraq, we're told.  What exactly does that mean?
Phyllis Bennis: Well it means that we're going to call them something different. These are conventional combat brigades.  These are brigades that are being, what the Pentagon used to call, "remissioned" -- what the Washington Post is now calling "rebranded" as something other than what they are which is combat brigades. A new 3,000 brigade from Fort Hood left on Sunday night.  This is the 3rd Armored Calvary Division.  That is a combat brigade. That's what's left -- 50,000 combat troops with a mission that does not officially include combat but as Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates was careful to say, they are prepared for combat, they are capable of combat, they will be embedded with Iraqi military units that will be engaging in combat and within them are 4,500 Special Ops forces who will continue to be engaged in so-called "counter-terrorism" attacks -- meaning, go after those who we decide are the 'bad guys.'  So this is combat --
Teymoor Nabili: Bradley Blakeman, is that how you see it?
Phyllis Bennis: -- on a smaller scale.
Bradley Blakeman: Yeah, I have to agree with Phyllis, this is semantics.  Call it what you want, but it's 50,000 combat troops that remain there.  Our president is very desperate for any kind of achievement.  Foreign policy seems to be the area he's concentrating on now.  He needs to focus away from his domestic woes and this is a good way for him to do that.
Teymoor Nabili: Foreign Minister Zebari, the Washington policy it seems is to whitewash the reality.  How do you see it?
Hoshyar Zebari: Well I think this is President Obama's campaign pledge fulfillment actually -- pledge.  He did pledge to the American public during the election campaign that he will withdraw all combat troops by August 31, 2010.  [C.I. note: Zebari is wrong.  The 'pledge' or 'promise' was first all combat troops out within 16 months of his being sworn in and then became all out within 10 months.  With the exception of a lengthy New York Times article, he did not usually go into "combat troops" semantics and most voters heard his cry of "We want to end the war now!" and took "combat troops" to mean all troops out other than Marines guarding the US Embassy in Baghdad.] And according to the SOFA agreement or the Agreement of Withdrawal of American troops [the latter term is what Nouri sold the SOFA to Iraqis as being] all troops should leave the country by the end of 2011. So I think the process has gone smoothly.  There would be forces still -- a sizeable force remaining in the country.  50,000 is not a small number.  And in fact there mission and their mandate is to advise-and-assist Iraqi security forces --
Teymoor Nabili: But the point that the other two guests were making, Foreign Minister, pardon me for interrupting, is that however you want to describe this and however you want to interpret the words of the Status Of Forces Agreement, nothing much has changed in Iraq.  These are still US combat troops and the situation and their activites will really not be much different, will they?
Hoshyar Zebari: No, it will be different, definitely.  This number 50,000, has come down from 170,000 -- 140,000.  So it's a a huge difference.  Second, the mission has changed.  All US troops have left the main cities.  They are in their barracks outside the cities and they are embedded with the Iraqi security forces.  So there is a major change in the mission, in the operation, in the mood of carrying out  the operation and so on --
Teymoor Nabili: Alright.
Hoshyar Zebari: -- in the relations and their presence and Iraqi military authority.
Teymoor Nabili: And, Phyllis Bennis, surely that is the point.  That, at the end of the day, you may be right. It may all be a slight semantic distinction but, at the end of the day, there are less troops and they are on the way out.
Phyllis Bennis: And having fewer troops and if they are on the way out, that's a good thing.  I think there is a big question here, however.  The agreement -- the SOFA agreement that the Foreign Minister speaks of -- was of course negotiated not by President Obama but by George Bush in the last months of his administration in 2008.  In that agreement, it does say that all troops will be gone.  But there is a huge loophole which is that if the Iraqi government which, in my view, is still dependent on the United States for its survival decides that it needs US troops, wants US troops to stay or if the US decides that it wants to keep troops in Iraq for all the same reasons they were sent there in the first place --  which has to do with oil, which has to do with bases, which has to do with the expansion of US power in the region --  none of those reasons have changed. If the US decides that they want to stay, they certainly are in the position to put pressure on the Iraqi government. If the Iraqi government decides that they want to ask the US to stay, they could certainly take that initiative.  So either side is really in a position to say, "We'd like to renegotiate this and talk about keeping troops further in."  Even if that doesn't happen, what's already under way is a shift -- not, as we are being told, a transition from US troops to Iraqi troops but from Pentagon troops to State Dept security officials. Thousands of State Dept security people are being sent. There is the anticipation that there will be about 7,000 contractors being sent who will be doing all the things that the military does but they will not be controlled in the same way by the SOFA agreement which only speaks of contractors under the pay of the Defense Dept, of the Pentagon. Those who are under the administration of the State Dept -- which will include planes, drones, armored personnel carriers, all of these things which are all military but they will be officially part of the State Dept rather than the Pentagon, they will be continuing so there is a very severe danger, I think, that this will continue.
From reality to spin, Joe Biden, US Vice President, is doing another layover in Baghdad.  Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) quotes Biden riffing on Michael Douglas' speech in Romancing the Stone: "We are going to be just fine. They are going to be just fine."  Everything but, "Joan Wilder, inside you always were."  Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) explains he's schedule includes a photo-op on Wednesday when the illegal war is rechristened Operation New Dawn. Sly and Gordon both note that Biden's traveling with his "national security adviser" (pay attention to those national security types popping up in Iraq) who stated Biden would press on the issue of forming a government.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 23 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.  Yesterday, Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reported that the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, is stating that the political stalemate could cause harm and "I worry about that a little bit."  AFP quotes the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim stating, "We have started to reach the end of the tunnel. In the next few days, we are heading toward resolving the issue and accelerating the formation of a new government."
Biden's visit is part of the p.r. rollout -- a p.r. rollout which includes photo ops for Barack Obama as well.  The New York Post reports Barack visited Watler Reed Army Medical Center today . . .and that it was only his second visit since being sworn in as President of the United States.  20 months two visits.  If he didn't need to use the wounded as props today, it would probably still just be one visit because it's so hard to travel all the way from the White House in DC to Walter Reed . . . also in DC.  However, White House plus-size spokesmodel Robert Gibbs informed the country today at the White House press briefing that Barack would be phoning (and texting?) Bully Boy Bush tomorrow before Barack gave his speech.  War Hawks bonding.  How totally non-surprising unless you're a member of the Cult of St. Barack.  The only one more delusional today than Barack or Bush may be William McKenzie who self-decieves so much it's jaw dropping.  But remember that the Dallas Morning News issued orders, prior to the invasion, that all opposed to the incoming war must be demonized.  Which is how Sheryl Crow -- who can sing, play instruments and write songs -- got demonized as the 'music critics' pushed a pop tart and claimed Sherly stole the pop tart's Grammy nomination (reality, the pop-tart couldn't qualify for that year's nomination due to the release date of her output).  From the sports pages to the art pages, from the editorial pages to the so-called 'news' pages, no paper disgraced itself more than the Dallas Morning News and it wasn't an accident which is why so few in the publishing industry bother to take the paper seriously today (and no one mourns their now faded DC desk). Whether attacking Steve Nash on the sports pages or allowing the loser ___ ____ columnist to rip apart peace activists as "treasonous" (and this was before the illegal war broke out), the Dallas Morning News proved that there was a reason the day JFK visited Dallas (and was assassinated) they printed their attack and call to violence on JFK.  As an 'advertisement' you understand. (I didn't see it but I understand the loser is now doing '**** jokes' at the paper's blog. That's the level of 'quality' that Belo and the Dallas Morning News provide.  How proud they must all be. How fortunate the lucky ones -- including a personal friend of mine -- got away from those crazies long, long ago.)  It certainly got results, didn't it?  Ewen MacAskill and Martin Chulov (Guardian) report that while Barack prepares to spin in his big speech tomorrow, Hoshyer Zebari has termed the drawdown and "embarrssment" due to the fact that it happens as Iraq has still not formed a government and the reporters note that violence has again reached a new high in Iraq.

In an attempt to combat the p.r. spin and the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan issued a statement at Peace of the Action:
First of all-this was never a war, this always has been an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign country and it was obviously for the monetary benefit of a few and millions of people, including my family, have suffered because of it.
The first MAJOR HOAX was that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had WMD and a connection to al Qaeda and if the US didn't invade immediately Iraq would send "mushroom clouds" or "drones with bio-weapons to the US East Coast -- the second MAJOR HOAX was that we ended the war on May 1, 2003 when then US president, George Bush, declared an "end" to "combat operations;' the third MAJOR HOAX is that the US ended a horrible dictatorship only to be replaced with a puppet US regime that almost makes execution a national sport. 
Now, with a country in ruins and the US leaving many major construction projects unfinished -- we are again perpetrating a MAJOR HOAX, not just on the people of Iraq, but the people of the US. 
With 50,000 troops (the 3rd Armored Calvary is deploying from Ft. Hood, Tx to Iraq as we speak), 18,000 mercenary killers and 82,000 support contractors (staffing an Imperial Embassy the size of 80 football fields), the illegal and immoral US occupation of Iraq is far from over. 
As Ret. Lt. General James Dubik said recently: "It is in our (US) interest to have an Iraq that is friendly to the US." What he means is an Iraq that is friendly to US war profiteers.
I want to say this in the most simple and direct way that I can: "If you believe that the war in Iraq is over, and not merely carnage rebranded, then you are deluding yourself and I hope you wake up to the fact that for generations human beings have been used as pawns for the political elite and, don't forget, that this is an election year."
I urge all of you to put on your critical-thinking caps and reject this propaganda and reaffirm your commitment to peace above political party.
Anne Pekneth (The Hill) adds, "Let's face it, the Democrats are in an election cycle and the president will repeat that he has kept his election promise to end the combat mission in Iraq by the end of August 2010 and to pull out U.S. soldiers by the end of next year.
But as the respected Iraq analyst Anthony Cordesman has pointed out in a recent post for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 'The Iraq War is not over and it is not 'won'."


Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that after US taxpayer monies of $53 billion were poured into Iraq (supposedly for reconstruction) "it has come to this -- an ice machine in a city on fire."  In the 100 degree plus weather, there is no reliable electricity (outside the Green Zone) and, of course, a potable water crisis -- which, this time of year, usually means the annual (since the US invasion) outbreak of cholera. Nir Rosen (National Newspaper) quotes Sheikh Ahmad al Kinani stating, "Electricity is worse than ever. Children and elderly are dying from the heat. Human rights is a concept that doesn't exist in Iraq."  Meanwhile Robert Siegel (NPR's All Things Considered) speaks with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen today and Bowen states, "I think the single largest failed program has been the health sector.  The plan was to build a state of the art children's oncology hospital in Basra, to construct 151 public health care clinics taking a new level of aid out to the hinderlands in Iraq and to refurbish the many of the broken down hospitals in the country. None of those programs really succeeded."  Reality is that Alsumaria TV reported over the weekend that Nouri declared Iraq was on high alert because of "information that Al Qaeda and Baathists were planning a series of attacks across the country."  In addition, Arwa Damon (CNN) reports, "Although the security situation in Ramadi has improved dramatically, appearances can be deceiving. Our escort from the governor's compound to the market was nervous about spending more than a few minutes on the streets, and we weren't able to talk to any of the shoppers and business owners."  The Governor of the province, Qasim Abid, states "he pleaded with the United States to wait before drawing down troop levels to 50,000. But it was an appeal that feel on deaf ears in Washington". And Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports:
A secure, stable and free Iraq, it's what the United States promised after its tanks and armored vehicles rumbled into the center of Baghdad and toppled former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.         
Yet, as the U.S. troops are leaving "as promised and on schedule," for Maher Abbas, a Baghdad lawyer, the world is as broken and dangerous as these promises could be.                   
Abbas, 34, is a Sunni resident living in the capital's western neighborhood of Khadraa with his family. He said that the U.S. invasion and the following seven years were devastating to Iraqi society.           
"It created deep cracks between the Iraqi factions who used to live together for hundreds and thousands of years," he said with an apparent anguish.   
That's reality.  Barack prepares to spin in the face of that reality and much more and he'd do well to remember what happened earlier this month when another tried to spin and how the spin's been rejected in today's news cycle.  Earlier this month, then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill wanted to insist that he had done good, he had. Speaking to Steve Inskeep (NPR's Morning Edition) August 11th, he wanted to cite Iraqi oil deals as "progress." It was a claim he'd return to in his August 13th press briefing:

There have been numerous security challenges that continue to exist, and I'm sure you all saw the horrific news this morning, this suicide bombing in front of a military installation in which scores of people were killed. So Iraq, I think, as I've often said, offers no refuge for those in need of instant gratification. It requires you to stay at it. But I do believe that there's some real progress there. As we speak, major oil companies are beginning to actually put drill bits in the ground. Iraq will, I think, emerge as one of the major oil producers of the world. It will have significance for really the rest of the world. I think that part of the picture is really coming into focus and I think the Iraqis are really making some progress.
He went on to add later in the briefing:

Yeah, the oil law – I've got to tell you, I mean, I got there in April of '09 and everyone talked about the hydrocarbons law, the oil law. And I saw kind of a virtual stalemate in the Council of Representatives, and I supported the approach of just going ahead and doing contracts – that is, doing – not – these are not ownership contracts; these are oil service contracts. And the Iraqi Government, I think, has made a very credible effort on that. They've also reached over to the Kurds and they've addressed some of the issues there, where the Kurds had wanted to export some of the oil directly.
Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) reports that the Ministry of Oil is declaring the contract between the KRG and RWE AG for natural gas to be "nil and void." They state the contract isn't legal and that the KRG didn't have the authority to make the deal. Michael Christie and Jane Baird (Reuters) report the KRG insists the deal is constitutional and quote the KRG's head of Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa Bakir stating, "We will continue to successfully develop our oil and gas in line with the constitution which was accepted by a majority of the Iraqi people. We will not wait for the instructions of an unsuccessful ministry like the Iraqi ministry of oil. We express our commitment that all income will go to the federal purse and will be distributed to all Iraqi areas without favour." Chris Hill tried to ride a wave of Operation Happy Talk.  The result was wipeout.  The White House would do well to remember that.
Reality about the Iraq War has never been pretty.  And things are getting worse, UPI notes that Asharq al-Awsat is reporting the return to Iraq of Abu Deraa who holds the 'title' of "Butcher of Baghdad" and who "could signal an escalation in an already ferocious sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis as U.S. forces withdraw."  Reuters notes the DoD lists 4419 US military deaths in the Iraq War (as of August 18th).  Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 engineer and left three people injured, a Baghdad, a Falluja bombing targeting a police squad car which left five police officers wounded,  and a Mosul attack in which 2 brothers were shot dead.
Turning to DPA's "Iraq demands the return of a rare Jewish scroll from Israel," if the basic facts are correct (they may be, they may not be -- DPA is wrong as to the number of Jews in Iraq in 2003 -- they woefully undercount the Jewish population which I don't believe hit a dozen utnil some time in 2006), Israel is in possession of a Torah which the Tourism Ministry of Iraq is stating ought to be returned. It ought to be?

No. This has none of the complexities of the earlier call by the Iraqi government for Jewish documents. In the earlier case, the US, after the 2003 invasion, had discovered a large number of records that were kept by the Iraqi government on Jews in Iraq -- it was spying on them. They brought the records back to the US to preserve them -- they had been submerged in water when the US found them. Iraq demanded them back. The dispute was between Iraq and the US, between the occupied and the occupier. As I noted at Third, I was surprised the Israeli government did not step in on that. If they had and had made a claim on the documents, there would have been reasons to dispute claims. However, the US was the occupier and the documents were taken out of the country.

Iraq felt no need to protect the Jewish citizens from targeting by various thugs since the invasion began. The Jewish population was targeted and was wiped out either by violence or by fleeing. To now assert that they have some right to Hebrew artifacts? They have no right. Nor do they or did they ever belong to Iraq.  Whose culture was it?  And since when can a nation-state, developed centuries later, attempt to lay claim to the people's property? 

These are not documents that the Iraqi government kept. Even now the Tourism Ministry can't state whether it was ever in the government's possession, whether it was privately owned by someone in Iraq or whether it belonged to a Jewish facility in Iraq (as many as 100,000 Jewish people were living in Iraq as late as the 1940s).  These are religious artifacts and they belong to the people of that religion. The scroll is in Israel and in Israel is where it should remain. Iraq did not protect the Jewish population, it allowed it to be decimated. It has no claim or right to the scroll.

Iraq is created in 1932. The scroll predates the creation of the country by centuries. Having no Jewish population today, the fact that they would even assert a right to the scroll is rather offensive. And that's before you even wiegh into consideration the fact that Iraq's unable to keep their treasures, artifacts and museums open to the public.

Again, when the issue of the US having Iraqi government records on Jewish people arose, I did not weigh in with an opinion. That was an occupier/occupied issue and, with Israel making no claim to the records, it was a rather straight forward issue. This one's rather straight forward as well but not to Iraq's benefit.


Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on September 01, 2010, 05:54:31 am
Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

Iraq Withdrawal: Amid Heat and Broken Promises, Only the Ice Man Cometh

After seven years and $53bn of US reconstruction money, Baghdad still relies on slabs of ice to keep cool

by Martin Chulov in Baghdad

On a pot-holed backstreet in eastern Baghdad, Saad Turki is sweltering under a corrugated tin roof, manning a giant pulley. The grime of yet another merciless summer day has stained his shirt ochre and he is parched from the rigour of a Ramadan fast.


A vendor uses a saw to cut ice in Baghdad. Iraq in 2010 is far from the middle-income utopia envisaged by some American officials in the early days of the occupation. (Photograph: Hadi Mizban/AP)

But Turki – unlike the stream of customers lined up outside his workshop – is not complaining. Business is buoyant in his rudimentary line of work. The insufferable heat of Iraq [1] seven years after the invasion has helped transform him from a youth in the city's downtrodden fringes into a man on the make.

Turki is producing large slabs of ice, which most Baghdadis have been using since mid-June to cool their houses. He has been selling up to 6,000 each day to families who have no other means of making their homes even remotely livable in the face of a relentless three-month heatwave.

"We've never had a summer like this," he says, as a police pick-up truck pulls up to collect a half-metre slab of white ice that has freshly spouted from a rusting foot-wide pipe (the policeman doesn't pay). "On some days we can't produce enough to satisfy everyone."

Things weren't supposed to be this way. After seven years of hopes and $53bn of US reconstruction money, it has come to this — an ice machine in a city on fire. Iraq in 2010 is far from the middle-income utopia envisaged by some American officials in the early days of the occupation.

The country under Saddam was a command economy ravaged by war and sanctions, which had taken a particularly heavy toll as the technology driving civic infrastructure had forged ahead throughout the west during the 1990s.

As US forces steadily withdraw, George W Bush's notion of a new Marshall Plan, the blueprint that helped rebuild western Europe after the second world war, for Iraq is increasingly looking illusory. Key benchmarks reveal that all aspects of civic infrastructure have either stagnated or only inched ahead since 2003.

"A lot of the reconstruction has been posited on things that haven't happened, such as the reconditioning of major power stations," says Christine McNab, the resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Iraq.

"A lot of what is wrong with infrastructure is from the sanctions period, when people couldn't order spare parts and couldn't modernise."

Access to potable water had been another key goal of US and Iraqi administrators. And while there has been progress at a micro-level, such as a US-built water treatment plant in Sadr City and work by the US Army Corps of Engineers in other deprived regions, an overhaul of Iraq's moribund water delivery system has not happened.

The United Nations says 79% of Iraqis now have improved access to drinking water compared with 2003. However, separate figures reveal that only one in four households have access to tap water in their homes.

Sewage is a serious environmental threat – more than 60% of households dump untreated waste on open land. Electricity remains a major problem.

The streets of Baghdad are strung with a spider's web of makeshift wires, leading eventually to a Dickensian structure belching black smoke into a hazy sky from four stacks. This is Baghdad's only power station, in the southern suburbs of Dora, the engine room of a city that was supposed to power the nation towards a long-promised new beginning.

The Dora station has been providing most households with no more than three hours of electricity a day this summer. It is running at maximum capacity, generating 3,500 megawatts, which supplies roughly 60% of Baghdad's daily needs.

Ghazi Essa, the station director, says all his pleas for new technology or spare parts which could boost output have been ignored for a long time, but particularly in the past six months, when Iraq has been without a functioning government, or anyone to give executive direction.

"We cannot reach more than 70% of the design load," he says. "It has never reached 51C [124F] in Baghdad before. For each degree increase in temperature there is an extra 100 megawatt demand. It is very, very hot and there is so much suffering for the people.

"I feel sorry because we are leaving them many problems and there is nothing we can do."

Iraq is generating only 8,000 of the 13-15,000 megawatts of daily power needed to meet its needs. Supply has increased by around 30% since early 2003, but that is nowhere near enough to keep up with demand, which has soared as people have snapped up cheap Chinese white goods that now flood local markets. The Iraqi government has spent $22.7bn on the electricity sector since 2006, 42% of which has been used for salaries.

The US government has also chipped in, spending $5.3bn on 550 energy-related projects. But even so, it now faces the galling prospect of Iraqis receiving less electricity per day than when US forces arrived here.

Since the inconclusive general election of March 7, ministries have ground to a halt and the parliament has not convened as the country continues to wallow in a political quagmire that started when the incumbent prime minister, Nour al-Maliki, was edged out in a primary vote by former leader Iyad Allawi.

Neither man has been able to form a government since, and much of the goodwill of the March election, which saw a strong turnout across much of the country, has melted away.

"Delay in the formation of the government has delayed payment," says Essa. "We are just hanging on now. This period [of indecision] has delayed everything. It is not only the Dora station. Everything has been affected very badly.

"The ministry cannot give me a decision now. There is no money. There is no budget."

Across Iraq's myriad bureaucracies, it is the same story. Bills are not being paid, contracts are often not honoured and decisions to lead the nation forward are not being taken.

Parliament has not passed a law in almost nine months. There is no agreement on volatile issues such as Kirkuk and other disputed territories, or on a hydrocarbon law that was supposed to act as a blueprint for the development of Iraq's oil wealth.

Baghdad's relationship with the restive north is still tenuous, and especially so since the oil auctions of late last year, which will bring into play revenues from the giant Kurdish oilfields. Both sides remain deeply suspicious of each other on all matters to do with how Kirkuk and the territories are administered. It's very hard to find an Iraqi flag in the north, except above government buildings – and even then, it is always considerably smaller than the Kurdish banner flying next to it.

Standards of governance are of critical concern to the steadily rotating senior diplomats who roll through the giant US embassy in Baghdad. They are even more of an issue to Iraqis, many of whom have little access to the security, rights and services that they were told to expect from democratically elected governments and the institutions that are supposed to serve them. Herein lies one of the greatest fears for post-occupation Iraq.

"It is deeply ingrained that unless you have someone strong at the top of an institution it is not going to function," says McNab.

Throughout the past seven years, ministries have been run in effect as party fiefdoms. None have become anywhere near as strong as the minister who runs them.

"They need to create ministries that have no party role at all, rather than being used as a means of patronage," says one senior western diplomat of Iraq's fiercely partisan politicians.

"I don't think they really understand what politics is really about. They behave like it's about carving up the country and sharing the goodies, not about running the country and good management.

"The fact that key legislation has not been passed means they have not taken on board the full responsibility."

Allawi, whose bid to lead Iraq for a second time helped create the political stalemate, said Iraq's institutions were being used as a tool of regional groups who were determined to use Iraq to further their agendas. "There are elements that are poisoning the well," he said.

"This is the time. This is the moment. Either we want democracy to succeed, or we want the ganging of groups against other groups to succeed."

In health, some projects have taken root, such as new, desperately needed hospitals in areas including Basra and Falluja. There has also been more primary healthcare delivered to most Iraqis nationwide. However, the number of doctors per capita remains low by regional standards, as does the quality of care in many Iraqi districts, according to a UN assessment.

The brain drain of Iraq's professionals has taken an especially heavy toll on doctors. Up to 60% of GPs and specialists present when Baghdad fell have either fled out of fear for their lives or become economic migrants. Doctors were ruthlessly hunted down by militias from 2005 to 2008 and remain attractive targets even now.

Improved security was supposed to change all that. And despite a sharp rise in violence in the past four months, the numbers killed and maimed have dropped in most areas of Iraq by up to 70% compared with the blood-soaked days of mid-2006. The Iraqi army has been heavily mentored and trained by departing US forces and has emerged as a credible institution – perhaps one of the few in the land. Iraqis tend to trust the military, but not the police, whose ranking officers are seen to have facilitated the sectarian war.

In total there are more than 600,000 members of Iraq's security forces. Though strong in number, they are hindered by a brittle rule of law and a judiciary that has struggled to assert its independence in the face of political interference.

Many western diplomats believe the judiciary is reluctant to take on the government, in particular the prime minister's office, and is very susceptible to influence from Iraq's power base. All judges get around in armoured convoys because of a very real risk to their lives. The car park outside Baghdad's central court is littered with up to 30 blown-up four wheel drives as a reminder of what is at stake for them.

Adnan al-Baderi, a judicial investigator who deals with terrorism cases, says his family have twice been targeted. "They tried to kidnap my oldest son last year. He was in a group of many people and he was the only one that they went for," he says from his home inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. "This is something we all must live with."

Seven years of war have also undoubtedly opened doors and given Iraqis a worldview. The internet is popular with the country's young, travel to Lebanon, the Gulf, or Europe, is now in reach for a slowly growing middle class, and freedom of expression has replaced fear of who might be listening. But hardships are likely to remain a huge hindrance for many years to come. Even if Essa, the Dora power station director, had the authority to order spare parts to increase Baghdad's power output, two of the four giant turbines in use there are so old that their Italian manufacturer has no replacements in stock.

"They told us they would have to make them," says Essa. "That could take a year at least. Also, the turbines are being run on diesel and heavy fuels, when they were designed to be run on gas. Only the Kirkuk plant is running on gas, because there are no gas lines elsewhere in the country."

The gas that Essa needs is being burnt off in giant flares from refineries around the country that have been wasting around $50 a second, largely because legislators have not been able to agree for years on who should be allowed to harness the gas and develop the desperately needed distribution pipelines.

"Just the fact that individuals are having to spend their own money on buying generators means there is that much less money in the economy," says McNab. "It is the height of absurdity in such an oil-rich country that they don't have the right oil grades to run these stations properly.

"To get investors to come, there needs to be electricity 24/7, with no breaks," she says. "They also want a water supply. They need hygienic solutions and that means the sanitation services need to be working."

Across Iraq, the US withdrawal is increasingly seen as a rush for the exit, when there remains much work to be done.

"They want it to be over, but it doesn't mean it is," says the ice-maker, Turki. "It doesn't bother me though, because I'll be making ice for a decade to come.

"Look at the mess that is Iraq. Do you think they will somehow get it together when the strong man leaves town? No, Iraqis will eat each other for power."

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited


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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on September 01, 2010, 05:57:06 am
Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 by Informed Comment

The Speech President Obama Should Give About the Iraq War (But Won’t)

by Juan Cole

Here is the speech that I wish President Obama would give about the Iraq War, but which neither he nor any other president ever will.
Fellow Americans, and Iraqis who are watching this speech, I have come here this evening not to declare a victory or to mourn a defeat on the battlefield, but to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a series of illegal actions and grossly incompetent policies pursued by the government of the United States of America, in defiance of domestic US law, international treaty obligations, and both American and Iraqi public opinion.

The United Nations was established in 1945 in the wake of a series of aggressive wars of conquest and the response to them, in which over 60 million people perished. Its purpose was to forbid such unjustified attacks, and its charter specified that in future wars could only be launched on two grounds. One is clear self-defense, when a country has been attacked. The other is with the authorization of the United Nations Security Council.

It was because the French, British and Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956 contravened these provisions of the United Nations Charter that President Dwight D. Eisenhower condemned that war and forced the belligerents to withdraw. When Israel looked as though it might try to hang on to its ill-gotten spoils, the Sinai Peninsula, President Eisenhower went on television on February 21, 1957 and addressed the nation. These words have largely been suppressed and forgotten in the United States of today, but they should ring through the decades and centuries:

“If the United Nations once admits that international dispute can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the very foundation of the organization, and our best hope of establishing a real world order. That would be a disaster for us all . . .

[Referring to Israeli demands that certain conditions be met before it relinquished the Sinai, the president said that he] “would be untrue to the standards of the high office to which you have chosen me if I were to lend the influence of the United States to the proposition that a nation which invades another should be permitted to exact conditions for withdrawal . . .”

“If it [the United Nations Security Council] does nothing, if it accepts the ignoring of its repeated resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the invading forces, then it will have admitted failure. That failure would be a blow to the authority and influence of the United Nations in the world and to the hopes which humanity has placed in the United Nations as the means of achieving peace with justice.”

In March of 2003, it was the United States government itself that contravened the charter of the United Nations, aggressively invading a country that had not attacked it and against the will of the UN Security Council. The war was preceded by a summit in the Azores of the US, Britain, Spain and Portugal, for all the world as though it were the sixteenth century and a confusion between empire and piracy still prevailed.

No one denies that the government of Saddam Hussein was brutal. The one good thing that came out of this sad affair, and an achievement of which individual American servicemen and women may be justly proud, is the ending of a murderous tyranny. The American military fought valiantly and as it was ordered to by civilian politicians, most of whom had fled military service themselves. The military does not make policy and my critique of the war is not directed at it. To say all this is simply to acknowledge a complex reality, not to justify an illegal action. Nothing extraordinary had happened in Iraq in 2002 or 2003 to provoke an Anglo-American invasion. We learn in kindergarten that two wrongs do not make a right, and that the ends do not justify the means. Above all, international order is fragile and threats to that order increasingly menacing, and to toss away the achievement of the United Nations charter in favor of a war that was if not unilateral, certainly unilaterally decided upon, was a severe blow to the peace, prosperity and security of us all.

The cost of this unprovoked and foolhardy adventure to the United States has been profound. A country known for its efficiency and prowess was made to look like a band of bumbling fools. The world’s best armed forces were mired in a quagmire that sapped its strength and attention, and permitted challenges to the US to go unanswered in the rest of the world. Iran was transformed from a minor annoyance – blocked by the Iraqi Republican Guards from a significant role in the Middle East – into a regional superpower with powerful influence in Baghdad, Beirut, Manama, Kuwait City, and Damascus. There is no doubt that more benefit accrued to Iran from the Iraq War than to the United States.

Over 35,000 Americans have been killed or wounded in the Iraq War from hostile causes, and some 40,000 were killed or hurt in incidents classified as “non-hostile,” though likely many of these injuries actually occurred because of attacks. A generation of Americans will suffer brain damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, or physical disabilities because of this violent war, in which roadside bombs were deployed in the thousands against poorly armored vehicles that the Bush administration could not be bothered to replace with sturdier ones. The cost of the war so far, approaching a trillion dollars, is dwarfed by the cost of caring for the damaged veterans, and will likely mount to $5 trillion or more in coming decades. That sum is nearly half the entire current national debt.

The constitution, laws and traditions of the American Republic were also wounded by this war. High officials explicitly authorized torture. The United States government became among the chief purveyors in the world of sado-masochistic pornography, coming out of Abu Ghraib. The White House, shamefully, became a center of concerted propaganda so divorced from reality that its own press spokesmen privately and sometimes publicly admitted the dishonesty of their own discourse. The so-called PATRIOT Act contains provisions that clearly contravene the Bill of Rights and yet they have become so ingrained in the practices of the law enforcement community and so beloved by the enormous national security sector that even I have not dared touch them.

The damage to the United States and to international order and law is deep and our nation and our allies will not soon heal from its wounds. That damage is dwarfed, however, by the world-historical catastrophe that our invasion unleashed upon Iraq. The overthrow of the government with no plan for what might replace it; the dissolution of the Iraqi army; the willful neglect and destruction of the Iraqi public sector; and the animus against the Sunni Arab population mandated by the United States destroyed the foundations of order and economic activity in Iraq. The refusal of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to properly garrison Iraq after its conquest left it without sufficient US troops to guarantee security. Instead of seeking reconciliation and an equitable new order, the Bush administration installed partisan conspirators in power and allowed them to adopt punitive policies toward the former ruling group. These policies were largely responsible for provoking a Sunni Arab insurgency of enormous proportions, which continues to fight and to seek the destabilization of the new Iraq even today.

The United States essentially conducted an ethnic revolution from the outside in Iraq, installing fundamentalist Shiites and separatist Kurds in power in Baghdad. This policy could have been foreseen to lead to a sanguinary civil war, which it did. In summer of 2006, as many as 2500 civilians were showing up dead in the country’s alleyways every month, showing signs of torture – drilling, chemical burns, and disfigurement. Only when the advancing Shiite militias had ethnically cleansed much of Baghdad and environs of its Sunni Arabs did the violence begin to subside. How many Iraqis were killed in all this violence is controversial. It should be remembered that hundreds of thousands also died because of dirty water and lack of medical care, since many physicians and nurses fled the constant clashes. Surely the total death toll attributable to the US invasion and occupation, and the Iraqi reaction to them, is in the hundreds of thousands. Millions have been wounded. Some 4 million Iraqis were displaced, some 2.7 million of them inside the country, and most remain homeless. Iraq is a country of widows and orphans, of the unemployed and the displaced.

The insistence of the United States on shaping the new Iraqi constitution, in defiance of the demands of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani that it be indigenous, and Washington’s continual meddling in Iraqi politics have produced a continually paralyzed government and, in recent months, no government at all. The likelihood that democracy can survive in this land rendered violent, with its foreign-imposed charter and laws and its deep ethnic and sectarian grievances and disputes, is frankly low. War boosters continually confuse elections with democracy, and deadlocked government with good governance, and American intervention with moderation and balance.

The United States is now gradually leaving Iraq militarily. Although this withdrawal is stage-wise and gradual, have no doubt that it is real and enduring. The United States will honor its agreement with the Iraqi parliament to withdraw, just as it honored the wishes of the Philipinnes’ legislature when it closed its naval bases there in the 1990s. But it must be acknowledged that we leave Iraq a wounded nation. Most of the billions the US Congress voted for reconstruction in Iraq was wasted, stolen or frittered away on poorly thought-out projects. The new government has found it impossible to deliver basic services, provoking significant popular demonstrations in recent months.

Iraq is, however, a resilient society with its own natural resources. After a decade and a half of crippling American economic sanctions followed by shock and awe and military occupation, it is for the best that we leave the Iraqis to settle their affairs among themselves. Our overbearing presence and biased policies have in themselves helped provoke governmental gridlock on the one hand and a prolonged ethno-sectarian conflict on the other.

We have irrevocably harmed ourselves, and been responsible for inflicting or provoking a calamity that has gripped virtually every Iraqi by the jugular. We have left the world less secure and more uncertain, and have created a baleful example that other nations may yet invoke in pursuing their own aggressive adventures. We can best make amends by ensuring that there is no American imperialism in Iraq, and no neo-imperialism. Iraqis are our friends and we will offer them as much training, technical help and advice as they ask for. But we will not be like the colonial powers of the last century, which granted pro forma independence to their former colonies but went on attempting to rule from behind the scenes.

This war was fought to open up Iraqi petroleum to development and export to the world market. No one would have needed to fight a war for oil if the United States government had put sufficient resources into developing and implementing green energy. Portugal is now generating 45 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and hydro-electric sources. A new generation of electric vehicles can be powered without petroleum. A green America, and a green world, is likely to be a much more peaceful world, in which resource wars will be less likely. Solar and wind power are everywhere and need no soldiers to guard them or to take them from others.

We cannot undo what has been done. We cannot pretend that the United States did not violate the United Nations charter and the Geneva Conventions. But we can make amends. We can seek redemption as a nation. And our salvation lies in forswearing permanent war, aggressive war, undeclared war, and police actions as a way of life. A new century beckons. Some sought to make it a new American century. It will inevitably, however, be an Asian century, a century marking the emergence on the world stage of China and India. The United States will be among the smaller of the powers in this new geopolitical framework and it may not have the biggest or the most dynamic economy. The best guarantee of the peace and security of Americans is not international anarchy and aggressive warfare, but world order and the international rule of law. We shall seek our redemption by redoubling our support of the United Nations and our commitment to collective security and human rights. We shall return to the ideals enunciated by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957, to the ideals of the man who actually led the defeat of fascism and who knew right from wrong, unlike our latter-day politicians.

We shall inscribe in our hearts and exemplify in our lives these words of his:

“If the United Nations once admits that international dispute can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the very foundation of the organization, and our best hope of establishing a real world order. That would be a disaster for us all . . .

© 2010 Juan Cole
Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East [1] (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment [2].



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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on September 01, 2010, 05:59:23 am
Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 by The Guardian/UK

A Trillion-Dollar Catastrophe. Yes, Iraq Was a Headline War

by Simon Jenkins

Today the Iraq war was declared over by Barack Obama [1]. As his troops return home, Iraqis are marginally freer than in 2003, and considerably less secure. Two million remain abroad as refugees from seven years of anarchy, with another 2 million internally displaced. Ironically, almost all Iraqi Christians have had to flee. Under western rule, production of oil – Iraq's staple product – is still below its pre-invasion level, and homes enjoy fewer hours of electricity. This is dreadful.
Some 100,000 civilians are estimated to have lost their lives from occupation-related violence. The country has no stable government, minimal reconstruction, and daily deaths and kidnappings. Endemic corruption is fuelled by unaudited aid. Increasing Islamist rule leaves most women less, not more, liberated. All this is the result of a mind-boggling $751bn of US expenditure, surely the worst value for money in the history of modern diplomacy.

Most failed "liberal" interventions since the second world war at least started with good intentions. Vietnam was to defend a non-communist nation against Chinese expansionism. Lebanon was to protect a pluralist country from a grasping neighbour. Somalia was to repair a failed state.

In Iraq the casus belli was a lie, perpetrated by George Bush and his meek amanuensis, Tony Blair. Saddam Hussein was accused of association with 9/11, and of plotting further attacks with long-range weapons of "mass destruction". Since this was revealed as untrue, the fallback deployed by apologists for Bush and Blair is that Saddam was a bad man and so toppling him was good.

The proper way to assess any war is not some crude "before and after" statistic, but to conjecture the consequence of it not taking place. Anti-Iraq hysteria began in 1998 with Bill Clinton's Operation Desert Fox [2], a three-day bombing of Iraq's military and civilian infrastructure, to punish Saddam for inhibiting UN weapons inspectors. To most of the world, it was to deflect attention from Clinton's Lewinsky affair.

Most independent analysis believed that Iraq had ceased any serious nuclear ambitions at the end of the first Iraq war in 1991, a view confirmed by investigators since 2003. Even so, Desert Fox was claimed to have "successfully degraded Iraq's ability to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction". Whether or not this was true, there was no evidence that such an ability had recovered by 2003. Among other things, the Iraq affair was an intelligence debacle.

Meanwhile, the west's sanctions made Iraq a siege economy, eradicating its middle class and elevating Saddam to sixth richest ruler in the world, though he faced regular plots against his person. Western hostility may have shored him up, but opposition would have eventually delivered a coup, from the army or Shia militants backed by Iran.

Even had that not happened soon, Iraq was a nasty but stable secular state that no longer posed a serious threat even to its neighbours. It was contained by a no-fly zone [3] that had rendered the oppressed Kurds de facto autonomy. It was not appreciably worse than Assad's Ba'athist Syria, and its oil production and energy supplies were improving, not deteriorating as now.

The Chilcot inquiry [4] has been swamped with stories of the American-British occupation on a par with William the Conqueror's "harrying of the north" [5]. That any 21st-century bureaucracy could behave with such cruel and bloodthirsty incompetence beggars belief. The truth is it was blinded by a conviction in its neo-imperial omnipotence. However much we delude ourselves, the west is still run by leaders, especially generals, drenched in the glory of past triumphs: leaders who refuse to believe that other nations have a right to order their own affairs. The awfulness of Iraq in 2003 was not so grotesque as to be our business – even had we been able to build the pro-western, pro-Israeli, secular, capitalist utopia of neocon fantasy.

Germany, France, Russia and Japan did not go near this war. They did not believe the lies about Saddam's armoury and did not see any duty to liberate the Iraqi people from oppression. In his other-worldly performance before Chilcot, Blair offered only a glazed belief that he was revelling as a latter-day Richard the Lionheart.

All wars wander from their plan, since all armies are good at landings but bad at breakouts, and dreadful at occupations – known to every military manual long before Iraq. The truth is that this was always to be a headline war, fuelled by a desire to see what Bush celebrated as "mission accomplished" just when a nervous Pentagon was murmuring: "We don't do nation-building." It was a political invasion, not to win a battle or occupy territory but to score a point against Islamist militancy. That it meant toppling one of Asia's few secular regimes was another of its hypocrisies.

The overriding lesson of Iraq comes from that dejected goddess, humility. The dropping of thousands of bombs, the loss of 4,000 western troops and the spending of almost a trillion dollars still cannot overcome the AK-47, the roadside explosive device, the suicide bomber, and an aversion to occupation. Nations with different cultures cannot be ruled by seven years of soldiering. Bush and Blair thought otherwise.

The Iraq war will be seen by history as a catastrophe that did more than anything else to alienate Atlantic powers from the rest of the world and disqualify them as global policemen. It was a wild overreaction by a paranoid, overmilitarised American state to a single spectacular, but inconsequential, act of terrorism on 9/11. As such it illustrated how little international relations have advanced since the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Its exponents are still blinded by incident.

All the UN's pomp cannot stop such incidents running amok. The UN is powerless in the face of glory-seeking statesmen, goaded by military-industrial interests of unprecedented potency. We might think that after history's mightiest lesson book – the 20th century – the west would be proof against repeating such idiocy. Yet when challenged to show prudence and maturity in response to terror, it plays the terrorist's game. It exploits the politics of fear.

The west is leaving Iraq in a pool of blood, dust and dollars. It remains wedded to Iraq's twin sister in folly, Afghanistan.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Simon Jenkins is a journalist and author. He writes for the Guardian and the Sunday Times, as well as broadcasting for the BBC. He has edited the Times and the London Evening Standard


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Title: Re: IRAQ : daily stuff here please
Post by: bigron on September 01, 2010, 06:58:56 am