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IRAQ : daily stuff here please

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« Reply #80 on: September 01, 2010, 12:15:22 pm »

Obama’s Iraq speech: An exercise in cowardice and deceit

By Bill Van Auken

WSWS, September 1, 2010

President Barack Obama’s nationally televised speech from the White House Oval Office Tuesday night was an exercise in cowardice and deceit. It was deceitful to the people of the United States and the entire world in its characterization of the criminal war against Iraq. And it was cowardly in its groveling before the American military.

The address could inspire only disgust and contempt among those who viewed it. Obama, who owed his presidency in large measure to the mass antiwar sentiment of the American people, used the speech to glorify the war that he had mistakenly been seen to oppose.

The most chilling passage came at the end of the 19-minute speech, when Obama declared, "Our troops are the steel in our ship of state," adding, "And though our nation may be traveling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true."

It is for this statement, rather than all the double-talk about troop withdrawals, that Obama’s miserable speech deserves to be remembered. It was rhetoric befitting a military-ruled banana republic or a fascist state. The military—not the Constitution, not the will of the people or the country’s ostensibly democratic institutions—constitutes the "steel" in the "ship of state." Presumably, the democratic rights of the people are so much ballast to be cast overboard as needed.

The occasion for the speech was the artificial deadline fixed by the Obama administration for what the president termed the "end of our combat mission in Iraq." This is only one of the innumerable lies packed into his brief remarks.

Some 50,000 combat troops remain deployed in Iraq. While they have been rebranded as "transitional" forces, supposedly dedicated to "training" and "advising" Iraqi security forces, their mission remains unchanged.

Indeed, barely a week after the media turned the redeployment out of Iraq of a single Stryker battalion into a "milestone" signaling the withdrawal of the last combat troops, 5,000 members of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment, a combat unit, were sent back into the occupied country from Ft. Hood, Texas.

Washington has no intention of ending its military presence in Iraq. It continues to build permanent bases and is determined to continue pursuing the original agenda behind the war launched by the Bush administration in March of 2003—the imposition of US hegemony in the oil-rich Persian Gulf.

Obama’s speech was both incoherent and groveling. The president sought, dishonestly, to take credit for fulfilling his campaign promise on Iraq. As a candidate he had pledged to withdraw all US combat troops from the country within 16 months of taking office. In the end, he merely adopted the time table and plan crafted by the Pentagon and the Bush administration for a partial withdrawal, leaving 50,000 combat troops in place.

The Democratic president felt obliged, under the mantle of paying tribute to "our troops," to fundamentally distort and whitewash the entire character of the war they were sent to fight, painting one of the blackest chapters in US history as some kind of heroic endeavor.

"Much has changed" since Bush launched the war seven-and-a-half years ago, Obama stated. "A war to disarm a state became a fight against an insurgency" in which American troops battled "block by block to help Iraq seize the chance for a better future."

The speech was crafted as if the president were addressing a nation of amnesiacs. Do they really think that no one remembers it was a war launched on the basis of lies? The American people were told that an invasion of Iraq was necessary because the government of Saddam Hussein had developed "weapons of mass destruction" and was preparing to place them in the hands of Al Qaeda to set off "mushroom clouds" over American cities.

There were no "weapons of mass destruction," nor were there any ties between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda. These were inventions of a government that was determined to carry out a war of aggression to advance US imperialist interests.

These lies were thoroughly exposed and contributed to the growth of overwhelming hostility to the war among the American people. All of this is to be forgotten, dismissed as meaningless details.

The Iraqi people are presented by Obama as the fortunate beneficiaries of American self-sacrifice and heroism, which bestowed upon them the "opportunity to embrace a new destiny."

One would hardly imagine that over a million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of this unprovoked US war; that some 4 million have been driven from their homes by violence, either forced into exile or displaced within the war-torn country itself. Every institution and essential component of social infrastructure was laid waste by the US invasion, which unleashed what can most accurately be described as sociocide—the murder of an entire society. The devastation wrought by US militarism has left a shattered nation of widows, homeless, unemployed and wounded.

While a temporary reduction in armed resistance to the US occupation was achieved by bleeding the Iraqi people white, what has been left is an unviable society and political system, dominated by sectarian divisions and overshadowed by the continuing US presence.

Among the more stomach-churning sections of the Obama speech was his gratuitous tribute to his predecessor, George W. Bush. While acknowledging that they had "disagreed about the war"—a disagreement he had no desire to spell out—Obama insisted that "no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security." This proved, he continued, that "there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation of our servicemen and women."

Bush launched a war that was illegal under international law. He and the other leading figures in his administration—Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice—dragged the American people into a war crime, essentially the same act for which the Nazis were tried and convicted at Nuremberg—the planning and waging of a war of aggression.

Obama told his audience that he had spoken to Bush that afternoon, apparently expressing his solidarity with a war criminal who belongs on trial at The Hague.

Inevitably, out of that essential crime, a host of other crimes followed. The American "servicemen and women," whose honor is constantly invoked to justify mass killing, became participants in hideous crimes.

The people of the United States and the world were revolted by the images that emerged from Abu Ghraib. But the Obama administration has intervened in court to prevent the exposure of evidence of other criminal acts that are even more unspeakable.

The troops were themselves victims of this war. Nearly 4,500 lost their lives in the aggression launched by the Bush administration, with 35,000 more wounded. Hundreds of thousands have suffered psychological trauma as a result of being thrown into a dirty colonial war.

"The greatness of our democracy is our ability to move beyond our differences, and to learn from our experiences as we confront the challenges ahead," Obama continued. What a travesty!

The reputation of American democracy was built upon constitutional principles and rights that were shredded by the Bush administration in the name of a "global war on terrorism." The Obama administration has fully embraced these attacks on democratic rights, defending domestic spying, rendition, imprisonment without charges or trial and even arrogating to the executive branch the right to designate US citizens as terrorist suspects and order their extrajudicial execution.

The twisted path of the speech led Obama from Iraq to Afghanistan. Here he claimed, was a war that could be supported by "Americans from across the political spectrum," because it is supposedly being waged against Al Qaeda, which "continues to plot against us."

He declared that the "drawdown in Iraq" had allowed greater resources to be dedicated to this war, resulting in "nearly a dozen Al Qaeda leaders" being "killed or captured all over the world."

What this has to do with the tripling of the number of US troops deployed in Afghanistan since Obama entered the White House was not explained. According to US military and intelligence officials, there are less than 100 Al Qaeda members in all of Afghanistan, which is now occupied by nearly 100,000 US and another 40,000 NATO and other foreign troops.

Obama went on to acknowledge that US forces "are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum," without bothering to even make a case for a connection between that and "taking out" Al Qaeda members around the globe. The reality is that in Afghanistan, US forces are fighting Afghans who are resisting foreign occupation. The aim is not defeating "terrorism," but establishing US dominance in Central Asia, with its geo-strategic importance and vast energy resources.

Finally, after acknowledging that the Iraq war has contributed to bankrupting the country, Obama suggested that the change he has ordered in the military deployment in Iraq is somehow linked to a determination on the part of his administration to shift its focus to resolving the crisis that confronts more than 26 million American workers who are either unemployed or unable to find full-time jobs.

"Today, our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work," he said. "To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy."

This is one more lie. While the administration has handed over trillions of dollars to bail out Wall Street, it has repeatedly made clear that it will do nothing to create jobs for the unemployed. As for education, the federal government is continuing to cut funding, ensuring increased layoffs of teachers and more school closures.

Behind the duplicitous rhetoric one thing is underscored by the speech: the decisions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been dictated by the military brass and obediently implemented by the Obama White House. This is a government that has no independent policy, much less convictions. It implements policies that are worked out elsewhere—on Wall Street and within the Pentagon—and is dedicated to the defense of the financial aristocracy at the expense of the American people.

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« Reply #81 on: September 01, 2010, 12:23:26 pm »

Iraq snapshot - August 31, 2010

The Common Ills

Tuesday, August 31, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack prepares to give a big speech (which won't end the war), Iraqis are less than impressed, the CIA had the biggest office where?, the War Hawks and War Whores crawl out of the woodworks, and more.
As Barack prepares to speak tonight about the Iraq War, the world learns that blood for oil worked out very good for Halliburton.  Dick Cheney's cesspool has landed a contract.  AP reports it is "from Italian firm Eni" for an Iraqi oil field.  Reuters adds Eni wants Halliburton "to help squeeze more oil from 20 wells in the Zubair field in southern Iraq." Dick Cheney spent 8 years running and ruining the US government while Bully Boy Bush struggled with his addicition to games of dress up.  John Dickerson (Slate via CBS News) weighs in on how Bully Boy Barack's helping out Bully Boy Bush, "As for Obama, he is not consciously trying to improve the public's view of the Bush years. Indeed, he is actively reminding people of the mess he inherited from his predecessor. It is a key theme of the entire Democratic campaign. At the same time, as Obama demonstrates the natural limits of presidential action, he unwittingly adds perspective to assessments of what President Bush could do. As he benefits from policies he once opposed--such as the surge in Iraq, which helped make tomorrow's speech possible -- Obama proves that even a smart politician with the best of intentions can be wrong. And as he champions making tough calls even in the face of popular opposition, he often sounds eerily like his predecessor." Maybe they discussed that in their phone call to one another today?
Simon Jenkins (Guardian) provides some truths that may go missing in tonight's speech by Barack.
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.
The News Chief editorial board notes that this is the second time the US government has declared combat operations over and points out, "Now we are proclaiming the end of 'formal combat operations,' meaning that what the troops do will be either reactive or in support of Iraqi troops. It still will be combat."   Anne E. Kornblut (Washington Post) reports on the advance swirl around the speech:

"Maybe he's entitled to the partial victory lap, but this is not the right moment for it," said analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution, who has been critical of both Democratic and Republican approaches to the war. "If I were him, I'd wait until we have an Iraqi government, and do it with the Iraqis together."   
O'Hanlon said he was "confused about the planned Oval Office speech." It could raise unrealistic expectations among the public about the chances for calm in Iraq, he said. And the timing of the pullout of combat troops may be seen as having more to do with the president's political needs than with real signs of progress on the ground.
Jason Ditz ( observes, "Less than two weeks ago Americans were glued to their TVs for footage of the 'last brigade' of US soldiers withdrawing from Iraq. With embedded MSNBC journalists and in-studio officials trumpeting a military victory, an America exultant in having finally "won" the war, it was extremely successful, and that 50,000 US troops are still there and hundreds of Iraqis have died since the announcement was really only a minor hiccup. It was so successful, in fact, that the Obama Administration has decided to do it again, which is one of the advantages fake endings of wars have over actual endings."
In Iraq, desperate not to be John Howard at the War Dance -- the former Australian prime minister tried very hard to hop on Bush but Tony Blair was always in Bush's lap -- Nouri al-Maliki decided to hold his own little press conference and ensure he was not the wallflower of the news cycle. Reuters reports that Nouri crowed on Iraqi TV, "Iraq today is sovereign and independent." Was the would-be New Saddam announcing he was stepping down as prime minister -- something the people and the politicians want?  No.  He was ignoring that and ignoring the fact that his term of office expired sometime ago.  He was, however, hiding behind the semantics that will allow US President Barack Obama to lie to the American people tonight and declare the Iraq War over. Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) points out, "Mr Maliki, the leader of the Shia State of Law party has refused to relinquish the prime ministership, six months after March elections which saw the Iraqiya coalition, a secular alliance led by Iyad Allawi, his rival, win the most seats."  Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna observes, "Nouri al-Maliki is essentially a caretaker prime minister. There is no government in place."  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 24 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."
Jasim Al Azzawi (Gulf News) feels that Allawi has three reasons to refuse to take second place to Nouri including his age (could be his last chance to again become prime minister), Iraqiya (which won't want a second place role after winning the most votes) and
waiving Nouri through comes with "no guarantees that his [Allawi's] future decisions and actions will not be reversed and nullified by Al Maliki's powerful generals in charge of security and intelligence services. Given his limited options, Allawi's strategy is to stay firm, watch Al Maliki stew in his own juice and wait for him to commit a blunder." Meanwhile Zhang Xu (Xinhua) reports, "Arab and Islamic countries, basically Egypt and Turkey, should send peace-keeping troops to Iraq with the coordination of Arab League, Iraq's cross-sectarian Iraqia List bloc's media official Ahmad al-Dileimi told Xinhua in an exclusive interview in Damascus on Sunday."  If you're late to the party on Iraq's attempts at elections, Xiong Tong (Xinua) provides a comprehensive overview here. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that there are rumors that Al Iraiqya has internal disagreements "over the government formation" but that the spokesperson Haidar Al Mulla denies the rumors.  Siobhan Gorman (Wall St. Journal) reports that unnamed "US spy officials" are concerned over Iraq's inability thus far to form a government and notes that "eyes and ears" have een provided in Iraq by "spy agencies like the National Security Agency and the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency" and the unnamed "official . . . declined to say how many officers from the spy agencies will be moved out of Iraq.  Until this year, Baghdad, for example, was the Central Intelligence Agency's largest station, and it's now been eclipsed this year by Afghanistant."  Reuters notes that Ben Rhodes declared on Air Force One today that, "Iraq should move forward with a sense of urgency."  Who is Rhodes?  The White House Deputy National Security Adviser.  Remember, pay attention to who's in charge of Iraq -- it's the US national security group. Reporting on the increase in murders in Iraq, Usama Redha and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) explain, "But like other killings and assassinations in a wave of violence that has crept up on Iraq during an unnerving political stalemate, no one really knows who the "bad men" are. Was Fakher killed by a Sunni Arab insurgent group like Al Qaeda in Iraq, or a Shiite Muslim militia like the one that once controlled the neighborhood, or did the attack stem from a personal feud? Iraqis are left muttering one word, vague yet ominous: Terrorists, the television announcer intoned about Fakher's killers. Terrorism, police recorded in their books. It was terrorists, his parents say."
Marie Colvin (Sunday Times via the Australian) examines Sahwa -- aka Sons of Iraq, Awakenings -- and explains they are both "angry and disillusioned" and, "Many have not been paid for two months. They believe their job prospects have diminished because they are not favoured by the Shi'ite dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Mudhir al-Mawla, the official responsible for integrating the 52,000 members of the Sons of Iraq, confirms that the process has been frozen for a year. Worse, the militia is being targeted by a resurgent al-Qa'ida, particularly in Anbar province, including Fallujah. Here al-Qa'ida is offering young men $US200 ($224) a time to take part in attacks, a huge sum in  a city with few jobs."  And this comes, as Nafia Abdul Jabbar (AFP) noted, at a time when "[d]ozens of fihters, who helped avert a civil war and were crucial to curbing Iraq's sectarian violence when it peaked in 2006 and 2007, have been killed in recent months in acts of retaliation." Barbara Surk and Rebecca Santana (AP) remind, "The Sunni militias, also known as the Sons of Iraq, were a key element in turning the tide against Sunni-led terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, and the American military began paying the militias to fight on their side. That responsibility now lies with the Iraqi government, which is also supposed to incorporate many of them into government ministries. But many Sons of Iraq complain the government is turning its back on the militias, failing to pay them on time or find them good jobs."
Yesterday on Uprising, Sonali Kolhatkar spoke with Hadani Ditmars about the so-called 'end' of the Iraq War.   Excerpt:
Hadani Ditmars:  Of course, there's still a huge US presence in Iraq.  An embassy the size of Vatican City, several desert bases that are going to remain. I think we really shouldn't be focusing so much on the 'withdrawal.'  What we should look at are the larger systemic issues. The huge humanitarian catostrophe that Iraq is-is experiencing at the moment where seven years after the invasion, as you can read about in the new issue of New Internationalist which I traveled back to Baghdad in February, March to write and photograph.  Seven years later the legacy of this invasion is that 43% of Iraqis live in abject poverty, 70% don't have access to clean drinking water, huge unemployment rate, terrible security situation, drastic decline in the status of women and a secular society that has become Islamicized in a bad way -- I mean, I don't even want to call is Islamicized, just militia rule has become the norm. So I think we have to look at these larger underlying issues. I don't think that the so-called withdrawal is really going to effect those issues one way or another.  It could have a shorterm, as it has in the past several weeks. upswing in violent attacks, further deterioration of the security situation. But the underlying issues and the underlying damage that has been done by this disastorous invasion and occupation are still there, still need to be addressed.
Sonali Kolhatkar: What is the so-called advisery role that the US troop will play to the Iraqi army.  What dot that mean?
Hadani Ditmars: Well, you know, I don't work for the Pentagon so I can't tell you exactly, but I assume it's going to be a very hands-on approach rather than arms' length.  At the same time there is a sense of abandonment.  I mean, I'm sure you read the Tariq Aziz interview in the Guardian a few weeks ago where he said that Iraq is not ready and that the Americans by withdrawing are abandoning Iraq to the wolves. Well I would say that Iraq has already been abandoned to the wolves, sadly. So this could just make a bad situation worse. It's not really a full withdrawal.  It's not really the end of ocupation. But in terms of an advisory role perhaps there will still be some sort of military advice going on. It's really just  kind of window dressing, as I say, for the larger issues.  There's still a political power, there's still a huge issue around sectarian violence and the sectarian strife.  You know, it's a bit frustrating when you've been covering Iraq for as long as I have -- since 1997 --  that the media in the West is primarily interested in Iraq when there's some news that is really more about America than Iraq, you know? When there's been a bombing, or even the elections which were kind of pseudo democratic I would say, there was a flurry of media interest in Iraq. But it's very difficult to get people interested in the status of women and how it's declined drastically or in the larger issue of how this once secular society has become radicalized and fundamentalist, etc.  So, yeah, you know, I think obviously the $53 billion that's been spent on "aid,"  a lot of that has gone to military hardware in the name of military advisory activity. A lot of that has gone into the pockets of American military contractors.  And, of course, to this growing army of mercenaries.
Sonali Kolhatkar: And I want to ask you about that privatizing -- further privatizing of the occupation.  But first, what do ordinary Iraqis -- what is the view of most Iraqis? Obviously, it's not going to be homogenius but if you can give us a sense of what most Iraqis think about the security situation in their county it would be helpful
Hadani Ditmars: Well I don't know if you read the issue that I wrote and photographed but there was a sixty-eight-year-old architect, Muwafaq al-Taei, a former Saddam-era town planner and he's quite an interesting fellow because as he was being forced to build these terrible villas for Saddam, he was also a Communist and a Shia so he was being spied on at the same time.  So he was almost killed by US troops post-invasion when he was doing a project with the Marsh Arabs. So he's rather philosophical as are many Iraqis.  And he says in the issue that Iraqis always sort of make do and anarchy is the mother of invention and we'll get through this. But, you know, there's this incredible sort of resilience that people have which I just find staggering really because the average Iraqi has been through so much.  At the time of elections, they were -- they were quite cynical about what was going on -- and rightly so because there was nothing really in the way of campaign finance laws. There were incumbents like Ahmed Chalabi who were simultaneously running for office and at the same time nixing the bids of rival opponents under the auspices of the infamous de-Ba'athification Commission. Government forces were rounding up opponents and jailing them under trumped up terrorism charges.  So, you know, some Iraqis -- a lot of Iraqis I met were not voting and they were quite cynical about it.  At the same time, when the polling stations were being bombed, this sort of encouraged Iraqis to actually get out and vote -- almost in spite of what was going on. Lately when I've been speaking with Muwafaq in Baghdad, he just says, "Well we're just getting on with it, you know, the country isn't really being run by the politicians, it's being run by the Iraqi people and we're just trying our best to make do." It's almost like they've been set a drift. They have no real functioning state. And this is really a contrast from, of course, the Ba'athist when the state was the great provider, when Iraq had the best public health and education system in the Arab world.  Having said that, the state still remains the main employer. So it's -- it's really sad to see what's happened to the country.  Going back even for the first time in seven years, I was shocked to see how Baghdad had been so completely broken and colonized and walled off into sectarian neighborhoods. If you look at the fact spread, in the May issue of the New Internationalist, there's some quite damning statistics.  But there's also a very telling map of Baghdad -- one from 2003, before the invasion, one from 2008.  And I don't know if you had a chance to look at that but you'll see that in 2003 most of the neighborhoods were mixed -- meaning Sunni, Shia, Christian, Muslim, Arab, Kurd.  After the invasion, in 2008, the majority of the -- in particular after the sectarian wars of 2006 and 2007, most of Baghdad neighborhoods were sectarian enclaves and the majority Shia.  So the whole social fabric of -- not to mention the political landscape has shifted radically.  And Iraqis are really, I think, just left reeling from it all and trying to struggle for daily survival.
Today on PRI's The World, Marco Werman spoker with Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor). Excerpt:
Marco Werman: Jane Arraf is in Baghdad for the Christian Science Monitor.  She says Iraqis have mixed feelings about this transition.
Jane Arraf: Now everybody here wants to see occupation forces gone. That's indisputable.  They don't like seeing American soldiers in the street. They don't like seeing any foreign soldiers in the street. It's fairly natural. But having said that, there is a real sense here that this is still a broken country and it was the Americans, pretty much, who broke it. That's the feeling in the streets. And until they fix it, they shouldn't just leave. Now the US will say -- US officials who are here will say they're not just flipping a switch, they're not just leaving, they're going to remain engaged. That doesn't actually mean a lot to people in the street because really what matters to them is, "Are the car bombs going off? Are those rockets being fired?"  Is there a sense that someone will protect them?  Increasingly that's looking towards the borders.
Jane Arraf (CSM via McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "In Baghdad, all leave for Iraqi soldiers and police was canceled, and new checkpoints were set up across the city, adding another level of frustration to Iraqis struggling to get through 115-degree heat amid power cuts and water shortages - many of them fasting during the holy month of Ramadan."  For The NewsHour (PBS -- link has transcript, audio and video), Margaret Warner reported from Iraq last night:
MARGARET WARNER: After nearly two years of steadily declining bloodshed, violence has been on the uptick for the past two months. The Iraqis are in charge of security in the cities and their main line of defense are checkpoints like these.
CAPT. MOHAMMED RADEWI, Iraqi Army (through translator): For the present moment, the situation is unstable, and the army is using these checkpoints to control the situation.
MARGARET WARNER: Iraqi checkpoints themselves are becoming targets, as they were last week in a string of attacks aimed at undermining Iraqis' confidence in their government and security forces. Baghdad resident Janan Jezma was gloomy when asked about the U.S. force drawdown.
JANAN JEZMA, resident of Baghdad: I think we need America here. We need America here. I think so.
MARGARET WARNER: One city that has had its fill of American troops is Fallujah, west of Baghdad, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle.
If you'd like to ask Margaret Warner a question about Iraq click here.  The NewsHour's Rundown News Blog is collecting question.  At the program's blog today, Larisa Epatko features the voices of five Iraqis on how they see the future of their country.
 -- after
US House Rep Ron Paul delivered the following (and you can hear the audio at
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 U.S. 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, 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 drawdown 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.
All the liars and whores try desperately to spin today.  For example, BBC's Mark Mardell who today wants to scribble about the Iraq War being right. He whored yesterday, he whores today. He wants you to know the illegal war was right because, get this, Richie Armitage told him that. Read in vain for any reminder that Richie is the chatty gossip who helped out Valerie Plame. You won't find out about that. The War Hawk Richie gets to spin and, unlike when he was almost in trouble (and should have been), there's no effort to lie and claim he was ever against the Iraq War. (That was the cover story, if you've forgotten: Why would he intentionally out Plame, he was against the war!) Mark Mardell drools over Richie ("hardman," "massively built," "arms and shoulders muscled") and you just have to wonder what Richie did to get such fawning press.               

All the whores are grabbing a street light apparently. For example it's hard to tell which is more disgraceful, Paul Woflowitz for attempting to lie yet again or the New York Times for printing his garabage? Then again, there's something symbolic about the two public menaces who helped sell the illegal war coming together today.             

But it's not just the New York Times. US House Rep Howard P. McKeon, a War Hawk from the Republican side of the aisle, gets to whine in the Los Angeles Times that Congress better keep funding Iraq, it just better. Are you starting to notice how nothing has changed?                             

The Iraq War is not ending. And not a damn thing's been learned. The liars and pushers are invited back by the media and the closest to an 'expanded' point of view the media wants to provide is apparently NPR's Morning Edition bringing on White House plus-size spokesmodel Robert Gibbs to 'talk' Iraq with Steve Inskeep. (Inskeep did ask some needed questions but tubby Gibbs danced around them.)  It's left to Peter Bergen (CNN) to point out:
It also bears recalling that almost none of the goals of the war as described by proponents of overthrowing Saddam were achieved:
-- An alliance between Saddam and al Qaeda wasn't interrupted because there wasn't one, according to any number of studies, including one by the Institute for Defense Analyses, the Pentagon's internal think tank. Indeed, it was only after the US-led invasion of Iraq that al Qaeda established itself in the country, rising by 2006 to become an insurgent organization that controlled most of Sunni Iraq.             
-- There was no democratic domino effect around the Middle East. Quite the opposite; the authoritarian regimes became more firmly entrenched.             
-- Peace did not come to Israel, as the well-known academic Fouad Ajami anticipated before the war in Foreign Affairs. Ajami predicted that the road to Jerusalem went through Baghdad.           
-- Nor did the war pay for itself as posited by top Pentagon official Paul Wolfowitz, who told Congress in 2003 that oil revenues "could bring between 50 and 100 billion dollars over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon." Quite the reverse: Iraq was a giant money sink for the American economy.                               
-- The supposed threat to the United States from Saddam wasn't ended because there wasn't one to begin with. And in his place arose a Shia-dominated Arab state, the first in modern history.   
With few exceptions, all we're hearing from are the War Hawks and no one's supposed to notice that.  No one's supposed to notice that the same whores who sold the illegal war are invited to weigh in again.  Where are the voices of peace?  Where are the voices of those who were right about the illegal war?  Watch, listen and read in vain at most outlets. One who was right, Phyllis Bennis (Foreign Policy In Focus), issues the following statement:

The U.S. occupation of Iraq continues on a somewhat smaller scale, with 50,000 troops. These are combat troops, "re-missioned" by the Pentagon with new tasks, but even Secretary of Defense Gates admits they will have continuing combat capability and will continue counter-terrorism operations. The 4500 Special Forces among them will continue their "capture or kill" raids while building up the Iraqi Special Operations Forces as an El Salvador-style death squad.
The only transition underway is not from U.S. to Iraqi control, but from Pentagon to State Department deployment. Thousands of new military contractors, armored transport, planes, "rapid response" forces and other military resources will all be shifted from Pentagon to State Dept control, thus remaining within the terms of the U.S.-Iraqi Status of forces Agreement that calls for all U.S. troops and Pentagon-controlled mercenaries to leave by the end of 2011.                     
President Obama's speech will not use any terms remotely close to "mission accomplished" --  because with violence up, sectarianism rampant, the government paralyzed, corruption sky-high and rising, oil contracts creating more violence instead of national wealth, there is no victory to claim.
We'll close with this from David Swanson's "Peace Movement Pushes for End to War on Iraq" about a forum over the weekend focusing on Iraq (Phyllis Bennis was at the forum, use link for full report):

The second and last panel included:       
Josh Stieber, Iraq Veterans Against the War               
David Swanson, author                   
Bill Fletcher, labor leader, scholar                                             
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK and Global Exchange         
Stieber discussed, from the point of view of a soldier who believed the war lies and came to reject them, the incoherence of the bundle of excuses for this war that we've all been offered. On the one hand this is a war to kill evil Muslims. On the other hand it's a war to spread human rights. We help people out by bombing them, something Stieber said many U.S. soldiers end up joking about, most of them quickly losing any belief in the morality of their cause.         

I argued for voting out of office those who fund the wars, and for holding the war makers criminally and constitutionally responsible, including through launching an effort to impeach Jay Bybee and open up a congressional review of war lies and the crime of aggression.             

Bill Fletcher picked up where Head-Roc had left off, arguing for the need to make peace not just a preference people have when a pollster asks them, but something that resonates with them as central to the betterment of their daily lives. He pointed to the Chicano Moratorium exactly 40 years earlier as a movement to learn from.   

Medea Benjamin inspired, as always, with tales of recent activism by CODE PINK to oppose the war funding, to build alliances, and to hold accountable war criminals including Karl Rove and Erik Prince. And she pushed for participation on a massive scale in the march on October 2nd:

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« Reply #82 on: September 01, 2010, 03:25:52 pm »


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« Reply #83 on: September 02, 2010, 06:29:32 am »

Middle East
Sep 3, 2010 
Iraqis uneasy over what happens next

By Heather Maher and Charles Recknagel

United States President Barack Obama has kept his promise to draw down the number of US troops in Iraq to fewer than 50,000 by September 1. But uncertainty about what comes next is easy to find on Baghdad's streets.

As one man tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq, while Obama kept his promise to withdraw by a certain date, "he left Iraq in a difficult situation, also in a difficult political situation. Things are not good. He should have kept his promise to the Iraqi people the way he did to the American people."

The uneasy feelings come as Iraq still has no government five months after its parliamentary elections produced no clear winner.
They also come as the US drawdown makes it clear that Iraqi troops and police now must handle the remaining security problems mostly by themselves.

Under the drawdown guidelines, the US forces in Iraq no longer have a combat mission, but an advisory-and-assistance role only. That means they are not expected to personally engage in fighting with insurgents but leave these operations to Iraq's own 400,000 police officers and 200,000 soldiers.

Anthony Cordesman, a regional expert with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, says that the mission of the remaining US forces is mostly to serve as a deterrent against any renewal of large-scale violence.

"Those are six combat brigades, with a total strength of around 50,000 personnel, which basically differ from combat brigades in that advisory and trainer personnel have been added to them," Cordesman says.

"They are not weak or ineffective forces. Now they are there both to serve as a deterrent to any kind of outside interference in Iraq and serve as a potential reinforcement to an Iraqi government if it needs it."

The brigades' advisory-and-assistance role means they will help provide both Iraq's civilian and military agencies with intelligence and equipment support for counterinsurgency operations. In fact, that continues a role they already switched to months ago, well before Obama's formal August 31 deadline.

"What we have seen since really June is that it is Iraqi forces which basically lead and take over virtually all of the missions," Cordesman says. "That was when US forces left the cities and populated areas in Iraq and that in many ways was a de facto withdrawal from active combat that occurred months ago, not in terms of this formal deadline."

Easing Arab-Kurd tensions

However, there still will be US soldiers deployed in the field in some places.

Those deployments will be at joint checkpoints along the so-called green line in northern Iraq that divides the Kurdish autonomous region from Iraq proper. The checkpoints are jointly manned by members of the Iraqi Army, Kurdish soldiers known as peshmerga, and US troops.

James Danly, a former US Army officer in Iraq and a fellow at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, says the US forces take a low-profile but necessary role in easing Arab-Kurd tensions along the green line.

"The US forces that have been at these combined locations along the green line have not been the ones that have actually been stopping and searching cars," Danly says. "They have been there to lend their presence so that the relationship between the peshmerga and the Iraq Army can develop with an honest broker present during this hoped-for burgeoning friendship between the two of them."

Arab-Kurd tensions center upon territories in northern Iraq claimed by both sides, including the multiethnic oil-rich region around the city of Kirkuk. Under the Iraqi Constitution, the fate of the city is supposed to be decided by referendum but the vote has been repeatedly put off amid political quarreling and fears of violence.

Most of the US soldiers remaining in Iraq will be quartered on bases near the country's still-active hot spots. The locations include near Baghdad, elsewhere in central Iraq, and near Mosul, which still has a potent al-Qaeda presence.

As Danly puts it, "they are placed strategically so that US forces' influence can still be felt in areas that need it the most." But they will not patrol - and indeed have not been doing so since pulling back from the cities in June.

Will sectarian peace hold?

Many analysts believe that US forces would not get involved in combat again short of a new wave of nationwide violence like that seen during the worst days of 2006 and 2007. That was when Iraq teetered on the brink of civil war amid rampant tit-for-tat killings by Shi'ite and Sunni militias.

"As long as the conditions are as they are now, which is to say violent incidents that are isolated and are not part of some widespread, universal civil unrest, it is unlikely that the US troops are going to be committed to direct action," Danly says.

Still, insurgents tied to al-Qaeda continue to launch frequent attacks. A suicide bombing last month killed more than 60 Iraqi army applicants. Two weeks later, a series of blasts across the country killed another 60 people.

Germany's Der Spiegel magazine recently reported that in August an average of five Iraqi policemen or soldiers died every day.

The challenge now will be for the Iraqi security forces to turn the tide against these remaining insurgents. The insurgents' organizations are considered to have been badly weakened by the US troop surge of 2007 when US forces numbered more than 170,000 - and the turning of the Sunni tribes against al-Qaeda.

Obama's drawdown strategy is based on the hope that the insurgents are wounded fatally and that Iraq's rival communities themselves would refuse to be lured again toward civil war.

The president has promised all US troops will fully leave Iraq by the end of next year and that the current drawdown shows he is sticking to his commitments.

The end of the combat role for US forces comes after more than 4,400 US soldiers have died in Iraq. At least 100,000 Iraqi civilians are also estimated to have died from violence since 2003, when US-led forces invaded Iraq to topple former dictator Saddam Hussein.

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« Reply #84 on: September 02, 2010, 06:31:17 am »

Published on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 by The New Republic

Obama Wants Us To Forget the Lessons of Iraq

by The New Republic
by Andrew Bacevich

The Iraq war? Fuggedaboudit. "Now, it is time to turn the page." So advises the commander-in-chief at least. "[T]he bottom line is this," President Obama remarked last Saturday, "the war is ending." Alas, it's not. Instead, the conflict is simply entering a new phase. And before we hasten to turn the page-something that the great majority of Americans are keen to do-common decency demands that we reflect on all that has occurred in bringing us to this moment. Absent reflection, learning becomes an impossibility.

For those Americans still persuaded that everything changed the moment Obama entered the Oval Office, let's provide a little context. The event that historians will enshrine as the Iraq war actually began back in 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Iraq's unloved and unlovable neighbor. Through much of the previous decade, the United States had viewed Saddam as an ally of sorts, a secular bulwark against the looming threat of Islamic radicalism then seemingly centered in Tehran. Saddam's war of aggression against Iran, launched in 1980, did not much discomfit Washington, which offered the Iraqi dictator a helping hand when his legions faced apparent defeat.

Yet when Saddam subsequently turned on Kuwait, he overstepped. President George H.W. Bush drew a line in the sand, likened the Iraqi dictator to Hitler, and dispatched 500,000 American troops to the Persian Gulf. The plan was to give Saddam a good spanking, make sure all concerned knew who was boss, and go home.

Operation Desert Storm didn't turn out that way. An ostensibly great victory gave way to even greater complications. Although, in evicting the Iraqi army from Kuwait, U.S. and coalition forces did what they had been sent to do, Washington became seized with the notion merely turning back aggression wasn't enough: In Baghdad, Bush's nemesis survived and remained defiant. So what began as a war to liberate Kuwait morphed into an obsession with deposing Saddam himself. In the form of air strikes and missile attacks, feints and demonstrations, CIA plots and crushing sanctions, America's war against Iraq persisted throughout the 1990s, finally reaching a climax with George W. Bush's decision after September 11, 2001, to put Saddam ahead of Osama bin Laden in the line of evildoers requiring elimination.

The U.S.-led assault on Baghdad in 2003 finally finished the work left undone in 1991-so it appeared at least. Here was decisive victory, sealed by the capture of Saddam Hussein himself in December 2003. "Ladies and gentlemen," announced L. Paul Bremer, the beaming American viceroy to Baghdad, "we got him."

Yet by the time Bremer spoke, it-Iraq-had gotten us. Saddam's capture (and subsequent execution) signaled next to nothing. Round two of the Iraq war had commenced, the war against Saddam (1990-2003) giving way to the American Occupation (2003-2010). Round two began the War to Reinvent Iraq in America's Image.

With officials such as Bremer in the vanguard, the United States set out to transform Iraq into a Persian Gulf "city upon a hill," a beacon of Western-oriented liberal democracy enlightening and inspiring the rest of the Arab and Islamic world. When this effort met with resistance, American troops, accustomed to employing overwhelming force, responded with indiscriminate harshness. President Bush called the approach "kicking ass." Heavy-handedness backfired, however, and succeeded only in plunging Iraq into chaos. One result, on the home front, was to produce a sharp backlash against what had become Bush's War.

Unable to win, unwilling to accept defeat, the Bush administration sought to create conditions allowing for a graceful exit. Marketed for domestic political purposes as "a new way forward," more commonly known as "the surge," this modified approach was the strategic equivalent of a dog's breakfast. President Bush steeled himself to expend more American blood and treasure while simultaneously lowering expectations about what U.S. forces might actually accomplish. New tactics designed to suppress the Iraqi insurgency won Bush's approval; so too did the novel practice of bribing insurgents to put down their arms.

Yet as a consequence the daily violence that had made Iraq a hellhole subsided-although it did not disappear.

Meanwhile, once hallowed verities fell by the wayside. U.S. officials stopped promising that Saddam's downfall would trigger a wave of liberalizing reforms throughout the Islamic world. Op-eds testifying to America's enduring commitment to the rights of Iraqi women ceased to appear in the nation's leading newspapers.

Respected American generals-by 2007, about the only figures retaining a shred of credibility on Iraq-disavowed the very possibility of victory. In military circles, to declare that "there is no military solution" became the very height of fashion.

By the time Barack Obama had ascended to the presidency, this second phase of the Iraq war-its purpose now inverted from occupation to extrication-was already well-advanced. Since taking office, Obama has kept faith with the process that his predecessor set in motion, building upon President Bush's success. (When applied to Iraq, "success" has become a notably elastic term, easily accommodating bombs that detonate in Iraqi cities and insurgent assaults directed at Iraqi forces and government installations.)

Which brings us to the present. After seven-plus years, Operation Iraqi Freedom has concluded. Operation New Dawn, its name suggesting a skin cream or dishwashing liquid, now begins. (What ever happened to the practice of using terms like Torch or Overlord or Dragoon to describe military campaigns?) Although something like 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, their mission is not to fight, but simply to advise and assist their Iraqi counterparts. In another year, if all goes well, even this last remnant of an American military presence will disappear.

So the Americans are bowing out, having achieved few of the ambitious goals articulated in the heady aftermath of Baghdad's fall. The surge, now remembered as an epic feat of arms, functions chiefly as a smokescreen, obscuring a vast panorama of recklessness, miscalculation, and waste that politicians, generals, and sundry warmongers are keen to forget.

Back in Iraq, meanwhile, nothing has been resolved and nothing settled. Round one of the Iraq war produced a great upheaval that round two served only to exacerbate. As the convoys of U.S. armored vehicles trundle south toward Kuwait and then home, they leave the stage set for round three.

Call this the War of Iraqi Self-Determination (2010-?). As the United States removes itself from the scene, Iraqis will avail themselves of the opportunity to decide their own fate, a process almost certain to be rife with ethnic, sectarian, and tribal bloodletting. What the outcome will be, no one can say with certainty, but it won't be pretty.

One thing alone we can say with assurance:As far as Americans are concerned, Iraqis now own their war. "Like any sovereign, independent nation," President Obama recently remarked, "Iraq is free to chart its own course." The place may be a mess, but it's their mess not ours. In this sense alone is the Iraq war "over."

As U.S. forces have withdrawn, they have done so in an orderly fashion. In their own eyes, they remain unbeaten and unbeatable. As the troops pull out, the American people are already moving on: Even now, Afghans have displaced Iraqis as the beneficiaries of Washington's care and ministrations. Oddly, even disturbingly, most of us-our memories short, our innocence intact-seem content with the outcome. The United States leaves Iraq having learned nothing.


© 2010 The New Republic
Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University.  His new book, Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War [1], has just been published.  His other books include, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War [2], The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (American Empire Project) [3], and The Long War: A New History of U.S. National Security Policy Since World War II [4].


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« Reply #85 on: September 02, 2010, 06:35:24 am »

Published on Wednesday, September 1, 2010 by

A Speech for Endless War

by Norman Solomon

On the last night of August, the president used an Oval Office speech to boost a policy of perpetual war.
Hours later, the New York Times front page offered a credulous gloss for the end of "the seven-year American combat mission in Iraq." The first sentence of the coverage described the speech as saying "that it is now time to turn to pressing problems at home." The story went on to assert that Obama "used the moment to emphasize that he sees his primary job as addressing the weak economy and other domestic issues -- and to make clear that he intends to begin disengaging from the war in Afghanistan next summer."

But the speech gave no real indication of a shift in priorities from making war to creating jobs. And the oratory "made clear" only the repetition of vague vows to "begin" disengaging from the Afghanistan war next summer. In fact, top administration officials have been signaling that only token military withdrawals are apt to occur in mid-2011, and Obama said nothing to the contrary.

While now trumpeting the nobility of an Iraq war effort that he'd initially disparaged as "dumb," Barack Obama is polishing a halo over the Afghanistan war, which he touts as very smart. In the process, the Oval Office speech declared that every U.S. war -- no matter how mendacious or horrific -- is worthy of veneration.

Obama closed the speech with a tribute to "an unbroken line of heroes" stretching "from Khe Sanh to Kandahar -- Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own." His reference to the famous U.S. military outpost in South Vietnam was a chilling expression of affinity for another march of folly.

With his commitment to war in Afghanistan, President Obama is not only on the wrong side of history. He is also now propagating an exculpatory view of any and all U.S. war efforts -- as if the immoral can become the magnificent by virtue of patriotic alchemy.

A century ago, William Dean Howells wrote: "What a thing it is to have a country that can't be wrong, but if it is, is right, anyway!"

During the presidency of George W. Bush, "the war on terror" served as a rationale for establishing warfare as a perennial necessity. The Obama administration may have shelved the phrase, but the basic underlying rationales are firmly in place. With American troop levels in Afghanistan near 100,000, top U.S. officials are ramping up rhetoric about "taking the fight to" the evildoers.

The day before the Oval Office speech, presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs talked to reporters about "what this drawdown means to our national security efforts in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia and around the world as we take the fight to Al Qaeda."

The next morning, Obama declared at Fort Bliss: "A lot of families are now being touched in Afghanistan. We've seen casualties go up because we're taking the fight to Al Qaeda and the Taliban and their allies." And, for good measure, Obama added that "now, under the command of General Petraeus, we have the troops who are there in a position to start taking the fight to the terrorists."

If, nine years after 9/11, we are supposed to believe that U.S. forces can now "start" taking the fight to "the terrorists," this is truly war without end. And that's the idea.

Nearly eight years ago, in November 2002, retired U.S. Army Gen. William Odom appeared on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program and told viewers: "Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It's a tactic. It's about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we're going to win that war. We're not going to win the war on terrorism."

With his Aug. 31 speech, Obama became explicit about the relationship between reduced troop levels in Iraq and escalation in Afghanistan. "We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat Al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists," he said. "And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense." This is the approach of endless war.

While Obama was declaring that "our most urgent task is to restore our economy and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work," I went to a National Priorities Project webpage and looked at cost-of-war counters [1] spinning like odometers in manic overdrive. The figures for the "Cost of War in Afghanistan" -- already above $329 billion -- are now spinning much faster than the ones for war in Iraq.

One day in March 1969, a Nobel Prize-winning biologist spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Our government has become preoccupied with death," George Wald said, "with the business of killing and being killed." More than four decades later, how much has really changed?

Norman Solomon is a journalist, historian, and progressive activist. His book "War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death [2]" has been adapted into a documentary film of the same name. His most recent book is "Made Love, Got War. [3]" He is a national co-chair of the Healthcare NOT Warfare [4] campaign. In California, he is co-chair of the Commission on a Green New Deal for the North Bay; [5].


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« Reply #86 on: September 02, 2010, 06:45:17 am »

Car Bombs Targeting Iraqi Police Kill At Least 40
01/09/2010 10:30:01 AM GMT

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 #87 on: September 03, 2010, 06:06:20 am »

Vomiting Perfidy

by Layla Anwar

September 2, 2010

Since yesterday I have been vomiting my insides out...

My first bout of vomit came after I read a transcript of your President's speech, his speech to the "nation". Because you consider yourselves a nation ?!

It started off with an uneasiness felt in the pit of my stomach, then quickly transformed itself into a queasiness, then into a foul nausea, only to erupt like a dammed out volcano into violent throes of pure vomit...

I have over the past 20 years or so, developed a high intolerance to perfidy and you throughout your history have excelled in perfecting what I am most allergic to...

You literally make me sick.

Change - you clamored like a herd of sheep, while munching, ruminating like cattle every word that is fed to you...Black and White, even those retards who call themselves American Arabs and Muslims rejoiced at Uncle Tom's arrival to the White House.

Oh the "principled", "moralistic" prudish puritanical perverts called Americans, always showing up late for change...always jumping on the bandwagon, when the train has already passed...

The peace loving war mongers of the new world order is what you are. Fake and ignorant to the bone.

So you pride yourselves on being "a good people", a "compassionate" "sharing caring hugging" people -- nothing but Perfidy.

For 20 years, I witnessed my country, the land of my father, my mother, my ancestors, disintegrate before my very eyes...20 **** years. 20 **** years.

Twenty years of people -- first withering, wilting away, like flowers never allowed to see the light, never allowed to turn their faces to the sun, then from fading into shadows, faltering into a colorless background...bombed, massacred, slaughtered into a nothingness...the same nothingness that inhabits you daily...the same nothingness that makes you rush to your shrink, the same nothingness that you feed with your junk, the same nothingness that you fill with your consumer products...the same nothingness of your void, of the pit, the deep pit that you all live in, and I throw up some more, from the pits of my belly....

So you "sacrificed" for us, so you liberated us from "tyranny", so you "lived up to your responsibilities" --- like you did in Falluja, Haditha, Mahmoudiya, Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Ramadi...¨"kill the motherf**kers" you shouted...and your wives masturbated to your love letters, or shed a few tears while waving that infamous flag...the flag of a degenerate, decaying country that has offered nothing but murder, carnage and mayhem...

You liberated us from "dictatorship" with 5 times the size of a Hiroshima and a liberated us until there was no space left in our morgues, and 7 and half years later, we still search for the liberated us until our streets turned into pools of blood, and mosques became torture dungeons where those hajjis were having their eyes plucked out and their flesh drilled, you liberated us so we can be abducted, raped and murdered for a 1000$ or for wearing liberated us so our bodies can float on the Tigris and Euphrates, mutilated liberated us alright...stuffing us in prisons cells, covering us with your **** and excrements, or handing us to your mercenaries and your pimps and whores in turbans, while you **** the prostitutes specially brought to you in your Green Fortress... and while the rest of us lived in walled ghettos that you constructed for us...

You liberated us alright...and you lived up to your principles, your ideals and your responsibilities...

But I do grant you one thing, you computerized, digitalized death for see, thanks to you our morgue is now equipped with the latest technology, so 7 years down the line, we can finally go and find the corpse of a loved one, maybe. We even got numbers, serial numbers, you are serial killers and we get serial numbers...

We carry numbers wherever we go, number on our passports, on our ID cards, on our prison bracelets, and even on our dead bodies...the numbers follow us to the cemeteries, we got plenty of them today...all this reconstruction money, we built cemeteries with...well not quite, you stole the money...billions of dollars, so we turned gardens and parks into graveyards...our children play there, amidst the wailing of mothers in perpetual grief...

You are indeed a brave people...a noble, brave people. See, all what you've done for us! Your generosity will be recorded in history annals...and you will be used as a historical example, a model of a country and a people of great integrity -- just like the New Iraq model.

Those of us who could not handle this overflowing compassion from you (as your stinking alternative press likes us to believe - Americans are compassionate people), flew away...escaped the milk of human kindness, carrying a few documents and memories, wounds and scars stacked in suitcases...with no destination...

A permanent exile has become our abode...a new geographical location not found on any map...carrying our selves like some overburdening, heavy bundle, struggling to make ends meet, struggling to survive, struggling not to become insane, struggling not be engulfed by that nothingness of yours...

Scratching humanity with our nails...trying to find it, digging with our bare hands, sometimes wishing that we were buried there, alongside our loved ones...sometimes wishing we were never born, sometimes crying in our solitude, sometimes screaming in our nightmares, sometimes numbing ourselves so we can match your nothingness...

Most of the time, confused, lost and bewildered...still unable to grasp what has befallen us, in the name of Freedom...other times engrossed with story after story of endless suffering and misery inflicted by you...with stories of relatives and friends lost in dungeons of Democracy, with stories of monsters being born in the land of Freedom, with stories of disease and illnesses nesting into our DNA and becoming part of our make up, of our being...infiltrating the very essence of us, of our soil, our air, our water...

Story after story...image after image -- wheelchairs, amputations, limbs lost, eyes lost, fingers lost, a child dying, a woman raped and killed, a man tortured to death...story after story of -- poverty, disease, need, neglect, abandonment...story after story of an eternal fatigue that has settled upon us like a blanket...

I watch in my head, in my imagination, in my memory, the river Tigris flowing on a summer eve right at sunset...when the air is cooler (and when there was electricity and drinking water), I watch the river flow, calmly, silently, peacefully...nothing obstructs it, it just flows and I close my eyes and imagine myself flowing with it, in an unknown destination...only in these moments do I find real tranquility...during those seconds, when I am transported there, by that river where everything grew and took shape...from the dawn of Time...

I go back in time thousands of years, when you were non existent, when you had no name, no shape and no color...and I find myself...I find myself and I find Iraq.

This is the only consolation I can give to myself - that even in the buckets of vomit wrought out from my guts, I can still find Her and me.

But you can't.

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« Reply #88 on: September 03, 2010, 06:12:51 am »

British Military in Iraq : A Shocking Legacy

by Felicity Arbuthnot

September 2, 2010

"Mine is the first generation able to contemplate the possibility that we may live our entire lives without going to war or sending our children to war." (Tony Blair, speech as newly elected Prime Minister, 1997.)

August is seemingly Spotlight on Illegal Invasion month. President Obama has made his Mission-Lost-Cause speech about US., Iraq fantasy "withdrawal" - leaving behind 50,000 troops, perhaps 50,000 mercenaries, and some have suggested 100,000 "advisors."

In context: "Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of Defense workforce has 19 percent more contractors (207,600) than uniformed personnel ... in Iraq and Afghanistan, making these wars ... the most outsourced and privatized in US history. Worse, the oversight of contractors will rest with other contractors. As has been the case in Afghanistan, contractors will be sought to provide "operations-center monitoring of private security contractors (PSCs) as well as PSC inspection and accountability services."(1)

Tony "I would do it again" Blair, announced, on 16th August, he is to give his entire £4.6 million advance on his book: "My Journey", to the Royal British Legion, for support of British soldiers in need. As the ungracious calls for his "journey" to be to the Hague get louder - with some suggesting a far less civilized ordeal - it seems timely to assess British "achievements" in Iraq.

The British, of course, having come in flying the St George's flag on their vehicles (the Crusaders' flag) slithered out of Basra city, under cover of darkness, to hunker down at the fortified airport, some distance outside the town, in September 2007, much as US units did from other parts of Iraq, last week, fleeing in the night, over the border to Kuwait.

UK Forces, who had also illegally squatted in Basra Palace, as did their US counterparts in palaces throughout the country, taking over Iraq's cultural properties, additionally pillaging them, in defiance of the 1954 and 1977 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property. To use such buildings in support of military effort or as a command centre is specifically prohibited. The full extent of pillaging is unlikely to ever be documented, since no one was guarding the guards. An early British example was the theft of a statue of Saddam Hussein from Basra, for which the British tax payer paid the transport for its journey to the Unit's base in southern England.

Basra Palace was, however, handed back, after four and a half years, in a furtive ceremony at I a.m., local time. Most of the troops had already left, creeping out, to head for the desert road to the airport, from 10 p.m.

Alleged British atrocities began as Iraq had barely been declared "liberated." One of their first recorded acts (after securing Basra oil installations) was less than a month after the invasion, in May 2003, when fifteen year old Ahmed Jaber Karheem, drowned, after allegedly being forced in to a canal in the former "Venice of the Middle East", by Guardsmen Martin McGing, Joseph McCleary and Colour Sergeant Carle Selman.

The alleged action was to "teach him a lesson", for suspected looting. Ahmed Jaber could not swim. In a case which took three years to come to court, Guarsdman McCleary whinged that: "We were told to put looters in the canaI. I was the lowest rank and we were told we weren't paid to think. Just follow orders. I don't know why the army went ahead with the prosecution ... We were scapegoats." Nuremberg's Principles apparently now irrelevant, and Iraqi lives presumably being cheap, they were acquitted.

Whilst there was indisputedly looting of food after the invasion, the population of Basra were almost entirely reliant on the government distributed rations. The British army "secured" the food warehouses, but distributed none.

Children were begging for any sustenance and for water, throughout the south, in a near famine situation for many. So people looted. No doubt the opportunist joined the desperate, but the situation created by the food-secure occcupiers, was shameful. Looters were also shot by troops. Fathers, brothers, sons, faced death for trying to feed their families, or to make a bit of money in the reigning, invasion-generated, chaos.

When the British finally requested a shipment of water for the desperate population, delivered by the unfortunately named Naval ship, "Sir Galahad", they called in tankers, rather than deliver themselves. Any tanker. The water filled the tankers - to be contaminated with whatever it had previously transported - and was sold to those who could afford to buy. It is not known whether members of Her Majesty's navy or army, also profited from this nice little earner.

The canal drowning drowning Court case was finally heard in June 2006. That month, the army was being accused of shooting dead a thirteen year old, in a crowd accused of throwing stones.

Casual killing started early in the invasion. Corporal Russ Aston, who later died in an assault on a police station in Al Majar, wrote, in March 2003 : " I've shot 4-5 Iraqis and one of them were quite young, about 14-15 ... I felt bad at the time, but I'm OK now." In a call to his mother he reportedly said: "It's just killing for killing's sake out here ... I don't know how I am going to cope with what I've seen." (2)

A colleague talked of being on a night patrol and: "this **** flip flop had come out", so he shot him dead. According to Amnesty, Wa'el Rahim Jabar: ".. was walking along the main street, with a Kalashnikov rifle slung over his right shoulder, accompanied by two (unarmed) friends", it was dark, they did not realise there was a British patrol near by and he was shot in the chest and neck and killed instantly.

Carrying an ancient family weapon was a norm in rural areas, which had often become increasingly dangerous, even before the invasion, due often to embargo-generated desperation or criminality.

Iraqis were referred to by Britain's "boys", as: "stinking Arabs,", "yip-yaps", towel-heads", "flip-flops", and "crusties." Beautiful, battered Basra, where very small children sold fruits they had picked themselves, from the earliest light, along the Corniche, was referred to as a "viper's nest", by Major General Brims.

Aston's colleague, Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, who was also to die at Al Majar, wrote home, with exitement, of capturing three: "Ba'ath Party members." Ignorance clearly reigned. It was near impossible to get work in Iraq, during Saddam Hussein's leadership, without signing up, whatever the individual's views on Ba'athism (pan-Arabism.) "I had them lying on the floor (of a vehicle) handcuffs, sandbags on their heads and my shooter pointing straight at their heads ..." So much for the Geneva Convention.

It is not known whether two of those, were the men, arrested by Hamilton-Jewell in March 2003, accused, but never tried by the British, held in solitary confinement, allegedly subject to sleep deprivation, extreme heat, arbitrary body searches and physical abuse. A full three years after they were arrested, they were accused of the deaths of two British soldiers, and finally handed over to the Iraqi authorities for trial in 2008, at risk of torture and hanging.

In March 2010, due to the tireless work of Phil Shiner, of the UK's Birmingham based Public Interest lawyers, the two were unanimously awarded compensation for their: "mental suffering, fear of execution (amounting to) inhuman treatment", by the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg. The British government and Foreign Office came in for some salutary criticism.

Just after the US-dominated, UN Security Council, approved the US and UK having interim control of Iraq, on 22nd May 2003, the deliverer of the "fine document" of fictional claims - cited by Colin Powell, at the UN, to justify the invasion - Attorney Anthony Blair, pitched up in Basra, the first "coalition" leader to visit troops.

The: "minimum loss of civilian life", their superb restraint, was now: "famous around the world .. " he said. The troops actions were, he continued: " ... a model of how armed forces anywhere in the world should conduct themselves ...".

By this time, the family of eleven year old Memmon Salam al-Maliki, had been looking for him for three weeks. On the 29th April 2003, Memmon was injured by unexploded munitions abandoned by the British, near his Basra home, which locals had begged them to remove, piles scattered everywhere. He lost one hand, fingers of the other and injured his right eye. Picked up by a passing British patrol, it seems he was given first aid, then transferred to the British base hospital at Shuaiba. Memmon was among numbers of children reportedly injured by this lethal, casually abandoned legacy. His parents have not seen him since the British army's intervention.

The British in Basra, told his father he had been transferred to an American military hospital in Kuwait. They had, apparently, neither documentation, or knowledge of the location of the hospital. Without his parents knowledge and permission, they seemingly admit that Memmon was transferred, across an international border, to another country - and vanished. The US authorities, however, deny all knowledge of him or any paper trail. Seven years later, his family are still looking, still distraught.

In their last letter from the Ministry of Defence, dated October 2005, the department's chief claims officer told their lawyer that the British consulate in Basra had also failed to locate the boy. "I am sorry to say that the subsequent investigation was inconclusive and the whereabouts of your client's son remain unknown, following his transfer to an American field hospital in Kuwait", according to papers seen by the the (London) Guardian

The British Ministry of Defence: "began to regard the family's appeals as claims for compensation", expressing sympathy, but denying all liability. Seven and a half years later, Liam Fox, Britain's current Defence Minister - latest in a woeful bunch - has ordered: "an urgent enquiry."

Perhaps the most detailed account of the treatment of Iraqis by the British forces can be found in the legal Inquiry (3) in to the death of Baha Mousa (26) a receptionist at Basra's Haitham Hotel. The father of two, whose 22 year old wife had recently died of cancer, was arrested with nine others, on 14th September 2003, by personnel of the 1st Battalion, The Queen's Lancashire Regiment.Two days later he was dead, with "at least" ninety three injuries to his body, including fractured ribs and a broken nose.

A post-mortem found he had suffered cardio-respiratory arrest, i.e., : he had been been asphyxiated. When his father Daoud Mousa, a Colonel in the Basra Police Force, saw the state of his son's body, "horrified", he burst in to tears. Light shone in the darkest places, again, the result of the deceptively mildly mannered, bull terrier-like lawyer, Phil Shiner.(4) Shiner is currently acting for seventy Iraqis claiming torture and mistreatment by British soldiers. His legal practise is not alone.

A former fellow detainee with Baha Mousa alleged, at London's High Court, that soldiers had competed to see who could kick them the furthest. Another survivor, Kifa Taha al-Mutari, in a witness statement, said he and others were "beaten, hooded and our hands were wired."

Hooding was deemed to constitute torture, by the United Nations Committee Against Torture in 1997, a fact brought to the attention of the relevant British personnel in Basra by 4th April 2003. Baha Mousa was held hooded for over twenty three hours. (See 3 .) Britain is both a signatory to the UN Commission and banned hooding under domestic law in the 1970's.

Whilst looters could be shot, the Inquiry transcript shows some questionable commandeering by the liberators. "The first arrest operation had yielded three Ba'athists who had 11 million dinars in three large bags in their house.Whilst I was keen to follow Geneva Convention rules and allow them to take this with them to the interrogation centre, I decided I could borrow a few thousand for use in the local market -- to demonstrate an element of trust and willingness to restore normality!"

Iraqis know instability, and in times of turmoil, expecting looting, all cash and life's savings are removed from banks and taken home for safer keeping.Three bags may well have represented all the three men had, equivalent of a few thousand pounds, to keep them and their families for however long the chaos lasted.

At the Al Haitham Hotel, as well as rounding up Mr Mousa and his colleagues, Britain's finest, reportedly, rounded up the contents of the safe.

In another incident, is was recorded that : "He was interrogated along with his associates ... after some very disconcerting 'conditioning.' Marines bashed corrugated iron with sticks for several hours. This was to maintain the shock of capture and encourage them to talk. It became apparent just how frightened these men must have been, when two of them pissed themselves."

One young Iraqi was subject to a mock execution, by soldiers pouring what they said was petrol over him, from a jerry can, and threatening to set him alight. Another youth had a gun forced in to his mouth.

Deaths at the hands of the army, disputed by the Ministry of Defence, include twenty Iraqis, which witnesses claimed were taken to the British base at Amara, on 14th May 2004. Undisputed is that the next day twenty bodies were returned to their families. Injuries alleged, included evidence of torture, mutilation, removal of eyes, and stab wounds, according to lawyers.

Further: "There were several instances of prisoners ... being injured after capture ... it rendered the prisoner unfit for tactical questioning." Quite some injuries, if they were rendered speechless, it is possible to speculate. Detainees were held in a "prisoner of war cage." Chillingly : "Prisoners should arrive .. 'bagged and tagged.' " (i.e.: hooded and handcuffed.) So much for the United Nations Committee on Torture.

In all, prisoner handling was cited as : "Abysmal" and : "Fundamentally flawed." Communication was problematical: they lacked interpreters.

Numerous claims, seemingly week on week, year on year, of British occupation inhumanity, include a twenty three years old security guard, Adil Abba Fadhil Mohammed, who alleges beating with rifle butts, kicking and sexual abuse by male and female soldiers, being made to strip, and being photographed by laughing male and female soldiers. Claims by others include ****, electrocution and sexual humiliation, descriptions of which, should carry a health warning.

Another claim is of the alleged torture and execution of sixty two year old Sabiha Khudur Talib, claimed by her son to be taken away by British soldiers, hit on her back with a rifle butt, and bundled in to a personnel carrier. Her body was found on Basra's al-Zubayr highway, in a British army body bag. Basra police describe: "traces of torture and a bullet wound to the abdomen." "The evidence points to a brutal murder ..", says Phil Shiner.

In October 2009, an army whistle-blower spoke to investigative reporter Donal MacIntyre, he had spent much of his career in the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch. He finally left believing that he was: "serving something that was party to covering up quite serious allegations of torture and murder", he commented.

"I've seen documentary evidence that there were incidents, running in to the hundreds, involving death and serious injury to Iraqis. It is the actions of a few who have shown to be bad apples. But the system in so flawed, and some of the decision making has been so perverse, that it is fair to say that the barrel is probably rotten."

In 2009, when the British finally left Iraq, their Commanding Officer saluted their bravery and told them: "We have prepared the ground for continued success ... We leave knowing that Basra is a better place now than it was in 2003."

It takes, as ever, William Blum on Iraq, to cut through this and the rest of the delusional nonsense, including that from "Peace Envoy" Blair, and utterly unworthy Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Obama, this week. Britain and America:

"... 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 ... a river of blood runs alongside the Euphrates and Tigris ... through a country that may never be put back together again." (5)

2. Last Round, Mark Nichol, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2005.
3. Full transcript:
ngs/transcripts/20090723day8fulldayredacted.pdf ...
5. (Anti-Empire Report, September 1, 2010)

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« Reply #89 on: September 03, 2010, 06:23:32 am »

Withdrawal or Enduring Presence?

US Military Continues to Invest Hundreds of Millions in Iraq Bases

by Democracy Now!

September 2, 2010


In his Oval Office address Tuesday night, President Obama said the US had closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis. But many US bases remain in Iraq, as well as the massive US embassy in Baghdad, the size of eighty football fields. We play a report on US bases in Iraq by independent journalist Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films. [includes rush transcript]

Enduring Presence, report filed by independent journalist Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films Originally aired on Empire on Al Jazeera English

Related stories

-Invisible War: How Thirteen Years of US-Imposed Economic Sanctions Devastated Iraq Before the 2003 Invasion

-"Iraq Is a Shattered Country"–Nir Rosen on Obama Declaring an End to US Combat Mission in Iraq

-Iraq War Vet Camilo Mejía: US Withdrawal Plan Marks "Privatization of Military Occupation"

-Obama Admin Claims End to Combat Operations in Iraq, But Iraqis See Same War Under a Different Name

-End of Iraq Combat Operations or Beginning of Downsized, Rebranded Occupation Relying Heavily on Private Military Contractors?

Rush Transcript

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: We’re going to turn right now to President Obama’s address last night. He said that the US had closed or transferred hundreds of bases to the Iraqis. But many US bases remain in Iraq, as well as the massive US embassy in Baghdad, the size of eighty football fields.

For more on the issue of US bases, we turn to a report by independent journalist Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films. This report originally aired on the program Empire on Al Jazeera English.

US SOLDIER: We’re going home! We won! It’s over! America! [inaudible] I love you! I love you!

JACQUIE SOOHEN: Late at night on August 18th, the US Army’s 4th Stryker Brigade crossed the border into Kuwait and publicly celebrated the official end of combat in Iraq.

US SOLDIER: Good job, guys! Way to go!

JACQUIE SOOHEN: But with 50,000 combat-ready American troops still in country, the occupation seems far from over.

ANDREW BACEVICH: The Obama administration will insist that those are not combat soldiers engaged in a combat mission. But if you’ve got twenty or thirty or forty thousand foreign troops stationed on your soil, I mean, if it looks like an occupation, and it smells like an occupation, and it sounds like an occupation, it’s an occupation.

JACQUIE SOOHEN: The current Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq requires a full US withdrawal and an end to the occupation. And the US military and State Department are busy planning for what they call an "enduring presence" after the treaty’s deadline on December 31st, 2011. But on bases like this one in Balad, Iraq, the military continues to invest hundred of millions in infrastructure improvements, and it is difficult to imagine them fully abandoning everything they are building here.

COL. SAL NODJOMIAN: Joint Base Balad is approximately ten square miles, which equates to about 6,500 acres. To put that in relative terms, Andrews Air Force Base, which is right outside DC, is about 20 percent smaller than that. And we don’t even have golf courses here, so that kind of puts it in perspective of how big that is. We have about 28,000 people who call Joint Base Balad home.

This is the rec center on the backside of these T-walls.

JACQUIE SOOHEN: US Air Force Colonel Sal Nodjomian takes us on a tour of what is essentially a small American city, complete with three large gyms, multiple shopping centers, recreation areas and a movie theater. In 2003, military planners expected to keep Balad as a long-term air base. While smaller US outposts are closing down around the country, Balad keeps expanding. And some in the military still believe that the US Air Force will remain here past the 2012 deadline.

COL. SAL NODJOMIAN: Our senior leadership is studying options to draw down our presence here in Iraq. Joint Base Balad is one of the bases that’s often talked about as one of the more semi-permanent or strategic overwatch bases.

ANDREW BACEVICH: My guess is that the US government and the Iraqi government will find some way of finessing this promise to close down US bases. You know, we’ve had Air Force bases in the United Kingdom for the last half-century. They’re not called US Air Force bases. They’re called Royal Air Force bases. But they’re owned, lock, stock and barrel, by the United States Air Force. So there are ways—ways to work around what might seem like an airtight commitment.

COL. SAL NODJOMIAN: If an agreement is reached, and the Iraqis ask us to stay or invite us to stay, in whatever capacity, whether it’s a training capacity or a collocative capacity, then that’s something that can be—that’ll be decided.

JACQUIE SOOHEN: It remains to be seen whether conventional US forces will stay in some of these massive bases. But there are some troops who definitely plan to be here after the withdrawal deadline. Forty-five hundred members of elite special operations forces will train Iraqis and cooperate on counterterrorism missions.

BRIG. GEN. SIMEON TROMBITAS: We have advisers that work with the whole chain of INCTF.

JACQUIE SOOHEN: Brigadier General Simeon Trombitas shows us a training exercise of Iraq’s counterterrorism force that his men train and work with. He says that they spend most of their day side by side with Iraqi officers.

BRIG. GEN. SIMEON TROMBITAS: Throughout the world and in this region, special forces are—you know, we’re special because we do maintain a relationship with foreign forces. There will be a working relationship for a while.

JEREMY SCAHILL: The United States is going to continue to train Iraqi special operations forces. What this essentially amounts to is an Iraqization of the US occupation.

BRIG. GEN. SIMEON TROMBITAS: We maintain that relationship so we, you know, impart our values and maintain those values. And the longer we work together, the more liked we are.

JEREMY SCAHILL: What this means is that the United States can say, "We don’t have a military occupation in Iraq," while at the same time having US military forces effectively directing forces that are masquerading as indigenous but in reality amount to basic proxy forces for the United States.

JACQUIE SOOHEN: In addition to several thousand special operations forces and an unknown number of Air Force personnel, the US State Department has announced that it will hire an army of as many as 7,000 mercenaries to be deployed on five enduring presence posts across Iraq.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Yes, a lot of US military forces are going to be leaving the country, but what we’re seeing happen right now, the US State Department is beginning a militarization of its operations in Iraq. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked for a doubling of the number of armed private security contractors in the country. The State Department has also put in a request from the Pentagon for military-grade equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters, armored vehicles. What we’re seeing in Iraq right now is a downsizing and a rebranding of the US occupation.

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: That’s independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill. That report filed by Jacquie Soohen of Big Noise Films.


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« Reply #90 on: September 03, 2010, 09:47:49 am »

Iraq snapshot - September 2, 2010

The Common Ills

Thursday, September 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US encourages people to take business into Iraq, Joe Biden discusses the possibility of the US staying in Iraq after 2011, and more.
Tuesday night US President Barack Obama gave a ridiculous speech declaring (again declaring) the end to 'combat operations' in Iraq. Bill Van Auken (WSWS) weighs in to note, "President Barack Obama's nationally televised speech from the White House Oval Office Tuesday night was an exercise in cowardice and deceit. It was deceitful to the people of the United States and the entire world in its characterization of the criminal war against Iraq. And it was cowardly in its groveling before the American military. The address could inspire only disgust and contempt among those who viewed it. Obama, who owed his presidency in large measure to the mass antiwar sentiment of the American people, used the speech to glorify the war that he had mistakenly been seen to oppose."  Sharif Abdel Kouddous (Democracy Now! -- link has text, audio and video) asked journalist Nir Rosen for his reaction to Barack's speech:
Well, I was offended by it. He spoke mostly about American soldiers and their suffering and their sacrifice, and the only time he came even close to mentioning that Iraqis had a hard time these last seven years is when he mentioned their resilience. He said that the US has paid a high price, a huge price. Not as huge as the Iraqis have paid. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed. Tens of thousands of Iraqis who were rendered in American detention, their lives ruined for years, children who didn't know where their fathers were. A couple of million displaced internally and abroad. Iraq is a shattered country. He said we persevered because we share a vision with the Iraqi people. Most of the Iraqi people, their vision has been, for the last seven years, that the Americans would withdraw. Now, really, nothing has changed, obviously, from one day to the next. You have 50,000 troops who remain here. When Iraq occupied Kuwait, the Americans said that as long as there's one Iraqi soldier left in Kuwait, Kuwait remains occupied. So the presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq forecloses many options, precludes many options for the Iraqis, with the implied threat. At the same time, the Iraqi security forces, I think, would like to have a continued relationship. And while Iraq is sort of occupied, it's also sort of sovereign. You don't see -- you haven't seen really for the last year in most parts of the country American soldiers on the ground. So, nothing changed today. The big change, you could say, was a year ago, when the Americans withdrew from cities and mainly stayed on bases. And we've had a test since then of the Iraqi security forces in their ability to handle the situation. And I'd say they, more or less, can handle it.
Arab News observes, "But in reality US forces, about 50,000 personnel, are still in Iraq and will continue to be there for an unspecified period of time. They are distributed in over 90 military bases throughout the country. They are there to support and assist Iraq forces, when needed, but they will stay out of the cities. Meanwhile, private American security firms are being handed multi-million dollar contracts to carry out odd jobs and assignments in Iraq. Iraqis still remember the killings that Blackwater agents were responsible for. There are no figures on how many US mercenaries will be dispatched to Iraq to carry specific security assignments. But the issue is contentious and the majority of Iraqis are suspicious of their role. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has expressed doubts about the wisdom of the latest American pullback. Last week he said that the stalled government, combined with the American troop withdrawal, created ideal conditions for insurgents to attack. Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki echoed the same sentiments few days later and warned of a surge in militancy and attacks by Al-Qaeda members and Baathist operatives."  On the ending, yesterday Democracy Now! aired a report by Jacquie Soohen:
US SOLDIER: Good job, guys! Way to go!   

JACQUIE SOOHEN: But with 50,000 combat-ready American troops still in country, the occupation seems far from over.             

ANDREW BACEVICH: The Obama administration will insist that those are not combat soldiers engaged in a combat mission. But if you've got twenty or thirty or forty thousand foreign troops stationed on your soil, I mean, if it looks like an occupation, and it smells like an occupation, and it sounds like an occupation, it's an occupation.                   

JACQUIE SOOHEN: The current Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq requires a full US withdrawal and an end to the occupation. And the US military and State Department are busy planning for what they call an "enduring presence" after the treaty's deadline on December 31st, 2011. But on bases like this one in Balad, Iraq, the military continues to invest hundred of millions in infrastructure improvements, and it is difficult to imagine them fully abandoning everything they are building here.             

COL. SAL NODJOMIAN: Joint Base Balad is approximately ten square miles, which equates to about 6,500 acres. To put that in relative terms, Andrews Air Force Base, which is right outside DC, is about 20 percent smaller than that. And we don't even have golf courses here, so that kind of puts it in perspective of how big that is. We have about 28,000 people who call Joint Base Balad home. 
Wednesday on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane explored the Iraq War with her guests Phyllis Bennis (IPS), Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post, author of Imperial Life In The Emerald City), and retired Gen James Dubik. At the end of the hour, the issue of the SOFA and withdrawal came up.
Diane Rehm: Now next year, when those 50,000 troops come home, are we going to have the same discussion again, Rajiv?
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Well I'm not sure that it's assured that all of the 50,000 troops are coming home.
Diane Rehm: The president said he's going to stick to his own timetable.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Yes, but there's a caveat in all of that and that is if the government of Iraq requests US forces to stay on to continue to train or to do other advisory-and-assisting tasks that will be something that the US govenrnment will seriously consider.
Diane Rehm; You know it's been fascinating to me that, on the one hand, you hear Iraqis  say: 'Get out! We don't want you here! It's you who are creating the problems.'  And then as we get ready to leave, they're saying, 'Oh no, we need you --
Phyllis Bennis: The question --
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: There's a deep conflict among the Iraqi people. It's not -- it's not an overwhelming view, 'Hey, just get out!'  There was that view early on and then when they slipped into depths the sectarian fighting over there, both sides, both principal parties of the conflict came to see for differening reasons the United States as some degree of at least --if not  and honest broker, sort of a buffering force. So they still to some degree look at the America and say, 'Hey, we sort of need you here a little bit to help us fight." And they also look at the Americans and say, 'Hey you made us a lot of promises you need to stick around and fulfill some of them..'
Diane Rehm: Do you think those 50,000 will come home when the president said?
Gen James Dubik:  I think we must plan for this withdrawal because that's the negotiated agreement we're under right now.  But the agreement can be renegotiated and I don't think all 50,000 will leave.
Diane Rehm: Phyllis, very quickly.
Phyllis Bennis: I think they will be renegotiated and I think many of them will stay and it depends on who you ask. The military leaders in Iraq have every interest in keeping them there. 
On The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, audio and video) last night, Margaret Warner asked US Vice President Joe Biden, "Now, if this new government says, we would like to talk about a more longer-term arrangement and keeping some U.S. troops here as a sort of guarantor, are you saying that is a nonstarter?"  Biden replied, "No, we're not saying that.  We're saying we're going to keep the committment that we made, that George Bush made, President Bush made, to the Iraqi people and to the then-government of Iraq."  And he then went off topic. Leading Margaret Warner to restate the question, "But you're not saying that -- that the Obama administration would absolutely refuse, if six months from now, a new Iraqi government said, it would be helpful for us to keep some . . ."  Biden cut in, "It would be highly unlikely that we would even consider the idea of maintaining 50,000 troops indefinitely here in Iraq. But we have committed -- and we will keep the commitment to the Iraqi people and the government -- that all troops will be out by the end of next year. If they come forward and say, we don't want you to do that, we want you to leave some troops to help us on a specific item, we would, obviously, consider that."
Biden also stated, "The truth of the matter is, they're taking too long to form this government. But the second piece of this is, the Iraqi went and voted. But guess what? No clear -- not only no clear majority, barely a plurality. So, in a parliamentary system, this is not unexpected. But I am confident that they are now -- all have run the course of what other options they have, and it's getting down to the point where, in the -- in the next couple months, there's going to be a government."  At some point.  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 26 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 Iraq's Parliament has only met once (and for less than 20 minutes then), DPA reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament begins its fall session next week.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports that, along with the Pariament meeting only once, the Baghdad "caretaker government has stalled on projects aimed at improving people's lives" and quotes the director-general of Baghdad's electricity plant Ghazi Abdul Aziz Essa stating, "There are no decisions. We are just hanging now and we have stopped everything. We are waiting for the government to make decision. The delay affects the system very badly. It's not good for us." Today David Ignatius (Washington Post) reports on the stalemate in Baghdad:

Talking with Iraqis in recent days, I've heard foreboding about what lies ahead as U.S. military power declines. "Frankly speaking, we are not moving ahead," said former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose party won the largest number of seats in the March parliamentary election but so far has been unable to form a government.               
"There is going to be a vacuum in the country," Allawi said in a telephone interview. "I don't think the U.S. should dictate things, but they should continue to be engaged." American officials keep insisting that "engagement" is indeed the new watchword, but their involvement in recent months, led by Biden, has been episodic and mostly unsuccessful.                       
One of the mysteries of U.S. policy is why Washington keeps pushing a formula that will allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep his job (or another top post) at a time when he is rejected by nearly all Iraqi political parties. America's silent ally in this peculiar gambit is Iran. After so much pain, Iraq deserves better.

US Senator Richard Lugar (Republican) is against the drawdown.  Scott Sarvay (Indiana's News Center) quotes Lugar stating, "For the moment they don't have a parliament that's meeting. They don't have an oil law with the Curds in the north that gives them the revenue for their treasury, and there were 13 different attacks in provinces last week, which Iraqis were killed by terrorists." Maybe the prime minister issue will get resolved sooner than later?  Nayla Razzouk and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that investors are avoiding Iraq due to "its weak business laws" and quotes Hayat Su's Ahmed Jamal stating, "We don't have factories or warehouses or anything like that.  The investment laws are not suitable."  Max Blenkin (AAP) adds that the US State Dept is attempting to get Austrlian companies to start working in Iraq. The violence is among the reasons many corporations are reluctant to go to Iraq.  The violence?
Reuters notes the Higher Education Ministry's Jameel Shihab Ahmed was shot dead today in Baghdad, assailants attacked a Sahwa check point in Tuz Khurmato killing 1 Sahwa, "municial officer Farouq al-Gertani" was injured in an attack on his car which claimed the lives of 2 bodyguards, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one Iraqi service member, 1 Mosul kidnapped taxi driver was kidnapped, killed and his corpse dumped and, dropping back to Wednesday, assailants attacked a Sahwa checkpoint in Baiji injuring five and claiming the lives of 2. In addition, Reuters notes a bus carrying pilgrims overturned killing at least 10 Iranians on a pilgrimage to Najaf and injuring 33 more.
To Margaret Warner last night, Joe Biden denied that 2006 and 2007 were being used as the benchmark (Warner noted how Iraqis told her the use of such a benchmark is offensive) but the reality is that is what they point to in order to declare a 'calmer' Iraq.  On All Things Considered (NPR -- link has text and audio) yesterday, Melissa Block spoke with Iraq's one time legal adviser to the United Nations Zaid Al-Ali. 
Melissa Block: You spent time traveling all over Iraq, and I'd like to start with you in the south of the country, the largely Shiite south, an area with huge oil reserves. What are conditions and security like there, for example, in the port city of Basra?
Zaid Al-Ali: Well, I mean, today, the conditions are very poor throughout Iraq, the south included. But comparably, if you're comparing it to, for example, 2007 or 2006, they've improved somewhat, especially from a security point of view. You can, you know, go from one place to the other without being certain that you'll be killed on the way or kidnapped. However, regularly, there's demonstrations and riots over poor quality of public services, particularly electricity and the state of hygiene. Basra used to be called the Venice of the south because it's a city that's made up of a large network of canals, and those are now filled with garbage, completely chock-o-block. It's really amazing. You have this sense of a very poor country despite all the wealth of natural resources.
Melissa Block: Right, so the people in the south aren't reaping the rewards of those oil riches that we mentioned?
Zaid Al-Ali: No, they aren't. And that's really the amazing thing is we often hear that Iraq's ruling elite is sectarian in the sense that the Shia only care about the Shia and the Sunnis only care about the Sunnis. Well, it turns out that that's not even true. If that were true, then there would be improvement on the current situation because in fact they don't render any services to anyone.

It's a sovereign Iraq -- or that's what we're told by Barack.  South African Press Association reports:

But for Fadel, the supposed sovereignty of Iraq is also contradicted by the "preponderant" US role in the country, particularly on security issues, and UN sanctions which give the New York-based institution considerable power here.             
"Baghdad is still under Chapter 7 of the UN charter," he said, which means that 20 years after the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq is still the target of drastic sanctions of the Security Council.           
Chief among them is the requirement to pay 5% of oil revenues into a UN special fund which handles war reparations, and to which Iraq has paid $30bn so far.     
"Iraq still needs the American umbrella. It is unable to protect itself from external attacks," Fadel added.     
Barack's Tuesday night speech included his 'sharing the limelight' with his pal Bully Boy Bush.  Marcia refers to it as "Barack goes down on Bush," Cedric and Wally saw it as proof that Barack's got a crush on Bush, Mike argued it was proof positive that Barack was both a fraud and a putz, Elaine fact-checked the little liar on his claim that Bush loved veterans and backed them and dreamed of them and Elaine fact checked him by noting what John Kerry argued in 2004 debates against Bush, and Rebecca went after War Hawk Tony Blair and his claim that "military action was justified" by noting that if it were justified why would it require lying.  On Free Speech Radio News yesterday, Norman Solomon shared the following evaluation of Barack's Tuesday night speech, "The speech really wasn't so much about Iraq except as a segueway to glorify a war based on lies, and then by contrast, at least inferentially, declaring the Afghanistan war as even more glorious, ostensibly." Meanwhile Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) reports Barack Tweeted his own speech.  Meanwhile the Center for Constitutional Rights' Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond observe:

Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared.  Nearly seven years  after George Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on the USS Abraham  Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major address to mark the withdrawal  of all but 50,000 combat troops from Iraq.  But, while thousands of US troops  are marching out, thousands of additional private military contractors (PMCs)  are marching in.  The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more  than double in the coming months.               
While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a victory or  not there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge in contractors.  Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability of private military  contractors remain.             
In the past decade the United States has dramatically shifted the way in which  it wages war -- fewer soldiers and more contractors.               
Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of  Defense (DoD) workforce has 19% more contractors (207,600) than uniformed  personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the wars in these two  countries the most outsourced and privatized in U.S. history.               
According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress's Commission on  Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, private military  contractors will be disposing of improvised explosive devices, recovering killed  and wounded personnel, downed aircraft and damaged vehicles, policing Baghdad's  International Zone, providing convoy security, and clearing travel routes, among  other security-related duties.
The death of trust  is what Tim Dunlop (Australia's ABC's The Drum Unleashed) explores, noting the undermining of both trust in the government and in the media as a result of their selling of the illegal war.  He also notes how the empire responded to being called out:
Inevitably, the empire(s) fought back. A million articles appeared that sought to brand "bloggers" as know-nothing kids in pyjamas living in their parents' basements. They were ridiculed and lampooned, even as their complaints about false information on WMDs, the role of al Qaida in Iraq, the death toll, were vindicated.       
Politicians attacked too. Dissenters were labelled as unpatriotic or useful idiots or whatever other insults could be found to cover their own culpability.       
Who could forget John Howard piously declaring, "If there's a demonstration, it does give some encouragement to the leadership in Iraq," and that "People who demonstrate and who give comfort to Saddam Hussein must understand that and must realise that..." 
Governments even attacked public servants they deemed enemies. In the US, CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame was outed after her husband criticised the Bush administration, while here, the Howard Government dishonestly smeared former intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie.
In his Tuesday night speech, Barack lied that the US was 'safer' as a result of the Iraq War.  Interviewing War Hawk Tony Blair today on NPR's Morning Edition (link has text and audio), Steve Inskeep pointed out, "A little bit earlier this year, a former head of MI-5, British intelligence service, gave testimony about the war in Iraq in which she said that that war, or perhaps we should say the narrative of that war, radicalized many Muslims inside Britain and outside Britain to turn against the West. Did the decision go to war in Iraq, the inevitable decision to have Westerners killing Muslims, with the inevitable propaganda that would be made of that, turn out to be counterproductive?" Blair's promoting his new book What I Did For Bush: It Takes A Sex Slave.  Steve Inskeep is referring to Eliza Manningham-Buller who testified to the Iraq Inquiry July 20.  From that day's snapshot:
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So you're saying you had evidence that the Iraq conflict, our involvment in the Iraq conflict was a motivation, a trigger, for people who were involved in the attacks in London in July 2005, who were going to Afghanistan to fight. Were there other attacks or planned attacks in which you had evidence that Iraq was a motivating factor?
Eliza Manningham-Buller:  Yes. I mean, if you take the video wills that were retrieved on various occasions after various plots, where terrorists who had expected to be dead explained why they had done what they did, it features. It is part of what we call the single narrative, which is the view of some that everything the west was doing was part of a fundamental hostility to the Muslim world and to Islam, of which manifestations were Iraq and Afghanistan, but which pre-dated those because it pre-dated 9/11, but it was enhance by those events.
Immediately prior to her testiomny that day, a [PDF format warning] letter she sent to John Gieve (Home Office) was declassified [though some parts remain redacted].  Gieve was the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office at that time and the position provided oversight to MI5 (which is Military Intelligence, Section 5).
We have been giving some thought to the possible terrorist consequences should the US, possibly with UK support, seek to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. I thought that you might find it helpful to see our current assessment, together with an outline of our own preparations. 
2. Since the end of the Gulf War Iraq has been implicated in a small number of murders of Iraqi oppositionists in the Middle East but only one terrorist plan directed against a Western target -- a planned car bomb attack on ex-President Bush in Kuwait in 1993.  There is no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks.   
3. We judge that the current period of heightened tension between Iraq and the US is unlikely to prompt Saddam to order terrorist strikes against Coalition interests.  Even limited military action (for example, cruise missile attacks such as the those in response to the attempted murder of ex-President Bush) would be unlikely to prompt such a response.  We assess that Saddam is only likely to order terrorist attacks if he perceives that the survival of his regime is threatened. 
In the UK 
4. If Saddam were to initiate a terrorist campaign, we assess that Iraqi capability to mount attacks in the UK is currently limited. We are aware of no Iraqi intelligence (DGI) officers based in the UK.  There are up to    DGI agents here who report on anti-regime activities. But most of these agents lack the inclination or capability to mount terrorist attacks.  So if the DGI wished to mount attacks in the UK it would need to import teams from overseas.  It is possible that some Palestinian groups based outside the UK might be willing to mount attacks in support of Iraq, 
5. Nonetheless, in case Iraq should try to co-ordinate action by existing UK-based agents, or to import its own or a surrogate terrorist capability, we will be taking a number of steps over the coming months, including: 
reviewing our knowledge of past and present DGI visiting case officers to identify and disrupt any increase in DGI activity;   
putting in place arrangements to deal with (and capitalise on) any increase in defectors, volunteers or callers to the Service's public telephone number who might have relevant information.  Experience during the Gulf War leads us to expect an increase in such contact with the public in the event of conflict; 
with the police, maintaining coverage of the Palestinian community, some of whom, as during the Gulf War, may react adversely to any threat to Iraq.
6. You may recall that, at the time of the Gulf War, a number of suspected Iraqi sympathisers were detained pending deportation on grounds of national security.  These included members of Iraqi support organisations, as well as individuals believed to be associated with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as the Abu Nidhal Organisation.  We currently assess that the number of individuals in the UK who potentially pose sufficent threat to be subject to deportation or detnetion is small.  We are currently reviewing the cases of those who could pose a threat to establish whether there might be grounds for action.   
7. We believe that Middle Eastern countries would be the most likely location should Saddam order terrorist attacks on Western interests.  Other locations, for instance SE Asia featured in attempted DGI co-ordinated attacks during the Gulf War and are thus also a possibility. We will, of course, continue to liaise closely with FCO colleagues to ensure they are in a position to brief missions if the situation develops. 
Chemical or biological (CB) threat         
8.  There were media stories during the Gulf War suggesting that Iraq planned to mount CB terrorist attacks in Western countries, and a 1998 scare (arising from a tale put about by Iraqi emigres) that Saddam planned to send anthrax abroad in scent bottles. Given Iraq's documented CB capabilities, we can anticipate similar stories again. 
9. Most Iraqi CB terrorist attacks have been assassination attempts against individuals, often emigres.   
Iraq used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war and also against civilian Kurds in 1988, but there is no intelligence that Iraq has hitherto planned or sought mass-casualty CB terrorist attacks. As with conventional terrorism, we assess that Saddam would only use CB against Western targets if he felt the survival of his regime was in doubt. In these circumstances, his preferred option would be to use conventional military delivery systems against targets in the region, rather than terrorism. 
10. There have for some years been reports of contact between the Iraqi regime and Al Qa'ida about CB. But we have yet to see convincing intelligence that useful co-operation developed, or that Iraq provided genuine CB materials. 
11. I am copying this letter to Stephen Wright, John Scarlett, Julian Miller and Tom McKane.   
E L Manningham-Buller             
Deputy Director General             
The Iraq War did not make England safer, it did not make the US safer.  Barack lied.
One-time reporter Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) provides his take on Tuesday night's speech:
I thought it amounted to a defense of his presidency. He continues to strike me as a guy who thought he was elected for domestic reasons and so seems to resent how foreign affairs intrude on his time. His rhetoric on the two subjects has the feel of two different men -- on foreign policy, kind of tired and clichéd, written by a committee, but on domestic affairs, kind of zingy.             
As he said in the speech, he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to get all combat troops out of Iraq by today. Unfortunately, it was a phony pledge -- the mission of the U.S. troops still in Iraq is, if anything, more dangerous today than it was yesterday. And so the core of the speech was hollow.
Meanwhile Xinhua reports on US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaking in Iraq yesterday and notes Gates claiming it is for history to determine the call on the Iraq War. Talk about kick the can. No, it is for us to determine. It is amazing that Barack bastardized "Que Sera Sera" in his speech Tuesday night and yet, while claiming the future belongs to "us," they won't to kick any evaluation far down the road. There's a reason for that and any good defense attorney can explain it to you. Let's say your client gets picked up for a DWI. If you have the trial quickly, you can get a judgment. It probably won't be one in favor of your client. If, however, you can postpone and postpone and postpone, your client can 'reform.' (As in, "Yes, two years ago my client was arrested for driving while intoxicated; however, since that time s/he has gone into rehab, joined a church s/he regularly attends and had no more run ins with the law.") The War Hawks -- that includes Robert Gates -- are really hoping that, between now and history's judgment, they can do something -- anything -- to mitigate their actions. Nothing will mitigate it. Laws were broken. The Constitution was shredded. Whatever happens to Iraq in the future, the US government broke laws and there is no happy spin for that. The US government launched an illegal war of aggression and that's not something you can wipe away. Jason Ditz ( weighs in on Gates here.
Dropping back to August 26th for this: " 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'."  And again noting this from Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times):

(One soldier did ask if the end of combat operations meant the end of extra combat pay. Mr. Gates said that as far as he was concerned, combat pay still applied in Iraq, where troops are still being killed by homemade bombs, sniper fire and mortar attacks.)

This is a concern both for those serving in Iraq (and their families) and for some of those who have served who have been expressing dismay that service members might be left in Iraq -- an area they know themselves to be dangerous -- and not receive the higher pay (combat pay).  In other news, we'll note this from labor journalist David Bacon's "With Papers Or Without - The Same Life In A Labor Camp" (New American Media):

On a ranch north of the Bay Area, several dozen men live in a labor camp. When there's work they pick apples and grapes or prune trees and vines. This year, however, the ranch has had much less work, as the economic recession hits California fields. State unemployment is over 12%, but unemployment in rural counties is always twice what it is in urban ones. Unemployment among farm workers, however, is largely hidden.             
In the case of these workers, it's hidden within the walls of the camp, far from the view of those who count the state's jobless. Because they work from day to day, or week to week, there are simply periods when there's no work at all, and they stay in the barracks.     
In past, the ranch's workers were mostly undocumented immigrants. In the last several years, however, the owner has begun bringing workers from Mexico under the H2-A guest worker program. While there are differences in the experiences of people without papers and guest workers, some basic aspects of life are the same. For the last several weeks, all the workers in the camp have been jobless, and neither undocumented workers nor guest workers can legally collect unemployment benefits. Everyone's living on what they've saved. And since the official total of the state's unemployed is based on counting those receiving benefits, none of the men here figure into California's official unemployment rate.                 
The camp residents share other similarities. Poverty in Mexico forced them all to leave to support their families. Living in the camp, they do the same jobs out in the fields.. All of them miss their families and homes. And that home, as they see it, is in Mexico. Here in the U.S. they don't feel part of the community that surrounds them.

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 #91 on: September 04, 2010, 08:12:52 am »

Flying the Flag; Faking the News

by John Pilger

September 3, 2010

Edward Bernays, the American nephew of Sigmund Freud, is said to have invented modern propaganda. During the First World War, he was one of a group of influential liberals who mounted a secret government campaign to persuade reluctant Americans to send an army to the bloodbath in Europe. In his book, "Propaganda," published in 1928, Bernays wrote that the "intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses was an important element in democratic society" and that the manipulators "constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power in our country." Instead of propaganda, he coined the euphemism "public relations."

The American tobacco industry hired Bernays to convince women they should smoke in public. By associating smoking with women's liberation, he made cigarettes "torches of freedom." In 1954, he conjured a communist menace in Guatemala as an excuse for overthrowing the democratically-elected government, whose social reforms were threatening the United Fruit company's monopoly of the banana trade. He called it a "liberation."

Bernays was no rabid right winger. He was an elitist liberal who believed that "engineering public consent" was for the greater good. This was achieved by the creation of "false realities," which then became "news events." Here are examples of how it is done these days:

False Reality: The last US combat troops have left Iraq "as promised, on schedule," according to President Barack Obama. TV screens have filled with cinematic images of the "last US soldiers" silhouetted against the dawn light, crossing the border into Kuwait.

Fact: They are still there. At least 50,000 troops will continue to operate from 94 bases. American air assaults are unchanged, as are special forces' assassinations. The number of "military contractors" is currently 100,000 and rising. Most Iraqi oil is now under direct foreign control.

False Reality: BBC presenters and reporters have described the departing US troops as a "sort of victorious army" that has achieved "a remarkable change in [Iraq's] fortunes." Their commander, Gen. David Petraeus, is a "celebrity," "charming," "savvy" and "remarkable."

Fact: There is no victory of any sort. There is a catastrophic disaster; and attempts to present it as otherwise are a model of Bernays' campaign to "rebrand" the slaughter of the first world war as "necessary" and "noble." In 1980, Ronald Reagan, running for president, rebranded the invasion of Vietnam, in which up to three million people died, as a "noble cause," a theme taken up enthusiastically by Hollywood. Today's Iraq war movies have a similar purging theme: the invader as both idealist and victim.

False Reality: It is not known how many Iraqis have died. They are "countless" or maybe "in the tens of thousands."

Fact: As a direct consequence of the Anglo-American-led invasion, a million Iraqis have died. This figure from Opinion Research Business is based on peer-reviewed research led by Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, whose methods were secretly affirmed as "best practice" and "robust" by the Blair government's chief scientific adviser, as revealed in a Freedom of Information search. This figure is rarely reported or presented to "charming" and "savvy" American generals. Neither is the dispossession of four million Iraqis, the malnourishment of most Iraqi children, the epidemic of mental illness and the poisoning of the environment.

False Reality: The British economy has a deficit of billions, which must be reduced with cuts in public services and regressive taxation, in a spirit of "we're all in this together."

Fact: We are not in this together. What is remarkable about this public relations triumph is that, only 18 months ago, the diametric opposite filled TV screens and front pages. Then, in a state of shock, truth was unavoidable, if briefly. The Wall Street and city of London financiers' trough was on full view for the first time, along with the venality of once celebrated snouts. Billions in public money went to inept and crooked organizations known as banks, which were spared debt liability by their Labour government sponsors.

Within a year, record profits and personal bonuses were posted, and state and media propaganda had recovered its equilibrium. Suddenly, the "black hole" was no longer the responsibility of the banks, whose debt is to be paid by those not in any way responsible: the public. The received media wisdom of this "necessity" is now a chorus, from the BBC to the Sun. A masterstroke, Bernays would surely say.

False Reality: The former government minister Ed Miliband offers a "genuine alternative" as leader of the British Labour Party.

Fact: Miliband, like his brother David, the former foreign secretary, and almost all those standing for the Labour leadership, is immersed in the effluent of New Labour. As a New Labour member of Parliament and minister, he did not refuse to serve under Blair or speak out against Labour's persistent warmongering. He now calls the invasion of Iraq a "profound mistake." Calling it a mistake insults the memory and the dead. It was a crime, of which the evidence is voluminous. He has nothing new to say about the other colonial wars, none of them mistakes. Neither has he demanded basic social justice: that those who caused the recession clear up the mess and that Britain's fabulously rich corporate minority be seriously taxed, starting with Rupert Murdoch.

Of course, the good news is that false realities often fail when the public trusts its own critical intelligence, not the media. Two classified documents recently released by WikiLeaks express the CIA's concern that the populations of European countries, which oppose their governments' war policies, are not succumbing to the usual propaganda spun through the media. For the rulers of the world, this is a conundrum, because their unaccountable power rests on the false reality that no popular resistance works. And it does.

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« Reply #92 on: September 04, 2010, 08:16:14 am »

Unstable Iraq May Draw Obama Back to War

by Robert Dreyfuss

September 3, 2010

Let's get the good news out of the way first, in President Obama's Iraq speech last night. Here it is: he said that the US combat role in Iraq has ended and that Iraqis have "responsibility for the security of their own country." He said that "all US troops will leave by the end of next year." And he promised, once again, that US troops will begin to leave Afghanistan, too, next July.

That's about it. Now the bad news.

Most distressingly, Obama treated the war in Iraq as if it were a minor, tactical disagreement, rather than a fundamental, black and white difference between two irreconcilable views. "I am mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home," he said. "It is time to turn the page." To underline the point, he mentioned that he'd telephoned former President George W. Bush before delivering the speech, though he mercifully spared us details of that conversation. Needless to say, the unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the United States in 2003 was a clear-cut, criminal war of aggression, making it far more than a merely "contentious" issue. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died for no good reason, and many thousands more are likely to perish as Iraq's bitterly divided body politic settles its differences with guns and bombs over the next five or ten years. Millions of Iraqi children have been traumatized beyond repair. By going into Iraq, the United States alienated its friends, weakened its alliances, emboldened its adversaries, blackened its reputation, squandered a trillion dollars, suffered tens of thousands of dead and wounded, utterly failed to spread democracy and freedom in the region, vastly strengthened Iran's strategic position in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf and devastated a nation by shattering its economy, its state institutions and its very social fabric in a manner that will take at least two generations to repair. None of this seems to have occurred to President Obama, who wants to turn the bloody page.

Almost as distressing was Obama's half-hearted reference to Bush's vaunted surge. By now, in much of the mainstream media, it's become part of the catechism that the surge "worked," that the addition of 30,000 combat forces in January, 2007, resulted in a great success. (Obama, like many Democrats, liberals, and some realist-minded Republicans, opposed the surge.) Here are the facts: early in 2006, many Republicans knew that the war in Iraq was a disaster, and they wanted out, before the voters could express their disdain for Bush, Cheney and Co. at the polls in 2006 and 2008. The Iraq Study Group, chaired by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Representative Lee Hamilton, was created to nail down an exit strategy, and they did, proposing a year-long timetable for withdrawing US forces. But the surge prolonged the war, which could have ended in late 2007 or early 2008, at the latest, by three more bloody, combat-filled years. Nor did the surge calm the crisis. The decline in violence, to the extent that it did occur, came for two intertwined reasons: first, because Sunni tribal leaders banded together to fight Al Qaeda and other extremists; and second, because Iran made a strategic decision to rein in allied Shiite militias, halt the supply of IEDs and other weapons to its allies on the Shiite side and convince Muqtada al-Sadr and other Shiite militant leaders to stand down, which they did.

The very agreement that Obama cited last night, which calls for the complete withdrawal of US forces by the end of 2011, was the result of a deal struck between the United States and Iran long before Obama's election, and the only reason that the deal worked is because Iran, which opposed it at first, eventually acquiesced. Tehran convinced its many friends and allies in the ruling coalition under Prime Minister Maliki in 2008 to go along with the US-Iraq withdrawal accord in order to weaken American influence in Iraq, and in that they have succeeded. Tehran also brokered an uneasy ceasefire between Maliki and Sadr in 2007, and it has worked hard, though without complete success, to strengthen its ties to the various Shiite and Kurdish factions that dominate Iraqi politics. Because of its proximity, Iran will continue to exert a gravitational pull on Iraq, which no longer has an effective army to defend itself against its larger neighbor. The withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraq—although the 50,000 that remain aren't exactly unarmed—signals just another phase in the decline of American influence in Iraq.

What Obama failed to mention is that the next sixteen months will be a severe test of his sincerity about withdrawal.

First, the centrifugal tendency of Iraqi politics may pull that country apart again, hurtling it back into civil war even as US forces continue to draw down, and that will create great pressure on Obama at home to slow or reverse the withdrawal.

Second, Iran has many cards to play, and if US-Iran relations deteriorate further, despite the apparent resumption of Iran's dialogue with the world's great powers later this month, Iran can use its muscle in Iraq to make life hell for the United States.

And third, the neoconservatives and proponents of the war—those inconvenient advocates of the illegal invasion of Iraq that Obama refuses to battle politically—are revving up demands that the United States settle in for the long haul in Iraq. As indicated by Paul Wolfowitz's obscene op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday, in which he compared Iraq to South Korea and suggested that tens of thousands of US forces remain in Iraq indefinitely, the neocons want Obama to justify their outrageous decision to go to war in Iraq by preserving and extending a US military role there for years to come. In Wolfowitz's analogy, Iran plays the part of North Korea (and "Red" China), and they'd like nothing more that to use the continuing turmoil in Iraq to justify a South Korea–style US presence.

Unfortunately, despite Obama's words in pledging to withdraw US forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, he will find himself under enormous pressure to renege on that promise. And there's precious little reason to believe that he won't cave in to that pressure, particularly if Iraq devolves into civil war sometime in 2011.

Robert Dreyfuss

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« Reply #93 on: September 04, 2010, 01:01:47 pm »

Iraq snapshot - September 3, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday September 3, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Tony Blair lies to the world about donating 'royalties' (that will most likely not exist) to wounded British soldiers, AP takes a stand for the facts, the political stalemate continues, Iraqis weigh in on Tuesday's speech by Barack Obama, and more.
Today Poynter publishes an internal AP memo written by Tom Kent, the AP's Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production,
Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.                               
To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.                             
As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."               
However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.   
In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.                   
Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.   
We're opening with that because it is news and it is important.  To be clear, not every journalist has jumped on the Iraq War over ball.  For every idiot on MSNBC or John Nichols, there have been cautious voices who have refused to play along.  Diane Rehm has repeatedly noted that 50,000 troops and the claim of an end make no sense, Michael R. Gordon has offered perspective as well, as has Steve Inskeep, Matthew Rothschild, Chris Floyd,  Sonali Kolhatkar, Jane Arraf, Margaret Warner, Scott Horton, Jason Ditz, and Kelley B. Vlahos among others.  But they have been the exception. (Scott Horton is the journalist, not the attorney.  To be clear on which one, he gets a link.)  More commonly, American news consumers have been repeatedly greeted with blind repetition of White House spin and, especially for so-called 'independent' media (Katrina, we're especially talking about The Nation, the magazine you've ruined), a desire not to contradict Blessed Barack. 
We wanted an independent media -- in terms of the advertising-backed as well as the donation dependant -- when the build up to the Iraq War was beginning.  We attacked and bemoaned corporate media but where has Panhandle Media been the last two years? They've had no independence.  Let's not kid that you can be part of Journolist and be independent.  Let's not kid that you can be exposed as a part of Journolist -- as the bulk of The Nation writers were -- and get away without issuing a public statement of apology to your readers.  It doesn't matter that you're an "opinion writer" -- in fact that's even worse because people reading Katha Pollitt, Chris Hayes, Eric Alterman, Richard Kim and the other Nation writers who were on Journolist thought they were reading independent thinkers, unaware that they joined with other like-minded writers to determine what to cover (Chris Hayes and Spencer Ackerman issued the edict not to cover Jeremiah Wright -- even to object to him -- because it could hurt Barack).  Whores.  That's who staffs independent media and that's only demonstrated all the more when they refuse to apologize for their backroom dealings, their hidden agreements and instead carp about Tucker Carlson and the outlet (Daily Journal) which exposed them.
The other reason is that Tom Kent notes that the media can't "predict" the future.  We've noted that here for nearly two years as outlets have repeatedly insisted that the SOFA means the Iraq War ends at the end of 2011 when it doesn't mean that at all. Tom Kent and AP deserve serious applause for doing what we say we want to see: An independent media that questions, an independent media which doesn't just repeat the spin of government officials. 
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane spoke about Iraq with  Youchi Dreazen (National Journal), Adberrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera) and Kevin Whitelaw (Congressional Quarterly).

Diane Rehm: Let's talk about the president's comments on the US combat mission in Iraq officially over.  Kevin, what does that mean for the role of the remaining 50,000?
Kevin Whitelaw: Well that's right.  The-the combat phase of the war is over according to-to the Pentagon and according to President Obama. That doesn't mean that US troops will not engage in any combat anymore.  We still have a-a sizeable portion, ten, fifteen percent of the force, that really is part of a Special Forces component that is stationed in Iraq.  Still, remember, 50,000 troops. So you take about ten, fifteen percent of that. These are troops that will still go out on missions here and there to captue and kill --
Diane Rehm: With Iraqis?
Kevin Whitelaw: In most cases.  We don't know for sure, keep in mind, whether or not there might still be some unilateral missions but in most cases that's correct, they'll go out with Iraqis to-to do certain targeted missions and they'll also -- in the various training mission, the larger training mission -- there will be US troops that accompany Iraqis on various missions and you can expect that if they find themselves under fire they will certainly defend themselves. So there is still combat capability with this force that is in place.  Having said that, what it does mean is that the Iraqis are-are, you know, in the front lines, they're the ones that are expected to do-to do the bulk of the security work and to make the bulk of the security decisions about where to target, where to  go, how to defend and how to proceed.
Diane Rehm: What about NATO forces still in Iraq, Abderrahim?
Abderrahim Foukara: Well, I mean, if I may comment on the - the broader issue first of all?
Diane Rehm: Sure.
Adberrahim Foukara:  It all harks back to democracy obvivously.  In a democracy, when you make a pledge, you have to live up to it. President Obama made the pledge that, you know, he would get the US forces out of Iraq and obviously now that we uh-uh-uh closing up to-to the November election, he has to be seen as living up to his word. Now leaving -- withdrawing 50,000 combat troops and leaving several thousands more in Iraq at this time when there isn't even a government in place in Iraq, when despite all pronouncements to the contrary, security forces -- the Iraqi security forces are still not up to snuff, it is -- It may be a little controversial calling this phase, combat phase, over because, it seems to me that, US forces will remain in Iraq, will continue to be combat forces, in one kind or another, in one situation or another.  So I hark back to my opening statement in this show which is that in the same way that it is managing the crisis situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians,  Iraq will remain a crisis and the United States will keep on managing that crisis for a long time to come.
Diane Rehm: Youchi.
Youchi Dreazen:  You know the war in Iraq has been a war of semantics from the very beginning.  "The Coalition of the Willing" which didn't exist. I mean, there was a coalition of the US  and a small number of allies, in some cases absurdly small.  The one Icelandic female soldier who I met who was, excuse me, who was Iceland's entire military contingent in Iraq.  You had five Dutch.  You had a Costa Rican bomb dismanteling team who didn't want to leave any of its bases so, if the bomb was brought to them, they would dismantle it but otherwise they wouldn't go.  So you had the "Coalition of the Willing" which of course didn't exist, you had "Shock and Awe" which neither "shocked" nor "awed." Now you have this transition from combat mission over to advise-and-assist mission beginning and the previous points were exactly right.  You have 50,000 troops which is a considerable number. They are still having the same equipment they had before. They still have the same armored vehicles.  They will still be out on patrol. It's a semantic difference but that's been the case with Iraq from the very beginning.  The key difference to my mind is there's no government.  The second key difference from what the president said, the president's speech sounded very much like "We are out the door."  The feeling within the Pentagon is that this will be renegotiated and that, by the end of next year, there will still be troops there.
Diane Rehm: David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post yesterday that, "One of the mysteries of U.S. policy is why Washington keeps pushing a formula that will allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep his job (or another top post) at a time when he is rejected by nearly all Iraqi political parties. America's silent ally in this peculiar gambit is Iran. After so much pain, Iraqis deserve better."  Youchi?
Youchi Dreazen: There is a very short and simple answer to the first part of the question.  It's that American officials have come to like Nouri al-Maliki and to trust him which is remarkable if you remember a memo leaked out a few years ago, which had been written by Stephen Hadley who was then the National Security  Advisor for the Bush administration, raising questions about Maliki and making clear that, if you read the memo carefully enough, that he was under some sort of American surveillance because they didn't trust him.  Now they do.  And the reason why there willing to keep him in power -- even as a caretaker, let alone post as a caretaker  -- is that there's a feeling that he's a person you can do business with, a person you can trust and who has some measure of control  with the security forces.
Diane Rehm: But how much trust is there, Kevin, that they can finally get a government put together?
Kevin Whitelaw:  You know, we've been down this road.  Every time there has been one of these elections, there's been a lengthy transition.  This one's been even longer than the other ones but all the other ones did result in a government that was able to exercise some amount of control. At this point, it has dragged out even more, it's a sign of how little trust still exists between the parties over there and I think you also have a sense of while, while, there's a lot of Iraqis who are not big fans of Prime Minister Maliki, he's still something of a known entity to them whereas any new member -- any new potential leader , particularly from a different party will be a ****, a roll of the dice.  And so you have a real difficult question there for these Iraqi politicians to decide: Do you go with -- Which guy do you go with? The devil you know?  The devil you once knew, which is a former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose party, whose coalition did well in the election? Or do you bring in yet again somebody else?  And then, obviously, all of the political jockeying below that level.  It's-it's --
Diane Rehm: And considering all of that, how realistic is it that the US will pull out at the end of 2011? 
Adberrahim Foukara: I think militarily they will.  My sense is the President Obama will be able to live up to his pledge to get all or most of the military out of - out of Iraq and by the end of 2011.  Now what will that remain for the role of the United States in Iraq?  I think the role of Iraq in the United States will, in different ways, continue to be very strong, for different reasons.  One of them is obviously the fear although [US Vice President] Joe Biden actually trashed it but the fear that the Iranians are playing an increasing role and therefore for the United States to handover, if you will, Iraq to the Iranians or to anybody else, for that matter, in the region, it's not going to happen.  Having said that, there's nothing that the United States, I think, they current state of play being what it is in Iraq, there's nothing that the United States can do in Iraq to actually increase its influence beyond what the -- beyond the influence that's actually attributed to-to the Iranians. You have to remember that the United States, the Americans have built a huge embassy, it's probably one of the largest embassies in the world in terms of its physical size and in terms of its staffing and that gives you an indication as to the transformation of the role of the United States in Iraq post-2011.  But there's no doubt that the United States has lost influence in Iraq.
Diane Rehm: There is also transformation of opinion about the United States as a result of the war in Iraq. Youchi?
Youchi Dreazen:  Well that was something that President Obama tried to address in his speech earlier this week.  You know the multiple facets of that, obviously, the war began in tremendous, tremendous controversy which has never really gone away. It was a measure of original sin in many ways. It was seen as illegitimate, it was seen as under false pretenses. In Iraq, you've seen opinion on the United States really vary, almost like on a sign [sound?]wave. There was the initial, what Gen [David] Petraeus referred to as "the man on the moon" feeling of "Hey, US, you put a man on the moon.  Why can't you restore our electricity? Why can't you restore our water or our sewage?"  Then during the civil war, there was the feeling of the US is at least less of an evil than the Shi'ite death squads or the Sunni death squads.  Now again, there's a feeling of -- my Iraqi staff are e-mailing from Iraqi daily, my fromer Iraqi staff when I was at the Wall St. Journal, there's still no power, it's a 125 [degrees] and they have three hours of electricity a day. So there's again the feeling of, 'We know you spent all this money, we know that it enriched a lot of corrupt officials, but why can't you fix these very, very basic issues?'  One point on the speech that I thought was very interesting, if you think back to how politicized this war has been from the start -- Did Bush lie? Did Bush tell the truth? Was Saddam containable? Etc. I thought it was remarkable that, on the end, in the speech, that basically was our "We're departing" -- President Obama couched the cost of the war primarily as an economic issue.  I mean, in his reasoning for why it's good we're getting out, he paid tribute to the troops, he paid tribute to the sacrifice and then said, 'We need to spend that money here at home.'  And I just found it very interesting that a war that began with so much high level debate about honesty and lying and torture and deception and all these grand issues, in the end, comes down to 'we can't afford it.'
The conversation continued.  We'll stop there.  If Adberrahim Foukara crotch nuzzling of Barack got on your nerves, Marcia's addressing that tonight at her site. Again, FYI, Diane has a new book that was just released today Life With Maxie -- Maxie is her chichuahua and the book's being called a must for dog and pet lovers.
Before we go to any other topics, let's go to some Iraqi voices. Thursday Leila Fadel (Washington Post) offered the views of some Iraqis:

Outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, where many of Biden's meetings took place, Iraqis expressed fear and frustration.                 
"We wanted change, and nothing's changed," said Mohammed Imad, 21, leaning against a wall covered with old election posters.               
[. . .]               
"Whose celebration is this?" said Ibrahim Abdul Wahab, 57, a resident of Haifa Street in downtown Baghdad, where Sunni insurgents were in control more than two years ago. "It's his, not Iraq's. Where are the promises of the planned democracy?"

Stephen Farrell and the New York Times' Iraqi correspondents provided the opinions of 26 Iraqis at the paper's At War Blog and we'll note five (in addition to text, the link also includes video):
Yahiya Haji: I did not hear the speech and do not care about it. It is all a lie. The American troops will stay in Iraq without a withdrawal, and who knows whether 50,000 or 1,000 soldiers will remain. No one can tell, not a security agreement or the prime minister. They will keep a force ready in case there are any security problems."
Qasim Daoud, 44, Engineer: "Why should I listen to him? What will he say? All the words are known and have been said before. This is all a lie, the talk about withdrawal. Yesterday, there was a U.S. patrol in my neighborhood. Withdrawing, and leaving 50,000 soldiers?"
Muhammed al-Shaliji, 43: " I did not hear the speech and I am not interested in what he said."
Ayad Muhammed, 52, Unemployed: "I did not hear the speech because I do not think that the U.S. will ever leave us alone."
Omar Walid, 40, Unemployed: "Half the speech was a lie, because they will not leave Iraq. If they were going to leave us why did they build 93 military bases. As for what he said -- that they will stick with the security agreement and be responsible for Iraq' borders -- say to him, 'here were you when the Iranian forces attacked Iraq? Where were you when the Iranians took over Faka oil field? Where were you when the Turkish forces attacked us?'"
McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi correspondents offer the views of some Iraqis.  Army Officer Qaswar Abu Tariq states: "People have a right to be afraid. It (what the US has done in Iraq) is not a job well done. No one in his right mind, only perhaps a politician would like to see occupation forces extend their presence. But look around you – what do you see?  The country's borders are open on all sides, open for any who wish to enter and do their will inside Iraq, whether Iran, Syria or any other of the neighbouring countries. Was the decision to withdraw come at a time when they (US) left a force able to secure our borders? No. There is no such thing - whatever the politicians say.. Believe me, if we were able to secure our borders the terrorist attacks would fall to one half – at least. So they (US) failed to provide Iraq with secure borders. And how sovereign can a country be if it needs the air-force of the U.S to protect it's air-space? In seven years, why have no steps been taken to revive our air-force? "  70-year-old, retired school teacher and grandmother of seven, Widad Hameed is interviewed:
(Will violence escalate when the USF pull out??) (Long pause..) "I am torn between two considerations answering this question. Firstly -- I am strongly opposed to the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi sovereign soil -- and therefore hope to see them leave as quickly as possible -- This is on principle. But on the other hand, I am afraid of what might happen after they leave. I have no great faith in the abilities of the ISF and feel that the chaos in our political situation will be reflected upon the security scene as the politicians slug it out and violence will rise and the people will pay. As for the Americans -- The chaos we are witnessing is a result of their failed plans, and I don't think there is anything they could do at this late date to make a difference. Had they wanted to achieve better results, they should have been more serious about training and arming the ISF -- commanders and ranks alike – Seven years should have been long enough".   

(Should the USF interfere if violence rose to unbearable levels?) "Though I hate to say it -- But, yes, they should interfere. They have a moral duty to the citizens of Iraq. It was because of their intervention (the occupation) that security has disappeared from our lives. The chaos now present in Iraq is their doing – and they must protect us from the dangers that they brought with them when they invaded Iraq. They must protect us from al Qaida, the militias and the political violence. It is their moral duty.
Leila Fadel (Washington Post) continued to report on Iraqis reactions today and noted the Kurds:

"They decided to finish it, but they know it's not over," Othman said Thursday. "War with terrorism is here, and Iranian intervention is here. They are lying to tell their people that they left behind a government that is capable and Iraqi security forces that are capable. . . . There is no government, the people don't have confidence in the Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi suffering is increasing."
Many people here say that they did not expect Obama's declaration to sound so final or that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would acknowledge that the war is over, albeit "clouded" by its start in a U.S.-led invasion based on a false premise.
"I'm disappointed by this new administration," Othman said. "They want to run away from Iraq."
He also criticized Vice President Biden's trip to Baghdad this week to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission, questioning why Biden did not hold a news conference while he was here. "This is America - it's supposed to be transparent," he said.

Arab News also reports on Iraq reactions: "Biden called on Iraqi leaders to speed up the process of forming a government. 'They said they have withdrawn, but they are still controlling us. They are the ones who make the decisions in Iraq,' Um Ahmed, a 42-year-old housewife, said." 
The political stalemate was noted by Diane and her guests. 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 27 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 Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that Adel Abdul-Mahdi's name has been officially tossed into the ring by the Iraqi National Alliance.  He is currently Iraq's Shi'ite vice president and the INA has long pushed him for the post.  ICG's Joost Hiltermann tells AP, "This is all really an attempt by INA to put pressure on State of Law to throw al-Maliki under the bus.  That will only happen when State of Law has no other choice."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which targeted security forces (Iraqi police and Sahwa) and injured four bystanders, 2 Sahwa and 1 police officer, 1 corpse (Christian male) discovered in Mosul, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left another person wounded and, dropping back to Thursday night, a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting police Lt Col Mohammed Riyadh which left him injured and claimed the life of his brother and a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three Iraqi sodliers.
Back to Barack's speech last Tuesday, Matthew Rothschild offers his audio Progressive Point of View:
I'm Matt Rotschild the editor of The Progressive magazine with my Progressive Point of View which you can also grab at our website at Yeah, I watched Obama's speech on Iraq and I can't say I was bold over or blown away.  First of all, to refer to the US invasion and occupation as "this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq," as Obama did, is to really cake on the make up.  And was it "a war to disarm a state," as he asserted, or was it instead a war to secure oil, or a war to project US power, or a war not of necessity and not of choice but of therapy for George Bush to overcome his little Oedipal complex?  By the way, I could have lived without Obama's saluting of his hapless and criminal predecessor, couldn't you?  And I know every president, every politician and now, it seems, every citizen must bow down to all the soldiers who serve in our military, but was it accurate of Obama to say that "at every turn, America's men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve"?  I'm sure the vast majority did but what about those who followed Rumsfeld's brutal interrogation orders? What about Abu Ghraib? What about the two dozens or more Iraqis our soldiers murdered in detention?  I'm glad Obama is ending combat operation sin Iraq and getting most of our troops out of there. But he didn't need to rewrite history in the process. I'm Matt Rothschild and that's how I see it.
You can read Matthew's commentary in text form here.  He leaves out one aspect in terms of crimes -- there are many, he had to select which to note -- that we are going to tackle at Third so I'll bite my tongue.  The only War Crimes resulting in any real convictions. And if you're a TCI community member, you're already saying the name and know what I'm referring to.
Barack is the Ghost of Illegal War Present and Future.  Bush is the Ghost of Illegal War Past.  He's far from the only illegal war past ghost popping up. 
In an effort to rehabilitate himself and land a big advance for his next book, one-time British prime minister Tony Blair's promoting his latest book Go Down Tones: Confessions Of A War Hawk. And as he attempts to make like the giddiest Gabor but comes off more like a dazed and disoriented Dame Edith, Blair described to Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition, NPR) yesterday a chapter of his book which must be entitled: "At Least She Died In A 'Democracy'."

Tony Blair: Yes. This is someone who came to see me before the Iraqi conflict. And I remember sitting in Downing Street, up in the drawing room in Downing Street, and her explaining to me how her family had been tortured and killed by Saddam and how the country was crying out for release from Saddam. And then, after May 2003, when Saddam was toppled, she went back to Iraq, and then a few months later sectarians killed her.

If you think/hope this led Blair to examine his War Hawk motives and actions, you don't know Tony Blair. Instead, he obsesses over what she might say now ("What would she say now?" he repeatedly asks like a Dane in a Shakespeare play) and wondering what a dead person might say is probably a great deal easier on the mind than taking accoutability for the death you caused.  He's also obsessed with comparisons to Communism and the USSR (read or listen to the interview, you'll see it) so apparently the dead woman's a variation, in Tony's mind, of "Better dead than Red."  Regrets, he has a few. But the illegal invasion isn't among them. Robert Marquand (Christian Science Monitor) explains Blair would gladly do the illegal war again; however, he would consider giving Gordon Brown the axe. (Gordon Brown is not pleased.) Not everyone is taking Blair's multitude of claims at face value. Alexander Chancellor (Guardian) observes:

Tony Blair says in his memoir that the bloody chaos that followed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 came as a complete surprise to him. "I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded," he writes. "The truth is we did not anticipate the role of al-Qaida." Odd that, when all and sundry were warning him about it, including former president of France Jacques Chirac and Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, who only a few weeks ago testified to that effect to the Chilcot inquiry. She said she had warned the government that an invasion would increase the terrorist threat to Britain and pave the way for an al-Qaida jihad in Iraq. That Blair should have imagined that all would go smoothly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein suggests both a remarkable lack of foresight and a stubborn resistance to any unwelcome advice.

While some offer reality, the Miss Hathaway to Tony's Milburn Drysdale, John Rentoul attempts yet again to rewrite history and deny that Tony is a War Hawk. John's not just a spinner, he's demented. Back in October 2009, it wasn't that he was wrong (it was already over for Labour -- as their own polling demonstrated, Gordon Brown needed to step down by Labor Day 2009), it was that he spun the polls intentionally. He intentionally deceived the public. And who benefited? No one. Those who bothered to believe John Rentoul never saw the Liberal-Democrat and Conservative wins coming. But it was all there in the polling, John just ignored it to continue to serve Tony. Robert Fisk (Independent of London) isn't falling for it or spit-shining Tony's knob:

Has this wretched man learned nothing? On and on, it went during his BBC interview: "I would absolutely...","I definitely...", "I believed absolutely clearly...", "It was very, very clear that this changed everything" – "this" being 11 September 2001 – "Let me state clearly and unequivocally", "The Intelligence picture was clear...", "legal justification was quite clear", "We said completely accurately... "Because I believed strongly, then and now...", "My definitive view in the end is..." You would have thought we won the war in Iraq, that we were winning the war in Afghanistan, that we were going to win the next war in Iran. And why not, if Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara says so.

At The Progreesive, Amitabh Pal takes on Tony and his bad book:
He glibly asserts that "the full array of experts were consulted" before he made his decision, blithely omitting how his government distorted the input. But then, the honesty and/or judgment of a man is seriously in doubt when he lists George W. Bush "near the top" of any list of political leaders with the "most integrity."
Speaking of whom, it will be interesting to see how the less eloquent of the pair handles the Iraq fiasco in his memoir, coming to a bookstore near you in November. Unwilling to wait that long, Republican leaders are already engaged in a rewriting of history. John McCain, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell all criticized President Obama for allegedly not giving Bush credit enough in his recent Iraq speech for the supposed success of the surge.   
No amount of memoir writing or bloviating will nullify the central truth about the Iraq War: It was a folly based on deceit and lies that brought about unconscionable suffering. Blair, Bush and their supporters can spin all they want.
Okay, Pal repeats one error that the media's glommed on and it needs to be corrected.  Tony Blair can't sell books. Tony Blair is hated in England.  As well as around the world.  As he realized how hated he was -- when his literary agent was attempting to shop Tony's next book -- a p.r. campaign was begun: Tony would donate his ROYALTIES from the book sales to help the British soldiers injured in Iraq.
Pay attention, that's BULLS**T.  Tony's gotten some favorable comments from some idiots who either don't know what they're talking about (one British soldier) or lackeys who don't care about the truth (a number in the press).  Pal doesn't praise Blair for that announcement but does repeat it.
It's a LIE.  The book isn't expected to sell in big numbers.  It's hoped that it will have a run on the bestseller list (four to six weeks is the big expectation).  That hope would allow Tony to pocket a big advance for his next book -- which, his outline explains, will be on the peace process between the Israelies and the Palestinians (something he might need to tell participants engaged in it currently since he's planning to write about all of them).  The sales for this book will determine furture advances.
Now, PAY ATTENTION, Tony's offered to donate royalties from the sales of the books.  Tony's not offering anything from the huge advance he got for writing this book.  The HUGE ADVANCE, PAY ATTENTION, means that the book must be on the best seller list for six months for any royalties of any real significance to be credited to Tony.  In other words, he pocketed at least six figures (some say seven) for this book and will keep that advance.  He's not donating it.  That huge advance means that there is little chance of a profit (even before you add in how unpopular he is) and the royalties are profits from the book sales after the publishing company, AFTER, deduct the costs of printing, promoting and, yes, his advance.  There will probably be little-to-no royalties from this book.  Also in the air is where the 'promise' applies. Tony's American publishing company states they're unaware of any alteration in the contract they signed before Tony made his current promise to donate royalties. 
It's a scam.  Tony The Liar Blair is lying again.  He's using the wounded British soldiers in an attempt to sell his bad book.  He's hiding behind them. He is not handing over that big advance to them. He's not donating that to them.  This should have been explained from the very start when the spin began that Tony was being charitable.  You've got a lot of whores in the press who are not doing their job. (I'm not calling Pal a ****.  This should have been explained in the British press.) 
To include that (and thank you to friends at Blair's British publishing house for their input), we have to pull out other things; however, that's really important because he's being declared "Saint Tony" for doing nothing.  We can't note this article by Atul Aneja because we don't have the room. or Cindy Sheehan's commentary  We'll pick it up tomorrow.  I don't like liars and pressure needs to be put on Blair to turn that advance he pocketed for the book over to the British soldiers because, otherwise, they're not getting any money of significance (as he's well aware).
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Dan Balz (Washington Post), John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal) 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, Cari Dominguez, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton 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 about gay Republicans coming out of the closet. 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 the money behind and in the 2010 mid-term elections. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The $60 Billion Fraud
Medicare and Medicaid fraudsters are beating U.S. taxpayers out of an estimated $90 billion a year - $60 billion of it from Medicare - using a billing scam that is surprisingly easy to execute. Steve Kroft investigates Medicare. | Watch Video


The SEED School
There's a unique school that's giving kids from an inner-city neighborhood that only graduates 33 percent of its high school students a shot at college they never had before. Byron Pitts reports on SEED School, the first urban, public boarding school. | Watch Video


Tennis Twins
Pro tennis' leading doubles champions are identical twins who are so coordinated on the court that their opponents actually suspect they have twin telepathy. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
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« Reply #94 on: September 05, 2010, 07:30:44 am »

Iraqi soldiers, civilians killed in attack on military base

By Jomana Karadsheh, CNN
September 5, 2010 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)


-At least 4 soldiers and 3 civilians die in the attack

-The base is the site of an August attack that killed 48 people

-Sunday's attack comes days after the United States ended combat operations in Iraq

Smoke rises over an Iraqi military base hit by suicide bombers on Sunday in Baghdad

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- At least seven people were killed and 21 others were injured Sunday when suicide bombers struck an Iraqi military base, Iraq's interior ministry said.

Four of those killed and 15 of the wounded were soldiers; the rest were civilian casualties.

According to a ministry official, three suicide bombers wearing explosives-packed vests approached the military base in central Baghdad. While attempting to enter the base, the bombers clashed with security forces. Two of the bombers' vests detonated.

The attack comes four days after the United States officially ended its combat operations in Iraq.

The target was the same military base that was used as an Iraqi army recruitment center and was attacked by a suicide bomber August 17. That bombing killed at least 48 people, most of whom were prospective recruits among hundreds who were queuing outside the center.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group for al Qaeda in Iraq, and other Sunni extremist groups claimed responsibility for that bombing.

While U.S. and Iraqi government officials have voiced confidence in the ability of Iraqi security forces, recent attacks have raised concerns among the population about the fragile security situation.

On August 28, the Iraqi government announced there were plots by al Qaeda and other groups to carry out attacks across the country and called on security forces and citizens to be on high alert.

The recent violence comes amid a political crisis that has gripped the country for months. After inconclusive national elections almost six months ago, politicians are still wrangling to try and form a government.

In a separate attack Sunday, at least five people were wounded in a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad, the interior ministry said.

Links referenced within this article

Al Qaeda in Iraq


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« Reply #95 on: September 05, 2010, 07:44:28 am »

State Department Set To Increase Presence In Iraq

September 03, 2010
By Richard Solash

A U.S. soldier carried his bag as he prepared to leave Iraq in mid-August

With combat troops gone, and U.S. forces skimmed down to the 50,000 mark, the face of the U.S. presence in Iraq will increasingly be a civilian one.

According to the State Department, U.S. assistance will shift away from helping Iraq rebuild its infrastructure to focus on providing technical advice in fields such as health and agriculture.

Civilians will lead training initiatives for both government and industry, and will promote the diversification of the Iraqi economy, which is dominated by the oil sector.

By October 2011, the State Department will also assume responsibility for training the Iraqi police.

It's all a part of what the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) describes as one of the largest U.S. reconstruction efforts since the Marshall Plan.

But the capacity-building that thousands of U.S. civilians are charged with carrying out presents a new and daunting set of security challenges.

How does the State Department maintain an enormous, mobile presence in a country that remains one of the world's most dangerous, without the protection of combat troops, and increasingly unable to rely on the remaining U.S. soldiers, whose numbers are diminishing ahead of next year's full withdrawal?


To do so, they will field what experts are describing as likely the largest private security operation in the world.

The State Department plans to more than double the number of private security contractors it employs in Iraq, assembling a veritable mini-army of as many as 7,000 people.

To equip them, the department has submitted a request to the Pentagon for 24 Black Hawk helicopters, some 50 bomb-resistant vehicles, or MRAPs, high-tech surveillance systems, fuel trucks, and other heavy military gear.

"The New York Times" has reported that the State Department will also purchase three planes to add to its existing one, creating what it called a "mini-air fleet."

It's an unprecedented security initiative for the government agency charged with managing the nation's diplomatic affairs -- but needed, department officials say, if troop drawdown commitments agreed with the Iraqi government are to be reconciled with ambitious civilian-led goals.

"The State Department does not usually operate effectively in countries with this level of security risk," says Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and an Iraq consultant for the U.S. Department of Defense.

"If we look at Yemen, for instance, the embassy is constantly being put under lockdown and State Department people cannot leave the embassy to get out and do their missions. [But] Iraq is so important to U.S. interests, and the U.S. has invested so much, that the State Department is going to attempt to continue to do its full range of missions despite a very serious security threat."

The State Department is also expanding its brief in Iraq. Plans call for it to take on more than 1,000 additional tasks that were previously handled by the military once all U.S. troops have left the country, expected by December 2011.

Contractors And Costs

The Obama administration has pledged to reduce the role of contractors following widespread allegations of mismanagement in recent years.

Knights, who is also an Iraq analyst for Olive Group, a private security firm with staff in Iraq, says the State Department has no choice but to rely on civilian contractors.

"It's really the only way, unless you're going to rely on Iraqi security forces," Knights says. "The U.S. military is rapidly drawing down its capabilities and certainly will not be able to protect State Department teams as they drive around Iraq doing these vital missions. So you have two choices: Either you use Iraqi security forces or you use private security contractors. And there are very many reasons why you can only really rely on the private security contractors."

Paying for the massive security apparatus is another challenge.

The State Department is facing spiraling costs to fund its operations in Iraq at a time when the government is looking to tighten its purse strings. Congress recently gave the department $600 million less than it had requested for additional spending this year.

The department also needs significant funds for the planned transformation of 16 provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) into five "enduring presence posts."

In a request sent to the Pentagon last April, the department said it needed helicopters, armored vehicles, and other military gear worth millions of dollars at "no cost."

State Department officials have argued that if they don't get the equipment gratis, private security companies would have to spend "enormously" to equip themselves, which would add to U.S. contracting costs.

The request is pending but analysts say the State Department will get what it wants, even if funds need to be reassigned from elsewhere to cover the expenses.

Though unprecedented and untested, the State Department's civilian security experiment in Iraq is likely being seen in Washington in the context of Afghanistan.

"Certainly, the employment of the State Department and NGOs in Afghanistan has drawn a lot from the way we employ them in Iraq," says James Danly, a fellow at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, who served two tours in the U.S. Army in Iraq. "And I have no doubt that lessons learned from this security problem that the State Department is trying to tackle will similarly be applied later when Afghanistan is in a position for handover, the way Iraq is right now," he added.

For now, however, he says the State Department has its hands full with Iraq.

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« Reply #96 on: September 05, 2010, 07:55:38 am »

US 'likely' to keep troops in Iraq after 2011

by Dan De Luce Dan De Luce
Sat Sep 4, 11:07 pm ET
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States likely will need to keep thousands of troops in Iraq beyond 2011 to keep a lid on sectarian tensions and to bolster Baghdad's fledgling military, experts and former officers say.

American officials privately acknowledge that the US military presence in Iraq will almost certainly be extended, even though a security agreement in force requires all US forces to depart by the end of 2011.

The US military will be needed not only for technical tasks to keep the Iraqi armed forces afloat, but as a reassuring presence for Iraqis fearing a revival of sectarian and ethnic bloodshed, analysts said.

Baghdad's military remains heavily dependent on US logistical support, air power, equipment and expertise, while most Baghdad politicians are anxious to retain American troops as a peacekeeping force in reserve.

"The more pressing requirement is less teaching them how to use weapons and more providing reassurance to threatened internal communities that they won't be exploited by their erstwhile internal rivals," said Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"What you're trying to do is make the size of the troop presence proportional to the residual fear that the groups feel towards each other," Biddle said.

Delivering technical help while playing a limited peacekeeping role would require a relatively modest number of troops, perhaps as few as three brigades or roughly 10,000 troops, several former military officers said.

"I think it could get down to even less than 10,000 and still be viable," John Ballard, a professor at National Defense University and a retired army officer, told AFP.

Nearly 50,000 US troops are now in Iraq under an "advise and assist" role, after President Barack Obama on Tuesday declared a formal end to the US combat mission.

The White House, keen to wind down the US role in Iraq, has played down the possibility of a large US force. Vice President Joe Biden's national security advisor, Anthony Blinken, has said only "dozens or maybe hundreds" of troops could remain.

But Iraqi army chief of staff General Babaker Zebari told AFP last month that his country's forces would require US support for another decade, while some analysts in Washington argue for keeping about half of the current force after 2011.

Iraq's "leaders are likely to ask that tens of thousands of American troops stay on for an extended period," Richard Haas, a top diplomat during George W. Bush's presidency, wrote Thursday.

Beyond 2011, the US military would be needed to provide badly-needed logistical support for an army that has been designed mainly as a counter-insurgency force.

The United States would provide some fire power, helicopters, fighter jets to defend a country with virtually no air force, naval defenses for ports and coveted intelligence collected from unmanned robotic planes.

The mission likely would include US special forces assisting Iraqis in manhunts of Al-Qaeda figures, according to James Danly of the Institute for the Study of War, who served in Iraq as an officer.

Apart from operational and tactical support, a US force also would have to be prepared for possible worst case scenarios, Danly and other analysts said.

If relations between the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds threatened to spiral out of control, or if vital oil or other infrastructure came under threat from within or outside Iraq, Baghdad could turn to the US force for help, he said.

In addition to soldiers in uniform, US officials are planning to employ thousands of private contractors to take up security duties formerly performed by troops.

Any talks on the future of the US presence will have to wait for a new government in Iraq, where politicians have failed to agree a power-sharing deal since parliamentary elections in March.

Forging agreement on a post-2011 US mission would present a delicate political challenge for Iraq, as leaders there privately back a continued presence but are reluctant to publicly endorse it.

"It's going to be very hard for any government in Iraq to negotiate anything sizable or enduring," said Ballard. "This puts us in a difficult situation."

The current security accord signed in 2008 was negotiated under a shroud of secrecy, he said, and a follow-on mission also would have to be agreed discreetly, perhaps without a detailed, long-term agreement.

"There's a need, there's a rationale. But it's going to be difficult to put it in any sort of formal way."

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« Reply #97 on: September 05, 2010, 07:58:55 am »

Iraq and the collapse of neo-con illusions

by Tom Switzer
1 September 2010

In recent days, several high-profile neo-conservatives and backers of the Iraq war have indulged in some triumphalism.

David Brooks, writing in the New York Times, points to several key statistics - economic growth, basic security, and political and legal institutions - to show that "nation building works".

Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the 2003 invasion, says that Iraq could become the South Korea of the Middle East so long as the United States maintains a long-term commitment. Numerous US Republican activists, meanwhile, call on anti-war critics to "Apologise to Bush".

I beg to differ. Certainly, Iraq is in a much better position today than anyone had the right to expect several years ago. Since President George W Bush's decision to increase US combat troops in early 2007, the level of violence and deaths has dramatically declined and local politics has embraced the exhilarating, albeit complicated, quality of a functioning democracy. All true.

But none of this means that Iraq will necessarily become a viable democratic state once Uncle Sam's boot leaves the ground later next year. Will, for instance, those age-old ethnic and tribal tensions resurface?

Nor does the recent progress on the ground justify the original decision to invade Iraq seven and a half years ago. It certainly does not justify all the costs in terms of blood (more than 4,500 coalition deaths and scores of thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths) and treasure (trillion US dollars and counting).

But the Iraq experience has produced one good thing, something that many Australians will appreciate: it has shattered three dangerous neo-conservative illusions that have warped US policy in the post-9/11 era. In international relations, the destruction of illusion is almost always healthy and although it has taken a huge cost in American blood, treasure and prestige, it is to be hoped that Washington will learn from recent experience, correct its course and adopt a world view more in accordance with a realist world view.

Now I've given up on the many times I myself have been derided as a "neo-con", especially on this site. It is a crude slur to apply on anyone who happens to be on the right of the political and ideological spectrum. But neo-conservativism has a peculiar intellectual linkage to hawkish liberal Democrats who fell out with George McGovern's isolationism as well as Kissingerian realpolitik in the 1970s; and I am not one of them.

Instead, I would describe myself as a conservative realist in the tradition of Hans Morgenthau, Brent Scowcroft and former ABC Boyer lecturer Owen Harries. I certainly have no problem with America throwing its weight around the world in the service of promoting its national interests and preserving the balance of power. But I decry the tendency of US policy to be idealistic. And the problem with US policy during the Bush years was precisely that: by seeking unlimited moralistic goals in place of specific limited national interests, Washington inflamed domestic opinion with appeals to utopian goals and had ignored the coasts of achieving them. All too often, Bush foreign policy was formed by several neo-conservative illusions, which thankfully have been shattered thanks to the Iraq experience.

The first of these illusions is the belief that preventive war was justified to combat rogue states. After the 9/11 attacks, it was confidently predicted that the twin pillars of national security policy during the Cold War - containment and deterrence - no longer worked against the Saddam Husseins of the world. As Bush said in 2002 (replayed with devastating effect in Oliver Stone's movie W): "After September 11, the doctrine of containment just doesn't hold any water as far as I'm concerned."

Today, it is clear that containment still has relevance. There is every reason to believe that any threat posed by Saddam, a cynical calculator whose overriding concern was consolidating power, not exporting martyrdom, could have been contained as it had been since the 1991 Gulf War. True, containment does not work against terrorists, who can run and hide, but rogue states do have a return address. Saddam knew if he smuggled weapons of mass destruction to Al-Qaeda or used banned weapons against US interests, his regime would have met, as Rice put it in another realist) life in 2000, "national obliteration" from the US nuclear arsenal.

Yet for preventive war advocates, containment meant, as The Weekly Standard's neo-conservative editors warned, coddling a "suicidal tyrant". Never mind that containment (sanctions, naval blockade, no-fly zone) kept that suicidal tyrant in his box for more than a decade. And never mind that although a strategy of containment lacked the ideological red meat the American people crave, it recognised the dangers of the unintended consequences a "liberated" Iraq delivered, especially in the immediate aftermath of Saddam's downfall: a power vacuum which culminated in widespread chaos, a vicious insurgency, and a strengthened shia Iran.

As Obama faces the challenge of dealing with a nuclear-bound Tehran or Pyongyang, he should recall the lesson that Bush and the neo-cons forgot: that if Stalin's Soviet Union and Mao's China could be contained, so can Iran's mullahs and North Korea's communists.

The second neo-con illusion is the belief that democracy is an export commodity. This noble but misguided idea was an article of faith not only among the neo-conservatives in and out of the Bush administration but also among the anti-McGovern liberal wing of the Democratic Party. None of this was surprising - such idealistic instincts are as old as the republic itself. In the post-9/11 context, neo-cons and liberal hawks were adamant that problems abroad stemmed from the authoritarian nature of foreign governments, that the new era heralded an Arab spring, that the time was ripe for the political transformation of the whole region and that history was on the side of good over evil. The examples of post-fascist Japan and West Germany, the argument went, could be replicated in the Middle East.

But the conditions and circumstances in post-war Iraq have been hardly conducive to the kind of dramatic social and political change that worked so well in US client states after World War II. For one thing, Japan and West Germany were genuine, coherent nation states with homogeneous cultures, whereas Iraq is an arbitrarily-created state with deep ethnic and tribal divisions. For another thing, Japan and West Germany had already modernised and had a history, albeit a blighted one, of parliamentary government on which the US-led occupation forces could build. Iraq is still in the process of modernising and, notwithstanding some of the progress that David Brooks identifies here, is open to all the disturbing ideological and sectarian forces that this process unleashes.

Although the US had long championed the idea of promoting democracy across the world, the Bush policy of regime change nonetheless marked a radical departure from established norms. In the immediate aftermath of Saddam's downfall in April 2003, Bush and the neo-cons threatened that they could use military power to topple authoritarian regimes in Syria and Iran and eventually reshape the Middle East along democratic lines. This was to be social engineering on a massive scale. To call this position conservative was a misnomer; it was a radical, grandiose agenda, and true conservatives as George Bush and John Howard should have known should always be conscious that radical change can lead to loss as well as gain and is fraught with the danger of unintended consequences.

The third illusion that guided neo-con policy was the Pax Americana or, as leading neo-conservative figures Bob Kagan and Bill Kristol once coined, "benign hegemony". This belief was engaged by neo-cons as well as liberal hawks following the collapse of the Soviet Empire and it gained more acclaim in the aftermath of 9/11. Even the words imperialism and empire, usually terms of abuse in American public discourse, were wholeheartedly embraced by many influential thinkers on the Washington think-tank circuit.

But the idea of a heavy-handed policy to remake the world in America's image was bound to generate widespread resentment, hostility and concerted political opposition. Such a scenario was evident in early 2003 when the French-led UN Security Council ganged up to thwart the US-led resolution to invade Iraq. And it has been evident in the way anti-Americanism rose dramatically during the rest of the Bush years. It remains to be seen whether Obama's worldwide popularity translates into more favourable global attitudes towards the American "hyper-power", as a French foreign minister called the US several years before Bush and the neo-conservatives arrived in the White House.

But if the US indiscriminately throws its weight around and treats potential partners with contempt and neglect, such posturing will inevitably galvanise a backlash. This is not a criticism so much of the US; it's more a reflection of the tendencies of power politics. Hegemony always seems like the ideal system to the nation practising it; the very effort to impose it will inspire coalitions to resist it.

None of this means that the collapse of the neo-con illusions presages the collapse of American. The US has consistently demonstrated remarkable ability to bounce back from adversity: think of 1812, the civil war, the Depression, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam and Watergate. It is just that the neo-con illusions that clouded American judgment during the Bush years have been shattered. And this is a good thing for America and the world.

Tom Switzer is research associate at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney and a former senior Liberal adviser.

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« Reply #98 on: September 08, 2010, 05:32:14 am »

September 6, 2010

How the Obama Administration Adopted the Bush / Petraeus Story Line

Turning Iraq Into a "Good War"


In an interview on the PBS NewsHour last Wednesday, Joe Biden was unwilling to contradict the official narrative of the Iraq War that Gen. David Petraeus and the Bush surge had  turned Iraq into a good war after all.  That interview serves as a reminder of just how completely the Democratic Party foreign policy elite has adopted that version of the war.

The Iraq War story line crafted by the Petraeus and the new counterinsurgency elite in Washington assures the public that U.S. military power in Iraq brought about the cooperation of the Sunnis in Anbar Province, ended sectarian violence in Baghdad and defeated Iranian-backed Shi’a insurgents.

In reality, of course, that’s not what happened at all. It’s time to review the relevant history and deconstruct the Petraeus story-line which the Obama administration now appears to have adopted.

The Sunni decision to cooperate in the suppression of al Qaeda in Iraq had nothing to do with the surge.  The main Sunni armed resistance groups had actually turned against al Qaeda in 2005, when they began trying to make a deal with the United States to end the war. 

At an Iraqi reconciliation conference in Cairo, November 19-21, 2005, leaders of the three major Sunni armed groups (one of which was a coalition of several resistance organization) told U.S. and Arab officials they were willing to track down al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and deliver him to Iraqi authorities as part of a negotiated agreement with the United States.  The Sunni insurgent leaders were motivated not only by hatred of al Qaeda but by the fear that a Shi’a-dominated government would consolidate power and exclude the Sunnis permanently unless the United States acted to rebalance its policy in Iraq. 

Two months later, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad actually entered into secret negotiations with the three major Sunni insurgent groups 2006, as later reported by the Sunday Times and confirmed by Khalilzad. The Sunni leaders even submitted a formal peace proposal to Khalilzad.  They insisted on a “timetable for withdrawal” as part of the deal, but it was “linked to the timescale necessary to rebuild Iraq’s armed forces and security services”, according to Sunday Times.   

Khalilzad cut off the negotiations in February 2006, because such an agreement would have conflicted with a broader strategy of standing up a Shi’a army to suppress the Sunni insurgency.   

The major Shi’a factions, determined to eliminate any possible threat to its power from the Sunnis in Baghdad, unleashed death squads, mostly from the Mahdi Army, in Sunni neighborhoods across the entire city in 2006 and early 2007.

The result was the defeat of the Sunni insurgents’ political-military bases in Baghdad, and the  transformation of the capital from a mixed Sunni-Shi’a city into an overwhelmingly Shi’a city, as shown dramatically in this series of maps, based on U.S. military census data.   

As a result, by late 2006, the Sunni leaders were feeling much more vulnerable to Shi’a power.    Col. Sean McFarland, U.S. Army brigade commander in Al Anbar province throughout 2006, found Sunni sheiks expressing “[a] growing concern that the U.S. would leave Iraq and leave the Sunnis defenseless against Al-Qaeda and Iranian-supported militias….” 

It was that fear of the Shi’a power that drove local Sunni decisions to join U.S.-sponsored Sunni neighborhood armed groups in Anbar.

The sectarian violence in Baghdad began to abate by August 2007, but not because of additional U.S. troops as the official narrative of the war suggests.  It was because the Shi’a had accomplished their aim of confining the Sunni population to relatively small enclaves in Baghdad.  That relationship between the achievement of that aim and the reduced violence was noted by the September 2007 National Intelligence Estimate.   

The main Petraeus conceit about his strategy in Iraq is that it defeated a Shi’a insurgency that represented an Iranian “proxy war” in Iraq.  But the main premise on which that claim was based -- that Iran was backing “rogue elements” of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army -- was simply a psywar ploy by Petraeus and his staff. The objective of the “rogue elements” line was to divide the Mahdi Army, as military and intelligence officials admitted to pro-war blogger Bill Roggio. 

The official narrative suggested that Iran exerted political influence in Iraq by supporting armed groups opposing the government. In fact, however,Iran’s key Iraqi allies had always been the two Shi’a factions with which the United States was allied against Sadr -- the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party.  They had both gotten Iranian support and training during the war against Saddam, and the fiercely nationalist Sadr had criticized SCIRI leaders as Iranian stooges.

The al-Maliki government had no problem with Iranian training and financial support of the Mahdi Army in 2006, when the Mahdi Army was eliminating the Sunni threat from Baghdad.  But once it was clear that the Sunnis had been defeated, the historical conflict between Sadr and the other Shi’a factions reemerged in spring 2007.   

The Iranian interest was to ensure that the Shi’a-dominated government of Iraq consolidated its power.  Iran’s “supreme leader” Ali Khamenei told al-Maliki in August 2007 that Iran would support his taking control of Sadr’s strongholds.  Later that same month, al-Maliki went to Karbala and gave the local police chief “carte blanche” to attack the Sadrists there.  After two days of violence, Sadr declared a six-month “freeze” on Mahdi Army military operations August 27, 2007.

By late 2007, contrary to the official Iraq legend, the al-Maliki government and the Bush administration were both publicly crediting Iran with pressuring Sadr to agree to the unilateral ceasefire – to the chagrin of Petraeus.   

Al-Maliki launched the attack on Mahdi Army forces in Basrah in March 2008 in the knowledge that Iran would back him against Sadr.  And when it went badly, he turned to Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard official in charge of day-to-day Iraq policy, to force a ceasefire on Sadr.  Soleimani told Iraqi President Talibani that Iran supported al-Maliki’s efforts to “dismantle all militias”, and Sadr agreed to a ceasefire within 24 hours of Iran’s intervention. 

So it was Iran’s restraint -- not Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy -- that effectively ended the Shi’a insurgent threat.

It was Soleimani who had presided over the secret April 2006 meeting of Shi’a leaders that had chosen al-Maliki as Prime Minister, after having been smuggled into the Green Zone without telling the Americans. And that was only one of a several trips Soleimani made to the Green Zone over a two-year period without U.S. knowledge. 

But Biden doesn’t want to know this and other historical facts that contradict the official narrative on Iraq.  For the Democratic foreign policy elite, staying ignorant of the real history of the Iraq War allows them to believe that deploying U.S. military forces in Muslim countries can be an effective instrument of U.S. power.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. 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.   

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« Reply #99 on: September 08, 2010, 10:14:18 am »

Iraq snapshot - September 7, 2010

The Common Ills

Tuesday, September 7, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, 2 US service members are shot dead in Iraq, another journalist is killed in Iraq, the "combat operations" are not over as a Sunday Baghdad attack demonstrated, the political stalemate continues, and more.
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Two American soldiers were killed and nine injured Tuesday when a man wearing an Iraqi army uniform opened fire on them inside an Iraqi commando compound in the province of Salahuddin, highlighting the continued danger to U.S. troops in Iraq despite the formal end of combat operations announced by President Obamalas week."  BBC News adds, "The US military says they were shot by a gunman dressed in Iraqi army uniform near the town of Tuz Khormato, 210km (130 miles) north of Baghdad."  Barack declared "combat operations" over last Tuesday.  Apparently not everyone got the memo . . . or else Barack was wrong.  Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes: "But Tuesday's attack -- like a sophisticated assault on Iraqi facilities in central Baghdad on Sunday that American soldiers helped repel -- underscored what U.S. military commanders on the ground in Iraq have been saying for weeks: A change of mission doesn't mean the threats are over for the estimated 50,000 U.S. soldiers that remain in the country."  Sunday attack in Baghdad?
Leila Fadel and Jinana Hussein (Washington Post) reported, "Just five days after the United States declared the end of its combat mission in Iraq, U.S. soldiers opened fire Sunday morning on suicide bombers who snuck into an Iraqi army base in Baghdad, a U.S. military spokesman said."    Steven Lee Myers and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) observed, "Insurgents mounted a coordinated attack on one of the main military commands in Baghdad on Sunday, briefly drawing fire from American soldiers, an event that underscored the ambiguity of the American military's role in Iraq."  NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams Sunday had Lester Holt anchoring and he noted, "Oversees now to Iraq and another suicide bombing. This one targeting one of the main Iraqi military commands in Baghdad. Twelve people were killed and thirty-six wounded when terrorists detonated a van filled with explosives, then stormed the base. American soldiers returned fire, helping to repel the attack."  On The KPFA Evening News Sunday, David Landau explained:
In the Middle East today, American soldiers helped Iraqi troops battle insurgents in downtown Baghdad earlier today, repelling a major attack in the capital five days after President Obama had declared an end to US combat operations there. At least 18 people were killed and 39 injured when a group of suicide bombers and gunmen attempted to storm the army's east Baghdad headquarters located in a former ministry of defense building in a busy market district along the Tigris River. No Americans were among the casualties, according to a US military spokesman, but US soldiers did join in the fighting alongside Iraqis to repel the assailants, two of whom managed to enter the army compound. The US military also dispatched helicopters, bomb disposal experts, unmanned aerial drones and other unspecified intelligence, surveillance and reconassiance assistance to the scene of the downtown battle, the US military spokesman said. According to an Iraqi official, speaking anonymously, the Iraqi security forces had requested American help in the battle and US soldiers shot 2 snipers who had taken up position in nearby buildings. It was the first significant attack in Baghdad since President Obama's address to the nation on Tuesday in which he told Americans that US combat operations were over and said it was time to "turn the page" on Iraq.
Two correspondents for the New York Times -- Anthony Shadid and Michael R. Gordon -- were on PRI's The Takeaway Monday addressing the attack.

John Hockenberry: It's safe to say it's a new dawn in Iraq but it's partly cloudly.

Celeste Headless: That's -- that's a pretty good weather forecast. Accurate but not pretty.

John Hockenberry: Exactly. The lack of clarity over what the "new dawn" and the end of combat operations in Iraq actually means for US forces was demonstrated over the weekend. And, you know, less than a week after combat operations ended, US forces were reportedly called in to repel a coordinated attack on an Iraqi military. No American casualties there -- or at least none killed. But in the bombing and the shooting that came after at least 12 Iraqis were killed and more than 20 were wounded. Iraqi forces were also involved in this firefight as well. Iraqi Defense Spokesperson Maj - Gen Mohammed al-Askari denied though that US troops had been involved.

Maj - Gen Mohammed al-Askari: [translated by PRI] This is not true. We didn't call the American troops. The Iraqi troops did it, foiling the attackers. And we wouldn't use American troops in this kind of operation. I don't think only six attackers represents a threat to Iraqi national security. I'm in direct contact with the operation room and the Defense Minister and we never used the Americans in this incident.

John Hockenberry: But a US military spokesman, Lt Col Eric Bloom, said the Iraqi military had requested help from helicopters, drones and explosive experts. The details in this incident? Well we're going to go to two reporters with our partner the New York Times: Anthony Shadid, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times based in Baghdad -- we welcome him back -- he won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting this year and in 2004 for his coverage of the Iraq War and he joins us from Baghdad and Michael Gordon, New York Times military correspondent and author of The Generals of War: The Inside Story of the Conflict in the Gulf and Cobra II. He joins us from northern Virginia. Anthony, since there's a delay on your line, let me just start with you. What are the details and the truth as we know it about this incident that took place over the weekend?

Anthony Shadid: You might be able to reconcile those two accounts, actually. I don't think the Americans were called in to the base, they were actually already in the base as part of what they consider these partnership programs. And American soldiers were there. Now what role they exactly played is still a little unclear. The way the American military portrays it, they did what they call suppressive fire. But the actual raid on where these two insurgents were holed up, that was done by Iraqi troops. Now when you look at this raid itself, the general, the Iraqi general may have been dismissive of six people posing a challenge, but we have to consider that this is one of the division commands in Baghdad and an operation of just six men managed to breach the security and actually enter the base -- only two of them managed to get inside. I think it is a blow in some ways to the perceived Iraqi security forces that the insurgents were able to pull off this attack. It lasted a few hours, it was a very loud scene, as-as you reported there were American helicopters involved along with drones. It's something that's going to be remembered here for a little while, I think.

John Hockenberry: Anthony Shadid, foreign correspondent for the New York Times reporting from Baghdad. Michael Gordon, in a situation where combat operations are said to have ended, what are we to -- How are we to characterize this incident? Is this purely defensive combat? There's going to be a lot of this over the next year or so, right?

Michael R. Gordon: Well I was just in Baghdad last week with Vice President [Joe] Biden and I've been at that particular base that was attacked. I was embedded there in '08. I think it's not the case that combat operations have truly ended. The way I put it is: The combat phase is over but the fighting goes on. When you read the fine print of what the administration is talking about, it's clear that offensive American combat operations in partnership with Iraqi forces will continue in the realm of Special Operations. It's called "partnered counter-terrorism" but what it means is Special Operation Forces will hunt for al Qaeda -- Iraqi and American. And also American conventional forces retain the right to defend themselves either with the Iraqis or without them.
Liz Sly and Riyadh Mohammed (Los Angeles Times) added, "An official with the Interior Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Iraqi security forces requested American help to defeat the insurgents, and that it was U.S. soldiers who shot two snipers who had taken up position in nearby buildings." As Hurriyet noted, Barack's claim of the end of combat operations "should be taken with a grain of salt". "American soldiers were rushing to the aid of the Iraqi army,"   In an intro to her slide show at wowOwow, Julie Dermansky observes, "On August 31, 2010, Obama declared it is "time to turn the page" on Iraq, yet he didn't declare the war is over. The page may be turned but the story is not over. A visit to Arlington West illustrates the open book as more casualties are added to the records, and more markers are added in the sand."  The slide show is on the crosses put up for the fallen at Arlington West.  Over the weekend, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board opined, "Claiming credit for the end of the combat mission means Obama will own whatever happens after the war he was so virulently against as a U.S. senator and a campaigner for the White House. He won't be able to point a finger at the war's architect, former President George W. Bush, any longer." Atul Aneja (The Hindu) points out:

Under cover of darkness, hundreds of armoured vehicles rumbled across the Iraqi border into Kuwait, marking the much-touted withdrawal of American combat forces. Dominant sections of the international media interpreted the August 19 pullout as a political statement -- the fulfilment of a commitment by President Barack Obama to bring home troops entrapped by the Bush administration in the Iraqi military quagmire. In short, the American public was made to believe that the pullout by the fourth Stryker Brigade was leading to the end of the U.S. occupation. On August 31, Mr. Obama formally declared in a televised address that all American combat operations in Iraq had ceased. The spin-doctors in the American establishment and their willing accomplices in the media have indeed done a marvellous job. An extraordinary task -- of dressing up a new phase of Iraqi occupation as the beginning of its end -- has been accomplished.   
However, many questions arise in the wake of the withdrawal. How should the pullout be interpreted, if not as the occupation entering its terminal phase? What are the facts on the ground, and what prospects do they hold for the future of Iraqis?                         
There are three significant markers that the Iraqi occupation is not ending and is being merely repackaged. First, the suggestion that the U.S. combat operations are ending is just not true. The nomenclature, however, has changed significantly. Instead of being called "combat operations," the act of chasing militants, joint raids by U.S. Special Forces and their Iraqi counterparts on militant strongholds, and other offensive military tasks will henceforth be called "stability operations."

On the most recent broadcast of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), guest host Teymoor Nabili spoke with Professor Sami Ramadani (London Metropolitan University), Mustafa al-Hiti (Iraqi National Alliance) and Saad al-Muttalibi (State of Law).
Teymoor Nabili: If I may begin in London with Sami Ramadani, I suppose you are the most distant from the process in a number of ways.  So let me try and get just a broad baseline from you on what's going on.  President Obama said that we have met our responsiblities in Iraq.  Is he right in doing that? But particularly in saying that, particularly given that there is no government and that the process of democracy that Americans spent so much time trying to build appears to have yielded nothing.
Sami Ramadani: Absolutely and one could also add to your list the fact that Iraq is in such a mess.  The population's daily lives have been reduced to a -- to a level which is equal to the worst in the world -- including Somolia and the like.  The daily lives of the people who are there -- whether it is to do with health, with electricity, the essential services, unemployment, the condition of women, the -- not to mention the security situation, the death of over a million Iraqis.
Teymoor Nabili: Alright.
Sami Ramadani: The situation in terms of the -- I mean, the country is in ruins so I don't know what Mr. Obama or President Obama was talking about when he said 'fulfilling our responsibilities.'
Teymoor Nabili: Saad al-Muttalibi in Baghdad was laughing when you said that.  This is not a country you recognize from those terms, apparently?
Saad al-Muttalibi: Well I thought this was a serious political program, not a comedian stand up program.  Because, really what I'm hearing, has nothing to relate to.  What he's saying -- Probably he's representing a political view that has gone with the past.  I mean the Ba'ath Party is trying to show that Iraq is in dire straights and in a desperate position but that is the Ba'ath Party speaking and I suspect that the kind gentleman in London probably is somehow related to the Ba'ath Party.
If you don't grasp why Iraq's in gridlock, it's right ther with the ass Saad al-Muttalibi.  Not only is he in Nouri's political slate (also in Nouri's political party) he is an adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Dialogue and Reconciliation.  He damn well knows that the Ba'ath Party is illegal in Iraq (since the start of the Iraq War) and he damn well knows that you sideline opponents with that charge/smear.  Brought on to discuss Iraq, he can't do it.
He immediately trashes the man he disagrees with as a stand up comic before making the deadliest accusation an Iraqi can make: "Ba'ath Party member!"  This is not the first time Saad al-Muttalibi has pulled that stunt or even the first time on Inside Iraq.  He is a thug.  For some reason, he's a thug that gets on TV.  But he's crooked, he's a liar and he's part of the problem that will refuse to let Iraq move forward. And if you're not getting it, the ministry he advises?  They were supposed to have met a benchmark in 2007 (never did) of bringing former Ba'ath Party members back into Iraqi society and government.  That's the 'reconcilaition' and people like Saad al-Muttalibi are the reason that there has been no reconciliation. 
Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News) reports that Nouri al-Maliki's ally Hussein al-Shahristani is arguing that the political stalemate is encouraging the violence such as the attacks Sunday on the Iraqi military base while "a small group of activists and politicians gathered outside the Iraqi parliament" today to register their objection to the 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 30 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. Khalid al-Ansary, Serena Chaudhry, Michael Christie and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report that Allwi is stating that, "I hope in Ocotber some time, late October (things will be sorted out)." Allawi also states that he is fine with someone else from Iraqiya becoming prime minister.

Alsumaria TV reports, "Allawi pointed out to two main pending points in coalition talks namely the position of prime minister and the question of who had the right to form the next government. Allawi said it was important to divide power amongst all political blocs in Iraq's fledgling democracy." Today Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that news from the Aswat al-Iraq outlet states that Nouri al-Maliki refuses to step aside as candidate for prime minister for State of Law and that the Iraqi National Alliance is standing behind (current Shi'ite vice president) Adel Abdel Mahdi but the two groups, allegedly, have agreed to take a vote and go with whichever candidate receives 65% of the vote. Not addressed is what happens if no one receives 65%. Going into the March elections, for those who've forgotten, Nouri insisted he would win by a huge margin. He did not win. By any margin. Despite having many in the press call the election for him before the votes were even counted (for example, Quil Lawrence of NPR). Meanwhile Alsumaria TV notes that some members of the Iraqi National Alliance was at the home of Ahmed Chalabi addressing the issue of the stalemate and that the meeting stressed the need "to preserve unity within the national alliance." Michael Christie (Reuters) adds, "Shi'ite Iran, which exerts considerable influence over many Iraqi Shi'ite leaders after housing them for years when they were exiled under Saddam, is also pushing for a united front."  Assad Abboud (AFP) reports that Iraqi politicians are stating that Nouri has the backing of both the US and Iran and that various blocs are currently scurrying to get behind Nouri.
 Reuters reports a Samarra home invasion in which 3 family members were murdered "execution style," and, dropping back to Monday night, 2 corpses discovered in Kirkuk and 2 police officers injured in a Baghdad shooting. Alsumaria TV reports, "Religious programs anchor on Al Iraqiya Satellite TV network and head of Al Sheala District Riyad Al Saray was killed by unknown gunmen in central Baghdad."
In other news, Phil Bronstein (San Francisco Chronicle) and Eliott C. McLaughlin (CNN) both report (with text and video) on pranks being played in Iraq on Iraqis by Iraqis in the style of the MTV show Punk'd. And while that might make you grin, roll your eyes, groan or any variety of response, Oliver Pickup (Daily Mail) reports another aspect that should not be happening. Pickup reports on a group interjecting themselves into these antics: US soldiers. Pickup emphasizes a 'prank' a US soldier played on Iraqi by planting "a live grenade in an Iraqi's car". The scroll across the US video: "This is my partner and I working at a Traffic control point in Iraq. We decided to scare one of the locals a bit by placing a grenade in his trunk while he wasn't looking. This was all in fun and never in any intent to harm anyone."  The US soldiers taking part in that need to be disciplined. There's no excuse for it and it shouldn't be happening.

There is the obvious fact that a live grenade could explode and, if and when that happens during a prank, it will not be, "Oh, those funny Americans!" That's just one problem. Equally true is that this is how rumors get started. US soldiers today having 'fun' by planting grenades and other weapons are encouraging a belief in Iraq that US soldiers planted and planned the violence. How so? Iraqis are outraged by the violence that has plagued and continues to plauge their country -- rightly so. They are outraged and have blamed everyone possible for the violence -- including their own governmental leaders, including US service members, everyone. When videos exist showing Americans doing these 'stunts' for 'fun' it's only a matter of time before a few people start saying, "See, it was the Americans." That belief then spreads and it becomes, at best, an urban legend that never goes away and, at worst, a reason to attack US service members. It's not cute, it's not funny and it needs to stop immediately. Maybe the US military brass needs to worry less what civilians in the US do and start focusing on the problems taking place under their command? (That's in reference to Petraeus' hectoring of some church in the US and their plan to burn the Koran -- which they can do as American citizens. I don't support book burnings of any type but they are a legal form of protest and they really aren't the US military's business. In fact, the US military needs to be told to butt the hell out of civilian life in the United States. Civilian groups in the US have and are weighing in and that's what happens in a democracy -- though the fear card shouldn't be played -- but military brass has no say in what US citizens do or do not do as they exercise their Constitutional rights to free speech. Fear card shouldn't be played? Though both the Republican and Democratic parties love to play the fear card -- and pretend they don't -- it has no place in this debate.  It had no place in 2003 when it was used to attack the Dixie Chicks and how their 'remarks' would effect the world. This is a democracy, people will do what they want.  If the burning isn't wise -- again, I support no book burnings -- then there should be valid arguments for it not taking place.  Fear of what might happen OH NO WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN is bulls**t.  You better find a better reason and stop trying to scare America.  Shame on anyone who does that and shame on anyone who silently goes along with that.)
This is Workers World's editorial "Iraq's resistance stands up:"

From the point of view of the U.S. government and the Pentagon, the U.S. has begun to wind down its military occupation of Iraq, now in the middle of its eighth year. But Washington intends to keep control of Iraq's oil and foreign policy with a string of military bases, a supersized embassy complete with its own mercenary army, and a puppet government dependent on U.S. military, economic and diplomatic backing.             

In the meantime these seven-plus years of occupation have destroyed much of Iraq, slaughtering its people and devastating its culture and its scientific and technical leadership. The occupation has divided Iraq along ethnic and sectarian fault lines as never before, and it left the city of Falluja poisoned with cancer-producing substances.             

That the U.S. invasion has brought much pain and suffering to Iraq is indisputable. What is missing from the above picture, however, is one essential thing: the indomitable determination of the Iraqi people and nation to regain their sovereignty.             

With U.S. troops leaving the country or staying safely within their well-protected bases, elements apparently from the Iraqi resistance launched 34 attacks in 16 cities on Aug. 25. Some 31 of the 55 people killed were members of the puppet police and security forces. It was clear that the Iraqi resistance that had prevented the U.S. from a clean takeover of Iraq is still around, still a force on the ground. More cities were hit at the same time than had ever been hit before, with police headquarters, checkpoints and government offices being the main targets.

Soon after the initial U.S.-British occupation in April 2003, George Bush claimed "mission accomplished." The fighting seemed over, but soon this illusion became a nightmare. Former army officers and many others grouped fighters around themselves who began to make life hell for the occupation army. The vast majority of Iraqis would simply not submit to imperialist rule.         

President Barack Obama, who was elected partly based on his promise to leave Iraq, is on the verge of making a speech on Aug. 31 to the county explaining the withdrawal. The early word on Obama's speech is that the president will avoid the triumphant tone that got Bush into trouble. But no amount of intelligent words can cover up a policy of military aggression that has left the U.S. with only enemies and ineffective puppets in Iraq.           


Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.           

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Friday Ashish Kumar Sen (Washington Times) reported, "The United Nations' refugee agency is expressing concern that Western European countries are forcibly deporting Iraqi citizens back to Iraq. Sixty-one people, most of them Iraqis living in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Britain, were flown back to Baghdad this week." The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released the following:

GENEVA, September 3 (UNHCR) -- The UN refugee agency on Friday objected to the continuing forced returns of Iraqi citizens from Western European countries soon after 61 people were flown back to Baghdad.                 
Spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva that UNHCR was "very concerned' about the returns. The 61 on Wednesday's chartered flight were mainly Iraqis who had been residing in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the United Kingdom. UNHCR has not been able to confirm reports that three Iranians were among those on board.                       
UNHCR's guidelines for Iraq ask governments not to forcibly return people originating from the governorates of Baghdad, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-din, in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents in these areas.                   
"Our position is that Iraqi asylum applicants originating from these five governorates should benefit from international protection in the form of refugee status under the 1951 Refugee Convention or an alternative form of protection," Edwards said in Geneva's Palais des Nations.               
UNHCR considers that serious risks, including indiscriminate threats to life, physical integrity or freedom resulting from violence or events seriously disturbing public order, are valid reasons for international protection.             
Some of the individuals among the group returned on Wednesday may be destined for safer areas such as the Kurdistan Region in the north, others may have elected to return voluntarily.             
"Nonetheless, of the 11 individuals we were able to interview on arrival, some originated from Baghdad and at least one person was a Christian from Mosul, in the governorate of Ninewa," Edwards said, adding: "The security situation in that governorate remains extremely volatile."           
Similarly in the Baghdad governorate, the security situation remains unstable with increased attacks and several recent major security incidents. On August 25, for example, a series of coordinated attacks throughout the country, including suicide bombs, left 62 people dead and 250 wounded. Car explosions, roadside bombs, mortar attacks and kidnapping remain daily threats for Iraqis.             
"We strongly urge European governments to provide Iraqis with protection until the situation in their areas of origin in Iraq allows for safe and voluntary returns. In this critical time of transition, we also encourage all efforts to develop conditions in Iraq that are conducive to sustainable and voluntary return," Edwards said.             
The continuing violence in Iraq has resulted in large-scale internal and external displacement of the Iraqi population. More than 1.5 million people remain displaced within the country while hundreds of thousands of others have found refuge in neighbouring countries, mainly in Syria and Jordan.             
UNHCR is concerned about the signal that forced returns from Western Europe could give to Iraq's neighbours, which, despite a score of national priorities, are hosting large numbers of Iraqi refugees.         

Saturday Rob Hastings (Independent of London) reported that Iraqis Ahmed Hussein Saeed and Mohammed Abdullah escaped the Oxfordshire detention center they were being held on Thursday night and were hunted down "by police using dogs and a helicopter" and adds, "Fifteen Iraqi refugees have been flown to Baghdad this month, of which several were Kurds. British officials tried to send their flight on to Kurdistan but were told by the KRG that this was not acceptable. A spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq told The Independent that British authorities now simply left Kurdish refugees in Baghdad with $100 and a hotel room for the night, and instructed them to make their own way back home to Kurdistan from there."

Saturday in Dublin, a War Hawk was held accountable. AP reports that Tony Blair showed up to sign his memoir I Helped Kill Millions But Found Love In Bush and was pelted with shoes and eggs. There were no reports of injuries so apparently all the eggs and shoes hit Blair in the head.  The War Hawk is attemping to garner press -- revisionary press -- while on his book tour.  CNN reported Monday that Tones Blair has canceled a book-signing in London out of fear of protests. In a statement, Blair attempts to spin the animosity the world feels towards him insisting that "I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don't want the public to be incovenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protesters." AFP quotes the War Hawk whining to Sky News, "I think it's sad if you can't sign a book without people trying to physically prevent you, and as we saw in Dublin there were hundreds more who wanted to come and have their book signed than wanted to protest." Tony's also running from the revelations that his "I will give all royalties to wounded British soldiers" was another of his Iraq War lies because his huge advance means there will be few (if any) profits from the book and he's not handing over any of that six-figure advance to wounded soldiers. UK's Stop The War notes:       

Tony Blair has cancelled his book-signing at Waterstone's bookshop. He knows he cannot appear in public without being confronted by protests over his war crimes. He is running scared but he cannot hide. Stop the War has called a protest at Tate Modern gallery at 5.30pm on Wednesday September when Blair is hosting a book launch party, which will no doubt also be attended by Alistair Campbell, Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson and other war criminals.   
Protest when Blair hosts book launch party Wednesday 8 September 5.30pm
Tate Modern Gallery, Park Street, Bankside, London SE1 9TG Tube: Mansion House     
Q. Who said: "You've got to put in prison those who deserve to be there"? A. Tony Blair, 6 September 2010   

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« Reply #100 on: September 09, 2010, 05:48:51 am »

Published on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 by Foreign Policy

What US Left Behind in Iraq is Even Uglier Than You Think

by Nir Rosen

Hundreds of cars waiting in the heat to slowly pass through one of the dozens of checkpoints and searches they must endure every day. The constant roar of generators. The smell of fuel, of sewage, of kabobs. Automatic weapons pointed at your head out of military vehicles, out of SUVs with tinted windows. Mountains of garbage. Rumors of the latest assassination or explosion. Welcome to the new Iraq, same as the old Iraq -- even if Barack Obama has declared George W. Bush's Operation Iraqi Freedom over and announced the beginning of his own Operation New Dawn, and Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has declared Iraq sovereign and independent.

Iraq has had several declarations of sovereignty since the first one in June 2004. As with earlier milestones, it's not clear what exactly this one means. Since the Americans have declared the end of combat operations, U.S. Stryker and MRAP vehicles can be seen conducting patrols without Iraqi escorts in parts of the country and the Americans continue to conduct unilateral military operations in Mosul and elsewhere, even if under the guise of "force protection" or "countering improvised explosive devices." American military officers in Iraq told me they were irate with the politically driven announcement from the White House that combat troops had withdrawn. Those remaining still consider themselves combat troops, and commanders say there is little change in their rules of engagement -- they will still respond to threats pre-emptively.

Iraq is still being held back from full independence -- and not merely by the presence of 50,000 U.S. soldiers. The Status of Forces Agreement, which stipulates that U.S. forces will be totally out by 2011, deprives Iraq of full sovereignty. The U.N.'s Chapter 7 sanctions force Iraq to pay 5 percent of its oil revenues in reparations, mostly to the Kuwaitis, denying Iraqis full sovereignty and isolating them from the international financial community. Saudi and Iranian interference, both political and financial, has also limited Iraq's scope for democracy and sovereignty. Throughout the occupation, major decisions concerning the shape of Iraq have been made by the Americans with no input or say by the Iraqis: the economic system, the political regime, the army and its loyalties, the control over airspace, and the formation of all kinds of militias and tribal military groups. The effects will linger for decades, regardless of any future milestones the United States might want to announce.

The Americans, meanwhile, worry about losing their leverage at a time when concerns still run high about a renewed insurgency, Shiite militias, and the explosion of the Arab-Kurdish powder keg everybody's been talking about for the last seven years. Many in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad wonder what Obama's vision for Iraq is. By the summer of 2006, Bush woke up every day and wanted to know what was happening in Iraq. Obama is much more detached.

American diplomats also worry that they will soon lose their ability to understand and influence the country. In addition to Baghdad, there will soon be only four other posts. Much of the south will be without any U.S. presence: There will be no Americans between Basra and Baghdad, no Americans in Anbar or Salahuddin provinces. Some in the embassy fear they are abandoning the "Shiite heartland." The diplomats still in the country will have less mobility and access, even if they are nominally taking the lead over the military, because it will be harder to find military escorts when they want to travel. "You can't commute to a relationship," I was told.

At best, unable to secure areas to visit by helicopter or communicate with Iraqis navigating the hassle of trying to get into the Green Zone, the diplomats in the four outposts will act as listening posts or trip wires. They hope to be viewed as the honest broker between Kurds and Arabs in northern Iraq, where the American focus has shifted as part of the consolidation of "strategic gain."

But staffers complain that they lack the funding to do their job right, even though the four posts outside Baghdad are going to be very expensive. They say the United States has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on the war in Iraq but is now pinching its pennies over secretarial salaries.

One hope for change rested on this year's national election, held on March 7, which ended in a virtual tie between former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya party and Maliki's State of Law Coalition. The election nonetheless did represent a milestone in the country's political evolution. Regardless of the outcome -- Maliki contested but could not overturn the vote count -- the elections will not precipitate a return to civil war. The state is strong, and the security forces take their work seriously -- perhaps too seriously. The sectarian militias have been beaten and marginalized, and the Sunnis have accepted their loss in the civil war.

But the controversies surrounding the still-unresolved contest point to some serious long-term political rifts. The increased pace of the U.S. withdrawal coupled with the still-unresolved state of the political map and meddling by the United States, the Saudis, Iran, and even Turkey, has lead to a vicious zero-sum competition as Iraqi leaders jockey for power.

Maliki was a popular candidate, supported by Iraqis for having crushed both Sunni and Shiite armed groups, and he came in first as an individual politician, with Allawi a distant second. But Maliki's candidates came a close second to Iraqiya -- a surprise after Allawi's dismal performance in 2005.

On the Allawi side are Sunnis, restless with perceived Iranian influence in the country. Opposition to Maliki often centers on his suspected ties to Iran -- an allegation that echoes the tendentious Sunni notion that an Arab cannot have a strong Shiite identity without being pro-Iranian. And notwithstanding the Bush administration's "80 percent" approach -- focusing on the Shiites and Kurds and ignoring the Sunnis -- the group's frustration could lead to destabilization. Sunnis might not be able to overthrow the new Shiite sectarian order, but they can still mount a limited challenge to it. The Kurds, with only the mountains as their friends (to paraphrase a Kurdish proverb), were able to destabilize Iraq for 80 years. Sunni Arabs are present in much more of the country and have allies throughout the Arab world who can supply them well enough to destabilize Iraq more than the Kurds ever could.

The Americans want to keep Allawi around for exactly that reason: They see him as mollifying Sunni anger. "We would like to see an important role for Allawi," U.S. Ambassador James Jeffrey said in an August press conference, arguing that the Shiite ex-Baathist was able to organize a historic shift in the post-war political dynamic by coalescing Sunni and secular forces behind a new democratic process. U.S. diplomats in Baghdad tell me that outgoing U.S. commander Gen. Raymond Odierno is extremely worried about a renewed insurgency if Allawi's Iraqiya list isn't satisfied.

Allawi can't simply be made prime minister, given that he doesn't have support from across the political spectrum. Instead he may be given an enhanced presidency with increased powers, coupled with some checks -- including term limits -- on Prime Minister Maliki.

Shiites and members of Maliki's cadre, meanwhile, are not at all pleased with the idea of a President Allawi. Oil Minister Hussein Shahrastani, who is close to Maliki, has warned the Americans that many in the Shiite elite would see a powerful Allawi presidency as a coup, overthrowing the new order and restoring the bad old Saddam days. Many in Maliki's party are strongly anti-Sunni, just as many in Allawi's party are strongly anti-Shiite, and they fear the repetition of history.

Maliki has told confidants that if he leaves office, everything he has worked for over the last four years will fall apart. He believes that he almost singlehandedly rebuilt the Iraqi state. Without him there is no State of Law party, since it was built around his reputation and Maliki is the individual candidate who won the most votes. The Sadrists would then become the most powerful Shiite bloc and the clock would turn back to the anarchy and misery of 2006.

It's hard to disagree. The prime minister has amassed a vast and relatively stable infrastructure of power. Removing him and his advisors and security institutions at a time like this could be disastrous. Maliki has managed to win over skeptical Sunnis after his 2008 attack on Shiite militias and remake himself into a candidate perceived by many as a secular nationalist.

The Americans certainly believe there are no non-Maliki scenarios, given the risk of the Sadrists taking over. "We've done the math," General Stephen Lanza, the outgoing U.S. military spokesman, said at an event in August.

"We have no real power or authority here," U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey said. "We have no right to interject ourselves in any kind of threatening way. The only thing we have said that comes close to a rethink of our policies is if you had a government where the Sadrists played a critical role, we would really have to ask whether we can have much of a future in this country given their political position." Beyond exiting the country, Jeffrey said, the United States might back off on its vigorous push to convince the United Nations to remove the Chapter 7 sanctions on Iraq, if the Sadrists were to take a dominant role in the government. "We probably wouldn't be too enthused with that mission," said Jeffrey, "and there are a thousand other examples like that." For their part, the Sadrists refuse to meet with the Americans.

The Sadrists are, however, talking with Allawi, offering support in return for control over the Ministry of the Interior and the release of at least 2,000 of their men from Iraqi detention. Allawi has justified his flirtation with the violently anti-American Sadrists on the grounds that they are merely misguided and can be controlled.

It's a move that could seriously backfire. Maliki says privately that the Sadrists are dangerous. He doesn't believe that Allawi can control them, insisting that he comes from their world and he knows them. He insists that it's not within his legal power to simply free their prisoners. And the Kurds have been dismayed by Allawi's dalliance with the Sadrists; they don't want the Sadrists to be the kingmakers. The Kurds also worry that many of the dominant Sunni politicians in Allawi's list are hostile to their vision of the boundary dividing Kurdistan from the rest of Iraq. Because of this, the Kurds now oppose an Allawi premiership and have thrown their support behind Maliki.

Frustrated with his string of PR defeats, Allawi has taken refuge in confidence-boosting visits to Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Kuwait, and Syria. But none of that helps him much in Baghdad, where it matters, and it certainly doesn't help him in Iran, where an Allawi premiership would be seen as a victory for Tehran's regional rivals, the Saudis, not to mention a victory for the Baathists. Iran prefers Maliki, even if their relationship is not nearly as close as it's been made out to be by the Sunnis.

In fact, Iraq's powerful neighbor has failed to achieve many of its goals in Iraq. Iran has pawns in Iraq but not proxies. Even the Iran-formed Shiite Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq actually dislikes Iran. Its members, former Iraqi exiles who came together in Tehran during Saddam's rule, remember the humiliation of being looked down upon by Iranians for being Arabs. Shiite parties have their own power base as well, and don't need Iranian support. Still, the Iranian ambassador in Baghdad remains very active, and the Americans refuse to meet with him -- a surprising change given the meetings that took place under the Bush administration.

As for the Turks, they want to turn the Kurdish regional government in the north into a Turkish vassal state. They are also deeply involved in Baghdad. Ambassador Jeffrey maintains that Turkey can live with a Maliki premiership, and this is true, although Turkey prefers Allawi; the Turkish ambassador dislikes Maliki and helped organize the Iraqiya list. (Maliki took this personally and temporarily stripped the Turkish ambassador of his access to the Green Zone.)

In a sad sense, none of this maneuvering actually matters all that much. Regardless of who becomes prime minister or president, Iraq is about to become increasingly authoritarian. Oil revenues will not kick in for several years, so services are not going to improve. Even when revenues reach Iraqi coffers, infrastructure costs will eat them up for the near future. The lack of services means the government will face street-level dissatisfaction and become harsher and more dictatorial in response -- even if a democratic façade persists.

For Iraqis, then, there is no end in sight. Since the occupation began in 2003, more than 70,000 Iraqis have been killed. Many more have been injured. There are millions of new widows and orphans. Millions have fled their homes. Tens of thousands of Iraqi men have spent years in prisons. The new Iraqi state is among the most corrupt in the world. It is only effective at being brutal and providing a minimum level of security. It fails to provide adequate services to its people, millions of whom are barely able to survive. Iraqis are traumatized. Every day there are assassinations with silenced pistols and the small magnetic car bombs known as sticky bombs. In neighboring countries, hundreds of thousands of refugees languish in exile, sectarianism is on the upswing, and weapons, tactics, and veterans of the Iraqi jihad are spreading.

Seven years after the disastrous American invasion, the cruelest irony in Iraq is that, in a perverse way, the neoconservative dream of creating a moderate, democratic U.S. ally in the region to counterbalance Iran and Saudi Arabia has come to fruition. But even if violence in Iraq continues to decline and the government becomes a model of democracy, no one will look to Iraq as a leader. People in the region remember -- even if the West has forgotten -- the seven years of chaos, violence, and terror. To them, this is what Iraq symbolizes. Thanks to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other failed U.S. policies in the broader Middle East, the United States has lost most of its influence on Arab people, even if it can still exert pressure on some Arab regimes.

Last week, the Western media descended upon Iraq for one last embed, for a look at the "legacy," to ask Iraqis whether it was "worth it." On the night of August 31st, I overheard one American TV producer trying to find an Iraqi family that would be watching Obama's speech on Iraq live. Obama's speech was aired at 3 a.m. in Baghdad. But Obama did not address Iraqis in his speech. And they weren't interested, anyway. Most Iraqis were awake at that hour, but they were lying in bed sweltering, unable to sleep, waiting for the electricity to come back on so they could power their air conditioners.

© 2010 Foreign Policy
Nir Rosen is a fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security and author of the forthcoming book Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World [1]. Research for this article was supported by the Nation Institute.


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« Reply #101 on: September 09, 2010, 07:47:49 am »

Lies and the war that has not ended 

09/09/2010 06:30:00 AM GMT
Proponents for the war, preying on the public's lack of basic information about Iraq and its people, made exaggerated claims expressing confidence that the effort would be painless.

(AFP) This endless and deadly 'spinning' didn't end with the invasion.

By James Zogby

During the past week, as President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq, there was considerable media commentary focusing on the lies that had been utilized to build public support for the war.

The two that received almost exclusive attention were the argument that Saddam had an active WMD program and the assertion, made most vigorously by Vice President Richard Cheney, that there were “proven links” connecting the Iraqi leadership to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Both were, of course, deliberate fabrications but both did play important roles in shaping public opinion and justifying the invasion of Iraq. But the propaganda effort to win support for the war involved much more.

As I note in my forthcoming book Arab Voices, proponents for the war, preying on the public's lack of basic information about Iraq and its people, made exaggerated claims expressing confidence that the effort would be relatively painless. A former Pentagon official termed it a "cakewalk". Cheney said "it'll go... quickly. Weeks rather than months". Paul Wolfowitz estimated the cost of the entire enterprise not to exceed one or two billion dollars, with Iraq's oil revenues quickly kicking in to "finance its own reconstruction". President Bush and others added that "we would be greeted as liberators" ushering in a new democracy that would be "a beacon for a new Middle East".

Throughout the media universe, commentators echoed these boasts, regularly churning out outrageous claims on par with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s pre–Gulf War outrageous warning that that conflict would be the “mother of all battles.”

Before the invasion began, for example, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, wagered “the best dinner in the gaslight district of San Diego that military action will not last more than a week.” A similarly euphoric (and ultimately equally misleading) statement by Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, soon followed: “There is a certain amount of pop psychology in America that the Shi’a can’t get along with the Sunni. . . . There’s almost no evidence of that at all.” Finally, journalist Fred Barnes, another Fox News host, chimed in, saying, “The war was the hard part. . . . And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but not as hard as winning a war.”

This endless and deadly "spinning" didn't end with the invasion. One half year into the war, Zogby International conducted the first-ever nationwide poll in Iraq - showing that a disturbingly high percentage of Iraqis (including almost the entire Sunni population and strong majority of Shi'a) wanted the U.S. to leave their country, did not have a favorable view of the U.S. military's behavior, and were not inclined to establish a democracy in Iraq. A few days after we released our findings, Cheney was on "Meet the Press" citing our poll as evidence of "very positive news" and then forcing the results to make his case that all was going well.

The same penchant for fabrication was in evidence in the hype surrounding the "surge" the Bush Administration implemented in early 2007. It is true that sectarian and intra-sect violence declined during this same period. But the reasons for this decline had more to do with the fact that the "ethnic cleansing" operations launched by sectarian groups had already left Baghdad's neighborhoods purged and divided by barricades, and Sunni tribal groups had organized and armed themselves to fight against al Qaeda before the surge of U.S. troops began.

Despite all this, the same cast of characters who promoted the fabrications that led the U.S. into the war, had the temerity to upbraid President Obama for failing to give President Bush credit for successfully implementing measures that ended the war.

The U.S. combat forces have now been withdrawn, but this war is not over, it has not been a success, and U.S. responsibility has not ended. Iraq remains a fragile country, divided internally and surrounded by neighbors, some wary of the country's instability and others eager to exploit its vulnerability. In addition to the 4,400 Americans who died, tens of thousands have been severely wounded and their continued care will remain a national priority. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis also perished and one fifth of that country's population remain refugees (placing an enormous burden on Syria and Jordan - where most have taken refuge) or internally displaced persons, unable to return to their homes. Meanwhile, instead of a "beacon of democracy" we see a dysfunctional political order that cannot easily come to closure and implement the results of an election that took place more than one half year ago.

As the nation responsible for this calamity, America will continue to have a role in Iraq's future. Vice President Joseph Biden was right when he noted that "American engagement with Iraq will continue" with a new mission to help the country through reconstruction and reconciliation.

And the story doesn’t end there. At some point in our history those who brought this disaster down on us all must be called to account for the fabrications, the embarrassment to our honor, and the death and waste of so many lives and resources. Until that occurs, the conclusion to this sad chapter will not have been written.

-- James Zogby is President of the Arab American Institute, and author of Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why it Matters, an upcoming book that will bring into stark relief the myths, assumptions, and biases that hold us back from understanding the people of the Arab world.

-- Middle East Online

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« Reply #102 on: September 09, 2010, 12:38:15 pm »

Iraq snapshot - September 8, 2010

The Common Ills

Wednesday, September 8, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, another journalist is killed in Iraq -- one of at least 14 people reported dead today in Iraq with at least 46 reported injured, antiquities are returned to Iraq (and some already returned are now missing), the political stalemate celebrates an anniversary, and more.
Today was a banner day for disgraces in puppet 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 31 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) noted that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted. That's today, September 8th. Six months since Iraqis voted. No government.

As Steven Hussain (UT's Shorthorn) points out, "Since the March elections, the Iraqi parliament has only met once for a total of 18 minutes. As of now, there seems no end in sight for this deadlock, and the furture of Iraq is still hanging in the balance." Duraid Al Baik (Gulf News) reports:

Many Iraqis say they have lost confidence in their country's ability to rise again. Many have left Iraq for neighbouring countries where they are awaiting the approval of western countries to accept them as refugees from what once was called "Liberated Iraq".
"Those, the majority of course, who had no option to leave the country are still struggling with power shortages and saline water and [a] lack of drainage system... the basics that they enjoyed under dictatorship," Baghdad University political science professor Dr Hassan Ali said.
"For them the fight over who is going to form the government is a sort of luxury they can not afford under the pressures of daily life."
He said that parliament, which is required by the constitution to elect the speaker of the House, the president of the country and the new prime minister to run the country for the next four years, had so far failed to perform its duty since it convened in June.

The editorial board of the Khaleej Times calls the stalemate a "padlock on Iraq's politics" and opines, "It is thus imperative that Iraq's politicians get a grip on things and resolve this impasse at the earliest for the sake of the national interest. It may be prudent to rotate the office of the prime minister between the two or nominate a third candidate. Whatever needs to be done should be dealt with urgently lest others take the country over the brink."

Over the brink?  As noted yesterday: "Alsumaria TV reports, 'Religious programs anchor on Al Iraqiya Satellite TV network and head of Al Sheala District Riyad Al Saray was killed by unknown gunmen in central Baghdad'." Today another journalist is killed. BBC News reports that al-Mosulliyah TV's Safah Abdul Hameed was assassinated "in front of his home."  The Committee to Protect Journalism issued a statement today which included the following:
The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Iraqi authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder of Safa al-Din Abdel Hamid, an Al-Mosuliya television presenter who was shot this morning in front of his Mosul home by gunmen firing from a speeding car, according to news accounts.
Abdel Hamid was the second Iraqi television anchor to be slain in as many days. Riad al-Saray, an anchor for Al-Iraqiya was gunned down in Baghdad on Tuesday.

"We extend our deep condolences to the family of Safa al-Din Abdel Hamid," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program ‎coordinator. "That this is the second killing of a television presenter in two days sends a clear message to authorities that urgent action is needed." 

On Riyad Al Saray,  Reporters Without Borders explains:

Riyad Assariyeh, a 35-year-old journalist working for state-run Al Iraqiya TV, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen as he was leaving his home in Baghdad this morning. This clearly targeted murder brings to 15 the number of Al Iraqiya journalists who have been killed since Saddam Hussein's removal.   
Reporters Without Borders calls for a proper investigation capable of identifying and arresting both the perpetrators and instigators of this murder and bringing them to justice. It would be deplorable it this killing were to go unpunished, which unfortunately has been the case in 99 per cent of the 230 murders of journalists and media workers since the US-led invasion in 2003.   
The Committee to Protect Journalists offered the following on Riad al-Saray:
"We extend our deep condolences to the family and colleagues of Riad al-Saray," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program ‎coordinator. "We call on the Iraqi authorities to end the culture of impunity by investigating this murder and bringing all those responsible to justice."   
Al-Saray, who joined Al-Iraqiya in 2005, hosted programs that sought to reconcile Shiites and Sunnis, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. Amar Hassan, an Al-Iraqiya colleague, said that while al-Saray addressed political issues in his programs, he was not considered controversial. He said al-Saray was on his way to Karbala in southern Iraq when he was gunned down at about 6 a.m. Police said the gunmen used silencers in the attack.   
Al-Iraqiya is part of the state-run Iraqi Media Network and has wide viewership across the nation. At least 14 other Iraqi Media Network staffers have been killed since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, the highest death toll for any media organization in Iraq during that period.
Reporters Without Borders has just released [PDF format warning] "The Iraq War: A Heavy Death Toll For The Media." The report counts 230 journalists (here we classify all as journalists not "journalists" and "media workers" -- it's a war zone, we're not quibbling, the 230 were journalists) who have been killed in Iraq and finds that 12 were women but 93% of the deaths were men. 87% of those killed were Iraqis. 77 of the deaths took place in Baghdad.
In 2006, Nuri al-Maliki's government regularly threatened to shut down certain newspapers after accusing them of incitement to violence. Television networks were also pointed out as being responsible for stirring up ethnic and religious passions. They were prohibited from broadcasting segments that showed blood or murder scenes. On 5 November 2006, the Minister of the Interior decided to close down the Sunni television networks Al-Zawra and Salah-Eddin for having broadcast footage of demonstrators waving pictures of former dictator Saddam Hussein and protesting against his capital sentence. Both stations are still closed down.   
In 2007, addition restrictions were imposed on the media. In May, the authorities banned journalists from filming bomb-stricken areas. In November of that year, they were also prohibited from going to the Kandil mountains on the Iraqi-Turkish border to meet with PKK rebels. Passage of the bill for the protection of journalists would make it possible to improve media professionals' working conditions. The Iraqi Parliament's delay in initiating a review of the bill -- which has been postponed since September 2009 -- appears to be one reason for the unrelenting attacks on the Iraqi press.   
UPI notes that the report finds the Iraq War to be the deadliest war for journalists since WWII.  Yesterday's snapshot noted Iraqis 'pranks' for television on one another (and called out US military participation in those pranks but has not and will not weigh in on what Iraqis do for TV in their own country).  Kelly McEvers (All Things Considered, NPR) reports today that the segments filmed by Iraqis for TV (US soldiers were filming their 'pranks' and posting them on YouTube) and aired on Al-Baghdadiya TV's  Khali en Buca is under threat from Nouri's government which states if the show is not pulled off Al-Baghdadiya, the network will be closed down.  McEvers explains that the network aired a soap opera today in Khali en Buca's timeslot.
Yesterday, two US soldiers were shot dead in northern Iraq with nine more injured. Leila Fadel and Marwan Anie (Washington Post) report, "Details were murky Tuesday afternoon while the U.S. military investigated the incident. U.S. troops had escorted their commander to an afternoon meeting at an Iraqi army base in Tuz Khurmatu, 55 miles south of Kirkuk. During the meeting, a man in an Iraqi army uniform opened fire, the U.S. military said, adding that the assailant was shot dead at the scene. It was unclear Tuesday whether the young shooter, whom Iraqi security officials identified as Soran Rahman Taleh Wali, a Kurdish member of one of the Iraqi army's special forces units, had planned the attack or acted spontaneously." Some reports note that the shooter was engaged in a volleyball game with US troops.  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that the claim of the volleyball game made by a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense has been withdrawn.  Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) adds, "Niazi Uklo, a member of the provincial council in Salahuddin, said in a telephone interview that the soldier, a Kurd, opened fire after a dispute broke out during the meeting on the base." Arwa Damon and CNN report:

In a second attack in Salaheddin province, a U.S. soldier and a number of Iraqis were wounded when a convoy in central Tikrit was hit by grenades early Tuesday afternoon, a U.S. military spokesman said. Soldiers who were in the vehicle that was attacked killed the grenade thrower, he said.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official and police in Tikrit said that the man threw two grenades at the convoy, damaging a vehicle, and that U.S. forces then opened fire "randomly," killing a civilian and wounding four others.

Reuters reports that today's violence included a Garma sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and the police officer's son, a Baghdad suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the bomber and 3 other people, a Baquba home invasion in which 1 police officer was killed, a Mosul mortar attack which injured three people, a Mosul grenade attack which injured three people, two Al-Zab bombings which claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left nine more injured, a Baghdad car bombing and roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left at least twenty-four more people wounded, two Baghdad bombings which claimed 1 life and left five more people injured, and a Baghdda roadside bombing which injured two people.
The violence includes the destruction of Iraq's history.  Writing for Museum News in 2007, Susan Breitkopf explained:
The only real comparison is to the surface of the moon. Craters as deep as 16 feet cover multi-acre sites that are remnants of what is widely considered the cradle of civilization. The craggy, arid earth, all but barren of vegetation, lies in mounds alongside the deep pits where thousands of Iraqi antiquities -- cuneiform tablets, ancient scrolls and kings commemorated in stone that might give clues to how civilization began -- have been ripped from their resting places and sold to nefarious (or unsuspecting) dealers and collectors. Some sites have been so ravaged that the top 10 feet of earth and all of the irreplaceable artifacts buried there for centuries are gone. 
Amid the catastrophe of the war in Iraq -- the violence, bloodshed and loss of human life --is the loss of the world's cultural heritage in the form of hoards of antiquities. It is an ongoing, silent tragedy for which there seems to be no viable solution.

Sources say this is not the work of renegades with shovels. It is planned and executed by organized bands -- 200 to 300 per site -- with heavy machinery at many of the 12,000 sites. And the payout is big. The average Iraqi makes the equivalent of $1,000 per year, yet a cache of looted antiquities can sell for $20,000. And looters can sell two or three such caches every week.

The country was plundered and then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thought it was funny to make jokes about it (in 2003, he mocked the looting as just being the same video of a vase being shown over and over).  In defining "the other," it is important to rob them of any cultural history and that's what Rumsfeld with his sarcastic remarks did.  On the issue of cultural history and who it belongs to, Kris Boyd interviewed Craig Childs (Finders Keepers: A Tale of Archaelogical Plunder and Obsession) on yesterday's Think (KERA) here for audio files.  I haven't heard the broadcast yet -- and am noting it at the request of a friend -- but Joyce Wadler of the New York Times should make a point to listen since she's discussed but not named. Discussed?  She's mocked.  On the looting, David Gardner (Financial Times of London) notes, "The just announced return to Iraq of the headless statue of a Sumerian king – looted in the lawless aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003 – seems an apposite footnote to the recent departure of US combat troops. Iraq remains lawless and headless. And combat has far from ceased."  Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) reported yesterday on the efforts to find the stolen statue of King Entemena, "stolen from Iraq's national museum in 2003" and how Massachusetts College of Art and Design's John Russell worked with the US State Dept in a 2006 sting to recover the statue which is finally being transferred from the Iraq Embassy in DC to Iraq.  For audio, Melissa Blockman (All Things Considered, NPR) interviewed Farah Stockman about the statue and other artifcats yesterday.  Today Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports  that "hundreds of looted antiquities" are being returned to Iraq where "632 pieces repatriated last year and turned over to the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki were now unaccounted for" and that this unknown "fate of those previously returned raised questions about the country's readiness to preserve and protect its own treasures."  (I would argue this item listed as returned by SLM raises questions as well: ". . . and 362 cuneiform clay tablets smuggled out of Iraq that were seized by the American authorities in 2001 and were being stored in the World Trade Center when it was destroyed" -- how did the tablets survive?) On the issue of the now missing returned (to Nouri) artificats, Professor Larry Rothfield (The Punching Bag) hails it as, "Yet one more piece of evidence, if that were required, that the State Department dropped the ball completely by focusing its efforts on restoring the museum rather than on helping the Iraqis get their cultural policy infrastructure set up properly".  Derek Fincham (Illicit Cultural Property) wonders, "Are Iraq's Antiquities in a Revolving Door?"   Stephen Farrell (New York Times' At War Blog -- link has text and video) reports that the returned items include a "chrome-plated Kalashnikov Ak-47 assault rifle, with a peral hand grip and reciever, [which] was manufactured by an Iraqi weapons factory which produced personalized assault rifles for Saddam Hussein's family and friends."
From Melissa Block's interview with Farah Stockman:
Farah Stockman: He's rather short, he's about three feet tall. Dark. He's wearing a skirt. He has inscriptions on his arm and on his back.  And he has no head.
Melissa Block: He's headless.
Farah Stockman: He's headless. Yes.
Melissa Block: And what happened to the head?
Farah Stockman: Archaeologists think it was actually lopped off 4,000 years ago when his city was conquered and they think it might be a symbol of the emancipation of the city of Ur which was where the statue was actually discovered.
Melissa Block: What about the real King Entemena? What do we know about his significance to Iraqi ancient civilization?
Farah Stockman: I think he's known as a powerful king. This was the cradle of civilization. This was one of the earliest known civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia, and I think the kings after him were much weaker than he was.
As the continued violence indicates, the Iraq War is not over.  Appearing on the latest episode of CounterSpin (began broadcasting Friday), IPS' Phyllis Bennis spoke with FAIR's Steve Rendall about Iraq War realities:  Excerpt:
Steve Rendall:  As we survey news reports, we find that Obama's proclaimation that he is ended combat operations in Iraq have met with little skepticism from journalists.  What's actually going to happen with US policy in Iraq?
Phyllis Bennis: The policy has not changed. It is true that the number of troops are significantly lower than they were at their heaight of 165,000. It's now down to about 50,000. That is a good thing. Reduction in troops is a good thing.  But the notion that this troop reduction somehow means that all combat brigades, let alone combat troops are out of Iraq, is  ust specious. The 50,000 troops that are in Iraq now are combat troops.  The Pentagon has, in their own words, remissioned them -- they have given combat troops a new mission which is for training and assistance of the Iraqi military but they remain combat troops ready to re-engage in combat at any given moment. We heard from President Obama about the 4th Stryker Brigade which, as he described it, is the last combat brigade leaving Iraq.  We didn't hear about the 3,000 new combat troops -- more combat troops --  from Fort Hood in Texas who were just deployed to Iraq ten days ago.  We also didn't hear about the 4,500 special forces which have the job, one, of continuing its counter-terrorism opeartion -- meaning using its 'capture or kill' list to run around the country to capture or kill people.  The other is to train their Iraqi counterparts, the Iraqi special operations force, which is shaping up to be something that looks suspiciously like an El Salvador death squad.  This is not the end of comabt. 
Steve Rendall:  John Pilger reports in The New Statesman on September 2nd that US policy with regards to airstrikes and bombings will not be effected by the president's announcement.  It looks like there's also -- and I think you've mentioned this -- going to be an increase in the number of contractors, military contractors in country.
Phyllis Bennis: Absolutely. The number of contractors is both disturbing in its own right and because its the beginning of a process under way of militarizing US diplomacy. There will be 7,000 new armed contractors coming into Iraq solely to work under the auspices of the State Dept, not the Pentagon, when the State Dept becomes the primary agency in Iraq.  What we really didn't hear from President Obama is that the transition under way is not so much from US control to Iraqi control, as much as it is from Pentagon control to State Dept control. The agreement [SOFA] that was signed between the US and Iraq that requires -- if it doesn't get changed, which is, I think, a likely possibility --  requires all US troops and armed contractors under Pentagon control to be out of the country by the end of next year does not apply to contractors -- armed or not --  under the auspices of the State Dept.  So with this giant new embassy that holds 5,000 diplomats -- it's the size of Vatican City -- there will be at least 7,000 armed contractors.  The State Dept is bringing in armored cars, surveillance drones, planes and their own rapid response forces.  So what we're seeing is the Pentagon leaving largely but the State Dept taking on military tasks.
Not really, Phyllis.  The ones in charge are Samantha Power and other national security types from outside the State Dept.  They will be working with the new US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey -- who was chosen because of his national security background and not his State Dept background.  It's difficult to talk about this -- and I'm not slamming Phyllis for that -- because the public is being kept in the dark.  If Congress wanted to, they could shine a light and demand to know who is in charge.
Who's in charge of the State Dept?  The top person at the State Dept -- who then reports to Barack -- is Hillary Clinton who is Secretary of State.  Where's Hillary been in the last month?  Did she give an Iraq speech?  No, she didn't.  Did she speak to the press about Iraq?  No, she hasn't.  The State Dept is not leading this.  A little shell games being played on the Congress and on the American people.  The adminstration is attempting to continue the war and the hide the costs via the State Dept.  Congress hasn't gone along so far.  And did you see Hillary go down to the Hill and sell the money requested -- so far denied by Congress?  No, you didn't.
What you've heard is Robert Gates, Barack, Joe Biden and assorted others make speeches for international audiences about Iraq.  You haven't heard that from Hillary. She's not in charge of Iraq.  And the idea that the administration wants to run this operation and wants to hide it behind the pretense that the State Dept's in charge?  Sounds a lot like the dirty tricks Ronald Reagan (Barack's hero) pulled in Iran-Contra.,
It's a difficult subject to talk about because Americans are being intentionally left in the dark and deceived by the administration.  Again, I'm not slamming Phyllis for her discussion, it's very difficult to discuss what's going on in the shadows.  There are Democrats in the Senate who are outraged by what the administration is attempting and have stated that they will get to the bottom of it.  Whether or not that is the case, there's also the fact that the mid-terms are coming up and if Republicans gain control of either house of Congress, investigations into any number of things could ensue.  Considering the huge amount the administration is requesting for continued operations in Iraq, Republicans with control of one house might launch an investigation into what is really going on in Iraq and how such a plan was determined and devised without the knowledge of the American people or the consent and input of Congress.
Jonathan Tasini is running for the Democratic Party nomination against incumbent Charlie Rangel (disclosure, I know and like Charlie) and Tasini's campaign has sent a mailing which we'll note a portion of:
Enough is enough: The American people have been robbed -- by Wall Street buccaneers, greedy bankers, corporate CEOs and an elite that does not care whether the people can achieve the American Dream. They've bought our political leaders. They gambled away our jobs and retirement. They ravaged the planet. We must unite to sweep them from power so we can save our communities and our planet. 

My opponent, Charles Rangel, has been in Congress for 40 years. He is part of the corrupt system. He is the #4 recipient of lobbyist money in the House. Bowing down to his corporate contributors, he has voted for half a dozen "free trade" agreements that have destroyed millions of good-paying jobs and forced wages down. 

I am the only candidate in this race who has pledged not to vote for a single dime for the war in Afghanistan. Enough is enough.   

I am the only candidate in this race to campaign for an INCREASE in Social Security, not cuts that even some Democrats are promoting. Enough is enough. 

I am the only candidate in this race to campaign for a hike in the minimum wage to $10 an hour so the people can try to make a livable wage. Enough is Enough. 

I need your help today.

We're being kind and including his fundraising link.  I am not endorsing Tasini, I'm not endorsing anyone in any race that I cannot vote in.  But it's really interesting that Tasini is promising not a dime to Afghanistan -- as if what?  The Iraq War was over?  The Iraq War is not over and currently Congress is refusing to grant the administration's request for Iraq War funds hidden behind 'the State Dept.'  Would Tasini continue that refusal?  It's a pertinent question.
Back to who's running things, if you're not getting the point that it's not the State Dept, Hillary gave a major speech today. Appearing before the Council on Foreign Relations today (link goes to State Dept and has text and a video option), she addressed Israel, Palestine, Russia, China, Egypt and others at length.  Iraq?  It was treated as an aside and received two casual mentions in the speech:
* In Iraq, where our combat mission has ended, we are transferring and transitioning to an unprecedented civilian-led partnership.
* When our troops come home, as they are from Iraq and eventually from Afghanistan, we'll still be involved in diplomatic and development efforts, trying to rid the world of nuclear dangers and turn back climate change, end poverty, quell the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, tackle hunger and disease.
During questions and answers, Hillary alluded to Iraq at one point:
Because what we know, especially from the threats that we have faced in Iraq and now in Afghanistan, is you have to be more integrated. So let's start thinking from a budget perspective about how to be more integrated.

Does it sound like Hillary's in charge of Iraq?  She's not and, as we noted some time ago at Third, if she were, Barack's primary voters should be outraged since a number of them flocked to him due to the illusion that he was against the Iraq War.  Long before Hillary was nominated as Secretary of State, Barack had already put Iraq under the "national security" control of Samantha Power who is currently meeting with Joe Biden's national security advisor regularly.  Or are we not ever supposed to notice the man behind the curtain isn't the great and mighty Oz?
On the SOFA, Jason Ditz ( via World Can't Wait) notes the talk of the US military presence in Iraq being extended past 2011, "Not so, apparently, as a growing number of US officials are privately acknowledging that the US will 'almost certainly' keep a significant number of troops in Iraq past the deadline, which was negotiated in the Status of Forces Agreement. The subject hasn't so much been broached with the American public, where the official story that the war ended at some point in the past couple of weeks is still playing remarkably well, but it seems there is a growing resignation to this, at least privately." So much doesn't get broached with the American public.
In justice news, War Hawk Tony Blair has another cancellation.  Saturday in Dublin, Blair had a book signing which resulted in his being pelted with shoes and eggs.  As a result of that 'welcoming,' he canceled one London appearance on Monday.  Now the BBC reports that he's canceled his remaining London book event.  No real excuse is provided for this second cancellation; however, there are rumors that he's very upset by a Labour proposal the UK Parliament might take up which would require him and other foreign ministers to pay for their own security costs when participating in for-profit engagements. His London appearance would have reported cost the US equivalent of $250,000 to provide protection for Blair. UK's Stop The War notes:
Tony Blair's decision to cancel his party at Tate Modern gallery today, following him pulling out of a book-signing at Waterstone's, is another victory for the anti war movement and for the overwhelming majority in Britain who oppose his wars.   
With Blair running scared of peaceful, democratic protests, Stop the War has cancelled the demonstration against Tate Modern being used to celebrate the publication of a war criminal's book.   

The number of prominent artists who supported the Tate protest is yet another indication of how widespread is the determination that Blair will one day be held to account for his war crimes in Iraq.   
The ignominy of war criminal Blair scuttling away from any contact with the general public is bound to be discussed at tonight's Stop the War public meeting in the House of Commons (see below).   
Q: Who said: "You've got to put in prison those who deserve to be there"? A: Tony Blair, 6 September 2010 
BBC quotes Stop The War's Lindsey German stating, "It shows he is running scared. The people who say we should not protest are denying us the right to persist in asking questions about the war and denying the rights of Iraqis who are still suffering because of Blair's policies." Kitty Donaldson (Bloomberg News) quotes Blair whining, "It's sad in a way because you should have the right to sign books or see your friends if you want to."  Tell it to the Iraqi people, Tony. Instead of the bombs you ordered dropped, the house raids and so much more, don't you think they would have liked to have seen their friends or signed books?  What an idiot and a criminal Tony Blair is.  Carolyn Kellogg (Los Angeles Times) observes, "Antiwar protesters aren't the only ones questioning the contents of the book. On Wednesday, Peter Morgan, the screenwriter behind the movie The Queen, told the Telegraph that Blair's memoir includes a scene that he invented for the movie, complete with strikingly similar dialog. Will the attention hurt Blair's book sales? Will the protests continue? Will he ever be able to go on book tour, or will he have to content himself with other affairs of former world leaders -- encouraging youth, making statements about Africa and weighing in on the Mideast peace talks?"
This weekend there's an event in NYC which will feature many people including Media Channel's Danny Schechter and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan.  Mark Crispin Miller notes:
This weekend there will be a great symposium on 9/11, hosted by the International News Net here in Lower Manhattan. The line-up is staggering: Don Siegelman, Coleen Rowley, Ray McGovern, Hank Albarelli, Danny Schechter, Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan and many others-including, on a panel with yours truly, Peter Dale Scott and Michael Parenti. 
The full schedule is accessible below, along with all the info that you'll need to get there, if you can.   
How the World Changed After 9/11   
Presented by the International News Net. A made for television event in lower Manhattan on September 11th and 12th, 2010   
WHERE: Walker Stage – 56 Walker Street, New York, NY (1 block below Canal St., betw. Broadway & 6th Avenue – 6, R, or N train to Canal St. station) 
WHEN: 12 noon on Sat. Sept. 11th through 6pm Sun. Sept. 12th 
ADMISSION: $20 suggested donation per session, each session includes 2 panels, seating limited to 175 
TICKETS: See Paypal links or call (206)-338-0319 
NOTE: Can't come to New York? Stream all the events live including the Press Conference from NY City Hall and workshops Thursday the 9th, the rally at All Souls Church Friday night the 10th, street actions from Ground Zero Saturday morning the 11th , and the entire conference "How The World Changed after 9-11″ Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th. $10 for all of it. A portion of all proceeds goes to help 9/11 First Responders. You'll receive the web address and access code on Thursday the 9th.   
More details: 
For more on the symposium, you can listen to the Tuesday broadcast of the WBAI Evening News (click here for audio archives and you have 88 days to hear it before it vanishes from the archives) which opened with Lenny Charles discussing the event with WBAI's Jose Santiago.


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Iraq snapshot - September 10, 2010

The Common Ills

September 10, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, despite insisting they were bringing 'democracy' to Iraq the US government undermines rule of law, England stands accused of not only forcibly deporting Iraqi refugees but also of beating them, and more.
Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show  (NPR)  Diane was joined by Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy), Martin Walker (UPI) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy).
Diane Rehm:  Susan Glasser, tell us what's happening in Iraq where 2 US soldiers were killed and others were wounded.
Susan Glasser: Well I think this is one of the reminders that we're going to get that just because we declared a moment in time to have occured last week, of course, with the formal change of the mission in Iraq from a combat mission to something different doesn't mean that there isn't combat still occuring in Iraq and that there are 50,000 US troops still present there and, of course, they're going to come into hostile situations.  And I think that's a good reminder that we're going to be seeing more stories like this at a moment of political instability and uncertainty in Iraq. After all there is still no new government that has been formed, and that's very much in the news right now as well.
Diane Rehm: And this Iraqi soldier had a uniform on which should have meant he was friendly to US troops fighting side by side.
Martin Walker: Well the reports suggest that there was some kind of argument between him and the security detail -- this was around Mosul, up in the north, with a visiting American -- and that that escalated and the Iraqi soldier who was from their Fourth Division [of the Iraqi Army] which is supposed to be one of their better units, better trained units, then opened up upon the US patrol or the US security forces and killed two, wounded nine and was then shot himself. I think it's a reminder of three things, not just as Susan said, that we're going to get more casualties as this mission goes. Secondly, the violence is not just hitting American troops. We're seeing something like two to three hundred Iraqis being killed a month in ongoing bombs by al Qaeda or whoever it's sympathizers might be, or local forces trying to make it clear that they're still in action.  And the third thing is, as Susan said, we have got an absolute morass of incapacity, of inaction, on the part of the political front in Iraq. And that's something that the US government in Iraq is now trying to fix, is trying to cobble together -- some kind of alternative government to get through this stalemate between the Iraqi political forces.

Diane Rehm: But explain this power sharing arrangement that's in place now, Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: Well, as Susan mentioned in March, there was an election for government and the Iraqis have still not been able to form their government and so there's an effort to get the two top winners -- a slate led by Nouri al-Maliki, the outgoing -- current prime minister, depending on your take and Ayad Allawi a former prime minister who sort of sold himself as a secular candidate to agree on some kind of government.  One that, frankly, would leave everyone weaker, primarily the prime minister, but hopefully sort out -- One of the basic questions in forming the government is who gets what ministry and who gets power throughout the government because that's really what's been holding this back because who controls key ministries like the Ministry of Interior and Defense, some would argue, actually controls the country.  And so that, that's the debate going on.
Diane Rhem: How long do you think, how much longer is this going to take?
Susan Glaser: Well, you know, Diane, I think that is really the key question that you've honed in on.  You know, there was a very interesting report in the New York Times today that discusses the possibility of the power sharing arrangement that Nancy was discussing and there's an interesting quote in there from an American saying, as we've seen many  times before, "Oh, we think this can be hammered out some time in the next month."  And then we'll have Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton travel there to sort of bless the arrangement. And I think that's, frankly, wildly optimistic once again.  In fact, you could probably go back and find similar background quotes from officials every month for the last six months saying exactly the same thing.  And what this highlights is a couple of things. One, the incredible instability.  No matter what our wishful thinking about this, it's very hard to proclaim any kind of true success in Iraq when we've walked away from a long term mission in a country that doesn't have a functioning political succession plan.  They had an election without the thing that's supposed to happen after the election which is the transfer of power to the winners. So that's number one.  It's hard to call that election a success -- as American officials were quick to do -- when they haven't been able to do -- Elections are only successful when they produce governments, right?
Diane Rehm: Exactly.
Susan Glaser: So I think that's really an important thing.
Diane Rehm: Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: You know, I was in Baghdad for the handover ceremony last week.  Vice President [Joe] Biden was there.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was there.  Adm Mike Mullen, the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] was there.  And I was talking to Iraqis and this was the cloud that was hanging over the ceremony.  And really the problem is sort of setting artificial dates for withdrawl.  You know the United States had said, 'This was a conditions-based withdrawal.'  And the Iraqis were saying, 'These are acceptable conditions for the United States military to draw down?  No government?  An Iraqi military force that may or may not be able to handle the threat we're seeing in al Qaeda purposely attacking their military installations in an effort to check that? And rising instability?'  And the real question, at least the response the United States military frankly says is: 'We're not sure what more we can do.  What more can we do?'  So we're going to keep the 50,000 there and sort of monitor and transition and train these Iraqis and work side by side.  And that happened, by the way, in the US military, that happened, excuse me,  in the attack on the Iraqi military compound. It's been the United States military that's come through and get the Iraqis out of these predicaments.
Martin Walker: It's not just the US government that's involved with the Iraqis in trying to put together some kind of a government.  There's another player which is, of course, Iran. And the Iranians have made no secret of their partiality for in effect the Shia group, in effect for Maliki and Moqtada al-Sadr who've made a kind of an alliance and that is something I think for the United States, I think, is a bottom line to stop. So the other point is when we talk about a new government, we're talking about money. To be in charge  of a ministry is to be in charge of jobs to reward your supporters and above all of who is going to be in charge of the new of dispositions of what seems to be the beginning of the boom in the Iraqi oil industry.
Stay with the ongoing political stalemate 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 six months and two days with no government formed.
The elections were (falsely) hailed a sign of progress. March 12th, Nadia Bilbassy (MCB TV) was, for example, declaring on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), "They've taken to this election like they've been doing it for 100 years." And if you think Nadia was just referring to voter turnout, note that only  62% voted in the elections.  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor via McClatchy) reminded that the turnout for the 2005 Parliamentary elections 79.6%. That's a drop off of 17.6%. That's progress?  Progress would be the 2010 elections resulting in a government being formed more quickly than following the 2005 elections.   Even now, the New York Times likes to spin and insist, "It was arguably the most open, most competitive election in the nation's long history of colonial rule, dictatorship and war." Really because in the 2005 elections, there wasn't the constant efforts to disqualify candidates before the elections or -- see the paper's artilce by Timothy Williams, Duraid Adnan, Sa'ad al-Izzi and Zaid Thaker -- to disqualify candidates after the election.
Let's just recap that, markedly lower turnout, a stalemate that's lasted over six months now, efforts to purge candidates before and after the election and there was also Nouri's repeat charges of fraud and calls for a recount (the recounts did not back up his claims of fraud).  Strangely the paper's editorial board appeared more clued in to reality -- for example, March 15th: "The latest election results in Iraq point to a heated and possibly lengthy power struggle between the Shiite coalition led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the rival secular slate led by Ayad Allawi." March 9th, the editorial board observed, "That means there will likely be weeks, we hope not months, of political horse-trading ahead."  They hoped not months but were already aware of the possibility.  The editorial board was frequently so much better aware than reporters on the ground (I'm not referring to the Times' reporters).
Today Anthony Shadid and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) report on what we've already called out, the US pushing for the country's Constitution to be ignored. Instead of pushing for the legal process to be followed (it has not been followed which is why this has dragged out for over six months), the US government has made their main concern keeping Nouri in power. Shadid and Gordon report that the US is pushing for Nouri to stay on but some "curbs" on his power to be put in place.
This is offensive. Think for a moment of the US 2008 elections. John McCain lost. But what the US is proposing is very similar to installing McCain (as George W. Bush was installed in 2000 despite getting less votes). It doesn't matter if Ayad Allawi's slate is ahead by 1 vote or 1 million, they came out ahead. Iraqiya has the legal right to have the first crack at forming a government. That is the Constitution. Instead of demanding that the law be followed, Joe Biden and the administration have worried about how to keep Nouri in power. (Nouri has assured the administration he will not oppose plans for the US military to remain in Iraq past 2011 if he retains the post of prime minister.)

Joe Biden was lecturing on the importance of democracy in the interview he did with Michael Gordon. So, Joe, why don't you promote democracy? Democracy is following the laws. Democracy is following the laws on the books, not creating new 'processes' to keep whomever you want in power. Asked by Gordon about Iraq and democracy, Biden replied, "It is important that it become a democracy because that is the only vehicle by which you can hold together such a diverse population that has such a history and inclination to actually be at each other's throats. Otherwise, what you do is you end up having something in the form of an authoritarian government that just builds hostility, and eventually it will explode, implode. And so that's why the democracy is important, in my view, here in Iraq, because there are, you have the Sunni-Shia split, but you got the Arab-Kurd split. You have got further sub-splits within the Kurdish region. And so what happens is if they all think they have a piece of the action, if they all think they are better served by being part of this larger whole, then from the Kurds and their inclination and desire to sort of rectify 1921 to the Sunnis, who feel they, that they are a minority in Iraq, but a majority in the region ... All of those inclinations get, not subsumed, but get buffered when it is a democracy. Democracy in the sense that there is a political outlet for their aspirations, not a physical need for an outlet. That is kind of how I view it." Reality: Outsiders cannot make a democracy in another country.
But they can undermine one. How? By ignoring the established laws thereby sending a message to the emerging government and its people that when there is conflict, you don't refer to the establish process, you just create a new one. If you don't have a society built upon laws and the belief in precedents, you're not going to have a democracy or anything short of a dictatorship. That's how dictators operate: They make a show of respect for laws but when the laws conflict with their own desires, they ignore them. That's what the White House is encouraging Iraq to do and you start down that road and there's no turning back.
Shadid and Gordon note: "American officials assert that they do not have a preferred candidate for prime minister. But the proposal is intended to make Mr. Maliki, or a strong-willed successor, more palatable to the rest of a broad-based governing coalition. The redefined authority would be codified by new legislation but would not require that the Constitution be amended." 
Meanwhile Karen DeYoung and Janine Zacharia (Washington Post) report that the White House is pinning their hopes on the fact that Ramadan concludes today. While the stalemate could end at any moment, it's also true that Ramadan has not lasted six months.  In other words, the White House now has a pattern -- see Susan's remarks on The Diane Rehm Show above -- of making 'just around the corner' announcements/predictions which have thus not come true.
The Times article by Shadid and Gordon has some basis in a September 1st interview between Gordon and Biden which the paper posted online last night.  We'll note this section.
Q.[Michael R. Gordon:] Is the Obama administration willing to maintain a limited U.S. military presence in Iraq after the Status of Forces agreement if the new Iraqi government requests such assistance?     

A.[US Vice President Joe Biden:] It would depend on what was asked, and it would obviously be considered just like we have similar arrangements with a whole lot of other countries. We do think it is important that they end up in a position of eventually being able to actually generate and execute based on their own intelligence, that they are able to have an air force to protect their airspace and that they have physical capacity to maintain control and use more sophisticated equipment. But the first thing we got to make clear to the Iraqi people, because it goes to motivation, is that we have to make clear we stand ready to meet the absolute letter of the agreement. Our intention now is that we will be out completely. It has been made clear in a thousand ways that if in fact there are residual needs -- nothing like 50,000 troops or 30,000 troops or 20,000 troops staying in Iraq -- if there is a residual need for training and helping them further refine their command and control, I am sure we would entertain that. And we would look to, you know, our military, the Pentagon to give us an assessment, the intelligence community, as to what that capability was and how much of a reach or a lift that would be. The interesting thing to me, Michael, is that every time I have been to Iraq -- every time since the election, not since being sworn in, I think I've been here six times -- in talking to [Gen.] Ray [Odierno], Ray keeps making the point that this has just been a progressive evolution that where he has real confidence in their special forces and he has increasing confidence in the capacity of the force. The one caveat … I have ever heard him express about the capability, competence and continued competence and the ability to handle all that a modern military of this size has to handle is that there has been a budget freeze on the top number. They have not been bringing in new troops on an attrition basis…. At some point they are going to have to make a hard decision … whether they want an army of 168,000 or 165,000 people or they only need an army the size of 100,000 people or whatever the number is.
We're emphasizing the above because of a comment Jason Ditz ( made this week about how these discussions are going on in private. That privacy is, in part, because outside of Jason Ditz, others at, Cindy Sheehan, Phyllis Bennis, Michael R. Gordon and a few others, no one's really talking about it.

The SOFA does not and never did mean the end of the Iraq War. The SOFA replaced the yearly UN mandate. That's all it did. 2011 could end with both sides deciding they were done with each other. In which case, the contract just runs out. But it can be extended or it can be replaced with a new contract. Why might that happen? Well, as Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported today, "a close ally to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki" -- Minster of Defense Abdul Qader Obeidi -- has stated that Iraq will require a US military presence (in "some form") "at least until 2016 to provide training, support and maintenance for the vast quantity of military equipment and weaponry that Iraq is buying from America" and that they will require assistance on "intelligence gather" after 2011 as well as help with their air force "at least until 2020."  That's one way that a decision could be made to extend or replace the SOFA.

In overnight violence, Alsumaria TV reports that two assailants disguised themselves as women in Baquba to gain access to a home where they killed a police recruit's wife and they note a missile attack on a US Army base in Kirkuk. Reuters notes a Tikrit bombing injured one of Iraq's security forces today.  Yesterday we noted the prison break. Today Janine Zacharia (Washington Post) reports, "In an embarrassing and potentially dangerous foul-up, four Iraqi detainees with alleged links to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq escaped from U.S. custody at a Baghdad detention facility late Wednesday." And if I wanted to provide a belly laugh today, I would link to the outlet that calls Ahmed Chalabi a "secular" politician. Ahmed? Justice and Accountability Ahmed? What are they smoking in Baghdad? We will note Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) who provides this context:

American officials transferred the site to Iraq's Justice Ministry on July 15 as part of an agreement paving the way for the exit of U.S. troops by the end of 2011. Iraq renamed the site Karkh Prison and asked U.S. forces to retain custody of about 200 detainees there, most of whom are alleged to be members of al-Qaeda.
This week's incident was the second escape from the compound in about three months. Days after the handover, four men broke free, including al-Qaeda's so-called local ministers of finance and interior, state-sponsored al-Iraqiyah television reported at the time.

In  other criminal news, European countries are ignoring the warning of the UN and returning Iraqs -- forcibly returning Iraqis -- seeking asylum back to Iraq.  Last week, England began another round of deportation flights.  Amnesty International noted:
More than 40 Iraqi nationals were returned from the UK to Baghdad by charter flight on Monday 6 September 2010. The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR has asked governments not to continue with the forcible returns of Iraqi citizens to Baghdad.
Amnesty International supports UNHCRs guidelines for Iraq which asks governments not to forcibly return people originating from the five provinces identified as the most dangerous in Iraq and declared unsafe namely Baghdad, Ninewa (Mosul), Kirkuk, Diyala and Salah al-Din. AI believes that all individuals from these five provinces be granted refugee status or a complementary form of protection.               
Several Western European countries including the UK are forcibly returning Iraqi nationals to Baghdad. On 1 September a charter flight to Baghdad returned Iraqis who had been living in the UK, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Since June the UK and other European governments have returned a number of Iraqi nationals to Baghdad including Kurds destined for the Kurdistan Region in the north. Some of those returned to Baghdad from the UK were initially detained on arrival.
Now Owen Bowcott (Guardian) reports that the Iraqis deported are saying they were beaten by British security forces.  At Stop Deportations to Iraq, many of the over 60 deportees share their stories of abuse.  This is Sabar Saleh Saeed:
When we arrived in Baghdad we refused to get off the plane. One Iraqi policeman came on and said if we did not come down they would make us go down by force but we said we are being forcibly deported: we will not come down.
We stayed where we were but the G4S security guards forced handcuffs on us and started to beat us when they were dragging us off the plane. They were swearing at us, beating us. Four of them grabbed me to force me off the plane. They grabbed my neck and punched me. My eyes went dark. I could not see any light. I saw many other refugees with blood running down their faces.
When I was on the steps on the plane they were still boxing me. There were a lot of Iraqi police there. They took over from the G4S guards when I had got off. Then the Iraqi police beat us with their sticks.   
Those of us who had Iraqi ID were released. We had to get across Baghdad to get to the bus station. We felt very afraid: I do not speak Arabic and I had to get from the airport to the bus station. From there I took a taxi up to Kurdistan in the north. Now I can't  sleep. I'm not safe here and all my body is painful after the beating.   
These are not isolated incidents, these are not new accusations.  In other forced deporation of Iraqis, British guards have been accused of beating the deportees.  At what point does the government of England start taking this abuse seriously? But then, this is the same government forcing them out of England -- the country that with the US launched the illegal war on Iraq.
Throughout last week and this week, we've noted critiues of Barack's August 31st speech on the 'end' of 'combat operations' in Iraq.  This is Refugee International's take on the speech:
Washington, D.C. -- Refugees International today expressed disappointment that President Barack Obama failed to recognize the plight of Iraqi refugees during his speech marking the end of combat operations in Iraq.  In his address to the nation last night, on August 31, President Barack Obama failed to take the opportunity to highlight the humanitarian plight of the Iraqi people. For the half a million refugees unable to return home, and the one and a half million Iraqis displaced inside the country, the end of U.S. operations in Iraq does not mean that peace has returned. Their original homes and communities are either destroyed or insecure, and they remain in a dangerous and unsettled limbo.   
"The Obama administration has provided funding and resettlement opportunities for Iraqis. But resolving the displacement issue is a long-term project, requiring U.S. funding and engagement and commitments from the Iraqi government to give them the help they need. In last night's speech, humanitarian issues were not given the priority they deserve." said the Vice President of Refugees International, Joel Charny.   
As America ends it combat mission, the humanitarian needs in Iraq persist.  Many Iraqis are living in slums, and are completely dependent on the United Nations and other agencies to provide water and food.  Politically, Iraq has failed to form a government, and violence in the country continues.   
"Refugees International welcomes the engagement of civilians in government, but the reality of the security situation means that people don't walk freely on the streets, and, outside the Green Zone, there is limited access to give civilians the help they need," said Charny. "Humanitarian agencies need to work with local non-governmental organizations, and also make their security rules more flexible, so they are able to move quickly to gain access to Iraq's most vulnerable."   

Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding.

For Immediate Release: September 1, 2010     
Contact: Refugees International, Gabrielle Menezes
+1 347 260 1393 
P: 202-828-0110 x225 
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Michael Duffy (Time magazine), Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) and David Wessel (Wall St. Journal) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is " "Recalculating: News and Politics in the Age of GPS." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Sam Bennett, Kellyanne Conway, Darlene Kennedy and Patricia Sosa 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 about ending sexism in politics. 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 the Fort Dix Five and "preemptive" prosecution. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

21st Century Snake Oil
"60 Minutes" hidden cameras expose medical conmen who prey on dying victims by using pitches that capitalize on the promise of stem cells to cure almost any disease. Scott Pelley reports. (Double-length segment) | Watch Video


Steve Kroft profiles the superstar singer on the road and backstage where she explains what makes her one of the world's most successful entertainers. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Peae Mom Cindy Sheehan gets weighs in with an essay on 9-11:
Many people here today just woke up (whether abruptly or gradually) to the fact that the US Empire is a criminal construct capable of murdering, oppressing, impoverishing, and enslaving its own citizenry for the sake of power and profit.

Just because we awoke that day, doesn't mean that the Bush regime was the first to perpetrate these crimes.   

Speaking of awakenings, on the morning of 9/11/2001, right before I awakened from my sleep on the West Coast -- I had a dream. I dreamt that I was putting a large, delicate crystal vase on the back of my toilet and it slipped out of my hands and crashed into the bowl and broke into a million pieces, some of them getting into my eyes and imbedding them into my face --my thought in my dream was: "Great, now I have to go to the ER and wait to have these splinters removed from my eyes." The very next scene in my dream, a fire fighter was escorting me out of my office and we were both covered in soot and grime. When I awoke from this nightmare, my daughter told me of the real life horror that was unfolding at the World Trade Center.   

My dream was precognitive about what was in the planning to ruin my life and this world for the neocon agenda. My life has been profoundly changed since 9/11 with the loss of my son and with personal and public struggles to make meaning of these losses and sense out of what is so senseless.     

However, as tragic and awful as 9/11 was and still is, we can't ignore the fact that this nation was never "noble" and the founders were just men, slaveholding men, that excluded women from participating in civil society -- they were not gods to be idolized or paragons of virtue to want to "return to." Our Constitution may as well have been written in the blood of our native population and nailed to every slave-whipping post in the South.

This weekend there's an event in NYC which will feature many people including Cindy Sheehan.  Mark Crispin Miller notes:
This weekend there will be a great symposium on 9/11, hosted by the International News Net here in Lower Manhattan. The line-up is staggering: Don Siegelman, Coleen Rowley, Ray McGovern, Hank Albarelli, Danny Schechter, Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan and many others-including, on a panel with yours truly, Peter Dale Scott and Michael Parenti. 
The full schedule is accessible below, along with all the info that you'll need to get there, if you can.   
How the World Changed After 9/11   
Presented by the International News Net. A made for television event in lower Manhattan on September 11th and 12th, 2010   
WHERE: Walker Stage – 56 Walker Street, New York, NY (1 block below Canal St., betw. Broadway & 6th Avenue – 6, R, or N train to Canal St. station) 
WHEN: 12 noon on Sat. Sept. 11th through 6pm Sun. Sept. 12th 
ADMISSION: $20 suggested donation per session, each session includes 2 panels, seating limited to 175 
TICKETS: See Paypal links or call (206)-338-0319 
NOTE: Can't come to New York? Stream all the events live including the Press Conference from NY City Hall and workshops Thursday the 9th, the rally at All Souls Church Friday night the 10th, street actions from Ground Zero Saturday morning the 11th , and the entire conference "How The World Changed after 9-11″ Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th. $10 for all of it. A portion of all proceeds goes to help 9/11 First Responders. You'll receive the web address and access code on Thursday the 9th.   
More details: 
For more on the symposium, you can listen to the Tuesday broadcast of the WBAI Evening News (click here for audio archives and you have 85 days to hear it before it vanishes from the archives) which opened with Lenny Charles discussing the event with WBAI's Jose Santiago.
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« Reply #104 on: September 13, 2010, 11:21:13 am »

Ground Zero in Red Ink...

by Layla Anwar

September 12, 2010

Where does the line between Reality and the Surreal fall ?
This eerie feeling of the Surreal follows me everywhere I go...I am not exaggerating.
On more than one occasion, I have pinched myself, making sure am not dreaming.

I have many instances of the Surreal hanging on to my sleeves, refusing to let go, like little children clinging, demanding attention, demanding to be heard...

One of the first surreal images that comes to my mind was when I saw 2 airplanes flying into buildings. At first I thought this was a trailer for yet another Hollywood action film. I waited patiently to see who was starring and co-starring in this new film, to be released worldwide...

But it was no movie production it was real. Then I saw a CNN anchor, within minutes, waving a passport dug up from the piles of rubble and cement turned into dust - a passport intact, bearing the name of a certain Mohammed Atta. I pinched myself hard. I was not dreaming. My phone rang, the first thing I said - can that be true ? not even knowing who the caller was.
And the first thing I heard as a reply - was " Massrahia " Massrahia in Arabic means a theatrical play.

Another surreal image that keeps popping up in my mind came shortly after the play - the image of Bush in a elementary school holding a book upside down - pretending to be interested in some children goat story...
Not too long after that - I heard they will be hunting Muslims goats in Afghanistan. This is what they called the Afghans and Bin Laden, the goat shepherd, was hiding in a cave in Tora Bora, a cave equipped with the most sophisticated technology.

Actually come to think of it - those surreal episodes that have been haunting me - started before that September day. They started back in 1990 - right before the first Gulf War, right before Operation Desert Storm.

I remember diagrams, power point slides depicting Saddam Hussein's underground bunker, looking like a pyramid, with underground tunnels connecting different "strategic" points in the city of Baghdad. Again, equipped with high technology, computerized boards, push button missiles, extra refined telecommunication devices connected to the Iraqi army's central command.
I thought to myself it must be another trailer from a new Star Trek movie...but it wasn't.

After hundreds of tons of bombs fell on our heads, awaking me from this Science Fiction film, we discovered that the bunkers in question were nothing but sheets of scrap metal, under which poor soldiers took refuge, in the desert.

Then, more surreal images popped up out of nowhere...leaving traces of dried blood in the scorching desert sand...

One of these pictures is American soldiers kicking ball - the ball was an Iraqi head, a severed head, a skull. Another picture is American soldiers keeping Iraqi brains in jars as trophies - but they did leave them in the camp's fridge - good alimentary safety methods. Always keep your human trophies crisp and fresh, just like you do with your animal products - you know, meat, dairy, that kind of stuff...(by the way I heard that your American boys still collect trophies - Afghan fingers - hope you kept them in jars too, like pickles - you know fingers tend to decompose quickly).

My mind flashes to other scenes, they scurry before my eyes and I am here trying to catch one of them, catch one like a fly...

Yes, it's coming back...The fly - that damned fly in front of my nose. I give it one final blow and it falls to the ground, crashes down like a MIG. I look at it lying between my feet, I grab a tissue, pick it up and place it carefully inside, fold the tissue and keep the shocked and awed creature in my bag. I am hoping to find the old man. I had spotted him in the Souk...I remember him fairly well, he had small beady eyes, no front teeth, a very frail body, a walking skeleton in rags. He was holding a bag in his hand...he approached me with a smile.

"Buy one for me " he said. I looked inside his treasure - a bag full of dead flies. "Buy one as feed for your birds " he said, in a pleading voice.

I kept the embalmed dead fly in my bag, hoping to find the Hajji, and give it to him.

Yes, they are creeping up again, those scenes, like worms from the underbelly of the earth...crawling on my skin in a nightmare.

These were the sanction years. The Hajji with his dead flies, my album of pictures of little monsters from DU, my Frankenstein album, I collected those like the Hajji collected dead flies..and more, more...

A hospital corridor, an emergency room, an ECG with no ink, ink was forbidden. A dead man, an uncle lying there. No ink. The doctor shakes his head. He's gone.

Another image - bronchopneumonia, maybe. We need to run an X ray. No X ray. Forbidden. Grandpa dies.

Another image, image after image...piles of furniture, books, clothes being sold...I pinch is real. Children jumping from joy when receiving a pencil - pencils were forbidden.

The images now stack themselves in piles in front of me - like documents to be reviewed and approved, like documents piled in front of a United Nations committee, a committee in a room filled with comfortable leather chairs, and men in suits and specs, with the Charter dangling in the background, hung to some flimsy wall about to collapse...

I flip through the images, we are now in 2003.

Another surreal image pops, sounds and colors...
"Fireworks have illuminated the skies of Baghdad " says a voice with a nasal twang. It's the crack of dawn, 4 am to be precise. I hear a rooster and the call from the Minarets with Allah Akbar, drowning in the flood of explosions...I hold on to the thread thrown my way by the drowning voices, a castaway in a violent sea, holding onto a rope...the call from a minaret and a rooster...

Roosters, roasted...flipping through my mental album...

 Omar was 13 going onto 14, soon, not soon enough. He lived in Adhamiya. Kidnapped by Shiite militias - the Mahdi Army, whose icon -- the firebrand cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr - is the idol of the alternative media notably the Rosens and Cockburns of this world. Let's leave the driller and his Black & Decker disciples aside for the moment. Omar...

News arrived that Omar was kidnapped, tortured and buried in Najaf - the Black holy city of drills, chains, rods and mass graves.

A Sunni wanting to travel to Najaf to recuperate Omar's body, was like someone signing their own death warrant, like a kamikaze about to perform a Hara-Kiri. But Omar's mother would not let go.
She wanted her son, even if dead... Uncle K. had a brilliant idea. Omar's mother was to travel to Najaf by car but in a coffin. So she did. She lay down in a coffin placed on the car's roof. Another car followed, hoping to bring back Omar in another coffin.

Omar's family was told that in exchange for a sum of money, they will be able to recuperate the body of the deceased. When Um Omar arrived to Najaf, she fell to the ground and kissed the man's feet...he standing up, said in a cold cruel voice - we have no Omar here.

The two cars convoy returned to Baghdad with Omar's mother in the coffin on top of one of the car's roof.

I have more images...each image is tied to a story...I need chapters, volumes to record each.

The following are not the last in the series of the Surreal. They are a continuation of it. More will come, more will be revealed as the days and years pass, like a sandstorm yellowing the pages of a book whose story never ends, leaving deposits of hot sand, and traces of blood, wounds from daggers in the heart...

A scrap yard, junk, metal, bits and pieces...the US army leaves Ground Zero, on the surface.

American junk litters the soil of Iraq, the soldiers have left this an unwelcome visitor exiting your home and leaving behind him a mess...he messed your house, your relations, your off your food and water for years...stealing what he could, breaking what he could, using what he could and **** what he some of those tourists you spot around the dining tables in a resort hotel, stuffing their faces with as much as they can from the breakfast banquet, stuffing themselves until exploding and carrying away some more with them...filling their pockets, their trousers, their underwear...and then check out, leaving the mattresses of their hotel room infested with pubic lice crawling in pools of dried semen and blood...

So is that junk yard left by the Americans on the outskirts of Falluja, not too far from Mahmoudiah, where Abeer Al-Janabi's skirt was lifted by four American brave boys who feasted on grilled chicken wings and her grilled body.

Fallujah, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki of the new world order, where tumors have become signposts directing you to a city where life once was...where tumors have befriended the children, like a Father Christmas carrying a swollen up bag of toys...

So this is where the Americans left more of their be sold in kilos, junk made of army toilets, stamped with the white man's feces, a parting letter...scraps of metal from tanks and other weapons of mass destruction, left overs from a friendly fire, from the peace loving people of America -- all for the discount price of 4'000 dollars. Iraqi merchants will purchase the very bits and pieces of metal that killed them for 4'000 dollars. They will recycle them, just like the Hajji in the Baghdad market with his bag of dead flies...

The last picture, for today...for today only, because my story is not ending, not yet...

I have a long story to has no beginning and no do not consider this as my last chapter, it is one chapter, one chapter with no title and no number...whichever way you flip those pages, you will always fall back on the beginning and the end...

A couple of Americans lived in Kuwait...they drank, ****, and made loads of money from their ignorance tattooed on their arms and curriculum vita. The Bedouin is a fickle creature of the desert, the Bedouin is the invention of the English man. He works for him, dusts his coat, and hires him. This is how Americans and Brits get hired in the Gulf. Trust me on this one. A couple of whores from England and/or America land and they are considered masters of the land.
I have scrapped through many of them...another surreal moment...the airs that they give, infused with alleged knowledge of the "local culture", in between gin tonics and between quick shags with prostitutes and business commissions, in between...(I leave that for other chapters)...

So these couple of American prostitutes were traumatized by Saddam's penetration of the story goes...they were so traumatized, that they, along with the Bedouin pimps for America and Great Britain, and along with the Mullah pimps of Tehran, are claiming compensation for the trauma...

You see, when they saw the Iraqi army marching into Kuwait city, these Americans pissed in their pants. And since that day, they have been stuttering in dollars - 400 Million of them. That's real trauma. Don't you agree ? OK granted it was not as bad as the shaking, trembling limbs from Abu Ghraib after crucifixion and electrical cables wired to your genitals, but still, it's trauma, like major trauma.

I too pissed in my pants...even though I suffer no urinary incontinence. I pissed in my pants when the windows shook and shards of glass flew past my nose -  landing on the table where one single,small candle was burning - like moths wanting to die in the light...

Yes trauma...the trauma of a ground zero, of an infinite ground...traced with red ink, with no beginning and no end.


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« Reply #105 on: September 14, 2010, 10:08:49 am »

Iraq snapshot - September 13, 2010

The Common Ills

Monday, September 13, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, the world faces the fact that Nouri sits on billions, the stalemate continues, Amnesty International releases a report on Iraqi prisons, and more.
Starting with imprisonment, last night Amnesty International issued a press release --  "Thousands of Iraqi detainees at risk of torture after US handover" -- and a new report -- [PDF format warning] "NEW ORDER, SAME ABUSES: UNLAWFUL DETENTIONS AND TORTURE IN IRAQ.''
Torture is widely used in Iraq to obtain "confessions". In many cases these are already prepared by interrogators and detainees are forced to sign while blindfolded and without reading the contents.           
Prepared confessions are often used as the only evidence against detainees when they are brought to trial, including in cases where the charges incur the death penalty.               
Hundreds of prisoners are reported to have been sentenced to death, and some have been executed, after being convicted on the basis of "confessions" which they said were false and had been signed under torture or other duress.
The report explains that grave human rights abuses are taking place and, despite this, the US military turned over the bulk of prisoners in July of this year. Prisoners are tortured, hidden away, held without trial for years and denied access to their attorneys. (The report also notes the official unemployment rate is 50% -- you may remember that when the press was selling Barack's Aug. 31st speech, they put it under less than 40%.)  Numerous examples of abuse are cited throughout the report such as:
Nasrallah Mohammad Ibrahim, a 41-year-old father of six who worked for an electricity company in al-Siniya, a town in Salaheddin governorate, north of Baghdad, was detained from his workplace on 5 January 2008 by US soldiers who produced no arrest order or warrant issued by a judicial authority. He was initially held at a US military base in al-Siniya for about a week and then transferred to Camp Bucca, far from his home in al-Siniya, with the result that his family could not afford to visit him for about 18 months. After two years at Camp Bucca he was transferred to Camp Taji where he was still being detained without charge or trial in early July 2010. His sister told Amnesty International of the difficulties his family has been facing during his detention:           
"My brother has six children, three girls and three boys,they are not doing well in school. In fact one girl is not attending school. They need clothes but we don't have the money to buy them clothes. When we visited Nasrallah in Bucca, the journey from Salaheddin to Bucca cost us nearly US$150, add to that expenses for ccommodation and food in Basra. We only visited him three times when he was there because we couldn't afford it. Our mother is not well and Nasrallah's detention is not helping her."
Youssef 'Ali Jalil, a 25-year-old student from al-Ghazalia in Baghdad, is married with one daughter. In the early hours of 21 November 2008, according to his family, a group of more than 10 US soldiers went to his house, searched it and arrested him without producing a search or arrest warrant. He was taken to Camp Cropper, where he was held for a week, and then transferred to Camp Bucca. He remained there, most of the time, until mid-2009 when he was taken back to Camp Cropper. In September 2009, the US military handed Youssef 'Ali Jalil over to the Iraqi authorities, who detained him in Rusafa Prison before transferring him to al-'Adala Prison in al-Kadhimiya, Baghdad. His family appointed a lawyer to represent him, who has been able to visit him four times, but no members of his family have visited Youssef 'Ali Jalil since US forces transferred him to the custody of the Iraqi authorities in September 2009 for fear of harassment by Iraqi security officials and prison guards.28 Since his transfer to al-'Adala Prison, Youssef 'Ali Jalil has alleged that he has been beaten there by prison guards. In early July 2010 he was still being held without charge or trial.   
Of all the imprisoned, Walid Yunis Ahmad is thought to have been imprisoned the longest without trial or charge having been arrested February 6, 2000 and imprisoned ever since. Ten years without a trial. Thought to be? Secret prisons continue in Iraq. And this is not just the 'progress' Barack hailed, this is the regime that Joe Biden and others are attempting to keep in power. Despite repeated complaints, despite deaths in custody, Nouri has provided no public investigations, no one has ever been punished. From page 41 of the report, "The Iraqi authorities have on numerous occasions announced investigations into incidents of torture, deaths in custody and killings of civilians, especially by the Iraqi security forces. However, the outcomes of such investigations have never been made public. This has raised concerns that such investigations may not have been carried out, or that they were conducted or partly conducted but the findings were ignored. In all cases, those responsible for abuses have not been brought to justice. The failure to deal seriously and effectively with torture and other human rights violations by the Iraqi security forces has created a culture of impunity." As the head of the government since 2006, he has hand picked his ministers and they have carried out his orders. All of these abuses have taken place under his watch and the US not only does nothing about the abuses, it works overtime to try to keep Thug Nouri as prime minister. He also refuses to instruct that the Ministry of Justice be over the prisons now being run by the Defense and Interior ministries despite the law ordering those two ministries to turn their prisoners over to the Ministry of Justice. Kate Allen (Guardian) observes:
Barely noticed amid the fanfare surrounding the announcement of an end to US combat operations in Iraq, in July the US also handed the last of some 10,000 prisoners held on security grounds to the Iraqi authorities -- though the US will continue to hold about 200 detainees deemed to be "high-risk".
Remarkably, however, this mass transfer came with no formal guarantees over humane treatment or due process. Given recent instances of the discovery -- including by US forces -- of horrific abuse being meted out to inmates by Iraq guards, this is extremely regrettable.     
The torture and sexual humiliation of prisoners by US forces at Abu Ghraib made the US notorious when the scandal came to light in 2004. However, the sadistic mistreatment of prisoners supposedly in Iraqi official care has been a feature of the entire post-Saddam period, and in many ways the savagery of the abuse has rivalled that of the dictatorial Saddam years.
One case, that of Ramze Shihab Ahmed, is especially getting press attention. Andrew Wander (Al Jazeera) reports:             

On a dull December day in 2009, Rabiha al Qassab, a 63-year-old Iraqi refugee living in a quiet residential area of north London, received a telephone call that marked the beginning of a new nightmare for a family already torn apart by Iraq's political upheavals.           
Her 68-year-old husband, Ramze Shihab Ahmed, had been arrested while on a visit to Iraq, and no-one knew where he was being held or what, if anything, he had been charged with.   
Nine months later, Ramze is still languishing in legal limbo in a Baghdad prison. His story lays bare the horrific abuses and lack of legal process that characterise post-Saddam Iraq's detention system, which human rights groups say has scarcely improved since the darkest days of the dictator's rule.   
BBC News covers the case here and adds, "Amnesty said the use of torture to extract confessions in Iraq was routine -- and the confessions were frequently used as evidence in court." Jomana Karadsheh and CNN focus on numbers such as 30,0000 imprisoned without trial and the US's transfer in July of 10,000 more prisoners to Iraqi control. Rebecca Santana covers the report for AP and notes, "Amnesty International researchers detailed a litany of abuse, including suspending people by their limbs, beating them with cables and pipes, removing toenails with pliers and piercing the body with drills. Hundreds of people -- including some facing the death penalty -- have been convicted based on confessions extracted through torture, the report said. The vast majority of the detainees are Sunnis suspected of helping the insurgency; hundreds are Shiites accused of being part of the Mahdi Army, an outlawed militia run by anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has fought U.S. and Iraqi security forces."  Stephen Kurczy (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "Amnesty highlights that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), a security pact between the Iraqi and US governments, provides no safeguards for prisoners who are transferred to Iraqi custody -- 'although the US government cannot but be well aware that torture and other ill-treatment have been and remain common in prisons and detention centers controlled by the Iraqi government and its security forces'."
Turning to the continued political stalemate 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 six months and six days with no government formed.  Friday came news that the US government was pushing a plan that would ignore Iraqi law including the Constitution. Today the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's editorial board weighs in:
Now U.S. officials have jumped into the fray and proposed a reasonable -- but American -- compromise to Iraq's political logjam. Prime Minister Nouri Kamal al-Maliki, who has refused to acknowledge his coalition's loss in March, would remain in power, but with diminished authority. He would share power with a coalition that would include representatives from Iraqi groups other than his Shiites.     
This would be a reasonable solution to the "no government" issue, but the problem is that it's an American solution -- which will probably mean that many Iraqis will oppose it. If the American idea moves from being proposed to being imposed, as might be the case in a country that still has 50,000 U.S. troops, following a seven-year occupation, then it will truly be doomed.             
Gulf News' editorial board sounds a note of regret and resignation: "The United States' efforts to help form a new government in Iraq may be needed, after more than six months of wrangling among rival factions. However, it is unfortunate that the Iraqis need the intervention of the US administration to get an agreement. This is obviously indicative of the political immaturity of the ruling establishment." There are some who tie the increase in violence to the ongoing political stalemate. Gulf Times notes of yesterday's violence, "Eight people, including three militants, were killed in Iraq yesterday, mostly in clashes between security forces and insurgents. Iraqi forces, assisted by US warplanes, carried out a military operation targeting a group said to be Al Qaeda militants in the town of Al Hadid, some 65km northeast of Baghdad. Government forces said they came under heavy fire from surrounding areas, resulting in clashes with insurgents which lasted for more than seven hours near the town, in Diyala province." Timothy Williams (New York Times) notes the continued combat role of US troops referencing the efforts Gulf Times mentions and adding, "The United States military did not confirm its role in the fighting. An American military spokeswoman said Sunday in an e-mail that she was awaiting 'releasable information.' But Iraqi military and civilian officials said American helicopters and some ground troops had taken part after Iraqi forces requested assistance. The Iraqis had come under fire while raiding Sunni insurgent hide-outs in the agricultural area."
Turning to some of today's reported violence .  . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of intelligence Cpt Muthenna Ahmed, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded four Iraqi soldiers, a Falluja home bombing which claimed the life of a Falluja police officer, his mother and one other family member and, dropping back to Sunday for the rest, a Baquba sticky bombing claimed 2 lives and left two other people injured and a Diyala Province sticky bombing which claimed the life of an Iraqi army captain and left his mother and his wife injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi military officer was shot dead in Baghdad and, dropping back to Sunday for the rest, 1 government employee shot dead in Baghad and Baquba clashes led claimed 9 lives (2 police officer, 4 military members and 3 suspects) and left ten injured. Reuters notes a Latifiya armed attack on a Sahwa leader which killed him as well as 3 people in his family.
"Al Qaeda in Iraq is back from the dead," announces Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times). "Once vanquished by Janabi and other Sunni Arab fighters who joined the U.S.-backed Awakening movement, the Islamic militant group is carving out new sanctuaries here in the farmlands south of Baghdad, in the deserts to the west and in the mountains to the east."
Turning now to a constant point.
June 4, 2009: The US puppet Nouri al-Maliki was put into power by the US and he sits on billions as he prepares for the US withdrawal (not coming anytime soon).
July 20, 2009: As Nouri sits on those stacks and stacks of money, the people under the puppet suffer.
August 1, 2008: "Turning to Iraq where puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki sits on a ton of money and spends it when he feels like on what he wants."
We could go on and on and on and on (nod to Erykah Badu) because it's in snapshots in entries all over this site.  Poinr?  Today Aram Roston (The Nation) reports:
Last month, nearly eight years after Wolfowitz's flawed prediction, as tens of thousands of troops left Iraq, a House subcommittee stamped its approval on President Barack Obama's controversial request for $2 billion in 2011 to arm and train Iraq's military. It is unclear if the Senate will follow suit, but they have approved some funding. On top of the $2 billion, the proposed State Department budget allocates an additional $2.5 billion to step up its operations in Iraq.     
All that money is being sent to Iraq based on a simple presumption, that Iraq's government, run by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is bankrupt and running a massive deficit. The Iraqi government, a caretaker regime now, was created according to a constitution and timetable drawn up under US occupation and is now considered both fragile and corrupt.   
But now comes word from independent US government auditors that the presumption may be false: Iraq's government is not broke at all. Instead, Iraq's rulers have been sitting on a vast pile of cash while begging for billions of dollars from the United States and the international community. A draft report by the General Accountability Office has found that the Maliki government, in spite of proclamations of poverty, hasn't been spending what its budget allotted.
I'm not speaking of Aram Roston or The Nation here (nor am I slamming either), but people knew.  People always knew.  I'm not psychic. But apparently we're going to play it out like the GAO's report is a shocker?  Is that's how it's going to go down?  Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) notes the DoD's efforts to quibble and split hairs over the findings and she also points out:
Under the U.S. CERP program, U.S. field commanders were authorized to distribute funds for development and other projects they deemed important to the war effort. From fiscal years 2004 through Sept., 2009, the United States obligated more than $3.6 billion to the program. Iraq agreed to take over the program, changing its name to I-CERP, and distribute money through its own field commanders.       
"However, as of Sept. 1, 2009," the report said, U.S. Forces in Iraq "had obligated $229 million of the $270 million in funding provided by Iraq for I-CERP, and Iraq had not provided any additional resources to support the program.
Violence might not be so high if Iraqis had any of the basic services they have to repeatedly do without.  On this week's Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday night), Teymoor Nabili was joined by Faiza al-Araji (activist and writer), Patrick Clawson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy" and Tahseen al-Shaikhli (Baghdad Security Plan's civilian spokesperson). 
Teymoor Nabili: Tahseen al-Shaikhli, if I may start with you, we saw violence in Baghdad on Sunday with the involvement of US troops and it would seem to imply that the local security forces can't maintain order without US involvement.  Do you agree?
Tahseen al-Shaikhli: No, I'm not agreed with this for many reasons.  You know for us our forces are capable and able to handle the security here in Iraq, especially in Baghdad.
Teymoor Nabili: Well you say that, but so far -- You say that but what we have so far seen indicates that there is still a a tendancy -- and apparently an increasingly sophisticated one -- to attack very important areas of Baghdad and they're getting away with it.
Tahseen al-Shaikhli: Yeah, it happened.  It's not just in Baghdad. In many, many countries it happens like this. Today, there is a blast in Pakistan.  You know there is, many countries now there is encountering the same challenges we have here in Iraq. And we think our security forces now with the reliability to encounter the challenge that we believe in it.  Like, you know, until now the security forces succeeded to fail many attacks for al Qaeda and their alliances.
Teymoor Nabili: Alright. Well let's go to Faiza al-Araji in Amman.  Do you agree with that analysis? Baghdad is no more dangerous than a lot of cities around the world?
Faiza al-Araji:  Well first of all, I agree about the pulling out the [US] troops from Iraq. I'm not with the staying of the occupation forces in my homeland.  But in the same time, we have to talk about -- evaluation about how the security forces in Iraq and the army in Iraq, how are they functioning.  And to talk about facts on the ground. We will not talk about emotions.  Yes, we appreciate the hard work --
Teymoor Nabili: Well what are the facts on the ground as you see them?
Faiza al-Araji: Yeah, facts on the ground. If the Iraqi army and security, they have no right to have no air force cover, Iraqi air force cover. The Apache is used by American officers, it's not allowed for Iraqi to be the driver of the Apache. So can you control any fight on the ground without the air force? Please, I would like to hear.
Teymoor Nabili: That's important.
Faiza al-Araji: Yes, I would like to hear the answer.
Teymoor Nabili: Well come on to the exact nature of the relationship in a minute. But let me go to Patrick Clawson and ask you about the actual role here. Let's, for a start, dismiss this notion that perhaps combat operations are over.  That was really only for American consumption at the end of the day.  We know that those forces will engage when necessary.  The question is are they going to be engaging all the time because it does seem as if there is no let up in the violence in Baghdad and there is still a great gap in the security forces ability to cope with it.
Patrick Clawson: Well there is a lot of violence in Baghdad. There has been a dramatic letup from last year.  There's many fewer people who are dying in Baghdad --
Teymoor Nabili: Well let me stop you for a moment there, Patrick Clawson.  This is the line we always here from supporters of the American position. It's meaningless to say there's been a dramatic drop unless you say your time frame here.  The fact is, we're not comparing relative to last year or the year before, we're saying there's an unacceptable level of violence still in Baghdad and the security forces cannot deal with it.
Patrick Clawson: We measure progress. Progress is compared to the past. And we have to ask: Are we improving things?  The answer is: Yes. And as -- as Ms. Araji's pointed out, it is true that the Americans still provide the air cover but that has only been necessary in about every month or less often this year.
In the US, last night was the MTV VMAs (Video Music Awards).  Lady Gaga cleaned up but she also made news for her guests.  Kara Warner (MTV) quotes her explaining at the pre-show arrival, "I'm here for a very, very important cause tonight. These are all my friends and they are with, which is an organization that was founded in 1993 under the reaction to the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policies. Their stories are very inspiring and there's so much we can do right now."  Her friends were Maj Mike Almy, Staff Sgt David Hall, Katie Miller and Sgt 1st Class Stacy Vasquez -- three of whom were discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  Katie Miller resigned from West Post in protest of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Terri Schwartz (MTV) compiles a list of the top ten VMA moments from last night while ABC News makes it's question of the day whether or not Don't Ask, Don't Tell should be repealed and notes Maj Margaret Witt, discharged in 2007 under Don't Ask Don't Tell, has her case heard today in a civilian federal court.  James Dao (New York Times) explains Witt had served for 17 years when, in 2004, the estranged husband of Witt's romantic partner wrote a letter to the Air Force outing her which led to an investigation and then her discharge.  Last week, another court case was in the news.  Ian Thompson (ACLU Blog of Rights) wrote Friday evening:
On Thursday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that the discriminatory and counterproductive policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) violates the constitutional rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual servicemembers. In clear and striking language in the 86-page opinion, Judge Phillips stated that DADT has a "direct and deleterious effect" on the armed forces, and issued a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the policy (a step almost certain to be fought by the government).
Friday, Marcia wondered, "When's Congress going to act. When's Barack going to show leadership?"  And as Mike pointed out Thursday night, the US Justice Dept fought to keep Don't Ask, Don't Tell in that case, and "they were acting on behalf of Barack Obama." (The Log Cabin Republicans -- a GOP LGBT organization -- were the ones filing the case to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell.)  So where is the leadership, Barack?  And what we warned of here is coming true and the Democratic leadership in Congress knew it when we were talking about in the snapshot: Dems are likely to lose the votes needed to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.   Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in July that he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements.
Bradly has not spoken publicly.  Regardless of whether he is the leaker or not, the US military is going after him.  Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:

Sunday, Sept. 19, 11:30 a.m.   

Quantico, VA, Riverfront Park.     

We have again been granted a permit for a rally, to support Bradley Manning, at the Q-Town Riverfront (Municipal) Park, site of the successful rally on Aug. 8.  Please join us, to show support for Bradley!  Updates and carpool information will be available at the Sept. 16 fundraiser at the Stewart Mott House. 


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Iraq snapshot - September 14, 2010

The Common Ills

Tuesday, September 14, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, Nouri makes nods towards Syria, Sahwa remains under attack, national security state elements of the US government insist the US should go further in debt and allow Iraq to continue sitting on over $52 billion, and more.
Starting with the money, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) observes, "A U.S. government study released Monday found that Iraq has a budget surplus of $52.1 billion, with $11.8 billion that is readily available for spending on its security forces. The study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, comes as lawmakers prepare to debate a $2-billion funding request from the White House for the Iraqi security forces."  For perspective, the topic of military spending was addressed today on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR0 with Diane and her guests noting how the US debts are piliing up and cuts will be made to the US military in some form to cover the debts.  Diane's guests were Gordon Adams (American University), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Kori Schake (Hoover Institute). Only the right winger could acknowledge that US troop levels in Afghanistan will likely remain where they are now after 2011.  But all could agree that cuts are coming. For the US.  But apparently, to hear the national security types insist, the US should go further in debt so that Iraq doesn't have to spend its own billions on its own security.  Blogger Dan Froomkin (Huffington Post) takes up back to Iraq as he adds:
The report makes a direct link between U.S. government spending -- including $642 billion on U.S. military operations there and $24 billion for training and equipping the Iraqi security forces -- and Iraq's cumulative surplus of $52.1 billion through the end of 2009.   
For comparison purposes, Iraq's annual gross domestic product is $65.8 billion. Meanwhile, the U.S. national debt has soared from $6.4 trillion to $13.4 trillion since former president George W. Bush invaded Iraq and decided to borrow the money for wars and slash taxes.

Jason Ditz ( points out, "Absent from all of this is that the design for the US-armed Iraqi Army was developed under US occupation and with heavy US influence. Nowhere is it questioned whether Iraq needs the large air force the US envisions them having, which seems to be mostly an excuse to sell American planes that will sit on the ground and occasionally need to be repaired with US-sourced parts." The money has sat there. It wasn't used on potable water or any of the basic needs of the people. Nouri's always sat on the stockpiles.  The US Embassy in Iraq's Kenneth Fairfax (national security type posted to Vietnam until recently) insists that it's just not true.  Shashank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Fairfax wants Congress to give "$2 billion for training and equipping Iraqi military and police in the 2011 fiscal year" while the Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee Carl Levin thinks that's at least 1 billion dollars too many.
Violence continues in Iraq. 
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi Airways employee shot dead in Baghdad, one police officer wounded in Baghdad, an Iraqi army colonel's home shot up with bullets (no reports of anyone injured), 1 Ministry of Housing employee shot dead in Baghdad, 1 Sahwa commander shot dead in Babil (three of his bodyguards left injured), 1 man shot dead in Tikrit, and 2 people shot dead in Mosul. In addition, Reuters notes a Jurf al-Sakhar home invasion in which assailants hanged a woman, a Mosul attack in which 1 person was shot dead departing from a taxi and a Mosul shooting in which 1 person was shot dead while inside his car.  Alsumaria TV reports, " Gunmen opened fire on the car of Awakening forces Leader in Latifiya Abdul Rahman Mohammad, in Latifiya town, causing him wounds, a security source said."

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and 1 in Babil (the Babil corpse is a woman who was "mutilated").
As the violence continues, so does 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 six months and seven days with no government formed.

Today Alsumaria TV reports, "Member in State of Law Coalition Kamal Al Saedi said that the delegation visit to Syria does not aim at normalizing the relations between the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, but to normalize the relations between the two countries. Saedi said that the Premiership nominations are an internal Iraqi issue." Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters) adds that Nouri sent an aide to Syria to meet with the Syrian president today. And around Nouri and al Assad that the rumors fly with the biggest being that they are working out some agreement. Ma'ad Fayad and Sherezad Sheikhani (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) report an Iraiqiya source tells them there's been no change in Syria's opposition to Nouri and the source then states, "The Syrian leadership is free to take its political stands that serve the interests of its country and people. All changes are possible in politics though we regard such a change happening unlikely even if it came by Iranian mediations. We know the Syrian leadership's principled stand on Al-Iraqiya's right to form the government in accordance with the Iraqi constitution."  Gulf Times quotes Abdul Hamid al-Zuhairi stating, "We affirmed th depth of strategic ties between Syria and Baghdad. There have been (anti-Syrian) statements by Iraqi figures, but that's behind us now." Meanwhile Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) points out, "While it may have appeared that Syria was making advances to Al Maliki, in fact it was the exact opposite -- the Iraqi prime minister was cuddling up to the Syrians, in effect saying: 'I have mended fences with Damascus and will remain premier.' Syria, after all, can assist Al Maliki in ways that neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia could. It can mend his relationship with heavyweight Sunnis such as Tarek Al Hashemi and work on rebuilding trust between him and his former ally and now opponent, Moqtada Al Sadr. A multitude of players must sign off on any new Iraqi prime minister, and Al Sadr, who commands 40 seats in parliament, is top of the list. It is no secret that Al Sadr feels betrayed by Al Maliki, who failed during his years in power to protect the Sadrists from the US dragnet or to push for a timetable for withdrawal of US troops."  And Alsumaira TV notes that Iraqiya is stating it is willing to enter additional talks with the Iraqi National Alliance.
How did Nouri get picked the first time?  Oh, that's right, the US government shot down Iraq's first pick.  But how did Nouri end up the next choice?  "al-Maliki was chosen [prime minister] in a secret meeting of the Shia leadership, of all the Shia factions, that is Dawa, ISCI or SCIRI and the Sadrists and it was presided over by none other than General [Qassem] Suleimani, the head of the Quds Force, which deals with Iraq. He was the day-to-day officer in charge of Iraq policy for Iran. So he was snuck into the Green Zone without the knowledge of the United States by the Shia leadership and presided over a meeting which then, in April of 2006, chose al-Maliki to be the next prime minister of Iraq."  That's Gareth Porter speaking on Antiwar Radio yesterday to Scott Horton  about the myths of the surge (click here to read the text report Gareth wrote on this topic) and we'll note this from the broadcast on the second myth of the surge:
Gareth Porter: [. . .] what was really going on in 2006 was that the Sunnis were scared to death that they were going to be abandoned to the tender mercies of a Shia government and the Shia death squads because what was happening in that year, of course, was the Shia death squads were eliminating the Sunnis -- anybody who was suspected of being an activist either on the political or military side of the Sunnis was being ruthlessly eliminated by the Shia in Baghdad and they basically carried out ethnic cleansing of the capital, turning it from a mixed city -- Sunni - Shia mixed population -- into an overwhelmingly dominant Shia capital.
Scott Horton: In other words, the Sunni insurgency lost the civil war against the American and Iranian backed Supreme Islamic Council and the Dawa Party government that we were installing in Baghdad.  And they cried uncle.  They said we have too many enemies.  We're fighting al Qaeda, we're fighting, we're fighting the Badhr corps and we're fighting the Americans all at the same time.
Gareth Porter: That's actually correct although it was primarily -- in Baghdad, it was primarily the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr which was ruthlessly carrying out the elimiatnion of the Sunni activists.
Scott Horton: And point of information here, I'm sorry I have to interrupt you but I have to bring this up. I just read the [David] Finkel book, The Good Soldiers, here, I interviewed Josh Steiber who worked for [Lt Col Ralph] Kauzlarich in that story and they're basically driving around in their Humvees getting blown up in east Baghdad, a Sadrist part of Baghdad throughout 2007, and none of these characters in the entire book -- including the author -- have any idea who they're fighting for.  They're actually fighting -- they're in the middle of a civil war fighting on the side of Moqtada al-Sadr while they're fighting against him and patrolling east Baghdad, protecting east Baghdad from itself, from the terrible terrorists who are, of course, the Mahdi army guys that they're on the side of. And they're dying over here for a year --
Gareth Porter: This is the perfect illustration of the basic reality of the Iraq War which is the United States had no idea what it was really fighting for and was essentially continuing to carry out a war that made absolutely no sense whatsoever from any point of view -- either, you know,  in terms of trying to foster reconciliation, foster peace, stability or the  cold war against Iran. None of that was being accomplished.
[. . . ]
Scott Horton: And Petraeus never followed through with his deal with the Sunnis that 'Don't worry, I'm going to make sure that you're intergrated into the Iraqi army and into the government and etc.  He just left them high and dry and now they're all going back to suicide bombings.
Gareth Porter: Well of course Petraeus never had the power to make that stick.  He may have told them that we're going to integrate you into the Iraq army but it was really always going to be up to the al-Maliki regime to carry out such a policy and al-Maliki made it clear from the beginning -- and this is very well documented.  He was very aware of this policy and was making no promises beyond very minimal integration of the Sons Of Iraq into the security structure of Iraq. So Petraeus had no ability to promise that sort of integration to the Sunnis.
As noted, 2 Sahwa were reported dead in today's news cycle.  Today on NPR's Morning Edition, Kelly McEvers reports the latest on the Sahwa ("Awakenings" and Sons Of Iraq are two other names for the largely Sunni group) which includes the constant threats they receive. Sahwa Abu Hussein explains the letter he received this month: "You, those who have sold yourselves and honor to the occupier, our swords will be very sharp and we will kill you and your house will be stormed and will be burned to the ground." And those lucky enough to find jobs (security forces or civilian government jobs being one group, Sahwa still waiting being the other) have the same problem they've had since Nouri took 'responsibility' for payment, McEvers explains, "members in both groups rarely get paid on time -- if they get paid at all." Excerpt:
MCEVERS: Ali Abu Jihan used to fight against al-Qaida. He says two months ago a homemade bomb planted outside his parents' house killed his 21-year-old son.   
Ms. SHAIMA SAADI: (Foreign language spoken)   
MCEVERS: Walking toward the courtyard of his two-bedroom house, Abu Jihan says he worries so much about security that he's taught his own wife how to use an AK-47. 
She grabs the magazine off the couch.     
(Soundbite of clicking)   
Ms. SAADI: (Foreign language spoken)   
MCEVERS: Holding her pudgy, wide-eyed eight-month-old in one arm and the loaded gun in the other, Shaima Saadi says she has no choice but to defend herself.   
Yes, the Iraq War continues though many seem unaware of that. Heather Wright (Pacer Times) lays the blame for that at the media's door, "The true culprits are the media. The headlines and leads placed in publications report things such as: 'End of United States combat in Iraq' and 'End of Operation Iraqi Freedom.' These items lead some people to believe that the troops are no longer in danger, which is far from the truth." Matthew Peterson (Vanguard) agrees:
It's a public relations move, and the U.S. media fell for it.     
TV crews and reporters were there to watch the 42 Stryker Brigade leave Iraq on the 19th, and they enthusiastically toed the line in saying this was the end of combat operations in Iraq. We all love a heart-rending story, but we also deserve the truth.   
Not only are 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq, but other soldiers are coming in to replace those who left.                       
Further, 3,500 mercenaries are scheduled to be deployed to Iraq to replace those regular troops that just left.                             
Moreover, regular U.S. troops are still being sent to Iraq, like the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, which was deployed a week after the supposed end of combat operations.           
Last week,'s Jeremy Sapienza was one of the guests on Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio and they addressed the lie of 'war is over.'  Excerpt:
Scott Horton: So let's talk about Iraq, man. Obviously, I walk around with a chip on my shoulder all day and all night over this but just this week it's driven me to the edge of sanity. After all of this, the American people have deemed the Iraq War a success and they're proud of themselves for mongering it and it's great. Well tell us about the American involvement in this because it's very interesting to me in its own silly little small or -- context that they really seem to have said, across the propaganda, it was honest at the same time it was lying, all week, last week: We're leaving 50,000 troops, war's over. They didn't lie about the 50,000 troops at all.
Jeremy Sapienza: No.
Scott Horton: Even on TV, they're like, 'Yeah, 50,000 troops, but the war's over.'
Jeremy Sapienza: Well, yeah, you just call them 'advise-and-assist' and not 'combat troops.' The same troops are holding guns. They're still walking around, they're still -- As I recently said in a piece I wrote because Wikipedia declared the war over, that just because they're redefined doesn't mean that they're not -- They may nominally being backing up Iraqi troops but, come on, who are we kidding? Iraqi troops are going to take the lead in anything?

Scott Horton: Didn't American soldiers die in a combat mission yesterday [interview was recorded Wednesday]?

Jeremy Sapienza: No, not a combat mission. An Iraqi soldier shot them dead on base.

Scott Horton: Oh!
Jeremy Sapienza: Yes.
Scott Horton: War's over! It's all good. Yeah, it's amazing, the ability to do the double think. I mean, there was a point, wasn't there, when the Democrats took both houses of Congress by more than a dozen seats in the House or something back in 2006 because why? Because the American people hated the Iraq War and they wanted something done about it. Now --

Jeremy Sapienza: They did do something, they declared it "over."
Scott Horton: Yeah, so well, let's talk about this Wikipedia thing because you got a piece published in the newspaper about the fight that went on at Wikipedia over whether the war was over or not and really how the technology, the platform of Wikipedia made for an entirely different set of circumstances then the kind of thing that we were reading in the newspaper last week.

Jeremy Sapienza: The way Wikipedia works is that there are dominant editors so you can -- anybody can go in and edit something, but if it's being watched closely enough, a dominant editor will go in and change it back immediately. So if you vandalize something and it's a prominent article like Iraq War, say, then the editors can change it right back. So the dominant editors allowed somebody to declare that, per Obama, the war was over and it had the end date as August 19, 2010. So immediately, this is what's great about Wikipedia, is that there's a discussion area and people immediately started taking them to task for that saying the war isn't over and even [Gen David] Petraeus and various other generals -- One of them literally said, I even have a quote right here, "I don't think anybody has declared the end of the war as far as I know" -- Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell. So people were in the discussion area talking about this and haranguing the editors until finally they changed it and they said that August 19th was the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Scott Horton: Right, now it's Operation New Dawn.
And also addressing the issue was Al Jazeera correspondent Rawya Rageh speaking to Teymoor Nabili at the start of last week's Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday night).
Teymoor Nabili: And of course on that Sunday attack we saw the involvement of US troops which obviously immediately raises this whole idea that the [US] troops are not going to engage in combat any longer. So how does Washington explain the whole hype behind the 'no more combat' and what exactly is the role of these troops now?
Rawya Rageh: It is important to point out, Teymoor, that the involvement of US soliders in that attack on Sunday, they were actually drawn into fighting, they were not involved in direct combat that they had initiated. Now that being said, all along, US military generals on the ground have maintained that the rules of engagement of US soldiers here do not change despite this gradual drawdown and the announcement of an end to combat operations. US forces here still maintain the right to open fire under the onus of force protection. In fact, they actually still have the right to go out of their bases to carry out pre-emptive strikes against areas where they believe attacks against them are eminating from. So no change in the rules of engagement as far as that's concerned. In that particular attack on Sunday, Teymoor, there were at least 100 US soldiers based at that Iraqi army base to carry out their new stated role which is to 'advise-train-and-assist' the Iraqi security forces. Now they too came under attack so they had to open fire under defensive measures and it's also important that both -- to point out, that both US military and Iraqi military generals are pointing out that their involvement, the US soldiers' involvement, was in suppressive fire. In other words, they were not opening fire to directly kill those targets or those assailants but actually to force the assailants to duck while another force steps in to contain the situation -- that force being the Iraqi force on the ground during the attack, Teymoor.
Part of the media spin is lying -- as Barack did in his August 31st speech -- that the US made things better for Iraq. Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) reports on a just released Harris Poll which finds 57% of respondents bought into the spin (repeatedly endlessly by the media) that the US had made Iraq 'better.'  That ignores the lack of potable water.  The annual cholera outbreaks that come about post-invasion.  The electricity shortage is ignored, the Iraqi refugee crisis is ignored, the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community is ignored, the trashing of women's rights is ignored, the destruction of Iraq's already fragile medical system is ignored, the brain drain is ignored, the never-ending violence is ignored and the effects of that violence is ignored.  Azzaman's editorial board notes the demographic change in Iraq as a result of the war, "One in every six Iraqis is an orphan. That is the toll Iraqi children are paying in a country which is supposedly under the occupation and protection of the world's only superpower. Not all the orphans are the result of the violence that swept the country in the aftermath of the 2003-U.S. invasion. But the invasion has caused untold miseries for Iraqis, surpassing those inflicted on them by their former tormentors, the clique that ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein. There were unconfirmed reports that Iraq has turned into a country of orphans. But the exact figure only became a reality recently, when the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs made public its own statistics."
Mohammad Akeft Jamal (Gulf News) observes:
The US troop drawdown may assuage the concerns harboured by a number of Middle East countries since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but there is no guarantee that the remaining troops will leave as stipulated by the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) signed between the two countries in 2008.                       
Reading between the lines brings one to different conclusions. On the ground, there are those who are sceptical about the US' true intentions.             
The reasons for the scepticism are varied. For one thing, the only countries the US has fully withdrawn from after invading are North Korea and Vietnam. In both instances, the US went through a difficult war and was then forced to withdraw during the prevailing Cold War circumstances because both countries were geographically adjacent to an Eastern bloc country.                 
There is no reason to think that Iraq will be another exception, especially since the US presence in the country has not been resisted to the point of expulsion as it was in North Korea and Vietnam.
Finally, David Swanson (War Is A Crime) notes that, unlike in England and Ireland, War Hawk Tony Blair is free to scurry and mince around the US with little objection:
On August 31st, President Obama spoke from the Oval Office, assuring us that the War on Iraq had been launched to disarm a nation.  Disarming a nation is a criminal basis for a war, a fact that I wish would quit getting lost in the madness of what we actually debate in this country.  But Obama's claim to have opposed this war that he funded as a senator and continued as a president rests on the idea, not just that he was lucky enough not to yet be in the Senate when it started, but that he didn't at that time yet pretend to believe the lies.  Now he finds it important to put up that pretense when nobody else believes it anymore, in order to urge us to "turn the page" on the crime of the century.       


Obama's embrace of the Iraq war lies, which included the "surge" lies so valuable now in Afghanistan, coincided with Tony Blair's book tour.  When Blair was performing his poodle tricks in 2002 and 2003 he was questioned and mocked at home and in Parliament, but given endless standing ovations in Congress.  Nothing has changed.  In Ireland on his book tour -- the current equivalent of a triumphal march after a return from foreign slaughter -- Blair faced protests and an attempted citizen's arrest.  In London the planned protests were so large that Blair canceled his event, stuck his tail between his legs, and whimpered away.  In Philadelphia, on the other hand, Blair has just been presented with a Liberty Medal at the Constitution Center by none other than Bill Clinton, as reward for Blair's . . . wait for it . . . "steadfast commitment to conflict resolution."  Only in America.   


I haven't read Bliar's book (Bliar is the proper spelling) and I don't think I could be paid enough to do so.  But I want to recommend a different book instead.  Someone else who was part of the British government during the lead up to the War on Iraq has also just published a book.  It doesn't have any cute stories in it about sitting in the wrong chair in the Queen's palace, but it does tell the truth about Blair's deadly lies, for which he should have been -- and nearly was -- impeached, and for which he should be prosecuted. 

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« Reply #107 on: September 16, 2010, 06:00:19 am »


September 15, 2010


I've cried for you beloved,
just as you've cried for me,
we've been in each other's lap
for an eternity
ever since you and I remember
our memory is one.
You are part of me
and I part of you

I carry you everywhere I go
in my handbag
in my suitcase
wherever I rest my head
on every pillow,
every sheet of paper
just like you've carried me
along with you,
in your streets, alleys and gardens
in your ruins
and the circuits of your wounds...

We are indivisible
the gods are jealous,
protect us from the jealousy of the gods
you who needs protection

I am a greedy lover
a beggar of hope
I take your crumbs and ask for more
you who have nothing more.

Layla Anwar. 14th September 2010.

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« Reply #108 on: September 17, 2010, 06:30:36 am »

Iraq snapshot - September 15, 2010

The Common Ills

Wednesday, September 15, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, US combat operations continue, the political stalemate continues, US House Rep Steve Buyer storms out of a Congressional hearing after exploding at witnesses, and more.
The US House Veterans Affairs Committee held two hearings this morning, one -- more or less -- after the other (there was approximately a 12 minute break between the two) and they couldn't have been more different.  In the first one, Ranking Member Steve Buyer was (for the most part) beaming and playful, offering statements such as, to Chair Bob Filner, "You pass aquistion form and I will hug you.  I will hug you!"  In the second hearing, Buyer stormed out asking that Dr. Roe take his place, saying his integrity would be compromised if he stayed and "I'm not going to do it!"
Keep in mind that I am a Democrat and Buyer is a Republican, I've never seen anything like that. And that was only the culmination of Buyer's behavior in the second panel.
My impression, Buyer was not grandstanding, he was genuinely outraged (whether it was by the hearing or something outside of Congress, I have no idea).  But he can't back that outrage up.  He basically accused a witness of lying -- while dismissing the other on the first panel as useless -- and waived around a file of medical records implying that those documents proved the witness was lying, he lectured the witness and would repeatedly say he wasn't going to say more because he had too much integrity but then he would come back to the same issue.  Repeatedly.  His storming out had an immediate effect in that he insisted US House Rep David Roe sit in for him, which Roe did, however, Roe was not prepared -- as he more or less admitted.  In the room, people seemed on edge as a result of Buyer's outburst.  Again, it seemed genuine on Buyer's part.  Again, it was harmful to himself.  If he does have something -- if -- he can't reveal it so he is left looking like a hothead who lost it in a hearing and then stormed out.
Who was testifying?  Iraq War veteran Sgt Chuck Luther and journalist Joshua Kors.  Chuck Luther testified about the war and seeing friends he served with wounded and dead and came back to the US on leave where he had trouble coping and was glad to return to Iraq; however, nose bleeds, chest pain and other problems developed in Iraq.  He sought counseling from a chaplain to deal with stress.  A mortar attack by the tower he was guarding "threw me down and I hit my right shoulder and head. I had severe ringing in my right ear with clear fluid coming from it and had problems seeing out of my right eye."  The pain continued and worsened:
After several days on suicide watch for making the comment that "if I had to live like this I would rather be dead," I asked to be sent somewhere where I could get help and to be able to understand what was wrong with me. I was told I could not go and I then demanded that I be taken to the Inspector General of the FOB.  I was told by CPT Dewees that I was not going anywhere and he called for all the medics, roughtly 6 to 10. I was assaulted, held down and had my pants ripped off my left thigh and given an injection of something that put me to sleep. When I awoke, I was strapped down to a combta litter and had a black eye and cuts on my wrists from the zip ties. I eventually was untied and from that point forward for 5 weeks I was held in a room that was 6 feet by 8 feet that had bed pans, old blankets and other old supplies. I had to sleep on a combat litter and had a wool blanket. I was under guard 24/7 and on several occassions was told I was not allowed to use the phone or internet and, when I would take my meds and fall asleep, I was not awakened to get food. On one occasion, I had slept through chow and asked to be taken to the chow hall or PX to get some food. I was told no and given a fuel soaked MRE to eat. I was constantly called a piece of crap, a faker and other derogatory things. They kept the lights on and played all sorts of music from rap to heavy metal very loud all night -- the medics worked in shifts, therefore, they didn't sleep, they rotated.  These are some of the same tactics that we would use on insurgents that we captured to break them to get information or confessions.  I went through this for four weeks and the HHC Commander Cpt Wehri told me to sign this discharge and, that if I didn't, that they would keep me there for 6 more months and then kick me out when we got back to Fort Hood anyway.  I said I didn't have a personality disorder and he told me that if I signed the paperwork that I would get back home and get help and I would have all my benefits. After the endless nights of sleep deprivation, harassment and abuse, I finally signed just to get out of there. I was broken.
Joshua Kors (The Nation) explained last April:
For three years The Nation has been reporting on military doctors' fraudulent use of personality disorder to discharge wounded soldiers [see Kors, "How Specialist Town Lost His Benefits," April 9, 2007]. PD is a severe mental illness that emerges during childhood and is listed in military regulations as a pre-existing condition, not a result of combat. Thus those who are discharged with PD are denied a lifetime of disability benefits, which the military is required to provide to soldiers wounded during service. Soldiers discharged with PD are also denied long-term medical care. And they have to give back a slice of their re-enlistment bonus. That amount is often larger than the soldier's final paycheck. As a result, on the day of their discharge, many injured vets learn that they owe the Army several thousand dollars.   
According to figures from the Pentagon and a Harvard University study, the military is saving billions by discharging soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan with personality disorder.
Chuck Luther told his story as he's told it publicly many times before.  But for US House Rep Steve Buyer it was all new and shocking.  Again, he claimed -- repeatedly -- to have documents detailing what really happened. He also savaged journalism, journalists and Josh Kors specifically. Although he referred to Kors repeatedly as "Reporter" and never by his name.  After thanking Chuck Luther for being in the military, Buyer began referencing his documents.
Ranking Member Steve Buyer: I also have a lot of documents here that are about you that are non-disclosable. I'm not going to discuss them in public.  So when you make statements, now you've made public statements, and I am not going to go into your personal life. I'm not going to discuss your military conditions. You've made certain statements and sitting to your left is a reporter that makes some very exaggerated statements.  You've disadvantaged DoD.  And guess what, they're going to come up here and they can't talk about your case, they can't come in here and talk about some of the things you have said.  You've made some pretty strong statements that are not supported by what I have. And I'm disadvantaged also because, number one, I'm disadvantaged out of respect.  I respect you, I respect your privacy.  I also will say this.  I would never -- when I was chairman of a subcommittee or full committee, put a reporter on a panel to testify.  I would never do that. Why? Because your testimony is hearsay. It's hearsay.  Everything you say, it's hearsay. What we're supposed to do is get to the bottom of things so we can understand them.  You can make whatever allegations you want, you can lead us to our professional staff and then we can find that person so that the testimony is in first person. So I'd say to the gentleman, I'd say you can say whatever say and basically you have and you've surmised your opinion based on what you've seen and heard. But I think it's pretty shocking that you would even come here and provide testimony with regards to someone's medical condition. You're not a doctor.  If you were a doctor, they'd knock you right upside your head for that. I'd be pretty upset if you went and testified about my medical condition in a public place. Let alone, where are your sensitivities to talk about a woman and her health.  Wow. I-I'm pretty shocked that you would -- you would do that.  So I'm going to yield back my time, Mr. Chairman. I-I-I just want you to know, sir [Chuck Luther], I respect you and I could do more than -- Gosh, I could go into this. But sir, uh, uhm, follow -- My advice to you is follow the counsel of some individuals that really have your interests at heart. And those doctors have your interests at heart.  You're upset with regard to a diagnosis on your personality disorder. The PTSD, in fact, has been recognized. I have the records with regards to the findings from when you attempted to correct the military records and so I have seen everything they've said and I've seen the documents with regard to that process.  I think what we want, we want you to get better. We want you to get better with regard to the PTSD. And-and please, uh, follow the counsel of your doctors and mental health professionals that take you, your interests best at heart.  Not somebody else that may want to use you or use your case to write stories or do other things.  If they truly had your interest at heart, they wouldn't take your case and what I know about you and put it on public display. That's Steve Buyer's opinion.  I would never do that to a fellow soldier. With that I yield back.
Joshua Kors noted he had been investigating and researching this story for years and was offering a summarizing of the research he'd done, that he also had Chuck Luther's medical records, had spoken to people who observed Chuck Luther in confinement, spoken to his doctor, seen pictures, checked every aspect of the story out repeatedly, etc.  "Nobody in this story," Kors explained, disputes what happened. The only question is what to do about it."
At which point Buyer went from lecturing to exploding about what can be said.
Ranking Member Steve Buyer:  I have records in front of me!
Joshua Kors: All said what?
Ranking Member Steve Buyer: I'm not going to do this!  I can't -- My integrity as a gentleman will not allow me to do this.  Dr. Roe! Will you take this seat?  I will not participate in this! I'm not going to do it! It's wrong!
A confused Rep Roe stands and moved towards the front while Buyer storms out.  Kors explained that the soldiers speaking to him on the record wanted their stories told and that, of course, he wasn't divulging confidential information that no one wanted revealed.
Chuck Luther: Just what I'd like to say is this.  I'm not here just about Chuck Luther. This is larger than I.  I haven't made any statements that were inflamatory or lies.  I wish I didn't have this story to tell but what I will tell you is that in the three years that I've been treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the medications I've been given and several of my doctors have all said to me at different intervals to make sure I continue to fight to have my discharge changed because it doesn't reflect what my injury is. I saw a licensed clinical social worker and a pediatrician in a combat theater for less than two hours of face time and was given the diagnosis of personality disorder. In doing studying over three years, that is impossible to diagnose at that interval.  In fact, in the last three years, I've been treated -- prognosed and diagnosed for my PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, my cognitive function disability.  And if it were a case of a personality disorder, I think that those licensed psychologists and psychiatrists would have in fact have found a personality disorder and seeing that I've never in my life had any issues prior to being blown up in Iraq. 
Chair Bob Filner had little patience for the government witnesses from DoD and Veterans Affairs on the fourth panel as they attempted to repeatedly dance around the questions.  Even something as basic as how many people had been discharged with personality disorders was a figure they didn't know.  He noted, "You're playing with words."  After stating they had no numbers, they repeatedly refenced them and Chair Filner observed, "So how can you even tell me that -- I ask you guys for figures and you don't have them.  You're making judgments based on your sense of figures." He noted the topic of the hearing was known and they were brought before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to testify on this subject; however, they were completely unprepared.
Things did not get better when Filner pursued an avenue he'd tackled on the other panels: Whether or not Chuck Luther was tortured?  He directed the question on the fourth panel to DoD's General Gina Farrisee. Was it ever investigated?
Gen Gina Farrisee: Mr. Chairman, to my knowledge it was not.  It first came out in the media it was referred to Fort Hood and I will have to follow up with them to see if   
Chair Bob Filner: Man, if I were jyou, I would've jumped on it.  We can't let something like that happen in the army.  And if it's true, somebody's got to be punished and, if it's not true, that's got to be known too. People are making these public charges here where they're sworn to tell the truth, they've been in the newspaper and surely you'd be concerned if the army was accused of torturing its own soldiers, wouldn't you?
Gen Gina Farrisee: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Chair Bob Filner: Would you find out if there was any investigation?
Gen Gina Farrisee: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'll take that question for the record.
Speaking to the fourth panel at one point, Bob Filner pointed out that clearly there must be a problem or a perceived one with the original assessments if the military is claiming to have so many soldiers requiring personality disorders.  (I just said "soldiers."  Joshua Kors pointed out that the personality disorder discharge was not just happening in the army, it was happening in all four branches of the military.)  If they believe the soldiers are being correctly discharged, then the military, Filner pointed out, should be working on fixing the initial assessment interview because clearly there would be a problem.  In addition, Chair Filner noted he sounded frustrated because he was frustrated.  He dismissed panel four and called Joshua Kors back from the first panel. Chair Filner: "I see you not as a person of hearsay but as someone who really understands this issue and is trying to do the best for our soldiers.  What questions would you -- Or do you have any responses to some of the testimony you've heard since you testified this morning? Or what questions we should ask these panels?"
As to how many are being discharged for personality disorder, Kors maintained that soldiers taking their discharge papers to their initial VA screenings and the VA would be able to record that and keep an accurate number. He noted that Chuck Luther's VA doctors saw PTSD and not a personality disorder but DoD sent a letter to Luther stating that they are sticking with personality disorder. 
Joshua Kors: So many soldiers come to me and say this discharge is like a scarlet letter they just can't wash off. In today's job economy, can you imagine going into a potential employer and handing them a paper saying you're mentally ill? You're just not going to get that job. And so that's how you end up with so many of these soldiers not just without benefits but also then broke and then homeless.
Kors also noted that service members discharged that way are also frequently asked to return signing bonuses and they've just lost their job via the discharge and now they've got to pay back money and this is how some service members end up homeless as well.
Meanwhile, despite Barack's claims otherwise, combat operations continue in Iraq. Janine Zacharia and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report US and Iraqi troops staged a raid outside Falluja today in what became "the deadliest incident involving U.S. troops in Iraq since President Obama formally announced the end of combat operations August 31." The raid resulted in at least 8 Iraqi deaths. The reporters note that US forces were both on the ground and in the air (via US helicopters). Azhar Shalal (AFP) adds the dead are "seven civilians and two Iraqi soldiers" -- "including two women and two children" according to the Chief of Falluja police Faisal al Essawi who states the US and Iraqi forces conducted raids on five homes. Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) notes that the combat operation took pace "at about 2:00 a.m. local time".  Timothy Williams and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) inform, "Qasim Mohammed Abed, the governor of Anbar Province, said he had been angered by how the raid was conducted and blamed both the American and Iraqi militaries for the deaths." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds:
Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a member of Fallujah City Council, told reporters that the council had announced a three-day mourning as of Wednesday in the city in protest of the "massacre perpetrated by special joint U.S.-Iraqi force."                 
Mohammed Fathi, a member of Anbar's Provincial Council, said the council had held an emergency meeting and called on the outgoing government in Baghdad "to launch a probe into the raid and to apologize to the families of the victims."     
Later in the day, Fathi said that after a phone call between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Qassim al-Fahdawi, governor of Anbar, Maliki positively responded to the call of the provincial council and promised to launch an investigation into the incident.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports at least one woman was also injured the raids and that the US military has confirmed the raids. In addition, the Telegraph of London reports 9 Iraqi soldiers have died in a roadside bombing just outside Mosul. Reuters notes five Iraqi soldiers were also injured and at least one civilian.  Reuters also notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people, another one which injured two police officers and two by-standers, 2 more Baghdad roadside bombings which injured six people, a suspected Talafar suicide bomber who was shot dead by police and 1 corpse discovered in Mosul
The violence continues and so does 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 six months and eight days with no government formed.
 Miliary Families Speak Out notes:

As you may know, there has been a call for a One Nation Working Together, a major demonstration in Washington, DC on Saturday October 2nd, calling for Jobs, Justice, and Peace.   
One Nation Working Together is pulling together hundreds of national and local organizations, some uniting for the first time. Hundreds of buses are being reserved and filled from all over the country. MFSO has just endorsed the One Nation Peace Table, calling for the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the recognition of the exorbitant costs of these wars to our country.
As military families, our voice is critical in this rally!     
It is our voice of conscience that will strike a chord among this gathering - that while we can all focus on the financial cost of war, we must not neglect the human costs to our troops, our families, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan.         
With the other organizations participating in the Peace Table, we will create a resounding message that we cannot talk about the economy without talking about the 1 billion being spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   
Depending on how many members are interested in participating, we may be able to have a member gathering or lobby day on Friday.         
Here's what you can do:                       
1) Let National Organizer Nikki Morse know if you are interested in participating. She can be reached at or 347-703-0570.         
2) Find out if there's an organized coalition in your area that is planning buses. Click here to see a list of what's already in place. (If you have trouble viewing it, please let us know and we can send it to you as an attachment.) Join their conversations to ensure that the message of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is at the forefront.                       
3) Encourage other military families to attend. Volunteer to make phone calls to others in your area to answer any questions they may have and encourage them to go.             
4) Help shape the message. We will be pulling together a small team to craft signs, press releases, and other messages.                       
To participate, contact Nikki at and let her know how you would like to be involved.                   
Justin Raimondo ( takes on the Barack apologists who justify everything that goes wrong and claim it's never Barack's fault (see Elaine's "Shame on Danny Schechter and his sexism" and Trina's "Danny Schechter kisses the fists that strike him" for more on the Cult of St. Barack):

Yet the President is very much a liberal interventionist, as his policies over these many months has made all too clear. He is also very much a creature of Washington, where the bipartisan consensus Walt decries is made and enforced. He's a kinder, gentler neocon, who is widening the "war on terrorism" even as his administration renames it -- and never was anything else. Surely his continuation of the Afghan occupation and the extension of the war into Pakistan should come as no surprise: he said he'd do as much during the election campaign and he meant it.     
I talk about the "Obama cult" because it is indeed a cult in the classic sense, i.e. a group of fervent believers who project their own image of the Leader onto what is, after all, a pretty ordinary kind of guy -- in this case, a pretty ordinary variety of semi-hawkish liberal interventionist. Whenever the Leader does something inconsistent with their idealization, they say "Oh, he doesn't really mean it," or "He doesn't really believe that." In advanced cases of cult-induced blindness, one constructs a more complex apologia, i.e. positing"structural" obstacles to the implementation of the Leader's will. Obama is Gulliver tied down by the Lilliputians within his own party and administration.
I don't buy it. One consequence of the triumph of interventionism over the traditional foreign policy of the Founders has been the bloating of presidential power until Americans have come to talk about "the imperial presidency" as if it were no big deal. Well, then, what's to stop the occupant of the White House from using that imperial power to start downsizing the imperium? The present occupant clearly has no intention of doing so, but there's nothing to prevent a future President from pursuing that goal.
There's much to highlight there and we may note it again in another snapshot this week but we'll close with this announcement by Justin Raimondo that he's doing a campus speaking tour:
I'm taking my show on the road this autumn, to campuses around the country, talking about some of the ideas expressed in last Wednesday's column on "Anti-Interventionism: The Left-wing Tradition." My talk is entitled "Why Has the Left Sold Out the Antiwar Movement?" -- which is sure to provoke a controversy, or at least that's the hope.
If you're interested in booking me at your campus, write, or call the office, at: 510-217-8665.   

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« Reply #109 on: September 17, 2010, 06:37:03 am »

Three day of mourning declared in Fallujah

By Omar al-Mansouri

Azzaman, September 16, 2010

The Iraqi city of Fallujah has declared three-day long mourning after a joint U.S.-Iraqi attack on the city killed at least 10 civilians and injured many others.

The raid on Wednesday has raised tensions and angered the city’s inhabitants as well as the nearly two million Muslim Sunnis who live in the Province of Anbar, west of Baghdad.

The Muslim Scholars Association, a group of powerful Muslim Sunni clerics in Iraq, described the raid as "a massacre in which two children were killed."

U.S. and Iraqi officials claim that the raid killed a former Iraqi officer linked to al-Qaeda group in the country.

But the claim could not be substantiated and eyewitnesses and officials in the city said all the dead and injured were civilians.

Schools, offices and shops were closed in Fallujah on Thursday in protest against the attack was also strongly condemned by provincial officials of Anbar of which the city of Ramadi is the capital.

The Province of Anbar was the major stronghold of resistance and defied repeated U.S. onslaughts to bring it under control. U.S. troops only managed to establish relative quiet following the recruitment of Sunni tribesmen in their fight against al-Qaeda.

The officials in Anbar have asked Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for an independent investigation of the raid, according to Mohammed Fathi, the governor’s advisor.

"The Governor Qassem al-Fahdawi has been in touch with Maliki who has agreed to set a commission to investigate the incident" Fathi said.

"All the casualties were civilians including the owner of the house the troops targeted," Fathi said.

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« Reply #110 on: September 17, 2010, 06:41:16 am »

Sheikh Harith al Dhari sees revolution ahead

by Phil Sands

Iraq insurgency leader sees revolution ahead

September 16, 2010

DAMASCUS // Increasing public disillusionment and fury over the stalled political process in Iraq is strengthening anti-government militants, according to Harith al Dhari, the hard-line tribal chief considered a spiritual leader of the insurgency.

In an interview in Damascus, the Sunni sheikh, a wanted man in Baghdad, admitted that insurgents had been weakened in recent years but said they were now rejuvenating, fuelled by increased popular outrage against parties across the political spectrum.

"The resistance isn’t defeated, it is still present and active, it still inflicts casualties on the forces of occupation," he said. "We have to admit that the resistance has become reduced in its impact and influence compared to 2004, 2005 and 2006, but it is rebuilding today.

"The Iraqi people are very angry and there will be renewed resistance and we may finally see a revolution against the occupation and this government that has spread so much suffering."

Since the March 7 elections, Iraq’s political parties have failed to form a new administration, unable to agree on the fundamental matter of which group gets to choose the prime minister. Divisions between the various blocs seem intractable, with no sign that a resolution is on the horizon.

This impasse has added to a deep frustration with Iraq’s political classes among ordinary people, many of whom already saw the parties as corrupt and self-serving, rather than working collectively to reconstruct a war-shattered country.

As the stalemate continues, millions of Iraqis struggle with poverty, unemployment and the political violence that remains rife. About 200 to 300 people are killed each month, a significant number of them civilians.

Circumstances are "dire and worsening by the day", Mr al Dhari, said, describing Iraq as a battlefield between "militias, foreign intelligence agencies, occupation troops, the resistance and sectarian politicians".

As chairman of the fundamentalist Association of Muslim Scholars, Mr al Dhari, 59, has been an ardent opponent to the post-2003 invasion political process. Together with his rejectionist followers he has refused all involvement in Iraqi politics until US forces leave the country, insisting that in the meantime it is a national duty to resist foreign occupation.

Under an agreement with the Iraqi government, Washington is supposed to pull out its troops by the end of next year, a timetable Mr al Dhari dismissed as a fiction. "Don’t trust the Americans in their promise to leave. I don’t expect them to go."

Mr al Dhari predicted that, if conditions in Iraq continue as they are, al Qa’eda and Iraqi nationalist insurgents could join forces. The two sets of militants are opposed to one another, he said, the former involved in murdering innocent Iraqis while the latter provide a legitimate resistance.

"The relationship between the Iraqi national resistance and al Qa’eda is bad but maybe, if the suffering continues as it is, the entire rejectionist movement in Iraq will unify its efforts and a united force will be established, to face the dictatorship of the sectarian political parties."

At the height of Iraq’s bloodletting between 2005 and 2007 – when the insurgency was at its strongest – many Iraqi tribes supported the insurgency and allied with al Qa’eda in opposition to the government.

They then switched sides as part of the so-called tribal awakening, forming Sahwa Councils, joining with US and Iraqi government troops and turning their weapons on their former allies. This awakening movement is credited as a key element in stabilising Iraq and cutting back spiralling violence.

In recent months, however, it is these same Sahwa forces, now being phased out by Baghdad, that have borne the brunt of many al Qa’eda attacks, with scores of tribal fighters killed and injured. Reports are beginning to circulate of disgruntled Sahwa members returning, once more, to the al Qa’eda fold.

"The Sahwa are finished and we see the truth that the stability they supposedly brought was an illusion, it was never really there," Mr al Dhari said. He insisted tribal leaders in the Sahwa Councils now viewed their decisions to join with the government and US as a mistake. "They are like loyal slaves who get killed for that loyalty," he said.

Since 2006, when the Iraqi interior ministry issued a warrant for his arrest for his support of militants, Mr al Dhari has lived in exile, splitting his time primarily between Jordan and Syria. He was born in Anbar province in 1951, and his family has a reputation of fighting against foreign interference in Iraq. It was his grandfather who shot and killed Col Gerard Leachman, the British army officer in charge of suppressing the Arab revolt in 1920.

That is a piece of history of which Mr al Dhari is proud: "My grandfather fought British imperialism with a rifle, so did my father with the rifle and the sword."


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« Reply #111 on: September 17, 2010, 11:51:04 am »

Iraq snapshot - September 16, 2010

The Common Ills

Thursday, September 16, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, another US service member dies in Iraq, violence continues, the political stalemate continues and the VA does the same song and dance before Congress as usual. 
Today the House Veterans Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity receive an update on the Post-9/11 GI Bill.  The following exchange probably best captures the hearing between Subcommittee Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and the VA's Mark Krause probably best captures the hearing..
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: So do you have any estimates of how many of those 150,801 [veterans] might have received overpayment?
Mark Krause: I don't have that information available but I would be happy to look at it for the record --
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Or at least look at the trend of  when we started this because, as we have discussed, this is a significant problem and we'd like to see an improvement as it relates to dealing with that problem. And that leads me to the question that came up from Ms. [Rosa] DeLauro and that is the issue of veterans who participated in a 35, an emergency payment last November.  And then they entered a repayment plan and were automatically sent to debt management [. . .] and why is this happening and how are we going to fix this problem and when will these veterans accounts be cleared from the debt management center?
Mark Krause: They will be cleared. We are aware that there are situations where that is occurring when we're made aware of those situations we put those individuals directly in contact with the debt management center and we work it out manually on a case-by-case basis but it should not be happening as a category of cases and we are working hard on that.
If the overpayment issue seems familiar, it continues to pop up.  If someone is overpaid it goes to the payee -- though the VA never claims fault -- and the student is then expected to quickly pay it back (unlike the VA which sends out a check whenever the mood strikes them).  Then there is the issue of the emergency loans taken out by veterans who had to wait and wait for their checks to arrive.  Though they had to wait and wait, note that they are expected to begin payments immediately.  Why the hell did the VA set it up to turn this issue over to debt collection?  The veterans who waited months and months did not for their overdue payments did not have the option of turning the VA over to a credit collection agency.  How does the VA continue to manage to screw over the veteran?  You'd think they'd work very hard about it; however, based on the testimony, incompetence is the answer.
Is the computer system up and running?  Well . . .  See those are basic questions and the VA can't answer basic questions.  It can spend and waste a lot of money. The Subcomittee was informed that the computer system is still not integrated with some functions -- functions that 2009 and early 2010 hearings found the same witnesses (including VA's Keith Wilson) maintaining the system would interact with.  Okay, well is everything functioning?  Actually, the system purchased will require constant updates.  And there's another update the current team is working on.  Oh, and they're not under contract to work on it past this update. 
Keith Wilson bored everyone with another of his bad slide shows -- sloppy and dull and overlong.  If you're going to do a slide show, you should be able to do it in five minutes and when the Subcomittee Chair asks you to try to cut it down, you shouldn't expect to have ten minutes, especially after you've already wasted everyone's time reading your prepared remarks before, BEFORE, the slide show.  Not only is this a time waster -- and there were a large number of breaks during this hearing -- but it also goes to the fact that the VA does no real prep before any hearing.  They show up surprised that a question repeatedly asked of them in every hearing is again asked.  They have to take issues involving the call centers -- still a problem -- for the record because they just don't come to the hearings prepared -- despite knowing they're supposed to testify.  Does Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the VA, think this reflects well on him?  It doesn't. And it indicates that there is no real leadership at VA.
Yesterday's snapshot covered another hearing, the House Veterans Affairs Committee (full committee) hearing that Steve Buyer stormed out of.  Kat covered it at her site with "Steve Buyer's nuclear meltdown" and there were a few e-mails on the topic.  First "acquisition reform" is the word that should be in this statement by Buyer, "You pass aquistion form and I will hug you.  I will hug you!" The snapshots are dicated and I speak very fast.  Typos are a given even in the morning entries that I usually type myself.  In terms of Buyer's behavior -- short version, he attacked two witnesses on a panel and then stormed out of the hearing -- a few are worried it was included here by me to pump up Democratic turnout in the mid-terms.  That was not the case.  (Parenthetical, Libby Liberal at Corrente is correct and for those who can't see it, with it very likely that Dems will suffer in the  mid-terms, it would be smart of the left to get out ahead of it and be able to say after See, we can go elsewhere, we don't have to vote for you, we can vote third party, we can vote Republican or we can just not vote. The alternative?  Centrist Dems hectoring the Dem Party that they went 'too far' and 'too left.'  Libby Liberal is correct and she's correct for a number of smart reasons.) 
Could yesterday's behavior by Buyer be used to promote voting for Democrats?  Absolutely.  I don't buy the "party of no" as a GOP description but if a Dem wanted to illustrate that, they could just show Buyer attacking an Iraq War veteran and a reporter and then storming out of the hearing.  Not only does that show "no,"they could add, "Not only do they just say no, they won't even listen."  It could be used any number of ways.  That's not my concern.  I do understand that my noting I was a Democrat fed into some people's beliefs on this; however, I noted that because Buyer was a Republican and I was attempting to make very clear that I was speaking of my imprssions and someone else might have felt differently.  I also attempted to be nicer about it than I normally would have just because I found it so shocking and so out of character for Buyer.
If a member of Congress makes angry statements and storms out of a hearing, that  is news.  My big concern in including it yesterday was that it might be seen as discrediting Chuck Luther.  Chuck Luther was very believable and he has repeatedly told the same story .  But I made a  point to include Chuck Luther's response -- in full -- to Buyer's tantrum.  Joshua Kors has been highlighted here many times and I was less concerned about getting every word of his response for that reason.  I also noted /detailed his journalistic pursuit of this story so I thought that was clear.  (He may have been short changed in that I feel like I am forever defending the profession of journalism -- if not the actual practice of it -- and grow bored with addressing that topic.) 
Buyer threw a tantrum.  Read Kat's post and note the walk through she provides.  He threw a tantrum and, were he running for re-election, this might  be a big deal to partisans.  We didn't cover it due to partisanship.  We covered it because it is news when a member of Congress launches into a tirade and then storms out of a Committee hearing.  Many things that take place in Congress are not and will never qualify as news but that sort of behavior is news.
It was not covered to advance the Democratic Party or to help them in the mid-terms.  It was covered because it was news. 
On Democracy Now! today, Amy Goodman interviewed (link has text, audio and video) Johan  Galtun'g
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Galtung, what about Iraq, where we stand today with Iraq, where Iraq stands?

JOHAN GALTUNG: I think the basic point about Iraq is that it is an artificial construction by two civil servants of the British Foreign Service in 1916. And I think they had the assignment of constructing a country out of the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, consisting—but it could, within the borders of one country, accommodate the oil in Kirkuk, Mosul, in the north, and Basra, in the south. And so they did. Now, that's not a rationale for a country. Mesopotamia, between the rivers, would have made sense. Iraq, I think, is doomed to disintegration. This is one reason why they still don't have a government, in spite of elections in March. They cannot agree on the formula for it. So I would say that it will disintegrate as either a very loose federation or a confederation.

There is some Iraq that has come into existence. I am quite willing to say that. But it is weak. And I don't think the capital can be in Baghdad, which is in one of the four Sunni provinces out of the eighteen provinces. And, you see, the Sunnis have been ruling this system not having oil. And the others are not quite willing to bail out the Sunnis. So I think it's a nonstarter. It was a nonstarter from the beginning, and Obama is now following in the footsteps of George Bush. I don't think there's anything new, actually, in Obama's proposal, and it doesn't look promising.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you have about 50,000 troops. You have the largest US embassy in the world there, something like eighty football fields in size.

JOHAN GALTUNG: Unbelievable, inside the Green Zone. Unbelievable. Are they going to dismantle that? Well, those bases, I guess, were inspired by the idea that there will be a war with China. That's always been the Anglo-American idea, that the biggest power, be that on the continent or be that in Eurasia, is our born enemy. It's always been the Anglo-American idea, some kind of paranoia. And totally unnecessary. So I guess the bases are essentially for that purpose, like the purpose of the Bagram base in Afghanistan, the same.

Yesterday, another US service member died in Iraq. Justin Hinkley (Battle Creek Enquirer) reports that the family of 25-year-old Senior Airman Jimmy Hansen's family was informed last night that their loved one died in Iraq yesterday "when 'something went wrong' while the airman was helping to detonate captured bombs." AP notes that, as of last night, the Pentagon still hadn't issued an announcement on the death. As of 8:00 a.m. EST this morning, they still had not issued an announcement --  USF is where the death announcement is supposed to come from (DoD is supposed to later identify the fallen in an announcement -- after the family has been notified). The death announcement is supposed to come from USF and it's yet another example of not only how they are not doing their job (repeatedly) but also how they keep getting away with it. But then when the White House doesn't want the focus to be on Iraq, USF can get away with not doing their job (repeatedly). Finally this morning, they issued a statement: "JOINT BASE BALAD -- One Airman was killed and a Soldier was injured during an on-base controlled detonation at Joint Base Balad, Iraq at approximately 9:40 a.m. Wednesday. The Airman was pronounced dead at the scene. The injured Soldier was rushed to the Air Force Theater Hospital here. The name of the deceased will be withheld until 24 hours after notification of next-of-kin. Controlled detonation is part of a regular process to dispose of unexploded ordnances. 'The hearts and minds of every servicemember at JBB go out to the families of the servicemembers involved in this incident,' said Maj. Gen. Craig Franklin, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. The cause of the incident is under investigation."  The death brings to 4424 the number of Americans killed in Iraq while serving in the military.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a roadside bombing outside Kirkuk which wounded one Iraqi police officer and Samarra suicide bomber who took his/her own life, claimed the lives of 2 Sahwa members and left three more injured..  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports a roadside bombing just outside Baquba claimed 1 ilfe and left three injured, and  two Kirkuk roadside bombing which left two police officer injured.
Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports a Abu Sayda home invasion in which 1 Sahwa and his wife were shot dead and a Mosul armed clash in which 2 suspects were killed
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.
Meanwhile David E. Miller (Media Line) reports that Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, that they make up over 40% of the Iraqi refugees in Syria (the United Nations counts 19% among the Iraqi refugees in Syria who have registered with the UNHCR)  and  that a large number of the 1.5 million Christians the United Nations estimated were living in Baghdad before the start of the Iraq War fled due to threats, targeting and violence. IRIN notes that Iraqi Mandaeans are in the thousands in Syria, that approximately 3,500 to 5,000 remain in Iraq and, in Iraq, their roles have included "prominent goldsmiths, lawyers and doctors in Iraq, Mandaeans continue to be kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam or to leave the country, according to the Mandaean Human Rights Group in Damascus."  Mandaens are Gnostics and they practice baptism in their religion (John the Baptist is among the Christian figures who are prominent in the practice of the religion).  A functioning government in Iraq would have long ago worked to protect the refugee populations.
It would have also worked to address education issues and women's rights.  Education is especially important because Iraq's population pyramid -- as a result of the illegal war and other factors -- means that Iraq has a very young population with most Iraqis being well under the age of 30.  (You can find this diagrammed at Adam's Blog.) Now a new [PDF format warning] United Nations study has found: "One in five Iraqis, aged 10 - 49, cannot read or write. There are significant disparities in literacy rates across gender, age and urban versus rural areas.  Illiteracy among Iraqi women (24%) is more than double that of Iraqi men (11%). Rural populations are more adversely affected by illiteracy (25%) than urban (14%) populations, and within rural areas the literacy divide between men and women is wider."  Al Arabiya adds, "In the mid-1980s, Iraq was listed as an illiteracy-free country after the government launched an expansive campaign to eliminate illiteracy. The campaign involved enrolling illiterate Iraqi living in remote villages and towns in schools where they are obliged to study for six years." A functioning government should be able to today what was done earlier for education.
Xinhua reports that Ezzat al-Shahbandar, of State of Law, told them Tuesday that "the deadlock of government formation" had been overcome. Which would mean that the government was on the verge of being formed. Don't hold your breath.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and nine days with no government formed.
The Iraqi National Alliance is a Shi'ite coalition. The two biggest components of the National Alliance are the ones headed by Moqtada al-Sadr and by Ammar al-Hakim. UPI reports that al-Hakim is currently conducting talks with Ayad Allawi. On Moqtada al-Sadr's group, Basim al-Shara (Middle East Online) reports:             

The political movement of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is wielding increasing clout as the tortuous process of forming a new Iraqi government continues.
In recent days, the Sadrist party Al-Ahrar has indicated that it is backing Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi for the post of prime minister. Until now, the competition for the job has been seen as a straight fight between incumbent prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi, leader of the mostly secular Iraqiya coalition which includes top Sunni leaders.                 
The Sadrists' endorsement of a third candidate exposes cracks within the Shia coalition that consists of Maliki's State of Law party; the Iraqi National Alliance, INA, which is led by the Sadrists, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, ISCI, and a handful of smaller groups.

Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Sadr Front senior official Bahaa Al Araji announced that the national alliance will hold a meeting on Thursday or Friday to complete talks on the required mechanism to choose a candidate for Premiership."  Whether the increased communication between the governments of Iraq and Syria result in a new government for Iraq, it has already resulted in something else.  Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) reports that the two countries have "signed a memorandum of understanding to build two pipelines to export Iraqi crude oile through Syrian territory." 
 The Financial Times of London notes the 12 oil contracts Iraq signed last year and:

Iraq's oil reserves are the fourth largest in the world, after Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and Iran, but production today is barely 2.5m barrels a day, making Iraq at best a middle-weight on the international stage. The new contracts should bring a substantial stream of investment in the country's neglected oil infrastructure, allowing production to rise to more than 10 mb/d by 2020 (the government's own target is 12 mb/d by 2016).                           

Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports that Hussain al-Shahristani stated yesterday at a ceremony for the 50th anniversary of OPEC that Iraq could help meet the world need for oil "with an average of 10 million barrels a day." al-Shahristani is the Minister of Oil but, of course, in a fair world he wouldn't be. He was appointed by Nouri and approved by the Parliament. In a fair world, Nouri's term having long ago expired, the UN would have helped form a caretaker government -- that's not what Nouri has and the press should stop calling it that -- if Iraq was unable to form a government. Instead, al-Shahristani not only remains as Minister of Oil, he also holds the title of Minister of Electricity following the spring resignation of the man who held that post. But al-Shahristani was never approved, as the Constitution insists must take place, by the Parliament. That's how it works in the continuation government of Nouri al-Maliki, the Constitution and the laws are ignored over and over. Hassan Hafidh (Dow Jones) reports, "Iraq's crude oil exports fell 1.7% in August to 1.788 million barrels a day from 1.820 million barrels a day in July due to technical faults and sabotage on the country's northern pipeline, an Iraqi oil official said Tuesday."
Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. From World Can't Wait, we'll note "Bradley Manning Day of Action - New York City Webcast:"
See: Collateral Murder footage, leaked from within the US military, and showing the murder of 12 Iraqi civilians in July 2007

Hear: Supporters of Bradley Manning, including Ethan MCord, who was seen in the video carrying a wounded child and who with Josh Steiber wrote an Open Letter of Reconciliation to the Afghan People, and Matthis Chiroux, military resister.

Learn: What you can do to stop the unjust prosecution of a 22-year-old soldier and genuine hero.

As part of the International Days of Support for Bradley Manning, events are happening around the world September 16-19. The Army says he's responsible for leaking the video footage which was named "Collateral Murder" and sent around the world by They will likely court martial him. Needless to say, the soldiers in the video -- not to mention the commanders who trained the troops for and ordered the massacre -- are under no arrest, no scrutiny, not even investigation. But Bradley Manning is locked up, facing many possible years in prison.
Also! Tune in to the west coast webcast at 7pm Pacific / 10pm Eastern
And  Ann Wright covers the case in her article at War Is a Crime:
 Bradley Manning is accused of telling the truth. 

He now faces decades in prison for letting Americans see the truth about our wars on Iraq and Afghanistan by allegedly leaking the "Collateral Murder" videos of a Reuter's cameraman being shot and killed by a US helicopter to Wikileaks. He is being investigated in the leaks of the"Afghan War Diary" documents that were also released by Wikileaks--in conjunction with the New York Times, The UK Guardian and the German magazine Der Spiegel-- exposing the war in Afghanistan as a costly quagmire that has cost countless civilian Afghan lives, as well as the lives of over 1,000 US soldiers.     

Over the last seven year's Iraq has become the deadliest theater of war for journalists since World War II. The Wikileaks website posted on April 5, 2010, a video showing a US helicopter crew killing 12 Iraqi civilians including Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Said Chmagh, 40. Wikileaks wrote that it had come from unspecified "military sources." Reuters had filed a formal request, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), in 2007 to access documents that might explain the death of its media workers. FOIA requires federal government agencies to release documents to all persons requesting them unless specifically exempted by the law. Reuters received no documents. Reporters Without Borders, the international journalists association writes of Bradley Manning, "If this young soldier had not leaked the video, we would have had no evidence of what was clearly a serious abuse on the part of the US military."                           

Much of my military background concerns the law of warfare. Most Americans do not realize that our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have violated domestic and international law, violations that have been fully exposed in the Wikileaks documents that Manning is accused of releasing. When I joined the US military I, like Bradley Manning, took an oath to protect the constitution and the American people. This led me to resign my position when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Protecting the constitution outweighs following orders and Manning should be lauded for choosing to do the right thing. Bradley Manning is a patriot of our democracy, who stayed loyal to what is right, risking his own security. His loyalty to the Constitution and the American people transcends partisan politics.   

Just as Daniel Ellsberg blew the whistle on the lies of the US leaders of the Vietnam War, Manning is accused of blowing the whistle on the illegality of today's wars. What will our response to the information Manning is charged with releasing be? Can we make today's Pentagon Papers lead to an end to illegal and wasteful wars abroad and the return of our troops home?


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« Reply #112 on: September 18, 2010, 08:40:16 am »

Iraq snapshot - September 17, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday, September 17, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, support mounts for Bradley Manning, the US military announces yet another death in Iraq, reports insist the political stalemate is about to be a thing of the past, and more.
Starting with Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. As Daniel Ellsberg reminded from the stage in Oakland last night, "We don't know all the facts." But we know, as Ellsberg pointed out, that the US military is attempting to prosecute Bradley.
Daniel Ellsberg was a RAND Corporation military analyst alarmed by the Pentagon Papers charting the government's continuation of a lost and illegal war.  He copied the papers to pass to the press (the press feared receiving the originals would be receiving stolen property and leave them open to prosecution).  Lengthy court battles ensued via Richard Nixon and his so-called Justice Dept but the press -- for a change -- didn't buckle. Ellsberg was targeted by Tricky Dick with various efforts to smear him and to harm him.  He also faced imprisonment.  Back then, fundraisers were held.  Barbra Streisand, for example, sang to a group of people -- including Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Yoko Ono and David Geffen -- present, singing their requests for donations to the defense fund and she also took requests over the phone at the event (Carl Reiner was among those calling in and making a request).  Nixon kept an enemies list and Barbra ended up on it for fundraising (over $50,000 was raised from Barbra's event if I remember correctly) on behalf of Daniel Ellsberg's defense. We'll note some of Daniel Ellsberg's remarks from last night:
Thank you very much, Let me echo what you just heard, my wife, when I set out for this, said how many people do you think will be out there? I said "who knows?  Half a dozen? A dozen? What will it be?" It's wonderful to see this place filled, standing room only. And I was thinking who would like to see this? And I thought of a way to do it.  I was just talking an hour ago to Bradley's aunt, Deborah van Alstyne,  who was possibly his relative who was closest to him, mother's sister and who's seen him several times in jail.  And she did want to say -- I told her what was happening tonight -- and she said, "Let people know how much he appreciates the support thaty he's getting.  It means a tremendous amount to him. He was in prison, you know, in Kuwait for a long time, a couple of months. No communication with anybody. I don't even think he was seeing military lawyers at that point.  Who knows what was happening?   But no news whatever.  And until he got to Quantico, he had no news of what happened, how anything had been received. He didn't know how well, actually, the [New York] Times, der Spiegel, the Guardian had dealt with the early disclosuers -- which I think would probably be very important for him to know. Or the reaction to the video and so forth. So, when she sees him, it's through heavy glass with somebody listening at the side at all times -- which brings back memories of what I expected to happen to me.  People have asked me why I had my children help me copy papers for a couple of nights?  Seemed very strange to them and I can understand that.  But there was a reason.  At that point in the fall of '69, when I was copying these 7,00 pages of top secret documents, I reallly expected them to come out shortly to Senator [James Willism] Fullbright, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, within a couple of weeks, and I expected to be in prison  almost surely.  Oh, I'm sorry, where do you want me? Oh, sorry, okay.  Okay.  Do I have to be behind this [podium]? Just in the light, right?  [Laughter.]  Okay.  Third degree here, right?  I knew that what they'd be hearing then within weeks was that their father had gone crazy.  Just what Bradley Manning's friends and relatives are hearing right now.  And what I suppose he's getting. He's heard that I'm sure. And that he was a traitor.  But that he 'snapped,' that he'd gone crazy. And I wanted my children to see before I started a lifetime, perhaps of talking to them through glass that I'd done this because I thought it was the right thing to do, in a business like way, just something that I thought had to be done.  And that I hadn't gone crazy. I wanted them to see me doing it.  And so it just occured to me, of course, Bradley had a technology here that I didn't have, that I'm very jealous of, I must say, if he did what he's accused of.  It does imply, by the way, that the possibility of telling the truth about a policy that's reckless, criminal, murderous, disasterous,  of various kinds. The power to change that by telling the truth is literally at the finger tips of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people. Just a few key strokes can actually -- the policy is vulnerable to that.  They have to rely -- "they," the ones who are running this policy -- have to rely on the trustworthiness or what they call the loyalty, the faithfulness, the patriotism -- in their eyes.  Of the thousand people, even more who know what's happening, but the thousand who know that its wrong and who could change it if they told the truth but they have to count on those people.  And they do. And on the whole, I'm sorry to say, they're right to rely on those people keeping their mouths shut.  The three of us here, you saw before, two in the army, one in the Marine corps, were all in the service.  We share a number of things in common and one of them is that there were times when there were truths that we could have told but didn't. And could have made a real difference. And we've learned to be real regretful of that and to want to use our lives differently and to urge other people to do the same. And okay, it finally, when I first spoke to Deborah van Alstyne a month ago after she'd just seen him.  She said he'd finally learned of his support. The Guardian article a while ago on the support that was quite good. And he'll be learning of this. I asked her whether he knew that Michael Moore was campaigning for him, was supporting.  She said that she didn't know directly but that one of the lawyers had mentioned it to her so she was pretty sure he had discussed it with Bradley.  And that's very good.  But as I say with all this new technology in the world here, I can now get your pictures to Bradley in a matter of days because Debraorah going to see him this weekend. And it just occured to me, I have her e-mail. So those of you who wish to hide your faces because this is going over e-mail -- that means copied to NSA and the FBI and who knows who ever else.  But there were 25,000 people who contributed to my trial and so I have learned to appreciate that and I have been doing fundraisers for other people every since -- never more enthusiastically than tonight. So another way to use that technology -- You may not have had much cash here, you may not even have had your checkbook with you, but at home, if you have computers, the Bradley Manning -- what is it?  Dot org? will give you a chance with Paypal to send as much as you can possibly send. And the people who are watching on the internet should now turn to your computers and don't bother watching me.  It's much more important to send a contribution right now before you forget. while you have the impulse to this because it really is essential. And so here we go, I can actually send Bradley a video.  Thank you for standing up for me, how about standing up for Bradley?  [Cheers and applause.] Okay. Now. Great. Okay and as I say that's very good. That's virtually as important as I say of going to your computers and doing your own e-mail and getting it all to him. What are we doing? We're honoring an American hero. I'm glad that Ray [McGovern] made the point here, let's no go through locution, we don't know the facts. We don't know the facts and, in particular, as I know, it's up to the government to prove their case beyond a reaonsable doubt, and we can't hand it to them anyway.  We don't know anymore than they do or less.  But let's just assume that for once the army is telling the truth about what they accuse him of.  [Laughter.] They're hardly the last word on any subject but maybe on this one.  Whoever was the source, and let's call him Bradley Manning, deserves our thanks and deserves honor. Not everybody, of course, honors him. I actually am very happy to see this room fuli --  If not in Oakland and Berkeley, then where? But I am glad to see it. And he'll be glad to see it. But there are a lot of people who see him differently, obviously and in terms, by the way, that are not very well grounded in American history, in America principals., I was just a few days ago in New York on a show called The Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC and he quoted at me in his brief interview, an article by a guy Marc Thiessen who is a former George W. Bush speechwriter -- obviously deserving of indictment himself. And I'll explain why a minute. He's now a Washington Post columnist, of course. And so Ratigan quoted him saying to me, "WikiLeaks is a criminal enterprise."  Well interesting that Thiessen would say that since he's just retired from a very large criminal enterprise, I would say, the George W. Bush administration.   And I must say that the, let me give you a little piece of current history probably most people here don't know. Barack Obama, who said that he doesn't want to look back at the crimes -- or the alleged crimes -- of the George W. Bush administration, wants to look forward and move forward and, in effect, has decriminalized torture, a war of agression, warantless wiretapping -- obviously criminal under both the Fourth Amendment and American domestic law at that time -- years of criminal activity. Renditions, kidnappings, indefinite detention, the suspension of Habeaus Corpus in effect meaning, which most people really don't have a very clear idea of that, meaning  detention without charges indefinitely. We now have a president actually who has declared the right to keep detained people indefinately that he suspects should not be out, even if they've been acquitted, he can keep them.  In other words, as well as before without charges,  following in the foot steps of George W. Bush in virtually all those respects.  He claims that torture has ended but there is lots of evidence that it has not ended in Bagram and probably other secret sites at various places.  The rendention, the kidnapping.  Still. He's gone actually further than Bush in terms of open claims, the claim of the right -- through his intelligence chief at that time, Dennis Blair, who announced that the president had a hit list of American citizens and others that he felt -- that he'd given orders to kill, to assasinate, to execute, to murder abroad American citizens basically.  But I just happened to read the words of the Magna Carta of 1215 today.  I'd seen it before, I looked it up, but somebody else was referring to it.  And the words are: "No free man shall be deprived -- shall be harmed, shall be destroyed or deprived of freedom except by a jury of his peers." In other words, this is a wiping out of rights that go back to 1215 -- almost 800 years right now.  In short, in these Constitutional matters, we have an administration -- and in the foreign affairs matters, we have an administration that is a third term of George W. Bush.  I'm not saying that's true in every respect. I'm not saying that the Republicans are not much, much worse.  Actually they are in domestic matters.  Actually Obama has not been strikingly better or different in matters of foreign affairs or Constitutional policy.  In fact, we thought we were getting something here with a Constituational lawyer, a teacher of Constitutional law, Barack Obama,  I haven't seen any opinions his Dept of Justice has been putting out [with] any difference in the opinion of Berkeley tenured professor John Yoo.
From across the Atlantic, support is expressed by people who knew Bradley when he lived in Wales. BBC News quotes James Kirkpatrick stating, "He is an absolute hero, anybody who is going to bring up such injustices, you've got to consider them a hero. I found out the first week he was being held and was shocked. I couldn't believe it. I felt proud of him really, whistleblowing against such controversies, it's quite a heroic thing. I was shocked but really impressed by him as well."
A number of events are planned and A.N.S.W.E.R. offers this list:

United States

Los Angeles, California
Top of the Santa Monica Pier (Palisades Park, just north of the pier at the cannon)
Sunday, September 19, 1-3pm

Oakland, California
Thursday, September 16, 7-9pm
Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street, Oakland CA (Between Telegraph and Broadway)
Presented by Courage to Resist, with the help of National Lawyers Guild Bay Area Military Law Panel, Veterans for Peace-Bay Area Chapter, CodePink, War Resisters League-West, Iraq Veterans Against the War-Bay Area, and BAY-Peace.

San Diego, California
Rally and film showing
Sunday, September 19, 12-2 pm
Horton Plaza, 4th & Broadway 
Sponsored by Activist San Diego, San Diego Peace and Justice Coalition

San Francisco, California
March and rally
Saturday, September 18
Rally at 2pm, march at 3pm, ending at 4pm at Union Square
in front of the SF War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue
Organized by Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace-SF Bay Area, ANSWER  Coalition, Bay Area United for Peace and Justice, and CodePink

New Haven, Connecticut
Friday September 17, 4 pm
59 Elm Street, New Haven, CT 06510. In front of Rosa DeLauro's office.
Sponsored by the Greater New Haven Peace Council

Cambridge, Massachusetts   
Sunday, September 19, 4 pm   
In front of 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA (MIT building with the dome.)
Sponsored in part by Veterans for Peace, Chapter 9, Smedley Butler Brigade 

Minneapolis, Minnesota   
Rally & Film Showing   
Friday, September 17, 4:30-6 pm 
Mayday Bookstore – 301 Cedar Avenue – Minneapolis 

Rochester, Minnesota 
Peace Happening   
Thursday September 16, 5 pm   
South Broadway & 2nd Street SW 
Sponsored by the Southeastern Minnesota Peace Makers 

Keene, New Hampshire 
Keene town commons 
Saturday September 18, 11:00 am 
NH Peace Action, in conjunction with the Free State Project 

New York City, New York 
Film showing and speakers 
September 16th, 7pm 
St. Mary's Church, 521 West 126th Street 

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 
Sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for Conscience 
Friday, September 17, 5-6 pm 
SE Corner of S. 59th and Western Avenue 

Corvallis, Oregon 
Friday September 17, 5 pm   
Benton Country Courthouse, Corvallis, OR, 97330 
Supported by Veterans for Peace 

Knoxville, Tennessee   
Thursday, September 16th 
University of Tennessee, Knoxville   

Norfolk, Virginia   
Friday, September 17, 11:30 am-1 pm   
Granby St. & City Hall Ave.   
Sponsored by the Norfolk Catholic Worker   

Quantico, Virginia   
Rally followed by outreach   
Sunday, September 19, 11:30 am   
Town of Quantico Municipal Park (River Road and 4th Avenue)   
Sponsored by IVAW, Code Pink, and other area activists           

Seattle/Fort Lewis, Washington         
Saturday, September 18, 2-4 pm 
"Freedom Bridge" and gate area at I-5 exit 122 (Madigan Hospital exit). 
Sponsored by Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace (VFP 92)   

Spokane, Washington 
Thursday, September 16, 12:00 noon   
Corner of Wellesley and Division 


Toronto, Ontario, Canada   
Sunday, September 19, 12:00 noon             
U.S. Consulate, University Avenue       

Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia             
Speakers and cultural performances           
Friday, September 17, 7-9pm                         
SCU Room, upstairs in the Byron Community and Cultural Centre           
Last night World Can't Wait attempted an NYC web broadcast but due to problems substituted an August 1st webcast on Bradley. Elaine Brower and Debra Sweet anchored the webcast.  Marcia notes Elaine: "She observed, 'In 1971 there was a very strong antiwar sentiment in the country and Nixon was frightened by the Pentagon Papers coming out. I believe that the White House is frightened because they don't want to see an anti-war movement like we had in the late sixties and early seventies'."  To keep the webcast free of charge, commercials run every 20 minutes or so which can mean a break in streaming.  Trina explained Debra asked people what the number one thing that needs to be carried to the general population is: "And what did the people say? My stream went to the commercial. But when the commercial was over, they were discussing Barack Obama's continuation of George W. Bush's crimes and wondering why do we support him and what's a war criminal and what does it mean when civilians get killed in war? (Debra's words.)" Ann had trouble with the stream and specifically when attempting to hear Ethan McCord speak: "I'm sure he was amazing. That's why I picked him. But I just couldn't hear what he was saying, sorry. Now there will be a DVD made of this event (to raise awareness of and money for Bradley Manning) that World Can't Wait will sell and I'm sure Ethan will be easier to understand on that because they'll probably have him plugged into the sound board. Whereas on the livestream, he's echoing and the connection is bad." Stan enjoyed Josh Steiber's remarks but disagreed with an aspect of them, "But I really think that in the movement there's been too much effort to glorify soldiers. I think Josh probably sees a lot of stuff and he speaks from that and that's great. But there's also the reality that either everyone's welcome or no one really is in which case, it's not a movement, it's a clique. I don't think he's trying to start a clique. I think he's trying to address serious problems and I believe him that he's seen these serious problems; however, I also believe there's a lot of group-think and a lot of 'let's hide behind soldiers' and other stuff like that." Kat covered Matthis Chiroux who stated, "Debra, you know me, and the type of messages I put out tend to be very direct. These things are resonating with folks, they are identifying with the truth. Which in our current situation are very radical." Ruth noted Matthis stated that people in the military he was in contact with were looking through their old videos to see if they have anything like the WikiLeaks vidoe and she quotes him stating: "We need you to hear this call to action. Whoever released this video didn't do it because they wanted to be a hero or whatever, they did it because the contents were so shocking and so disturbing."  Rebecca did not enjoy Ray McGovern or McGovern's inability to call out Barack Obama while aiming 'jokes'/smears at Hillary Clinton and offered McGovern had issues: "no, cause he's a little, witty boy coward. still angry that mommy pulled him off her **** and going to take that out on every woman in the world. what a pig."  Betty was so angered by McGovern's stunt that she stopped streaming and only turned it back on when Rebecca called her to say Dahr Jamail was on.  Betty quotes Darh stating "I'm very excited about the WikiLeaks situation I think Julian Assange should get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. I think it's the most important journalism this year." and "Someone put their butt on the line to get this information out there, taking huge, huge risks." Cedric and Wally offer a humor take on McGovern, focusing on a young McGovern playing football: "AS THE OPPOSING TEAM'S RUNNING BACK BARRELLED PAST HIM, YOUNG RAY-RAY MADE THE 'STRATEGIC' (COWARDLY) CHOICE TO IGNORE THE RUNNING BACK AND INSTEAD LAUNCHED A FLYING TACKLE AT 7-YEAR-OLD BOBBY MASON WHO WAS CHEERING FROM THE SIDELINES AND CONSIDERED 'SMALL FOR HIS AGE'."  Isaiah wasn't planning on covering the stream but Cindy Sheehan came on and he quoted her stating, "We do have to realize that the traditional antiwar movement is mostly anti-Republican and they're not so antiwar when a Democrat is in power but Barack Obama owns the drone bombings, they've increased, they've more than tripled since he's been president." Mike also covered Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan who spoke about the weak turnout in opposition to the latest war funding.  Mike outlines her points:
* Many people on the left on the so-called left on Tuesday they responded
like it was a victory because so many more Democrats voted against it this time
than last time. 

* We have to decide what's the response of the so-called two-party system. 

* As an antiwar movement we have to be more organized and we have to
be more outspoken now than we were when George Bush was president. 

Today the DoD announced: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Sgt. John F. Burner III, 32, of Baltimore, Md., died Sept. 16, in Iskandariya, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident.  He was assigned to the 63rd Signal Battalion (Expeditionary), 35th Signal Brigade, Fort Gordon, Ga. For more information media may contact the Fort Gordon public affairs office at 706-791-6001 or 706-791-6839." Add today's death to the DoD count and that's [PDF format warning] 4425 Americans who have died serving in Iraq.  USF (formerly MNF) did not issue a release on the death -- which is their job, they announce deaths, DoD issues releases identifying the fallen.  Yet again, USF is caught still not doing their job but they work for a president who wants to lie that the Iraq War is over (it's not) so don't look for any discipline to take place as USF continues to earn tax payer dollars while failing to do the most basic of their jobs. John Burner III is the fourth US service member to die in Iraq since Barack announced the 'end' of 'combat operations' in Iraq August 31st.
In other news of deaths and injuries, Reuters notes a Hawija bike bombing claimed 2 lives and left nine people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Ministry of Interior employee, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two police officers, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul, 1 suspect killed in an Iraqi military raid in Mosul and 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.
Today Alsumaria TV reports that the leaders of Syria and Iran's governments -- Bashar Al Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- will meet to discuss many issues including Iraq's government: "A well informed source in Damascus said last Saturday that Syria tends to nominate Syrian Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki for a second term stressing that Damascus currently wants to form an Iraqi government that encompasses all the components of the Iraqi society disregarding the candidates to Premiership." What's going on?
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and ten days with no government formed.
There Will Be War offers a timeline of Iraq which they believe illuminates the current political stalemate while Falah Mustafa Bakir (Washington Times) offers a series of questions:

However, if the situation remains at a standstill, other measures may be necessary. How long can a state hold out without a government, awaiting consensus? The lack of progress may force Iraq to take some difficult decisions to overcome this crisis and preserve the possibility of a democratic and pluralistic nation.               
If all four blocs do not agree, should we consider a government formed by only three blocs? Should Iraq convene a caretaker government and hold a new election in a year's time? Should the Kurdistan Alliance itself consider identifying a compromise candidate?                     
If the three blocs will not budge and cannot move forward, does the bloc system any longer serve its purpose of representing the Iraqi people in a federal government? The principal blocs all contain a number of moderate parties. If the blocs are not capable of forming a government very soon, is it preferable to bring together the factions of each bloc genuinely interested in forming a government?
Last Friday, Marco Werman (The World, PRI -- link has audio and text) spoke with the New York Times' Anthony Shadid about the stalemate.  Excerpt:
WERMAN: What is at stake for the US if something doesn't get sorted out with Iraq's civilian government?
SHADID: It's already embarrassing, the American government at this point,
that it's gone on as long as it has. We're talking about six months here and
the Americans they expected to have a government far before this August 31
deadline that they had set up as a turning point in this seven-year
experience there. So there is the issue of embarrassment. There's also the
issue of growing frustration in Iraq. Discontent across the board where you
think you're reaching a point where you may have the entire political system discredited. It's always struck me in [ Iraq that the country's still a lot like it
did in 2003 in some respects. And I don't want to overstate that comparison.
Back in 2003, as you have now, a country that's anxious, a country that has
an unclear political future. There's a question about American intentions
and there's a lot of ambiguity covering almost everything that goes on in
the country today. That's not to mention, of course, more practical issues. Electricity, water, sewage, lack of housing for education. It's an unsettled
place right now and it's probably going to stay that way for a little while.
Alsumaria TV reports today, "A well informed political source said that the Sadrist
bloc tends to work from within the Iraqi National Alliance in order to prevent State of
Law Coalition Leader, Nouri Al Maliki and Head of National Coalition Adel Abdul
Mahdi from winning Premiership position and aim at bringing another candidate for this position. The same source added that Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq might withdraw from the Iraqi National Alliance and form a parliamentary opposition bloc if Maliki wins
for a second term. In an interview with Alsumaria News the source uttered that the
Sadrist Bloc aims at complicating choosing a candidate for Premiership by
nominating Adel Abdul Mahdi which leads to undermining the candidature of both
Maliki and Abdul Mahdi because there is a mutual rejection between the two parties." 
UPI adds, "Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, himself a candidate for prime
minister, said he was close to securing backing from a Shiite political alliance but
was blocked by former Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari." And, if DPA is correct,
that alliance might have been Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, "Former prime minister Iyad
Allawi's Sunni-backed bloc on Friday backed Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Iraq's Shiite vice-president, to form a government, a blow to efforts by Shiite incumbent Premier Nuri
al-Maliki's to form a ruling coalition." UPI also reports that, "Aliya Nusseif, a key
figure in the secular Iraqiya slate, told the Voices of Iraq news agency that there
was an 'initial agreement' to give Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi the position
of prime minister and Iraqiya leader Iyad Allawi the position of president. A member
of a Kurdish alliance would get the position of the speaker of parliament." 
Jason Ditz ( adds, "Ayad Allawi, who led his secularist Iraqiya bloc
to the largest plurality in the election despite the notable handicap of having a
number of its members banned by the ruling party, is said to be tapped as the
next president replacing Jalal Talabani. The Kurdistan Alliance would get the
parliament chairmanship."
Turning to the US, Senator Daniel Akaka is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and his office notes:
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill to extend the age limit for coverage of veterans' dependents through the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Department of Veterans Affairs (CHAMPVA) to the level set by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 


"Thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, families with private health insurance coverage can keep their children on their plans

until age 26.  Surely coverage for veterans' family members in need

should meet this new national standard," said Senator Akaka. 


CHAMPVA was established in 1973 to provide health care services to dependents and survivors of certain veterans.  CHAMPVA enrollment

has grown over the years, and now covers over 336,000 unique

beneficiaries.  Under the current law, dependent children lose eligibility

for CHAMPVA at 23-years-old if they are full-time students, or 18-years-

old if they are not. 


To read Senator Akaka's introductory remarks and the text of the bill (S. 3801) in the Congressional Record, click here: LINK

Yesterday's snapshot mentions Libbyliberal's post a Corrente but does't include a link. My apologies. And I noted the wisdom of her post here.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Jeanne Cummings (Politico), John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate) and John Harwood (New York Times, CNBC) join Gwen around the table while Dan Balz (Washington Post) files a report from Des Moines on the speech Sarah Palin makes to Iowa's GOP. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Who Exactly Are the Bums?" This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Leslie Sanchez and Tara Setmayer 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 on college tuition -- its cost and its worth is debated. 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 US combat in Afghanistan, the US role in institutionalizing Afghan corruption; abuse and mistreatment of US seniors at home-based senior centers, Jon Meacham discussing "superlativism" and more. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

To understand how Bernard Madoff could have done what he did, listen to so-called "mini-Madoff" Ponzi schemer Marc Dreier tell Steve Kroft in his first television interview how he scammed $400 million. | Watch Video


Jimmy Carter
Lesley Stahl speaks to the former president about his new book, "White House Diary," in which he admits mistakes and blames Ted Kennedy for delaying comprehensive health care. | Watch Video


Football Island
"60 Minutes" goes to American Samoa to find out how a territory with a population less than the capacity of a pro-football stadium sends more players to the NFL than any similarly populated place in America. Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
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Iraq: The Age of Darkness

By Dirk Adriaensens

Global Research, September 19, 2010
The BRussells Tribunal 

Part I : “Success”, a devastating balance sheet

In the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion, the triumphalist verdict of the mainstream media was that the war had been won; Iraq was assured of a benevolent, democratic future. The Times's writer William Rees-Mogg hymned the victory: "April 9 2003 was Liberty Day for Iraq. (...) It was achieved by "the engine of global liberation", the United States. "After 24 years of oppression, three wars and three weeks of relentless bombing, Baghdad has emerged from an age of darkness. Yesterday was an historic day of liberation."[1]

"The problem with this war for, I think, many Americans is that the premise on which we justified going to war proved not to be valid, that is Saddam having weapons of mass destruction," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters while visiting Iraq.

"So when you start from that standpoint, then figuring out in retrospect how you deal with the war — even if the outcome is a good one from the standpoint of the United States — it will always be clouded by how it began." [2]

So here Robert Gates acknowledges that this war was illegal according to international law, because there was no “casus belli”. But in the same sentence he says that the outcome has been good for the United States. What does he mean exactly? How can all the killing and destruction be a good outcome for the USA? And what about responsibilities? If you know that Iraq is still paying reparations for the invasion in Kuwait in 1990, how about the payment of reparations by the USA for the destruction it inflicted upon Iraq?

"We fought together, we laughed together, and sometimes cried together. We stood side by side and shed blood together," Gen. Ray Odierno told Iraqi military leaders and hundreds of American soldiers and officers during the ceremony that officially closed combat operations."It was for the shared ideals of freedom, liberty, and justice."[3] Yes, they laughed together, like in the infamous, by Wikileaks released video of the “Collateral Murder” helicopter gunship attack on Baghdad civilians in July 2007, that killed more than a dozen Iraqis, two of them journalists of Reuters. And blood they surely have shed together! A lot of blood of over a million mothers, fathers, children and elderly Iraqi people. All that for “shared ideals of freedom, liberty and justice”, Mr. Odierno? Well, most Iraqis don’t share that view. For them, the country has slided into the age of darkness.

The facts

Here the facts:

Iraq's child mortality rate has increased by 150 percent since 1990, when U.N. sanctions were first imposed. By 2008, only 50 percent of primary school-age children were attending class, down from 80 percent in 2005, and approximately 1,500 children were known to be held in detention facilities.

In 2007, there were 5 million Iraqi orphans, according to official government statistics. More than 2 million Iraqis are refugees and almost 3 million internally displaced. 70 percent of Iraqis do not have access to potable water.

Unemployment is as high as 50 percent officially, 70 percent unofficially. 43 percent of Iraqis live in abject poverty. 8 million Iraqis require immediate emergency aid. 4 million people lack food and are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. 80 percent of Iraqis do not have access to effective sanitation. Religious minorities are on the verge of extinction.[4]

In a recent Oxfam-designed survey, 33 percent of women had received no humanitarian assistance since 2003; 76 percent of widows did not receive a pension; 52 percent were unemployed; 55 percent had been displaced since 2003; and 55 percent had been subjected to violence - 25.4 percent to random street violence, 22 percent to domestic abuse, 14 percent to violence inflicted by militias, 10 percent to abuse or abduction, 9 percent to sexual abuse and 8 percent to violence inflicted by multinational forces.[5] Iraq has a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums. The killing of innocent people has become part of daily life.

William Blum gives a short but devastating overview of the “good outcome” of this war: “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 .”[6]

Hannah Gurman adds the following challenge to this grim picture of “success”: “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.”[7]

Or read this evaluation of the “ Iraqi success story” by Iraqi Dr. Riad El Taher: “To date the net achievements of the Bush/Blair adventure are: Handing the Iraqi people a future in the hands of thugs and economic profiteers.  None of them have had the slightest interest to serve the Iraqi people.  The proof is instant wealth acquired by Chalabi, Alawi, Maliki, Sistani, Hakin, Bayati, Bachachi, Baher Alom and Rubai by virtue of their political adventure. Iraq’s natural resources are mortgaged for the next 50 years to the international oil contractors. Iraq experience intellectual and talent are forced to migrate. Sectarian divide is thriving and encouraged by the constitution. Ethnic minorities are undermined or forced to leave – Christians/Subain. Human rights, particularly of women, are violated and have reversed their past achievement in protecting maternity rights, employment and health. Education, health, environment and water resources are not seriously addressed and the same applies to agriculture, industries and culture. Thanks to Bush/Blair, Iraq held several democratic elections where the votes were bought by favour, intimidation or fear. Currently Iraqi citizens have access to a mobile phone, multi-TV channels, which are owned by the Iraqi Green Zone thugs and their sponsor US/UK/Kuwait investors”.

The destruction of Iraq has produced 2 million refugees but they’re not welcome in Europe.   The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday expressed its concern and objected to the continuing forced returns of Iraqi citizens from Western European countries soon after 61 people were flown back to Baghdad[8].

The fundamental contradiction of this success is the fact that Bremer's 100 orders turned Iraq into a giant free-market paradise, but a hellish nightmare for Iraqis. They colonized the country for capital - pillage on the grandest scale, a cutthroat capitalist laboratory, weapons of mass destruction. Iraqis got no role in the planning nor were given subcontracts to share the benefits. New economic laws instituted low taxes, 100% foreign investor ownership of Iraqi assets, the right to expropriate all profits, unrestricted imports, and long-term 30-40 year deals and leases, dispossessing Iraqis of their own resources, so no future government could change them, writes Stephen Lendman[9].

A Transparency International Report states that the corruption in Iraq will probably become "the biggest corruption scandal in history".[10] And as the U.S. draws down in Iraq, it is leaving behind hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects. More than $5 billion in American taxpayer funds has been wasted — more than 10 percent of the some $50 billion the U.S. has spent on reconstruction in Iraq, according to audits from a U.S. watchdog agency.

That amount is likely an underestimate, based on an analysis of more than 300 reports by auditors with the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.[11] Despite $53 billion in "aid" spent since the 2003 invasion, 70 percent of Iraqis are without potable water or electricity. These funds have lined the pockets of foreign military contractors and corrupt officials.[12] The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said the US Department of Defence is unable to account properly for $8.7bn. Out of $9bn, 96% is unaccounted for. It’s interesting to note that much of this money is not “aid” money, but came from the sale of Iraqi oil and gas, and some frozen Saddam Hussein-era assets were also sold off.[13]

Iraqi authorities have started the construction of a security wall around the capital Baghdad, reports the country's Al-Iraqiya TV citing a Baghdad security spokesperson. The concrete wall with eight checkpoints is to be completed in mid-2011.[14] So not only the people of Baghdad are forced to live in gated communities (concrete “security” barriers between different districts), the whole city will be gated, sealed off from the outside world like a medieval fortress.

This past May, a study called The Mercer Quality of Living survey[15] released its results of “most livable city” in 2010. It ranked Baghdad dead last—the least livable city on the planet.

This is due to the complete destruction of Iraq’s sewage treatment plants, factories, schools, hospitals, museums and power plants by the U.S. military.[16] UN-HABITAT, an agency of the United Nations, recently published a 218-page report entitled State of the World’s Cities, 2010-2011.[17] Adil E. Shamoo’s comment: 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.[18]

The 2007 launched Global Peace Index (GPI) ranks countries annually according to peacefulness, identifying key peace or violence drivers. Of the 144 countries in its 2009 report, Iraq ranked last, Afghanistan second last. In April 2010, Amnesty International released a report titled, "Iraq: Human Rights Briefing," Their conclusion: "the human rights situation in the country remains grave. All parties to the continuing conflict have committed gross abuses and the civilian population continues to bear the brunt of the ongoing violence. The security situation is still precarious despite some improvement in 2009. Attacks on civilians, arrests, kidnapping, armed clashes" happen daily.

There is still no functioning government in Iraq. “Some cynical analysts intimate that the current situation was exactly what the US (and Israel) wanted or what Washington had in mind when it drafted the constitution. The current Iraqi divisions keep the country weak and at the mercy of the US and allow the latter to continue playing the part of the balancing power in order to perpetuate its presence”, writes Saad Jawad, professor of political science at Baghdad University.[19]

Who is threatening Iraq’s security? Who is responsible for the deadly attacks, car bombs…? There are a lot of stories about involvement of security forces. On the 28th of August U.S. forces have arrested a deputy of Ahmad Chalabi, Ali Faisal al Lami, who was once the Bush administration's favorite Iraqi politician, and implicated him in bombings that killed Americans and Iraqis. Al Lami is a Shiite Muslim official and a member of the Sadrist Party who's serving as an executive of the Justice and Accountability Committee, which Chalabi heads.[20]  The meaning of this piece of information is that the thugs, who came to Iraq with the US troops, whose militias were armed, funded and trained by the US, are at least partially responsible for the strings of bombings that ravage the country.

With these facts in mind, it’s astonishing to hear the US officials talk about a “good outcome for the United States”. Obama declared the so-called end to Combat Mission in Iraq[21].  He refuses to look back at 7 years of catastrophe; he wants to look at the future, escape his responsibilities. Perhaps the most striking comment on Obama’s speech came from Chris Floyd:

After mendaciously declaring on 31 August an "end to the combat mission in Iraq", (…) Obama delivered what was perhaps the most egregious, bitterly painful lie of the night: ‘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.’[22]

But the US does not intend to pay reparations for the damage done. On the contrary: Christopher Crowley, USAID director in Iraq, said the push for Iraqis to take over the U.S. victims aid program is part of a general trend for all American assistance programs in Iraq. The U.S. is "seeking a larger contribution from the (Iraqi) government to these programs so they will become more sustainable as time goes on," he said. Crowley said many in the U.S. believe Iraq has the means to pay its own way to rebuild after the war, with the world's third largest proven reserves of crude oil. Asked why the Iraqi government should pay compensation for deaths during American operations, he said the victims "are Iraqi citizens”.[23] This is really unbelievable: The US wants the Iraqi government to pay compensations for the destruction and all the killings the US military machine inflicted upon the country. The reasons they give are: a) Iraq can sell a lot of oil to reconstruct the country and b) the victims are Iraqis and thus compensations should be paid by… Iraqis. Twisted logic this is. Comment from an Iraqi: “Someone entered my house illegally and destroyed everything and killed my family and he asks me to pay for the damage? Am I talking to barbarians who just came out of a cave?”

All this destruction has cost the US taxpayer a lot of money. “As the United States ends combat in Iraq, it appears that our $3 trillion estimate (which accounted for both government expenses and the war's broader impact on the U.S. economy) was, if anything, too low. For example, the cost of diagnosing, treating and compensating disabled veterans has proved higher than we expected.” writes Joseph Stiglitz in the Washington Post[24]. Moreover, a report published by the Strategic Foresight Group in India in a book entitled The Cost of Conflict in the Middle East, calculates that conflict in the area over the last 20 years has cost the nations and people of the region 12 trillion U.S. dollars. The Indian report adds that the Middle East has recorded “a high record of military expenses in the past 20 years and is considered the most armed region in the world.”[25] Imagine if that sum would have been spent on rural and urban infrastructure, dams and reservoirs, desalination and irrigation, forestation and fisheries, industry and agriculture, medicine and public health, housing and information technology, jobs, equitable integration of cities and villages, and repairing the ravages of wars rather than on arms that can only create destruction.

The unbearable lightness of Iraqi public services

As mentioned above, basic necessities such as potable water, reliable electricity, garbage pickup, a functioning sewage system, employment, health care, etc. are beyond the reach of the vast majority of Iraqis. Iraq has slided into the age of darkness, not only in the figurative, but also in the very literal sense, since light has become a scarce commodity. Complaints have been growing about public power lasting just a few hours each day. Iraqi police used water cannon and batons to disperse protesters in the southern city of Nassiriya after protests flared on 22 August over crippling electricity shortages and inadequate services. Similar demonstrations occurred in Nassiriya in June when 1,000 protesters tried to storm the provincial council building, scuffling with police, and also in Basra, where two people died in clashes with police.[26]

Violent protests in several cities over power shortages In June forced Iraq's electricity minister Kareem Waheed to resign.[27]

He was replaced by Hussain al-Shahristani, Oil Minister of Iraq, who came to Iraq in 2003 on the back of US/UK tanks. He issued a decree: “prohibits all trade union activity and ceases all forms of cooperation and official discussions with the electricity sector unions; 
Directs management to help police enforce the closure of union offices and confiscation of documents, furniture, computers and anything else present.

Akram Nadir, the International Representative of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, FWCUI, has urged people to write protest letters to Al-Shahristani: “This order is a clear violation of international labour standards which your government is obligated to uphold, and we call on you to reverse course and stop this assault on Iraqi unions.”[28]

After the “Desert Storm”bombing campaign in 1991, power plants and power lines were for 91% destroyed: 95 power stations and all power lines of 400,000 and 135,000 volts. The oil supply had totally stopped: the oil fields of Kirkuk in the north and Rumaila in the south, refineries, pumping stations, oil terminals for export in Um Qasr and Fao: all eliminated. Iraqis were able to restore electricity within 6 months, despite the severe sanctions imposed on the country. The reconstruction campaign following the end of hostilities in March 1991 was an achievement of staggering proportions. Now, after 7 years of “liberation”, basic public services are still not properly functioning.

A blogger wrote: “During the reign of the old minister, we used to have electricity power for two hours on and four hours off. That means we used to have electricity for eight hours a day. Sometimes it was less than that. Now and during the days of Shahristani, we have less than four hours a day electricity during the crazy SUMMER of Iraq where temperature is always over 50 degrees for more than three months. The great minister came up with the reason for the problem and a very simple solution to solve the dilemma of electricity. He believes that we (Iraqi people) waste electricity and all the families in any house should gather in one room at night and sleep together. I do not know how he could even say that or even think about this shameful solution.”[29]

Shahristani doesn’t have to worry about the summer heat. Have a look at some of the Iraqi Excellencies’ salaries: Iraqi president: About 700,000 USD a year. Iraqi Vice presidents: 600,000 USD a year. Iraqi news agencies claim that Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi receives One Million USD a month, in total. Maliki’s salary is equal to that of the Iraqi President.

Head of the Judiciary council: about 100,000 USD a month (not clear on allocations).

Their pension: 80 percent of the last received paycheck for the rest of their lives. [30]

Freedom? Liberty? Justice?

Part II: Endless occupation and its insidious effects   


Even as President Barack Obama was announcing the end of combat in Iraq, U.S. forces were still in fight at the so-called end of Iraq combat mission. American soldiers were sealing off a northern village early Wednesday as their Iraqi partners raided houses and arrested dozens of suspected insurgents.[31]

"Along with the Great Wall of China," said Ambassador Hill, " the US embassy in Baghdad is one of those things you can see with the naked eye from outer space. I mean, it’s huge." [32] 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. (...) The State Department has requested a mini-army to protect this Fortress America -- including 24 Black Hawk helicopters and 50 bomb-resistant vehicles.[33]

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. About 5,800 of them airmen, said Maj. Gen. Joseph Reynes, director of the Air Component Coordination Element for U.S. Forces-Iraq.[34]

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.[35]

The Pentagon may be sharply reducing its combat forces in Iraq, but the military plans to step up efforts to influence media coverage in that country -- as well as in the US. "It is essential to the success of the new Iraqi government and the U.S. Forces-Iraq mission that both communicate effectively with our strategic audiences (i.e. Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international, and U.S. and USF-I audiences) to gain widespread acceptance of core themes and messages," according to the pre-solicitation notice for a tean of 12 civilian contractors to provide "strategic communication management services" there.[36]

The plain and simple fact is that the war and occupation will continue until the people of Iraq and the world force the U.S. to total withdrawal. People in this country (the USA) have a particular responsibility to build a powerful movement of determined political opposition to the ongoing occupation of and war upon Iraq waged by the U.S. government. Do not be fooled into thinking that Obama or any presidential administration will leave Iraq on its own volition, concludes Kenneth J. Theisen form the US antiwar group “World Can’t Wait”.[37]  And the National Popular Resistance has stepped up its activities against the occupation recently: There has also been a major increase in rocket and mortar attacks in the fortified Green Zone and at the Baghdad airport, according to Brig. Gen. Ralph O. Baker, the deputy commander of American forces in central Iraq. General Baker, who said there had been about 60 such attacks in the last two months compared with “two or three” in the preceding months[38]

The infamous underevaluation of civilian casualties counts.

While the destruction of Iraq is considered by Washington’s ruling elite as a “good outcome for the United States”, most journalists in the mainstream press keep on fixing the number of civilian casualties at around 100.000. Another lie, a gross underestimate and an insult to the suffering Iraqi people. That number comes from Iraq Bodycount, an organisation that does valuable work in collecting data of the deaths that are reported in the mainstream press[39]. But their figures cannot serve as a scientific norm to establish a relevant estimate of Iraqi casualties.

Let’s give a few examples: Twenty thousand[40] 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[41]. Iraq bodycount has some 70 doctors in their database of casualties[42], which means that they have only listed 3,5% of the estimated number of killed physicians.

Iraq Bodycount has 108 academics listed in its database. The BRussells Tribunal has a partial list of 448 murdered academics[43], compiled from different sources. Although that list is very incomplete, Iraq Bodycount lists only 24% of the academic casualties reported by the BRussells Tribunal.

Perhaps the best monitored category of victims in this war are the media professionals. The BRussells Tribunal has a list of 354 killed media professionals.[44] Al-Iraqiya director general Habib al-Sadr told AFP in September 2007 that at least 75 members of his staff have been killed since he took over the channel in 2005 and another 68 wounded.[45] The BRussells Tribunal list of killed media professionals had at that moment less than 1/3rd of this number in its database. But the number of Iraq Bodycount stands at only 241 casualties.

Les Roberts, author of the two Lancet studies of Iraq mortality, defended himself on 20 September 2007 against allegations that his surveys were “deeply flawed”: “A study of 13 war affected countries presented at a recent Harvard conference found over 80% of violent deaths in conflicts go unreported by the press and governments. City officials in the Iraqi city of Najaf were recently quoted on Middle East Online stating that 40,000 unidentified bodies have been buried in that city since the start of the conflict. When speaking to the Rotarians in a speech covered on C-SPAN on September 5th, H.E. Samir Sumaida’ie, the Iraqi Ambassador to the US, stated that there were 500,000 new widows in Iraq. The Baker-Hamilton Commission similarly found that the Pentagon under-counted violent incidents by a factor of 10. Finally, the respected British polling firm ORB released the results of a poll estimating that 22% of households had lost a member to violence during the occupation of Iraq, equating to 1.2 million deaths. This finding roughly verifies a less precisely worded BBC poll last February that reported 17% of Iraqis had a household member who was a victim of violence. There are now two polls and three scientific surveys all suggesting the official figures and media-based estimates in Iraq have missed 70-95% of all deaths. The evidence suggests that the extent of under-reporting by the media is only increasing with time.” [46]

A memo by the MoD's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, stated that: "The (Lancet) study design is robust and employs methods that are regarded as close to "best practice" in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq."In an e-mail, released by the British Foreign Office, in which an official asks about the Lancet report, the official writes: "However, the survey methodology used here cannot be rubbished, it is a tried and tested way of measuring mortality in conflict zones."[47]

The discussion about casualties is not over yet, but we can safely put forward the number of + 1 million excess deaths caused by this war, most of them from violent causes. An archive of articles about the heated discussions in the press and blogs on civilian death counts during the US occupation can be found on the BRussells Tribunal website:

A dark summer for Iraqi academics

The BRussells Tribunal is well known for its campaign it started in 2005 to create awareness about the situation of Iraqi academics. It receives regularly updates on summary executions of Iraqi academics from a variety of Iraqi sources. Here’s a short overview of casualties that occurred during the summer:

Ehab Al-Ani, Hospital Director in Al Qaim, was killed on 5 June 2010 by a roadside bomb. The initial investigation indicated that Dr. Al Ani was not killed randomly.

On 29 June, Ahmed Jumaa, vice-chancellor of the Islamic University in Ramadi, was killed by a roadside bomb in Hit. On the same day Professor Ali Sayegh Zidane, a specialist in cancer in the Harithiya hospital in Baghdad was assassinated by gunmen.

On 14 July Iraqi police found the decomposed body of university professor Adnan Al-Makki, who was stabbed to death with a knife in his home in Baghdad. On the same day an unknown university professor was assassinated by gunmen in West Baghdad.

On the 11th of August, early in the morning, gunmen burst into the house of Dr. Intisar Hasan Al Twaigry, director of Illwiyah obstetric hospital in Baghdad. They tied up her husband, shot only Dr. Al Twaigry and left with 20.000 $.

Mohammed Ali El-Din, specialized in pharmacy, was killed in the afternoon of the 14th of August in the area of Al Numaniya. He was attacked by armed men. They opened fire on the professor and he died immediately. The professor came back to Iraq a few months ago after a period of studies in George Washington University, USA.

Dr Kamal Qasim Al Hiti, prof of sociology, was kidnapped in Baghdad on 14 Aug 2010, 4 pm. A few weeks before, he received a letter with a bullet threatening him to leave. His tortured body was found on the 22th of August in the Tigris river opposite the Green Zone, in the Karad district (under control of the Islamic Supreme Council - Badr Brigade). His face was partially burned, he was tortured and hanged. He was very outspoken against the occupation. He was the editor of Al Mustaqila newspaper that was raided and eventually banned for criticizing the occupation and its militias.[48]

On 28 August 2010 the BRussells Tribunal received the following email: “I would like to add the name of my close friend Dr.Samer Saleem Abbas, who was assassinated in his private ultrasound clinic by a gunman with silencer pistol with cold blooded killer, who told his patients: “there is no need to stay and wait in the clinic anymore: your doctor is dead”. Dr.Samer was shot 5-6 bullets, one of them in his mouth... He was killed with a pen in his hand. He used to work as Radiologist/Specialists and chair of radiology department at a specialized surgery hospital (Al-Jerahat Hospital) in Baghdad medical city.

We named the lecture hall in his department after his name.

We used to chat and dream about building the radiology in Iraq after the war.

Please I hope these informations are fair enough to add his name.”

There is no end in sight of the targeted killings of Iraq’s best and brightest minds. Roughly 40% of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled the country by the end of 2006. The situation has only worsened since then, although at a lower frequency. Actions to reverse this brain drain remain very necessary. But most observers don’t see the government taking concrete measures that create the necessary conditions for the educated middle class to return. Without the middle class Iraq has no viable future.


[1] Roy Greenslade, Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, see:















































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« Reply #114 on: September 21, 2010, 07:26:13 am »


by Husayn Al-Kurdi

September 20, 2010

IS AND IS NOT by Husayn Al-Kurdi

Art is not Life
Poetry is not Struggle
Oppressors are not Oppressed
Peace is not Justice
Suffering is not Redeeming
Losing is not Winning

Begging is not Taking
Complying is not Resisting
Accepting is not Rejecting
Capitalism is not Socialism
Reform is not Revolution
Mendacity is not Veracity

Anguish is not Progress
Exclaiming is not Helping
Tears are not Bullets
Sentiment is not Blood
Pleading is not Overcoming
Appealing is not Overthrowing
Oppressing is not Liberating
Pleasing is not Defying
Beseeching is not Determining
Defending is not Attacking
Cowardice is not Audacity
Ordering is not Serving
Hearing is not Listening
Looking is not Seeing
Feeling is not Engaging
Democracy is not Freedom
Done is not Doing
Imitating is not Creating
Faking is not Making
Dying is not Living
Loaning is not Giving
Running is not Confronting
Abiding is not Deciding
Talking is not Fighting
Agonizing is not Realizing

Art is not Life
Poetry is not Struggle
Oppressors are not Oppressed
Peace is not Justice
Suffering is not Redeeming
Losing is not Winning

"Is/Is Not" Part Two by Husayn Al-Kurdi

Learning is Life
Life is Learning
Love is Indispensable
Capitalism is Mean
Socialism is Caring
Hatred is Motivating
Indifference is Inexcusable
Palestine is Arab
Crying is Cleansing
Iraq is Heroic
Zionism is Despicable
Arabness is Unconquerable
Martyrdom is Heavenly
Teaching is Sacred
Poetry is Touching
Art is Nourishing
Courage is Commendable
Cowardice is Contemptible
Compromise is Unjustifiable
Surrender is Unthinkable
Patience is Necessary
Victory is Inevitable
Attention is Demanded
Moving is Living
Inertia is Death
Ireland is Irish
Civilization is Desirable

Learning is Life
Life is Learning
Love is Indispensable
Victory is Inevitable

Dedicated to the Professors of Revolution who decisively influenced my viewpoint: A.M. Aflaq and J.C. Terpstra

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« Reply #115 on: September 22, 2010, 06:49:31 am »

Iraq snapshot - September 20, 2010

The Common Ills

Monday, September 20, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad slammed by bombings on Sunday, reporter Michael Ware speaks out about the US military shooting an Iraqi civilian, the political stalemate continues, a wealth of Iraq's resources are discovered . . . in Nouri's storeroom, the lie that the Iraq War is over gets a pushback, rallies take place for Bradley Manning, and more.
We're starting with Michael Ware, in part because a mutal friend asked that we do.  Michael Ware has reported from everywhere and, for CNN, he reported from Iraq.  He filed many explosive reports and they rarely got the attention they required.  This after fighting to get them on the air and then to only be greeted with silence as everyone attempted to look the other way. For example, let's drop back to the December 29, 2008 snapshot:
Meanwhile the December 10th death of Haedan al-Jabouri (that may not be the correct spelling) is in the news and the subject of a military investigation.  Michael Ware (CNN -- link has video only) reported the latest events yesterday.
Michael Ware: Following a nighttime military operation outside of Baghdad two weeks ago, the US army is now investigating allegations an Iraqi man, a suspected al Qaeda member, was executed in cold blood by a secretive American unit.  An Iraqi farmhouse after a recent raid by US forces.  Items scatted by the soldiers search for weapons.  An elderly mother mourns.  Hadan, her son shot dead by the Americans in Madain on Baghdad's outskirts.  It was Hadan the special forces had come for suspecting he was a bomb maker for al Qaeda.  But now troubling questions have arisen from the operation, questions not of Hadan's life as a potential bomber but rather questions into his death at American hands. Questions grave enough that the US army has launched an inquiry probing claims the death was a special forces execution. The military released to CNN a few details of the night's operation, saying the shooting was provoked. 
An unidentified voice reads from this December 10th M-NF press release: A man from the building initially complied with Coalition forces' instrucitons, but then returned inside the house.  When he returned outside, he attempted to engage the forces with an AK-47.  Perceiving hostile intent, the force engaged the armed man, killing him.
Michael Ware: But the dead man's brothers who witnessed the raid say that's a lie. Hadan, they say, was unarmed, his killing an American execution. The truth however is unclear.  . . . But the Iraqi version is different.  They say all [four] the brothers were stripped to their underwear and forced to lay on the ground, unable to move without the Americans permission, let alone grab a rifle. When Hadan did return inside, they say, it was the Americans who ordered him to do so.
Nurhi Subbi [translated]: The American forces ordered my brother to go back into the house.
Michael Ware: He was told to turn the lights on, says his brother named Nurhi, and the moment he turned on the lights, the soldiers open fired and then dragged him deeper inside the house.   
"Hardan al-Jaburi". is the correct spelling.  Where's the outcome of that investigation?  Jasim Azawi, on this week's Inside Iraq, was noting how the Iraqi government will sometimes note an investigation into abuses or deaths but that no one ever hears of any outcome. 
Back to Ware, the Australian reporter stepped away from war reporting as a result of his PTSD. Michael Ware is back in the news.  Monday, he stated on Australian TV:
There was just not the one war in Iraq. You had the American war versus the insurgency, who are nationalists fighting to free their country and who were purely politically motivated. Then there's the American war with al Qaida in Iraq. Then there's the Sunni and Shia war amongst the Iraqis themselves. There was the Arab versus Kurdish on again off again little conflict. And then there was the Iranian war versus most of those named above. And for better or for ill, everyone spoke to me. And it took a lot of earning but everyone trusted me and I tried to live up to those trusts. I went out and I found the Iraqis who were on the other side of everything. And first it was for the purpose of stories but they became my friends. Once someone invited you to their house, it's incumbent upon them, at the dire risk of losing their good family name and all public standing, losing face, they must with that invitation of hospitality give you protection. Even if his brother shows up wanting to kill you he must defend you against all threats.
That was from part one of Prisoner Of War (Australia's ABC) --  here for transcript -- and Tuesday (yes, tomorrow, but there's a time difference) --  here for transcript -- he discussed the incident that will draw the most attention to the Prisoner Of War special:
MICHAEL WARE: There was an incident that I filmed back in 2007. It was in a remote Iraqi village, a village that had pretty much been owned by Al Qaeda. A young man who turned out to be 16, 17, maybe 18 years of age, you know like so many Iraqis had a weapon to protect himself, approached the house we were in and the soldiers who were watching our backs, one of them put a bullet right in the back of his head. Unfortunately it didn't kill him. We all spent the next 20 odd minutes listening to his tortured breath as he died. I had this moment that I realised despite what was happening to this man in front of me, I'd been more concerned with the composition of my shot than I was with any attempt to either save him or at the very very least, ease his passing. I indeed had been indifferent as the soldiers around me whose indifference I was attempting to capture. Technically being it a breach of the Geneva Convention at least or arguably a small war crime, if there's such a thing, that film, to this day, it's never seen the light of day.



JOHN MARTINKUS, JOURNALIST: When I went back to Baghdad in 2007. One of the first things he showed me was that tape and he was watching it over and over and over again. Part of him was like 'how could I, how could I just stand by and watch that happen'. It was a really horrible stark moral choice that he faced and he still wrestles with that.


MICHAEL WARE: There came a point where something inside me started to tell me that it was time to leave Iraq. That was a hard thing for me to come to terms with. I was sitting in the garden of the CNN house with one of my great mates Tommy the producer, I said 'Tommy I think I need to leave' and it was with enormous comfort for Tommy to say 'I think so mate'. I hit New York like a meteor plunging into the earth, I mean, those first six months I felt nothing but pain and I suspect I caused nothing but pain.


DAVID BELLAVIA, FMR STAFF SERGEANT, US ARMY: The last time I saw Michael I didn't even recognise him. He'd aged eighty years in his eyes. He just looked tired. He looked exhausted.


MICHAEL WARE: I couldn't walk to the corner store and buy milk. I couldn't go to a dinner party. I couldn't stand in a crowd. I couldn't catch the subway, you know, I couldn't live.

We'll try to note more of the two-part special later this week.  On the latest episode of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, begain airing Friday), host Jasim Azawi was back and joined by guests Talib Alhamdani ("director general at the Iraqi Council of Ministers"), David Pollock (Washington Institute for the Near East Policy) and Maclom Smart (Amnesty Internationl) to discuss Amnesty International's new report [PDF format warning] "NEW ORDER, SAME ABUSES: UNLAWFUL DETENTIONS AND TORTURE IN IRAQ''  which found that Iraqi prisoners are being physically abused, detained with no access to attorneys and no trial dates and disappeared.
Jasim Azawi: Malcolm Smart, let me start with you,  I was struck by a quote you have given and let me just read it to you to make sure that I read it correctly.  It says: "Iraq's security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees' rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity."  Looking at the statement, this is nothing short of a massive indictment of the entire Iraqi judicial system. Basically, you are saying, 'The government is sanctioning this abuse.' 
Malcolm Smart:  Well I fear that's the case and although we have many public statements to the contrary from the government -- as your previous report has shown -- there have been now a number of incidents where secret detention prisons have been located, the government has said it's carrying out investigations, those investigations have not achieved any outcome that we know of.  Officials accused of torture have not been brought to justice as far as there is information to show and, at the same time, we at Amnesty International get reports constantly from families, from detainees of people who are missing, who have been tortured in detention and that's what we're drawing attention to.  We recognize that some attempts have been made by the Human Rights Ministry,the Justice Ministry, to bring things under control but there's a long way to go yet and much more needs to be done.
Jasim Azawi: Mr. Alhamdani, immediately upon issuing this report, Iraqi government officials were quick to draw a distinction between numbers. 'No, it's not 30,000 as Amnesty International alleges, it's only about 15,000.'  I'm not going to play the number game with you but in the face of overwhelming evidence of major human rights abuse and torture in Iraqi prisons, denial by itself is not going to serve anybody, especially the Iraqi government. 
Talib Alhamdani: Yeah, of course it's not going to serve, I mean, to play the numbers  is not, my intake into this report.  In fact, the [. . .] report, I read the whole of it.  In fact, the Council of the Ministers Secretariat are reviewing the report by the legal departments there. And I as the head of the follow up department, I am going to follow the recommendations, what we goiing to do about it.  In fact, I contacted many of my colleagues, the Justice Dept in Iraq, the Ministry, and also the Ministry of Human Rights and even the Security Councils here and they going to cooperate. And they say there is no, in fact, coordination between the Amnesty International and them. They would have opened the jails for them to investigate every allegation there is but they say they never heard anything from Amnesty International --
Jasim Azawi : Well let's leave the coordination aspect aside, Are you and the Iraqi government saying that basically there is no abuse, there is no torture in Iraqi prisons?  I mean --
Talib Alhamdani:  No, of course not.
Jasim Azawi: -- aside from the follow up of we are going to do that and we are going to do this, you are not denying, are you, that torture is endemic in Iraqi prisons?
Talib Alhamdani: In fact, Jasim, I lived in the US for almost 25 years. I used to head one of the organizations monitoring human rights abuses during the previous regime.  We used to knock the door on Amnesty International, give them reports of abuses in Iraq.  In fact, this report just give us a wake up call that we need to do more. We at administrative arms of the Council of Ministers, we going to follow up all the allegations in this report to the minor details and we encourage Amnesty International to come to Baghdad, to give us a call and --
Jasim Azawi: That's a wonderful notion, Mr. Alhamdani. We shall find out whether such promises -- as have been made in the past -- over the past six, seven years -- will materialize.  But let me go to Mr. Pollock and let me do also another thing which is quote something also from the report.  It says: "Yet the US authorities, whose own record on detainees' rights has been so poor, has now handed over thousands of people detained by US forces to face this catalogue of illegality, violence and abuse, abdicating any responsibility for their human rights."  If there is one entity, Mr. Pollock, quite aware and extenisvely about the human rights abuse, it's the American forces in Iraq. In light of that knowledge, why did they hand over tens of thousands of Iraqis to Iraqi authorities knowing full well some of them, it not a great segment of them, would be tortured?
David Pollock: I think, Jasim, that we have to begin by noting that Iraq is now a sovereign, independent country. And you, of all people, who have argued for so long that the American occupation of Iraq should end., should, I think, recognize that as part of ending that occupation, which we are doing, the transfer of responsibility and full soverignity to Iraq is taking place.  And that is something, in my opinion, to be applauded. Even, I hope, by you.
Jasim Azawi: Indeed I would applaud that massively. [Crosstalk] Indeed, I've called for the ending of this occupation.  But I'll let you finish before I come back to you.
David Pollock: Thank you.  And so as to your point about responsiblity for prisoners and detainees, this is now an Iraqi responsibility and, therefore, I was happy to hear the representative of the new democratic government of Iraq who, as he said --
Pollack's an ass and we're not interested in rehashing Saddam Hussein. These liars who whored it for an illegal war?  They can't have spent all of 2002 and 2003 screaming for the Iraq War -- as they did -- and insisting Hussein was somehow akin to Hitler -- as they did --  and now attempt to use Hussein as a baseline by which to grade modern day Iraq.  It's not ethical, it's not consistent and I HATE liars.
Jasim Azawi: Shouldn't the American forces have acquired and asked for and demanded guarantees from the Iraqi authorities to prevent torture in Iraqi prisons, Mr. Smart?
Malcolm Smart: Well the American and Iraqi governments made a Status Of Forces
Agreement at the end of 2008 which covers the withdrawal and the handover of prisons and prisoners.  And there is absolutely no human rights safeguards written into that which is quite astonishing.  We raised that at the time and nothing has been done.  And we've seen this process of handover, indeed we cite in our report cases of people who've been detained -- some times for years --  by the US forces without any charge or trial, without any independent tribunal they can go to to challenge their detention, who the American forces have recommended for release but actually haven't been released by the Iraqi government but have been handed over to them. So there's a big question about the US role and its failure to uphold the human rights principles that the US has once spoken so highly for.
Excuses popped up from two of the guests (not Smart) that Iraq was a 'newborn' and Jasim rightly pointed out that this was not the case.  Nouri al-Maliki, for example, has been prime minister since April 2006.  That's more than enough time to address abuses.  If you want to.  "If you want to" being the key. Or maybe if you're forced to by the world's gaze?  September 10th's snapshot noted that antiquities were being returned to Iraq; however, some of the previously returned items were missing.  This puzzled the world and, wouldn't you know it, when outlets across the world wondered what could have happened, Nouri and crew 'find' the items. In today's paper, the New York Times reports (no individual reported credited, the byline reads: "BY THE NEW YORK TIMES"  -- probably not wanting to suffer the wrath of Nouri) that over 600 of the items which went missing after they were returned to Iraq in 2008 were found . . . "in a storeroom of the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki" and they're now (supposedly) going to be "turned over to Iraq's National Museum". The possession by Nouri shouldn't have been a surprise.  Not only is he a thug, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor News Service) reported September 8th, "He [Iraq's Ambassador to the US Samir Sumaidaie] noted, however, that a previous shipment of 632 stolen pieces recovered in the US had gone missing after being delivered to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office last year."  Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) quotes the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Qahtan al-Jibouri, declaring, "We found these artificats in one of the storerooms of the prime minister's office along with some kitchen appliances."  The news comes after Paul Barford (Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues) caught an earlier 'clarification' by the Iraqi government last week.
Again, the valuables, the historically and culturally important items were discovered in Nouri's storeroom.  Possibly all Iraq's potable water is in there as well?  Four years and counting, and he refuses to step down as prime minister despite his term having expired, Nouri's not provided security, not provided potable water, not provided reliable electricity, he's done nothing but sit on billions and enrich his own pockets.  Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) spoke with Ayad Allawi who declared "Maliki must understand ... no one stays in power forever" and "I think that matters will be highly tempestuous within the country, and I expect, god forbid, a reaction against democratic principles and policies. I don't think that the Iraqi people will believe in going to the polls in the future, and this will lead to further divisions on the Iraqi streets.."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and thirteen days with no government formed.

Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) also spoke with Allawi this weekend and Allawi told him, "Violence is increasing, services are stagnant, the economy is extremely poor, and unemployment is rising. For the last six months the government has been without leaders, and unfortunately we are seeing the problems increase as the US draws down."  The weekend was filled with speculation about Iraq forming a government.  northsum32 (All Voices) recaps the talk coming out of Iraq: "The deal would involve the Iraqiya group of Allawi that won the most seats the INA which includes Al Sadr and the Kurdistan Allliance. The prime minister would be current vice president Adel Abdulmahdi a member of the Iraq National Alliance and also lead of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. The SIIC lost many seats while supporters of Al Sadr gained and took over leadership of the group. Ayad Allawi would become president. The Kurdistan Alliance would get the chairmanship of the parliament."  Asso Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) interviewed KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih:               

Q: Regarding forming the government, in one of your previous statements you have stated not forming the government is a disgrace, Why?           

A: In fact, it is a shame…. We do not have a government that has emerged as a result of this [March] election. The country is exposed to serious terrorist attacks and crises in the basic services of electricity and water supply to the people. In normal circumstances, governments fall because of these problems and a new government comes. What is happening now is a major failure for the political elites in front of the Iraqi voter who challenged terrorism when he went to the ballot boxes and wanted to establish a new beginning for his country.

Salih also noted the publiic "democrations denoucing the government's performance in the field of services" and felt that the political stalemate continuing would cause "the current political elite to lose its credibility before the people."  Today Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports that 24 members of Parliament met yetersday and quotes MP Mahmoud Othman insisting that the people can't be ignored while Myers observes, 'In fact, they can and have, and after the unofficial rum session on Sunday of a body elected more than six months ago but still not functioning, it was clear they might continue to do so for some time to come."  Will neighboring countries be able to help ease the statlemate?  Press TV reports, "Iran, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey will attend the seventh conference of the Interior Ministers of Iraq's Neighboring Countries" on Tuesday. This month is supposed to be 'big.' Iraq's supposed to be on the verge of forming a government finally! It's allegedly been on the verge of that for over six months now. Nouri has promised that stalemate over or continued, Iraq will finally have a census this month. (This was supposed to have taken place years ago and is required by the country's Constitution.) Nothing, Nouri has maintained, will stop it. However, nothing was supposed to stop this month's gas field auctions either . . . and . . . yet Jijo Jacob (International Business Times) reports that the bidding on three fields has been postponed until October 20th.  In other oil and gas news, Todays Zaman reports, "Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız went to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday to attend the signing ceremony of an agreement on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Pipeline."  AFP notes, "Baghdad has reached an agreement with Damascus to build two oil pipelines linking Iraq to Mediterranean sea ports via Syria for the export of crude, an Iraqi oil ministry spokesman said Monday."  Noting the deals with Turkey and Syria, Ben Lando (Iraq Oil Report) observes that "Iraq has taken essential steps towards its goal of becoming the world's premier oil exporter."
Reuters notes today's violence includes 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul, 1 Sahwa shot dead in Shirqat, a Baghdad car bombing which injured six people and, dropping back to Sunday, a Falluja roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left three injured.  That was a Falluja roadside bombing on Sunday, it wasn't the big Falluja bombing already reported.
Yesterday Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Timothy Williams and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) explain, "The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks across Iraq during the past several weeks, coinciding with the country's political crisis. Iraq held parliamentary elections more than six months ago, but political leaders have failed to agree on a coalition government, and insurgents have sought to exploit the power vacuum." Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Twin car bombs exploded within moments of each other around 11 a.m. in Baghdad — one near a facility housing federal police, which killed 19 people, the other a few miles away at a busy intersection in the Mansour neighborhood, killing 10, Iraqi authorities said. More than 110 people were injured. Hours later, a suicide bomber drove into an Iraqi army checkpoint in central Fallujah, a heavily guarded city 40 miles west of Baghdad. Three soldiers and three civilians were killed, and 14 others were injured." Jamal Hashem (Xinhua) reports that Xinhua correspondent Bashar was there when the suicide car bombing "struck an office of a mobile phone company Asiacell, destroying the company building and a building nearby" and quotes him stating, "I am safe, but it was a very huge blast that collapsed the front part of Asiacell building, and I can see several cars either charred or badly damaged." Janine Zacharia and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report, "Traffic snarled in parts of Baghdad as Iraqi police tightened checkpoints after the twin car bombings struck at 10 a.m. in the Mansour and Kathumya neighborhoods, killing 29 people and wounding 111, according to Iraqi security authorities." Barbara Surk (AP) explains, "Most of those killed in Sunday's apparently coordinated attacks in Baghdad were civilians, and residents of the areas bombed directed their anger at a government they feel has left the city vulnerable to repeated attacks despite a network of police and army checkpoints paralyzing traffic." Ned Parker and Jabr Zeki (Los Angeles Times) count 33 dead from the 2 Baghdad bombings and the Falluja one and report, "A man who gave his name only as Majid described in a phone call people walking around in a daze. Some screamed 'God is great!' in grief for the dead while others expressed anger at the country's politicians. 'G** damn the government!' he heard one man shout in anger over what is widely seen as a deteriorating security situation."  Jason Ditz ( observes, "The killings are the clearest reminder yet that despite the Obama Administration's claims that the war is over, Iraq remains a very dangerous place, one in which US troops remain engaged."
The Iraq War is not over.  Colin Clark (DoDBuzz) quotes an e-mail from a soldier serving in Iraq on the so-called 'change' and 'end' of 'combat operations':
The reason I'm sending this out is because I have had a few people ask if I left Iraq early because all of the combat troops are out of Iraq and I wanted to let everyone know the real deal.   
Take our Brigade for example.  We were originally called a HBCT (Heavy Brigade Combat Team).  Well, since Obama said he would pull all of the "combat" troops out by Aug, all they did before we left was change our name from a HBCT to an AAB (Advise and Assist Brigade).  We have the same personnel/equipment layout as before and are doing the same missions.  The ONLY difference is that they changed our name from a HBCT to an AAB and that's how we pulled all of the 'combat' troops out.
There are other Brigades just like ours that are doing the same missions that are still over here.  So anyway now you know the REAL story, so that's why I'm not coming back early.

The Iraq War hasn't ended.  And COWARDS who can't call it out need to sit their tired asses down.  Barack Obama's 'polish,' 'smoothness,' 'historic nature' and all other bulls**t doesn't matter a damn bit to the Iraqis dying and shame on any **** who can't call out Barack at this late date but feels the needs to offer a tongue bath to Barack's balls before addressing the issues that matter.  Yes, this refers to several people specifically who honestly need to find something else to do because they're worthless and they're cowards.  They know who they are.  Also, they're pathetic.
Turning to groups not afraid to stand up, rallies were held over the weekend for Bradley Manning. For anyone not up to speed, Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. As Daniel Ellsberg reminded from the stage in Oakland Thursday night, "We don't know all the facts." But we know, as Ellsberg pointed out, that the US military is attempting to prosecute Bradley.

Julia Ledoux (Inside Nova) reports demonstrators at Quantico yesterday protested for Bradley to be freed and quotes Pete Perry stating, "We're concerned because specifically we believe there are war crimes being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. When crimes are committed, it helps when there is a whistleblower to report them." The Guardian's Greenslade blog notes the rallies. The Uptake has video of the rally in Minneapolis. Coleen Rowley participated in that rally and she explains in the video:

We're here today to support Bradley Manning, the Private who is being charged with exposing the video known as Collateral Murder showing the Apache helicopter shooting 11 Iraqi civilians, also including two children and two Reuters employees. He is a whistle blower who is blowing the whistle on War Crimes so, therefore, he cannot have done anything wrong.

Nikol Purvis (Associated Content) reports, "In Santa Monica, approximately 75 people showed up in support of Bradley Manning and in hopes to raise awareness to free the 23 year old soldier who allegedly leaked over 90,000 pages of sensitive classified material" and that the rally included ISO gubernatorial candidate Carlos Alverez who expressed his support for Bradley. In addition, Will David (Lower Hudson Journal News) reports that a protest took place in Cortlandt, New York outside a fundraiser for US House Rep John Hall who is running for re-election and that the demonstrators utilized "a mock coffin draped with an American flag and held up signs protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan" and quotes 61-year-old Bennett Weiss stating, "I was an ardent supporter of John Hall. I worked tirelessly to get him elected. He has not lived up to expectations as a true progressive."

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Iraq snapshot - September 21, 2010

The Common Ills

September 21, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, here come the attempts by prisses to bully you into voting for their candidates, the political stalemate continues (but, they swear, it's almost over), the Amnesty International report continues to get attention, Barack nominates someone to leadership who is OPPOSED to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (Rick Warren must be so pleased) and more.
Starting with US politics due to the fact that those working the e-mail accounts are being swamped with the issue. Last week,  Libbyliberal's post at Corrente argued for taking a stand by withholding your vote -- due to the continued wars, the continued torture, etc.  To which I have added, if you do so, do so publicly. After the election in November -- where Dems are expected to suffer losses -- the narrative imposed will be, as it usually is, that Dems drifted too far left and that the party needs to move to the right.  If you're not voting, make it clear why you're not voting. I don't care who you vote for or even if you vote.  That's your business.  I support the post Libbyliberal wrote and believe she was showing some long range thinking and planning.  I do not support the posts that are upsetting so many people. Norman Solomon disgraced himself in 2008 (he was a pledged delegate for Barack and 'forgot' to disclose that while offering 'analysis' on Pacifica -- KPFA finally had to start disclosing it on air due to the large number of complaints that came in to the switchboard).  I like Norman and really thought he'd be using this time to rebuild his name (and I'd hoped that was possible).  Instead, at ZNet, he wants to tell you how to vote again. And his piece has outraged a number of community members -- especially independents and all Greens -- as has Joel Bleifuss (In These Times). When this site started, I stated all on the left were welcomed.  Due to that position, we're opening with this topic.
First, those disappointed by Joel's nonsense, read it again.  A Socialist (Joel is a Socialist, I don't know if that's public or not and I don't give a damn if it's not) writing for a Socialist periodical (that is what James Weinstein started) who cannot even correctly identify US Senator Bernie Sanders is an embarrassment with problems all their own.  (Bernie is not an "independent," he is a Socialist.  Once upon a time, Laura Flanders castigated the MSM for calling Bernie an independent and not a Socialist.) Both Norman and Joel stand at the urinals and cast an envious eye over at the crotch of the Tea Party standing between them.  And it's that petty jealousy that leads them to both make offensive statements.  Norman:

Despite criticism that once elected, Democratic Party members exchange their social agenda for a corporate one, Solomon said withdrawing support from the Democratic Party isn't the answer, as it hasn't successfully steered it to the left in the past.
". . . you could argue that if ever there was an instance where progressives cost the Democratic Party something big, i.e. the White House, through not voting or through supporting Nader, it was 2000. Well, in no way did that result, in the last decade, per ser, [in] moving the Democratic Party in our direction," he said.
If apples fall far from trees, no one expects them to turn into oranges . . . Except Norman.  We'll come back to it because Joel actually helps us establish the point.  Joel:
Ten years ago, too many progressives hitched their wagon to Ralph Nader's quixotic star. Vote for me, said he, Al Gore and George W. Bush are "Tweedledum and Tweedledee."
On Nov. 7, 2000, Gore lost Florida to Bush by 537 votes, while Nader clocked in with 97,421 votes. One result? The United States went to war in Iraq. The death toll: more than 3,400 Americans and more than 100,000 Iraqis (some put that figure much higher), and counting.   
Elections do matter.
That lie Joel's pimping? It didn't start two years ago.  It started before the Supreme Court awarded the election to George W. Bush.  It started, in fact, the day after the election.  Norman wants to argue that people voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and that no change was felt all during the next ten years.  Are we forgetting what happened?  Are we rewriting history, Norman?  Why would the Democratic Party have to respond to voters who felt it had gone too far right when everyone was attacking those voters?  (As noted before, I voted for Al Gore.  I donated to his campaign, I donated to the recounts.  But I have never attacked anyone for voting for Ralph Nader.) Not only were they attacked but cheap cowards like Michael Moore, Eddie Veddar and Susan Sarandon rushed forward to issue their own mea culpas and apologize and disgrace themselves. By the time 2008 rolled around, people like Patti Smith would **** themselves out by saying Ralph was great but Barack was popular and you had to vote for popular.  (Had record buyers followed Patti's advice back in 1975, she'd just be another ugly girl with hairy army pits muttering bad poetry to herself.  When the 'independents' build arguments -- as she did to Spin -- on 'popularity' grounds, the whole country's in trouble.)
Norman wants to act like all of that didn't happen.  The Democratic Party never had to address the issue because the enforcers were silencing dissent and rewriting history. 
Al Gore lost because the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to Bush.  He also lost because Donna Brazile's an idiot and doesn't know how to run a campaign.  He also lost because he refused to co-opt the populist argument Ralph Nader was making.  He lost because he chose Lieberman as a running mate and, on Meet The Press, Joe waived through all military ballots regardless of postmarks or when they were postmarked.  He lost because he tried to distance himself from Bill Clinton who was, is and forever will be more popular and more likeable than Al Gore is. None of this has anything to do with Ralph Nader.
People voted for who they wanted to.  Nader voters felt Nader earned their vote.  Al didn't earn it.  (There are studies which demonstrate that Nader didn't pull from likely Gore voters.  I don't dismiss those studies but I firmly believe your vote is your vote and you decide who you want to vote for.  No party owns it.  The studies are based on the argument that the Democratic Party owns votes and I reject that notion.) By relentlessly blaming Nader both for (a) Bush stealing the election and (b) Gore's inability to fight (during the campaign and after), the Democratic Party ensured they'd never have to answer to the actual issues that allowed Ralph to earn so many votes.
So that dismisses Norman.  Joel should just be ashamed of himself. Nader voters are now responsible for the Iraq War?  Bob Somerby sometimes makes that argument and I just roll my eyes.  But Joel, you're a Socialist, not Al Gore's former roommate.  You damn well know better. Before the Iraq War started in March 2003, there was a lengthy roll out for it.  One speech advocating for war took place February 12, 2002 in front of the Council on Foreign Relations:
Even if we give first priority to the destruction of terrorist networks, and even if we succeed, there are still governments that could bring us great harm. And there is a clear case that one of these governments in particular represents a virulent threat in a class by itself: Iraq.

As far as I am concerned, a final reckoning with that government should be on the table. To my way of thinking, the real question is not the principle of the thing, but of making sure that this time we will finish the matter on our terms. But finishing it on our terms means more than a change of regime in Iraq. It means thinking through the consequences of action there on our other vital interests, including the survival in office of Pakistan's leader; avoiding a huge escalation of violence in the Middle East; provision for the security and interests of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf States; having a workable plan for preventing the disintegration of Iraq into chaos; and sustaining critically important support within the present coalition.

In 1991, I crossed party lines and supported the use of force against Saddam Hussein, but he was allowed to survive his defeat as the result of a calculation we all had reason to deeply regret for the ensuing decade. And we still do. So this time, if we resort to force, we must absolutely get it right. It must be an action set up carefully and on the basis of the most realistic concepts. Failure cannot be an option, which means that we must be prepared to go the limit. And wishful thinking based on best-case scenarios or excessively literal transfers of recent experience to different conditions would be a recipe for disaster.
Who made that speech?  First hint: Not George W. Bush.  Second hint: Not Ralph Nader.  Those are Al Gore's words.  By the end of 2002, he would speak against the impending war.  But in 2002, he was for it.  Would he have stayed for it if he'd been in the White House?  Who knows.  But Joel cannot argue that Al Gore in the White House in 2001 would have meant no war on Iraq and call himself intellectually honest.  It's a rewriting of history and requires a gift for prophecy that neither Joel nor Norman posses. (For a more honest version of What if?, see Jeff Weintraub's analysis.)
We don't need scare tactics, we don't need to be told what to do, in fact.  Maybe it's past time that Joel and Norman started showing a little respect for adults and stopped hectoring them and trying to scare them.  Your vote is your own.  Nader voters did not bring about or cause the Iraq War.  Nor was voting for Nader in 2000 worthless.  What an idiotic thing to imply on the latter, what a complete betrayal of democracy to ever imply that someone voting for a candidate -- any candidate -- that they believed in was worthless.  Shame on them both.  They need to stop whoring.  Why does the left suck such so much today?  Because the whores sold out the movement to serve a political party.  If In These Times is nothing but a voter's guide, I think their tax code needs to be re-examined.  Vote for who you want.  It is your vote and you own it.  (You also have the right not to vote.)  If you're not voting for a politician due to capitulations on the part of the Democratic Party, it would be smart to make that declaration before election day so you can get ahead of the press' most favored narrative "Dems are too far left and out of touch with the people as a result!"  Betty, Stan and Mike have long ago stated at their sites that they are voting Green due to the Democrats refusal to support real health care, end the wars, end torture, etc.  Jess and Ann are Greens and will be voting Green.  And, in 2008, this community endorsed Ralph Nader for the general election.  (Ava and I did not endorse.  We voted for an independent candidate -- either Ralph or Cynthia McKinney, we're not saying which.) Your vote is your business.  I do not tell you who to vote for.  Your an adult, you can make up your own mind.
Tariq Ali addresses some of the above and Iraq on today's Democracy Now! (link has video, text and audio):
AMY GOODMAN: Surrender at Home, War Abroad You were born in Pakistan. You ultimately went to Britain, where we just came from last night. It's been interesting to see the politics there, but also the devastation of the war, the effects of the wars, on the population at home in Britain. A report in the paper the other day, when we were in London, saying that 20,000 veterans are in prison, mainly Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans, for committing violent and sexual crimes. But what about the war abroad and what President Obama is doing -- says he's scaling back Iraq, still about 50,000 -- actually, well more than that -- military, and you could say paramilitaries with a mercenary armies there, and in Afghanistan, the surge?

TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, again, let's look at it concretely. Bush had promised exactly the same withdrawal pattern from Iraq: by this time, we will be out. Obama has followed it. They're not going out. What is essentially happening, they're reducing the presence of combat troops and eliminating it in the big cities, and building six huge military bases all over Iraq, in which they'll keep between fifty and sixty thousand soldiers, ready to act when the need be -- just like the British did when they occupied Iraq in the '20s and '30s of the last century. And the British were then driven out by a violent upheaval and revolution in the '50s. So the US is keeping these bases in, (a) to control Iraq, and (b) as a warning to Iran. And I think there's going to be trouble. The war isn't over at all. We've seen, just a few days ago, huge explosions in Baghdad and Fallujah. It's a total disaster and a mess. And to present that as somehow "mission accomplished part two" is a joke. That country has been wrecked, a million Iraqis dead, its social infrastructure destroyed. And in Afghanistan, they are now going from bad to worse. They know, and General Eikenberry knows and says, we cannot win this war militarily. They can't lose it, but they can't win it, either. So, political solution is the only way out, and that means that they have to have an exit strategy. Obama isn't even talking about that, because that might be construed as a sign of weakness. But by who? The army knows what's going on. They can't stay there forever.
The Iraq War is not over. Tariq Ali has the bravery to note reality. Ty Brennan (NWCN -- link has test and viceo) reports, "Over the next two days, 2,700 soldiers with the 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team will leave for a yearlong deployment. Of those 2,700 being deployed, 1,500 soldiers are from Idaho and another 600 from Oregon." Where are they going? Iraq. The war's not over. KIVI reports on the "tearful goodbyes" at a send-off ceremony. The war's not over. AP notes Oregon's National Guard is deploying to Iraq again "for the second time in six years." The war's not over. Kansas' KTKA (link has video and text) reports, "A portion of the first Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the Big Red One got their official send off today. 49 News Photojournalist Jon Englert was at Fort Riley to talk with some of the departing soldiers." The war's not over. reports there's a send-off ceremony today at the First Church of God in Newton Falls (11:00 a.m.) for members of the 292nd Engineer Detachment in the Ohio National Guard deploying to Iraq. Jon Edwards, Cindi Remi and Donna Willis (NBC 4i -- link has text and video) report on goodbyes exchanged last night in Marysville, Ohio. The war is not over.
For those service members deploying, for their families, for their friends, it's a little too hard to blindly lie and pretend the war is over just because Barack wants to boost his party's mid-term chances.  Michael Dippold (Northern Iowan) points out:
In the wake of President Barack Obama's speech announcing the end of all "combat operations" in Iraq, we are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. Our "combat troops" are now out of Iraq, and the war is finally coming to a close. At least, that's how it's being portrayed by the administration and most of the media that's covering it. Unfortunately, the truth that you are not supposed to realize is that the war is far from over.   
The term "combat troops" is a contrived way to hide the fact that 50,000 American soldiers are still in Iraq. These troops are still engaging in combat, even heavy combat, and we are still taking casualties. Additionally, according to Justin Elliott of, there are still 11,000 armed security contractors in the country.   
And Jeff Barbieri (Vermont Cynic) adds:
To me, this hearkens back to the capture of Saddam Hussein, to which George W. Bush declared with his trademark smirk: "Mission accomplished."     
Only this time, nothing actually happened to feel accomplished about, and 50,000 soldiers are still stuck in Iraq doing more or less the same thing they have been doing since Hussein's capture.   
If the Obama administration and the military are so convinced that we've won, then why not remove more troops immediately?   
Now contrast Jeff and Michael's writing with Gary Leupp's "The 'Right Thing' in Iraq?" (Dissident Voice) opens bemoaning the fact that a Fox News poll found 58% of respondents feel that the US "did the right thing" in Iraq. Gary's surprised. He's shocked. Is he for real? Why might Americans think that? Because they're stupid? No. Because they're lied to. And Americans believing that lie today? It doesn't go back to Bush or six years ago or seven. It goes to the liar who insisted 'success' on August 31st. Barack Obama made those statements, you know, the man Gary can't really mention until paragraph 43 of his essay and can't really apportion any blame to until paragraph 46.
Reality, official speak always gets press attention, rarely gets press cricitism. Barack should have been called out for his lies. Instead whores like John Nichols rushed to call his speech "graceful" and others rushed to pretend like the speech didn't take place. Why do so many Americans believe the lies -- the lies that Gary forgets to tell you came from Barack's mouth and made everyone evening news broadcast mere weeks ago? Because a so-called 'independent' media didn't do their job. The most basic push-back that would have taken place had Bush given the same speech was instead set aside for any number of reasons -- none of them having a damn thing to do with peace.  Jeff and Michael, college students, are doing what the media is supposed to have been doing.  Congratulations to them and the real hope they demonstrate for the future.

Turning to Iraqi politics,  Alsumaria TV reports, "Al Iraqiya List senior official Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi announced that Al Iraqiya is set on the priority of achieving its electoral program consisting of change and reform for the coming four years regardless of the positions presently in debate." 

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and fourteen days with no government formed.

Yesterday Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered) reported on the stalemate and talk that Nouri is "shoring up support" to remain as Prime Minister.
Kelly McEvers: Parsing out what's happening in Iraqi politics is like reading between the lines of an Iraqi play. [Play heard in the background.] In this performance, the title of which translates roughly to laughter, playfulness, seriousness and love, a member of Parliament gives a speech with grammatical errors. The implication is that politicians are illiterate and stupid. Later he appears to be shocked to hear that an Iraqi family only gets a few hours of electricity a day. The underlying meaning? Politicians are disconnected from the people.

McEvers goes on to quote a member of Nouri's group who, no surprise, says the wind is at Nouri's back and he will remain as prime minister. Might the US object? Of course not. The White House wants Nouri. The White House has backed Nouri, has proposed ignoring the Constitution to keep Nouri (by creating a new position to throw out to Iraqiya as sop). "Privately though they've long been pushing for Maliki to stay in the job," McEvers states of the US. Nouri has stated he will renegotiate the SOFA and that's been more than enough to get the support of the White House. Alsumaria TV reports this morning, "The National Alliance including the State of Law Coalition and Iraqi National Coalition plan to name Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki for a second term, a source from the national coalition told Alsumaria News."  Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance are giving "themselves five days to pick a single candidate for prime minister, and one politician said the incumbent".  Those with money to bet might want to hold off or at least recall that the Iraqi National Alliance was also swearing that they'd put the issue before there members for a vote and that hasn't happened thus far.
In today's reported violence, Reuters notes 3 Mosul roadside bombings which claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left fourteen people injured, a Nassiriya roadside bombing which injured seven people, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people (including one police officer), a second Baghdad roadside bombing which also injured four people and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left a third injured.
Staying with violence, yesterday Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!, audio, text and video) spoke with Maclom Smart (Amnesty Internationl) about Amnesty International's new report [PDF format warning] "NEW ORDER, SAME ABUSES: UNLAWFUL DETENTIONS AND TORTURE IN IRAQ'' 
MALCOLM SMART: Well, I think part of the problem is really a problem of impunity. This has been going on for all too long, and there's a culture of abuse that has taken root. It was certainly there during the days of Saddam Hussein, but what we wanted to see from 2003 was a turning of the page, and that hasn't happened. So we see secret prisons, people being tortured and ill-treated, being forced to make confessions. And the courts, although routinely detainees claim that they were made to sign false confessions, the courts are really not investigating those and coming to grips with them. And the perpetrators are not being held to account. They're not being identified. On a number of occasions, the government has reacted by saying it will appoint inquiries after secret prisons have been disclosed and their locations have been found and prisoners in them have been found to be in a very severely ill-treated position. But the outcomes of those investigations have not been made known.

AMY GOODMAN: Deaths in custody?

MALCOLM SMART: Likewise with deaths in custody. We have in our report details of several cases where deaths are alleged to have occurred as a result of torture or ill treatment. Now, the standard practice of any authority in that situation, required by national law and required by international law, is to carry out an independent investigation. What were the causes, what was the circumstances, of the death? Now, this hasn't happened. And again, we're calling attention to the need for the government to show the political will to take measures against the torturers.

AMY GOODMAN: Malcolm, there were 10,000 prisoners, in your Amnesty report, transferred from US custody in Iraq to Iraqi custody—US basically transferring prisoners to a system that tortures them, unclear what happened to them in US custody.

MALCOLM SMART: Well, part of the problem with the situation has been that the US forces have been detaining people. And, of course, we know from the days of Abu Ghraib and so on, their record has not been a good one. It's been improved in recent times, but at least—so there was some control over the prisons exercised by the US.

Since the beginning of 2009, under what's called the Status of Forces Agreement, the two governments agreed to transfer custody of the prisons and prisoners to the Iraqi forces. Now, many of those detainees held by the US forces had been held without charge or trial for years without any means to challenge their detention. We've not made the claim that all those people are innocent of crimes. If they are accused of crimes, they should be held to account in accordance with international fair trial standards. But many detainees say they've been arrested for reasons that they don't know, on the basis of information from secret informants who themselves may have been tortured or brutalized and named names of people. So, there's not been an independent process. And here, we saw this Status of Forces Agreement at the end of 2008 making the way for the transfer, with no human rights safeguards written into that, although, quite clearly, US forces know that the record of Iraqi forces is a very grim one.
Turning to the US, Lt Dan Choi Tweeted the following this afternoon:
Yesterday's silence from @BarackObama will not be forgotten. Stop the firings, Mr. President. 14 minutes ago via Twitter for iPhone
Lt Dan Choi was discharged under the discrimantory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy this summer. Barack Obama, runing for president, promised to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  As Diana Ross once sang, "And I'm still waiting."  The most Barack's done is authorized a study to determine the effects repeal of DADT might have.  That's it.  Viola Gienger (Bloomberg News) notes, "The military discharged 259 men and 169 women last year under the law. As many as 66,000 gay men and women may be serving in the U.S. military, about 2.2 percent of all personnel, including 13,000 on active duty, according to a study by the Williams Institute of the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law." This morning, on the eve of possible Senate action (the House already voted in May), David Welna (NPR's Morning Edition) reported:
David Welna: But Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee points out that repeal would actually depend on the President, the Secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All three have said they favor repeal, but they would first have to certify that they have dually considered the Pentagon study and that rules have been put in place for its implementation that will not undermine the military. Levin says that's what the provision on Dont Ask, Dont Tell really calls for.                         
Senator Carl Levin: It does not repeal Dont Ask, Dont Tell. I wish it did but it doesnt. It simply authorizes the ending of the policy if there's a certification that doing so would not undermine the morale of our troops.   
David M. Herszenhorn (New York Times) reports that today the US Senate "voted against [56 to 43] taking up a major military bill that includes a provision allowing the repeal of the 'don't ask, don't tell policy' regarding gay soldiers." Lisa Mascaro (Los Angeles Times) points out, "Democrats control 59 votes in the Senate." Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) opines, "Tuesday's vote makes it almost impossible to ensure a repeal of the 17-year ban on gays openly serving in uniform is included in the final House-Senate compromise version of the defense bill that lawmakers may vote on during a lame-duck session after November's midterm elections." Mark Thompson (Time magazine) offers, "Repeal supporters believe it will be years before another plausible effort can be mounted to allow openly gay men and women serve in the U.S. military. [. . .] Some Pentagon officials believe repeal would have been a done deal if the political calendar hadn't intruded. Gay advocates agree, and also believe repeal could have happened if -- like dozens of militaries around the world -- the U.S. simply dropped the ban and commanded its troops to follow orders, as it did when President Harry Truman integrated the military in 1948."  Barack is backing Gen James Amos to be the new Commandant of the Marine Corps because Barack and James Amos see eye to eye, that's why he nominated Amos.  And Amos appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
Before appearing, Amos filled out [PDF format warning] his responses to a series of questions by the Committee.  This is the man the 'fierce advocate' for LGBT rights nominated.
What is your view of the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, and its impact on the Marine Corps?
Gen Amos: In my view, the current law (and associated policy) has been a reasonable compromise between the unique requirements of military service and the aspirations of qualified citizens who are interested in military service.  I would characterize its impact on the Corps as being minor; about two tenths of one percent (.2%) of the roughtly 626,000 Marines discharged since 1993 were released for reasons of homosexuality.
In your personal view, should the current policy be repealed? Why or why not?
Gen Amos: In my personal view, the current law and associated policy have supported the unqiue requirements of the Marine Corps, and thus I do not recommend its repeal. My primary concern with proposed repeal is the potential disruption to cohesion that may be caused by significant change during a period of extended combat operations. Furthermore, I'm concerned that a change now will serve as a distraction to Marines who are tightly focused at this point on combat operations in Afghanistan.  The Secretary of Defense has instituted a comprehensive review of the law and policy, and that review should tell us a lot about whether such a change will be disruptive to unit cohesion.  The review will also provide insights into how, if the Congress approves of a change in law and the President signs it, the DoD should develop policy for its implementation.
 LGBT rights are not an issue for Barack.  They never have been.  He didn't need a study to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  He also could have issued an executive order to put a hold on discharges under DADT while it is being studied; however, he didn't do that.  And the study does not mean it is repealed.  The study is to determine 'harm' which means it could recommend -- as Amos does -- keeping the policy.  Barack has repeatedly betrayed the LGBT community and that's no surprise from the man who put homophobes onstage at a campaign events repeatedly. 
Amos' testimony served two purposes.  First, it refuted all those rumors that James Amos is a public toilet troll.  Second, it underscored how weak Barack is on LGBT rights.  Listening to Amos pompously go on before the Senate Armed Services Committee today about his wife and how "in our forty years of marriage, she has raised our chidlren and been my assest, she has packed and unpacked" everytime they have moved revealed what a cheap ass bigot Amos is.  He needs a supportive spouse but he'll damn any gay man or lesbian who has the same need.  He'll treat them like second class citizens (if even that).  This is the man Barack nominated and this nomination clearly sends a message.  Barack's message?  Bigotry will be rewarded and normalized.  Message received.
And we'll close with this from Senator Daniel Akaka's office (Akaka is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee):


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Military Family Association presented U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) with a 2010 Support of Military Families Award tonight on Capitol Hill for his career of advocacy and recent success in passing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act.

"The honor that comes with military service belongs not just with our troops and veterans, but also with the spouses, children and parents who sacrifice for them and support them. I thank the National Military Family Association for this privilege, and for their commitment to our servicemembers and their families," said Akaka.

The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act was signed into law by President Obama on May 5, 2010. The law includes provisions to establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans, and expand support services for homeless veterans.

Senator Akaka is Chairman of the Committee on Veterans' Affairs, and a member of the Committee on Armed Services.

For more on the National Military Family Association, visit




Kawika Riley

Communications Director and Legislative Assistant

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

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

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« Reply #117 on: September 23, 2010, 01:34:20 pm »

Iraq snapshot - September 23, 2010

The Common Ills

Wednesday, September 22, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, Anthony Shadid provides strong observations and insights on the stalled process, some note the fallen, an Iraq War veteran dies in Iraq, and more.
Yesterday on PRI's The World (link has audio and text), Lisa Mullins introduced a report from Iraq by Susannah George. Excerpt:
SUSANNAH GEORGE: Iraq's parliament has held just one official session since the national elections in March. It lasted less than 20 minutes. That was just enough time to play the Iraqi national anthem and complete the swearing in. About 20 Iraqi legislators met yesterday in an informal session. The lawmakers pledged to make decisions, not speeches. But the only decision they made was to continue to meet this week. Still, Iraqi vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi who was at the meeting, expressed hope that it could yield results.
ADEL ABDUL MAHDI: It will put the pressure on the members of the House of Representatives individually and the blocs. I think we accomplished a good step forward.
GEORGE: But not all the Members of Parliament share the vice president's optimism. They point out that while the violence continues, there is still no government.
MAHMOUD OTHMAN: It is still in square one.
The ongoing political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and fifteen days with no government formed.
Terry Gross spoke to the New York Times' Anthony Shadid on today's Fresh Air (NPR -- link has audio and will have transcript but it's not up yet).  Excerpt:
Terry Gross: There's still no government that's formed in Iraq.  So do you think the insurgents are exploiting that vacuum.
Anthony Shadid: I think that's absolutely their-their intention. How successful they are is another question.  But that is their intention.  You know, it's hard to overstate how anxious the moment in Iraq is right now. I think what you're seeing emerge is a -- is a divorce between the people and this political class -- a political class that was in some ways imposed on the country by the United States in those early days of the occupation. There's a -- almost universal disenchatment with these politicians.  And what-what's struck me the past couple of months is that when you talk to people it's not criticism of the prime minister or his main rival, Moqtada al-Sadr, for instance.  It's criticism of that entire political class.  Now what does that lead to? It's hard to say. It may not lead to anything. But I think it does show this kind of -- The people themselves are calling into question the political system that's been set up.  And I think that does -- If it doesn't question the legitimacy of the system, it maybe raises some concerns about the viability of that system over the long term.
Terry Gross: So you're talking about disenchantment with a system that the US helped set up and with candidates that the US helped empower?
Anthony Shadid:  That's right and I think that's going to be one of the legacies of this American occupation, is empowering politicians that have not succeeded in building support among the population.
Terry Gross: Is that because you think it would be hard for anyone to build support right now in Iraq? Or is it a reflection of the candidates that the US helped empower?
Anthony Shadid:  I think it's a little of both.  But, I mean, you do see a, I think the only grassroots movement you see in Iraq right now is Moqtada al-Sadr -- Shi'ite cleric whose followers fought the Americans several times in 2004 and afterwards. He does have a grassroots movement. It's probably the only grassroots movement. It's probably the only grassroots  --
Terry Gross: He's the guy who hates us --
Anthony Shadid: That's right
Terry Gross: -- and is always attacking the US.
Anthony Shadid: That's right. And he is -- And I think it says something about Iraq today that he is the one grassroots movement that plays a role in politics.  I'm not talking about the Kurdish areas, I'm talking about the Arab areas of the country.  The Sadrists, they are one of the largest Shi'ite blocs in Parliament today.  They're going to have a say in the country's future. The politicians on the other hand, the ones that were in some ways empowered by the Americans early on?  You know, I think it's a mix of having been gone from the country for so long. I think they often look at Iraq through kind of sepia tinted glasses.  I mean, they see an older Iraq that just doesn't exist anymore in the rough and tumble streets of Baghdad today.  They also have not either made the effort or been able to make the effort to build any kind of constituency.  They're often in the Green Zone, heavily guarded.  They have electricity which most people don't. They have water which most people -- they have but it's not very clean. They're living a life that is very divorced from the everyday reality of most Iraqis.
Terry Gross: There hasn't been a group that's been able to build a coalition so there really isn't -- there isn't a prime minister yet.  There isn't leadership yet.  So, help me out here, who was it that said if this political void, this inability to form a government continues for another six months, there's a risk of a military takeover?
Anthony Shadid:  I think that was [US] vice president [Joe] Biden --
Terry Gross: That's what I thought.
Anthony Shadid: -- that made that point.
I don't think it was.  Great interview with Shadid -- and there's much more to the interview -- but I don't believe Joe Biden said that publicly.  As always, I could be wrong (I often am).
Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saad Fakrildeen (Los Angeles Times) quoted former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker last month 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." The British Ambassador to Iraq, John Jenkins, floated the idea of a military coup before the Iraq Inquiry on January 8th of this year.  But September 1st, Joe told Margaret Warner (PBS' The NewsHour -- link has text, audio and video):
MARGARET WARNER: Here's another thing we hear from Iraqis. They blame this upsurge in violence on the politicians' failure, six months after they all went to the polls to vote, the politicians' failure to form a government. Do you think there is a connection?
JOSEPH BIDEN: Look, if I were an Iraqi, that's what I would think as well.
MARGARET WARNER: But do you think it?
JOSEPH BIDEN: The truth of the matter is, they're taking too long to form this government. But the second piece of this is, the Iraqis went and voted. But guess what? No clear -- not only no clear majority, barely a plurality. So, in a parliamentary system, this is not unexpected. But I am confident that they are now -- all have run the course of what other options they have, and it's getting down to the point where, in the -- in the next couple months, there's going to be a government.
The only thing I have said in the name of the president, and as it relates to this government, the government has to reflect the outcome of the election, which is another way of saying, all the four major entities that did relatively well have to be included in the government. That's a difficult thing to put together.
Doesn't sound like Joe's worried.  Anthony Shadid will go on to state that the remark was made to a colleague of his at the paper.  That would be Michael R. Gordon.  A transcript of an interview Gordon conducted with Biden September 1st was posted online by the paper the night of September 9th.  Here's the section, Biden is speaking:
But what happened is, the difference is that there is actually a military that is able to function and provide security, notwithstanding the government hasn't been formed yet. And so that is the reason why Odierno and these guys have the confidence even though the government is not formed. Now if, in fact, you could come up with a scenario where if six months from now it is still not formed, then everything begins, then the worry I have in that circumstance is not so much that you know Al Qaeda Iraq will be emboldened and reconstituted. My worry will be that generals in the military will start saying: "Wait a minute, which way is this going to go? Which way is this going to go?" I worry then that it goes from right now everybody saying, "Salute Iraq" to "Whoa, let's figure this out." And what is now a unified command, what is now an integrated military, including some of the pesh merga, including some of the Sons of Iraq. That's when I would begin to worry because then everybody might start to say: "What's my calculus here? It looks like they are not going to pull this together."
Is Joe speaking of a military coup?  That's not how I read it.  He's noting the pesh merga, for example -- Kurdish forces -- who were being integrated (and the spin was 'successfully integrated') into the Iraqi military at that time.  He's noting Sahwa whose issues and compliants Joe Biden was very aware of at the time of the interview.  He appears to be saying that if a government isn't formed in six months, the cohesion supposedly taking place in the Iraqi forces would fall apart.  Would that mean coup?
It might.  But what Joe likely meant was that the Iraqi forces could fall apart and violence could therefore increase.  The gains of 'unified command' would fall apart.  Is a military coup possible?  I think it's a possibility if the stalemate continues but I don't believe Joe Biden has raised that issue publicly.  I could be wrong.
Alsumaria TV reports today that Iraqiya is officially denying rumors that they have decided to forgot their first-rights to form a government (rights they won by coming in first in the March elections). Yesterday, Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports the State of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance are giving "themselves five days to pick a single candidate for prime minister, and one politician said the incumbent". Today Alsumaria TV reports that members will only be able to pick from two candidates: either Nouri or Adel Abdul Mehdi (currently the Shi'ite Vice President of Iraq). Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) offers, "A five-day deadline for Iraq's Shi'ite-led political blocs to choose a candidate for prime minister may not be enough and there is no guarantee incumbent Nuri al-Maliki will win a second term, Iraqi politicians said." Meanwhile Sawsan Abu-Husain (Ashar Alawsat Newspaper) interviews Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari about the stalemate:
Q) Has the Arab League intervened to help remedy the stumbling of efforts to form an Iraqi government?
A) There is no intervention, but contacts and consultations are held through the league mission to support the political process.
Q) It was recently reported that Syria would host a meeting between the Iraqi political blocs to help the formation of a government, with the assistance of the Arab League. It was meant to keep the plan secret, but the dialogue suddenly stumbled. How true is this?
A) The idea was in fact put forward, but it was mostly reported by the media and no adequate preparations were made for it. The reason is that the plan required the agreement of all the parties and this did not happen because, an Iraqi government should be formed in Baghdad in our view, not abroad. I mean not in Iran or Washington. This is an Iraqi decision and an Iraqi issue. Thus, the idea was broached by the media, failed to produce anything, and came to an end.
Q) What was the aim of this idea on which the media focused?
A) One of the points was that the political leaders have failed to form a government, and that it was interesting to look for a place for dialogue and an equitable and fair side [to help]. Certain Iraqi sides have put forward this alternative, but it did not materialize.
Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation's Sabah Jawad offers (at, "We can now see what has been created in Iraq, because as a result of it, six months after the elections that took place last March, Iraqi parties participating in the political process are still unable even to agree on a Prime Minister. For the past six months they've been fighting and threatening each-other. We've seen a new parliament elected in March where the 335 members of parliament, the most highly paid MPs in the entire world, have only had one meeting lasting 20 minutes in the past 6 months, and this was actually only to declare that they are going to leave this session open indefinitely until the political parties and blocks reach an agreement on who is going to be Prime Minister!"
The New York Times' Anthony Shadid feels that Iraq has a circular pattern and not a linear narrative.  He explained that to Terry Gross (Fresh Air) today and noted, "What you hear in 2010 is what you often heard in 2003.  There is no electricity, the water's filthy, there's sewage in the street. That we're not sure what the intnetions of the American and we're not sure of what Iraqi officials can do to better our lives.  Those things were said in 2003, and they're still said today.  So the lives of the Iraqis, is miserable too strong of a word?  I'm not sure. It is incredibly difficult. And the city itself is a buried, deteriorating capitol." 
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three police officers, a Baghdad mortar attack injured two people,  a Mosul roadside bombing injured one person, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one child, 1 person shot dead in Mosul, and a Jurf al-Sakhar assault on a Sahwa checkpoint resulted in 1 Sahwaand, dropping back to Tuesday night,  a Madhatiyah home explosion claimed 3 lives and left fifty injured. DPA reports a Hilla roadside bombing has claimed 1 life and left at least fifty-six people injured.
Meanwhile BBC News reports that Iraq War veteran Karl Bowen died in Iraq September 14th while the former UK soldier was "working as a bodyguard in Iraq".  The Daily Echo adds, "The father-of-two was killed in the crash alongside an Iraqi interpreter. An American colleague was critically injured."  Kelly Miles (WalesOnline) informs, "Tributes have flooded in describing Mr Bowen as a great father, a 'legend', and an outstanding friend and football player who was the life and soul of the party and lived life to the extreme. A father of two young girls, Elise, 11, and eight-year-old Lois, Mr Bowen had returned to Iraq just days before the car he was driving suffered a double blow out."  Mother Clare Bowen tells the BBC:
She said he returned to Iraq after a spell in civilian jobs, because he wanted to return to work with former army colleagues.           
"I think he always wanted to get back to the boys - because the boys were his family," she said.                     
"He loved the boys he worked with -- the camaraderie."           
Yes, the Iraq War continues.  Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reports knick knacks sporting "Operation New Dawn" flood the Green Zone. Jennifer Bushaw (Atlantic Special) offers this take:
Even after the recent drawdown of US combat forces from Iraq and plans for a full withdrawal in the next year, many Middle Easterners don't believe that American influence in Iraq will end. Steven Lee Myers of the The New York Times supports this theory by pointing out that in spite of the withdrawal, US Special Operations have not changed in size or role. Middle Easterners still see American interests pervading in Iraqi economic, political and security concerns as efforts to continue to control the country.
Whether this is true or not, certain issues lend themselves to the United States maintaining a presence in Iraq. But the last thing it wants to do is look like oil jockeying cowboys of yesteryear.
At Liberal Dog, Charley echoes Myers, "One should not presume that 'withdrawal' which we commonly understand to mean complete withdrawal will occur. Don't be surprised if the agreement is explicitly altered or re-interpreted to have a different meaning, one that will allow a substantial number of troops to remain there after 2011. The remaining force would continue to have an assist/support function to back up Iraqi security forces who have not been able to this point to provide an adequate level of security, and it may be a number of years before they can operate on their own. And in an e-mail Charley writes, "While our invasion of and continued stay in Iraq is one of my major grievances about our foreign policy, nevertheless it does amus me when I hear 'Iraq' and 'sovereignty' in the same sentence. The most recent linkage of the two words was made by acting Prime Minister Nuri al-Mlaiki on August 31. I'm sure international lawyers would find that okay with their legalistic framework, but to we non-lawyers, it is offensive because it is unsupported by crucial facts.  For nearly seven months the country has gone without a government based on the March elections, they are unable to preserve their own security without the continued use of our troops and, while they have a budget surpus, we must continue to fund much of wht thaty do.  So where is the sovereignty?" For further elaboration on this, the url is"
In other Iraq news, Lion Paintings For Sale noted yesterday that Tuesday marked exactly two years that US Army Spc Ahmed Kousay al-Taie had been missing in Iraq."
US Air Force Senior Airman Jimmy Hansen died serving in Iraq last week. Battle Creek Enquirer notes that the 25-year-old's funeral is scheduled for ten o'clock Saturday morning at St. Philip Catholic Church. From the obituary posted at Shaw Funeral Home:

He was born May 24, 1985, the son of Richard and Emily Hansen, Sr. in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.                 

James graduated from Athens High School in 2003, attended Kellogg Community College and Central Michigan University. He continued his education while in the Air Force through CMU's College of Extended Learning and was working toward his Bachelor's degree. He began his service in the U. S. Air Force in May 2008 and was Senior Airman specializing in air field management. He was stationed at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and deployed to Iraq in 2010.             

James is survived by his parents, Richard and Emily Hansen, Sr. of Athens; brother, Richard A. Hansen, Jr. (Tara Roth) of Midland; his fiancée, Megan Bottomlee of Battle Creek; his grandmother, Dee Dee Aiello of Union City. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandparents, Arthur and Gloria Hansen; maternal grandfather, James Aiello; aunt, Angella Aiello and uncle, John Mastroianni.                     

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm's office issued the following statement today:

LANSING - Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today ordered United States flags throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters lowered for one day Friday, September 24, 2010, in honor of Senior Airman James A. (Jimmy) Hansen of Athens, Michigan, who died September 15 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, while supporting Operation New Dawn.  Flags should be returned to full-staff Saturday, September 25.           
Senior Airman Hansen, age 25, died from injuries suffered during a controlled detonation.  He was assigned to the 46th Operations Support Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
Airman Hansen's family has requested that flags be lowered Friday, September 24; visitation is Friday from 4-8 p.m. at the Athens High School gymnasium.  The funeral service is scheduled for Saturday, September 25, at St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek, with burial at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan.           
Under Section 7 of Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code, 4 USC 7, Governor Granholm, in December 2003, issued a proclamation requiring United States flags lowered to half-staff throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters to honor Michigan servicemen and servicewomen killed in the line of duty.  Procedures for flag lowering were detailed by Governor Granholm in Executive Order 2006-10 and included in federal law under the Army Specialist Joseph P. Micks Federal Flag Code Amendment Act of 2007 (Public Law 110-41).                         
When flown at half-staff or half-mast, the United States flag should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff or half-mast position.  The flag should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.
When a member of the armed services from Michigan is killed in action, the governor will issue a press release with information about the individual(s) and the day that has been designated for flags to be lowered in his or her honor.  The information will also be posted on Governor Granholm's Website at in the section titled "Spotlight."

While I do like Jennifer, that's not why her statement is being noted.  Generally, we noted governor's announcements in the morning entries and leave it at that.  But a number of service members have died recently and, you may have noticed, we don't have governor's statements.  And, if you're wondering, I've also checked their US Senators.  Nothing. I find that really sad.  I especially find it sad if you're a senator and if, for example, you make statements that some may see as grandstanding during the hearings but you never even note the passing of the fallen from your state.  Let's also be clear that the group of people I'm talking about? They're also not attending funerals of the fallen.  Governor Jennifer Granholm has noted every fallen service member in Michigan.  It's a real shame that other governors can't even make the time.
Turning to music,  Heart's Red Velvet Car is the group's latest studio album, their latest hit album.  Kat reviewed the album by the band led by vocalist Ann Wilson and guitarist Nancy Wilson.   And if you need a reason for good music to be noted in the snapshot, check out Kat's review of Ann's 2007 solo album Hope & Glory which found Ann singing out about the things that matter when many of her peers seemed unaware of the world around them.  The Wilson sisters are interviewed by Mike Ragogna (Huffington Post) and an album producer friend asked me to work in a plug for Ragogna's interview.  If you haven't heard Red Velvet Car, you're cheating yourself out of some of this most enjoyable music of the year. (Disclosure, I know Ann, Nancy and Cameron Crowe.) Excerpt from the interview:
MR: It's great to hear that we're talking with "Eco-friendly Heart."   
NW: Well, we're sisters, and we're women, and we've had our ear to the ground, listening to Mother Earth for a long time as songwriters, and what Mother Earth is going through right now is pretty drastic, and we're feeling it too. We need the playground of Mother Earth and the bosom of Mother Earth to still be around for our kids, and the kids of our kids, as beautifully as she was there for is. So, we must be the custodians, harder than ever.           
MR: That's really beautifully said.           
NW: That's our mother! There's a lot of disrespect to our mother going on.         
MR: There really is. So, let's talk about another one of the songs on this album, which comes to mind?         
AW: I'd say "WTF," you know?             
MR: Okay, "WTF" it is. 
AW: The song is probably the son of "Barracuda," not on purpose necessarily, but this song came out of a blast of feeling that happened from looking in the mirror after making a series of repetitive, stupid mistakes.   
MR: Like everyone, I guess. 
AW: Like everyone, and expecting a different result, but not getting it, and finally just looking and saying, "What...!!" There is a lot of anger in the song, and frustration, but also a very clear message of hope to it because you're talking to yourself.   

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Iraq snapshot - September 24, 2010

The Common Ills

Friday, September 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, another member of the US Congress says the Iraq War needs to end right now, the FBI raids activists home, the National Lawyers Guild issues an 88-page report about the attacks on political speech and action, Iraq becomes a topic at the United Nations, and more.
Yesterday, Maya Schenwar (Truthout) spoke with US House Rep Dennis Kucinich who wanted a complete withdrawal of the US military from Iraq now:
That's what we have to do. We should have done it a long time ago. Is it likely that there will be conflict when we leave? Yes. We set in motion forces that are irrevocable. You cannot simply launch a war against a country where there were already factions - Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds who were at odds with each other - and think that you can leave there without difficulties. That's going to happen no matter what. But the fact that the conflict that we helped to create is still quite alive does not justify staying there. War becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of continued war, unless you break the headlong momentum by getting out.
Today immediate and total withdrawal would be at the very least a table for two.  Ryan Grim (Huffington Post) reports US House Rep Barney Frank
"What are they there for, if it's not combat? To monitor elections? To mediate religious disputes? Let's get them home," Frank said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "What the hell are they there for?"               
Frank, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said that designating the troops "non-combat" does not persuade insurgents not to shoot at them.
So that's two members of Congress on the record about the need for a real and immediate withdrawal.  If, as most (including Joe Biden who is public and on the record about this) current and former US officials expect and//or suspect, US renegotiates an agreement/contract/treaty with Iraq to extend the US military presence beyond 2011, will the two of them object?  Will other members of Congress join them?
Today UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that it was highly important that Iraq form a government "for stability and prosperity."  Yesterday, Iraq's President Jalal Talabani spoke to the United Nations and, along with spin, he served up the talking point that all Iraqi officials appearing before the UN in the last few years repeat:

The most important issue his country is facing is ridding itself of the "burden" of Security Council resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, he said, calling for an end to the remaining restrictions in the field of disarmament, wrapping up outstanding contracts of the Oil-for-Food programme, and finding the appropriate mechanism to protect Iraqi money to replace the Development Fund for Iraq and the International Advisory and Monitoring Board for Iraq.
Iraq's most pressing issue? That's the talking point the UN Assembly and Security Council here every year from the Iraqi officials. It's never true but they do love to repeat it. (The tag sale on Iraq's assests cannot really take place until the UN allows the puppet government complete autonomy.)  Last December, the UN Security Council extended the Chapter VII arrangments through December of this year.  This was first adopted by the UN Security Council in May of 2003.  That's not Iraq's most pressing problem.  The rise in violence is among Iraq's most pressing problems and many observers tie the rise into the continued political stalemate.  Jalal doesn't.  Many in the press WRONGLY call Nouri's continued occupation of the prime minister a "caretaker government."  That is not factual.  There is no basis for that.  A caretake government would be one appointed by the United Nations.  Chapter VII, as Ayad Allawi has been pointing out for nearly two months now, gives the UN Security Council the right to appoint a caretaker government.  None has been appointed.  Nour's term has expired.  He is not a part of a caretake government. 
Back to Talabani and his spin before the UN General Assembly [click, PDF format warning, here for his speech in full]:
This year has also witnessed the success of legislative elections held on 7 March 2010, with considerable Arab, regional and international interest. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq as well as the observers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the League of Arab States, the international community and civil society organizations all expressed their convictions that the elections had been transparent and fair. The principal political parties have been in continuous communication in order to hold a fruitful session of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which will vote to elect a Speaker for the new Council of Representatives which will vote to elect a Speaker for the new Council of Representatives and President of the Republic of Iraq, after which, according to the Iraqi Constitution, the elected President will request the new Prime Minister to form the government. It is our hope that this new government will be formed as soon as possible, as any delay in its formation will negatively affect the security situation, reconstruction and prosperity.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 six months and seventeen days with no government formed.
Alsumaria TV reports, "US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iraqi leaders to form a new government after six months of stalling." Last night, State Dept spokesperson Philip J. Crowley spoke on the topic:

Hey, thanks everybody. Good evening. I know it's late. Many of you are calling from suites, perhaps other establishments, so let me run through a couple of things real quick. The Secretary did have her two bilaterals this evening, one with Foreign Minister Zebari of Iraq and the other with Foreign Minister Rassoul of Afghanistan. Let me briefly run through the topics of discussion. With Foreign Minister Zebari and Iraq, as you might imagine, the major topic of discussion was where Iraq stands on the formation -- government formation. The Secretary and minister agreed that this is becoming of critical importance and that we don't want to see Iraq drift and have a security vacuum result. They talked about the importance of Iraq's leaders stepping up and making decisions and forming a government. Ambassador Jim Jeffrey is significantly engaged in Baghdad in this effort. As you may recall, Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman has been to the region for multiple meetings, as has the Vice President. But the Secretary solicited some ideas from the foreign minister about how the United States will be helpful while making clear that ultimately, this has to be Iraq's decision to come to an agreement on forming a new government. They went through a handful of bilateral issues, but also finished the meeting by briefly touching on the peace process. The foreign minister commended the Secretary on the U.S. engagement on the Middle East process and hoped that a solution can be found so the parties will continue to pursue the direct negotiations that we started three weeks ago.
How effective her words were? Not at all. Hoshyar Zebari's been making the same statements himself. For months. I believe it's called preaching to the choir.  May 1st, Lara Jakes (AP) reported, "Iraq's foreign minister chided the U.S. and Britain for not taking an active role in resolving his country's bitter election dispute, and accused Washington of being more concerned with sending home U.S. soldiers."  In July, AFP and Lebanon's Daily Star reported that Zebari termed the stalemate "embarrassing." Those are just two examples.  There are many, many more that can be provided.  Equally true is that Hillary and Hoshyar Zebari have already had this conversation -- and issued a joint-statement and took questions from Elise Labbot (CNN) and Nihad Ali (Al Iraqiya Channel), see the July 13th snapshot.
Today Dina al-Shibeeb and Mustapha Ajbaili (Al Arabiya News Channel) report that Nouri is attempting to curry favor with Moqtada al-Sadr by making an offer to release prisoners if al-Sadr would support him as prime minister -- this according to Bahaa al-Araji, of al-Sadr's political bloc, who states that Moqtada al-Sadr rejected the bribe and that the al-Sadr bloc continues to support Adel Abdul Mehdi (Iraq's Shi'ite vice president) for the post of prime minister.
The violence also continued today in Iraq.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports three rocket attacks in Baghdad (including one on the Green Zone) in which one person was injured, a Mosul suicide bomber who took his own life and the life of 1 police officer and injuring two people and, dropping back to last night for the rest, mortar attacks on a Baghdad bridge (remember a few years back and the efforts to knock out bridges?) and a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the lives of two of the children of Anmar Taha and her husband Muhammed al Qassim and the lives of their two nephews while leaving both adults wounded. Reuters notes a Baghdad hand grenade attack which left three police officers injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing on a police car which left two police officers injured and, dropping back to last night, a Hawija rocket attack which left five people injured.
 Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that last night there was a Baghdad attack on Lt Col Hazim Salih which resulted in his being shot dead and his wife being left injured. 
Thursday US President Barack Obama wasted everyone's time with another speech that repeatedly referenced himself, He also found time to (falsely) link Iraq to 9-11.  What a War **** he's turned out to be.  The one-time media star couldn't even dominate this morning's headlines with his performance.  Instead the news media was chasing after rumors about a politician from across the Atlantic Ocean:  England's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.  Gerri Peev (Daily Mail) reports "Clegg will voice a thinly veiled condemnation of the Iraq war" in his speech. Ian Dunt (Politics) quotes from the expected speech: "But our approach will also be hard-headed and realistic. In recent years, we have learned - sometimes the hard way - that democracy cannot be created by diktat. Freedom cannot be commanded into existence." Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) adds, "While he will not use the word "sorry", Mr Clegg will come close to apologising on the world stage for the war, which he believes was in breach international law, in a speech to the UN General Assembly." The Edmonton Journal looks at that quote and states, "The passage clearly suggest regret over Britain's role in the war against Iraq, which was not explicitly backed by the UN Security Council." Instantly forgettable, Barack's speech is already upstaged in the news cycle and England's second-in-charge is geared to show leadership as the world watches. Tom Peterkin (Scotsman) reports that, in his speech today, Clegg declared that democracy is not something which can be imposed.

Yesterday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing where, see yesterday's snapshot, Senators Jim Webb and Jon Tester launched an attack on Vietnam veterans.  And to those who e-mailed insisting Jim Webb is a Vietnam veteran, so?  He attacked John Kerry in a 2004 column (he didn't like John speaking against the war) and he's written the most racist and vile caricatures of the Vietnamese (yes, he's currently married to a Vietnamese-American -- South Vietnamese and, yes, that does make a difference in his mind). Jim Webb's disgraced himself.  Kat reported on the hearing at her site in "Jim Webb: The new Bob Dole,"  Wally reported on it at Rebecca's site in "Senate Veterans Affairs hearing (Wally)" and Ava reported on it at Trina's site in "Senator Roland Burris (Ava)." Michael Leon (Veterans Today) reports on it in "Shinseki Fights off Veterans' Enemy Sen. James Webb,  Defends Agent Orange Benefits." Leon's strong report opens with:
This morning, while posturing as the earnest student of empirical investigation, Webb prefaced his hostile line of questioning of witness Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki saying Webb is concerned about protecting the "credibility of our [VA] programs."         
I was hoping Shinseki would pull out a can of aerosol composed of dioxin [tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD)] and offer to spray it around the Committee room and see if anyone of the august senators had a presumptive problem with it.
Chuck Palazzo (Veterans Today) notes that Senators Bernie Sanders and Jay Rockefeller stood up for veterans in the hearing.  Having attended the hearing yesterday, I am noting Committee Chair Daniel Akaka also needs to be noted -- he is a soft spoken person and has to maintain a role as Chair but even with both of those things, he still made very clear in his opening where he stood.  Senator Patty Murray made clear that she supported veterans, Mark Begich appeared to be coming out in support ("appeared" because I really don't know him, his words indicated support but I don't know his record and I don't know him).  The strongest voice in the hearing was Senator Roland Burris.  You can see Ava's report or you can watch the hearing which is at Palazzo's link and which is also online here at the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs website.  David Rogers (Politico) notes:
In comments later, Webb told POLITICO that he would like to return more decision-making power to Congress itself, rather than leave so much discretion to a single Cabinet secretary. And Webb said he was also attracted to a proposal by Principi to take a more incremental approach in the case of common diseases -- and put emphasis on medical care before disability payments.

Now we're going to talk numbers so that we all get just what a s**t Jim Webb is.  The Bush tax cuts were set to expire.  Webb supports extending all of them -- not just the middle class and working class and working poor but also the top earners in the country.   Paul Krugman (New York Times) explained why that was such a bad idea last month:
What's at stake here? According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, making all of the Bush tax cuts permanent, as opposed to following the Obama proposal, would cost the federal government $680 billion in revenue over the next 10 years. For the sake of comparison, it took months of hard negotiations to get Congressional approval for a mere $26 billion in desperately needed aid to state and local governments.       
And where would this $680 billion go? Nearly all of it would go to the richest 1 percent of Americans, people with incomes of more than $500,000 a year. But that's the least of it: the policy center's estimates say that the majority of the tax cuts would go to the richest one-tenth of 1 percent. Take a group of 1,000 randomly selected Americans, and pick the one with the highest income; he's going to get the majority of that group's tax break. And the average tax break for those lucky few -- the poorest members of the group have annual incomes of more than $2 million, and the average member makes more than $7 million a year -- would be $3 million over the course of the next decade.
Now it's tacky and appalling to put a dollar amount on the issue of care -- especially needed care resulting from the government playing reckless with human lives -- but Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) reports, "According to VA estimates, the move could cost more than $13 billion in compensation payouts in the next 18 months." $680 billion.  Wow.  Kind of dwarfs the $13 billion figure, doesn't it? Webb has his priorities and they just don't appear to include veterans. 

Meanwhile Jason Ditz ( reports, "The FBI is confirming that this morning they began a number of 'raids' against the homes of antiwar activists, claiming that they are 'seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism'."  Karmically, the news breaks on the same day that the National Lawyers Guild issues a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." .In her intro, Boghosian notes, "To know that the United States is undergoing a highly orchestrated curtailment of personal and political liberties, one need not look further than police treatment of protesters in the streets. Those who speak out against government policies increasingly face many of the same types of weaponry used by the U.S. governmen tin its military operations." Still from the introduction:
Police preparation for mass assemblies routinely involves infiltration and spying on activist groups, sometimes years in advance, including the use of agents provocateurs.  Time and time again, millions of dollars have been obtained by police departments for personnel and equipment at large events justified by confidential informant testimony that large numbers of 'anarchists' are planning to attend and engage in violence. Closer examination of the facts often reveals the falsity of such allegations: numerous police infrormants, many with criminal backgrounds, admit when later questioned that activist groups they infiltrated never planned any violent activities. Indeed millions more have been spent paying damages to the demonstrators victimized by these tactics. 
New anti-terrorism legislation and prosecution practices have resulted in individuals being charged with conspiracy to riot merely by virtue of having helped organize a protest at which other individuals unknown to them were arrested.  As evidence of conspiracy to riot, the government cites such First Amendment protected activities as attending meetings, writing about protests, organizing protests, and engaging in rhetorical or politically charged speech.
Faulty intelligence gathering and grossly attenuated criminal charges are accompanied by additional strategies to quell dissent.  Asserting the need to defend against terrorism and protect national security, the government targets leaders of social and political movements, employs grand juries to search for evidence of political affiliation, stigmatizes groups of activists, and uses the mass media to denigrate demonstrators, reinforce negative stereotypes or publicize high-profile arrests on charges which are frequently later dropped for lack of evidence.
We will note the report in more detail next week.  Heidi co-hosts  WBAI's  Law and Disorder Radio (10:00 a.m. EST Mondays -- also plays on other stations around the country throughout the week) with fellow attorneys Michael Ratner and Michael Smith.  The report may be discussed on one of the shows in the next weeks and, if so, we will note it then as well. On today's raids, Jacob Wheeler (The UpTake -- link has video) speaks with Mick Kelly who was among the activists whose homes were raided today.
Mick Kelly:  The FBI has raided my home. Right now there's about ten, twelve FBI agents rummaging through my papers, documents. They've confiscated computers, they've taken my passport, etc.
Jacob Wheeler: And we're in the Hard Times Cafe in Cedar-Riverside and your apartment is just upstairs from the cafe, right?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: So there are agents upstairs right now?
Mick Kelly: That's correct.
Jacob Wheeler: How many?
Mick Kelly: Ten to twelve.
Jacob Wheeler: When did they arrive?
Mick Kelly: Several hours ago.
Jacob Wheeler: And what did they say -- Approximately what time? Any guess?
Mick Kelly:  I'm going to say 7:30.
Jacob Wheeler: Okay.  What did they tell you? What interaction did you have with them?
Mick Kelly: Well I wasn't there. I was at work. 
Jacob Wheeler: Okay.
Mick Kelly: And I received a call that they were there. They came in -- my understanding is they came in guns drawn, kicked the door open, smashed a fish tank and proceeded to execute a search warrant.
Mick notes he is an antiwar activists and that " I see this as harassment of anti-war activists and those who stand in solidarity with those who are fighting for freedom and justice around the world."  Mick was one of the organizers of the protests at the 2008 GOP convention.  Ahndi Fridell (Reuters) reports the FBI is admitting to searching "eight homes in Chicago and Minnesota" today and claiming it is "terrorism" related -- or adjacent.  Or maybe just a sleepy suburb of.  They're not really sure as is evidenced by the fact that eight homes were raided (or the FBI admits to raiding at least eight homes) and not one arrest was made.  Not one arrest was made.  That's a key point.  Along with Mick Kelly, one of the eight homes known to be raided belongs to Jess Sundin.  Sarah Laskow (Washington Independent) reports:  "Sundin was 'a principal leader of the mass antiwar march of 10,000 on the opening day of the Republican National Convention two years ago,' and Kelly has said he would march on the Democratic National Convention if it were held in Minneapolis this year, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune."
Yesterday's snapshot noted the Cat Food Commission and how Ruth credited Lambert (Corrente) with coining and/or popularizing that phrase but there were no links to either Ruth or Lambert.  To read one of Lambert's most recent posts on the efforts by the White House to attack Social Security, click here.  This morning, I noted David Swanson's "Changing and Facilitating" (War Is A Crime) but I screwed up the link. My apologies.   Click here to read the piece.: Excerpt from Swanson's article (based on a speech he gave):
Our representatives strive to represent three groups of people: the ones who give them money, the ones who produce cable television news shows, radio shows, and newspapers, and the ones in charge of their political parties including especially the president when he is the leader of their party. In George Mason's view the president was to execute the will of the Congress, and no power of the Congress was more important than that of impeachment. Now Republicans will only impeach Democratic presidents, and Democrats will only impeach Democratic judges. And the executive is largely freed to tell the legislature how to do its job, rather than the reverse.     
When Congress is too craven and cowardly to impeach someone or isn't sure what they've done wrong, do you know what it used to do? It used to subpoena people. And it used to take that Capitol Police force that now does such a fine job of beating up peace activists in hallways, and it used to send the police to pick up witnesses who'd been subpoenaed. And when people testified but refused to respectfully answer questions, or acted like our recent attorney general Alberto Gonzales who said "I do not recall" four times a minute during his testimony, do you know what congressional committees would do? They would hold that person in contempt? And do you know where they would hold them in contempt? In a jail cell. During 2007 and 2008 Democratic committees subpoenaed dozens of top members of a Republican administration, including the vice president and the secretary of state, all of whom told Congress to go Dick Cheney itself.
So Congress asked the Justice Department to enforce its subpoenas, and the Justice Department said no. So Congress took it to court and later won. But with one weird and partial exception, not a single one of those subpoenas has been reissued and enforced by either the new Justice Department or by the committees themselves. In fact, the House Committee on Oversight has been basically put out of its misery, and the judiciary and other committees have crawled out of sight beneath the emperor's throne. Congress just impeached and tried a judge for getting lap dances and frozen shrimp, and earlier this year impeached a judge for groping people, but it leaves a judge in a lifetime seat who wrote secret laws authorizing aggressive war and torture. Impeachment has been reserved for sex and Democrats, and the subpoena has gone the way of the dodo bird -- at least unless Republicans get Congress back.   
Why don't we ever talk about the problem of Congress handing all power over to presidents? Because both political parties are happy about it, and anything they both want left alone is not news. We have a substantial right to free speech in this country, but a free press is another story altogether. A small cartel of mega media corporations has been given our public airwaves without compensation, and the more information we get from them the dumber we are. When Americans believed lies about the urgent need to attack Iraq, they believed them more depending which media outlet they got most of their news from. I'm not naming any names.

Another David, David DeGraw, has a new book, The Road To World War III and you can read part one by using the link "The Road to World War III - The Global Banking Cartel Has One Card Left to Play. "
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Tom Gjleten (NPR) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) join Gwen around the table while Dan Balz (Washington Post) files a report from Des Moines on the speech Sarah Palin makes to Iowa's GOP. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is still "Who Exactly Are the Bums?" This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Leslie Sanchez and Tara Setmayer 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 on college tuition -- its cost and its worth is debated. 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 in some markets it may explore US combat in Afghanistan, the US role in institutionalizing Afghan corruption; abuse and mistreatment of US seniors at home-based senior centers, Jon Meacham discussing "superlativism" and more. If you saw that last week (pledge drives and special programming meant not all PBS stations that air the show did last week), then you can look for Nial Ferguson talking about the budget, the Tea Party, the jobless recovery and Human Rights Watch's Anneke van Woudenberg discussing the Congo.  Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

A Relentless Enemy
Lara Logan's report takes viewers to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where she and her crew came under enemy fire from fighters who the U.S. military says keep coming from their sanctuary in Pakistan.


Islamic Center
Scott Pelley looks at the national debate that has flared up around Ground Zero in New York City over opposition to building an Islamic center and prayer room nearby.


Cool Brees
Steve Kroft profiles Drew Brees, the MVP quarterback who led the New Orleans Saints to their first-ever Super Bowl victory, just a few years after the city was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.


60 Minutes, Sunday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


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September 27, 2010

Insurgent Group in Iraq, Declared Tamed, Roars


BAQUBA, Iraq — This spring, United States military commanders said that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was a group in disarray, all but finished as a formidable enemy after American and Iraqi troops had killed or captured more than three-quarters of its leaders.

But even as officials in the United States and Iraq made public pronouncements that reveled in Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia’s demise, the Sunni insurgent group vowed “dark days colored in blood.”

This summer, as if to make good on its pledge, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia embarked on a wave of terror that managed to shake even an Iraqi public inured to violence: during the past two months, Iraq has witnessed some of its highest casualty tolls in more than two years, according to the government.

How Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia has managed this unlikely turnaround — from a near spent force to a reinvigorated threat to Iraq’s democracy in a little more than two months — is a puzzle to both the Americans and Iraqis who study the insurgent group, some of whom now wonder whether the organization in Iraq can ever be entirely defeated.

“The people who said Al Qaeda in Iraq was finished were fooling themselves,” said Hadi al-Amiri, former leader of a Shiite militia and also of the Parliament’s security committee, using another name for the insurgent group. “They have sleeper cells throughout the country that have always been capable of rising up at any moment. They will not be finished in Iraq anytime soon.”

The spate of bombings, assassinations and brazen daylight raids of government banks and an Iraqi military headquarters has come during a pivotal period.

It has been a long, hot summer in which public services like electricity and clean water have been in short supply; a political vacuum that has left Iraq without a government more than six months after Parliamentary elections shows no signs of being resolved; and American troops have significantly reduced their role, leaving exposed the glaring weaknesses of Iraqi security forces.

Perhaps as significant, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, an extremist Sunni group that believes Shiites are heretics, has recently begun to partner with Shiites in the county’s south, according to Iraqi officials and Awakening Council leaders who retain ties to the insurgent group.

The group has paid Shiites to provide intelligence and to manufacture and plant bombs in areas where a Sunni would most likely attract unwanted attention, said Abdullah Jubouri, an Awakening leader in Salahuddin Province, in northern Iraq.

In Wasit Province, a largely rural Shiite governorate southeast of Baghdad, there had been few bombings in recent years. But this summer, the province was bombed several times, presumably by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, including an explosion last month at a police station in the capital, Kut, that killed 30 people and wounded more than 85.

“Shiite civilians are helping Al Qaeda because they need the money,” said a Wasit provincial council member, Shamel Mansour Ayal.

Other bombings in which officials suspect a Qaeda-Shiite link have occurred throughout the summer in other parts of the predominantly Shiite south — including Basra, the country’s relatively peaceful southern oil hub where bombings killed 43 people last month.

The United States military in Iraq, however, said that it had seen no evidence of ties between the insurgent group and Shiites, and that the group’s “network has been degraded” since this spring, when 34 of its top 42 leaders were killed or captured.

“Recent joint operations have resulted in eliminating key leaders, and elements of the A.Q.I. support network including A.Q.I. operators responsible for financing, ‘propaganda’ capabilities, couriers, Internet communication, recruiting, bomb-building and planning attacks,” the military said in an e-mail, using the abbreviation for Al Qaeda in Iraq. “Even so, there are low- to mid-level terrorists who continue to operate in Iraq. We continue to support Iraqi Security Forces in their work to stop those who wish to turn back Iraq’s forward progress.”

After seven years at war, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia remains an enigma and has only about 200 “hard core” fighters, according to the United States military.

Last month, Gen. Ray Odierno, then the commander of American forces in Iraq, expressed surprise at the group’s ability to coordinate attacks on a single day in 13 cities that killed more than 50 people and wounded 250.

General Odierno said the violence was “not unexpected,” but added: “What I would tell you surprised me a little bit was that they were able to do it over the country with some coordination.”

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia’s structure has given it the flexibility to make frequent and varied attacks, analysts say.

“You don’t need a huge, thriving organization to carry out huge, devastating attacks,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Each member in a cell of the group, which numbers from 6 to 20 fighters, is trained in a range of specialties. The cell’s leader, or emir, has the authority to plan attacks, often working in concert with other insurgent groups, including Baathists. The organization is designed so that the loss of any individual, including a leader, has as little effect as possible.

The group, thought to be made up almost entirely Iraqis because the stream of foreign jihadists into the country has been cut to a trickle in recent years, is overseen by its third generation of leaders, who by all accounts are as ruthless as their predecessors, and possibly more cunning and capable.

The past few weeks have brought a number of missed opportunities to help further erode the group’s dwindling support among the country’s minority Sunnis.

At a meeting of local tribes last week in Diyala Province, Iraqi military and police officials alienated many of the hundreds of Sunni tribal leaders present by threatening them with arrest unless they signed pledges to inform on and turn in Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia members. Those belonging to the insurgent group, the authorities said, would be hunted down mercilessly. An Iraqi police training video playing on a screen in the background showed police dogs attacking people.

“The enemy they are talking about lives with us — they are our neighbors, our brothers, our family, so you can’t just open fire on them,” said a tribal leader, Abdul Jabir al-Saadi.

A day earlier, near the western city of Falluja, a joint American-Iraqi military raid seeking to arrest a person suspected of being a Qaeda leader killed several villagers, including a child.

The local government released a statement denouncing the raid as a “terrorist operation” that had been “motivated by the deep hatred of this city and its people.” Hundreds took to the streets in protest.

A man who said he was a member of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Abdulah al-Dini and who agreed to speak briefly to a local reporter, said his group fed off such public anger.

“The support of the mujahedeen believers is increasing every day,” he said.

Reporting was contributed by Duraid Adnan from Baghdad, and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Anbar, Diyala and Kirkuk Provinces.

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