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IRAQ : daily stuff here please

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bigron
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« on: July 26, 2010, 12:52:27 pm »

Iraq: Continued violence, continued stalemate

The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68240&hd=&size=1&l=e

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.




The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

 

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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2010, 12:58:25 pm »

British deputy prime minister admits Iraq war was illegal


by Julie Hyland
http://uruknet.info/?p=m68244&hd=&size=1&l=e



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




 
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« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2010, 01:08:15 pm »

The Donkey Party


by Layla Anwar




July 25, 2010
http://uruknet.info/?p=m68252&hd=&size=1&l=e



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.

 

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« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2010, 01:28:51 pm »

The Ultimate Truth about Iraq

by Hussein Anwar





Painting by Kennard Phillip


July 25, 2010

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68256&hd=&size=1&l=e


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 repaired...it 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 knew...is 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 doctors...in 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 me...how can you repair such a country? The first step to repair it...the resistance must triumph...and then for every accident there is a talk...as 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.









 
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« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2010, 01:55:28 pm »

Fresh accusations of Iraq war cover-up

by Louise Nousratpour

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68272&hd=&size=1&l=e

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."




 
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« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2010, 02:05:41 pm »

Iraq war whistleblower was probably assassinated

By Christopher King

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68276&hd=&size=1&l=e

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.




 
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« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2010, 02:10:49 pm »

Al-Iraqiya List warns of "internationalization" of cabinet file
.
AKnews

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68279&hd=&size=1&l=e

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)




 
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« Reply #7 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 :
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=67918


"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 (wsws.org) 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.


1. http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20136
2. https://www.osac.gov/Reports/report.cfm?contentID=114370
3. http://www.worldpress.org/Europe/2722.cfm
4. http://www.wsws.org/articles/1999/apr1999/kla-a10.shtml (Chossudovsky.)
5. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/0139
7/brunopdf_1397401a.pdf
6. http://www.savekosovo.org/default.asp?p=5
* Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Biography, "Murder in Samarkand." http://www.craigmurray.org.uk
7. Peter Oborne, Daily Mail, 17th June 2010.




 
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« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2010, 06:00:12 am »

Published on Monday, July 26, 2010 by CommonDreams.org


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 www.marjoriecohn.com
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URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/26-1

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« Reply #9 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
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/39/US-interest-wanes-in-the-mission-that-remains-in.html
 
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

(allsanaag.com) 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

 
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« Reply #10 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     
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/In-Iraq-Mullen-to-Review-Plans-for-US-Troop-Withd.html
 

 
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
 
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2010, 09:35:55 am »

latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-iraq-funds-20100727,0,3856364.story

latimes.com

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.

liz.sly@latimes.com

Times staff writer Riyadh Mohammed contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2010, 10:51:00 am »

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
17:17 Mecca time, 14:17 GMT
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/europe/2010/07/201072775116884417.html
   
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.
 
 
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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2010, 03:37:02 pm »

Leaks...


by Layla Anwar

http://arabwomanblues.blogspot.com/2010/07/leaks.html

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 to...to 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 new..it is not new knowledge...it 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 ourselves...at our own pace...like 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.





 
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« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2010, 03:41:23 pm »

Iraq snapshot - July 26, 2010

The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68316&hd=&size=1&l=e

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).

 

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« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2010, 06:23:43 am »

Five killed in Iraq helicopter crash

Wed, 28 Jul 2010 08:43:23 GMT
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=136502&sectionid=351020201   


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.

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« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2010, 06:26:15 am »

12 killed in Karbala, Baghdad attacks

Wed, 28 Jul 2010 07:27:20 GMT
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=136491&sectionid=351020201

   
 
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.

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« Reply #17 on: July 29, 2010, 06:51:12 am »

Four soldiers killed in Iraq attacks

Thu, 29 Jul 2010 09:30:03 GMT
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=136644&sectionid=351020201

 
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.

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« Reply #18 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     
 
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/18-Killed-21-Wounded-in-Iraqs-Car-Bomb.html

 
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
 
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« Reply #19 on: July 29, 2010, 08:28:10 am »

'Brit army unwilling to join Iraq war'
 
 
29/07/2010 08:19:43 AM GMT     
 
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/Brit-army-unwilling-to-join-Iraq-war.html

 
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.

GHN/HRF ¬
Source: Press TV
 
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« Reply #20 on: July 29, 2010, 11:05:16 am »

Iraq snapshot - July 27, 2010

The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/07/iraq-snapshot_27.html


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.   
PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO SEND OIL MINISTER SHIRASTANI AND PRIME MINISTER MALIKI A MESSAGE TO PROTEST THESE VIOLATIONS OF BASIC LABOR RIGHTS THAT ARE THE CORNERSTONE OF ANY TRUE DEMOCRACY. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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 . .  .
 
Bombings?
 
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.)
 
Shootings?
 
 
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.


JOSH STIEBER
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).
 


 
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« Reply #21 on: July 30, 2010, 06:24:10 am »

Al-Qaida plants flag, burns bodies in Iraq attack


By REBECCA SANTANA


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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« Reply #22 on: July 30, 2010, 10:55:32 am »

Iraq snapshot - July 28, 2010


The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68387&hd=&size=1&l=e


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 bradleymanning.org, 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.             

 
 
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« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2010, 09:23:13 am »

 Associated Press

 - August 01, 2010
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/08/01/july-deadliest-month-iraqis-years-dead/


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.

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« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2010, 09:27:45 am »

U.S. grows isolated on aggressive war 


31/07/2010 02:30:00 PM GMT
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/39/US-grows-isolated-on-aggressive-war.html
 
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.

(blogspot.com) 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 p.dyer@inspire.net.nz.



-- Middle East Online

 
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« Reply #25 on: August 01, 2010, 09:34:36 am »

Iraq snapshot - July 30, 2010

The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68444&hd=&size=1&l=e


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?
 
"We"?
 
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 --
 
[cross-talk]
 
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 <lynnmeadows@provide.net>
   (734) 476-7101

About the agenda:
----------------
Fred Vitale -- Co-Chair <freddetroit@sbcglobal.net>
   (313) 580-4905

About the candidates:
--------------------
John Anthony La Pietra -- Elections Coordinator <jalp@triton.net>
   (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;
          and
        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)
        517-327-9500

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:

        http://www.MIGreens.org
 
 
 
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Iraq snapshot - July 29, 2010



The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68417&hd=&size=1&l=e


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 Military.com/ Monster Worldwide's Vince Patton.  We'll note this exchange from it.
 
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin:  From all of Military.com'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 Military.com 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 www.defense.gov/stoploss for more informa...tion. If you know someone who may be eligible, tell a friend!
See More
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay
www.defense.gov
Defense.gov - 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.
 
Bombings?
 
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.
 
Shootings?
 
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.    ( http://nationalpeaceconference.org ).  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.
 
 




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« Reply #27 on: August 01, 2010, 09:39:27 am »

A Post Script ...


by Layla Anwar



July 31, 2010
http://uruknet.info/?p=m68467&hd=&size=1&l=e

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.



 
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« Reply #28 on: August 03, 2010, 10:49:34 am »

August 3, 2010
http://counterpunch.com/dimaggio08032010.html

Does Obama's New Iraq Plan Violate the Law?

Operation Infinite Occupation


By ANTHONY DiMAGGIO

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 (www.media-ocracy.com), 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: mediaocracy@gmail.com

 

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« Reply #29 on: August 03, 2010, 12:28:41 pm »

Twin blasts kill 30, wound 80 in Iraq

Tue, 03 Aug 2010 16:10:50 GMT
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=137333&sectionid=351020201

   
 
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.

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« Reply #30 on: August 03, 2010, 01:32:47 pm »

Iraq snapshot - August 2, 2010

The Common Ills

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m68525&hd=&size=1&l=e


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...."
And:
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 (Antiwar.com) 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.
And:
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.
Bombings?
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.
Shootings?
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 Wikileaks.org 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.

 

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« Reply #31 on: August 04, 2010, 06:55:18 am »

Middle East
Aug 5, 2010 
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LH05Ak03.html 
 
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) 
 
 
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« Reply #32 on: August 05, 2010, 01:00:41 pm »

Iraq snapshot - August 4, 2010


The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68586&hd=&size=1&l=e


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. 
 
Bombings?
 
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.
 
Shootings?
 
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                         
CONTACT:           

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.     
 
 


 
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« Reply #33 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.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/08/05-0


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« Reply #34 on: August 07, 2010, 06:42:18 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 5, 2010


The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68608&hd=&size=1&l=e


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 veterans.senate.gov.

END
Kawika Riley

Communications Director and Legislative Assistant

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

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

http://veterans.senate.gov   

 
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 . . .
 
Bombings?
 
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.
 
Shooting?
 
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
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Iraq snapshot - August 6, 2010


The Common Ills

http://uruknet.info/?p=m68637&hd=&size=1&l=e


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.

 

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« Reply #36 on: August 08, 2010, 08:30:31 am »

Bombings kill 32, injure 63 in Iraq

Sun, 08 Aug 2010 09:31:40 GMT
http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=137882&sectionid=351020201


 
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.

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« Reply #37 on: August 10, 2010, 11:34:30 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 9, 2010

The Commonills



http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_09.html


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.

 


 
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« Reply #38 on: August 11, 2010, 01:44:21 pm »

Iraq snapshot - August 10, 2010


The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_10.html


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. www.refugeesinternational.org.
 
For Immediate Release: August 5, 2010
Contact: Refugees International, Gabrielle Menezes
P: 202-828-0110 x225/ 347 260 1393
gabrielle@refugeesinternational.org
 
 
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.
 
Bombings?

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."
 ,
Shootings?
 
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.

 Corpses?
 
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.             
 
 
 
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« Reply #39 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
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/10/AR2010081006407_pf.html


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.

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