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IRAQ : daily stuff here please

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bigron
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« Reply #40 on: August 12, 2010, 08:02:20 am »

Will the US Really Pull Out of Iraq?

by Eric Margolis
http://www.lewrockwell.com/margolis/margolis199.html

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

Has America’s long goodbye to Iraq really begun?

Perhaps. But don’t bet on it.

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

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 A US brigade withdrawn from Iraq will go to neighboring Kuwait.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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 10, 2010
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« Reply #41 on: August 12, 2010, 08:07:42 am »

The US isn't leaving Iraq, it's rebranding the occupation


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



by Seumas Milne
Wednesday 4 August 2010 21.30 BST 
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/aug/04/us-iraq-rebranding-occupation/print

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Iraq war has been a historic political and strategic failure for the US. It was unable to impose a military solution, let alone turn the country into a beacon of western values or regional policeman. But by playing the sectarian and ethnic cards, it also prevented the emergence of a national resistance movement and a humiliating Vietnam-style pullout. The signs are it wants to create a new form of outsourced semi-colonial regime to maintain its grip on the country and region. The struggle to regain Iraq's independence has only just begun.
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« Reply #42 on: August 12, 2010, 11:19:31 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 11, 2010


The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_11.html


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


 
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« Reply #43 on: August 14, 2010, 08:37:04 am »

Iraq snapshot, August 12, 2010


The Common Ills

http://uruknet.com/?p=m68785&hd=&size=1&l=e


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


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

Al Jazeera adds:

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


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

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

 

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


Green Party of Michigan   
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
www.MIGreens.org               
** News Release **         
** ------------ **
August 11, 2010     

For More Information, Contact:
-----------------------------   
Dianne Feeley     
feeleyd@earthlink.net         
(734) 272-7651       

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about all Green Party candidates in Michigan, go to:                   

www.MIGreens.org
# # #     
created/distributed using donated labor       
Green Party of Michigan         
548 South Main Street           
Ann Arbor, MI 48104                   
http://www.migreens.org               
734-663-3555                   

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

Ecological Wisdom   
Grassroots Democracy   
Social Justice   
Non-Violence   
Community Economics   
Decentralization   
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« Reply #44 on: August 15, 2010, 07:11:47 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 13, 2010

The Common Ills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

 
 
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« Reply #45 on: August 16, 2010, 11:45:07 am »

The Iraq withdrawal: An Orwellian success


 

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


August 15, 2010
http://uruknet.info/?p=m68869&hd=&size=1&l=e

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
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« Reply #46 on: August 17, 2010, 05:46:02 am »

Tuesday, August 17, 2010
11:40 Mecca time, 08:40 GMT
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/08/20108175569660499.html
   
News Middle East 
 
Bomber strikes Iraq army centre  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Target of attacks

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

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

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

Our correspondent said different armed groups appear to be trying to take advantage of the power vacuum in Iraq, as lawmakers squabble over positions in a new government more than five months after an inconclusive March 7 election.

"Everyone you speak to here is concerned that attacks could get more frequent because of the US withdrawal plans and months of political uncertainty in Iraq," he said.
 
 
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« Reply #47 on: August 17, 2010, 07:39:10 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 16, 2010


The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_16.html


Monday, August 16, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, withdrawal isn't coming (though an agent for a foreign country can be found all over the web insisting otherwise), talks between Iraqiya and State Of Law break down as the stalemate continues, calls continue for an inquest into the death of Dr. David Kelly and more.
 
Today the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- One United States Forces -- Iraq Soldier was killed when a patrol was attacked in Baqubah, Diyala province yesterday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin.  The incident is under investigation." The announcement comes 14 days after Barack Obama gave his "mission accomplished" speech in Atlanta and it brings the ICCC number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the war to 4415.  USF-I also 'mourns' the 'passing' of a drone: "BAGHDAD -- A U.S. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) crashed yesterday evening in Iraq's Diyala province, approximately 2 kilometers northeast of Muqdadiyah. The small UAV impacted an open area outside of a residential suburb after experiencing engine problems. No one was injured during the accident, which remains under investigation."

 
Meanwhile Michael Christie and Nina Chestney (Reuters) report a Muqdadiya car bombing claimed the lives of 4 Iranian pilgrims, 1 Iraqi and left nine people injured.  Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Falluja, 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul and 1 civilian shot dead ("and his son wounded) in Mosul. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing wounded one person.  South Korea's Ariang TV notes violence raged over the weekend as well.  Sunday there were 18 reported deaths and 49 reported injured and 5 dead and 5 wounded reported Saturday for a two-day total of 23 dead and 54 injured. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) observes, "While insurgents have sought to make dramatic gestures lately -- raising their flag in prominent Baghdad neighborhoods and burning the bodies of policemen they have killed -- more remarkable is the drumbeat of assaults day after day on Iraq's security forces."
 
In addition, Josh Pringle (580 CFRA News) reports that unknown assailants robber four commerica ships which were docked near Basra. When?  Sunday.  No, not yesterday.  Sunday the 8th.  Reuters explains the authorities are only now talking and notes, "The attackers targeted the Antigua-flagged Arminia, North Korea's Crystal Wave, Syria's Sana Star and the American ship Sagamore last Sunday and took personal belongings from the crews, Lieutenant John Fage of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet said."
 
And the political stalemate continues.  Yesterday Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reported, "Senior Iraqi politicians involved in forming a new government said they are weighing the creation of a new federal position that could break the nearly six-month logjam over which faction gets the coveted premiership."  Dagher reveals that the idea gained traction during Joe Biden's visit and that if it is put forward, some believe it will be Parliament's first order of business.
 
No one appears bothered by the larger reality. A political stalemate exists and the answer being pushed is not to obey the laws, not to follow the Constitution but to create a new post (with the apparent hope that Nouri willw ant the new post). That's the lesson the US government has imparted to Iraq.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 9 days.

And in an attempt to end the stalemate by September (not this week, by sometime in September), the US is 'suggesting' that the whole process be chucked aside and a new position created out of whole cloth.  This fits in with another weekend report by Dagher about the disastification Iraqis are feeling over the stalemate: "One show, a 'Chair for Ownerhip,' on the popular Sharqiya television station, pokes fun at a prime minister called 'Abu so and so,' who refuses to leave power, a thinly veiled jab at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."  Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saad Fakrildeen (Los Angeles Times) report that the White House isn't the only one hoping Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani will step in, some Iraqis are as well and former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is quoted stating, "If the civilians continue to flail over the next three-four years, the chances of a military coup are likely to go up. That could bring with it something like the 1958 revolution."  Today BBC News reports that al-Iraiqya "has suspended talks on forming a coalition, five months after the inconclusive vote."  Why? They're demanding Nouri apologize for calling them "the party of the Sunnis.''  Ammar Karim (AFP) speaks with Allawi's spokesperson Maysoon al-Damaluji who states, "We ceased negotiations with (Maliki's) State of Law. We are not a Sunni bloc, we are a nationalist project. [. . .] We have asked him to apologise. Without an apology, we are negotiate with him anymore." Citing an unnamed source, UPI declares "that Maliki's primary political party, Dawa, has decided to move forward with another as-yet named candidate for prime minister."

 
Nouri al-Maliki met last Sunday with KRG President Massoud Barzani. As noted then, rumors would run rampant as to what sort of deal Nouri was attempting to make with most assuming it was Kirkuk that was being bargained away.  Salah Bayaziddi (Kurdish Globe) reports:                   

When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki--at a joint press conference last week with Massoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil--called for the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution on the status of the city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, it created a mixed feeling among the Kurds. While forming an alliance between Kurds and Maliki is still uncertain, this sudden visit has produced different reactions and interpretations among Iraqi politicians and policymakers in the region. Nevertheless, it seems one thing is for certain: When most political observers have argued that Maliki has agreed to most of the Kurdish demands--especially the implementation of Article 140--in return for Kurds' support for his premiership, after seven years scrambling over these contentious issues, one short sentence should be enough: It is little too late for him.

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution demands a referendum on the issue of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is oil rich and it is disputed territory. Kurds state that it is historically Kurdish territory and want it to be part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The census and the referendum were supposed to take place long ago. Nouri has delayed the census (that's a national census, by the way, not just a Kirkuk census) offering one excuse after another. In 2007, the Kirkuk referendum was supposed to have taken place; however, Nouri began using the lack of a national census as an excuse for stalling on the referendum.   On the issue of the meetings between Nouri and the KRG President, Iran's Press TV feels differently: "The latest intense round of talks between former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who heads the Rule of Law coalition, and Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, took place within the same framework of political consultation. The meeting is deemed a great step forward in resolving Iraq's current political impasse, provided that other leaders also accelerate talks aimed at forming a national unity government."   Kurdistan is the topic of the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) and we'll note that tomorrow.  In the meantime, the big targets in the last two weeks have been police officers (of all stripes -- including traffic police) and Sahwa.  The latter is also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq."  They are fighters the US military put on the payroll so they would stop attacking US military equipment and US military forces.  Federico Manfredi (Huffington Post) interviews Sahwa leader Sheik Ali Hatem.
 
 
FM: Since the March 7 elections, violence in Iraq appears to be rising again. Do you believe that the security gains of the past few years are now slipping away?               
 
AH: Yes, and this is the fault of the irresponsible and self-interested Iraqi politicians. It was the Awakening that crushed Al Qaeda in Al-Anbar, in Baghdad, in Diyala. We did it. After that the Iraqi government told me that my men would be able to join the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. Fine, I said, I want what is best for my country. But now it has become clear that the Iraqi government does not want to keep its word. The politicians just wanted to take credit for our military successes.
Thousands of former Awakening fighters are still jobless. And many of those who did join the Iraqi security forces have been kicked out. They accused them of being Ba'athists and terrorists, but these are just lies. It is the people who run the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense who are using sectarianism to advance their interests. They are thinking that if they exclude the Sunnis from the police and the army they will be able to give more jobs to the constituencies of their parties. No, I have no respect for these politicians. They are scum. And we are paying for their mistakes in blood.
 
FM: Do you think the marginalization of the Awakening Councils may lead some of its former members to return to the insurgency?           
 
AH: We are already seeing this. And mark my word: Security will deteriorate further. You will see it in the coming weeks and it's not going to stop.
 
 
There is no withdrawal, it's one of the great myths of the Obama administration. Linda J. Bilmes (San Francisco Chronicle) explains the basics (again explains the basics) everyone tries to ignore: 


Second, even after the last U.S. troops leave Iraq, we still will have thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar and on Navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn. And while combat troops may go home, an army of contractors will be staying on. The American Embassy in Baghdad - already the biggest in the world - will be supplemented with five additional regional consulates. The State Department will increase its 2,500 private security contractors to 6,000 or 7,000 once the military pullout is complete. Other contractors will be hired to do medical evacuations, fly aircraft, drive armored vehicles, issue ID cards and do all the other functions that the departing military is transferring to the State Department.                   
   


In addition, Andrei Fedyashin (Eurasia Review) offers the following:   

The withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the reconfiguration of the combat mission into a stabilization campaign may sound impressive, but behind that rhetoric, there seems to be no intention to truly end this war. Major General Stephen Lanza, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, has admitted that not much will change there in practical terms following the pullout. Military operations will continue, albeit with intensive outsourcing and privatization. The number of private contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq in sectors such as security, communications, utilities, and commerce has already reached 100,000. Of these, 10,000 work for private security firms. This number is likely to double once the "combat forces" are gone. This is a good deal for the Obama Administration, obviously. With most security positions filled by non-American contractors rather than American service members, possible terror attacks against the U.S. embassy will not cause as much resonance back home, and, consequently, there is less chance for a dramatic shift in public opinion against Americans' continued presence in Iraq.           
How will the withdrawal play out for Iraq itself? The most knowledgeable experts maintain that the term "withdrawal" is a misnomer, as no meaningful withdrawal is actually taking place. They also say that if a new cabinet is formed in Iraq after the holy month of Ramadan, the ministers will rush to petition the U.S. to postpone the withdrawal.                           

     
As the Iraq War continues, greater opposition is needed. World Can't Wait is getting the word out on an upcoming action:
 
We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.           
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?                 
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!       
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.           
 
 
The Iraq War continues.  Except at one site where someone's spinng for Obama.  Question for the day: What aging socialite is running the spin of a foreign agent?  Did you guess Arianna?  You guessed correctly.  We're not linking to the crap but when you see his byline, remember he is an agent for a foreign power and remember that the Blueprint Negev Project -- which he takes money for -- is not a two-state solution. Make that: "It's not a three-state solution" because the project requires ripping off the land rights of the Bedouin tribes.  You might ask again why Arianna's allowing herself to be a stooge and a puppet?  And you might ask why, after the uprooting of the Palestinians is damn well know -- widely known and discussed, she's allowing a supporter of similar treatment to the Bedouins -- specifically the Negev Bedouins -- to publish at her site?
 
Staying in the US, Mark Walker (North County Times) reports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't being mentioned by candidates in Congressional campaigns in the San Diego and Riverside County areas.  Not all candidates across the country are so silent. Jennifer Jacobs (Des Moines Register) notes Rebecca Williamson who is running against two men -- Democrat Leonard Boswell (current member of the House) and Republican Brad Zaun.  Rebecca is with the Socialist Workers Party.  She's quoted asking a crowd, "Iowa has sent many, many soldiers to fight and die in the war. But for what? The war is being organized to defend the capitalist government and protect the interests of the rich." Jacobs summarizes Williamson on the issues as follows:
 
Every unemployed worker should receive unemployment benefits until they find a job. Half the state is rural and rural Iowans don't have enough access to good health care, including abortion services. Home and farm foreclosures should stop. Unemployment continues to deepen, especially for African Americans. Flood damage to homes and crop land "could be dealt with if the wealth that's produced by working class people is allocated toward a public works program that would rebuild and improve the infrastructure and levees. … This would also put millions of people to work."
 
The Militant notes that the Socialist Workers Party in Iowa "collected more than 2,100 signatures to place" Williamson and others on the November ballot. Chuck Geurra (Militant) notes that Rebecca is a twenty-eight-year-old "assembly worker" running in Iowa's District 3.  A SWP press release notes, "Rebecca Williamson for U.S. Representative, 3rd Congressional District. Williamson, 28, is an assembly worker in Ankeny. She has been part of union organizing efforts in Chicago, IL and St. Paul, MN. A women's rights activist, she helped defend Dr. Leroy Carhart's Bellevue, Nebraska abortion clinic from rightist harassment last year. Williamson is fluent in Spanish."
 

In London, Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) rushes in to insist David Kelly was not murdered but still advocates for an inquest. As a general rule, Gilligan should find another topic to write about. He's done more than enough damage when it comes to David Kelly. The late doctor disputed Tony Blair's lie -- proven a lie in the Iraq Inquiry -- that Iraq could attack England with WMD in 45 minutes. Andrew Gilligan reported on the 'sexed up' documents and eventually revealed Kelly as his source. Kelly was found dead under questionable circumstances and the official story is he took his own life. If you're late to the story, CNN has a timeline of major events here. The editorial board of Gilligan's own paper argues for an inquest:


Almost from the moment his body was discovered in woods near his home in July 2003, conspiracy theories have surrounded the death of Dr David Kelly. The government weapons inspector had been disgracefully exposed by ministers as the source of critical comments about the so-called "dodgy dossier" on the Iraq War. His death seemed, to all intents and purposes, a suicide prompted by the inordinate pressure to which this very private man had been subjected as a consequence.                 
This was, indeed, the conclusion reached by Lord Hutton in his inquiry into the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death, which superseded the normal requirements for an inquest. In retrospect, it was a mistake to have combined the findings as to the cause of death with a wider investigation into the political shenanigans that led to his being drawn into such fierce political controversy. They should have been held separately to establish clearly how Dr Kelly died.


The Guardian polls its readers on where it's "now time for an inquest into David Kelly's death?" and it currently stands at 86.7% say: "Yes, a formal inquest is the best way to resolve unanswered questions" while 13.3% say: "No, Hutton's findings were sufficient." James Slack and Miles Goslett (Daily Mail) report on another poll, "According to an exclusive Mail opinion poll, only one in five people accepts the Hutton Inquiry's finding that the government weapons inspector took his own life. The survey also reveals that eight out of ten people want a full inquest. With senior MPs making the same demand, the Coalition is under strong pressure to act. It comes as a medical report says it was 'impossible' that Dr Kelly bled to death in the way described by the inquiry." Simon Walters and Glen Owen (Daily Mail) report that MP Michael Howard is attempting "to force a full inquest into the death of Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr David Kelly."         


As Simon Alford (Times of London) reminded last December, "Dr Kelly was identified as the source for a report by Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme in May 2003, in which it was claimed the Government wanted the weapons dossier "sexed up". Dr Kelly denied the claims and on July 15 2003, three days before he was found dead, he appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee." And in September of 2003, Warren Hoge (New York Times) reported on Gilligan's testimony to the Hutton Inquiry:

Mr. Gilligan's apology came in response to an earlier disclosure that after he had testified to the foreign affairs panel himself, he sent an e-mail message to three of the committee members suggesting a tough line of questioning to entrap Dr. Kelly.
"It was quite wrong to send it, and I can only apologize," Mr. Gilligan said today. "I was under an enormous amount of pressure at the time. I simply was not thinking straight, so I really want to apologize for that."
 
Finally, David Bacon reports on migrant workers in Maine (at ImmigrationProf Blog) and the report includes photos:
 
Agustin Martinez, Juan Rayas and Martin Martinez are all migrant blueberry pickers who come to Maine every year from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. Agustin workerd for three years during the bracero contract labor program, which ended in 1964. He came across the border each year at Calexico, where he remembers being given X-rays, and dusted with DDT, supposedly because workers from Mexico were "flea-ridden." He worked picking tomatoes in Sacramento and Oxnard, in California. A thousand people slept in a huge barracks, he remembers. On loudspeakers they'd be called by numbers to the bathroom to wash, to the dining hall to eat, and to go to work. Juan Rayas also remembers working in that program, although he went to Georgia and Arkansas to pick cotton.                     
The three men live most of the year in a huge labor camp operated by Jasper Wyman, the world's largest blueberry producer, in Deblois. The labor camp in Maine is not so different from the old bracero barracks, Agustin thnks. His hand is injured, and he fears he won't be able to continue working. Workers get paid $2.25 per 23 point box, the same rate growers were paying in 1975, when it had the purchasing power of $8.50 today.                         
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).
 
 


 
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« Reply #48 on: August 18, 2010, 06:22:39 am »

Middle East
Aug 19, 2010 
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LH19Ak01.html 
 
The shadow over Iraq


By George Friedman

It is August 2010, the month when the last United States combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq. It is therefore time to take stock of the situation in Iraq, which has changed places with Afghanistan as the forgotten war.

This is all the more important since 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq, and while they may not be considered combat troops, a great deal of combat power remains embedded with them. So we are far from the end of the war in Iraq. The question is whether the departure of the last combat units is a significant milestone and, if it is, what it signifies.

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 with three goals. The first was the destruction of the Iraqi army, the second was the destruction of the Ba'athist regime and the third was the replacement of that regime with a stable, pro-American government in Baghdad. The first two goals were achieved within weeks. Seven years later, however, Iraq does not yet have a stable government, let alone a pro-American government. The lack of that government is what puts the current strategy in jeopardy.

The fundamental flaw of the invasion of Iraq was not in its execution but in the political expectations that were put in place. As the Americans knew, the Shi'ite community was anti-Baathist but heavily influenced by Iranian intelligence. The decision to destroy the Ba'athists put the Sunnis, who were the backbone of Saddam’s regime, in a desperate position. Facing a hostile American army and an equally hostile Shi'ite community backed by Iran, the Sunnis faced disaster. Taking support from where they could get it - from the foreign jihadists that were entering Iraq - they launched an insurgency against both the Americans and the Shia.

The Sunnis simply had nothing to lose. In their view, they faced permanent subjugation at best and annihilation at worst. The United States had the option of creating a Shi'ite-based government but realized that this government would ultimately be under Iranian control. The political miscalculation placed the United States simultaneously into a war with the Sunnis and a near-war situation with many of the Shia, while the Shia and Sunnis waged a civil war among themselves and the Sunnis occasionally fought the Kurds as well. From late 2003 until 2007, the United States was not so much in a state of war in Iraq as it was in a state of chaos.

The new strategy of General David Petraeus emerged from the realization that the United States could not pacify Iraq and be at war with everyone. After a 2006 defeat in the midterm elections, it was expected that US President George W Bush would order the withdrawal of forces from Iraq. Instead, he announced the surge. The surge was really not much of a surge, but it created psychological surprise - not only were the Americans not leaving, but more were on the way. Anyone who was calculating a position based on the assumption of a US withdrawal had to recalculate.

The Americans understood that the key was reversing the position of the Sunni insurgents. So long as they remained at war with the Americans and Shia, there was no possibility of controlling the situation. Moreover, only the Sunnis could cut the legs out from under the foreign jihadists operating in the Sunni community. These jihadists were challenging the traditional leadership of the Sunni community, so turning this community against the jihadists was not difficult.

The Sunnis also were terrified that the United States would withdraw, leaving them at the mercy of the Shia. These considerations, along with substantial sums of money given to Sunni tribal elders, caused the Sunnis to do an about-face. This put the Shia on the defensive, since the Sunni alignment with the Americans enabled the Americans to strike at the Shi'ite militias.

Petraeus stabilized the situation, but he did not win the war. The war could only be considered won when there was a stable government in Baghdad that actually had the ability to govern Iraq. A government could be formed with people sitting in meetings and talking, but that did not mean that their decisions would have any significance. For that there had to be an Iraqi army to enforce the will of the government and protect the country from its neighbors, particularly Iran (from the American point of view). There also had to be a police force to enforce whatever laws might be made. And from the American perspective, this government did not have to be pro-American (that had long ago disappeared as a viable goal), but it could not be dominated by Iran.

Iraq is not ready to deal with the enforcement of the will of the government because it has no government. Once it has a government, it will be a long time before its military and police forces will be able to enforce its will throughout the country. And it will be much longer before it can block Iranian power by itself. As it stands now, there is no government, so the rest doesn't much matter.

The geopolitical problem the Americans face is that, with the United States gone, Iran would be the most powerful conventional power in the Persian Gulf. The historical balance of power had been between Iraq and Iran. The American invasion destroyed the Iraqi army and government, and the United States was unable to recreate either. Part of this had to do with the fact that the Iranians did not want the Americans to succeed.

For Iran, a strong Iraq is the geopolitical nightmare. Iran once fought a war with Iraq that cost Iran a million casualties (imagine the United States having more than 4 million casualties), and the foundation of Iranian national strategy is to prevent a repeat of that war by making certain that Iraq becomes a puppet to Iran or, failing that, that it remains weak and divided. At this point, the Iranians do not have the ability to impose a government on Iraq. However, they do have the ability to prevent the formation of a government or to destabilize one that is formed. Iranian intelligence has sufficient allies and resources in Iraq to guarantee the failure of any stabilization attempt that doesn't please Tehran.

There are many who are baffled by Iranian confidence and defiance in the face of American pressure on the nuclear issue. This is the reason for that confidence: should the United States attack Iran's nuclear facilities, or even if the United States does not attack, Iran holds the key to the success of the American strategy in Iraq. Everything done since 2006 fails if the United States must maintain tens of thousands of troops in Iraq in perpetuity.

Should the United States leave, Iran has the capability of forcing a new order not only on Iraq but also on the rest of the Persian Gulf. Should the United States stay, Iran has the ability to prevent the stabilization of Iraq, or even to escalate violence to the point that the Americans are drawn back into combat. The Iranians understand the weakness of America's position in Iraq, and they are confident that they can use that to influence American policy elsewhere.

American and Iraqi officials have publicly said that the reason an Iraqi government has not been formed is Iranian interference. To put it more clearly, there are any number of Shi'ite politicians who are close to Tehran and, for a range of reasons, will take their orders from there. There are not enough of these politicians to create a government, but there are enough to block a government from being formed. Therefore, no government is being formed.

With 50,000 US troops still in Iraq, the United States does not yet face a crisis. The current withdrawal milestone is not the measure of the success of the strategy. The threat of a crisis will arise if the United States continues its withdrawal to the point where the Shia feel free to launch a sustained and escalating attack on the Sunnis, possibly supported by Iranian forces, volunteers or covert advisers. At that point, the Iraqi government must be in place, be united and command sufficient forces to control the country and deter Iranian plans.

The problem is, as we have seen, that in order to achieve that government there must be Iranian concurrence, and Iran has no reason to want to allow that to happen. Iran has very little to lose by, and a great deal to gain from, continuing the stability the Petraeus strategy provided. The American problem is that a genuine withdrawal from Iraq requires a shift in Iranian policy, and the United States has little to offer Iran to change the policy.

From the Iranian point of view, they have the Americans in a difficult position. On the one hand, the Americans are trumpeting the success of the Petraeus plan in Iraq and trying to repeat the success in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the secret is that the Petraeus plan has not yet succeeded in Iraq. Certainly, it ended the major fighting involving the Americans and settled down Sunni-Shi'ite tensions. But it has not taken Iraq anywhere near the end state the original strategy envisioned. Iraq has neither a government nor a functional army - and what is blocking it is Tehran.

One impulse of the Americans is to settle with the Iranians militarily. However, Iran is a mountainous country of 70 million, and an invasion is simply not in the cards. Airstrikes are always possible, but as the United States learned over North Vietnam - or from the Battle of Britain or in the bombing of Germany and Japan before the use of nuclear weapons - air campaigns alone don't usually force nations to capitulate or change their policies. Serbia did give up Kosovo after a three-month air campaign, but we suspect Iran would be a tougher case.

In any event, the United States has no appetite for another war while the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are still under way, let alone a war against Iran in order to extricate itself from Iraq. The impulse to use force against Iran was resisted by president Bush and is now being resisted by President Barack Obama. And even if the Israelis attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran could still wreak havoc in Iraq.

Two strategies follow from this. The first is that the United States will reduce US forces in Iraq somewhat but will not complete the withdrawal until a more distant date (the current Status of Forces Agreement requires all American troops to be withdrawn by the end of 2011). The problems with this strategy are that Iran is not going anywhere, destabilizing Iraq is not costing it much and protecting itself from an Iraqi resurgence is Iran’s highest foreign policy priority.

That means that the decision really isn't whether the United States will delay its withdrawal but whether the United States will permanently base forces in Iraq - and how vulnerable those forces might be to an upsurge in violence, which is an option that Iran retains.

Another choice for the United States, as we have discussed previously, is to enter into negotiations with Iran. This is a distasteful choice from the American point of view, but surely not more distasteful than negotiating with Stalin or Mao. At the same time, the Iranians’ price would be high. At the very least, they would want the "Finlandization" of Iraq, similar to the situation where the Soviets had a degree of control over Finland's government. And it is far from clear that such a situation in Iraq would be sufficient for the Iranians.

The United States cannot withdraw completely without some arrangement because that would leave Iran in an extremely powerful position in the region. The Iranian strategy seems to be to make the United States sufficiently uncomfortable to see withdrawal as attractive but not to be so threatening as to deter the withdrawal. As clever as that strategy is, however, it does not hide the fact that Iran would dominate the Persian Gulf region after the withdrawal.

Thus, the United States has nothing but unpleasant choices in Iraq. It can stay in perpetuity and remain vulnerable to violence. It can withdraw and hand the region over to Iran. It can go to war with yet another Islamic country. Or it can negotiate with a government that it despises - and which despises it right back.

Given all that has been said about the success of the Petraeus strategy, it must be observed that while it broke the cycle of violence and carved out a fragile stability in Iraq, it has not achieved, nor can it alone achieve, the political solution that would end the war. Nor has it precluded a return of violence at some point. The Petraeus strategy has not solved the fundamental reality that has always been the shadow over Iraq: Iran. But that was beyond Petraeus' task and, for now, beyond American capabilities. That is why the Iranians can afford to be so confident.

(Published with permission from STRATFOR, a Texas-based geopolitical intelligence company. Copyright 2010 Stratfor.) 
   
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LH19Ak01.html
 
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« Reply #49 on: August 19, 2010, 07:56:15 am »

US Announces Second Fake End to Iraq War


by Jason Ditz, August 18, 2010
http://news.antiwar.com/2010/08/18/us-announces-second-fake-end-to-iraq-war/


It was another of those great TV moments. Embedded reports filming as the “last” brigade of American troops in Iraq cross the border into Kuwait bringing over seven years of unhappy conflict to its final, conclusive end. America was, at last, at peace.

But like so many other great TV moments, this one was a scripted fantasy, a fake exit done purely for political gain by an increasingly unpopular president trying to look like he is keeping at least one campaign promise.

It was perhaps a different sort of scripted, mythical end to the Iraq War than the last one, the May 1, 2003 “Mission Accomplished” speech of President Bush, but it was no more real, as over 50,000 US troops remain on the ground in Iraq tonight.


The “end of the war” may bring some measure of relief to the American people, but it must be something of a sombre moment for those 50,000 troops, as they continue to go into combat operations with the bulk of the American public believing, because their president told them so, that the war is over and combat operations have ended.

Officials have been pretty straightforward about what really happened, not that it has been picked up by the media, which has preferred the more pleasant narrative of a decisive military victory. Instead, the US simply “redefined” the vast majority of its combat troops as “transitional troops,” then removed a brigade that they didn’t relabel, so they could claim that was the “last one.” Even this comes with the assumption that the State Department, and a new army of contractors, will take over for years after the military operations end, assuming they ever do.

And it worked, at least for now. All is right with the world and the war is over, at least so far as anyone could tell from the TV news shows. But as violence continues to rise across Iraq, and July saw the worst violence in over two years, it will likely be difficult for the Obama Administration to keep this war a secret for much longer.


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« Reply #50 on: August 19, 2010, 08:42:04 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 17, 2010

The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_17.html


Tuesday, August 17, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad slammed by a bombing, 8 judges around Iraq are targeted and only six remain living, a total of  at least 71 deaths are reported (161 injured), the political stalemate continues, Ayad Allawi increases talks with a Shi'ite political party, and more.
 
Today Baghdad is slammed by a bombing. Alsumaria TV, citing "health sources," puts the death toll at "at least 60" with "another 157" injured from a suicide bombing this morning. Fan Chunxu (Xinhua) quotes a Ministry of the Interior source explaining, "The explosion targeting an army recruitment center at Bab al- Muazem area in Baghdad occurred at local time 7:30 a.m. (0430 GMT), it was an old building of the Defense Ministry, now up to 45 people were dead and 121 others were wounded." Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports, "Outside a blue-domed mosque near the scene of the attack on Tuesday, Sgt. Muhammad Hassan, 28, said the latest bomber had clearly intended to attack the Army recruits."  Farrell quotes him stating, "I was here from the early morning. We searched everybody.  One exploded himself among a group of soldiers and recruits. The recruiting has been going on for at least a week, and this was the last day. We were not expecting it because it was the final day."   BBC News adds, "The BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad says that a suicide bomber walked up to the army recruitment centre where hundreds of people had been queuing for hours - some since Monday evening." At the top of the hour news briefs on NPR this morning, listeners heard Sykes state that no protection was provided for "men looking for employment." The New York Times' Stephen Farrell told PRI's The Takeaway this morning, "how a suicide bomber had just walked up to the recruiting station at 7:30 a.m., waited until he was surrounded by as large a crowd as he could get and then blew himself up." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) adds, "An interior ministry official said a person wearing a suicide vest triggered the explosion a few minutes past 8:00 a.m. local time." Channel 4 News states, "An army source suggested two bombers could have been involved in the attack as recruits gathered outside the centre in large groups to seek work." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "The senior officer said they believed the bomber had accomplices who helped him stow a pair of pants with explosives attached near the site and put them on in addition to the pants he was wearing. Some of the potential recruits had lined up before dawn."  Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) quotes recruit Ahmed Kadhim stating, "After the explosion, everyone ran away, and the soldiers fired into the air.  I saw dozens of people lying on the ground, some of them were on fire. Others were running with blood pouring out."  Aziz Alwan and Leila Fadel (Washington Post) describe the aftermath, "Hours after the bombing, families searched frantically for their relatives as casualties were transported to hospitals. An elderly woman collapsed in the middle of the street, screaming just a few yards from al-Midan square, where the recruits were killed. She slapped her face and wept as young boys tried to calm her." Andrew England (Financial Times of London) adds, "Another policeman pointed to bloody footprints left by survivors as he described how they fled in panic. Nearby, dozens of sandals belonging to the victims and a small heap of clothes were stacked in piles, while large pools of blood were left to congeal in the sun." PBS' Margaret Warner is in Iraq and she may have a report on tonight's The NewsHour.
 
The Guardian has video footage of some of the survivors after they were taken to the hospital. ITN offers a photo of one survivor in the hospital.  BBC News displays a photo essay on the aftermath.  Damien Pearse (Sky News) provides a text and video report. BBC News' Hugh Skye also files a video report:
 
Hugh Sykes: One of Baghdad's main hospitals was suddenly overwhelmed shortly after 7:30 this morning. The suicide bomber exploded his bomb in a large crowd. Dozens of men, some with terrible shrapnel and impact injuries, were taken to hospital after the attack.
 
Saleh Aziz: We were standing at al Muatham and the army and the officers were registering our names for recruiting when a bomb went off. I don't know exactly if it was a bomb or not.  All the young men and the officers were killed. I was wounded in my arms and, thanks God, I managed to run away.
 
Hugh Sykes: It happened on the other side of the Tigris River from the hospital in a square called the Maidan.  Hundreds of men had been waiting there all night hoping for a good place in the que for the army recruitment center and then the suicide bomber arrived. This bomb is part of a clear pattern of targeted attacks on the security forces here. Baghdad traffic policemen and federal police have been murdered in significant numbers over the past few weeks. Members of the government-backed, mostly Sunni Sahwa militia, the "Awakening" movement, have been attacked too and now these men simply queing for jobs in the army in a country where unemployment is running at 60%.
 
Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) observes of the bombing, "It marks a resumption of a previously successful tactic aimed at discouraging Iraqis from joining the police and army." Liz Sly and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) note, "It was the bloodiest single attack in months, and came less than two weeks before U.S. forces draw down to 50,000 and formally end their combat mission. Tensions have been rising as the deadlocked negotiations for a new government drag into a sixth month, and there are fears insurgents will try to take advantage of the political and security vacuum to stage a comeback." Sean Alfano (New York Daily News) notes, "Tuesday's bombing marks the fourth time in August Iraqi police or military have been attacked by insurgents."
 
The Economist notes, "By the end of next year even its military advisors expect to be gone, so they say, unless the Iraqi government asks them to stay (which is looking more likely now that American-made tanks and choppers are arriving in defence ministry lots)." Terry Patar of IHS's Iraq Focus Group tells Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News), "The longer the things go without a government being formed properly, the more of a driver there is for militant groups." The political stalemate.
 
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 10 days.

Yesterday talks between Iraqiya and State Of Law broke down after Nouri declared on state television that Iraqiya was a "Sunni party." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains, "[Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon] Al-Damalouji said they were demanding an apology to the supporters of al-Iraqiya. Allawi, a secular Shiite, heads the cross-sectarian al-Iraqiya list, which won the largest number of seats in the March 7 national elections. Al-Iraqiya garnered most of the Sunni Arab vote." Leila Fadel and Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) observe, "The move by Allawi's group further isolates Maliki, who is intent on staying in power. This month a coalition of Shiite groups also halted talks with Maliki's group." They also note that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill (now former US Ambassador) just left the country (James Jeffrey has been confirmed as the new ambassador) and that Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, is set to leave Iraq September 1st. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) points out of Nouri, "Only the Kurds, who do not have enough votes to give Maliki a second term, have somewhat unenthusiastically said they do not reject him." Lindsey Hilsum (Channel 4 News) adds:
 
According to the think tank Stratfor, many of Mr Maliki's allies are taking their orders from Tehran, which is doing its obstructionist utmost.
"There are not enough of these politicians to create a government, but there are enough to block a government from being formed. Therefore, no government is being formed," said the most recent Stratfor analysis. Others blame Mr Allawi's grouping, which brings together both Shia and Sunni politicians, for refusing to accommodate Mr Maliki's faction.
With no government, even the illusion of stability cannot be maintained. Today's bombing of an army recruitment centre, with nearly 50 dead, is a sign of how dangerous the situation is.
 
Meanwhile Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) is reporting that Allawi is increasing talks with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc and Ibrahim cites an announcement Allawi made yesterday, "In the next few days and thereafter, we are going to intensify our discussions to reach an important, mutual stance on what needs to be done to form the next government."
 
Earlier this month (August 6th), On The Media (NPR) addressed the issue of media with Deborah Amos (link has audio and text):
 
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The media echo chambers that we talk about so often are thriving in Iraq. People watch the channel that confirms their own views. And yet the phenomenon is not as strong there as it is here.
 
DEBORAH AMOS: Indeed, the studies show that Iraqis watch at least five different channels. They are crossing sectarian lines to watch different newscasts.
A Harvard professor who's done these kind of studies in the American media, he uses a wonderful term, which is "cognitive misers." That's what Americans are. We are cognitive misers. We don't like to watch stations that don't necessarily agree with our political opinion. It's too much trouble. And there's nothing really at stake for us to cross the lines. For Iraqis, there's plenty at stake. What are the other sects doing that I need to know about so that I can make some serious decisions about is my neighborhood safe? Do I send my kid to school tomorrow? Can I get to my job tomorrow? So it really matters for them to cross those lines.
 
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The whole idea of a sectarian press is considered anti-democratic, and yet the newspaper environment of America 200 years ago, when our democracy was emerging, was incredibly sectarian.
 
DEBORAH AMOS: That's exactly right. And Iraq is mirroring an old system, in particular because it is not yet a commercial system. These channels are all funded by political parties, Islamists, Arab businessmen. Sharqiya may be the most popular because they are the most commercial. And once you become a commercial station, then you do have to broaden your appeal because you just don't have enough consumers in your particular sect. So it is possible that as all of these channels have to survive, not simply by funding of political parties but funding by commercial, that it may open that political space.
 
 
And while it's an interesting conversation with much to offer, we're noting it in this section, on the elections, for a reason.  Deborah Amos was brought on to discuss her recent paper [PDF format warning] "Confusion, Contradiction and Irony: The Iraqi Media in 2010."  Of prime interest:
 
In Iraq's short history of free elections, Shiite candidates have a demographic advantage. Shiites are approximately 60% of the population, and Iraqis voted almost exclusively along sectarian lines in the 2005 national elections and the 2009 provincial vote.  Maliki also had a media advantage.  The state-run national news network did not accept paid campaign advertisements, but freely broadcast extensive reports of Maliki's election appearances and campaign speeches in evening news bulletins. On the eve of the vote, state TV broadcast a documentary highlighting the Prime Minister's visit to security checkpoints around the capital. 
 
And guess who's political slate received the "highest positive coverage"?  Nouri's. 
 
So explain it to us, did alleged reporters just sit around on their asses watching Iraqi TV in the lead up to the election?
 
That would certainly explain the NPR embarrassment that is Quil Lawrence (who needs to get his Afghanistan reporting right real quick or we may start including Afghanistan in the snapshots).  For those who've forgotten, Iraq held elections March 7th.  The morning of March 8th, Quil Lawrence was announcing the Nouri al-Maliki was "the winner."  Not just that his slate got the most votes -- which it didn't -- but that Nouri was the winner.  NPR's never explained how that happened.  NPR's never bothered to address why the day after the election -- when no vote count, not even partial, was complete -- Quil was allowed to go on the air and declare Nouri the winner.  So what was it? The White House wanted Nouri to win.  (A Nouri win always meant an easy extension for the SOFA.)  Was Quil 'reporting' based on Iraqi media or was he schilling for the White House?  And why has NPR's ombudsperson never addressed the issue of a reporter calling the election when the votes weren't counted?
 
That's a serious question and it demands a serious answer.  Deborah Amos is a serious journalist (for NPR) and she is also the author of the new book Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.  The book addresses the exiles, the refugee crisis created by the violence and instability in Iraq.  The Baghdad bombing wasn't the only violence reported in Iraq today.  Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that judges were also targeted today: in Baghdad Judge Kamal Jabbar Bander "was seriously injured" by a roadside bombing while in Diyala Province two other judges were wounded by a roadside bombing.  In addition to the targeting of those 3 judges, Reuters notes five more were targeted with bombs and 2 of those were killed, a Baghdad explosion (a generator and it may or may not have involved a bomb) which claimed 5 lives and left twenty-five injured, a Baghdad assault in which three people were injured after being shot by unknown assailants, 2 police officers shot dead in Kirkuk, a Baghdad grenade attack in which two people were injured, Hasan Abdul-Lateef (Trade Ministry's head of the audit department) was shot dead in Baghdad, 1 police officer was shot dead in Hamman al-Alil, 2 corpses (woman and a man) were discovered in Mosul (inside a car) and 1 employee of Badosh prison was shot dead in Mosul.  If we use Reuters' conservative count of 57 killed in the Baghdad bombing at the recruitment center and 123 injured, we're left with 71 reported deaths and 161 reported injured.
 
 
Staying with violence, last week, the US State Dept issued a warning on visiting Turkey which opened with:

There is an overall increase in violence and a continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout Turkey. The August 15 anniversary of the first PKK (also known as the Kongra-Gel (KGK)) attack against Turkish government installations has historically provided an excuse for an escalation of violence. While the PKK's intentions for the anniversary are unclear, the potential for violence or unrest warrants increased awareness during this period. The Mersin and Kız Kalesi areas in southeast Turkey have been put off limits for American military personnel from August 13–15.         
As discussed in previous Warden Messages, the PKK terrorist group has recently threatened increased violent activity in urban areas in Turkey, and there is credible information that the PKK intends to target tourist areas. There have also been recent clashes involving security forces and the PKK in parts of Turkey outside of the PKK's usual operating area in southeast Turkey.         
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Turkey to be alert to the potential for terrorist-related violence and the possibility of increased PKK activity in urban and tourist areas, as well as throughout southeastern Turkey. We encourage all U.S. citizens to exercise extreme caution and maintain a low profile throughout Turkey. We reiterate Department of State advice to take prudent steps to ensure your personal safety: remain vigilant and aware of surroundings, listen to news reports, avoid crowds and demonstrations, and vary times and routes for all travel.
 
That's in contrast to the report the Turkish government was trumpeting in the Turkish press.  Missed it?  The US press wasn't interested. The State Dept's Office of Inspector General issued a report that's interesting not in its praise for Turkey but in it really being beyond the scope of an auditor to produce.  Someone will have to explain that.  We'll come back to the State Dept.  Today Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Turkey and the United States have sped up talks over their cooperation in the U.S. forces' pullout process from Iraq, local newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on Monday. The two countries have increased the frequency of talks on using the Turkish soil to transfer U.S. troops, arms and logistics equipment out of Iraq, the newspaper quoted unnamed Turkish Foreign Ministry sources as saying."  Turkey's began a crackdown (yet another) on PKK and "PKK" and that will not play well in nothern Iraq.  It may not play well in the US. Ivan Watson (CNN) reported yesterday afternoon that Turkey was holding American citizen Jake Hess and claiming he was part of the PKK.  25-year-old Hess tells CNN, "I am being targeted for criticizing the Turkish government and criticizing human rights abuses. The prosecutor accused me of waging a smear campaign against the Turkish republic."  Patrick Cronin (SeacoastOnline) reports that hess is stating he is going to be deported.  Friday the Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement which includes the following:
 
 
The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Turkish authorities to release American journalist Jake Hess, who is being detained in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir, according to the Turkish daily Hürriyet. Hess is accused of collaborating with the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK), referred to in news reports as the "urban wing" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).   

Hess, who is a contributor to the Inter Press Service new agency, was detained on Wednesday evening, according to Serkan Akbaş, his lawyer. Akbaş told CPJ that Hess "wrote several articles that angered the authorities." He added that when Hess was arrested the police said he was being detained on allegations of "aiding the PKK" and that his name was in the government's file on the KCK.

The lawyer told CPJ that Hess' name was in the KCK file likely in connection with a translation job he did in 2009 for a nongovernmental organization in Turkey called the Human Rights Association, which has reported extensively on human rights violations related to the Kurdish issue. Akbaş said that the timing of the arrest "clearly shows that they got annoyed with his articles." Hess wrote about human rights violations against Kurds. His latest piece, about Kurdish refugees who had fled to northern Iraq after the Turkish army attacked their villages, was published on August 4.

 
From Turkey to its border neighbor the KRG, the most recent episode of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing on Friday), Teymoor Nabili discussed the Kurdistan Regional Government with Iraqi MP Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, the KRG's representative in Baghdad Mohammad Ihsan and Iraqi political and economic expert Kamil Mahdi.
 
Teymoor Nabili: Kamil Mahdi, let me start with you if I may.  The situation in Kirkuk is being touted by the people there as the most stable in Iraq and certainly somewhere where they are hoping to attract foreign investment and encourage a degree of progress.  None the less, there are still a number of issues unresolved.  Give us an overview of how you see the situation in Kurdistan and its relationship with Baghdad.
 
Kamil Mahdi: Well relatively speaking, the situation in Kurdistan is indeed stable and it's secure unlik the rest of Iraq but the emphasis is on it being relatively the case. One of the sources of instability in Kurdistan -- in fact the ideology and the politics of the Kurdistan Regional Government -- is the emphasis of this government on resolving issues of longstanding claims in areas that are not under its control at the moment. And that is really a source of instability for Iraq as a whole and for the Kurdistan Region.  I think the Kurdistan Government, if it were to emphasize the economic prospects --
 
Teymoor Nabili: But --
 
Kamil Mahdi: -- in the region and to also move towards resolving problems in the region -- issues of jobs and services
 
Teymoor Nabili: Alright, but --
 
Kamil Mahdi: -- above all the issue of corrutpion in Kurdistan.
 
Teymoor Nabili: You're talking about instability and we're getting a general sense of perhaps a few problems but nothing serious but on the other hand there does seem to be and there has always been this constant fear that Kurdistan wants to secede and doesn't see itself as part of Iraq. That seems like more than just a little instability.  That seems like the potential for some serious division, don't you think?
 
Kamil Mahdi: This is the point that the emphasis of the Kurdistan Regional Government on resolving issues of conflict with Iraq is seen as a prelude to a demand for secession. Now the question is if this was the intention of the Kurdistan Regional Government then it should come clean --
 
Teymoor Nabili: Alright --
 
Kamil Mahdi: -- and not meddle too deeply into Iraqi politics.
 
Teymoor Nabili: Well let's put that too a member of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Mohammad Ihsan, the Kurdistan Government is advertising itself as "the other Iraq." It would seem to suggest that you don't want to be part of the existing Iraq. Is secession the ultimate goal? 
 
Mohammad Ihsan: The concept of "the other Iraq" [. . .] is not on the basis that we don't want to be part of Iraq. We wants to show better pictures of Iraq or better view of Iraq.  What people outside of Iraq, looking at Iraq.  This doesn't mean that there is a war or that there is sabotage operations or that there is a conflict.  We want to pursue our message to show the international community that we have part of Iraq which already exists, the economy is booming, you have stability, you have peace, and wait for us in the near future.  The other part of Iraq is also going to be the same.  That's our target for describing our process as "the other Iraq," not that we want to isolate ourselves or to show that we are not Iraqis, we are --
 
Teymoor Nabili: Well the relationship -- the relationship between [KRG President] Massoud Barzani and Nouri al-Maliki doesn't seem to suggest that there is a great deal of common interest.
 
Mohammad Ihsan: It's not a common interest. We have to accept that we are leaving a transitional period of time. Iraq after 2003, we moved to a totally different part of our history. A lot of things have been changed. We adopted new political system. We are adopting new economical system.  We are facing a war of terrorists.  We are facing a lot of things at the same time. This is why we have to accept that there will be a lot of differences. Disagreement among leaders in Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq or among Shia themselves, Sunni themselves.  We are at the stage of reforming the country, reforming the political system, reforming the national identity --
 
Teymoor Nabili: Alright.  Let me ask
 
Mohammad Ihsan -- as well.  We are doing all of these things at the same time.
 
Teymoor Nabili: Let me ask -- let me ask -- let me ask Abdul Hadi al-Hassani then.  Abdul Hadi al-Hassani, what do you think about the Kurdistan Region wanting to reform Iraq politics?
 
Abdul Hadi al-Hassani: I think [. . .] I believe Iraq is in a phase of transitional period and reforming period altogether. Let's not forget Iraq capital is Baghdad and the changing that's taken place in Baghdad not in the year 1991 or 1990 as the KRG had benefit from really. A lot of really security and assistance from the international world as a green zone. And this really transition and reformation, it need coherent cooperation between all Iraqi people whether they are in the north or the south, the KRG or in the rest of Iraq.
 
[crosstalk]
 
Teymoor Nabili: Why does Nouri al-Maliki think the only time he needs to particularly nice to the Kurdish politicians is when he needs their support in Parliament?
 
Abdul Hadi al-Hassani: [Long pause] Maliki or any prime minister of Iraq has to be really close to everybody in Iraq whether in the KRG or the south. We have one Constitution. We have on state. Furthermore, we believe we have to have on fiscal system, one political system which is democracy and election.
 
Turning to the United States, at the US State Dept yesterday, Deputy Assistant Secretary Michael Corbin and the Defense Dept's Colin Kahl held a joint-press conference.  Listen to Kahl and laugh (it's okay, he's a War Hawk and an idiot and oh, so much more):
 
Moreover, as Michael explained, the U.S. interagency is focused very intensely at the moment on transitioning to a civilian-led mission in Iraq. I think contrary to the perceptions of some, this transition in the nature of U.S. presence in Iraq does not imply strategic disengagement. Instead, it signals a transformation in our bilateral relationship, and in many respects an increase or a deepening of our engagement in a way that's sustainable over the long term. I've traveled to Iraq in three of the four official visits by Vice President Biden and this is something that he makes a point of emphasizing, both in public and in private with Iraqi officials, is that we're not disengaging from Iraq; our engagement will increase. It's just the ratio of military versus civilian engagement is changing over time, as it should and as the Iraqis want it to.

At stake during this major transition, both for Iraq and the United States, is not only ensuring that stability in Iraq is enduring and that the Iraqi Government is able to meet the needs of its citizens, but also the consolidation of a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq that contributes to the region's peace and security. Given this variety of strategic issues, I want to take a few minutes to discuss the Administration's policy toward Iraq from a DOD perspective. I think my points will complement Michael's nicely. My brief remarks will basically skim over the surface of some current security trends, some of the remaining political drivers in our overall approach to dealing with them in – as we continue to draw down and support this transition.
So let me say a few things about where we are on the security front. Iraq's security situation, I think, is generally positive. The number of violent incidents in Iraq remains at its lowest levels of the war. According to USFI data, the number of security incidents and casualties -- that is, Iraqi civilian casualties, Iraqi security force casualties, and U.S. casualties -- for the first five months of 2010 are the lowest on record. We should expect to see periodic spikes.
 
No, it's not at the "lowest levels of the war."  And that the press didn't challenge that false claim goes to how in the tank they've all gotten (except of course for the ones who were just bored by the whole press conference).  What an idiot.  It didn't take today's violence to make him an idiot.  And the War Hawk works for the Defense Dept.  And is on board with the militarization of the US Embassy in Iraq.  Start making the connections, don't wait on the press because they're never going to point it out.  There's no withdrawal.  But look to Kohl, follow him down his rabbit hole, and you'll start to see who will be over the Samantha Power plan of militarizing diplomacy.  Two gal pals sitting around War Hawking apparently.  (It's not Hillary, kids, but the woman may take Gates' job.) Michael Schwartz speaks with Ashley Smith about the non-withdrawal (US Socialist Worker):
 
 
Secondly, the State Department actually has a small military force of its own. It has made public pronouncements that it's going to increase that military force to a tremendous size to protect all of the American civilians in Iraq. It made requests to take over the five major military posts that remain in Iraq, each of which is meant to accommodate about 10,000 soldiers.
Third, the U.S. has flooded Iraq with civilian contractors and bureaucrats--what U.S. officials call their "civilian presence." They built the largest embassy in world history, and they plan to expand it quite considerably to accommodate almost twice the 1,000 diplomats it was built to hold. These civilians will constitute a very important presence for the U.S., different from the military, but nevertheless constituting pressure on the Iraqis to conform to U.S. policies.
But even with these surrogates, the U.S. military leadership has repeatedly said that it expects a modification of the SOFA that will permit a continued American military presence. The fact that it isn't dismantling the five major bases suggests that it expects to get some kind of agreement to retain a significant military force to control the country.
U.S. officials are determined to do so because the Iraqi government has not been compliant with American wishes. When the current political impasse since the election gets resolved, we should not expect the next Iraqi government to be any more compliant. Therefore, the U.S. will need a military force to discipline the Iraqi government.
 
Also in the US, World Can't Wait is getting the word out on an upcoming action:



We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.         
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?         
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!               
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.
 
Lastly, go to War Is A Crime for more on this but David Swanson is endorsing David Segal and we'll close with  some of the following:
 
On Thursday, August 19th, show up at 5:30 p.m. at Local 16 on U Street to help David Segal get elected to Congress from Rhode Island.

There are lots of ways to change Congress that falsely appear easy, that would alter the rules and patterns of behavior if only Congress were already fixed and willing to make the changes, or if we owned the television networks, or if people could suddenly hear what they're paid good money never to hear. But I've got a way to change Congress that is actually easy.

Congress lacks leadership. There is a progressive caucus, but it has never fought for anything. It doesn't fund its members' campaigns. It doesn't withhold votes needed for passing bills. It just does rhetoric. There are committees, but they don't subpoena, they don't send the police to pick up witnesses, they don't fine witnesses who refuse to answer questions. Congress thinks oversight was an oversight. If asked to put future generations into debt to fund wars, Congress asks "Would you like a side of drones with that?" Congress doesn't want power.
 
[. . .]

Here's audio of an interview I just did with David Segal: mp3.

Here's the transcript:

Swanson: This is David Swanson and I'm speaking with David Segal, candidate for Congress from Rhode Island, and someone I think that political progressives from around the country might want to be taking an interest in. David, thanks for speaking with me.

Segal: Thank you, and thank you for saying all those nice things.

Swanson: Well, I wonder if you could say from your own point of view what is your background that brings you to this and why you think people outside of Rhode Island might want to be paying a little attention.

Segal: I was a city councilman in Providence first elected as a Green in 2002 and then in the state legislature since 2006 as a Democrat. And if you want to talk about why I decided to make that transition from one party to another I'm happy to in more detail. But my work throughout those eight years has entailed pushing back against powerful, typically wealthy corporatist interests, against leadership within my own party when I was a Democrat, against the powers that be in Providence to try to do right by working families in Providence and Rhode Island, to try to push back against the standard fare corporatist interests that run the country and also run the state and also run the city. And work's happened on basically every issue front that a progressive might care about.

Swanson: I know a couple of areas that you've been involved with. One is proposing to cease funding out wars overseas should you be elected to Congress. I set up a list called A Coalition Against War Spending (http://www.caws.us), and you or your campaign immediately signed you on there with many other candidates. But many of them are Greens, many of them are Libertarians, and many are Democrats. What is your thinking in being willing to say you'll stop voting to fund the wars, because as you know, a great many members of Congress are willing to say they oppose the wars and they are critics of the wars but will not come within many miles of saying, "I won't fund the wars."

Segal: Right. Well, I'll start by saying I'm a vegetarian and wouldn't hurt a fly. I've been against the wars since before they began. I was, my first act on City Council in Providence was to sponsor an antiwar resolution in 2003 through the Cities for Peace program, which was obviously not a, it was going to end the war or prevent the war in its own right, but it was a necessary step between here and there. It had cities assert that the war was clearly going to have negative impacts on cities and their ability to function, fund municipal services and education, and so on. And it has, of course, had all of those effects. So my first act as a councilmember was to oppose the war in Iraq. And I represent the area around Brown and RISD and helped restart antiwar mobilization on campus which was waning during the sort of 2004, 2003-2004 era where there was this full Washington consensus that the war was OK and the war was going kind of well, even. And left activists were demoralized. We restarted a chapter here and I've helped organize and spoken at countless rallies about the war.

 
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Iraq snapshot - August 18, 2010


The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_18.html


Wednesday, August 18, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, judges remain targeted, the political stalemate continues, the refugee crisis continues, tomorrow is World Humanitarian Day, and more.
 
CNN reports that James Jeffrey "presented his diplomatic credentials" today in Baghdad.  He is the new US Ambassador to Iraq.  (Most recently, he was the US Ambassador to Turkey.)  Arthur MacMillan (AFP) quotes him stating, "It is a great honour for me to return to Iraq. I look forward to renewing old frienships, strengthening our ties with Iraqi leaders and deepening our civilian egnagement for the long term throughout this historic land." Return?  MacMillan notes that June 2004 through June 2005 saw Jeffrey serve "as deputy chief of mission and then charge d'affaires" in Iraq.  It's also notes he was "deputay national security adviser" under Bully Boy Bush.  NSA.  Pay attention to that term if you want to know where US involvement in Iraq is headed.
 
Jeffrey is the new Ambassador to Iraq.  The old US Ambassador to Iraq sat back and did nothing as Iraq entered into a poltical stalemate.  Atul Aneja (Hindu) observes, "Analysts point out that the significant spurt in Iraq violence in recent months can in large measure be attributed to the political vacuum after the March parliamentary elections."

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 11 days.

Last night, Flavia Krause-Jackson and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reported on the old ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, and his ludicrous farewell conference. As they note, he pinned his hopes on Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani stepping in to end the political stalemate. Here's Hill talking about al-Sistani:

 
It's really hard to say. I mean, we know that he's following this issue on a daily basis. He obviously has a lot of wisdom about the political process. He knows it very well. He knows the players very well. All the players have gone and seen him. They're in constant communication with him. So I suspect that any role he can play, he's playing. And I suspect that he is playing it in the best way he can to ensure that there's a positive outcome here. He believes -- and everybody agrees there, just about everybody agrees -- that when the government is finally formed, you will see Sunnis, Shia, and Kurds in that government together. You will see a government that's very much balanced. When you look at the offers made to Iraqiya, they have been offered -- Iraqiya, as a party that -- where most of the Sunnis voted, you will see substantial offers of important positions there. So I think everyone understands the need to bring all, as they say in Iraq, components -- that is Kurds, Sunnis, and Shia -- together. And I think Sistani has made very clear his view on that and how he is conveying that view is probably best less to him -- left to him.
 
Not addressed in the press briefing was the rumors that the US government (via Jeffrey Feltman) has threatened the Iraqi officials with the declaration of a State of Emergency is the stalemate is not ended -- maybe that's an example of the "advise-and-assist role" Hill was blabbering away about.
 
"And that's why we monitor very closely this issue of Sons of Iraq and making sure that payments are being received and issues like that," Hill maintained in the press conference and no one challenged him on that -- even though the checks aren't coming and that's one of the reasons al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is allegedly trying to recruit from Sahwa.
 
Today Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports on the Freedom City in Najaf, which the Mahdi Army vows they will fill up as they attack US forces should US forces not leave on December 31, 2011. That's the date in the Status Of Forces Agreement. Hill was asked about the treaty yesterday and replied:
 
Now, that overall Status of Forces Agreement extends till December 31st, 2011. That is the basis on which we have any forces in Iraq, and I think any future forces, any speculation about that, would have to depend on a new agreement, and there is no agreement right now. So the agreement that people are focusing on is the agreement that ends in 2011. So I'm not going to stand here and speculate what will happen in a year and a half from now, except that there needs to be a new Iraqi Government, they need to look at the implementation of the current agreement, and they need to look at what they see as necessary in the future after the expiration of the agreement.
 
 
 
The Status of Forces Agreement was dealt with on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer yesterday as they addressed that day's violence. George Stephanopoulos filled in for Diane as anchor. For their Baghdad section, he was joined by Martha Raddatz.
 
George Stephanopoulos: Baghdad was rocked by two deadly bomb attacks today, exactly two weeks before the last US combat troops leave Iraq. It's the kind of carnage we saw constantly when the war was raging. A suicide bomber killed dozens of people at an Iraqi army recruiting station and later a fuel truck bomb killed at least 8. So let's bring in our Martha Raddatz for more on that and clearly, Martha, some are trying to take advantage of this turnover that's coming in just a couple of weeks.
 
Martha Raddatz: It sure seems that way, George. This was really a horrific bombing. There were Iraqi recruits trying to join the Iraqi army. Thousands of them lined up, they had been there all night, desperate for jobs. Someone walked in, apparently wearing a suicide vest, mingled among all these recruits and blew himself up. The vest was packed with nails. They say as many as 60 were killed, about a hundred injured. And there was also that fuel truck bombing that you mentioned where eight were killed so very, very reminiscent of the early days of the war, George.
 
 
George Stephanopoulos: Despite these bombings, no second thoughts by the Americans or the Iraqis.
 
Martha Raddatz: Well absolutely no second thoughts yet. Of course, American troops are supposed to be out of Iraq completely in 2011, the end of 2011. Only the Iraqis can change that and, I have to tell you, George, most of the people I talk to believe the Iraqis eventually will decide to change that and have many American troops remaining in country.
 
 
Similar statements about the SOFA were made yesterday by Hill and Monday in the joint-news conference the State Dept's Michael Corbin and DoD's Kahl Colin held and Kahl replied to a question asking about US forces remaining in Iraq after 2011,  "The second question you asked about the post-2011 situation, I mean, it's a hypothetical so I can't comment on it because we don't have an Iraqi Government yet. The terms of the security agreement are clear, though, right? The terms of the security agreement, where were negotiated by the last administration and the Iraqi Government are that remaining U.S. forces will depart by the end of 2011. Any revision to that would have to be initiated by an Iraqi Government. We don't have a new Iraqi Government yet, and so it's -- and so if we have a new Iraqi Government and they come to us with a specific set of requests -- I don't think we can answer that question." And pair it with Corbin's assertion that "we're not leaving"  in the following exchange:
 
 
 
QUESTION: Could I follow up on that, please? In your discussions with Turkey about the drawdown, are you talking about the possible Turkish military presence in the north of Iraq to ease the concerns of (inaudible) about the PKK?             

 
MR. CORBIN: Colin, I don't know if you have anything to say. We -- our drawdown is based on our -- President Obama's plan for our presence in Iraq and we are, of course, consulting with all our regional neighbors and explaining that, but we don't -- and we do, as -- we consider the PKK a terrorist organization and we do work closely with the Iraqi Government and the Turks together and the representatives of the KRG on means to combat PKK terrorism. But we --                   
 
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. What about after you leave? I mean, do you think Peshmerga is --

 
MR. CORBIN: Well, the first thing is we're not leaving and this type of civilian cooperation, which is led by, for example, in this trilateral process that we have, it's led by civilians. It's the ministry of interior from the Turkish side, it's the Embassy with support from USFI on our side, it's the Kurdish minister of interior equivalent, and it's the – it was the Iraqi minister of state for national security affairs who was running this. So this type of cooperation has got to continue and it's important.           
 
Violence? At least 12 reported deaths and 31 reported injured.  The targets today were primarily police officers, Sahwa and Iraqi soldiers.  Yesterday, attempts were made to kill 8 judges and 2 were successful attempts.  Today, another 2 judges are reported assassinated. 
 
Bombings?
 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two people, two more Baghdad roadside bombings left ten people wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack injured two people, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier (two other people were injured), a Ramadi roadside bombing which wounded three people (including one police officer) and a Kasma Kilo car bombing which left three police officers and four by-standers injured. Reuters notes a Tikrit roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left two people wounded.
 
Shootings?
 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad assassination of 1 "government employee," the Baghdad assassination of Judge Jabir Jumaa and the Baghdad assassination of Judge Najim al Talabani (which follows yesterday's targeting of 8 judges, three of which were killed), a Baghdad Sahwa checkpoint was attacked leaving 1 Sahwa dead and two more wounded,  1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul, 2 police officers shot dead in Kirkuk and, dropping back to Monday, 1 man shot dead in Mosul "and his young son" left wounded.
 
Corpses?

Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul
 
 
 
Yesterday CNN and the network's Alexander Mooney reported on the latest CNN - Opinion Research Corp poll which found "69 percent oppose the war in Iraq -- the highest amount of opposition in any CNN poll." And while respondents support a withdrawal they do so with eyes open to the possible issues arising when a withdrawal takes place: "Six in 10 say they are not confident in the Iraqi government's ability to handle the situation in that country." That's bad news for War Hawks.  Opposing withdrawal, War Hawks always want to whine, "Think what will happen!"  Americans, juding by the poll, are aware of the possibilities.  They're also probably aware that the alternative is permanent occupation which they don't favor. Sentiment against the illegal war hardened sometime ago.  And the poll indicates that attempts by War Hawks to insist the illegal war continue for 'humanitarian reasons' (so Samantha Power) will not work as a scare tactic.  Iraq will rise or fall on its own when US forces leave -- whenever that is.  The Iraqi people will determine their future and that may include determining that the exile class installed by the US government does not represent them or their country's best interests. 
 
The violence already exists in war-torn Iraq and has never vanished.  It's created the Iraqi refugee crisis, the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948.  Tomorrow is World Humanitarian Day.  The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) explains:
 
 Thursday marks an important occasion for the staff of UNHCR and all humanitarian workers. It is the day that militants detonated a massive truck bomb in Baghdad in 2003, killing 22 people including 18 UN staff members and injuring dozens more. Last year, the UN and other humanitarian organizations began honouring the anniversary as 'World Humanitarian Day' in order to recognize the contribution made by humanitarian workers worldwide.
Here at UNHCR, we spoke to a handful of our staff about their experience on the job. One story that we are publishing today, which is available here, reports on the unique challenges of working in Iraq and the broader Middle East. In another, which can be read here, Vincent Cochetel, who was kidnapped and held for nearly a year in Chechnya while serving as head of UNHCR's north Caucasus office, discusses the ordeal and the lessons it holds for his colleagues in the field.

To learn more about World Humanitarian day, go here.

 
Wafa Amr, Helene Caux, Farah Dakhlallah, Nabil Othman and Sireen Khalifeh look at the Iraqi refugee crisis on behalf of the UNHCR: Depending on the organization estimating, there are between 3.9 million refugees and 4.5 million.  Iraq's population (non-refugee) is largely young (only 59% are estimated to be over the age of 15).
 
 
For UNHCR Iraqi staff member Wafa, just going to work and returning home at the end of the day is a life-threatening experience. Elias Shalhoub, a psychologist and protection officer in Lebanon, says the challenge for him lies in discussing the needs of refugees and not knowing whether he can help. Martha Kow-Donkor, a field officer for UNHCR in Yemen braves tribal checkpoints and mine fields to help deliver aid to internally displaced people there. Her main worry is failing to reach people in time.             
All three are struggling to balance the hardships, dangers and frustrations of their work with the UN Refugee Agency with the goal of helping some of the world's neediest people.
 
Andrew England (Financial Times of London) observes of the refugee crisis, "This enduring tragedy shows few signs of easing even as US troops prepare to leave Iraq next year. After the British-American invasion of 2003, Iraq sank into the bloody chaos of insurgency and sectarian violence. Entire neighbourhoods of the country's cities, particularly Baghdad, were cleared of either their Sunni or Shia inhabitants."  Jonny Abo and Abdul Jalil Mustafa (DPA) note al-Mortagi Abdel-Moneim al-Kaabi, an Iraqi who became a refugee following being shot multiple times and who says, "I still suffer from a lot of diseases but thank God I'm alive, although I feel like I am psychologically bleeding because I cannot forget the painful memories."  Now he and his wife (who has breast cancer and is receiving treatments for which charitable assistance -- from the UN -- only pays 40% of the cost ) live in Syria.  Syria and Jordan have the bulk of Iraq's refugee population.   Fiyaz Mughal (Daily Star) explains, "The Syrian government estimates that there are 1 million refugees in the country, the overwhelming majority coming from Iraq. In Jordan, estimates for Iraqi refugees range from 600,000 to 700,000 and the influx has led to a steep rise in real estate and food prices in urban areas. As a result, many Jordanians harbor increasing resentment toward refugees."  Lebanon and Egypt also have a large amount.  The western world has not done a very good job on the issue -- despite a lot of public pronouncements.  Andrew Ward (Finanical Times of London) reports Sweden cares little for Iraqi refugees as evidenced by the tape interview of Iraqi Riyad with Swiss immigration officials.  Riyad explains his brother was, beheaded, that, "They murdered my brother and would have done the same to me."  To which the immigration official replies, "Yes, I know that. But it doesn't count that they might do the same thing to you; you have to prove there is an actual threat."  Riyad's brother can prove it -- but of course that required his dying.  Apparently, when Sweden deports Riyad, if he's killed in Iraq, they'll say, "Well, you proved it.  You're dead, but we'll give you citizenship after-the-fact.  Congratulations." A very small number make it to the US.  (Detroit, the San Diego area and Houston and the Dallas-Fort Worth areas in Texas have been among the areas many Iraqi refugees have settled in.)  Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) reports on Iraqi refugee Elham who lives with Ayd (her husband) in Maryland where she now works "as a doctor's assistant."  In Iraq, Elham was a doctor, a gynecolist.  She states, "Before we arrived, we were told that as doctors we would be welcomed with open arms. But when we got here, everyone told us we were over-qualified and that we should not mention our degrees, so that I could get a job as a housekeeper. [. . .]  I was respected in Iraq as a doctor and now I come here and I am nothing. It's very difficult for me to accept this idea."
 
Among the hardest hit communities -- probably the second hardest hit when you break it down into percentages (the Jewish community in Iraq has vanished, they would be the worst hit) -- in the country is the Mandaeans which now counts, Stephen Starr (Asia Times) notes, 70,000 external refugees and only 5,000 still in Iraq.  Starr offers this background:
 
Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist and moved from the Holy Land to the expanses of today's southern Iraq and southwest Iran around the second century AD. Their religious origins are thought to have been drawn independently of Christianity and may even be older. They are monotheists - thought to be the oldest in the Middle East - believing in a single god.                   

Mandaeans are also Gnostics, believing in mysticism and a heightened role of the natural world. Very little has been recorded of the Mandaean religion and traditions and in principle people cannot convert to, or leave, the religion. They speak their own language and have quietly been struggling to keep their customs alive for almost 2,000 years.
 
Mission Network News released the following on Monday:
 
Iraq (MNN) -- "Get up! Grab your things. We need to go!" Imagine these words said in panic, as you and your family are given less than 24 hours to gather your belongings and leave your home in Iraq.                                 

Open Doors USA says for thousands of Iraqi Christians, this scenario has become a real life nightmare, as extremist Muslims force them to either leave their homes or pay with their lives.                     

Often, believers only have time to grab a few essentials and leave with the clothes on their back. Among these items is usually a Bible, as they cling to it and its message of hope.

To help these refugees, Open Doors is aiding in the set up medical projects, as well as distributing emergency packs, which include basic necessities.                     

However, their response is dependent on faithful supporters lending their gifts and prayers.

Pray that God will grant courage to these fleeing families. Pray that they will not back down from their faith, even in the midst of persecution.                       

Also, you can give financial support to Open Doors USA's relief efforts by clicking here.

 
Deborah Amos' new book is entitled Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East.  It covers the refugee crisis.  August 10th, she and Steve Inskeep discussed some troubling realities about the refugee crisis on Morning Edition (NPR -- links has text and audio):
 
Steve Inskeep: And let's just emphasize here, is this turning into almost a permanent refugee population, a permanent population of Iraqis who will be outside their country the same way that there are Palestinians who have been outside of the Palestinian territories for decades now?       
 
 
Deborah Amos: It begins to look that way.  Not that there was ever a flood of returnees, there wasn't, but 2010 has been less than 2009. And people are making this calculation, that as long as there's a government crisis as the Americans drawdown, why would you go back now?  It is not easy to be a refugee.  It's likely that your kids are out of school. It is likely that your diet is a mess, that you're probably eating mostly, you know, sugared tea and bread, for at least two of those meals.  The international community's largesse -- while never large, is less. People want this crisis to be over.             
 
 
Steve Inskeep: And I suppose if you had another round of sectarian warfare, you'd have to be prepared for that possiblity of another million people coming across the border at some point.             
 
 
Deborah Amos: You know, 18 months ago that was the nightmare scenario.  As Americans drewdown, there would be a return to the full out sectarian war.  It doesn't look like that's going to happen.  However, it is this randomness of the violence and, more important, it is the inability of this government to find some power sharing agreement between Sunnis and Shi'ites.  As you know, the majority of the refugees outside are Sunnis and Christians. They are watching a government that cannot come to terms with a Sunni-backed political coalition that won the most seats in Parliament, and yet has not been able to use that power to come into the prime ministership. Every country in the region is now meddling in Iraq because of the weakness of the state. And so, it is very difficult for them to consider returning. Better to wait, better to wait and see what happens.                 
 
 
 
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« Reply #52 on: August 20, 2010, 11:44:01 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 19, 2010


The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_19.html


Thursday, August 19, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Michael Gordon offers a critique of electronic media, Tony Blair tries to wash the blood away, and more.
 
Today on PRI's The Takeaway, John Hockenberry spoke with Michael R. Gordon of the New Yourk Times.
 
John Hockenberry: When we say noncombat troops -- it almost sounds like an oxymoron -- but noncombat troops, is that a semantic distinction or is there something real in that term.
 
Michael R. Gordon: Well it's not even accurate. I think that what happened yesterday was largely symbolic and to some extent hyped by the electronic media.  The uh -- What's happening is there are combat troops remaining in Iraq. The 50,000 troops include six brigades which are essentially combat brigades.  But these combat brigades have been renamed assist-and-advise brigades and they've been given a task of helping to train the Iraqi army but that doesn't mean they're not made up of combat troops. They are. And in addition, the US is still helping the Iraqi special forces carry out counter-terrorism missions against al-Qaeda operatives and all of that and that fits my definition of "combat."
 
Before we get to that, we're again dropping back to Monday's State Dept press briefing by the "Near Eastern and North African Affairs Bureau Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq Michael Corbin and Defense Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Middle East Affairs Colin Kahl." So that's US State Dept and DoD both represented. We've covered it repeatedly and probably will again in the future. So the two were explaining the militarization of diplomacy in Iraq. Here's Corbin:


We're going to have two consulates in Iraq, and the Council of Ministers recently signed off on having two consulates -- one in Basra and one in the north, in Erbil. And these consulates provide a recognized important diplomatic platform for all the types of programs that we want to do now and that we'll want to do in the future. And consulates around the world used to be a very key element of our diplomatic presence. We'll have two of those consulates. And obviously, one is in the Kurdish region in the north and the other is in Basra, which has enormous economic importance as the -- being close to Umm Qasr, the only -- Iraq's only port, being close to the new oil fields, the ones that have been exposed in the latest oil bid rounds. So we're going to have different interests in these consulates, but they serve as platforms for us to apply all the tools of a diplomatic presence.

And, in case you're wondering, in Baghdad -- the Green Zone section -- the US Embassy will remain. So three buildings -- Nope. Citing "this transition from the military to civilians" as the reason more is needed, he explained their would be "embassy branch offices" "in Kirkuk and in Mosul . . . An embassy branch office is a diplomatic termthat is recognized as a way diplomats can have presence, but these are going to be temporary presences, as Deputy Secretary Lew has explained. These are a three to five-year presence . . ." If you're trying to calculate, he's referring to 2011 (or 2012) so add three and five years to that.             
 
Asked about the air space and Iraq needing the US to continue to provide protection for the air space, Kahl responded, "You're right about the air sovereignty, what the U.S. military calls the air sovereignty gap. For all the right reasons, we've focused on building Iraq's ground forces to provide for internal security and be able to conduct counterinsurgency operations. We've also made a lot of progress in building up their air force, but largely kind of the foundation for a capable force, as opposed to one that can fully exercise and enforce Iraq's air sovereignty. We can expect that the Iraqis will have requirements for air sovereignty that extend beyond 2011, which is one of the reasons they've expressed interest in purchasing a multi-role fighter to provide for their own security. All their neighbors have it, et cetera." Asked to elaborate on "provide assistance," Kahl responded, " You're right about the air sovereignty, what the U.S. military calls the air sovereignty gap. For all the right reasons, we've focused on building Iraq's ground forces to provide for internal security and be able to conduct counterinsurgency operations. We've also made a lot of progress in building up their air force, but largely kind of the foundation for a capable force, as opposed to one that can fully exercise and enforce Iraq's air sovereignty. We can expect that the Iraqis will have requirements for air sovereignty that extend beyond 2011, which is one of the reasons they've expressed interest in purchasing a multi-role fighter to provide for their own security. All their neighbors have it, et cetera."                   

With that background, today Michael R. Gordon reports on the current realities.Speaking to Ryan Crocker -- the former US Ambassador to Iraq -- Gordon is informed that the US needs to be flexible and that a request to extend the SOFA would be in the US' "strategic interest." From Gordon's article:                             


With the Obama administration in campaign mode for the coming midterm elections and Iraqi politicians yet to form a government, the question of what future military presence might be needed has been all but banished from public discussion.                                     
"The administration does not want to touch this question right now," said one administration official involved in Iraq issues, adding that military officers had suggested that 5,000 to 10,000 troops might be needed. "It runs counter to their political argument that we are getting out of these messy places," the official, speaking only on condition of anonymity, added. "And it would be quite counterproductive to talk this way in front of the Iraqis. If the Iraqis want us, they should be the demandeur."                       

This morning, Ross Colvin (Reuters) provided an analysis on the possibility that US would withdraw in 2011 and notes various public statements but here's the key passage:

The U.S.-Iraq military pact that came into force in 2009 provides the legal basis for U.S. troops to be in Iraq. Under the agreement, all U.S. troops must be out by 2012. But U.S. negotiators say that even as the pact was being negotiated, it was considered likely it would be quietly revised later to allow a longer-term, although much smaller, force to remain.

And now we go back to PRI's The Takeaway:
 
John Hockenberry: First of all, do you see no US military presence in Iraq for America after 2011, is that possible?             
 
 
Michael R. Gordon: I think it's unlikely. And in the view of a lot of Iraqis and people like Ambassador Ryan Crocker -- who served as abassador in Iraq from 2007 to 2009 -- undesirable. The Bush administration signed an agreement to get all troops out by the end of 2011.  The Obama administration is -- which is in a campaign mode now as it approaches the midterm elections, has promised to honor that but, really, there are going to be a lot of tasks that remain. For example, Iraq will have no air force.  Well who's going to patrol the Iraqi skies? It almost certainly will be the United States.  Iraq is buying M1 tanks and artillery. Well who's going to help them field it and learn how to operate it?  It's almost certainly going to be the United States. al Qaeda militants and Iranian-backed militias are going to remain in Iraq in some measure. They've been attacking US forces over the last several months. Certainly, it seems very likely that there will be some sort of US role in advising or helping Iraqi special operation forces to go after them. And there's going to be a very large civilian role.  There's going to be 2,400 odd civilians -- State Dept and other officials carrying out functions not only in Baghdad but in Kirkuk and Mosul, trying to tamp down Kurdish-Arab tensions. And they're going to rely, under current plans, on private security contractors.  It's kind of ironic that the Obama administraion is going to be preside over a more than doubling of private security contractors in Iraq, but that's the current plan. If we negotiatea new agreement with Iraq to keep some US forces there, maybe that burden will be reduced somewhat.               
 
As Gordon notes, electronic media is making a big deal about the departure of combat brigades.  Setting aside the theatrics of renaming, did the last US 'combat' brigade pull out of Iraq as everyone's insisting?  Apparently not. Xinhua reports, "An U.S. official from the Defense Ministry has denied that the U.S. combat troops have completed withdrawal from Iraq, the official Iraqia television reported Thursday. 'What happened was a reorganization for these troops as some 4,000 soldiers had been pulled out and the rest of the combat troops (will leave) at the end of this month,' Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell was quoted as saying. His comments came after some U.S. media said earlier that the last brigade from the combat troops has left Iraq Thursday morning two weeks before the deadline of Aug. 31." Calling it the "second fake end to Iraq War," Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes:
 
Officials have been pretty straightforward about what really happened, not that it has been picked up by the media, which has preferred the more pleasant narrative of a decisive military victory. Instead, the US simply "redefined" the vast majority of its combat troops as "transitional troops," then removed a brigade that they didn't relabel, so they could claim that was the "last one." Even this comes with the assumption that the State Department, and a new army of contractors, will take over for years after the military operations end, assuming they ever do. 

And it worked, at least for now. All is right with the world and the war is over, at least so far as anyone could tell from the TV news shows.


And James Denselow (at Huffington Post) notes, "As US combat units pulled back into Kuwait today a single soldiers was spotted shouting 'we won, we won'. What has been won is perhaps the narrative which states that despite regular bloodletting, Iraq is a success that the US can depart from with honor."   northsum32 (All Voices) explains, "To move around Iraq without United States troops, the State Department plans to acquire 60 mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, called MRAPs, from the Pentagon; expand its inventory of armored cars to 1,320; and create a mini-air fleet by buying three plans to add to its lone aircraft. Its helicopter fleet, which will be piloted by contractors, will grow to 29 choppers from 17. There are to be 6 to 7 thousand private security contractors. This is bound to cause conflict with the Iraqi government which has been very critical of private security firms."   For more on that topic, refer to Michele Kelemen's report for All Things Considered (NPR).         
 
 
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 12 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.  Today the New York Times' Anthony Shadid spoke with Steve Inskeep about the stalemate for NPR's Morning Edition:
 
 
Mr. SHADID: Well I think, Steve there's a real question here about power and the question of power. How powerful is the prime minister? How powerful is the cabinet? Basically what system is going to arise here that's going to govern this country? Those questions are unanswered. They're at the core of the negotiations. There's a lot of disputes on where to go and how to get there. But I think there's even a deeper question here, and I think this is whats alarming to a lot people who have spent a lot of time here, and that's the almost utter disenchantment among the public for the political elite. There's a real divorce here, between governed and governors, between ruler and ruled. And that, I think, is one of the more unpredictable factors we see going on right now.             
 
INSKEEP: In a few seconds - are people thinking again, as they were a few years ago, about the country falling apart?                 
 
Mr. SHADID: You know, there's a lot of worry that the longer this stalemate goes on, the worse it's going to get.             
 
 
Today David Ignatius (Washington Post) observes, "It's now five months after the March elections that gave a narrow victory to former prime minister Ayad Allawi over incumbent Nouri al-Maliki. The Shiite parties that were once allied with Maliki have mostly abandoned him, yet he hangs on as though he were prime minister for life, Arab-style. Meanwhile, the bombs keep going off in Baghdad."  And the violence continued today with at least 8 reported deaths and seven reported wounded.
 
Bombings?
 
Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports a Ramadi roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and a Falluja sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people and three Mosul roadside bombings which injured four police officers.
 
Shootings?
 
Reuters notes a Kirkuk attack on "the headquarters of the Kurdish intelligence services" in which 1 assailant was shot dead (and injured another), 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Kirkuk, 1 civilian shot dead in Mosul and 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul.
 
Corpses?
 
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.
 
Turning to England where Tony Blair's latest 'antics' have caused further uproar.  The War Hawk and former prime minister is publishing his autobiography -- not titled, despite rumors, What I Did For Love and George W. Bush -- and apparently hoping for some good press, he decided he would donate the profits from the book for a military rehabilitation facility.  The editorial board of the Independent of London notes the current political stalemate in Iraq, the rise in violence and concludes, "As the impassioned response to Mr Blair's donation has shown, however, this war remains as fresh in the memory -- and almost as divisive as it was when it began. That there will now be a positive aspect to Mr Blair's legacy, and one that implicitly recognises the human cost of his fateful decision, deserves to be recognised. But it cannot erase, nor will it compensate for, the irreversible damage that has been done."  At The Economist blog Britain Blightly, J.G. blogs this thought, "The alternative criticism, that the donation is just a cynical PR stunt, seems less wilfully deluded. But it still strikes me as mistaken. Mr Blair is portrayed as both a shallow, image-conscious salesman and as a messianic ideologue driven by stupidly fixed convictions. He cannot be both."  Yes, he can.  The term would be "dichotomy."  I thought the British were supposed to be good with the English language. Not to mention good at drama since dichotomy's lend themselves so well to portraits of tragic figures.  At England's Stop The War, we'll note this from Robin Beste's "All Neptune's oceans could not wash the blood from Blair's hands:"


Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood clean from my hands? asks the mass murderer Macbeth in Shakespeare's play.                   

Tony Blair clearly thinks that by donating the millions he is being paid for his memoirs to the British Legion he will wash his hands clean of the hundreds of thousands of civilians and the 179 British soldiers killed as a result of war in Iraq.

It won't stop Peter Brierley, whose son was killed in Iraq, who says his aim is still; "that one day we will see Tony Blair in court for the crimes he committed. Peter famously refused to shake Blair's hand at a memorial service for soldiers who died in Iraq, saying, "Don't you dare. "You have my son's blood on your hands."           

Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son, Fusilier Gordon Gentle, was killed in Basra in 2004, said she was pleased injured troops would benefit but said it would not change the way she felt about Blair. "It is OK doing this now but it was decisions Blair made when he was prime minister that got us into this situation. I still hold him responsible for the death of my son."               

The money Blair is donating from his memoirs will be welcome for those soldiers it helps who have been seriously injured in Britain's wars.                   

But no amount of money can buy Blair innocence or forgiveness for the series of lies he told against the best legal advice which told him the war was illegal under international law, or for his defiance of the vast majority of people in Britain, who protested in unprecedented numbers to tell Blair that his warmongering was "not in our name".                 

And before anyone gets duped by the "generosity" of Blair's donation, we need to recall how shamelessly he has exploited the contacts he made from his war crimes. 



And as  we're all supposed to pretend the illegal  war ended today, we'll instead close with reality from Peace  Mom Cindy Sheehan's "Racketeers for Capitalism by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy Sheehan's Soap Box):


I happen to believe that the wars and everything else became Obama's problems on January 20, 2009, but in reading comments about today's carnage on that bastion of centrism, the Huffington Post -- many people either believe that the Afghanistan occupation just became Obama's War today, or that (in the case of at least one commenter) -- Obama was forced to send more troops, and when one sends more troops, more of them will die. The matter-of-fact callousness of this remark stung like a hornet to me, and I bet the mothers of numbers 1227, 1228, and 1229 did not feel so cavalier when the Grim Reapers in dress khakis knocked on their doors today.                     
As little as we hear about U.S. troops, as is our custom here in the Empire, the tragic slaughter of civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan doesn't even deserve a blip on our radar screens. I watched three hours of MSDNC(MSNBC) tonight and the manipulative gyrations to find out how many ways that they could talk about the "distraction" of the "mosque" at ground zero without talking about the one-million plus Arabs (Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc) that the psychopathic U.S. response to September 11, 2001 has killed, was pathetic and frustrating to watch.               
There has been a bumper sticker saying for years that goes: "What if they gave a war and no one showed up?"         
Well, "they," the ones that give the wars are not going to stop. "They""have too much at stake to give up the cash cow of wars for Imperial Profit, Power, and Expansion. "They" use the toady media to whip up nationalistic and patriotic fervor to get our kids to be thrown together with the victims in a meat grinder of destruction and we just sit here and allow them to do it.

 
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« Reply #53 on: August 21, 2010, 08:33:41 am »

US Troops Say Goodbye to Iraq

Torture. Corruption. Civil war. America has certainly left its mark

By Robert Fisk

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article26205.htm

August 20, 2010 "The Independent" - -When you invade someone else's country, there has to be a first soldier – just as there has to be a last.

The first man in front of the first unit of the first column of the invading American army to reach Fardous Square in the centre of Baghdad in 2003 was Corporal David Breeze of the 3rd Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. For that reason, of course, he pointed out to me that he wasn't a soldier at all. Marines are not soldiers. They are Marines. But he hadn't talked to his mom for two months and so – equally inevitably – I offered him my satellite phone to call his home in Michigan. Every journalist knows you'll get a good story if you lend your phone to a soldier in a war.

"Hi, you guys," Corporal Breeze bellowed. "I'm in Baghdad. I'm ringing to say 'Hi! I love you. I'm doing fine. I love you guys.' The war will be over in a few days. I'll see you soon." Yes, they all said the war would be over soon. They didn't consult the Iraqis about this pleasant notion. The first suicide bombers – a policeman in a car and then two women in a car – had already hit the Americans on the long highway up to Baghdad. There would be hundreds more. There will be hundreds more in Iraq in the future.

So we should not be taken in by the tomfoolery on the Kuwaiti border in the last few hours, the departure of the last "combat" troops from Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule. Nor by the infantile cries of "We won" from teenage soldiers, some of whom must have been 12-years-old when George W Bush sent his army off on this catastrophic Iraqi adventure. They are leaving behind 50,000 men and women – a third of the entire US occupation force – who will be attacked and who will still have to fight against the insurgency.

Yes, officially they are there to train the gunmen and militiamen and the poorest of the poor who have joined the new Iraqi army, whose own commander does not believe they will be ready to defend their country until 2020. But they will still be in occupation – for surely one of the the "American interests" they must defend is their own presence – along with the thousands of armed and indisciplined mercenaries, western and eastern, who are shooting their way around Iraq to safeguard our precious western diplomats and businessmen. So say it out loud: we are not leaving.

Instead, the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan – in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year – they brought the infection of al-Qa'ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib – a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam's vile rule – after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together.

And because the Shias would invariably rule in this new "democracy", the American soldiers gave Iran the victory it had sought so vainly in the terrible 1980-88 war against Saddam. Indeed, men who had attacked the US embassy in Kuwait in the bad old days – men who were allies of the suicide bombers who blew up the Marine base in Beirut in 1983 – now help to run Iraq. The Dawa were "terrorists" in those days. Now they are "democrats". Funny how we've forgotten the 241 US servicemen who died in the Lebanon adventure. Corporal David Breeze was probably two or three-years-old then.

But the sickness continued. America's disaster in Iraq infected Jordan with al-Qa'ida – the hotel bombings in Amman – and then Lebanon again. The arrival of the gunmen from Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp in the north of Lebanon – their 34-day war with the Lebanese army – and the scores of civilian dead were a direct result of the Sunni uprising in Iraq. Al-Qa'ida had arrived in Lebanon. Then Iraq under the Americans re-infected Afghanistan with the suicide bomber, the self-immolator who turned America's soldiers from men who fight to men who hide.

Anyway, they are busy re-writing the narrative now. Up to a million Iraqis are dead. Blair cares nothing about them – they do not feature, please note, in his royalties generosity. And nor do most of the American soldiers. They came. They saw. They lost. And now they say they've won. How the Arabs, surviving on six hours of electricity a day in their bleak country, must be hoping for no more victories like this one.

Then and now

3,000 The estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed last year. That's less than a tenth of the 34,500 killed in 2007 but it's still testament to the dangers faced each day by Iraqis.

200 The number of Iraqis known to be still held in US custody – a fraction of the 26,000 held in military prisons three years ago.

15.5 The average number of hours of electricity a day Baghdad receives, a marked impovement from the six hours it got three years ago but still not up to pre-invasions standards, when Iraqi cities could rely on 24-hour power.

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« Reply #54 on: August 23, 2010, 06:11:41 am »

U.S. Occupation of Iraq More Than Doubles Poverty, Sickness -- Leaves Country a Total Disaster

The American public has no idea just how terrible we've made conditions in Iraq.

By Adil E. Shamoo, Foreign Policy in Focus
Posted on August 22, 2010, Printed on August 23, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/147928/

Iraq has between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life. What a havoc the United States has wreaked in Iraq.

UN-HABITAT, an agency of the United Nations, recently published a 218-page report entitled State of the World’s Cities, 2010-2011. The report is full of statistics on the status of cities around the world and their demographics. It defines slum dwellers as those living in urban centers without one of the following: durable structures to protect them from climate, sufficient living area, sufficient access to water, access to sanitation facilities, and freedom from eviction.

Almost intentionally hidden in these statistics is one shocking fact about urban Iraqi populations. For the past few decades, prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the percentage of the urban population living in slums in Iraq hovered just below 20 percent. Today, that percentage has risen to 53 percent: 11 million of the 19 million total urban dwellers. In the past decade, most countries have made progress toward reducing slum dwellers. But Iraq has gone rapidly and dangerously in the opposite direction.

According to the U.S. Census of 2000, 80 percent of the 285 million people living in the United States are urban dwellers. Those living in slums are well below 5 percent. If we translate the Iraqi statistic into the U.S. context, 121 million people in the United States would be living in slums.

If the United States had an unemployment rate of 25-50 percent and 121 million people living in slums, riots would ensue, the military would take over, and democracy would evaporate. So why are people in the United States not concerned and saddened by the conditions in Iraq? Because most people in the United States do not know what happened in Iraq and what is happening there now. Our government, including the current administration, looks the other way and perpetuates the myth that life has improved in post-invasion Iraq. Our major news media reinforces this message.

I had high hopes that the new administration would tell the truth to its citizens about why we invaded Iraq and what we are doing currently in the country. President Obama promised to move forward and not look to the past. However problematic this refusal to examine on the past -- particularly for historians -- the president should at least inform the U.S. public of the current conditions in Iraq. How else can we expect our government to formulate appropriate policy?

More extensive congressional hearings on Iraq might have allowed us to learn about the myths propagated about Iraq prior to the invasion and the extent of the damage and destruction our invasion brought on Iraq. We would have learned about the tremendous increase in urban poverty and the expansion of city slums. Such facts about the current conditions of Iraq would help U.S. citizens to better understand the impact of the quick U.S. withdraw and what are our moral responsibilities in Iraq should be.


Adil E. Shamoo, born and raised in Baghdad, is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

© 2010 Foreign Policy in Focus All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/147928/
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« Reply #55 on: August 23, 2010, 07:35:45 am »

Middle East
Aug 24, 2010 
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LH24Ak03.html 
 
A Syrian Taif for Iraq


By Sami Moubayed

DAMASCUS - Arab media are reporting talk of an upcoming conference for all political parties in Iraq, aimed at solving the haunting political gridlock that has gripped Iraqis since parliamentary elections last March.

Sources are referring to the conference as another Taif - similar to the 1989 meeting in Saudi Arabia that put an end to the bloody Lebanese civil war. If a "Syrian Taif" does materialize, reportedly in September, this would cement Syria's role as an ultimate broker in Iraqi affairs - the only regional heavyweight with both a will and a way to bring normalcy back to its strife-stricken neighbor.

Such a pivotal role is much needed, as US troops come down to 50,000 by the end of August, ahead of their complete withdrawal by 2011. A political vacuum already exists and is likely to intensify in the weeks to come unless solutions are devised immediately.

Reportedly, the "Syrian Taif" is backed by strong players in the neighborhood, like Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and stands unopposed by the Barack Obama administration, which is very worried over the political vacuum in Baghdad.

To date, nothing official has been released regarding a Syrian Taif, but such a conference seems all the more logical as scores of Iraqi politicians, from every end of the political spectrum, have been visiting Damascus in recent months for talks with top Syrian officials.

To date, ex-prime minister Iyad Allawi, who controls 91 seats in the newly elected parliament, has paid two visits to Damascus, and so has Ammar Hakim of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC), whose bloc has a total of 70 seats, and Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who commands 40 of the 70 seats held by the National Iraqi Alliance (NIA).

Their visits remind the world of the endless trips made on a daily basis by scores of Lebanese figures to the Syrian capital in the late 1980s and early 1990s - notably among them being former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, parliament speaker Nabih Berri, then-president Elias Hrawi and current member of parliament Walid Jumblatt.

The only Iraqi heavyweight still expected to make the Damascus visit is incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who controls 89 seats in parliament, and whose relations with Syria were strained in the summer of 2009.

None of the Iraqis groups commands the 163-majority needed to form a cabinet, making a parliamentary alliance absolutely necessary to produce a new government. Given the tremendous amount of political bickering among various players, it seems only logical for them to rely on a regional heavyweight to help them sort out their differences.

Saudi Arabia, for ideological reasons, would find it difficult to accept for many Shi'ite heavyweights, while Iran is offlimits to Sunni hardliners. Egypt is too distant from Iraqi affairs to host such a conference and so are Lebanon and Jordan, making Syria the best - in fact only - option for such a reconciliation conference.
If we were to revisit the shuttle diplomacy that preceded the Taif Accords, we can find that the only prerequisite for attendance was acceptance of Saudi Arabia's impartial role in the Lebanese conflict, and a pledge to go to Taif with an open mind, and firm objection to reach creative solutions, at any cost.

That also would have to be a must should a Syrian Taif materialize and this rests on the wisdom of various Iraqi players. The Taif agreement was negotiated by surviving members of Lebanon's 1972 parliament and pledged to restructure the National Pact of 1943; a gentleman's agreement reached between the country's Maronite president and Sunni prime minister, over the division of power in Lebanon.

According to the 1989 agreement, certain powers long held by the Maronite community would be reduced, like the president's right to name his Sunni prime minister. After Taif, the prime minister became responsible to parliament and was to be named by a parliamentary majority.

The agreement also provided for disarmament of all militias, and increased parliamentary seats to 128, divided equally between Christians and Muslims. As a result, Lebanese lawmakers successfully elected then-president Rene Mouawad to power; 409 days after the post had been left vacant by ex-president Amin Gemayel.

The Iraqi premiership vacuum, only 165 days since March, seems suddenly bearable when compared to what the Lebanese went through back then.

Much of that can be revisited and implemented today in Iraq. Revisiting the distribution of power, in place since downfall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, needs to be done. According to the new Iraqi system, the president is a Kurd, the prime minister is a Shi'ite, and the speaker of parliament is a Sunni. Iraqi Sunnis, who have controlled Iraqi politics since the 1920s, are clearly unhappy with the new system, which gives Shi'ites the upper hand, often at their expense.

For seven years they have been demanding a restructuring of the political system, asking for greater representation in government, along with a general amnesty to set Iraqi Sunnis free, thousands of whom were arrested with no warrants, on the sole charge of having been members in the Iraqi Ba'ath Party.

They have been calling for disarmament of all militias, be they Sunni or Shi'ite, and for preserving the unity of Iraqi territory and Arabism of the Iraqi Republic. All suggestions of granting greater autonomy to the Kurds, or similar status to the Shi'ites, are curtly refused by Iraqi Sunnis. Such autonomy, they argue, would give the Kurds control of oil in the north, and Shi'ites of oil reserves in the south, leaving the Sunnis in central Iraq, where there is no oil. Legislators bracing themselves for a reconciliation conference - be it in Syria or elsewhere - have to take these demands very seriously.

A Syrian Taif would have to produce an absolute mandate for the Iraqi government to give more power to the Sunnis, revisit the balance of power in Baghdad, disarm militias from all communities, pledge to refrain from any further carving of Iraqi territory - and to find a replacement to Maliki.

Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.

 
 
 
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Iraq snapshot - August 20, 2010

The Common Ills


http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_20.html

Friday, August 20, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military suffers another death in Iraq, some in the media try to set the story straight about what's taking place in Iraq while others spin like crazy, the US Army's latest suicide statistics, and more.
 
The Scripps Howard News Service reports, "As the last combat troops leave Iraq, one Kentucky family learnst their son has died there." Christopher Wright of Lewis County, Kentucky is the fallen. Misty Maynard (Ledger Independent) reports he was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and she speaks to the family's pastor John Moore, of Tollesboro Christian Church, "Moore said it had been at least a year since he had seen Christopher Wright. One of the most vivid aspects of Wright, Moore said, was his passion for the military and his hopes to attend jump school and become a Ranger or a Green Beret." Elizabeth Dorsett (WKYT) quotes James King, who works for Joe Cochran (Christopher Wright's father), on the family learning the news, "When the military guys came in, they didn't have to say anything."  ICCC's current total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq is 4416.  Strangely USF never announced the death.
 
The war didn't end yesterday.  The one good thing about so many pushing the myth that it did is that so many people are weighing in. If you're noted, you were among the best weighing in but that doesn't mean we happen to agree with you in part or in total.  Let's start with US Senator Russ Feingold:
 
"While I applaud President Obama for sticking to his redeployment timetable, more than 50,000 U.S. troops are still serving in harm's way in Iraq. I urge the president to redeploy those remaining troops as promptly and safely as possible so we can reduce the strain on our military and our budget.           

"While our departure from Iraq is taking much longer than it should, it does show that setting a timetable for redeployment can help contribute to stability and enable us to focus on combating al Qaeda's global network. Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to expand in places around the world like Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere.  Rather than send more troops to Afghanistan, where there is no military solution, the president should lay out a timetable for ending our military involvement there so we are better able to combat al Qaeda's global network without needlessly risking American lives and spending dollars we don't have."
 
No, Barack didn't keep his pledge, but we'll note that after Matthew Rothschild (link is audio):
 
I'm Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive, with my Progressive Point of View which you can also grab off our website over at Progressive.org.  Barack Obama is to be commended for keeping his pledge to pull US combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August and congratulations to the soldiers and the families of the soldiers coming home. But let's remember that 4,415 members of the US military never came home and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in this immoral and illegal war that Bush and Cheney launched for no good reason. And let's also remember that the US still has 56,000 troops in Iraq who may well see combat in the year ahead and by the end of next year, it's not like the American presence will vanish. The State Dep is building new fortresses in Iraq to go along with the massive embassy in Baghdad. It's spending upward of one million dollars on outposts in Erbil, Mosul and Kirkuk and Basra.  And instead of soldiers guarding these facilities and the diplomats who work there, the State Department is going to be relying on 7,000 private contractors -- mercenaries by any other name. This is good news for the like of DynCorp and Blackwater, but not for Iraq and not for us. I'm Matt Rothschild and that's how I see it.
 
I'm disgusted and that's how it is.  'Barack Obama is to be congratulated . . . but that mean nasty State Dept!!!'  What?  Barack got congratulated (despite the fact that it was not his campaign promise -- or is basic math not a progressive value? -- April 2010 was one campaign pledge and, in Texas in Feb. 2008, he lowered it October 2009).  But not held accountable.  But not held accountable?  Who is over the State Dept, who is over the entire federal government in the United States?  That would be the president who would be Barack Obama.  It's real cute the way Matthew Rothschild parcel's out praise for Barack (unearned praise, Matt Rothchild) but can't hold him accountable.  Now the militarization of diplomacy was Samantha Power's plan -- presented to Barack in 2007.  But he signed off on it.  He's the one seeing that it's executed.  He's the one putting all the national security types -- past and present -- on it.  And that's why we're calling it the "militarization of diplomacy."  When no one was talking about or writing about it, we called it the "militarization of the State Dept" but this really won't be State Dept led.  This will go under the national security and that's why those people -- including the gangbusters for it woman who is so convinced she gets Robert Gates' job if he does step down in 2011 -- are the ones at the meetings and why so many meetings take place without State even being present or in the loop.  It's also why the new US Ambassador was selected. (Or are we ignoring his national security background as well?)  About the militarization of diplomacy, yesterday, Michele Kelemen (All Things Considered, NPR -- link has audio and text) reported:

Michele Kelemen: Overseeing contractors will be another key challenge, he says. Security contractors will be needed not just at the embassy but also at the other diplomatic outposts that are being opened if diplomats are going to be able to get out of their buildings to do their jobs. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Corbin says there will be two consulates - one in the southern city of Basra and one in Erbil in the Kurdish north. There are also plans for temporary branch offices in Mosul and Kirkuk.

Michael Corbin (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State): These are a three- to five-year presence. And we chose the Kurd-Arab fault line, as we like to call it, it's not what the Iraqis call it. But there are issues in Kirkuk and in Mosul that have not only to do with Arab-Kurd issues but also Iraq's minorities.
 
 
On this week's CounterSpin, Peter Hart speaks with Hannah Gurman about Iraq.  Excerpt:
 
Peter Hart: Goodbye Operation Iraqi Freedom, hello Operation New Dawn. The Iraq War is ending, we're told, with TV crews back in Iraq, capturing footage of the final combat troops exiting the country. One might reach for the term Orwellian to describe such events, perhaps because there is no fitting way to convey the "up is down, black is white" sense of what has happened in Iraq and what is happening there now. Our next guest wrote about this for Salon.com under the headline "The Iraq Withdrawal: An Orwellian Success." Hannah Gurman is an assistant professor at New York University's Gallatin School.  She joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Hannah Gurman.
 
Hannah Gurman: My pleasure.
 
Peter Hart: Well here's the official story: Violence is down, Iraqis are stepping up, as ABC's Christiane Amanpour put it recently, "The surge, let's face it, has worked." These are basically the indisputable facts in our media discussions about Iraq. In what ways do you think this Iraq narrative might qualify as Orwellian, as you put it?
 
Hannah Gurman: Well it's really hard to say where to begin.  By almost every measure with respect to security, the state of Iraqi politics and maybe most importantly Iraqis to basic resources and the state of Iraq's infrastructure.  There are things that the mainstream story just isn't illuminating.  In terms of infrastructure, for example, there are still many, many Iraqis who do not have electricity.  They have about two to three hours of electricity a day. And the latest Brookings Index shows that there are 30 - 50,000 private generators making up for that gap between the national grid and what people actually need. So that's just one example of the basic situation on the ground that we don't really hear that much about from Obama or from Ambassador Christopher Hill when they are touting the success of the surge narrative.
 
Peter Hart: It's interesting, those Brookings numbers used to be widely cited in the media when they wanted to cite progress in the Iraq War.  You don't hear them cited as often now. Perhaps because the findings are rather dismal.
 
Hannah Gurman: Yeah and that gets to heart of really what Iraqi citizens see on the ground and they point to the every day situation. So it is interesting that that's one of the things that we're really not hearing very much about in terms of the surge narrative.  We're hearing a lot more about the decreases in violence, we're hearing a lot more about the optimism of Iraqi politics and even with respect to their things, there are things to be questioned.
 
Peter Hart: Speaking of Orwellian, I'm looking at the Washington Post headline the day we record this show, "Operation Iraqi Freedom Ends As Last Combat Soldiers Leave Baghdad." The article [by Ernesto Londono] notes that there might never be an acknowledged end to the Iraq War. The real point seems to be this: US commanders are also stressing that this is no longer America's war to lose. The end it would seem is not about winning then, it's about not losing.
 
Hannah Gurman: Yeah and it does also point to the strange shift from the concept of victory which used to be the way people thought about America's goals in war to now success so even if we don't win, we still don't lose. There is this prominent word "success" and you see it everywhere in discussions of the Iraq withdrawal -- that we are "successfully" handing over this situation to Iraq.
 
Peter Hart: Also today, the day we record this show [Thursday], the New York Times has this piece [by Michael R. Gordon] that's somewhat muddled. It tells us there's going to be this tiny military presence in Iraq. Experts are quoted saying this will be insufficient for the task, we may need to send more troops. At the same time, this presence will exist alongside thousands of private security forces, five massive compounds, massive amounts of State Dept planes and helicopters, there will be private security guards.  The Times explains these are "quick reaction forces" to rescue citizens in trouble. And it also tell us that Iraqis object to these forces because they have a history of killing civilians. What are the mechanics of the Iraq occupation in this post-war phase.
 
Hannah Gurman: Well you heard that today, or Thursday morning Iraqi time, the last combat brigade pulled out of Iraq so now you have by the end of this month, 50,000 troops are going to be in Iraq and they're going to be simply transferred or relabled from "combat battallions" to "advise-and-assist battallions." And so they'll be there training or continuing to train the Iraqi security forces. What they actually do on the ground, I think, is very much up in the air whether and when they will actually be participating in combat, I think, is very much up to debate.  Then you have this other story you've been discussing which is the transferring over, in many ways, the transferring over military responsibilities to the civilian personnel in Iraq. And, in essance, it's a shadow army.  It's very paradoxical because on the one hand it really raises the responsibility of the civilian presence in Iraq but, on the other hand, it's really a civilian presence that is operating security appartaus in Iraq.  And there are many military and even senior civilian officials who believe that that civilian presecne is going to have to be upped or eventually supported by a more conventional military presence. So they really don't know.
 
Moving over to today's second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today, Diane and her guests David Ignatius (Washington Post), Laura Rozen (Politico) and Thom Shanker (New York Times).
 
Diane Rehm: Thom Shanker, the last American brigade left Iraq yesterday.  Wasn't  this earlier than the actual deadline?
 
Thom Shanker: Well it's very interesting, Diane.  We have to be careful of the words we use and the labels we apply. I mean what the American military force in Iraq has been doing for the past six to nine months is very similar to what they'll be doing throughout the rest of this year and 2011. What the military did is they waived their hand and symbolically said 4-2 Stryker brigade from Fort Lewis is the brigade that's leaving and will not be replaced. So that brigade has left Baghdad and crossed the border into Kuwait on its way back to the United States.  But there are six brigades left in Iraq, still 56,000 troops whose mission officially changes on September 1st, from combat to advise-and-assist, but that's been going on. In fact we should note the 4-2 Stryker brigade that's gotten so much attention did not lose a single soldier to a combat death during its entire 12 months there.  So clearly the mission has been changing. I think it's sort of a case, if we could rephrase the great John Lennon song, it's not exactly peace, but all we are saying is give the non-combat-advise-and-assist mission a chance.
 
Diane Rehm: What about the contractors who were left behind? What kind of role will they play?
 
Thom Shanker: They will only have an increasing role.  When the American military officially ends its presence under the Status Of Forces Agreement at the end of next year, the State Dept takes over. We've already seen statistics. The State Dept will have to hire up to 7,000 security contractors to protect its 5 hardened sites across the country. The State Dept's looking at a security operations bill of a billion dollars once the American military leaves and, with it, helicopters, armored vehicles, security patrols. I don't think the American people understand the cost and extent of the commitment to sustain whatever progress has been made.
 
Diane Rehm: Laura Rozen, I don't get that the State Dept is going to be taking over the security measures.
 
Laura Rozen: Well that's actually the point the State Dept and Defense officials have been trying to make this past week is that, you know, in the effort to normalize the US-bilateral relationship with Iraq, the State Dept will be taking the lead from the Pentagon in managing US relations with Iraq. And they've actually been Defense Dept and State Dept officials going together to Congress to try to ask for the kind of appropriations Thom is talking about.  And the State appropriaters in Congress just aren't used to these 5, 6, 7 billion dollar appropriations requests from the State Dept. You know, they spent monthly, for the Pentagon in Iraq. So the Pentagon and the State Dept have been quite frustrated. They had to downsize a bit the US diplomatic presence that will be in Iraq over the next several years to five total diplomatic offics.
 
Diane Rehm: David Ignatius, I'm totally confused by this.
 
David Ignatius: Well welcome to Iraq.  You shouldn't imply that the State Dept is going to have responsibility for security. It won't. The contractors who will be coming in, many of them will be doing force-protection to protect these State Dept officers. They're not a military force. They need in today's Iraq people to travel with and keep them safe.  The problem is that Iraq is kind of now really excited about getting its sovereignty.  Excited but not all is efficacious in dealing with it. And the issue of contractors is a very, very prickly one for the Iraqis.  We've had incidents in which Blackwater people shot people up in downtown Baghdad. So it's a real problem. The State Dept is going to need people to protect them but the people doing the protecting may be very unpopular in Iraq.
 
Diane Rehm: Thom Shanker, what about training Iraqi soldiers?  Just before the brigade pulled out, you had Iraqi recruits killed in a suicide bombing.
 
Thom Shanker: That's exactly right, Diane.  Even though the overall violence levels are far, far below what they were at the worst of 2006, the insurgents and the militants are still capable of spectacular attacks. What's happening between September 1st when the Operation Iraqi Freedom, the invasion war plan, becomes Operation New Dawn, anadvise-andd assist mission for the Americans, 50,000 American military personnel that stay through the end  of next year are doing exactly what you said, Diane. They'll be training, advising, trying to make certain if they can that the Iraqi security forces can do it all once they leave at the end of 2011 unless, unless, the Iraqis ask for a continued American presence.
   
Diane Rehm: David.
 
David Ignatius: Diane, I think when we're talking about Iraq, we ought to just know the really sad point from the standpoint of view which is as the designated withdrawal of the last combat brigade happens, Iraq doesn't have a government yet.  Five months after the elections, if you want to put any kind of positive spin on this terrible, painful experience in Iraq it's that the US brought democratic elections, Iraq has elected a Parliament but that Parliament is frozen. In talking with an Iraqi friend of mine, who's part of the government, yesterday, he said they just don't see any way forward right now.  The administration here in Washington is working very hard to try to broker a deal between Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya faction -- he's a former prime minister -- and the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his State Of Law faction that would add a new position that presumably would be given to Allawi where he would run a national security council and have some security -- It's a kind of jury-rigged system for a country that can't make the positions its got already work in a functional manner, the idea of adding a whole new layer, strikes some people as crazy.  But that's the current administration plan for breaking the logjam.

Diane Rehm: And let us not forget that the US death toll -- the US death toll has been 4415 soldiers--  men, women.   And that does not even touch the Iraqi civilians who've been killed in the process.
 
Thom Shanker: That's exactly right to weave that point and the smart point that David just made.  I was having coffee with some smart army colonels yesterday at the Pentagon.  Officers who have had multiple tours in Iraq. They have made peace with the sacrfice of their colleagues and comrades because they are soldiers, they are patriots. They've made peace with the initial mission for the invasion: Weapons of Mass Destruction proving false. They've made peace with the under-resourcing of the war. But as the last combat troop leaves, as the 50,000 remaining advise-and-assist, what really troubles smart military officers is: Will the Iraqis take advantage of the great sacrifice of American blood and treasury that's made this possible? And as David so correctly said, that's the question mark today.
 .
I called out Matthew Rothschild, so we'll note of the above exchange a few points.  First off, Diane noted the US death toll and that was good.  That's one of the things she does best.  However, she then went into civilians.  Civilians?  Iraqis.  Iraqis.  No matter what you label them, they live in their own country.  This nonsense of a US death count but only an Iraqi civilian matters? Do we think the US military sent civilians into Iraq with guns? No, they sent a fighting force into a foreign country.  Iraqis who fought back an invasion and continue to fight it are defending their country.  And the history of Iraq will decide whether they are heroes or scoundrels.  But what they are right now is Iraqis and their deaths need to be counted regardless of whether they are civilian or 'insurgent,' regardless of whether they are civilian or military.  In fact, there's something really disgusting about the US trumpeting its own military death toll but repeatedly the White House (under Bush and under Barack) spins and the press runs with this idea that only Iraqi civilians deaths matter.  We count the US dead and we take that seriously -- the US military dead.  Why are Iraqi soldiers and police officers less important?  They're not. Again, I do not subscribe to these classifications which I find insulting (I do not believe Diane was trying to be insulting and this didn't originate with her) to the suffering of the Iraqi people.
 
The suffering of the Iraqi people.  This 'great gift' the US gave ("under false pretenses" as a listener e-mailed)?  It's really not a great gift.  You may show up at Sue's house with a juicer.  But Sue has a juicer already that she doesn't use and doesn't want.  You can go all over town telling people you gave Sue a great gift.  Actually, Sue, the one who received it, will determine whether it's a great gift or not. She's the one who will use it (or toss it).  The Iraqi people are not all in agreement on what the US 'gave.'  There feelings -- little explored in the press -- need to be taken into account.  I could go on and on but I'll leave it at that.  As noted, a listener brought up objections.  Thom Shanker responded but it is not his place -- does he not get this -- to hail what has happened in Iraq as "a truly historic opportunity".  Iraq may or may not want democracy.  That's why it hasn't taken root, pay attention, they haven't been allowed to decide.  The exiles have ruled over them, put in place by the US government.  It is not for Thom Shanker, an American citizen, to decide that what was done in Iraq is "a truly historic opportunity" for the Iraqis.  The Iraqis -- who are not being asked or reported on -- are the ones who will decide whether the alleged 'gift' is a good one or a bad one.  It's their country.  Do we not get that?  Democracy is self-determination.  They could determine tomorrow they want a dictator.  That would be a democratic move in making that decision if that's the choice they wanted to make.  It is not on the US to decide for the Iraqis.  Thom Shanker is a smart person and an often gifted reporter so it is very maddening that the objectivity that is such a hallmark of his reporting is out the window when he's talking about Iraq and its future -- its future, not his.  "I think we can all agree that democracy is better than dictatorship."  Who is "we"? Americans?  Yes, I suppose most Americans, having grown up in a democracy, are comfortable with it.  But democracy is not a one-size fits all nor, in fact, is it pret-a-porter.  It is not off-the-rack, one-size-fits-all.  Democracy is a garmet that fits you best because it has been designed to your needs and wants. Democracy requires input of the governed and the governed in Iraq are the voices no one is hearing from and the ones Shanker seems unaware of.  And, again, he's smart and often a gifted reporter. But democracy cannot be grafted it has to come from the people -- continued democracy stands no chance -- in any country, even the US -- without the consent of the people. As Jeremy R. Hammond notes a Foreign Policy Journal:
 
This view of "Many Iraqis" is offered a voice. The view of the majority, as indicated by public opinion surveys, however, is excluded. Back in December 2007, for instance (and there's little reason to think Iraqis' views have since reversed), the Post reported that "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S.military last month." The focus group's report stated that most Iraqis "would describe the negative elements of life in Iraq beginning with the 'U.S. occupation' in March 2003".
 
Last night on The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, video and audio), Judy Woodruff spoke to Margaret Warner (Warner was reporting from Iraq).  On violence, Warner noted the uptick and the concerns including: "And we went to see the sheik who is essentially the city council chairman. And I asked him the question you just asked me. And he said, you know, we really had a good handle on this. In 2008, he said, this was one of the safest cities in Anbar. And, in 2009, it was in good shape. But he said, in the last two-and-a-half months, he said that security is being breached, and they have had IED attacks. They have had attacks on police force members. He suspects some members of the police force of being involved."  Let's move over to Kenneth J. Theisen's "A Combat Brigade Leaves; U.S. War of Terror Against Iraq Continues" (World Can't Wait):
 
 The country is divided by sectarianism. Months after the election, Iraq's politicians can not agree on a government that will collaborate with the U.S. occupiers. Militias still function as independent military forces and are run by warlord politicians. Iran still controls or influences many of the various political factions that exist in the country, and that along with other disputes and contention with the U.S. imperialists, could lead to war between the U.S. and Iran. (Admiral Mike Mullen, one of the top U.S. military leaders, recently stressed that the military options are still on the table in regard to Iran.)                   
The bottom line is that Thursday's withdrawal of the "combat" brigade is not a "historic moment." It is just one more piece of propaganda and one more step in the continuing U.S. war of terror. In addition to the tens of thousands of troops still in Iraq, tens of thousands of others are nearby either in other Middle East bases or in the waters near Iraq on nuclear task forces. If the U.S. needs to do so it can rapidly reintroduce combat forces within days.
 
The Iraq War is not over, despite claims by what Michael R. Gordon has termed the "electronic media." It's a nice photo-op, it's just not reality.  Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (link has text and video), Couric (in Afghanistan) spoke with one-time top commander in Iraq (replaced by Gen Ray Odierno) Gen David Petreaus.
 

 
Katie Couric: Having been in Iraq with you, I have to ask you now that the combat troops are leaving Iraq, is this the right time? I mean you have an uptick in violence -- 61 recruits were killed -- lots wounded. No clearly formed government. The head of Iraqi military says it won't be until 2020 until they can really provide security for the country. Is this a success?


Gen David Petraeus: Well, first of all we are not leaving. There are 50,000 U.S. troops that are remaining in Iraq albeit in a support role rather than in a -- a leading combat role. But that's an enormous capability.
 
Lauren Seifert (CBS News) reports on CBS' Juan Zarate's comments to Bob Orr today on Washington Unplugged (the link has text and the option to stream CBS' online program):
 
"For me there are two unanswered questions," he added. "One, for the United States, where are we taking this; we're supposed to be drawing down all of our troops come 2011. I think that question is going be up in the air depending on what happening on the ground in Iraq."               
"Secondly, I've got a question as to how the president and this administration will portray Iraq and our policy in Iraq," Zarate said. "The President is in a tough position. He didn't like the war, he opposed it, he talked about withdrawing but he's the American president, how does he portray what it was that we sacrificed and did in Iraq at the end of the day."
 
Meanwhile there is the political stalemate. Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) goes to Brooking Institution voices for feedback and Ken Pollack states of the militarization of diplomacy, "What the State Department is being asked to do is not in their DNA" and "Michael O'Hanlon, a military affairs scholar also at Brookings in Washington, says he actually sees three transitions going on in Iraq, making for a particularly difficult moment in the country. In addition to the US military-to-civilian shift and the Iraqi stalemate over forming a new government, he says the top tier of US leadership in Iraq has changed all at once." Rebekah Mintzer (Xinhua) speaks to NYU professor Patricia DeGennaro, "DeGennaro said she sees the current lack of a national government as 'hurting the country as a whole in the long run,' but does not believe that recent events will change the U.S. established timetable for withdrawal. She stressed that the United States is maintaining some troops in Iraq until the end of 2011 in order to continue to train Iraqis to deal with insurgent attacks and other violent incidents."
 
 
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 12 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

Voted? Reuters reports that the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission had a death -- an employee was discovered dead from gunshots, his corpse hidden in a Baghdad car and they note a Baghdad roadside bombing killed 2 people (six more injured).
 
Those deaths are reality.  Reality isn't that the US is down to 50,000 troops. RTT News reports the Defense Dept puts the number at 52,000 currently. Frank James (NPR's The Two-Way blog) notes that combat brigades remain in Iraq.  In the spin cycle passing for a news cycle, we're not only seeing media deceptions, we're seeing the emergence of self-deceptions and that's really important to grasp.

Vietnam was not judged a 'success' or 'good thing' or any such during the final years of war or immediately after. What happened? Jane Fonda explained explained in the amazing documentary Sir! No Sir!, "You know, people say, 'Well you keep going back, why are you going back to Vietnam?' We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."

And that is how revisionary history works. A people are in agreement largely but a faction continues to pollute the public square with distortions and misinformation. It's how we end up with a pathetic Barack Obama repeatedly distorting that time period -- please note, a time period that he loves to whine "I was only 8 years old!" about when asked to explain his one-time friendship with Bill Ayers (Bill was drop-kicked under the bus) but he wants to lie repeatedly about Vietnam. And he gets away with it because people don't want to go back. So he's lied about veterans being physically spit on as they returned to the US, he's lied about them being shunned by the public (the government shunned them, the public never did -- whether they were pro-war, anti-war, or apolitical).

It's really something to see and amazing to watch people fail to call him out. Even George W. Bush pulling this nonsense was considered newsworthy. August 22, 2007, Bully Boy Bush spoke to the VFW and, as Jim Rutenberg, Sheryl Gay Stolber, Mark Mazzetti, Damien Cave and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) observed: "With his comments Mr. Bush was doing something few major politicians of either party have done in a generation: rearguing a conflict that ended more than three decades ago but has remained an emotional touch point." As Jane said, "We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."

It's probably not going to be different with the Iraq War. And that may surprise you if you didn't live through the Vietnam period. How could it ever change? A number of reasons but mainly because the War Hawks will invent a new hypothesis, test it out, if it has some form of acceptance, they will begin selling it repeatedly. They will sell many such claims, often all in contradiction with one another, muddying the water, confusing the facts and, in less than ten years after the illegal war ends (it hasn't ended yet), you'll have a large number of people unaware how massive opposition to the Iraq War was.

At Gallup, Jeffrey M. Jones breaks down the latest poll on the Iraq War (1,013 respondents, poll taken from August 5th through 8th, margin of error +/-4%):

More Americans believe history will judge the Iraq war as a failure (53%) rather than a success (42%). These views have varied little over the past few years even as Americans have become more positive in their assessments of how the war is going.
To a large degree, Americans' predictions on how history will judge the war mirror their basic support for the war -- 55% say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, while 41% disagree. War opposition has eased only slightly in recent years from a high of 63% in April 2008.

The Associated Press and GfK Roper Public Affairs published a [PDF format warning] poll today. 1,007 respondents, surveyed from August 11th through 16th, with a +/- 4.5% percent margine of error.  31% "favor" the Iraq War, 65% "oppose" the Iraq War.  3% need to be called in a few years because they're not sure how they feel.  The respondents identified themselves most often as "conservative" (41%), second highest self-designation was "moderate" (33%) and "liberal" followed that (25%).  (2% aren't sure what they are.)
Those numbers will not change significantly . . . for those who lived through it. That's true of the Vietnam era as well. The War Hawks can't trick the ones who lived through it. But that's not what they're about. They're about tricking future generations, they're about lying and rewriting history. Because the lessons and Vietnam and Iraq are very similar: Want to go war, then you better lie to the people.

That's not the message the War Hawks want passed around and imparted to future generations. So they try to hide behind service members and act as if they're speaking on their behalf when all they're doing is attempting to free the government to start more wars based on lies, to trick and deceive the American people and to send more people (on all sides) into early graves.

If you're reading this in 2010, our numbers will stay the same. We're not the target for the revisionary history. It's the future generations that are the targets. If Vietnam and Iraq can't be revised into 'good wars,' if the facts can't be left out, then generations can grow up knowing that their government has lied in the past and, patterns hold, will lie again in the future. Future generations will know to strongly question assertions made by elected officials allegedly acting on behalf of the American people's best interests. And that's what War Hawks, and their strong streak of authoritarianism, can't tolerate.  For more on current feelings about the Iraq War, see The Takeaway's listener feedback page.
 
Today the Defense Dept issued the following release on Army suicides:
 
The Army released suicide data today for the month of July.  Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides:  three were confirmed as suicides, and nine remain under investigation.  For June, the Army reported 21 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers.  Since the release of that report, 10 have been confirmed as suicides, and 11 remain under investigation.   
            During July 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides.  For June, among that same group, there were 11 suicides.  Of those, five were confirmed as suicides and six are pending determination of the manner of death.
            "Suicide prevention is much more than thwarting that last final act of desperation.  It is increasing awareness and education in order to preclude members of the Army family from ever getting to the point where suicide might be considered an alternative to asking for help," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.
            "The Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report released last month is the result of a 15-month effort to better understand high-risk behavior and suicides in the Army.  The report is intended to inform and educate on the importance of recognizing and reducing high-risk behavior related to suicide and accidental death, and reducing the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health treatment," Philbrick said.             
            Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center.  Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
            The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com.  Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location. 
            The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp.       
            Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at:            http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf.       
            Suicide prevention training resources for Army Families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20. (Requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials.)
            The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil.   
            Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf.   
            American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:  http://www.afsp.org
            Suicide Prevention Resource Council:  http://www.sprc.org/index.asp
 
Remember that the military's suicide hotline is 1-800-273-TALK.  And the National US Suicide Hotline (for anyone in the US not just those serving or veterans but veterans and those serving who are not comfortable for whatever reason with calling the military's suicide hotline can use this as well) is 1-800-448-3000.
 
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Helene Cooper (New York Times), Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "An Unplanned Aberration: A peek behind the curtain at the PBS NewsHour." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Melinda Henneberger, US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton and Princella Smith on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion of marriage equality re: California verdict. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcasts Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and they examine religious history (lower Manhattan) and Iraq as well as speak with author Gary Shteyngart. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:


The Blowout
Scott Pelley investigates the explosion that killed 11, causing the oil leak in the waters off of Louisiana, and speaks to one of the oil rig platform crew survivors who was in a position to know what caused the disaster and how it could have been prevented. | Watch Video


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

The Russian Is Coming
Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his purchase of the N.J. Nets basketball team, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video


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

60 Minutes, Sunday, August 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.



 

 

:: Article nr. 69056 sent on 22-aug-2010 16:36 ECT


www.uruknet.info?p=69056

Link: thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_20.html

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« Reply #57 on: August 23, 2010, 07:49:49 am »

A glimpse of the Iraq I knew

by Hussein Anwar

http://uruknet.info/?p=m69070&hd=&size=1&l=e

August 22, 2010

This is a small glimpse of the Baghdad and Iraq I knew throughout my youth...

The 70s and 80s are considered by many the golden age of Iraq, peace existed among people even though there was political instability and later the Iraq-Iran war. When I was 17 turning to 18 before moving to Baghdad...life in DiIyala was simple with the villagers and farmers, people were more generious even if they dont know you, you can stop by a stranger and ask him for directions and he will insist on receiving you as a guest even if he had only bread and cheese at his home, even if they were poor. people were more of the type that puts good intentions first, not suspicious, social, there was green land, there were farmers who took joy in planting there land, sleeping early and waking up early for salat and then to work. life outside Baghdad among simple people was very enjoyable and entertaining even if it was just in a tent with fire and arabic coffee and a long night of conversation.

Baghdad was different, MY Baghdad was a beauty, the nightlife of Baghdad was very beautiful and active, just like Cairo and Alexandria I hear. people were classy, restaurants, clubs, social clubs, light everywhere, and even the cosmopolitan areas were beautiful, coffee shops everywhere the traditional ones, you can find a man with a single table on the side walk grilling lamb or pigeons...that is what he does for a living, and yet it is delicious food. nice words were on the tongues of many people, my dear, my brother, my sister, my father, my uncle, thank you, ure welcome, god bless you, may you see peace in your life, allah ywafqak...etc to strangers.

You can have a million dollars in a bag and sleep in the street and no one will ask you what are you doing or what do you have in your bag. life was easy, with 600 dollars a month even during the 80s you would live as a sultan or a queen, 600 equivalent to 200 dinars at the time. people were really happy, people were relaxed, health insurance good, food is cheap, education for free, soldiers fought well because they know if they died...there is a government that will not forget his family and still secure a decent respectable life for them.

Relationship with neighbors was just so amazing, so pure, so built on love and mutual respect whether you are muslim, christian, saibian, kurdish and even jewish etc religion was not an issue, money was not an issue, hatred among people did not exist, we all loved one another like our own families. even alcoholic people had ethics, they would not harass you in the street or something of that sort, people generally had a sens of embarrassment and shyness.

The smell of Baghdad in the morning was just so pure, a smell that I cant describe for you, a smell of pure air before the first car in baghdad was driving in the streets, at dawn I mean, you find people happily going to work, even cleaners in the street. birds in the sky, oh my God Baghdad's sky was never ever empty from pigeon floks, in Baghdad at night...there was always something to do whether you are young or old. There was peace, there was love, there was honesty...

Prostitution was a taboo, even though it existed but it was a taboo, brothels were very very limited that they were known to people, there was not many corruption in Iraq, people got shocked easily by a drunk man or a man with a prostitute in a car, parties where hookers came were done with silence and privacy, on the suburbs of Baghdad, people were very respectable, you find conservative women and liberal women, but a **** in the streets of Baghdad was something unusual, people will find it a blasphemy, theft was not an issue, if a thief broke into a house in Baghdad...you will hear all Baghdad talking about it next morning.

Let alone the river banks, oh they were so beautiful, coffees and restaurants scattered on the river banks, lights everywhere, everyone minding his own business, no one bothers another, people will stay coming and going till the early morning, you always find fisher men in the rivers and behind them the beautiful view of hundreds of palm trees, a typical view of Iraq. there was a life in Iraq...people had a life...now it is no longer there thanks to the Americans, Israelis, Iranians and unwise political decisions from my Baathist government.

This was my Iraq, this was the Iraq my president built. I went once with President Saddam Hussein to a friends house (his friend) this was two months before the Iraq-Iran war broke, as he left the house, holding his friend from his hands, he looked at the sky and told him:

"Ahmed...do you see this Baghdad of ours? I swear I will make a beautiful piece of Baghdad that the entire world will talk about, this is my Baghdad, I will build it and make it the most beautiful city on the face of the earth."

As for me how I became so aware of the internet, blogging and twitter. two years ago I only learned how to log in and read my email, I looked down at myself when I called my son asking him how to do this and how to do that, one day I was reading the news paper early in the morning and saw an advertisement for a 6 months teaching course, teaching about windows, the internet, websites etc, so I registered, and bit by bit I learned, it wasent easy for me in the beginning because there were lots of buttons on the screen, many places to go to etc, I was confused for a man my age, plus I was very slow trying to find my way on the keyboard.

My son suggested that if I like writing, why dont I register for a blog? I did not know what a blog is, I though if I wanted my own space...I though I had to purchase it just like any website, he showed me where and he showed me how, and the good thing about me is I like to explore, I click on a button even if I dont know what it is, then there was this fashion of facebook and twitter and I also explored them.

All through my life I hanged around with people of different ages, I even went out with people younger than me15 years or so even 20. I have this belief that if you socialize with young people constantly you will remain young at heart and flamboyant, and if you are young and hang around with old people...eventually you will feel an old cripple.

I may be an old man, even though my health is good alhamdulilah, but I remain young at heart, that is why I dont get along with some of the men my age, not all but some. Plus...I have a western side of me and some typical arabs my age dont like that.

Tres Romantique...




 
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« Reply #58 on: August 23, 2010, 09:44:21 am »

The King of Iraq


As U.S. troops leave the country, one man stands to benefit above all: Moqtada al-Sadr.


BY BABAK DEHGHANPISHEH | AUGUST 20, 2010
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/08/20/the_king_of_iraq


It would be hard to imagine a more unlikely meeting. Late in July, the tempestuous Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr traveled to Damascus from Iran, where he's been living in exile for the past three years. The trip looked at first to be a routine photo-op for Sadr and Syrian President Bashar Assad. That is, until Sadr met with Ayad Allawi, a top contender for the prime minister post in Iraq and one of the cleric's sworn enemies. Their mutual enmity dates back to a showdown in the holy city of Najaf in the summer of 2004. Sadr's Mahdi Army fighters had taken over the city and were using the Imam Ali shrine, one of the holiest sites for Shiites, as a base of operations. Allawi, who was interim prime minister at the time, gave American and Iraqi troops the green light to take them out, killing dozens of Mahdi militiamen in the process.



So it was no small thing for the two to meet in person. And they didn't just talk; they were laughing and hamming it up as if they were the best of friends. The photos and video footage from that meeting are some of the only public examples of Sadr smiling (the more common profile is a scowling Sadr, wrapped in a white martyr's shroud, pounding a pulpit). Sadr had good reason to be happy: He now holds the fate of his one-time enemy in his hands.

Sadr -- feared by some, reviled by others and revered by a broad swath of Iraq's urban poor -- is now a kingmaker in Iraqi politics. It's a role that Sadr, the scion of a prominent clerical family, has been building toward since 2003. Immediately after the U.S. invasion, thousands of his supporters packed the dusty streets of Baghdad's Saddam City neighborhood (later renamed Sadr City) for Friday prayers week after week. Sadr rallied their ranks around his parliamentary list in the 2005 elections, making a strong showing, and then used his political clout to help push Nouri al-Maliki into the prime minister slot in 2006. But the friendship didn't last: Sadr bitterly split from Maliki when the latter allowed American troops to attack his militia members. Depending on whom you ask, Sadr either sensed he was next to be targeted and fled to Iran or was convinced of that fact by Iranian officials, who urged Sadr to leave for his own safety. Now, as U.S. troops withdraw and negotiations are underway in Baghdad to form a new government, Sadr may be planning his return. If he does, he will no doubt face jubilant crowds once again.

Sadr's political comeback was the result of careful and deliberate planning. More than a year before the elections in March, Sadr and his top aides set up an election strategy committee they dubbed the "machine." The goal was to game the electoral system as best as they could. A team of seven pored over the election law, dissected district maps, and built an extensive database of voters in every province. In the end, Sadr's Free Movement party won 39 seats in parliament, giving his followers a decisive vote within the National Iraqi Alliance, the dominant Shiite bloc of which they are part. And that's exactly why Allawi shuttled to Damascus for the meeting: He needs Sadr if he hopes to become prime minister.


It would be easy to write off Sadr's electoral success as a fluke. But the reality is that the cleric's brand of religious nationalism, coupled with his carefully cultivated image as the defender of the Shiite community, has struck a deep chord with tens of thousands of Iraqis. Moreover, he's got the one thing that his rivals don't: "street cred." Sadr can, rightfully, claim that his movement is one of the few on the Iraqi political scene that's homegrown. Compare this to the Sadrists' top rivals in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). For years, they've tried to fight the image that they were brought in on American tanks and are beholden to both Washington and Tehran,  even changing their name because the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq sounded too Iranian. They tried appropriating the image of Iraq's most senior cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, to woo more supporters (there are still posters up around Baghdad showing the late ISCI leaders Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Hakim and Abdul Aziz Hakim beside Sistani). Nothing worked. ISCI got wiped out at the polls in March and also had a pretty dismal showing during provincial elections last year.

The Sadrists, by contrast, aren't going anywhere -- which puts Washington, among others, in a bind. Sadr's supporters are more than just a political party. The cleric is clearly following the Hezbollah model, creating a populist political movement backed by a battle-hardened militia. The language Sadr uses when discussing the U.S. presence in Iraq -- resistance, occupation, martyrdom -- could easily have been taken from a speech by Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah. All this has discouraged U.S. officials from holding talks with Sadr -- something they've never done since 2003. It's not exactly like Sadr has gone out of his way to open up a dialogue, either. In fact, Sadr and many of his top aides have made it clear that the Mahdi Army won't disarm as long as there are American troops on Iraqi soil.

So what does Sadr want? One issue that has come up again and again in the negotiations to form the government is detainees. In a recent interview with Al Jazeera, Sadr estimated that there are as many as 2,000 detainees linked to his movement, most swept up in U.S. operations in 2007 and 2008, whom he would like to see released. The cleric has claimed that he doesn't want to mix the issue of detainees with the negotiations to form the government, but representatives from major political blocs who have held talks with the Sadrists dispute that claim, noting that Sadr has blasted Maliki for holding the prisoners and withheld his support. No doubt whichever candidate Sadr ultimately backs for the premiership will have to make major concessions on the detainees. He may also have to promise to lay off the Mahdi Army.


But the detainees are only a short-term bargaining chip. What Sadr is after is power itself -- and if his past record is any indication, he won't be shy about using it. There are any number of issues he could block or help push through parliament. Sadr has previously butted heads with Kurdish groups about the final status of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that the Kurds claim as their capital. He is a proponent of putting oil revenues under central government control, a position at odds with the Kurds as well as some rival Shiite groups, such as ISCI. Women's rights groups have already voiced strong concerns that the Sadrists could block their attempts to reform laws that cover property ownership, divorce, and child custody. Some even fear that Mahdi fighters will again target women's rights activists, as they did in Basra in 2007 and 2008.

Sadr's ambitions don't cover Iraq's domestic agenda alone. His high-profile trips to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere indicate that he wants to be seen as a prominent regional player. He would like to promote his Mahdi Army as a member of the so-called "axis of resistance" made up by Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which have made their names by confronting the United States and Israel.

For now, Sadr is undoubtedly pleased by his opportunity to have a key vote in who becomes the next prime minister. And it's hard to miss the irony from a man who has built his image on being among the people. He's not casting that vote from Baghdad, where he could rally millions of supporters, but from a comfortable perch hundreds of miles away in neighboring Iran.
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« Reply #60 on: August 24, 2010, 06:21:39 am »

Middle East
Aug 25, 2010 
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LH25Ak01.html 
 
US troops marching out - or are they?

By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - When the Barack Obama administration unveiled its plan last week for an improvised State Department-controlled army of contractors to replace all US combat troops in Iraq by the end of 2011, critics associated with the US command attacked the transition plan, insisting that the United States must continue to assume that US combat forces should and can remain in Iraq indefinitely.

And indeed, all indications are that the administration expects to renegotiate the security agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a post-2011 combat presence of up to 10,000 troops, once a new government is formed in Baghdad.

However, Obama, fearing a backlash from anti-war voters in the Democratic Party who have already become disenchanted with him over Afghanistan, is trying to play down that possibility. Instead, the White House is trying to reassure its anti-war base that the US military role in Iraq is coming to an end.

An unnamed administration official who favors a longer-term presence in Iraq suggested to New York Times correspondent Michael Gordon last week that the administration's refusal to openly refer to plans for such a US combat force in Iraq beyond 2011 hinges on its concern about the coming congressional elections and wariness about the continuing Iraqi negotiations on a new government.

Vice President Joe Biden said in an address prepared for delivery on Monday that it would take a "complete failure" of Iraqi security forces to prompt the United States to resume combat.

Obama referred to what he called "a transitional force" in his speech on August 2, pledging that it would remain "until we remove all our troops from Iraq by the end of the next year".

He also declared an end to the US "combat mission" in Iraq as of August 31. But an official acknowledged to Inter Press Service that combat would continue and would not necessarily be confined to defending against attacks on US personnel.

The administration decided on the transition from military to civilian responsibility for security at an inter-agency meeting in the week of July 19. It made the broad outlines of the plan public at an August 16 State Department news briefing and another briefing the following day, even though crucial details had not been worked out.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Middle Eastern Affairs Colin Kahl and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Michael Corbin presented the administration plan for what they called a "transition from a military to civilian relationship" with Iraq.

The plan involves replacing the official US military presence in Iraq with a much smaller State Department-run force of private security contractors. Press reports have indicated that the force will number several thousand, and that it is seeking 29 helicopters, 60 improvised explosive device-proof personnel carriers and a fleet of 1,320 armored cars.

The contractor force would also operate radars so it could call in air strikes and fly reconnaissance drones, according to the New York Times on August 21.

Kahl argued that the transition was justified by security trends in Iraq. He said al-Qaeda was "weaker than it's ever been", that Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army had been "largely disbanded", and that there was no strategic threat to the regime.

That provoked predictable criticism from those whose careers have become linked to the fate of the US military in Iraq and who continue to view the United States as having enormous power to decide the fate of the country.

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution, a frequent visitor to Iraq at the invitation of General David Petraeus and his successor General Ray Odierno, dismissed the idea of giving the former US military role in Iraq to the State Department and said Kahl's assessment of security trends was far too optimistic.

Some officials were talking "as if we're on the five-yard line," Pollack told the Christian Science Monitor. "We're on more like the 40 - and it's probably our 40."

Pollack argued that the US had great influence in Iraq, which it must use for "persuading" Iraqi leaders to do various things. If the US troop presence ended in 2011, he argued, that US power would suffer.

Other variants of that argument were offered by Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, both of whom have been frequent guests of the US command in Iraq and who have generally hewed to the military view of Iraq policy.

Former ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who shared the media spotlight and adulation of the US Congress with Petraeus in 2007-2009 before retiring from the Foreign Service, opined that the military needed to keep enough presence in Iraq to encourage Iraq's generals to stay out of politics.

The real position of the administration over the issue is not much different from that of its critics, however. In answer to a question after a briefing on August 17, Kahl said, "We're not going to abandon them. We're in this for the long term."

Then Kahl observed, "Iraq is not going to need tens of thousands of [American] forces." That is consistent with the figure of 5,000 to 10,000 being called for by the military, according to the administration official quoted in New York Times on August 18.

At another point, Kahl said, "We'll just have to see what the Iraqi government will do," adding that the "vast majority of political actors in Iraq want a long-term partnership with the United States".

It is been generally assumed among US officers and diplomats and the Iraqi officials with whom they talk that once a new Iraqi government is agreed on, it will begin talks on a longer-term US troop presence, as former National Security Council official Brett H McGurk told the New York Times last month.

At a Pentagon press conference on February 22, Odierno, US overall commander in Iraq, referred to the purchase by the Iraqi government of "significant amounts of military material from the United States", including M1A1 tanks and helicopters.

Odierno said he expected it would require a "small contingent" to "train and advise" the Iraqis. That formula implicitly anticipated a continuation of the US combat presence in the guise of "advisory and assistance" units.

But the administration apparently made it clear to Odierno and others that they were not to contradict the administration's public posture that US troops were being withdrawn by the end of 2011.

During the inter-agency meeting that adopted the Obama administration transition plan, Odierno told reporters at a breakfast meeting on July 21 he expected US troops to be down to zero by the end of 2011.

Meanwhile, the Nuri al-Maliki government is not admitting publicly that it would consider such an extension of the US troop presence. A spokesman for Maliki said on August 12 there were alternatives to keeping US troops in the country, such as signing "non-aggression and non- interference pacts" with neighbors.

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

(Inter Press Service) 
 
 
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« Reply #61 on: August 24, 2010, 06:24:37 am »

Middle East
Aug 25, 2010 
http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/LH25Ak02.html 
 
A homecoming parade of Iraq war truths

By Ramzy Baroud

The soldiers of the US 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division hollered as they made their way into Kuwait. "We won," they claimed. "It’s over."

But what exactly did they win?

And is the war really over?

It seems we are once again walking into the same trap, the same nonsensical assumptions of wars won, missions accomplished, troops withdrawn, and jolly soldiers carrying cardboard signs of heart-warming messages like "Lindsay & Austin ... Dad’s coming home."

While much of the media is focused on the logistics of the misleading withdrawal of the "last combat brigade" from Iraq on August 19 - some accentuating the fact that the withdrawal is happening two weeks ahead of the August 31 deadline - most of us are guilty of forgetting Iraq and its people. When the economy began to take center stage, we completely dropped the war off our list of grievances.

But this is not about memory, or a way of honoring the dead and feeling compassion for the living. Forgetting wars leads to a complete polarization of discourses, thus allowing the crafters of war to sell the public whatever suits their interests and stratagems.

In an August 22 Washington Post article entitled "Five myths about the Iraq troop withdrawal", Kenneth M Pollack unravels the first "myth": "As of this month, the United States no longer has combat troops in Iran." Pollack claims this idea is "not even close" because "roughly 50,000 American military personnel remain in Iraq, and the majority are still combat troops - they're just named something else. The major units still in Iraq will no longer be called "brigade combat teams" and instead will be called "advisory and assistance brigades". But a rose by any other name is still a rose, and the differences in brigade structure and personnel are minimal.

So what if the US army downgrades its military presence in Iraq and re-labels over 50,000 remaining soldiers? Will the US military now stop chasing after perceived terrorist threats? Will it concede an inch of its unchallenged control over Iraqi skies? Will it relinquish power over the country’s self-serving political elite? Will it give up its influence over every relevant aspect of life in the country, from the now autonomous Kurdish region in the north all the way to the border with Kuwait in the south, which the jubilant soldiers crossed while hollering the shrieks of victory?

The Iraq war has been one of the most well-controlled wars the US has ever fought, in terms of its language and discourse. Even those opposed to the war tend to be misguided as to their reasons: "Iraqis need to take charge of their own country"; "Iraq is a sectarian society and America cannot rectify that"; "It is not possible to create a Western-style democracy in Iraq"; "It’s a good thing Saddam Hussein was taken down, but the US should have left straight after". These ideas might be described as "anti-war", but they are all based on fallacious assumptions that were fed to us by the same recycled official and media rhetoric.

It’s no wonder that the so-called anti-war movement waned significantly after the election of President Barack Obama. The new president merely shifted military priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan. His government is now re-branding the Iraq war, although maintaining the interventionist spirit behind it. It makes perfect sense that the US State Department is now the one in charge of the future mission in Iraq. The occupation of Iraq, while it promises much violence and blood, is now a political scheme. It requires good public relations.

The State Department will now supervise future violence in Iraq, which is likely to increase in coming months due to the ongoing political standoff and heightened sectarian divisions. An attack blamed on al-Qaeda in an Iraqi army recruitment center on August 17 claimed 61 lives and wounded many. "Iraqi officials say July saw the deaths of more than 500 people, including 396 civilians, making it the deadliest month for more than two years," reported Robert Tait in Radio Free Europe.

Since the March elections, Iraq has had no government. The political rift in the country, even among the ruling Shi'ite groups, is large and widening. The disaffected Sunnis have been humiliated and collectively abused because of the misguided claim that they were favored by Saddam. Hate is brewing and the country’s internal affairs are being handled jointly by some of the most corrupt politicians the world has ever known.

Washington understands that it needs to deliver on some of Obama’s many campaign promises before the November elections. Thus the re-branding campaign, which could hide the fact that the US has no real intention of removing itself from the Iraq’s military or political milieus. But since the current number of military personnel might not be enough to handle the deepening security chaos in the country, the new caretakers at the State Department are playing with numbers.

"State Department spokesman P J Crowley said [a] plan would bring to some 7,000 the total security contractors employed by the government in Iraq, where since the 2003 US invasion private security firms have often been accused of acting above the law," according to Reuters.

It’s important that we understand the number game is just a game. Many colonial powers in the past controlled their colonies through the use of local forces and minimal direct involvement. Those of us oppose the Iraq war should do so based on the guiding principle that foreign invasions, occupations and interventions in sovereign countries’ affairs are a direct violation of international law. It is precisely the interventionist mindset that must be confronted, challenged, and rejected.

While it is a good thing that that thousands of American dads are now coming home, we must also remember that hundreds of thousands of Iraqi moms and dads never did. Millions of refugees from the US-led invasion are still circling the country and the Middle East.

War is not about numbers and dates. It’s about people, their rights, their freedom and their future. Re-branding the army and the war will provide none of this for grief-stricken and vulnerable Iraqis.

The fact is, no one has won this war. And the occupation is anything but over.

Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

 
 
 
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« Reply #62 on: August 24, 2010, 09:28:11 am »

59 Killed, 100 Wounded in Iraq Army Recruitment Centre Attack
 
 
24/08/2010 10:29:54 AM GMT     
 
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/59-Killed-100-Wounded-in-Iraq-Army-Recruitment-Ce.html

 
A suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded army recruitment centre in Baghdad killing 59 people Tuesday, officials said. The attack, the deadliest this year, wounded at least another 100 people and came a day after Iraq's two main political parties suspended talks over the formation of a new government five months on from elections, and as the US withdraws thousands of its soldiers from the country.
   
"We have received 59 corpses this morning," an official at Baghdad morgue said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A doctor at Medical City hospital, close to the scene of the attack, said they had so far received 125 wounded.
   
The bomber blew himself up around 7:30 am (0430 GMT) at the centre, a former ministry of defense building that now houses a local security command, in the Baab al-Muatham neighborhood of central Baghdad. An interior ministry official said the majority of the victims were army recruits but that some soldiers who were protecting the recruitment centre compound were also among the casualties.
 
Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area following the attack, and security was stepped up across the capital, leading to traffic gridlock during the morning rush hour.
   
Also on Tuesday, two separate bomb attacks against judges in Baghdad and the central city of Baquba left four of them wounded, security officials said. The recruitment centre explosion was the bloodiest single attack in Iraq since December 8, when a series of coordinated blasts in the capital killed 127 people.
 
Iraq is mired in a political stalemate, with the winner of its March election breaking off talks with his main rival Monday evening, dampening already faint hopes that a government could be formed before the holy month of Ramadan ends in the middle of September.
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Source: Al Manar
 
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« Reply #63 on: August 24, 2010, 11:27:53 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 23, 2010


The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_23.html


Monday, August 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continues, the US military announced another death on Sunday, Joe Biden serves up a course in creative speaking, Margaret Hassan's killer has escaped from an Iraqi prison,  Ayad Allawi tells Vladimir Putin that the US wants Iran's approval of any Iraqi government, Medea Benjamin tangles with Blackwater and more.
 
The Hindu explains, "Over 50,000 U.S. troops are to remain in Iraq, and their numbers could rise to 70,000. They will be called 'Advise and Assist brigades'; they have warplanes and helicopters and will accompany Iraqi troops into combat. The U.S. also has several big, effectively permanent military bases in Iraq; and intends to maintain about 200,000 mercenaries as 'protectors' of western business and other interests across the country." Before we get to anything else, we need to grasp that reality.  A lot of spin was spun today.
 
 
In the United States this morning, Vice President Joe Biden gave a very strange speech.  Matt Negrin (Politico) has the money quote if not the analytical ability to realize what he has: "Don't buy into 'we have failed in Afghanistan.' We are now only beginning, with the right general and the right number of forces, to seek our objectives."  Anyone see the problem?  That's a swipe on Stanley McChrystal.  So McChrystal was the wrong general?  Well darn that Bully Boy Bush for putting McChrystal in charge of Afghanistan.  Oh wait, McChrystal was Barack's choice.  Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post), June 3, 2009: "Army Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, President Obama's choice to lead the war in Afghanistan, said yesterday that violence and combat deaths will intensify as more U.S. troops surge into Taliban-held areas, but he vowed to execute a "holistic" strategy in which killing insurgents would be subordinate to safeguarding Afghan civilians. McChrystal, a former Special Operations commander, pledged that if confirmed he will take extreme measures to avoid Afghan civilian casualties -- a problem that has long tarnished the U.S.-led military campaign -- putting civilians at risk only when necessary to save the lives of coalition troops."  So Barack's been overseeing a war for how long?  He chose the wrong general and it took him how long to realize that?
 
Biden was there to talk about Iraq and, though he knows better, he gave the usual sap and sop.  Instead of talking about how the service members should have the public's 'gratitude,' he should have offered the government's sympathy for sending them off to fight an illegal war and a war built on lies.  Joe was in crowd pleaser mode and nothing he said matched with the facts.
 
"You would not recognize the country today!" he insisted.  As proof he pointed to the ethnic cleansing/civil war of 2006 and 2007.  That would be the ethnic cleansing which created the Iraqi refugee crisis.  After you create 4.1 million refugees (higher by some estimates), you would see less violence but, of course, the thugs need someone new to target and it's a damn shame, A DAMN SHAME, that neither Joe Biden or Barack Obama has said one damn word about the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community.  It is as shameful as the long silence Ronald Reagan had on AIDS and they -- Joe and Barack -- better accept how ugly this will look historically on their record.  The LGBT community targeted and they never said a word.
 
On the t hetargeting, at Huffington Post, Jennifer Utz notes:
 
Last October, New York Magazine published a horrifying article about the persecution of gays in Iraq. The article describes men presumed to be homosexuals being hunted down, tortured, and shot dead at close range. The militias that commit these horrific acts often leave the bodies on the side of the road, with the word "PERVERT" taped to their chests.                     
But an even more brutal method of torture and murder has been adopted. Militias use super glue to close the men's anuses, and then force them to drink a fluid that induces diarrhea, causing them to explode from the inside.                       
As a filmmaker, I spent eight months living in Syria documenting the lives of gay Iraqi men.                     
One of them, a 24 year-old, left his Baghdad home after a note arrived on his front door reading "If your gay son doesn't leave the country, we'll kill the whole family." He told me he considered himself lucky -- "at least they warned me."                               
 
Jennifer Utz has started Iraqi Refugee Stories to tell the stories of the world's largest refugee crisis.  Joe Biden heaped praise on the drawdown of 'combat troops' and declared this morning, of Iraq's security forces, that they "are 650,000 strong and already leading the way to defend and protect their country."  Robert Fisk (Independent of London via ZNet) observes:
 
 
So we should not be taken in by the tomfoolery on the Kuwaiti border in the last few hours, the departure of the last "combat" troops from Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule. Nor by the infantile cries of "We won" from teenage soldiers, some of whom must have been 12-years-old when George W Bush sent his army off on this catastrophic Iraqi adventure. They are leaving behind 50,000 men and women - a third of the entire US occupation force - who will be attacked and who will still have to fight against the insurgency.           

Yes, officially they are there to train the gunmen and militiamen and the poorest of the poor who have joined the new Iraqi army, whose own commander does not believe they will be ready to defend their country until 2020. But they will still be in occupation - for surely one of the "American interests" they must defend is their own presence - along with the thousands of armed and indisciplined mercenaries, western and eastern, who are shooting their way around Iraq to safeguard our precious western diplomats and businessmen. So say it out loud: we are not leaving.

 

Defend and protect their country?  They don't even have the capabilities to secure their own borders which is, traditionally speaking, the first measure of a nation-state's level of security.  (For those in doubt, look to Greece.)  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that attempts are being made to integrate the Kurdish and the Iraqi forces and quotes US Lt Gen Michael Barbero stating, "The Iraqis realize they have to get the Iraqi Army focused on defending the sovereignty of Iraq. There is a realization that we have to move on and start doing this and get as far down the road as we can in the next 16 months."  Arraf reminds, "Iraq, carved out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire by the victors of World War II, borders six countries -- Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Turkey, Jordan, and Iran."
 
On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing on Friday), Jane Dutton explored the current state of Iraq. 
 
Jane Dutton: Iraqis have endured invasion, economic stagnation, wars, sanctions and internal conflict for decades. Today in the aftermath of the seven year war in Iraq, citizens lack even the most basic of services leaving many of them feeling helpless, desperate and in utter disbelief that their homeland is still in a state of chaos. Now the United Nations is promising to create a better future for the people of Iraq. The UN will work closely with a government, civil organizations, academia and the private sector to achieve a series of development goals in Iraq.  These goals are: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDs, malaria and other diseases, ensure environmental sustainability and create global partnership for development. To find out more about the Millenium Development Goals and whether the UN will be able to achieve in developing them, I'm joined from Erbil by Christine McNab.  Ms. McNab is a director of the office of development and humanitarian support at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and also the United Nations' resident and humanitarian coordinator for Iraq.  And from Baghdad, by Ali Babin, the Iraqi Minister of Planning and Development Cooperation.  Welcome both of you to the program. Ms. McNab, the very comendable goals, these Millineum Goals, but how do you plan to go about achieving them?
 
Christine McNab: It's not really a matter of whether they're comendable, it's a matter of the fact that they are very, very good shorthand for a developmental agenda of any country. And even in a country like Iraq which is still struggling with the impact of conflict.  They do give us very clear guidelines of what needs to be done.  They're not just development goals because they also concentrate on the most vulnerable.  So they're also humanitarian goals.  Can we achieve them by 2015? It's possible. It's going to be very, very difficult -- partly because of the violence. But we are working closely with the ministries and the Minister of Planning is one of our close partners. We have a network of 600 UN workers across the country -- these are national staff.  We have another 150 international staff who are working in and out of the country as possible. And this is done in close coordination -- as you said -- with local NGOs.  And the local NGOs and our staff are going to be the real heroes of the Millenium Development Goals because we can help them and we can support them with government.  And, especially with the local government and local societies, they are already making a difference.
 
Jane Dutton: But this is a very big week for Iraq.  You touched on the violence, it's one of the bloodiest months since the invasion.  The US troops have pulled out which will eventually leave Iraq with only 50,000 support troops. There's sewage running down the street in certain parts of the country. The basic services aren't there.  Who really cares about these goals?  Who has the desire to push them forward?
 
Christine McNab: Are you still asking me --
 
Jane Dutton: I'm asking you Ms. McNab.
 
Christine McNab:  -- or are you asking the Minister?
 
Jane Dutton: I am asking you.
 
Christine McNab: Okay, well who has the desire?  I certainly have the desire and my team has the desire but that's not enough. It has to come from within, it has to come from the country. And I don't quite recognize the picture you painted because although there is terrific violence going on, there's also normal life going on in many parts of the country, many governorates.  People are actually able to go about their business. Hospitals have been rebuilt or new hospitals built. We have been rebuilding the schools. The access to clean water is increasing. And I would be the first to admit it's not fast enough.  Sanitation still is a huge issue. And the environment has been terribly neglected.
 
Jane Dutton: Mr. Baban --
 
Christine McNab: Women are getting --
 
Jane Dutton:  Excuse me --
 
Christine McNab: -- better access.
 
Jane Dutton: Okay, Mr. Baban do you support these goals, do you think that this is something that is achievable in your country?
 
Ali Baban: Of course, we achieve a lot. But the problem, as you diagnose it, the  lack of stablity in the country. The country face many challenges.  The chaos, the political antagonism, the lack of stability -- this is the main problems and challenges the country faces. I think without defeating, without overcoming those problems, we cannot achive a lot.  You cannot -- You are not talking about a normal country.  You are talking about an extraordinary situation. So we should take that in our consideration.
 
Jane Dutton: How do you think these goals which are often cited as being better suited to Africa, how do you think they fit into this middle-income country of yours?
 
Ali Baban: Of course the humanitarian need is equal -- are equal around the world. So I think the problem now that Iraqi people can overcome their antagonism -- political antagonism -- and go for work for development.  Iraq, as you know and as all people know, is a rich country. So there is no lack of money and we have everything in this country. We have the fortune. But the problem mainly concentrate on development
 
Jane Dutton: Let's put that to Ms. McNab.  How does the UN view this political standoff at the moment. Five months on and there's still no credible government or there's no government at all.


 
There is no goverment.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 16 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

And Joe Biden, with a straight face, declared to the VFW today, "It's because politics and nationalism has broken out in Iraq."  [Jon Garcia, Karen Travers and Jake Tapper (ABC News) quote him stating, "Politics, not war, has broken out in Iraq."  I'm sure they are correct that he said that but I'm going by the speech as it was written, working from the prepared text.]  Politics have not broken out in Iraq.  They've broken in Iraq.  Five months after an election and you still can't form the government?  That's a broken process.  US national security types threatening Iraqi politicians with "state of emergency" being declared if they don't form a government?  That's a broken process.  US suggesting that a new position -- that Allawi or Nouri could take -- be created out of whole cloth and contrary to the country's Constitution?  That's a broken process.  Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported: on the stalemate yesterday and quoted Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister, stating, "In Washington, I told them, 'It would be embarrassing if you left and there's no government in place.' The U.S. will still have a substantial force here, but it needs to use it to produce results. . . . The Iraqi leaders are at an impasse, and we need help from our American friends."  Doesn't sound as sweet as the words flowing from Joe's mouth.
 
Andrew England (Financial Times of London) reports that State Of Law and Iraqiya are supposed to begin talks again today and that the break off in talks over Nouri al-Maliki's assertion (on state TV) that Iraqiya was a "Sunni" party/slate have been mitigated by an elaboration/explanation on Nouri's part. Talks have broken off before and may again. Meanwhile the Voice of Russia reports that Ayad Allawi is supposed to make a trip to Russia shortly to, in the words of an Iraqiya spokesperson, "establish trust relations between Iraq and its friends."
 
Joe was crowd-pleasing so much, his nose should have grown 17 inches.  Certainly he was orbiting the earth and no longer bound by gravity or facts when he declared that Iraqis voted for the people they wanted to and none of these candidates "were wanted by Iran."  Uh, no, Joe.  No.
 
In fact, that's not just wrong, that's grossly wrong, that's insulting.  Did the Iraqi people get to vote for the candidates they wanted to?  Does no one remember the Justice and Accountability Commission that purged multiple candidates from the lists?  And Ahmed Chalabi and his pal Ali al-Lami were working on whose authority?  Iran.  So not only were voters denied the chance to vote for some candidates they would have liked to have, Iran pretty much ran through the lists.  And the winners?  Nouri's beloved by Iran.  (The US wants Nouri because Nouri's indicated -- according to State Dept friends -- that he will gladly go along with extending the US occupation if he is made prime minister.  So it's no surprise that Joe is spinning so wildly for Nouri.)  Politics have broken out, declared Joe today but the Financial Times of London points out, "The reality is that the political space the surge was meant to open up created a vacuum that remains unfilled. Iraq's elections are the Arab world's freest, but nearly six months on from the last polls politicians have still not managed to form a new government. And not only the state, but Iraqi society is broken. One in six Iraqis, disproportionately middle-class professionals, have fled their homes, around half for other countries."
 
Earlier today the Voice of Russia reported that Ayad Allawi was to make a trip to Russia in order to, in the words of an Iraqiya spokesperson, "establish trust relations between Iraq and its friends." Alsumaria TV reports he has met with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Allawi stated the US opposed him becoming prime minister and that they will not back anyone who does not have "good relations with Iran".
 
Joe insisted, "I am absolutely confident that Iraq will form a national unity government that will be able to sustain the country."  Really?  It hasn't so far.  And that includes the 2005 election that led to the formation (April 2006) of Nouri's government.  That government did not sustain the country.  Saturday in Nasiriyah, there was a demonstration.  Bassem Attiya (AFP) reports that nineteen people were injured in the demonstration with people shouting, "Where is the electricity?"  Press TV adds that 40 people were arrested.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) estimates 200 people participated in the protests "over power outages and bad basic services."  Nouri's been prime minister for over four years now -- in large part because he kicked back the elections (missing the scheduled date) and in part because he refused to step aside -- so that's all on him, Joe.
 
Turning to legal news, David Batty (Guardian) reports that the only person convicted (Ali Lufti Jassar) in the 2004 kidnapping and killing of CARE International's Margaret Hassan has escaped from prison at some point and appears to have been aided in his prison break. Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN add:

[Deputy Justice Minister Busho] Ibrahim said officials did not know of al-Rawi's escape until a month ago. The British Embassy last month said Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke of the matter to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. "Mr. Zebari assured Mr. Hague that the Iraqi government were aware of the case and were keen to ensure justice," an embassy statement said.                 
A spokesman for Hassan's family said in a statement last month that al-Rawi had been due in court July 16 as part of an appeal against his conviction. Concern was growing over his fate, as he had missed some earlier hearings, the statement said. The court was told he had escaped in an "incident."                     
"Jassar is known to be part of the gang that kidnapped and killed my sister," said Deirdre Manchanda, Hassan's sister, in the statement. "We have fought for justice for six years, only to find that not one member of this gang can be brought to justice."                               
Hassan's family only wants to know where her remains are and bring them home for burial, she said. "We can only ever hope to do that if he is recaptured and brought back to face justice."               

AFP reports the British Foreign Office issued the following statement: "Justice must be done for this dreadful crime, committed against someone who dedicated her life to helping all Iraqis."  The Irish Independent adds, "Last night, one of Mrs Hassan's sisters, Geraldine Riney, said the family was still looking for Margaret's remains to be returned to them."  In other prison news, Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer) reports that Salem, her driver who was assisting the US military, was released from jail finally but now is living an underground life to avoid retaliation from Shi'ite militias and that his two sons remain imprisoned.
 
 
Sunday the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq – A United States Forces -- Iraq Soldier was killed today in Basra province while conducting operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." Martin Chulov (Guardian) explains, "Details of the incident were not released, but Basra airport base, which is still home to about 4,000 US forces, had experienced increased numbers of rocket attacks in recent weeks as the deadline drew near for the withdrawal of combat troops. Two soldiers suffered minor wounds in a rocket strike early last week, and rockets have hit the Green Zone in Baghdad almost daily for the past month."  The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War since it began to  4417.
 
In today's reported violence, Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) reports at least 3 people died in Baghdad "overnight and early Monday" and at least twenty more were left injured -- two died from mortar shells (three wounded), 1 Iraqi soldier killed in Ramadi (six people wounded), three Iraqi soldiers wounded in a Mosul grenade attack.  Reuters notes a Sulaimaniya mortar attack (from Iran) which injured one person and 5 people shot dead in Haditha. Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN explain the five were employees of the Oil Ministry and that the killers escaped with a ton of money (approximately $400,000 in US dollars). Meanwhile Hugh Sykes (BBC News) reports, "Iraqi police have broken up an alleged al-Qaeda gang whose members have been killing traffic police in Baghdad, officials said."
 
 
The top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno hit the US airwaves yesterday. James Gordon Meek (New York Daily News) told CNN's State of the Union that the US "could be there [in Iraq] beyond 2011." For many other outlets the 'news' was something else. AP thinks the news is that Odierno stated the US could resume combat operations (unlikely, says Odierno, but possible). Don Lee (Los Angeles Times) thinks that the big and new news too. By contrast, Xinhua leads with the same point Meek sees as news:

Top U.S. commander in Iraq Ray Odierno said on Sunday that the United States could have a military presence in Iraq well after 2011 when all U.S. troops are set to leave.                             
Less than two weeks before the scheduled end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Odierno told CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday talk show "State of the Union" that he could imagine a scenario where "we could be there beyond 2011."                 


So which is the big news?


That call can be made. The news is that the US could be in Iraq beyond 2011. That's news thanks to the news industry. Despite a cranky CBS gas bag's claim that the internet is repeating rumors (I would guess that would be AM Talk show radio hosts, actually, but Bob Schieffer's not going to go there and risk being called out on radio) while CBS doesn't repeat rumors. (CBS legal department came to a different conclusion, Bob, or have you forgotten the AWOL Bush story on 60 Minutes II?) The reality is that CBS is among the multitude of outlets that have spent the last 18 months plus insisting that the Status Of Forces Agreement means that the Iraq War ends in 2011. That's not what it means, that's never been what it means. But the media outlets have overwhelming 'reported' otherwise. That makes Odierno's statements on that aspect news.  And he told Bob that Sunday on Face The Nation (CBS News -- link has text and video), "If they ask us that they might want us to stay longer, we certainly would consider that.  That would obviously be a policy decision that would be made by the national security team and the president over time."  The "national security team"?  Ray Odierno spoonfed press types a mouthful in that statement but watch them all play dumb again and pretend Hillary's running Iraq. And if you're still not getting it, read "Blame Hillary" at Third, and key point for those who can't grasp reality:
 
Let's set aside reality for just a moment and pretend Hillary will be over 'an army' in Iraq. If that's true (it's not true), why would there be anger at Hillary? If Barack was putting Hillary in charge of such an apparatus, the anger should be aimed at him.           
Or have we all forgotten the Christ-child's fabled 'superior sense of judgment.' You know, the super power which allows him to, after the fact, know what should have been done? Some call it Monday morning quarterbacking, others call it Barack Obama's glorious know-how.                         
And remember how in campaign appearance after campaign appearance and debate after debate, he declared himself right on Iraq and Hillary wrong? Have you forgotten that?   
If Hillary were being put in charge of Iraq, it would be the biggest slap in the face to Barack Obama's primary supporters you could imagine. They'd elected to vote for him and not Hillary due to the Iraq War and, yet, she's being placed (by him) in charge of the Iraq War?
It's not happening but, if it were, the Cult of St. Barack should be storming the barricades and issuing cries of, "Barry, how could you!!!!"

So Bob and CBS, where was your SOFA reporting in real time?  Where did you explain to the American people that the SOFA didn't mean the end of the Iraq War?  That's right, you never did.   The didn't lie on the other aspect: US troops returning to combat. They just rarely reported it; however, they did report it.

You can refer to the November 2, 2007 "Iraq snapshot" the Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" and the latter is based on the transcript of the interview conducted by Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny with then-candidate Barack Obama (the transcript was much more illuminating than what Gordon and Zeleny wrote up for the article that the paper ran).

In the case of the SOFA, the media -- with very few exceptions -- has repeatedly and wrongly 'informed' that it means the end of the Iraq War. They practiced -- as we noted in real time -- prediction, prophecy, etc. but they were not practicing reporting. Reporting is telling readers what has happened. Barack's plan to send combat troops back into Iraq after pulling them out if things went badly was reported on. It wasn't emphasized -- didn't fit the falese image the press was attempting to paint for the Cult of St. Barack -- but it was reported.

The SOFA? They're still misreporting it. Take a look at the USA Today editorial board today serving up this crap: "Seven years after the invasion and 16 months before the last U.S. soldier is scheduled to depart, few would be bold enough to proclaim victory in Iraq or foolish enough to declare defeat. Instead, U.S. operations seem destined to end in a slow, unsatisfying fadeout as Iraq muddles its way into an uncertain future. This will leave the U.S. to play a high-stakes endgame with steadily decreasing sway." Scheduled to depart? There's no such schedule at current, there never has been. Contract law isn't a tricky thing. We went over this repeatedly in the last nearly two years. And yet it's still a 'surprise' and 'news' to many because the media continues to get it wrong. And that, Bob Schieffer, is far more damaging than an opinion someone holds about whether or not someone else belongs to this religion, that religion or no religion. And, in fact, what Simmi Aujla (Politico) does is so questionable, Politico should review Aujla's resume (Aujla emphasizes the combat aspect but insists that Odierno "said the country will be ready for the U.S. withdrawal to be completed in Sept. 2011" without noting that Odierno stated US forces could remain in Iraq after 2011.

A few people are telling the truth about what did and did not happen last week (no, Virginia, the war did not end).  We'll try to spotlight a few of them each day this week and we'll start with two today.  Last week Barack offered some pretty lies and the media ran with them. Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observed:

The White House and the Pentagon, assisted by a servile media, have hyped Thursday's exit of a single Stryker brigade from Iraq as the end of the "combat mission" in that country, echoing the ill-fated claim made by George W. Bush seven years ago.
Obama is more skillful in packaging false propaganda than Bush, and no doubt has learned something from the glaring mistakes of his predecessor. Bush
landed on the deck of the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003 to proclaim -- under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished" -- that "major combat operations" in Iraq were over. A captive audience of naval enlisted personnel was assembled on deck as cheering extras.
Obama wisely did not fly to Kuwait to deliver a similar address from atop an armored vehicle. He merely issued a statement from the White House, while leaving the heavy lifting to the television networks and their "embedded" reporters, who accompanied the brigade across the border into Kuwait and repeated the propaganda line fashioned by the administration and the military brass.

Anthony Cordesman offered similar thoughts in "Iraq: 'Mission Accomplished' Mark II":

Well, he did not wear a flight suit, stand on a carrier deck, or have a "Mission Accomplished" banner behind him. The fact remains, however, that President Obama did issue a second "mission accomplished statement on Iraq on August 18th, and one just as wrong and irresponsible as the one given by President Bush:

Today, I'm pleased to report that -- thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians in Iraq -- our combat mission will end this month, and we will complete a substantial drawdown of our troops...By the end of this month, 50,000 troops will be serving in Iraq. As Iraqi Security Forces take responsibility for securing their country, our troops will move to an advise-and-assist role. And, consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all of our troops will be out of Iraq by the end of next year. Meanwhile, we will continue to build a strong partnership with the Iraqi people with an increased civilian commitment and diplomatic effort.


Political posturing is the norm in Washington, and claiming victory and an end
to a war is far more popular than bearing the burden of leadership and dealing
with reality. The Iraq War is not over and it is not "won." In fact, it is at as critical a stage as at any time since 2003. Regardless of the reasons for going to war, everything now depends on a successful transition to an effective and unified
Iraqi government, and Iraqi security forces that can bring both security and stability to the average Iraqi. The creation of such an "end state" will take a minimum of another five years, and probably ten.

Iraq still faces a serious insurgency, and deep ethnic and sectarian tensions. In spite of its potential oil wealth, its economy is one of the poorest in the world in terms of real per capita income, and it is the second year of a budget crisis that has force it to devote most state funds to paying salaries and maintaining employment at the cost of both development and creating effective security forces.
 
Other voices telling the truth that we'll highlight in the week are Cindy Sheehan and Medea Benjamin and, on the latter, we'll close with the opening of Medea's "Blackwater vs. Pinkwater: The Wife of Eric Prince Picks a Fight With CODEPINK" (War Is A Crime.org):
 
It felt surreal to be inside the home of Erik Prince, the founder, owner and chairman of Blackwater (or Xe, as it is now called). Prince, a former Navy Seal, provides security for the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department. His company trains 40,000 people a year in skills that include personal protection. Yet his home in McLean, Virginia, has no security. None. Not even a fence or a guard dog or a No Trespassing sign. And his mother-in-law, who helps care for his young children, invited a total stranger--me--into his home without hesitation.   

I had gone to Princes' home, together with two CODEPINK colleagues, assuming it would be empty. I'd read in the New York Times that Mr. Prince and his family had moved out of the country, fleeing from a series of civil lawsuits, criminal charges and Congressional investigations stemming from his company's contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the news, "In documents filed last week in a civil lawsuit brought by former Blackwater employees accusing Mr. Prince of defrauding the government, Mr. Prince sought to avoid giving a deposition by stating that he had moved to Abu Dhabi [which is in the United Arab Emirates] in time for his children to enter school there on August 15." Susan Burke, the lawyer seeking the deposition, announced that she was flying to the Emirates to find him.
           
I had been feeling particularly upset about Blackwater lately. Seeing the combat troops leaving Iraq, I'd been thinking about the banner CODEPINK members held in countless anti-war vigils: "Iraq War: Who Lies? Who Dies? Who Pays? Who Profits?" Politicians lied about weapons of mass destruction, Iraqis and American soldiers died, U.S. taxpayers paid, and companies like Blackwater make a killing. In just a few years, Blackwater received over $1 billion in U.S. government contracts, contracts that accounted for 90 percent of its revenue. Erik Prince, the company's sole owner, was now taking his profits, trying to sell the company and running away to the Emirates, a country that has no extradition treaty with the United States.

 

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« Reply #64 on: August 24, 2010, 11:47:38 am »

Video: The Last US Combat Forces in Iraq?

Riz Khan Interviews John Pilger

AlJazeera.net

http://uruknet.info/?p=m69111&hd=&size=1&l=e

August 23, 2010

WATCH :
!

Who should be held accountable for the invasion and occupation that has left hundreds of thousands dead?





 
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« Reply #65 on: August 24, 2010, 02:14:41 pm »

Iraq's Kurdish Army Chief Serves His American Masters

By Muhammad al-Ammary, Iraq News Agency





Iraq's Army Chief Babakir Zebari:


August 23, 2010
http://uruknet.info/?p=m69116&hd=&size=1&l=e

Translated By Nicolas Dagher

Iraq - Iraq News Agency - Original Article (Arabic- August 14, 2010)

I neither care for nor follow the scum who lick the boots of the American invaders, nor do I waste my energy acquainting myself with those who sell their souls for bargain-basement prices, so I don't know exactly how and when Babakir Zebari obtained the rank of chief of staff of what is now referred to as the new Iraqi Army. Yes - I refer to that mighty force, the leadership of which sways to and fro due to its lack of patriotism and professionalism, despite the enormous sums that have been put at the disposal of its leadership. And then there are the majority of its senior officers who answer to political parties, caucuses, and ethnic, sectarian or tribal groups, that issue them non-negotiable orders that need never be explained, and which originate in regional countries that are openly hostile to Iraq and its people.

The chief of staff of the new Iraqi Army, "Protector of Peace!!" told Agence France Presse a few days ago that his "courageous" forces won't be prepared to maintain security and stability in Iraq before 2020 [see video below]. During his "extremely valuable" speech about the alleged U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, the chief of staff of the "Iraqi military" spoke to Iraqi politicians - if they can be described as such - saying: "The U.S. military should remain until the Iraqi Army is ready in 2020."

It's obvious that this man, if he possessed one iota of decency, honor and dignity before joining the military, would never have uttered such shameful comments, which stink of pleading to those who were and remain the main cause of every catastrophe and misery of today's Iraqis, not to mention the destruction of every institution of state - military, civic and social alike. Even ordinary citizens aren't safe from the sectarian-religious virus and racist evil that resulted in a nobody like this "Kurdish" Babakir Zebari becoming the chief of staff of the Iraqi Army, a force with a glorious history and whose remarkable exploits are well-documented.

The defense minister of the Green Zone, Abdul-Qadir al-Obaidi, successful described the dire state and daily failures experienced by their super army. His "Dishonorable-Excellency" said that "what has been occurring in different parts of the country recently" - in the name of Allah, he could have said the same for the last seven years - "is due to negligence, a lack of follow-up, a failure to apply the lessons learned in battle and failure to be properly alert." What battle is this genius talking about - and where do these lessons and commands come from? Naturally this genius of a minister has no actual authority, prestige or influence, which is the norm among his colleagues in the collaborator-government of Nouri al-Maliki, which has lost any legitimacy. And why hasn't he told us of the punishments imposed on the people in the Defense Ministry and commanders of his "courageous" army, who failed to apply these "teachings of battle?"

In stark contrast with what he himself and the Army chief of staff had to say, the Green Zone minister of defense commented: "The process of ramping up our readiness has begun" (What was he doing up to now, and what's taking his so long getting his men ready?), "and is proceeding with the integration of ground and tactical air support, and taking control of the security situation in cities from multi-national forces" (he means the invader U.S. forces, but is too ashamed to admit it) "leading to the completion of our plans to control overall national security." Great. But if your army is so prepared, then why does Babakir Zebari - excuse me, I mean Iraq's Army chief of staff - want to keep U.S. forces here until the year 2020? What's the motive of the Kurd, Babakir Zebari, of having his American masters squatting on the chests of Iraqis like a black nightmare?

WATCH:


The attachment to their American masters and protectors of the chief of staff of the so-called Iraqi Army, Babakir Zebari, his great Zionist friend, [President of Iraqi Kurdistan] Massoud Barzani and Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (another Zibari), whose star has also fallen recently, is nothing strange or new. But it fits perfectly with their decades-long treachery and brand of politics, which is devoid of any ethical or moral commitment, and involves putting oneself at the disposal of any country hostile to Iraq and its people.

Babakir Zebari's comments were not due to a concern for the interests of Iraq or its people, or any wish to build an Iraqi force capable of repelling external aggression, as the mouthpieces of the Kurdish media have tried to assert. On the contrary, those people, and by that I mean the collaborator Kurdish parties, don't recognize Iraq, its flag, its laws or its government, although they are an essential part of it. Everything they do, at all levels, stems from the fact that they are a sovereign and independent state, or so they think - and one filled with hatred, bitterness, plots and conspiracies.

They sit and wait for opportunities to pursue their agenda - and in these treacherous times, there are many. They collaborate with the Satans and demons of the planet to harm Iraqis and their homeland. Thus the Americans, be they occupiers, invaders or employers, remain for every traitor, collaborator or mercenary, regardless of gender, color or ethnicity, as a leading supporter, mentor and guarantor. But however long they stay, it won’t be forever. This is something Babakir Zebari deliberately ignores.


 

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« Reply #66 on: August 27, 2010, 11:24:10 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 26, 2010

The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_26.html


Thursday, August 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa is targeted today, the new US Ambassador to Iraq pounds the (new) war drums, the political stalemate continues, Iraqis weigh in on the drawdown, peace activists take a stand, and more.
 
Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with bombings and Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) counts 92 dead from violence with 379 more people left injured. The press consensus yesterday appeared to be that security personnel were the primary targets of yesterday's violence. Violence continues today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Baquba attack today has claimed 6 lives. The target? Sahwa members. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq," are fighters (mainly Sunni -- but according to Gen David Petraeus's April 2008 Congressional testimonies, not exclusively Sunni) who were paid by the US military to stop attacking US military equipment and US military personnel. In 2008, as Congressional members began to get vocal about the financial cost of Sahwa (approximately $300 per member per month with over 96,000 Sahwa), the transition to Iraq's government or 'government' out of Baghdad picking up the bill was supposed to take place. Despite claims in November and again in early 2009, as late as the summer of 2009, the US was still footing the bill regularly for many Sahwa. Despite claims by Nouri that he would absorb a number of Sahwa (about 20%) into Iraq's security forces, that really didn't come to be and Sahwa members began waiting weeks and weeks for late monthly payments and then came the targeting of them, followed by attempts to disarm them, followed by more targeting.
 
 
Al Jazeera puts the number dead at 8 (cites police sources for the number) and notes that 52,000 Sahwa continue to remain unemployed/unabsorbed into Nouri's 'new Iraq." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes that al-Iraqiyah TV is reporting 8 deaths as well and reminds, "The U.S. hailed the decision of its Sunni Muslim members to turn against al-Qaeda as a key to a country-wide decline in attacks about a year later." The Morning Star also reports 8 dead and states that the bombing "killed four of the guards immeidately before gunmen reportedly finished off the survivors." Reuters adds, "A second simultaneous assault on another Sunni militia group in the same province was thwarted, with one attacker killed and two arrested, Interior Ministry and provincial officials said." AFP quotes police Cpt Firas al-Dulaimi stating, "Several members of al-Qaeda attacked a Sahwa office when nine people were inside. Six Sahwa were killed, two were wounded and one was unhurt." 
 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 Sahwa killed in the attack and also notes a Diyala Province bombing in which 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed and two more were wounded. Reuters notes an Abu Saida clash in which 1 person was killed and two more were arrested as they attempt to assault Sahwa, a Mosul car bombing which injured Nezhat Ali of the Turkmen Front as well as five other people, a Hawija roadside bombing which injured one person and, dropping back to Wednesday night for the rest, a Mosul bombing which injured one adult and one child and  Kirkuk attack in which one person was wounded in a shooting.
 
Meanwhile Arthur MacMillan (AFP) reports on Sahwa Sahwa reaction to the news of the drawdown which is fear in light of the targeting leading Sahwa's Samarra commander Majid Hassan to ask, "If our houses are being attacked and destroyed by the terrorists even before the withdrawal, what will happen to us when the US forces leave?"  For Morning Edition (NPR), Mike Shuster files a report about other reactions to the waves of violence.
 
Mike Shuster: They did the bombings because of the Americans, said Abu Salman at his butcher shop in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. They claim that when the Americans leave, there will be more bombs in Iraq. Abu Mohammed, a construction worker, agreed. "They do think the Americans are weaker now, so let's do it," he said. Abu Salman added, "They are getting stronger because there's no government and there's no protection in the street."
 
Meanwhile the Arab Times reports on a poll by Asharq Research Centre which surveyed 1,150 Iraqis (18 and older) from August 15th through 23rd and found:
 
* 59.8% stated that the it wasn't the right time for US forces to leave; 39.5% felt it was
* 53.1% did not agree that "combat" operations should end August 31st; 46.2% did agree
* 51% felt the drawdown would have a negative effect; 25.8% felt it would be positive
* Does Barack Obama care about the situation in Iraq?  No = 41.9%; Yes = 39.8%; don't know = 15.5%
 
Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) observes, "The attacks exposed as a fiction the Obama administration's long-standing claim that the Iraqi forces were ready and able to take over from U.S. troops. While that claim may have played well with war-weary Americans, Iraqis have never been fooled: only last week, the commander of the Iraq military said his forces would not be fully ready until 2020. The bombings don't automatically mean all (or even much) of Iraq is once again in the  grip of the insurgency. But they suggest the country is in for a great deal more violence in the months ahead."  The Hindu adds, "The spate of murderous attacks in cities across the whole of Iraq over the last 10 days has taken the August 2010 death toll to 535, with nearly 400 wounded. This exceeds the July total of 500 deaths; the authorities attribute the bombings to Sunni-militant followers of al-Qaeda. Only one attacker was stopped in advance: in Mosul, Iraqi soldiers spotted and killed a suicide bomber before he could blow his car up. Above all, the intensified attacks show how little control the United States and the Iraqi authorities have."
 
Surveying the landscape, The Economist offers, "American commanders were quick to remind Iraqi and American audiences this week that their troops could still return to patrolling the streets if needed. That is meant to be reassuring, and to a growing number of Iraqis it is. But it does not address the underlying problem, namely the inability of the Iraqi state to function effectively, including running the police. Many Iraqis expect the police to respond to the latest attacks by hiding behind even more sandbags and blast walls." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 19 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
 
While the stalemate goes on, the US Ambassador -- new US Ambassador -- to Iraq, James Jeffrey is getting 'comfortable.'  You've been advised to pay attention to his background ("national security") and to who's running things on the US side now.  If you have, you'll find the report by Michael Christie and Jon Hemming (Reuters) not at all surprising, if you haven't, your jaw may drop.  War with/on Iran can't just spring up, it has to be sold. Today Jeffrey informed the reporters that "he believed groups backed by Iran were responsible for a quarter of U.S. casualties in the Iraq war but that Tehran was not as infuential in Iraq as thought." Give the 'diplomat' time, he'll offer more 'thoughts' and 'beliefs' and watch the way they skew. 
 
 
As Kat explained last night, "First off, Margaret Warner (The NewsHour, PBS) is in Iraq and if you have a question about the war, you can write her and there going to pick through the questions."  The NewsHour notes: "You can e-mail your question, name and hometown to follow@newshour.org or send a tweet to @NewsHour. We'll collect questions for a few days, and Margaret will answer as many as she can here on The Rundown."
 
In the US, Marisa Guthrie (Broadcast & Cable) reports, "On Aug. 31, President Obama will deliver a primetime speech from the Oval Office about the end of combat operations in Iraq. The speech, which will be about 15 minutes long, will begin at 8 p.m ET. All of the major networks will carry it live. Diane Sawyer will anchor ABC's coverage of the speech. She'll be joined by George Stephanopoulos. Brian Williams will anchor NBC's coverage, and Harry Smith will be on hand for CBS' coverage. Fox, which has on occasion demurred in handing over prime-time for the President's addresses, also will carry the speech live." The drawdown didn't end the Iraq War and repeating the lie it did effects many. Ann Rubin (KSDK) reports some soldiers in Iraq are afraid their pay is going to be cut as a result of the creative terminology the spin is pushing. US House Rep Russ Carnahan tells Rubin, "The bottom line is they're in a dangerous part of the world, but we've got to continue to do everything we can to be sure they get that support." Meanwhile Jarrod Wise (KXAN) reports that 800 members of the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division are preparing to deploy to Iraq where they will be stationed in Basra and the 800 include people like Bank of America's Charles Clemons and police officer Stephanie Dugan. Jennie Huerta (KVUE) adds that the 800 head to Fort Lewis at the end of next month and will be in Iraq following Thanksgiving for what "is only the second major deployment of the 36th Infantry Division headquarters since World War II, when the T-Patch soldiers were the first American troops to land in Europe." Nikasha Dicks (Augusta Chronicle) notes that the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion's Bravo Company had a send-off ceremony on Saturday as Bravo Company prepares for a year-long deployment in Iraq and quotes Colen Ortiz whose husband Sgt Ortiz is among those deploying, "The very first three [deployments], I just had to worry about myself. Now I have someone else to worry about." Colen Ortiz "is expecting the couple's first child in October."  Heath Druzin (Stars and Stripes) explains, "On Sept. 1, the date the U.S. mission in Iraq officially changes, troops will still patrol the dusty fringes of this violent insurgent stronghold. They may raid the house of a suspected terrorist. They will continue to face the ever-present danger of roadside bombs. What they won't do is conduct combat operations, at least on paper."  At least on paper.  The Iraq War didn't end and won't end September 1st.
 
Early Monday morning, a major action took place as a group of activists joined in an action to block a troop deployment at Fort Hood in Texas.  They chanted and held a huge banner "TELL THE BRASS: KISS MY ASS YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU MORE."  The group was originally longer but the time on Sunday for the troops to leave in their bus was repeatedly changed.  It left early in the morning and several dedicated activists were still present.  Stephen C. Webster was present to report for Raw Story (and was among those harassed by the police) amd reports that the activists managed to halt the deployment "for approximately 10 seconds while police and military personnel shoved them out of the road," that those participating feel it was a success (it was, my opinion) and that "not a single one of them was arrested." One of those participating in the action was Matthis Chiroux who explains (along with others at the link) why he participated:
 
I am a former Army sergeant and war resister. I was press-ganged into the Army by the Alabama Juvenile "Justice" System in 2002. While in the military, I occupied the nations of Japan and Germany for more than four years, with shorter tours in the Philippines and Afghanistan.

I was a Public Affairs noncommissioned officer specializing in strategic communications. In reality, I was a propaganda artist. I was discharged honorably to the Individual Ready Reserve in 2007.
 
While I have always been against the war in Iraq, I began resisting it actively in 2008, after I received mobilization orders for a year-long deployment to Iraq. I refused those orders in Congress in May of 2008, calling my orders illegal and unconstitutional. I believed appealing to Congress would end the war. When 13 Members signed a letter of support for my decision and sent it to Bush, I thought we had won a victory for peace. This was more than two years ago. The president has changed, and the wars and destruction drag on.
 
Today, I am blocking the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with my fellow vets and military family members because the wars will continue to victimize our communities until we halt this bloody machine from within. I am putting my body on the line in solidarity with the people of the Middle East, whose bodies have been shot, burned, tortured, raped, and violated by our men and women in and out of uniform. I cannot willfully allow Americans in uniform to put their lives and the lives of Iraqis in jeopardy for a crime. We are here because we have a responsibility to ourselves as veterans and as humans of the world. I will not rest until my people, ALL PEOPLE, are free.
 
The others participating who write of their actions are Bobby Whittenberg-James, Crystal Colon and Cynthia Thomas. Monday, World Can't Wait reported, "Five peace activists successfully blockaded six buses carrying Fort Hood Soldiers deploying to Iraq outside Fort Hood's Clarke gate this morning at around 4 a.m."  Alice Embree (The Rag Blog) reports:
 
Under darkness at about 4 a.m. this morning, buses carrying the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) to planes were stopped by a group of five protesters that included two Iraq veterans, one Afghanistan veteran, and one military spouse whose husband had been deployed to Iraq three times.               

The Fort Hood Disobeys group clambered down from a highway overpass where supporters held banners and signs. Holding banners that said, "Occupation is a Crime" and "Please Don't Make the Same Mistake We Did. RESIST NOW," the protesters spread across Clarke Road. Police with automatic weapons and dogs beat them out of the roadway. They were not arrested.
 
 
You can find photos of the action taken by Malachi Muncey here, photos by Jeff Zavala here,  Cindy Beringer (US Socialist Worker) quotes attorney James Branum stating, "The most amazing thing was troops in buses raising clinched fists as buses drove by the protest.  Solidarity!"
 
In a video Jeff Zavala made about the issue several of the activists share their thoughts.  This is an excerpt:
 
Geoff Gernant:  I think it's important people resist the occupations -- the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think it's important to do that in a such way that it's the people themselves resisting in a direct action and not doing something like lobbying Congress or writing letters to Congressmen or relying on politicians to do something -- which they've shown that they're not willing to do which is end this war.  We all need to start doing, actively opposing it ourselves.  And I've been involved in activsim here, Under The Hood, for like a year or so.

Crystal Colon: Because I think it's time that people do something about these wars. I don't feel like there's enough support for the  wars in the American population. But there aren't enough people actually getting out there and doing something about it, trying to stop it. And I want to be one of the people that goes out there and says, you know, "This is exactly what I think, this is how I feel about this and I am going to try and stop you from doing this anyway I possibly can. I came out to Under The Hood -- I've been here since June for two months just organizing around Fort Hood, doing all the protests that we've done, like the one at the East Gate and the Col Allen banner that we made specifically for the 3rd ACR.  I just really want these soldiers to know that this is not something that they have to do because I know if someone would have done this for me when I was in, I wouldn't have gone back a second time. I probably wouldn't have gone the first time if someone would have done this for me back in '06. So I really just want soldiers to know there's support for them out there, that what they're feeling -- If they're feeling like this is not what they want to do, this is against their moral values and it's against their feelings and they feel like this is not the right thing for them to do, we are there to support them and that's what I want them to see.
 
Bobby Whittenberg: War in our time always kills innocent civilians, it kills children, it kills women and it destroys families both in the Middle East and here in the United States.  The United States has always been predatory, has always been violent -- a country built on the land of slaughtered Native people.  It was built by slaves. The United States is always killing innocent people to take things that do not belong to them. I do not lend my consent to the actions of the United States government. I'm here today to say no more.  A lot of us have just been talking and, you know, holding signs -- that's great.  But we decided that it's time that we moved beyond that and what we're planning is totally non-violent but it's definitely a sign to say that we've had enough and that we can't trust the politicians, the capitalists to end these wars because they make them more wealthy and consolidate their power. So if we want to see any change, we have to do it ourselves. They always say, if you want something done right, do it yourself.  Right?  That's what we're doing, do it yourself.
 
At The Wilder Side, Ian and Kimberly Wilder note a Green Party candidate:
 
New York State Green Party US Senate Candidate Cecile Lawrence Says that the War in Iraq Continues Despite Fanfare over departure of "last" Combat Troops
New York State peace and social justice activist Cecile Lawrence and Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate remembers being amazed at former President Bush's advice to Americans after planes hit the towers at the bottom of Manhattan that we all should go shopping.                 
Less than two years later, the U.S. attacked Iraq in an invasion dubbed "Shock and Awe." Major cities in Iraq were later bombed into the Middle Ages, as at least one commentator put it.     
Dr. Lawrence, running for the seat to which Kisten Gillibrand was appointed by Governor Paterson last year, is aghast at the likelihood that the Obama administration is playing with words by announcing that he's ending the war in Iraq with the departure from that country of the last full Army combat brigade. With 50,000 members of the U.S. military to remain in Iraq, Lawrence is convinced that the war continues but just under a new label.
Lawrence added that every since Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed Senator, she has regularly voted for more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.       
From Lawrence's perspective, this move of some military out of Iraq is a game of smoke and mirrors. According to the State Department the numbers of private security guards will be massively increased and a "small army" of contractors will remain. Lawrence noted that a member of the military commented, "Combat operations is a sort of relative term." Lawrence also noted that the American people have no clear picture of the roles of these private security guards and contractors, who are highly specialized and well trained. Their private status excludes them from the scrutiny that troops would have. Lawrence agrees with the conclusion that this move is simply a privatization of the occupation.
 
 
Lastly, on another topics, Alexandra Tweten explores suffrage in "The Echoes of Suffrage" (Ms. magazine) which is fitting considering today. Women's Voices, Women's Vote explains:
 
Today is Equality Day, the celebration of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.  Join the celebration by registering to vote, or by encouraging the women in your life to register to vote.                 

Did You Know?           

Ninety years ago, one mother's plea to her son helped pass the 19th Amendment by one vote and gave American women the vote. After thirty-five of the necessary thirty-six states had ratified the amendment, the battle came to Nashville, Tennessee. One young legislator, 24 year-old Harry Burns, had previously voted with the anti-suffrage forces. But a telegram from his mother urging him to vote for the amendment and for suffrage made the difference. Burns broke a 48 to 48 tie making Tennessee the 36th and deciding state to ratify. One vote does matter. Your vote matters. Today, even though women turnout at equal or great numbers than men on election day, more than one in four American women is still not registered to vote.  If you're one of them, celebrate Equality Day today by visting Women's Voices. Women's Vote website and registering to vote. If you are already registered, use your voice to talk to five women you know about the importance of voting.   

Read more on Equality Day from Women's Voices. Women Vote President Page Gardner on Huffington Post.

 

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« Reply #67 on: August 28, 2010, 07:48:20 am »

Lies About Iraq are the Focus of U.S. Strategy


Rekondo Txente, Rebelión



PRAVDA.Ru, August 27, 2010
http://uruknet.info/?p=m69248&hd=&size=1&l=e


Several years ago, leaders in Washington shaped an entire advertising campaign to invade and occupy Iraq. The set of lies and accusations that later proved false were the backbone of the American script. And now, as then, many media outlets are repeating the American version without flinching.

Therefore, Obama's statements and moves, announcing with much fanfare that he is fulfilling his promise to withdraw troops from that country are cheered by that same news media that once also "saw" Saddam's relations with al Qaeda, weapons of mass destruction and other false arguments of those who then were never heard from again.

It was George Bush who declared in the past that "the war has ended" and now we are repeating the same song after the announcement of Obama. And all this prepared with a triumphant victory speech and presenting the current situation as the final victory of the United States.

Some intend to present the current situation as close to stability, but the only thing that has stabilized is that there is a situation of war, close to a low intensity war, the result of which Iraq and Afghanistan have once again changed their roles. If for some years the Iraqi centrality placed Afghanistan in a secondary role, now, according to U.S. strategy, the roles may be reversed.

Recently, a local journalist pointed out that there were some signs that could substantiate this alleged stability. It was mentioned about the gradual recovery of Abu Nawas, the famous area of the capital on the banks of the Tigris which concentrates a good apart of the nightlife, or the road to Baghdad to Tikrit or linking the capital to Najaf, two-routes that a few years ago were classified as "very dangerous" and apparently its traffic has "normalized." But, at the same time, he admits that the extraordinary installation of sixty military checkpoints on the road has been instrumental to the situation.

The desperate search of the occupants for a picture of victory, a picture that from the beginning of the occupation resists them, makes them present "another" reality of Iraq, in line with the script designed from Washington.

Nevertheless, Iraq shows another reality. After three wars, thirteen years after the criminal embargo with the bombing of the U.S. and Britain and the last seven years of foreign occupation, we find a failed state, unable to provide the people with necessary services and run by a political lobby that uses the umbrella of so-called "security" to hide all their miseries and shortcomings.

And if the recent occupation has been the final push that has put Iraq on the brink of the abyss, we should not forget that the previous steps (embargo and seizures) have been keys to destroying the country. Well beyond the current situation, genocide against the Iraqi people is the direct result of implementing these strategies.

Today, "thanks" to these policies, the agricultural sector, once one of the pillars of the Iraqi economy, is destroyed and the population is forced to abandon their fields and consume imported products with the rising cost that this entails. The IMF has also "collaborated" in the impoverishment of Iraq. Its actions have made the price of gasoline soar, when in the past its purchase was subsidized by the state.

Environmental degradation and its implications for the population also tends to erase the picture. The effects of depleted uranium used by the occupants during the period prior to the invasion, or those who inflicted all the restrictions of the embargo are part of that "new reality" with fatal consequences. Furthermore, the destruction of the agricultural sector has brought an increase of desertification and sandstorms that sometimes force the closing of public buildings and airports due to the lack of visibility.

And other aspects of Iraq, since there are thousands of exiles (and their difficulties in returning), internally displaced persons, unemployment, almost daily attacks, the fear of "the other" (a direct result of the sectarian politics of these years), or uncontrolled privatization of all strategic sectors of the country "disappear" from the guidelines set from Washington in dealing with the alleged U.S. withdrawal.

With an incompetent and corrupt political elite, with an army in the process of reconstruction, but unable to assume its role without the support of the occupants, and a clear institutional deadlock, to speak of normalization in Iraq is a sarcasm.

So the fine print of the Obama announcement calls into question the statement made. How can you claim that U.S. combat troops are leaving Iraq? Anyone who defends this thesis does it for ignorance or for a specific special interest. The truth is that 50,000 American soldiers will remain in that country who have conveniently changed their name (combat troops are now going to be called assistance brigades). Calls have emerged for permanent bases in Iraq like mushrooms and Washington has no interest in abandoning them. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad is one of the largest worldwide, with very mixed personnel.

To all this we must add also the presence and the arrival of thousands of "mercenaries" and other members of private security (sometimes also presented as advisors). And do not forget that the absence of an Iraqi armed force causes the local army to depend entirely on the "air services" of the U.S. (which will last at least until 2018), or the role they have to play in so-called 'units of special operations" that will remain in Iraq.

The occupation of Iraq is illegal under international law, something that many have wanted to forget. The consequences of the strategy of the occupants is a suffering Iraqi society, with fatal consequences.

This self-proclaimed victory leaves behind a trail of blood, a country devastated, ravaged, plundered and divided. A society that will take a long time to heal the wounds, but that today closely collaborates to demand the withdrawal of all occupation forces from its territory.

Above all, it presents to us a country that is still the center of interests and maneuvers of foreign powers, all ready to capitalize on the situation to their advantage. In this sense it will be necessary to see the maneuvering in the coming days with countries like Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and realize that the U.S. is willing time and again to implement "covenants against nature" in defense of their interests, and especially at the expense of the people of Iraq, who will continue to be affected by the tragic consequences of their politics.

Other players will also attempt in the coming months to profit from media attention, especially before the news about the country goes off to focus on Afghanistan instead, and plunges Iraq into a kind of "low intensity warfare" that erases it with a pen stroke and the wires of the media.

 

Translated from the Spanish version by:

Lisa KARPOVA

PRAVDA.Ru

 
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« Reply #68 on: August 28, 2010, 07:49:59 am »

Iraq snapshot - August 27, 2010

The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_27.html


Friday, August 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the American people continue to see the Iraq War as a mistake and worse, greater attention comes to prolonging the illegal war,  who's trying to overthrow Iraq's labor unions, and more.
 
 
 
Last week, Gallup and AP polls were released offering the findings that most Americans are opposed to the Iraq War and feel it should never have been started.  Gallup found 53% judge it as a failure, 55% judged it a failure.  AP's poll with GfK Roper Public Affairs found that 65% opposed the Iraq War.  Now Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports on CBS' poll (but doesn't explain why the New York Times took a pass) which finds "nearly six in ten say it was a mistake to start the battle in the first place, and most say their country did not accomplish its objectives in Iraq." The number saying it was a mistake is 59% which is in stark contrast to March 2003 when a majority, 69%, stated the US was correct to declare war on Iraq (the US-led invasion began in March 2003) and only 25% of respondents then (March 2003) said it was a mistake. The most telling response is to question eleven:
 
Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?
 
Only 20% of respondents say the war was worth the costs while 72% say it was not worth the costs. Looking at the costs to the US, 72% are, in fact, calling the illegal war a mistake.

57% of Americans believe the Iraq War is going well (don't blame them, blame a media that's forgotten Iraq) and who do they credit for that? Montopoli reports that "one in three say both the Obama and Bush administrations [deserve credit]. Twenty-six percent credit the Bush administration, 20 percent credit the Obama administration, and 19 percent say neither deserves credit." Cynthia English reviews Gallup's latest poll which sureveyed Iraqis and found a five-percent drop in approval of US leadership from 2008 (35%) to 2010 (30%) and an increase in approval of Iraqi leadership during the same time (2008: 28%; 2010: 41%).
 


Jim Michaels and Mimi Hall (USA Today) report on USA Today's poll which found 60% expressing the belief that the Iraq War was not worth it. The reporters then survey a variety of people about the war and we'll note this section which includes Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan:
 
"I don't think there's been any measurable thing that we could cite that this occupation of Iraq has made better. We achieved exactly nothing," says Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war activist. Sheehan says the war made things worse for Iraqis and others.               
"My work has gone from trying to stop these wars to trying to alert people to the problems of being subjects of a military empire," she says.
 
 
Empire as a shell game?  That would require the Orwellian use of language to misdirect the citizens and misidentify what is going on.  In other words, that would be Barack Obama calling the military "non-combat" forces and calling bases "outposts" and calling the continuation of the Iraq War the 'end.' Today the Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviews the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf.
 
Bernard Gwertzman: President Obama is planning to give a speech on Iraq next week marking the pullout of U.S. combat troops from the country. Does their departure make a big difference in Iraq?
 
Jane Arraf: It really doesn't. A lot of that is because it isn't a development that has had much of an impact on the ground. Some have called it a "rebranding" of the conflict, and there is some truth to that. What we've got left are fifty thousand other troops, a substantial number, and a lot of those are actually combat troops. Any brigade here is erady, equipped, and trained for combat. It's just that the mission is changing.  So with that many troops on the ground, the latest withdrawals really don't have that much of an impact, particularly since we haven't been seeing the United States in unilateral combat missions since June of last year. As part of the security agreement signed by the Bush administration, the U.S. forces are taking ab ackseat to the Iraqi forces.  The bottom line is that nothing will change on September 1. What we're really looking at is what happens as next year's deadline of December 31, 2011, approaches for all the troops to leave.
 
[. . .]
 
Bernard Gwertzman: Will the United States be providing long-term air defense? Or is that supposed to end next year too?
 
Jane Arraf: Everything ends next year, so it really all has to be negotiated. The commanding general in charge of training Iraqi forces told me they are in the midst of negotiating an agreement to allow NATO to continue training. Such an agreement of course to replace the Iraq-U.S. security agreement will actually have to be negotiated by whatever new government is formed. The assumption is that it will be a pro-Western, pro-U.S. government, but that's not a certainty. What if, for instance, the Sadrists have a large role to play in the new government?   What if it's a much more Iranian-friendly government than some people are suggesting? They could turn to Iraq for a security agreement.
 
On public radio today, the security agreement was briefly touched upon. On the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane was joined by Courtney Kube (NBC News), Moises Naim (El Pais) and David Wood (PoliticsDaily).
 
Diane Rehm: Let's turn to Iraq. For the first time since the US invasion in 2003, US troop strength in Iraq has dropped below 50,000.  Is Iraq prepared to defend itself, Courtney?
 
Courtney Kube: Well I think you have to remember -- I don't think you'll find many average Iraqis on the street in Baghdad or anywhere in the country that would say that just because Operation Iraqi Freedom is technically ending in a few days, Operation New Dawn begins, US combat forces are out, I don't think the average Iraqi believes that that means a light switch is going to flick off and violence is going to end.  The Iraqi security forces are certainly going to be tested in the coming days, weeks, months probably.  But the US force that exists there now -- it's still almost 50,000 troops, they're not going anywhere, they're not going any beyond this until next summer.
 
Diane Rehm: But you did have a wave of coordinated attacks in thirteen cities just --
 
David Wood: Yeah, just a horrific thing.  Mounted apparently by al Qaeda in Iraq, the sort of home grown, foreign directed, Sunni terrorist organization.  What was particularly striking, I thought, was that after these bombs went off in these thirteen cities in a two hour period, the Iraqi people rushed in to help and people stoned them and shouted at them and were very angry and yelled: "Why can't you protect us!"  And it was, I thought, "Uh-oh."  It was a real uh-oh moment because clearly the Iraqi security forces cannot keep this kind of thing from happening.
 
Diane Rehm: Moises?
 
Moises Naim: August was the deadliest month for Iraqi security forces in the past three years, at least 265 have been killed in June alone. And if you look at these places where the attacks took place.  They bring back names that had gone out of the news. Falludi, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra.  These were places where we used to talk about them all the time and then they disappeared. This is a way of telling the world and telling Iraqis, we are still here -- on the part of insurgents in Iraq.  And explaining the fact that the US troops are leaving is creating -- plus -- the very important backdrop to this story is that Iraq doesn't have a government.  They had an election several months ago.  That election does not yield a clear result. And now they have been struggling to create a functioning government.
 
Diane Rehm: How are these 50,000 so-called non-combat troops going to be able to stand back and watch as this kind of desecration happens.
 
Courtney Kube: Well they won't be standing back at all.  I mean 20,000 of those 50,000 are assigned to advise-and-assist brigades that -- Just today, there was an advise-and-assist, some US troops that went out with Iraqi security forces, arrested seven al Qaeda in Iraq suspected members.  They won't be sitting back. Almost half of those forces are going to be involved in combat missions, frankly, it's just that they cannot do it alone.There really hasn't been a big change in posture of US forces since last summer, since the US forces were no longer allowed to operate on their own, no longer allowed to conduct missions within Iraqi cities.  So the only real difference that we're seeing right now is the numbers are down a little bit, the combat troops that were assigned to, you know, so-called combat brigades are now out and they're now reassigned to advise-and-assist.
 
Diane Rehm: There is more than a little ambiguety here, David Wood.
 
David Wood: I think it's deliberate. I want to pick up on something Moises was saying and that was that there's no Iraqi government in power, of course. There's been a lot of political turbulence since March when there were presidential [C.I. note: Parlimentary elections] elections and nobody won a clear majority or enough to put together a government in Parliament. One of the -- one of the upshots of that is that the United States is supposed to be, by law, withdraw all of its military forces from Iraq by December 31st of next year.  I think that agreement was made in the last months of the Bush administration with the understanding that it would be renegotiated because, if it were carried out, you wouldn't even be able to have Marine guards at the US Embassy.  With no government, you can't regnegotiate it. And the clock is ticking. And al Qaeda in Iraq has noticed and the statement they issued after this bombing was: "The countdown has begun to return Iraq to the embrace of Islam and its Sunnis with God's permission." Pretty chilling stuff.
 
Diane Rehm: Moises.
 
Moises Naim: So the story here again is one of calendars versus conditions.  There is a political -- a Washington based or a US politics-centered calendar that people are following and then there are realities on the ground. And these two are clashing.  The realities on the ground in Iraq are not in synch with deadlines and with timelines and the calendar that has been decided by purely domestic US politics kind of consideration and calculations.
 
Diane Rehm: So next week President Obama is going to make an Oval Office speech, next Tuesday. What's he expected to say, Moises?
 
Moises Naim: He's going to confirm two things that may be a bit contradictory.  I think.  One is that the troops are going out and this was his campaign promise and that Iraq is in better shape than before and so on.  But at the same time he's going to claim the continuing support and commitment of the United States to the building of a democratic Iraqi nation.
 
Staying on the 'end of war' 'treaty' 'requirement,' Gareth Porter (IPS via Dissident Voice) reports, "All indications are that the administration expects to renegotiate the security agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a post-2011 combat presence of up to 10,000 troops, once a new government is formed in Baghdad But Obama, fearing a backlash from anti-war voters in the Democratic Party, who have already become disenchanted with him over Afghanistan, is trying to play down that possibility. Instead, the White House is trying to reassure its anti-war base that the U.S. military role in Iraq is coming to an end."  The editorial board for the Seattle Times notes the drawdown is phase one, "Remember, the operative description is Phase One. The departure of all U.S. military is supposed to come at the end of 2011.  Do not confuse that goal with an end of U.S. presence or involvement in Iraq. Parsing out the future depends on definitions and interpretations. The exist of designated combat forces still leaves 50,000 American troops in Iraq, with another 79,000 U.S. contractors. Men and women in uniform are essentially replaced by taxpayer supported mercenaries who attract a lot less public attention."  Elise Labot (CNN) reports:

For the people of Iraq, the withdrawal of U.S. forces will be largely symbolic. The average Iraqi has not seen U.S. forces since June 2009, when they redeployed to the outskirts of Iraqi cities under the terms of the 2008 security agreement between the United States and Iraq.
Since then, Iraqi forces have been in charge of urban areas: manning most checkpoints, conducting operations against extremists and maintaining law and order.
But for the United States, the transfer from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn is monumental. The handover will put the U.S. State Department in an expanded and indeed unprecedented role, one it is forced to scale back before it even starts due to budget constraints.
 
All of the above is the reason people like Amitabh Pal (The Progressive) come to the conclusions they do about the 'end' of the illegal war:
 
Besides, the United States is not actually leaving the country. As Chris Toensing, editor of the Middle East Report (a must-read for understanding the area), points out, there will still be 50,000 troops left behind in an "advisory" capacity.
"The essential realities of the Iraq War remain the same: Iraq is oil-rich and strategically located at the head of the Persian Gulf. Its ruling elites are fractious and weak," Toensing writes. "Our continued troop presence is an insurance policy against disaster for the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi politicians, who would otherwise fear violent overthrow, and the White House, which would otherwise fear Iraq's takeover by unfriendly elements."
A lot of people will be paying for George Bush's folly for a long time to come.
 
And Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) points out, "In addition to the fantasy reporting, American military and civilian authorities are conducting fantasy arguments behind closed doors about whether the U.S. is going to withdraw all of its military forces, regardless of the nomenclature, by the end 0f 2011 - as required by solemn agreement with the Iraqis. One faction favors deploying a force of up to 10,000 mercenaries, complete with their own armored trucks, air force and missile-firing drones. But powerful figures in the Obama administration say they are confident they can talk the Iraqis into allowing 10,000 uniformed American troops to stay in the country after the deadline. Certainly, billions of dollars in bribes can sometimes work wonders - but U.S. plans for an eternity in Iraq have repeatedly been thwarted by the Iraqi people, themselves."
 
As Diane and her guests noted, a political stalemate exists currently in Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 20 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
 
One of the biggest roadblocks for the process -- before, during and after -- has been Ahmad Chalabi.  Babak Dehghanpisheh (Newsweek) notes:
 
Salih Mutlak can only wonder where in Iraq he might find justice. As one of the country's leading Sunni politicians, he was puzzled and angry to learn shortly before this spring's parliamentary elections that the Accountability and Justice Commission had barred him from running, along with roughly 500 other candidates. Prominent Sunni politicians like Mutlak were particularly targeted. So he picked up the phone and called the commission's head, Ahmad Chalabi, who was relaxing in Beirut. "I had nothing to do with it," Chalabi calmly asserted. "Come on, Ahmad," Mutlak persisted. "What does the committee have against me?" Chalabi told him there was a letter showing that Mutlak had cooperated with Saddam Hussein's notorious secret police, the Mukhabarat. "That's nonsense!" Mutlak snapped. Chalabi promised to look into the matter and try to resolve it.
But it was not resolved. With the March elections looming, Mutlak's brother Ibrahim took over the vacant slot -- and won. That didn't stop the commission from stepping in again with dubious authority and disqualifying the substitute candidate retroactively. Today, the fate of Ibrahim Mutlak and a dozen or so other similarly disqualified candidates remains an open question. "It's a disaster that Ahmad Chalabi would have such an influence in this country," says Salih Mutlak. "He wants to bring sectarianism back. He wants to damage the reputation of the Americans. He wants to spoil everything here!"
 
Michael Christie (Reuters) notes of the stalemate, "But the longer the political impasse continues, the longer it will take to address public anger about poor public services, such as a lack of electricity in the stifling summer heat. The perception may also grow that democracy in Iraq does not work, and Iraqi leaders are incapable of governing, raising the risks of public disturbances, coup attempts and increased meddling by often troublesome neighbours."  But the stalemate hasn't prevented targeting of labor unions in Iraq.  David Bacon (Truthout) reports:
 
Early in the morning of July 21 police stormed the offices of the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union in Basra, the poverty-stricken capital of Iraq's oil-rich south.  A shamefaced officer told Hashmeya Muhsin, the first woman to head a national union in Iraq, that they'd come to carry out the orders of Electricity Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to shut the union down.  As more police arrived, they took the membership records, the files documenting often-atrocious working conditions, the leaflets for demonstrations protesting Basra's agonizing power outages, the computers and the phones.  Finally, Muhsin and her coworkers were pushed out and the doors locked.                   
Shahristani's order prohibits all trade union activity in the plants operated by the ministry, closes union offices, and seizes control of union assets from bank accounts to furniture.  The order says the ministry will determine what rights have been given to union officers, and take them all away.  Anyone who protests, it says, will be arrested under Iraq's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005.       
So ended seven years in which workers in the region's power plants have fought for the right to organize a legal union, to bargain with the electrical ministry, and to stop the contracting-out and privatization schemes that have threatened their jobs.         
 The Iraqi government, while it seems paralyzed on many fronts, has unleashed a wave of actions against the country's unions that are intended to take Iraq back to the era when Saddam Hussein prohibited them for most workers, and arrested activists who protested.  In just the last few months, the Maliki government has issued arrest warrants for oil union leaders and transferred that union's officers to worksites hundreds of miles from home, prohibited union activity in the oil fields, ports and refineries, forbade unions from collecting dues or opening bank accounts, and even kept leaders from leaving the country to seek support while the government cracks down.                   
At the U.S. Embassy, the largest in the world, an official says mildly,  "We're looking into it.  We hope that everybody resolves their differences in an amicable way."  Meanwhile, however, while the U.S. command withdraws combat troops from many areas, it is beefing up the military and private-security apparatus it maintains to protect the wave of foreign oil companies coming into Basra to exploit the wealth of Iraq's oil fields.
 
 David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. 
 
 
Overnight, violence continued in Iraq. Reuters notes a Baaj attack in which 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 Iraqi military officer were shot dead, a Falluja roadside bombing apparently targeting police which wounded seven people and was followed by a second bombing when police arrived (wounding three) and a Shirqat attack on Sahwa which led to two Sahwa being killed and four more injured. AFP reminds, "When full control of the Sahwa passed from the US military to the Iraqi government in April last year, Baghdad promised to integrate 20 percent of its men into the police or army, and find civil service jobs for many others. But 52,000 are still waiting for new employment."  Reuters notes today's violence included a Kirkuk home invasion in which 1 child was slaughtered and three members of the child's family were left injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and injured four more people, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Mosul mortar attack injured one adult male and the corpse of a Christian male was discovered in Mosul (the man had been kidnapped earlier in the week).

Turning to England, Mark Stone (Sky News) observes of the British inquiry into the Iraq War, "At the top of that list, surely, is the civilian death toll. I wrote about it on this blog last month. There was an expectation then that the subject would be raised with ex-Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram. It was. For about a minute. Other than that, it's hardly been mentioned."  Ian Dunt (Politics) reports that Iraq Body Count (IBC) -- infamous for undercounting the dead in Iraq -- has hurled insults at the Iraq Inquiry, labeling it both "flawed" and "derisory" and has released their correspondent with Committee Chair John Chilcot in which they advocate for the inquiry to (quoting from correspondence) "fully and properly investigate Iraq casualties" and Dunt closes by noting that the Inquiry will go to Iraq. Only they "won't." They may. That was always the point. Chilcott has made two public statements about that. They would like to, they hope to. Whether they go or not, nothing is concrete at this point. Jonathan Steele (Guardian) grasps that reality, "The five-person Chilcot inquiry team plans to visit Iraq briefly in the next few weeks but the IBS says this appears to be 'an afterthought'." Channel 4 News adds, "Iraq Body Count (IBC) co-founder John Sloboda told Channel 4 News: 'Some of the deaths and injuries caused must have been breaches of British and international law, so some sort of judicial inquiry would seem to be in order'."
 
Meanwhile, Professor Robert Jensen (at Dissident Voice) explores the ethical issues and implications:
 
The legal case is straightforward: Neither invasion had the necessary approval of the United Nations Security Council, and neither was a response to an imminent attack. In both cases, U.S. officials pretended to engage in diplomacy but demanded war. Under international law and the U.S. Constitution (Article 6 is clear that "all Treaties made," such as the UN Charter, are "the supreme Law of the Land"), both invasions were illegal.                   
The moral case is also clear: U.S. officials' claims that the invasions were necessary to protect us from terrorism or locate weapons of mass destruction were never plausible and have been exposed as lies. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in 2001, when sensible changes in U.S. foreign policy and vigorous law enforcement in collaboration with other nations could have made us safer.                         
The people who bear the greatest legal and moral responsibility for these crimes are the politicians who send the military to war and the generals who plan the actions, and it may seem unfair to deny the front-line service personnel the label of "hero" when they did their duty as they understood it. But this talk of heroism is part of the way we avoid politics and deny the unpleasant fact that these are imperial wars. U.S. military forces are in the Middle East and Central Asia not to bring freedom but to extend and deepen U.S. power in a region home to the world's most important energy resources. The nation exercising control there increases its influence over the global economy, and despite all the U.S. propaganda, the world realizes we have tens of thousands of troops on the ground because of those oil and gas reserves.
 
 
While Jensen attempts to explore the complexities, Mr. Pretty Lies Barack Obama is already reducing it all to a simplistic bumper sticker -- one full of lies -- such as today's claim that Americans are "safer" as a result of the Iraq War.  Notice that only a War Hawk or a War **** can sell and spin an illegal war.  The Cult of St. Barack damn well better decide which Barry is: a War Hawk or a War ****.  He certainly isn't a truth teller.  We need to highlight two today who told the truth about the illegal war.  First up, Justin Raimondo's "All Lies, All The Time" (Antiwar.com):
 
This farcical "withdrawal," which amounts to merely increasing the number of mercenaries in the region, is a complete fabrication, motivated by pure politics and an infinite faith in the cluelessness of the Average Joe, who is too busy looking for a job to care. As to what they'll do when the insurgency starts to rise again, not to worry: no one will notice but the soldiers in the field. Surely the American media won't be so rude as to point it out, unless the Green Zone goes up in flames and they have to evacuate stragglers by helicopter as they did in Vietnam. In that case, the visuals would be too good to pass up.         
Everything that comes out of this administration, from its pronouncements on the overseas front to its own unemployment numbers, is a lie: it's all lies, all the time. Even in small matters, the default is a fib, such as in the case of the Pentagon's denial that it was ever in touch with WikiLeaks about minimizing the alleged damage done by the next Afghanistan document dump. After all, why would WikiLeaks make up such a story? The feds just want the documents "expunged," thank you. I doubt they really believe it's possible to "expunge" the Afghan war logs from the internet. If so, they are dumber than anyone has so far imagined. And so much for the myth that the Pentagon really cares about any danger to Afghan informants, who might be compromised by the release of more documents: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have given them their chance to safeguard the identities of US collaborators, and the Pentagon flat out rejected it. So be it.
 
And we need to note CODEPINK and Global Exchange's Medea Benjamin strong column (at OpEdNews):
 
It's true that Iraqis suffered under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein but his overthrow did not lead to a better life for Iraqis. "I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college," Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told me. "I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything--electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein."       

Dr. Al-Arabi has joined the ranks of the nearly four million Iraqi refugees, many of whom are now living in increasingly desperate circumstances in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and around the world. Undocumented, most are not allowed to work and are forced to take extremely low paying, illegal jobs or rely on the UN and charities to survive. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported a disturbing spike in the sex trafficking of Iraqi women.

 
There were many truth tellers and that was a great thing.  This week, we've attempted to highlight some each day but there wasn't room on Thursday.
 
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Charles Babbington (AP), Eamon Javers (CNBC), Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) and Pete Williams (NBC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Why We Love It When the President Goes Away." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Kim Gandy, Christina Hoff Sommers and Avis Jones-DeWeever on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is an exploration of whether or not there's any link between sex and schoolwork. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and it explores hydraulic fracturing and the salmonella egg outbreak. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Stealing America's Secrets
"60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy that offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China's spying may pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S. Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video

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

The Bloom Box
Large corporations in California have been secretly testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money. Will we have one in every home someday? Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

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

Birdmen
In the latest craze that has killed several extreme sports enthusiasts, men don wing-suits, jump off mountaintops and glide down at speeds approaching 140 miles per hour. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video

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

60 Minutes, Sunday, August 29, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
 
 
 
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« Reply #69 on: August 28, 2010, 07:52:18 am »

Cells...


by Layla Anwar

http://arabwomanblues.blogspot.com/2010/08/cells.html

August 27, 2010

I am devastated...I learned that my relative K. has been taken away again...

Every cell in my body is in revolt, enraged, and terribly sad...Mom said this time K.will not make out alive.

He was sitting with his family, breaking the fast, when the "Iraqi" forces, the shiite fascists barged in and arrested him...

It took 5 years for him to be released from his dirty cell, American cell, then Iraqi shiite sectarian cell, I did write about him and his torture, the man is over 65 years old, I am not sure we will see him again this time...

I don't even know in which cell, in which dungeon he is lingering away...I don't even know how much money they are going to extort again...

During his previous prison stay, no charges were pressed against him, he was tortured and rotted away for 5 years, his only crime he is an Arab Sunni, who said that Iraqis must rise against the American occupation...he said it...

How dare he say such a thing ?! One should never rise against the dumb **** of an occupier, against the psychopaths from America, against the rapists and torturers of the new world order from North America, against the killers and the thieves from that **** hole of a country and that **** of a culture called America.

K.is gone again...my cells are red, bright red, burning with fire...that nothing will extinguish...

A whole wave of arrests is being carried by the Shiite sectarian shits, mainly in Adamiya - the Sunni area, arrests and arbitrary killings.

The whole of Baghdad knows, on the other hand that the latest spate of explosions is the work of none other but Maliki and his Shiite shits of
parties...He, that murderous clown said it not long ago - he said : I will never hand it over (it meaning power).

Well, I don't really care about Maliki, or his Shiite shits, nor about that dumb British agent called Allawi, nor about the garbage in power who call themselves Iraqis, they are rot, they are vermin...each single one of them...all I care about is K. And I just have a feeling that last time I saw K. is indeed the last time...

I pray to be wrong...please Dear God make me wrong.




 
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« Reply #70 on: August 28, 2010, 02:11:56 pm »

Maliki warns of joint Qaeda, Baath strike
 
 
28/08/2010 04:30:00 PM GMT     
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/Maliki-warns-of-joint-Qaeda-Baath-strike.html

 

 
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

 

 
The Iraqi premier has put the nation on alert, warning of joint terror projects by al-Qaeda militants and the outlawed Baath Party of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein.

Speaking on Saturday in the wake of the death of some 60 people in nationwide violent attacks, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned of more acts of terrorism in the country.

Maliki said the violence sought "to create fear and chaos and kill more innocents."

"We direct the Iraqi forces, police and army and other security forces to take the highest alert and precautionary measures to foil this criminal planning," he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

The warning came two days after Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari cautioned that the political gridlock in the country would be conducive to the growth of militancy.

"Here you have a government paralysis, you have a political vacuum," Zebari said, adding that "in such environment, these terrorist networks flourish actually and would love to deepen division among Iraqi politicians to apportion blame on each other in order to create as much chaos as possible."

Tension has raged on across Iraq ever since the March 7 parliamentary elections, which failed to produce a clear winner for the establishment of a new government.

Baghdad had initially banned some 500 suspected Baathists from contesting the sensitive elections.

Following a reported intervention by US Vice President Joe Biden, however, the prohibition was lifted a month before the event, prompting Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to warn that Saddam sympathizers could stage a military coup and undo all the achievements of the Iraqi nation.

 
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« Reply #71 on: August 31, 2010, 07:38:14 am »

Iraq - An End or an Escalation?


By Rep. Ron Paul


Global Research, August 31, 2010
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=20841
Rep. Ron Paul, US Congress - 2010-08-30


Amid much fanfare last week, the last supposed “combat” troops left Iraq as the administration touted the beginning of the end of the Iraq War and a change in the role of the United States in that country.  Considering the continued public frustration with the war effort, and with the growing laundry list of broken promises, this was merely another one of the administration’s operations in political maneuvering and semantics in order to convince an increasingly war-weary public that the Iraq War is at last ending.  However, military officials confirm that we are committed to intervention in that country for years to come, and our operations have in fact, changed minimally, if really at all.

After eight long draining years, I have to wonder if our government even understands what it is to end a war anymore.  The end of a war, to most people, means all the troops come home, out of harm’s way.  It means we stop killing people and getting killed.  It means we stop sending troops and armed personnel over and draining our treasury for military operations in that foreign land.  But much like the infamous “mission accomplished” moment of the last administration, this “end” of the war also means none of those things.

50,000 US troops remain in Iraq, and they are still receiving combat pay.  One soldier was killed in Basra just last Sunday, after the supposed end of combat operations, and the same day 5,000 men and women of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Hood were deployed to Iraq.  Their mission will be anything but desk duty.  Among other things they will accompany the Iraqi military on dangerous patrols, continue to be involved in the hunt for terrorists, and provide air support for the Iraqi military.  They should be receiving combat pay, because they will be serving a combat role! 

Of course the number of private contractors - who perform many of the same roles as troops, but for a lot more money - is expected to double.  So this is a funny way of ending combat operations in Iraq.  We are still meddling in their affairs and we are still putting our men and women in danger, and we are still spending money we don’t have.  This looks more like an escalation than a draw-down to me!

The ongoing war in Iraq takes place against a backdrop of economic crisis at home, as fresh numbers indicate that our economic situation is as bad as ever, and getting worse!  Our foreign policy is based on an illusion: that we are actually paying for it. What we are doing is borrowing and printing the money to maintain our presence overseas. Americans are seeing the cost of this irresponsible approach as our economic decline continues. Unemployed Americans have been questioning a policy that ships hundreds of billions of dollars overseas while their own communities crumble and their frustration is growing.  An end to this type of foreign policy is way overdue. 

A return to the traditional American foreign policy of active private engagement and non-interventionism is the only alternative that can restore our moral and fiscal health.
 
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« Reply #72 on: August 31, 2010, 07:53:36 am »

Armistice and Governance in the Iraqi Government-Formation Process: The US Position

by Reidar Visser

http://www.historiae.org/governance.asp

August 30, 2010



As the end of the US combat mission in Iraq is drawing to a close (31 August), there are two basic approaches to the ongoing, stalemated process of government formation in Iraq.

The first approach assumes that Iraq’s citizens are more interested in issues like security, health and services than in sectarian bickering and that it is possible to form a government based on common views on basic political issues instead of taking into consideration calculations relate to ethno-sectarian identities. Typically, this kind of government would be a "minimum-winning" one, i.e. just above the 163 mark needed to secure a parliamentary majority (and hence strong enough to pass whatever legislation it wishes to pass) but not much above that (in order to maximise the prospect for developing internal coherence and avoiding the multiplication of sinecures inside government). This kind of government would offer the best chances of maximising the autonomy of the Iraqi government versus a hostile regional environment. It is also the approach that presents the best fit with the Iraqi constitution; by way of contrast the idea that all winning lists need to be represented or that all ethno-sectarian groups must be included in government has no constitutional basis as such.

The second, opposite approach, is focused on armistice rather than governance. It presupposes that no proper, issue-based government in Iraq is possible due to assumed insurmountable ethnic and religious tensions, and that the aim should therefore be to make sure as many players as possible are "inside the tent" where they would be less likely to create trouble. These ideas do not come from the constitution; rather they are inspired by Western models of "consociational" democracy and power-sharing and point in the direction of an oversized cabinet with a weak prime minister. It is therefore important to point out that the case of Iraq fits badly with the standard criteria cited by theoreticians of consociational democracy as prerequisites for success – including a relatively low case-load on the political system, a public willingness to accept backroom politics (or the existence of alternative means of expressing the popular will when government becomes invisible, such as frequent referendums), and not least internal coherence in the sub-communities included in government through a formula of power-sharing. Typically in the Iraqi case it would be vitally important that the Sadrists be represented if this kind of "armistice" approach is followed, since the whole idea is to make a compact between what is believed to be the "main tribes" of the community instead of transcending tribal and ethnic loyalties altogether (as in the governance-focused approach). Needless to say, this kind of government is unlikely to develop any internal coherence and will often experience paralysis. It will, in other words, easily fall prey to the schemes of regional powers.

After some initial confusion as far as Washinghton’s preferences are concerned (first it seemed there was a desire to see all four big winners included in an "armistice government", then some suggested there was interest in a "governance government" of just Iraqiyya and State of Law) it is now possible to situate US policy within this dichotomy. Firstly, it seems clear that the idea of building an issue-based, progressive government is not seen as realistic by Washington: Ambassador Chris Hill recently repeated the view that the Kurds "had to be included", simply on an ethno-sectarian basis. Thus the US proposal for Iraqiyya and State of Law to move closer together does not really seem to be based on a vision of them excluding the others; rather the idea seems to be that the two would take the most important positions and give the rest to the others in what would still be an oversized power-sharing formula.

Secondly, Washington has now introduced a specific suggestion for how to solve the tug-of-war between the leaders of the two biggest blocs, Nuri al-Maliki and Ayyad Allawi, regarding the premiership. The proposed solution would involve giving one of the two men (i.e. the loser in the premiership contest) compensation in the shape of the presidency for the national security council. Conceptually, then, this kind of proposal – described by American officials as a "way of increasing the number of chairs" – seems to be leaning towards the "power-sharing" end of the government-formation typology, since governance in Iraq today would mean reducing the number of chairs, not increasing them. This is especially so because the security council chosen as the key device for solving the problem (let’s face it, the idea is to create two premierships and kick the problems further down the road), is conceptually related to other institutional innovations supported in particular by the Kurds in the post-2005 period with the aim of further reducing the prospect of a strong government in Baghdad. There are striking similarities between the composition of the national security council of 2006 and the oil and gas commission proposed in 2007 (unsurprisingly, the president of the Kurdish region is supposed to sit on both), and the aim of having consensus decisions in these forums means that they are likely to remain ineffective and weak.

Whatever one may think of this US strategy, the challenges and the uphill struggle it faces seem rather obvious. Firstly, at the procedural level, and judging from leaks from the talks held so far, it seems designed to fit a scenario in which Maliki would continue as premier and Allawi would get the newly revived post as head of the national security council. There are several problems here. In the first place, Allawi does not seem particularly interested, since he is still hoping for the premiership instead. Secondly, if Maliki is to continue as premier he also needs to be the candidate of the biggest bloc in parliament, meaning that unless he allies with Allawi in a bloc (in which case no further partners would be needed and a more governance-focused cabinet could be formed instead of a power-sharing one), a Maliki premiership, as per the apparent US preference, is predicated on the survival of the Shiite alliance of both State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance, i.e. Iran’s preferred scenario (otherwise Maliki would not have the seats to form the biggest bloc).  Again, absent a bilateral deal with Iraqiyya, the sole legal path to a second Maliki premiership is a perpetuation of a Shiite alliance on the pattern of the United Iraqi Alliance in 2006, and even that would be disputed by Iraqiyya for being a much too flexible reading of the constitutional article 76 on the entitlement of the biggest bloc to form the government since it involves post-election bloc formation.

In other words, this outcome would be the exact opposite to what Joe Biden and other US leaders have been telling Washington lately about a supposed decline in Iranian influence in Iraq. Not a big surprise, though: Ambassador Chris Hill told a USIP audience in Washington last week that he expected the next Iraqi premier to be a Shiite – an assertion that completely lacks any basis in the Iraqi constitution and represents exactly the kind of sectarian paradigm of Iraqi politics that Iran prefers. One cannot fail to get the impression that either US policy is grossly contradictive, or there is an unspoken underlying policy of détente with Iran in Iraq, at the expense of the governance of that country and its citizens. Had Washington truly put Iraqi interests first, it would instead have aimed to draw a wedge between the two Shiite-led alliances by having one inside government and the other on the outside, thereby allowing the one in government to develop a more lasting bond with the other main forces in Iraqi politics, without being susceptible to cheap tricks like the de-Baathification revival that brought Iraqi politics to a standstill earlier this year.


Constitutionality, or rather lack of constitutionality, is the second main issue with the US proposal. The problem, of course, is that the national security council does not even exist in the constitution (although Hill seemed to think so at USIP last week); it was created in 2006 and has been dormant for most of the time since its inception. The pro-Iranian parties have already dismissed the scheme as unconstitutional and rightly so: In short, it would be a major risk for Iraqiyya to accept this kind of position in lieu of the premiership since it would require some instant constitutional fixes to get the whole process going. Rest assured that other ideas would come up, too, if the broader question of constitutional revision were reopened in the midst of the government-formation process.

That in turn points to the third problem, relating to the likely outcome if an attempt to implement the US proposal were in fact to go ahead. Most significantly, perhaps, after so much talk about their right to form the government as the biggest winning bloc, it is really hard to see how Iraqiyya could accede to that kind of arrangement without collapsing internally and leaving the next government with the "Tawafuq syndrome" of the 2006–2010 period. Equally possible is perhaps the scenario of a full Iraqiyya withdrawal; this would leave half or Iraq’s governorates unrepresented in government in a situation where they neither have nor want autonomy on the Kurdish pattern. Additionally, the idea of excluding the Sadrists (an idea which seems to enjoy support in some American circles) would make this kind of power-sharing arrangement particularly problematic since it would then violate a central premise of consociational theory, namely the importance of coherent sub-communities. A classical example of how this can go wrong is the case of the emergence of Hizbollah in Lebanon; non-representation of the Sadrists to the advantage of ISCI could mean the same thing in Iraq since a power-sharing government is unlikely to develop the kind of strength that a more compact, united government would be able to muster to deal with the challenges presented by the Sadrists.

Finally, as far as the Iraqi perspectives on the process are concerned, there is unfortunately not much sign of rapprochement between State of Law (SLA) and Iraqiyya towards a governance-focused, two-party government. State of Law have increasingly began referring to sectarian governing formulas ("a Shiite must be prime minister"), and their talks have lately focused more on the idea of union with the other main Shiite list, the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), than on dialogue with Iraqiyya. Iraqiyya, for its part, is increasingly expressing exasperation in its talks with INA, perhaps realising that this is probably all a game in which they are being exploited in the internal Shiite tug-of-war between SLA and INA for the premiership. They keep talking about a Sadrist miracle, with or without Syrian help, and of course if the Sadrists or indeed all of INA were truly prepared to give the premiership to Allawi then this would represent a meaningful step towards a restoration of Iraqi distinctiveness in the region and a clarification of the Byzantine Syrian role between Iran and the Arab world, even if the resultant government would look ideologically incoherent in the extreme. Right now, however, it is the scenario of INA and SLA trying to force their way to power via the putative all-Shiite alliance that seems to dominate, with the possibility of a showdown with the Kurds and their maximalist demands further down the road marking the main difference with the situation in 2006 (the Kurdish votes can be dispensed with this time because the two-thirds majority requirement for selecting the president is gone). Iran appears comfortable with this kind of end game, and the United States does not seem to be doing anything to stop it; in fact at times it seems to be pushing in exactly the same direction.

 

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« Reply #73 on: August 31, 2010, 08:27:52 am »

Why Moqtada Haunts the White House

by Kelley B. Vlahos, August 31, 2010

http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2010/08/30/why-moqtada-haunts-the-white-house/



There will be plenty spirits of Iraq policy past, present and future crowding the dais tonight as the President announces a “successful” transition and “a promise kept” for the drawdown of American troops from Iraq.

There’s George W. and Dick Cheney and their ghoulish courtiers – Donald Rumsfeld and his number two Paul Wolfowitz, not to mention coalition provisional authority viceroy L. Paul Bremer and Douglas Feith, all who dragged the country into Iraq and then botched it irreparably.

Hovering close by are our military demigods, Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno, gently plucking and pulling the strings of the president who is trying to convince the American people that Iraq is all but over, despite leaving 50,000 soldiers and a civilian force of at least 10,000 staff and heavily armed security contractors behind.

But the real phantasm casting a pall over the proceedings is an Iraqi one and he represents it all – the past, present and more importantly, the future of Iraq. Moqtada al Sadr, once dismissed by Washington neoconservatives as a desperate, washed-up five-cent firebrand, is now an Iranian-supported kingmaker who will not only help determine the next government and prime minister, but has threatened to activate the armed wing of his low-lying Mahdi Army, the Promised Day Brigade, if the American “occupier” doesn’t pack up and leave entirely.

The “Promised Day Brigade” will “prepare quietly to launch qualitative attacks against the occupiers (U.S. forces) if they stay beyond 2011,” said Sadr spokesman Salah al-Obeidi, to the Associated Press, in May. “It will have a big role to play to drive them out of Iraq.”

 
Sadr is of course, an awkward subject for an administration attempting to project the best, most optimistic image in the rear-view. This was Bush’s war, and Obama seems eager to keep it that way, more so, to move on and to focus on his mess in Afghanistan. But he is having a hard time fully extricating – Odierno has already suggested scenarios in which the U.S combat mission might have to resume – and the fact that there is no government, and may not be any government without Sadr’s say-so, must be very difficult to stomach back in Washington.

Says writer Babak Dehghanpisheh, in his August Foreign Policy piece, “The King of Iraq“:

“The Sadrists … aren’t going anywhere – which puts Washington, among others, in a bind. Sadr’s supporters are more than just a political party. The cleric is clearly following the Hezbollah model, creating populist political movement backed by a battle-hardened militia. The language Sadr uses when discussing the U.S. presence in Iraq – resistance, occupation, martyrdom – could easily have been taken from a speech by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah. All this has discouraged U.S. officials from holding talks with Sadr – something they’ve never done since 2003. It’s not exactly like Sadr has gone out of his way to open up a dialogue, either. In fact, Sadr and many of his top aides have made it clear that the Mahdi Army won’t disarm as long as there are American troops on Iraqi soil.”

From the start, the 37-year-old cleric, politician and militia leader has openly denounced the security agreement allowing for the gradual drawdown of troops by 2011. When the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was signed in 2008 by Bush and Sadr’s political rival, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Sadr promised blood in the streets unless the U.S left sooner.

“I repeat my call on the occupier to get out from the land of our beloved Iraq, without retaining bases or signing agreements,” said Sadr, who has been in religious training, and managing his political affairs from a safe perch in Iran for the last three years. “If they do stay, I urge the honorable resistance fighters … to direct their weapons exclusively against the occupier.” His words came a month after tens of thousands of his supporters took to the streets in Baghdad against the SOFA.

In a piece called “The Bad Boy of Iraqi Politics Returns,” Mohamad Bazzi points out how “Sadr’s political ascendance threatens to stoke sectarian tensions in Iraq,” which are particularly acute as a wave of violence, reportedly sparked by remaining al Qaeda factions in Iraq, have killed hundreds in the country over the last several weeks. While American leaders appear to downplay it, the fact that an anti-American Shia who once tested U.S military resolve in Najaf, Karbala, Basra and Baghdad, is gathering himself up for a big political victory and possibly, a future Shia revival, seems to be the silent ugly truth of Obama’s “successful” troop drawdown.

“Under the circumstances, (Sadr’s) power and influence inside Iraq’s Shia community is both permanent and growing,” noted retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor. “He is unlikely to lead the country, but he and his supporters will wield decisive influence.”

But We Thought He Was Dead!

Maybe not dead, but certainly defeated. A number of times – or at least it always seemed so. But he always comes back. Sadr is the son-in-law of a Shia martyr and the fourth son of the beloved Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was murdered in 1989 along with two of Sadr’s brothers, allegedly by Ba’athists working for dictator Saddam Hussein. Because Sadr’s father had sacrificed his life by remaining in Iraq rather than fleeing to Iran during Saddam’s dictatorship, his family name invokes great respect and authority among the Iraqi Shia to this day. Baghdad’s Sadr City was later named for his martyrdom.

Moqtada al Sadr has only enhanced this influence and legitimacy among Sadrist Shia followers during the U.S war, for rebelling against and not consorting with “the occupier,” nor bending to the wills of Maliki or even Iran. Just last week, Sadr told his hosts in Iran that he will leave them and set up shop in Lebanon if they continue to exert pressure on him to join Maliki in a coalition government. The political situation has been in a stalemate since March when parties backed by Sadr and former prime minister Iyad Allawi won enough seats to break Maliki’s grip over the formation of the future government.

Sadr does not support, nor trust Maliki, after the Iraqi prime minister took up common cause with the Americans and helped lead a series of crackdowns on Sadrist strongholds, particularly Sadr City, in 2007 and 2008 as part of the infamous “Surge.” At the time, throughout several wobbly ceasefires and Sadr’s exile to Iran, his movement appeared doomed to the dustbin. Since then, Maliki’s forces have fully penetrated Sadr City, the remaining loyalist fighters seemingly melted away.

According to the Washington Post, Sadr froze the Mahdi Army’s activities in 2008 and “has since divided most of his men into two unarmed civic organizations called Mumahidoon, ‘those who pave the way,’ and Munasiroon, ‘the supporters,’ to provide services to the poor, protect mosques and study religion. The aforementioned Promised Day Brigade is the Mahdi’s only armed wing. Offshoots of the old army, referred to by the U.S military as “special groups,” operate independently, and often contrary, to Sadr’s leadership and goals.

But Moqtada’s influence among the Shia has always been second-guessed by American analysts. During a wave of Mahdi Army uprisings in 2004 in which Sadr’s forces briefly gained control of key Shia cities over American forces, neoconservative Michael Rubin at the American Enterprise Institute called Sadr “a desperate man,” who wanted to “cash in on his family’s name,” and whose “support has hemorrhaged over the past several months.” A month later, Charles Krauthammer declared that Sadr’s militia, was “systematically taken down by the U.S military.”

Not quite – it turned out they had a few good fights left in them. Sadr, meanwhile, was not so disregarded by the Shia that he wasn’t able to influence the 2006 elections. Sadr-backed candidates won an impressive 30 seats in the election and helped to propel Maliki to the head of the government. Sadr’s political sway was only matched  – and surpassed – in this way in March, when his candidates won 40 seats and a coveted place at the bargaining table.

“Sadr has once again shown greater political skill than the United States and his Iraqi rivals usually give him credit for,” wrote Mohamed Bazzi in July. Patrick Cockburn, author of Moqtada, told Antiwar Radio’s Scott Horton recently that Sadr represented “the only grassroots movement in Iraq.”

As Cockburn explained in his book, while U.S media and government “demonizes and belittles” Sadr, his political – and physical – survival belies a strength that Americans may not be fully prepared to understand or ultimately overcome. “Moqtada and his followers are intensely religious and see themselves as following in the tradition of martyrdom in opposition to the tyranny established when Hussein and Abbas were killed by the Umayyads on the plains of Karbala fourteen hundred years ago,” writes Cockburn.

In other words, while the American lens might see Sadr as just another ambitious man seeking political control of Iraq, it may be missing the bigger picture, that Sadr is studying in Iran to become an ayatollah in the tradition of his family, perhaps seeking to become an authoritative, supreme religious leader who commands the politics and steers Iraq into a more purist Shia vision – one that has no place for the America’s own strategic vision for the Middle East.

The prospect for this should be what tickles the back of Obama’s neck as he takes to the podium this evening.

“The key point,” says Macgregor, “is we spent a trillion dollars, sacrificed and destroyed thousands of US lives and millions of Arab lives with the result that we changed nothing of significance inside Iraq.”
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« Reply #74 on: August 31, 2010, 02:05:14 pm »

Iraq snapshot - August 30, 2010

The Common Ills

http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2010/08/iraq-snapshot_30.html


Monday, August 30, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack gets ready to spin illegal war and guess who he plans to telephone, Joe Biden does a layover in Iraq, the political stalemate continues, and more.
 
On the most recent broadcast of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), guest host Teymoor Nabili spoke with Phyllis Bennis, Hoshyar Zebari and Bradley Blakeman about the Status Of Forces Agreement, the drawdown and other issues.  Excerpt:
 
Teymoor Nabili: Well the Washington p.r. machine has been at pains to portray the remaining US troops as advisers to the soveign Iraqi government and security services.  But is that an accurate representation of the situation?  I'm joined on today's program by Hoshyar Zebari who is Iraq's Foreign Minister -- he's in Baghdad -- in Washington D.C. Phyllis Bennis is the director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and, also in Washington, Bradley Blakeman a former senior advisor to the former US president George Bush and now a professor of politics and public affairs at Georgetown University.  Welcome to the program all of you.  Thank you for being with us. Phyllis Bennis, I'll begin with you if I might.  The phrasing of this drawdown has been very cautious. The last combat brigade has left Iraq, we're told.  What exactly does that mean?
 
Phyllis Bennis: Well it means that we're going to call them something different. These are conventional combat brigades.  These are brigades that are being, what the Pentagon used to call, "remissioned" -- what the Washington Post is now calling "rebranded" as something other than what they are which is combat brigades. A new 3,000 brigade from Fort Hood left on Sunday night.  This is the 3rd Armored Calvary Division.  That is a combat brigade. That's what's left -- 50,000 combat troops with a mission that does not officially include combat but as Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates was careful to say, they are prepared for combat, they are capable of combat, they will be embedded with Iraqi military units that will be engaging in combat and within them are 4,500 Special Ops forces who will continue to be engaged in so-called "counter-terrorism" attacks -- meaning, go after those who we decide are the 'bad guys.'  So this is combat --
 
Teymoor Nabili: Bradley Blakeman, is that how you see it?
 
Phyllis Bennis: -- on a smaller scale.
 
Bradley Blakeman: Yeah, I have to agree with Phyllis, this is semantics.  Call it what you want, but it's 50,000 combat troops that remain there.  Our president is very desperate for any kind of achievement.  Foreign policy seems to be the area he's concentrating on now.  He needs to focus away from his domestic woes and this is a good way for him to do that.
 
Teymoor Nabili: Foreign Minister Zebari, the Washington policy it seems is to whitewash the reality.  How do you see it?
 
Hoshyar Zebari: Well I think this is President Obama's campaign pledge fulfillment actually -- pledge.  He did pledge to the American public during the election campaign that he will withdraw all combat troops by August 31, 2010.  [C.I. note: Zebari is wrong.  The 'pledge' or 'promise' was first all combat troops out within 16 months of his being sworn in and then became all out within 10 months.  With the exception of a lengthy New York Times article, he did not usually go into "combat troops" semantics and most voters heard his cry of "We want to end the war now!" and took "combat troops" to mean all troops out other than Marines guarding the US Embassy in Baghdad.] And according to the SOFA agreement or the Agreement of Withdrawal of American troops [the latter term is what Nouri sold the SOFA to Iraqis as being] all troops should leave the country by the end of 2011. So I think the process has gone smoothly.  There would be forces still -- a sizeable force remaining in the country.  50,000 is not a small number.  And in fact there mission and their mandate is to advise-and-assist Iraqi security forces --
 
Teymoor Nabili: But the point that the other two guests were making, Foreign Minister, pardon me for interrupting, is that however you want to describe this and however you want to interpret the words of the Status Of Forces Agreement, nothing much has changed in Iraq.  These are still US combat troops and the situation and their activites will really not be much different, will they?
 
Hoshyar Zebari: No, it will be different, definitely.  This number 50,000, has come down from 170,000 -- 140,000.  So it's a a huge difference.  Second, the mission has changed.  All US troops have left the main cities.  They are in their barracks outside the cities and they are embedded with the Iraqi security forces.  So there is a major change in the mission, in the operation, in the mood of carrying out  the operation and so on --
 
Teymoor Nabili: Alright.
 
Hoshyar Zebari: -- in the relations and their presence and Iraqi military authority.
 
Teymoor Nabili: And, Phyllis Bennis, surely that is the point.  That, at the end of the day, you may be right. It may all be a slight semantic distinction but, at the end of the day, there are less troops and they are on the way out.
 
Phyllis Bennis: And having fewer troops and if they are on the way out, that's a good thing.  I think there is a big question here, however.  The agreement -- the SOFA agreement that the Foreign Minister speaks of -- was of course negotiated not by President Obama but by George Bush in the last months of his administration in 2008.  In that agreement, it does say that all troops will be gone.  But there is a huge loophole which is that if the Iraqi government which, in my view, is still dependent on the United States for its survival decides that it needs US troops, wants US troops to stay or if the US decides that it wants to keep troops in Iraq for all the same reasons they were sent there in the first place --  which has to do with oil, which has to do with bases, which has to do with the expansion of US power in the region --  none of those reasons have changed. If the US decides that they want to stay, they certainly are in the position to put pressure on the Iraqi government. If the Iraqi government decides that they want to ask the US to stay, they could certainly take that initiative.  So either side is really in a position to say, "We'd like to renegotiate this and talk about keeping troops further in."  Even if that doesn't happen, what's already under way is a shift -- not, as we are being told, a transition from US troops to Iraqi troops but from Pentagon troops to State Dept security officials. Thousands of State Dept security people are being sent. There is the anticipation that there will be about 7,000 contractors being sent who will be doing all the things that the military does but they will not be controlled in the same way by the SOFA agreement which only speaks of contractors under the pay of the Defense Dept, of the Pentagon. Those who are under the administration of the State Dept -- which will include planes, drones, armored personnel carriers, all of these things which are all military but they will be officially part of the State Dept rather than the Pentagon, they will be continuing so there is a very severe danger, I think, that this will continue.
 
 
From reality to spin, Joe Biden, US Vice President, is doing another layover in Baghdad.  Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) quotes Biden riffing on Michael Douglas' speech in Romancing the Stone: "We are going to be just fine. They are going to be just fine."  Everything but, "Joan Wilder, inside you always were."  Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) explains he's schedule includes a photo-op on Wednesday when the illegal war is rechristened Operation New Dawn. Sly and Gordon both note that Biden's traveling with his "national security adviser" (pay attention to those national security types popping up in Iraq) who stated Biden would press on the issue of forming a government.  March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 23 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.  Yesterday, Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reported that the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, is stating that the political stalemate could cause harm and "I worry about that a little bit."  AFP quotes the Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq's Ammar al-Hakim stating, "We have started to reach the end of the tunnel. In the next few days, we are heading toward resolving the issue and accelerating the formation of a new government."
 
Biden's visit is part of the p.r. rollout -- a p.r. rollout which includes photo ops for Barack Obama as well.  The New York Post reports Barack visited Watler Reed Army Medical Center today . . .and that it was only his second visit since being sworn in as President of the United States.  20 months two visits.  If he didn't need to use the wounded as props today, it would probably still just be one visit because it's so hard to travel all the way from the White House in DC to Walter Reed . . . also in DC.  However, White House plus-size spokesmodel Robert Gibbs informed the country today at the White House press briefing that Barack would be phoning (and texting?) Bully Boy Bush tomorrow before Barack gave his speech.  War Hawks bonding.  How totally non-surprising unless you're a member of the Cult of St. Barack.  The only one more delusional today than Barack or Bush may be William McKenzie who self-decieves so much it's jaw dropping.  But remember that the Dallas Morning News issued orders, prior to the invasion, that all opposed to the incoming war must be demonized.  Which is how Sheryl Crow -- who can sing, play instruments and write songs -- got demonized as the 'music critics' pushed a pop tart and claimed Sherly stole the pop tart's Grammy nomination (reality, the pop-tart couldn't qualify for that year's nomination due to the release date of her output).  From the sports pages to the art pages, from the editorial pages to the so-called 'news' pages, no paper disgraced itself more than the Dallas Morning News and it wasn't an accident which is why so few in the publishing industry bother to take the paper seriously today (and no one mourns their now faded DC desk). Whether attacking Steve Nash on the sports pages or allowing the loser ___ ____ columnist to rip apart peace activists as "treasonous" (and this was before the illegal war broke out), the Dallas Morning News proved that there was a reason the day JFK visited Dallas (and was assassinated) they printed their attack and call to violence on JFK.  As an 'advertisement' you understand. (I didn't see it but I understand the loser is now doing '**** jokes' at the paper's blog. That's the level of 'quality' that Belo and the Dallas Morning News provide.  How proud they must all be. How fortunate the lucky ones -- including a personal friend of mine -- got away from those crazies long, long ago.)  It certainly got results, didn't it?  Ewen MacAskill and Martin Chulov (Guardian) report that while Barack prepares to spin in his big speech tomorrow, Hoshyer Zebari has termed the drawdown and "embarrssment" due to the fact that it happens as Iraq has still not formed a government and the reporters note that violence has again reached a new high in Iraq.

In an attempt to combat the p.r. spin and the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan issued a statement at Peace of the Action:
 
First of all-this was never a war, this always has been an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign country and it was obviously for the monetary benefit of a few and millions of people, including my family, have suffered because of it.
The first MAJOR HOAX was that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had WMD and a connection to al Qaeda and if the US didn't invade immediately Iraq would send "mushroom clouds" or "drones with bio-weapons to the US East Coast -- the second MAJOR HOAX was that we ended the war on May 1, 2003 when then US president, George Bush, declared an "end" to "combat operations;' the third MAJOR HOAX is that the US ended a horrible dictatorship only to be replaced with a puppet US regime that almost makes execution a national sport. 
Now, with a country in ruins and the US leaving many major construction projects unfinished -- we are again perpetrating a MAJOR HOAX, not just on the people of Iraq, but the people of the US. 
With 50,000 troops (the 3rd Armored Calvary is deploying from Ft. Hood, Tx to Iraq as we speak), 18,000 mercenary killers and 82,000 support contractors (staffing an Imperial Embassy the size of 80 football fields), the illegal and immoral US occupation of Iraq is far from over. 
As Ret. Lt. General James Dubik said recently: "It is in our (US) interest to have an Iraq that is friendly to the US." What he means is an Iraq that is friendly to US war profiteers.
I want to say this in the most simple and direct way that I can: "If you believe that the war in Iraq is over, and not merely carnage rebranded, then you are deluding yourself and I hope you wake up to the fact that for generations human beings have been used as pawns for the political elite and, don't forget, that this is an election year."
I urge all of you to put on your critical-thinking caps and reject this propaganda and reaffirm your commitment to peace above political party.
 
Anne Pekneth (The Hill) adds, "Let's face it, the Democrats are in an election cycle and the president will repeat that he has kept his election promise to end the combat mission in Iraq by the end of August 2010 and to pull out U.S. soldiers by the end of next year.
But as the respected Iraq analyst Anthony Cordesman has pointed out in a recent post for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 'The Iraq War is not over and it is not 'won'."

 

 
Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that after US taxpayer monies of $53 billion were poured into Iraq (supposedly for reconstruction) "it has come to this -- an ice machine in a city on fire."  In the 100 degree plus weather, there is no reliable electricity (outside the Green Zone) and, of course, a potable water crisis -- which, this time of year, usually means the annual (since the US invasion) outbreak of cholera. Nir Rosen (National Newspaper) quotes Sheikh Ahmad al Kinani stating, "Electricity is worse than ever. Children and elderly are dying from the heat. Human rights is a concept that doesn't exist in Iraq."  Meanwhile Robert Siegel (NPR's All Things Considered) speaks with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen today and Bowen states, "I think the single largest failed program has been the health sector.  The plan was to build a state of the art children's oncology hospital in Basra, to construct 151 public health care clinics taking a new level of aid out to the hinderlands in Iraq and to refurbish the many of the broken down hospitals in the country. None of those programs really succeeded."  Reality is that Alsumaria TV reported over the weekend that Nouri declared Iraq was on high alert because of "information that Al Qaeda and Baathists were planning a series of attacks across the country."  In addition, Arwa Damon (CNN) reports, "Although the security situation in Ramadi has improved dramatically, appearances can be deceiving. Our escort from the governor's compound to the market was nervous about spending more than a few minutes on the streets, and we weren't able to talk to any of the shoppers and business owners."  The Governor of the province, Qasim Abid, states "he pleaded with the United States to wait before drawing down troop levels to 50,000. But it was an appeal that feel on deaf ears in Washington". And Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports:
 
A secure, stable and free Iraq, it's what the United States promised after its tanks and armored vehicles rumbled into the center of Baghdad and toppled former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein.         
Yet, as the U.S. troops are leaving "as promised and on schedule," for Maher Abbas, a Baghdad lawyer, the world is as broken and dangerous as these promises could be.                   
Abbas, 34, is a Sunni resident living in the capital's western neighborhood of Khadraa with his family. He said that the U.S. invasion and the following seven years were devastating to Iraqi society.           
"It created deep cracks between the Iraqi factions who used to live together for hundreds and thousands of years," he said with an apparent anguish.   
 
That's reality.  Barack prepares to spin in the face of that reality and much more and he'd do well to remember what happened earlier this month when another tried to spin and how the spin's been rejected in today's news cycle.  Earlier this month, then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill wanted to insist that he had done good, he had. Speaking to Steve Inskeep (NPR's Morning Edition) August 11th, he wanted to cite Iraqi oil deals as "progress." It was a claim he'd return to in his August 13th press briefing:

There have been numerous security challenges that continue to exist, and I'm sure you all saw the horrific news this morning, this suicide bombing in front of a military installation in which scores of people were killed. So Iraq, I think, as I've often said, offers no refuge for those in need of instant gratification. It requires you to stay at it. But I do believe that there's some real progress there. As we speak, major oil companies are beginning to actually put drill bits in the ground. Iraq will, I think, emerge as one of the major oil producers of the world. It will have significance for really the rest of the world. I think that part of the picture is really coming into focus and I think the Iraqis are really making some progress.
 
He went on to add later in the briefing:

Yeah, the oil law – I've got to tell you, I mean, I got there in April of '09 and everyone talked about the hydrocarbons law, the oil law. And I saw kind of a virtual stalemate in the Council of Representatives, and I supported the approach of just going ahead and doing contracts – that is, doing – not – these are not ownership contracts; these are oil service contracts. And the Iraqi Government, I think, has made a very credible effort on that. They've also reached over to the Kurds and they've addressed some of the issues there, where the Kurds had wanted to export some of the oil directly.
 
 
Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) reports that the Ministry of Oil is declaring the contract between the KRG and RWE AG for natural gas to be "nil and void." They state the contract isn't legal and that the KRG didn't have the authority to make the deal. Michael Christie and Jane Baird (Reuters) report the KRG insists the deal is constitutional and quote the KRG's head of Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa Bakir stating, "We will continue to successfully develop our oil and gas in line with the constitution which was accepted by a majority of the Iraqi people. We will not wait for the instructions of an unsuccessful ministry like the Iraqi ministry of oil. We express our commitment that all income will go to the federal purse and will be distributed to all Iraqi areas without favour." Chris Hill tried to ride a wave of Operation Happy Talk.  The result was wipeout.  The White House would do well to remember that.
 
Reality about the Iraq War has never been pretty.  And things are getting worse, UPI notes that Asharq al-Awsat is reporting the return to Iraq of Abu Deraa who holds the 'title' of "Butcher of Baghdad" and who "could signal an escalation in an already ferocious sectarian war between Shiites and Sunnis as U.S. forces withdraw."  Reuters notes the DoD lists 4419 US military deaths in the Iraq War (as of August 18th).  Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 engineer and left three people injured, a Baghdad, a Falluja bombing targeting a police squad car which left five police officers wounded,  and a Mosul attack in which 2 brothers were shot dead.
 
 
Turning to DPA's "Iraq demands the return of a rare Jewish scroll from Israel," if the basic facts are correct (they may be, they may not be -- DPA is wrong as to the number of Jews in Iraq in 2003 -- they woefully undercount the Jewish population which I don't believe hit a dozen utnil some time in 2006), Israel is in possession of a Torah which the Tourism Ministry of Iraq is stating ought to be returned. It ought to be?

No. This has none of the complexities of the earlier call by the Iraqi government for Jewish documents. In the earlier case, the US, after the 2003 invasion, had discovered a large number of records that were kept by the Iraqi government on Jews in Iraq -- it was spying on them. They brought the records back to the US to preserve them -- they had been submerged in water when the US found them. Iraq demanded them back. The dispute was between Iraq and the US, between the occupied and the occupier. As I noted at Third, I was surprised the Israeli government did not step in on that. If they had and had made a claim on the documents, there would have been reasons to dispute claims. However, the US was the occupier and the documents were taken out of the country.

Iraq felt no need to protect the Jewish citizens from targeting by various thugs since the invasion began. The Jewish population was targeted and was wiped out either by violence or by fleeing. To now assert that they have some right to Hebrew artifacts? They have no right. Nor do they or did they ever belong to Iraq.  Whose culture was it?  And since when can a nation-state, developed centuries later, attempt to lay claim to the people's property? 

These are not documents that the Iraqi government kept. Even now the Tourism Ministry can't state whether it was ever in the government's possession, whether it was privately owned by someone in Iraq or whether it belonged to a Jewish facility in Iraq (as many as 100,000 Jewish people were living in Iraq as late as the 1940s).  These are religious artifacts and they belong to the people of that religion. The scroll is in Israel and in Israel is where it should remain. Iraq did not protect the Jewish population, it allowed it to be decimated. It has no claim or right to the scroll.

Iraq is created in 1932. The scroll predates the creation of the country by centuries. Having no Jewish population today, the fact that they would even assert a right to the scroll is rather offensive. And that's before you even wiegh into consideration the fact that Iraq's unable to keep their treasures, artifacts and museums open to the public.

Again, when the issue of the US having Iraqi government records on Jewish people arose, I did not weigh in with an opinion. That was an occupier/occupied issue and, with Israel making no claim to the records, it was a rather straight forward issue. This one's rather straight forward as well but not to Iraq's benefit.


 
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« Reply #75 on: September 01, 2010, 05:54:31 am »

Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 by The Guardian/UK


Iraq Withdrawal: Amid Heat and Broken Promises, Only the Ice Man Cometh

After seven years and $53bn of US reconstruction money, Baghdad still relies on slabs of ice to keep cool


by Martin Chulov in Baghdad

On a pot-holed backstreet in eastern Baghdad, Saad Turki is sweltering under a corrugated tin roof, manning a giant pulley. The grime of yet another merciless summer day has stained his shirt ochre and he is parched from the rigour of a Ramadan fast.


A vendor uses a saw to cut ice in Baghdad. Iraq in 2010 is far from the middle-income utopia envisaged by some American officials in the early days of the occupation. (Photograph: Hadi Mizban/AP)


But Turki – unlike the stream of customers lined up outside his workshop – is not complaining. Business is buoyant in his rudimentary line of work. The insufferable heat of Iraq [1] seven years after the invasion has helped transform him from a youth in the city's downtrodden fringes into a man on the make.

Turki is producing large slabs of ice, which most Baghdadis have been using since mid-June to cool their houses. He has been selling up to 6,000 each day to families who have no other means of making their homes even remotely livable in the face of a relentless three-month heatwave.

"We've never had a summer like this," he says, as a police pick-up truck pulls up to collect a half-metre slab of white ice that has freshly spouted from a rusting foot-wide pipe (the policeman doesn't pay). "On some days we can't produce enough to satisfy everyone."

Things weren't supposed to be this way. After seven years of hopes and $53bn of US reconstruction money, it has come to this — an ice machine in a city on fire. Iraq in 2010 is far from the middle-income utopia envisaged by some American officials in the early days of the occupation.

The country under Saddam was a command economy ravaged by war and sanctions, which had taken a particularly heavy toll as the technology driving civic infrastructure had forged ahead throughout the west during the 1990s.

As US forces steadily withdraw, George W Bush's notion of a new Marshall Plan, the blueprint that helped rebuild western Europe after the second world war, for Iraq is increasingly looking illusory. Key benchmarks reveal that all aspects of civic infrastructure have either stagnated or only inched ahead since 2003.

"A lot of the reconstruction has been posited on things that haven't happened, such as the reconditioning of major power stations," says Christine McNab, the resident representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Iraq.

"A lot of what is wrong with infrastructure is from the sanctions period, when people couldn't order spare parts and couldn't modernise."

Access to potable water had been another key goal of US and Iraqi administrators. And while there has been progress at a micro-level, such as a US-built water treatment plant in Sadr City and work by the US Army Corps of Engineers in other deprived regions, an overhaul of Iraq's moribund water delivery system has not happened.

The United Nations says 79% of Iraqis now have improved access to drinking water compared with 2003. However, separate figures reveal that only one in four households have access to tap water in their homes.

Sewage is a serious environmental threat – more than 60% of households dump untreated waste on open land. Electricity remains a major problem.

The streets of Baghdad are strung with a spider's web of makeshift wires, leading eventually to a Dickensian structure belching black smoke into a hazy sky from four stacks. This is Baghdad's only power station, in the southern suburbs of Dora, the engine room of a city that was supposed to power the nation towards a long-promised new beginning.

The Dora station has been providing most households with no more than three hours of electricity a day this summer. It is running at maximum capacity, generating 3,500 megawatts, which supplies roughly 60% of Baghdad's daily needs.

Ghazi Essa, the station director, says all his pleas for new technology or spare parts which could boost output have been ignored for a long time, but particularly in the past six months, when Iraq has been without a functioning government, or anyone to give executive direction.

"We cannot reach more than 70% of the design load," he says. "It has never reached 51C [124F] in Baghdad before. For each degree increase in temperature there is an extra 100 megawatt demand. It is very, very hot and there is so much suffering for the people.

"I feel sorry because we are leaving them many problems and there is nothing we can do."

Iraq is generating only 8,000 of the 13-15,000 megawatts of daily power needed to meet its needs. Supply has increased by around 30% since early 2003, but that is nowhere near enough to keep up with demand, which has soared as people have snapped up cheap Chinese white goods that now flood local markets. The Iraqi government has spent $22.7bn on the electricity sector since 2006, 42% of which has been used for salaries.

The US government has also chipped in, spending $5.3bn on 550 energy-related projects. But even so, it now faces the galling prospect of Iraqis receiving less electricity per day than when US forces arrived here.

Since the inconclusive general election of March 7, ministries have ground to a halt and the parliament has not convened as the country continues to wallow in a political quagmire that started when the incumbent prime minister, Nour al-Maliki, was edged out in a primary vote by former leader Iyad Allawi.

Neither man has been able to form a government since, and much of the goodwill of the March election, which saw a strong turnout across much of the country, has melted away.

"Delay in the formation of the government has delayed payment," says Essa. "We are just hanging on now. This period [of indecision] has delayed everything. It is not only the Dora station. Everything has been affected very badly.

"The ministry cannot give me a decision now. There is no money. There is no budget."

Across Iraq's myriad bureaucracies, it is the same story. Bills are not being paid, contracts are often not honoured and decisions to lead the nation forward are not being taken.

Parliament has not passed a law in almost nine months. There is no agreement on volatile issues such as Kirkuk and other disputed territories, or on a hydrocarbon law that was supposed to act as a blueprint for the development of Iraq's oil wealth.

Baghdad's relationship with the restive north is still tenuous, and especially so since the oil auctions of late last year, which will bring into play revenues from the giant Kurdish oilfields. Both sides remain deeply suspicious of each other on all matters to do with how Kirkuk and the territories are administered. It's very hard to find an Iraqi flag in the north, except above government buildings – and even then, it is always considerably smaller than the Kurdish banner flying next to it.

Standards of governance are of critical concern to the steadily rotating senior diplomats who roll through the giant US embassy in Baghdad. They are even more of an issue to Iraqis, many of whom have little access to the security, rights and services that they were told to expect from democratically elected governments and the institutions that are supposed to serve them. Herein lies one of the greatest fears for post-occupation Iraq.

"It is deeply ingrained that unless you have someone strong at the top of an institution it is not going to function," says McNab.

Throughout the past seven years, ministries have been run in effect as party fiefdoms. None have become anywhere near as strong as the minister who runs them.

"They need to create ministries that have no party role at all, rather than being used as a means of patronage," says one senior western diplomat of Iraq's fiercely partisan politicians.

"I don't think they really understand what politics is really about. They behave like it's about carving up the country and sharing the goodies, not about running the country and good management.

"The fact that key legislation has not been passed means they have not taken on board the full responsibility."

Allawi, whose bid to lead Iraq for a second time helped create the political stalemate, said Iraq's institutions were being used as a tool of regional groups who were determined to use Iraq to further their agendas. "There are elements that are poisoning the well," he said.

"This is the time. This is the moment. Either we want democracy to succeed, or we want the ganging of groups against other groups to succeed."

In health, some projects have taken root, such as new, desperately needed hospitals in areas including Basra and Falluja. There has also been more primary healthcare delivered to most Iraqis nationwide. However, the number of doctors per capita remains low by regional standards, as does the quality of care in many Iraqi districts, according to a UN assessment.

The brain drain of Iraq's professionals has taken an especially heavy toll on doctors. Up to 60% of GPs and specialists present when Baghdad fell have either fled out of fear for their lives or become economic migrants. Doctors were ruthlessly hunted down by militias from 2005 to 2008 and remain attractive targets even now.

Improved security was supposed to change all that. And despite a sharp rise in violence in the past four months, the numbers killed and maimed have dropped in most areas of Iraq by up to 70% compared with the blood-soaked days of mid-2006. The Iraqi army has been heavily mentored and trained by departing US forces and has emerged as a credible institution – perhaps one of the few in the land. Iraqis tend to trust the military, but not the police, whose ranking officers are seen to have facilitated the sectarian war.

In total there are more than 600,000 members of Iraq's security forces. Though strong in number, they are hindered by a brittle rule of law and a judiciary that has struggled to assert its independence in the face of political interference.

Many western diplomats believe the judiciary is reluctant to take on the government, in particular the prime minister's office, and is very susceptible to influence from Iraq's power base. All judges get around in armoured convoys because of a very real risk to their lives. The car park outside Baghdad's central court is littered with up to 30 blown-up four wheel drives as a reminder of what is at stake for them.

Adnan al-Baderi, a judicial investigator who deals with terrorism cases, says his family have twice been targeted. "They tried to kidnap my oldest son last year. He was in a group of many people and he was the only one that they went for," he says from his home inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. "This is something we all must live with."

Seven years of war have also undoubtedly opened doors and given Iraqis a worldview. The internet is popular with the country's young, travel to Lebanon, the Gulf, or Europe, is now in reach for a slowly growing middle class, and freedom of expression has replaced fear of who might be listening. But hardships are likely to remain a huge hindrance for many years to come. Even if Essa, the Dora power station director, had the authority to order spare parts to increase Baghdad's power output, two of the four giant turbines in use there are so old that their Italian manufacturer has no replacements in stock.

"They told us they would have to make them," says Essa. "That could take a year at least. Also, the turbines are being run on diesel and heavy fuels, when they were designed to be run on gas. Only the Kirkuk plant is running on gas, because there are no gas lines elsewhere in the country."

The gas that Essa needs is being burnt off in giant flares from refineries around the country that have been wasting around $50 a second, largely because legislators have not been able to agree for years on who should be allowed to harness the gas and develop the desperately needed distribution pipelines.

"Just the fact that individuals are having to spend their own money on buying generators means there is that much less money in the economy," says McNab. "It is the height of absurdity in such an oil-rich country that they don't have the right oil grades to run these stations properly.

"To get investors to come, there needs to be electricity 24/7, with no breaks," she says. "They also want a water supply. They need hygienic solutions and that means the sanitation services need to be working."

Across Iraq, the US withdrawal is increasingly seen as a rush for the exit, when there remains much work to be done.

"They want it to be over, but it doesn't mean it is," says the ice-maker, Turki. "It doesn't bother me though, because I'll be making ice for a decade to come.

"Look at the mess that is Iraq. Do you think they will somehow get it together when the strong man leaves town? No, Iraqis will eat each other for power."

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

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« Reply #76 on: September 01, 2010, 05:57:06 am »

Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 by Informed Comment


The Speech President Obama Should Give About the Iraq War (But Won’t)



by Juan Cole

Here is the speech that I wish President Obama would give about the Iraq War, but which neither he nor any other president ever will.
Fellow Americans, and Iraqis who are watching this speech, I have come here this evening not to declare a victory or to mourn a defeat on the battlefield, but to apologize from the bottom of my heart for a series of illegal actions and grossly incompetent policies pursued by the government of the United States of America, in defiance of domestic US law, international treaty obligations, and both American and Iraqi public opinion.

The United Nations was established in 1945 in the wake of a series of aggressive wars of conquest and the response to them, in which over 60 million people perished. Its purpose was to forbid such unjustified attacks, and its charter specified that in future wars could only be launched on two grounds. One is clear self-defense, when a country has been attacked. The other is with the authorization of the United Nations Security Council.

It was because the French, British and Israeli attack on Egypt in 1956 contravened these provisions of the United Nations Charter that President Dwight D. Eisenhower condemned that war and forced the belligerents to withdraw. When Israel looked as though it might try to hang on to its ill-gotten spoils, the Sinai Peninsula, President Eisenhower went on television on February 21, 1957 and addressed the nation. These words have largely been suppressed and forgotten in the United States of today, but they should ring through the decades and centuries:

“If the United Nations once admits that international dispute can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the very foundation of the organization, and our best hope of establishing a real world order. That would be a disaster for us all . . .

[Referring to Israeli demands that certain conditions be met before it relinquished the Sinai, the president said that he] “would be untrue to the standards of the high office to which you have chosen me if I were to lend the influence of the United States to the proposition that a nation which invades another should be permitted to exact conditions for withdrawal . . .”

“If it [the United Nations Security Council] does nothing, if it accepts the ignoring of its repeated resolutions calling for the withdrawal of the invading forces, then it will have admitted failure. That failure would be a blow to the authority and influence of the United Nations in the world and to the hopes which humanity has placed in the United Nations as the means of achieving peace with justice.”

In March of 2003, it was the United States government itself that contravened the charter of the United Nations, aggressively invading a country that had not attacked it and against the will of the UN Security Council. The war was preceded by a summit in the Azores of the US, Britain, Spain and Portugal, for all the world as though it were the sixteenth century and a confusion between empire and piracy still prevailed.

No one denies that the government of Saddam Hussein was brutal. The one good thing that came out of this sad affair, and an achievement of which individual American servicemen and women may be justly proud, is the ending of a murderous tyranny. The American military fought valiantly and as it was ordered to by civilian politicians, most of whom had fled military service themselves. The military does not make policy and my critique of the war is not directed at it. To say all this is simply to acknowledge a complex reality, not to justify an illegal action. Nothing extraordinary had happened in Iraq in 2002 or 2003 to provoke an Anglo-American invasion. We learn in kindergarten that two wrongs do not make a right, and that the ends do not justify the means. Above all, international order is fragile and threats to that order increasingly menacing, and to toss away the achievement of the United Nations charter in favor of a war that was if not unilateral, certainly unilaterally decided upon, was a severe blow to the peace, prosperity and security of us all.

The cost of this unprovoked and foolhardy adventure to the United States has been profound. A country known for its efficiency and prowess was made to look like a band of bumbling fools. The world’s best armed forces were mired in a quagmire that sapped its strength and attention, and permitted challenges to the US to go unanswered in the rest of the world. Iran was transformed from a minor annoyance – blocked by the Iraqi Republican Guards from a significant role in the Middle East – into a regional superpower with powerful influence in Baghdad, Beirut, Manama, Kuwait City, and Damascus. There is no doubt that more benefit accrued to Iran from the Iraq War than to the United States.

Over 35,000 Americans have been killed or wounded in the Iraq War from hostile causes, and some 40,000 were killed or hurt in incidents classified as “non-hostile,” though likely many of these injuries actually occurred because of attacks. A generation of Americans will suffer brain damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, or physical disabilities because of this violent war, in which roadside bombs were deployed in the thousands against poorly armored vehicles that the Bush administration could not be bothered to replace with sturdier ones. The cost of the war so far, approaching a trillion dollars, is dwarfed by the cost of caring for the damaged veterans, and will likely mount to $5 trillion or more in coming decades. That sum is nearly half the entire current national debt.

The constitution, laws and traditions of the American Republic were also wounded by this war. High officials explicitly authorized torture. The United States government became among the chief purveyors in the world of sado-masochistic pornography, coming out of Abu Ghraib. The White House, shamefully, became a center of concerted propaganda so divorced from reality that its own press spokesmen privately and sometimes publicly admitted the dishonesty of their own discourse. The so-called PATRIOT Act contains provisions that clearly contravene the Bill of Rights and yet they have become so ingrained in the practices of the law enforcement community and so beloved by the enormous national security sector that even I have not dared touch them.

The damage to the United States and to international order and law is deep and our nation and our allies will not soon heal from its wounds. That damage is dwarfed, however, by the world-historical catastrophe that our invasion unleashed upon Iraq. The overthrow of the government with no plan for what might replace it; the dissolution of the Iraqi army; the willful neglect and destruction of the Iraqi public sector; and the animus against the Sunni Arab population mandated by the United States destroyed the foundations of order and economic activity in Iraq. The refusal of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to properly garrison Iraq after its conquest left it without sufficient US troops to guarantee security. Instead of seeking reconciliation and an equitable new order, the Bush administration installed partisan conspirators in power and allowed them to adopt punitive policies toward the former ruling group. These policies were largely responsible for provoking a Sunni Arab insurgency of enormous proportions, which continues to fight and to seek the destabilization of the new Iraq even today.

The United States essentially conducted an ethnic revolution from the outside in Iraq, installing fundamentalist Shiites and separatist Kurds in power in Baghdad. This policy could have been foreseen to lead to a sanguinary civil war, which it did. In summer of 2006, as many as 2500 civilians were showing up dead in the country’s alleyways every month, showing signs of torture – drilling, chemical burns, and disfigurement. Only when the advancing Shiite militias had ethnically cleansed much of Baghdad and environs of its Sunni Arabs did the violence begin to subside. How many Iraqis were killed in all this violence is controversial. It should be remembered that hundreds of thousands also died because of dirty water and lack of medical care, since many physicians and nurses fled the constant clashes. Surely the total death toll attributable to the US invasion and occupation, and the Iraqi reaction to them, is in the hundreds of thousands. Millions have been wounded. Some 4 million Iraqis were displaced, some 2.7 million of them inside the country, and most remain homeless. Iraq is a country of widows and orphans, of the unemployed and the displaced.

The insistence of the United States on shaping the new Iraqi constitution, in defiance of the demands of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani that it be indigenous, and Washington’s continual meddling in Iraqi politics have produced a continually paralyzed government and, in recent months, no government at all. The likelihood that democracy can survive in this land rendered violent, with its foreign-imposed charter and laws and its deep ethnic and sectarian grievances and disputes, is frankly low. War boosters continually confuse elections with democracy, and deadlocked government with good governance, and American intervention with moderation and balance.

The United States is now gradually leaving Iraq militarily. Although this withdrawal is stage-wise and gradual, have no doubt that it is real and enduring. The United States will honor its agreement with the Iraqi parliament to withdraw, just as it honored the wishes of the Philipinnes’ legislature when it closed its naval bases there in the 1990s. But it must be acknowledged that we leave Iraq a wounded nation. Most of the billions the US Congress voted for reconstruction in Iraq was wasted, stolen or frittered away on poorly thought-out projects. The new government has found it impossible to deliver basic services, provoking significant popular demonstrations in recent months.

Iraq is, however, a resilient society with its own natural resources. After a decade and a half of crippling American economic sanctions followed by shock and awe and military occupation, it is for the best that we leave the Iraqis to settle their affairs among themselves. Our overbearing presence and biased policies have in themselves helped provoke governmental gridlock on the one hand and a prolonged ethno-sectarian conflict on the other.

We have irrevocably harmed ourselves, and been responsible for inflicting or provoking a calamity that has gripped virtually every Iraqi by the jugular. We have left the world less secure and more uncertain, and have created a baleful example that other nations may yet invoke in pursuing their own aggressive adventures. We can best make amends by ensuring that there is no American imperialism in Iraq, and no neo-imperialism. Iraqis are our friends and we will offer them as much training, technical help and advice as they ask for. But we will not be like the colonial powers of the last century, which granted pro forma independence to their former colonies but went on attempting to rule from behind the scenes.

This war was fought to open up Iraqi petroleum to development and export to the world market. No one would have needed to fight a war for oil if the United States government had put sufficient resources into developing and implementing green energy. Portugal is now generating 45 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and hydro-electric sources. A new generation of electric vehicles can be powered without petroleum. A green America, and a green world, is likely to be a much more peaceful world, in which resource wars will be less likely. Solar and wind power are everywhere and need no soldiers to guard them or to take them from others.

We cannot undo what has been done. We cannot pretend that the United States did not violate the United Nations charter and the Geneva Conventions. But we can make amends. We can seek redemption as a nation. And our salvation lies in forswearing permanent war, aggressive war, undeclared war, and police actions as a way of life. A new century beckons. Some sought to make it a new American century. It will inevitably, however, be an Asian century, a century marking the emergence on the world stage of China and India. The United States will be among the smaller of the powers in this new geopolitical framework and it may not have the biggest or the most dynamic economy. The best guarantee of the peace and security of Americans is not international anarchy and aggressive warfare, but world order and the international rule of law. We shall seek our redemption by redoubling our support of the United Nations and our commitment to collective security and human rights. We shall return to the ideals enunciated by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1957, to the ideals of the man who actually led the defeat of fascism and who knew right from wrong, unlike our latter-day politicians.

We shall inscribe in our hearts and exemplify in our lives these words of his:

“If the United Nations once admits that international dispute can be settled by using force, then we will have destroyed the very foundation of the organization, and our best hope of establishing a real world order. That would be a disaster for us all . . .

© 2010 Juan Cole
Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East [1] (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment [2].

 


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« Reply #77 on: September 01, 2010, 05:59:23 am »

Published on Tuesday, August 31, 2010 by The Guardian/UK


A Trillion-Dollar Catastrophe. Yes, Iraq Was a Headline War


by Simon Jenkins

Today the Iraq war was declared over by Barack Obama [1]. As his troops return home, Iraqis are marginally freer than in 2003, and considerably less secure. Two million remain abroad as refugees from seven years of anarchy, with another 2 million internally displaced. Ironically, almost all Iraqi Christians have had to flee. Under western rule, production of oil – Iraq's staple product – is still below its pre-invasion level, and homes enjoy fewer hours of electricity. This is dreadful.
Some 100,000 civilians are estimated to have lost their lives from occupation-related violence. The country has no stable government, minimal reconstruction, and daily deaths and kidnappings. Endemic corruption is fuelled by unaudited aid. Increasing Islamist rule leaves most women less, not more, liberated. All this is the result of a mind-boggling $751bn of US expenditure, surely the worst value for money in the history of modern diplomacy.

Most failed "liberal" interventions since the second world war at least started with good intentions. Vietnam was to defend a non-communist nation against Chinese expansionism. Lebanon was to protect a pluralist country from a grasping neighbour. Somalia was to repair a failed state.

In Iraq the casus belli was a lie, perpetrated by George Bush and his meek amanuensis, Tony Blair. Saddam Hussein was accused of association with 9/11, and of plotting further attacks with long-range weapons of "mass destruction". Since this was revealed as untrue, the fallback deployed by apologists for Bush and Blair is that Saddam was a bad man and so toppling him was good.

The proper way to assess any war is not some crude "before and after" statistic, but to conjecture the consequence of it not taking place. Anti-Iraq hysteria began in 1998 with Bill Clinton's Operation Desert Fox [2], a three-day bombing of Iraq's military and civilian infrastructure, to punish Saddam for inhibiting UN weapons inspectors. To most of the world, it was to deflect attention from Clinton's Lewinsky affair.

Most independent analysis believed that Iraq had ceased any serious nuclear ambitions at the end of the first Iraq war in 1991, a view confirmed by investigators since 2003. Even so, Desert Fox was claimed to have "successfully degraded Iraq's ability to manufacture and use weapons of mass destruction". Whether or not this was true, there was no evidence that such an ability had recovered by 2003. Among other things, the Iraq affair was an intelligence debacle.

Meanwhile, the west's sanctions made Iraq a siege economy, eradicating its middle class and elevating Saddam to sixth richest ruler in the world, though he faced regular plots against his person. Western hostility may have shored him up, but opposition would have eventually delivered a coup, from the army or Shia militants backed by Iran.

Even had that not happened soon, Iraq was a nasty but stable secular state that no longer posed a serious threat even to its neighbours. It was contained by a no-fly zone [3] that had rendered the oppressed Kurds de facto autonomy. It was not appreciably worse than Assad's Ba'athist Syria, and its oil production and energy supplies were improving, not deteriorating as now.

The Chilcot inquiry [4] has been swamped with stories of the American-British occupation on a par with William the Conqueror's "harrying of the north" [5]. That any 21st-century bureaucracy could behave with such cruel and bloodthirsty incompetence beggars belief. The truth is it was blinded by a conviction in its neo-imperial omnipotence. However much we delude ourselves, the west is still run by leaders, especially generals, drenched in the glory of past triumphs: leaders who refuse to believe that other nations have a right to order their own affairs. The awfulness of Iraq in 2003 was not so grotesque as to be our business – even had we been able to build the pro-western, pro-Israeli, secular, capitalist utopia of neocon fantasy.

Germany, France, Russia and Japan did not go near this war. They did not believe the lies about Saddam's armoury and did not see any duty to liberate the Iraqi people from oppression. In his other-worldly performance before Chilcot, Blair offered only a glazed belief that he was revelling as a latter-day Richard the Lionheart.

All wars wander from their plan, since all armies are good at landings but bad at breakouts, and dreadful at occupations – known to every military manual long before Iraq. The truth is that this was always to be a headline war, fuelled by a desire to see what Bush celebrated as "mission accomplished" just when a nervous Pentagon was murmuring: "We don't do nation-building." It was a political invasion, not to win a battle or occupy territory but to score a point against Islamist militancy. That it meant toppling one of Asia's few secular regimes was another of its hypocrisies.

The overriding lesson of Iraq comes from that dejected goddess, humility. The dropping of thousands of bombs, the loss of 4,000 western troops and the spending of almost a trillion dollars still cannot overcome the AK-47, the roadside explosive device, the suicide bomber, and an aversion to occupation. Nations with different cultures cannot be ruled by seven years of soldiering. Bush and Blair thought otherwise.

The Iraq war will be seen by history as a catastrophe that did more than anything else to alienate Atlantic powers from the rest of the world and disqualify them as global policemen. It was a wild overreaction by a paranoid, overmilitarised American state to a single spectacular, but inconsequential, act of terrorism on 9/11. As such it illustrated how little international relations have advanced since the shooting of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Its exponents are still blinded by incident.

All the UN's pomp cannot stop such incidents running amok. The UN is powerless in the face of glory-seeking statesmen, goaded by military-industrial interests of unprecedented potency. We might think that after history's mightiest lesson book – the 20th century – the west would be proof against repeating such idiocy. Yet when challenged to show prudence and maturity in response to terror, it plays the terrorist's game. It exploits the politics of fear.

The west is leaving Iraq in a pool of blood, dust and dollars. It remains wedded to Iraq's twin sister in folly, Afghanistan.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
Simon Jenkins is a journalist and author. He writes for the Guardian and the Sunday Times, as well as broadcasting for the BBC. He has edited the Times and the London Evening Standard


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« Reply #78 on: September 01, 2010, 06:58:56 am »

Car Bombs Targeting Iraqi Police Kill At Least 40
 
 
01/09/2010 10:30:01 AM GMT   
 
 
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/Car-Bombs-Targeting-Iraqi-Police-Kill-At-Least-40.html
 
A series of apparently coordinated car bombs targeting police across Iraq on Wednesday killed 41 people, including women and children; one day after the US military confirmed a major troop reduction.
 
In Baghdad, a suicide car attacker blew up his vehicle at a police station in the northeastern suburb of Qahira, killing 15 people, including two women, two children and two police, and wounding dozens, security and medical officials said.
 
In an equally lethal attack, a car bomb at a passport office in Kut southeast of Baghdad, killed 15 people, including at least 10 police, and wounded 45 people, most of them police, Lieutenant Ali Hussein told AFP.
 
A series of car bomb attacks in five other towns and cities raised the nationwide toll to 41, and almost 200 wounded.
 
A spike in unrest over the past two months has triggered concern that Iraqi forces are not yet ready to handle security on their own, and with no new government formed in Baghdad since a March 7 general election.
 
A US Army statement on Tuesday said troop levels were below 50,000 in line with President Barack Obama's direction as part of a "responsible drawdown" of troops, seven years on from the invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
The reduction has raised fears that Al-Qaeda linked insurgents will step up their attacks.
 
 
¬
Source: Al Manar
 
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« Reply #79 on: September 01, 2010, 12:12:54 pm »

Speech Defect: Emissions of Evil From the Oval Office

by Chris Floyd





President Barack Obama speaks after addressing the nation about the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, August 31, 2010.REUTERS/Jim Young


September 1, 2010
http://chris-floyd.com/articles/1-latest-news/2016-speech-defect-emissions-of-evil-from-the-oval-office.html

"Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibility."


"We have met our responsibility!" No, Mister President, we have not. Not until many Americans of high degree stand in the dock for war crimes. Not until the United States pays hundreds of billions of dollars in unrestricted reparations to the people of Iraq for the **** of their country and the mass murder of their people. Not until the United States opens its borders to accept all those who have been and will be driven from Iraq by the savage ruin we have inflicted upon them, or in flight from the vicious thugs and sectarians we have loosed -- and empowered -- in the land. Not until you, Mister President, go down on your knees, in sackcloth and ashes, and proclaim a National of Day of Shame to be marked each year by lamentations, reparations and confessions of blood guilt for our crime against humanity in Iraq.

Then and only then, Mister President, can you say that America has begun -- in even the most limited, pathetic way -- to "meet its responsibility" for what it has done to Iraq. And unless you do this, Mister President -- and you never will -- you are just a lying, bloodsoaked apologist, accomplice and perpetrator of monstrous evil, like your predecessor and his minions -- many of whom, of course, are now your minions.

I really don't have anything else to say about this sickening spectacle -- which is being compounded in Britain, where I live, by the sight today of Tony Blair's murder-tainted mug plastered on the front of the main newspapers, as he makes the rounds pushing his new book, doling out "exclusive interviews" full of crocodile tears for the soldiers he had murdered in the war crime he committed and the "great suffering" of the Iraqi people which, goodness gracious, he never foresaw and feels, gosh, really bad about. All this laced with venomous comments about his former colleagues -- those who, like Gordon Brown, sold their souls to advance Blair's vision of aggressive war abroad and corporate rapine at home -- along with, of course, earnest protestations of his God-directed good intentions, and his unwavering belief that killing a million innocent human beings in Iraq was "the right thing to do." Pol Pot could not have been more blindly self-righteous than this wretched moral cretin.


I will say again what I have said here many, many times before: What quadrant of hell is hot enough for such men?

Words might fail me, but wise man William Blum has a few that put the "end of combat operations in Iraq" in their proper perspective. Let's give him the last word here [the ellipses are in the original text]:



No American should be allowed to forget that the nation of Iraq, the society of Iraq, have been destroyed, ruined, a failed state. The Americans, beginning 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, killed wantonly, tortured ... the people of that unhappy land have lost everything — their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women's rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives ... More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile ... The air, soil, water, blood and genes drenched with depleted uranium ... the most awful birth defects ... unexploded cluster bombs lie in wait for children to pick them up ... an army of young Islamic men went to Iraq to fight the American invaders; they left the country more militant, hardened by war, to spread across the Middle East, Europe and Central Asia ... a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again.



II. Same Question, Same Answer

The piece below was written in the first few weeks after the invasion. Its scene is the same Oval Office where Barack Obama spoke last night. And the choice offered to the leader in this piece is the same one that Obama has been offered -- and his decision has been the same one taken here, not only for Iraq, but for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and many other places around the world.



The Karamazov Question
Variation on a theme by Dostoevsky


A man appeared in the doorway of the Oval Office. He wasn't noticed at first, in the bustle around the desk of the president, where George W. Bush was preparing to announce to the world that the "decapitation raid" he had launched on Baghdad a few hours before was in fact the beginning of his long-planned, much-anticipated invasion of Iraq.

A woman fussed with the president's hair, which had been freshly cut for the television appearance. A make-up artist dabbed delicate touches of rouge on the president's cheeks. Another attendant fluttered in briefly to adjust the president's tie, which, like the $6,000 suit the president was wearing, had arrived that morning from a Chicago couturier. As for the president's $900 designer shoes – which, as a recent news story had pointed out playfully, were not only made by the same Italian craftsman who supplied Saddam Hussein with footwear, but were also the same size and make as those ordered by the Iraqi dictator – they had been carefully polished earlier by yet another aide, even though they would of course be out of sight during the broadcast.

In addition to all of this activity, the president's political advisors and speechwriters were also making last-minute adjustments to the brief speech, while giving the president pointers about his delivery: "Keep your gaze and your voice steady. Project firmness of purpose. Confidence, calmness, character. And short phrases, lightly punched. Don't worry, the breaks and stresses will be marked on the teleprompter."

It's little wonder that no one saw the man as he advanced slowly to the center of the room. He stood there silently, until the sense of his presence crept up on the others. One by one, they turned to look at him, this unauthorized figure, this living breach of protocol. He was, in almost every sense, non-descript. He wore a plain suit of indeterminate color; his features and his skin betrayed no particular race. He had no badge, no papers; how had he come to be here, where nothing is allowed that is not licensed by power?

Then, more astonishing, they saw his companion: a two-year-old girl standing by his side. A mass of tousled hair framed her face; a plain red dress covered her thin body. She too was silent, but not as still as the man. Instead, she turned her head this way and that, her eyes wide with curiosity, drawn especially by the bright television lights that shone on the president.

A Marine guard reached for his holster, but the man raised his hand, gently, and the guard's movement was arrested. The aides and attendants stepped back then stood rooted, as if stupefied, their ranks forming a path from the man at the room's center to the president's desk. The president, brilliant in the light, alone retained the freedom to move and speak. "Who are you?" he asked, rising from his chair. "What do you want?"

The man put his hand tenderly on the back of the girl's head and came forward with her. "I have a question for you, and an opportunity," the man replied. "I've heard it said that you are righteous, and wish to do good for the world."

"I am," said the president. "I wish only to do God's will, as He in His wisdom reveals it to me. In His will is the whole good of the world. What is your question, what is your opportunity? Be quick; I have mighty business at hand."

The man nodded. "If tonight you could guarantee the good of the world – peace and freedom, democracy and prosperity, now and forever; if tonight, you could relieve the suffering of all those who labor under tyranny and persecution, all those who groan in poverty and disease; if tonight, you could redeem the anguish of creation, past and future, now and forever; if tonight, you could guarantee such a universal reconciliation, by the simple expedient of taking this" – here the man suddenly produced a black pistol and held it out to the president – "and putting a bullet through the brain of this little one here, just her, no one else: would you do it? That is my question, this is your opportunity."

With firmness of purpose, the president grasped the pistol and walked around the desk. With confidence, calmness, and steady hand, he pressed the barrel to the girl's head and pulled the trigger. Her eyes, which had grown even wider with her smile at the approach of the nicely dressed man and his rosy cheeks, went black with blood in the instant shattering of her skull. Her body spun round from the force of the shot – once, twice, three times in all – then fell, her mutilated head flailing wildly, in a heap on the floor of the Oval Office.

At that moment, the man faded, like a dream, into nothingness. The aides and attendants, unfrozen, stepped back into their tasks. The room was again a whirl of activity, like a hive. The president – the dematerialized gun no longer in his hand – strode confidently back to his chair. He winked at a nearby aide and pumped his fist: "Feel good!" he exulted.

The speech went off without a hitch. The hair was perfect, the voice steady, the phrases short and lightly punched. No one saw the blood and bits of brain that clung to the president's $900 designer shoes; they were, of course, out of sight during the broadcast.

First published in The Moscow Times on April 20, 2003.



 

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