Rebecca: We're doing a roundtable Friday on Iraq. That is not this roundtable. This roundtable is on Afghanistan. Participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ava, and C.I. -- C.I. also of The Common Ills, me -- Rebecca -- of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Trina of Trina's Kitchen, Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ, Ruth of Ruth's Report and Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz -- Elaine who I forgot to list in Friday's roundtable. Why a roundtable? Why now? Middle of the week when we all have things to do. We're doing this on Ava and C.I.'s dinner time, for example. Kat's as well but she's not planning on going back out and speaking about Iraq tonight. Kat, Ava and C.I. are on the road -- with Wally of The Daily Jot -- speaking out against the illegal war in and on Iraq. Ruth's been taking care of her grandson all day, Trina's been taken care of her granddaughter, I've been taking care of my daughter, Betty worked all day and has three children, Dona was in classes all day, Elaine was seeing patients all day, Marcia was working hard -- and almost had a heart attack, as Ava and C.I. always say, "we'll get to it." The point being -- and I hope I didn't leave anyone out -- we're all busy. We all have other things to do. Ava and C.I. are taking notes, therefore unable to really eat dinner. Elaine said she'd type this up and she's tired. We're all tired. But we're doing a roundtable because it's become necessary. On Sunday, Little Barry Obam-bam could be found in the New York Times floating diplomatic ties between the US and the Taliban. That's what it was, get serious. Third Estate Sunday Review addressed it with "Editorial: Ms. magazine gets punked" and that was written by Jim, Jess, Wally and Ty, who aren't with us, and Dona, Ava, C.I., Kat and Betty, who are with us. It's only getting worse as the week continues, Little Barry's Big Plan to make out with the Taliban. I understand he's going to give it up for them, lose his cherry. But I'm going to toss to Marcia to explain how it just got out of control today. Marcia?
Marcia: As I explained to Rebecca, I was at work when my boss starts screaming for me. At the top of her lungs. I didn't think it was financial -- example, "We're closing!" And my own work hadn't been any problem. Plus my boss isn't a screamer. So I hurry into her office convinced she's just learned that one of her parents have died or that she's got only a few months to live or something. She was on the phone with a friend who had called to tell her about this "disgusting radio show" and how they were pushing the Taliban as a good thing. My boss couldn't believe it but then her friend was trying to remember the name and couldn't.. Finally, she remembered the name of the host, Amy Goodman.
Betty: Democracy Sometimes.
Marcia: Exactly, the Queen of Panhandle Media. So my boss starts calling to me so we can visit the site together and find out what "that idiot woman" has done this time. So she's got some 'Afghanistan' woman on the program. It's a woman from the US, C.I. goes over this in the snapshot. She went to Afghanistan, she says, to help, but really she went there to make money, she's just another War Profiteer. And, yes, they come with vaginas as easily as they come equipped with a penis. So we're just watching aghast.
Betty: It was disgusting. I was thinking, "Kiss my Black ass, Red Amy Goodman." I've got to take the car in because of some problem with the satellite radio so I was on traditional radio on the way to work this morning and I caught KPFA's morning broadcast of Amy's propaganda. I honestly thought, when the segment started, "Oh, she's going to talk about reality." But she didn't. And the first clue was that she was noting a woman's day. It's really interesting -- and needs to be noted -- how little American women ever matter on that program produced in the US, featuring tons and tons of American males. But Amy was interested in International Women's Day -- this from the woman who chose to publish her 'work' in the worst of all skin magazines. I was -- Marcia said she and her boss were aghast. I was enraged. Listening, I was enraged. It was another one of her set-up bits that she pretends just happened. I'm sick of her propaganda -- the biggest part of it being that she's an 'independent' journalist. Actually the biggest part is that she's a journalist of any sort.
Trina: I don't think anyone would disagree with you on that and I agree it was more propaganda from Amy Goodman who lied non-stop throughout the primaries to push Barack and who continues to lie non-stop in order to sell his tired stuff one more time. But, and this is why we're doing this roundtable, no. No, Amy Goodman and all you other liars, you are not going to sell out the women of Afghanistan without being called on it. I saw the snapshot right before Rebecca called to say we were doing a roundtable and inviting me to participate. She didn't have to say another word, I knew what the topic was just by today's events. Now the spin is that it's good and didn't the Taliban just do a peace deal with Pakistan? In full, Feminist Wire Daily from February 19th:
A peace deal has been struck between local officials and Taliban militants in a northern part of Pakistan known as the Swat Valley that will allow the Taliban to implement Shariah law in the region if their armed campaign ends. According to the Telegraph, the region has a history of Shariah (Islamic) law, but many fear that the deal will not stop Taliban aggression in the region. The US has reportedly privately supported the deal, but the Obama Administration's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan told the Telegraph that "I talked to people from Swat and they were, frankly, quite terrified. Swat has really deeply affected the people of Pakistan, not just in Peshawar but in Lahore and Islamabad."In December, regional Taliban leader Mullah Shah Doran announced an education ban that impacts women and girls in the Swat Valley. The directive set a deadline of January 15 for all girls, both in single-sex and co-educational schools, to be withdrawn. The Taliban threatened to bomb schools that ignore this directive and to severely punish violators. At the time, teacher Mohamed Osman told the Times of India that "we have no choice but to follow the orders. The government cannot give us protection.Taliban runs a parallel government in 90 per cent of the area of the district and they execute everyone who opposes them."Enrollment of women and girls in schools and colleges in the Swat Valley region is only a quarter of what it was only three years ago, before the Taliban gained strength there, according to the The Australian. In the past year, more than 180 schools, many of which were all girl institutions, have been destroyed in the area. During the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which lasted until 2001, Afghan girls were forbidden to attend school.
Kat: I'm honestly getting tired of the "Screw you!"s from Barack. Not only did he make that overture, and when a president of the United States floats that idea, is it an overture. But he did it on International Women's Day. That was a double-sided slap in the face.
Ruth: My immediate thing, after Sunday, was to listen to Uprising Radio. That program is hosted by Sonali Kolhatkar and airs daily on KPFK. And I listened yesterday and today -- at the show's website -- and listened in vain for news of importance though I did learn that Ronald Reagan was 'bad.' I actually knew that already. Thanks for wasting my time, Sonali.
Kat: Well Kolhatkar refused to call Barack out. And I'm talking throughout the primaries. Afghanistan's supposed to be her big issue, she wrote a book on it, and she wouldn't call him out. She tossed crumbs to Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney -- more so than most bothered -- but they were crumbs nonetheless. And that's disgusting.
C.I.: Sonali Kolhatkar's book on Afghanistan is Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence and she's also part of The Afghan Women's Mission. I haven't heard the two latest broadcasts so I don't know what she's done or what she hasn't done. But if she's staying silent, if the author whose book's subtitle includes "the Propagnda of Silence" is staying silent, she needs to just to step away from the microphone. She has nothing left to say and there is no reason for anyone to ever listen to her again. Back in August of last year, 2008, she was on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez and addressing the ties with Pakistan and the Taliban and many other issues. If she's now going to be silent after stating back then, this is a quote, wait. I'm going to go to July 2008, for an interview with Mike Whitney because we can provide a link to that and we're not linking to Amy Goodman. This is Sonali explaining 'peace' prospects in Afghanistan: "We could have peace now in Afghanistan if we were willing to give the warlords and Taliban ultimate power. In fact, there was a kind of 'peace' under the Taliban. But is that what we want?"
Betty: Kat brought up the fact that Barack floated diplomatic ties with these terrorists -- and, yes, what they do to women is terrorism -- but do people also know what was going on in Afghanistan while Barry's in the New York Times? You had a woman setting herself on fire in order to kill herself. This is appalling. This is taking place on International Women's Day and it's appalling.
Betty: Absolutely I am. Sunday, when we were working on the editorial, Dona was talking about how she was just stunned.
Dona: Yeah, I mean -- what was the point? The Afghanistan War was about revenge -- against people who had done nothing to the US. And all this time later, what do you say? I mean, withdrawing troops? That makes sense to me. The war never should have started. But getting into bed with the Taliban? All of the Afghanistan people who died -- many from US bullets and US guns -- and the 662 American soldiers who died, what was the point?
Betty: Right and you talked about a lesson on Sunday.
Dona: Oh, that. Yeah. Okay, setting aside the people of Afghanistan and just focusing on Americans for this. Maybe there could be a lesson here. The lesson was that nothing good comes from an illegal war. That's a hard lesson, especially for the families who lost family members and the ones who returned to the US with wounds. But, okay, if we're going to learn the realities of war, face up to them and grasp that war is not a way to solve things, okay. As an American -- I'm setting aside the Afghanistan people for this -- I could live with that, maybe. If we were going to own up to what we did and to how much harm it caused, I could live up to that. But we're not doing that. And not only are we not doing that, we appear to be paving the way to turn the country -- Afghanistan -- back over to the Taliban.
Ava: February 27th, RAWA News was reporting on the talks taking place in London and Dubai, with Taliban and the US and the British. And how it revolved around returning Gulbaldin Hekmatyar to power.
Elaine: Hold on. Forget it. The same problem and don't think it's just happening. That's why records are preserved and the web records are the people's records so Barack truly did come in and trash the White House. Sorry, Ava, I was going to add to you. Go on, I'm sorry.
Ava: That's no problem. Don't worry about it. What Dona was saying, the whole thing, it is so pointless and it has always been a pointless war and it grieves me to think that the US leaves Afghanistan with things worse for women. I think the US needs to leave. I am by no means advocating that we need to stay until peace comes for the women --
Trina: You're no Thomas E. Ricks!
Ava: I am not Thomas E. Ricks! But there is a diference between the US immediately withdrawing and the US putting the Taliban into power. Or even, for that matter legitimizing them.
C.I. Okay, I know what Elaine wanted to add. I need Ava to take notes and I need to step away for five minutes. Just to explain, the man Ava mentioned is a terrorist. The US government designated him as such. Elaine, you were trying to find the official document/announcement, correct?
C.I.: And were you at the US State Dept's website?
C.I.: That exists. It may not at the State Dept but that's worldwide. Give me five minutes, I'll be back. Ava, I'm sorry.
Ava: No problem at all. Dona, speak and go slow while I write what I just said.
Dona: Ooooo-kkkkkaaaaayyyyyyyyy. Slow. Enough? Well, the point is, like Ava said, we're going to re-install the Taliban? We're going to give them legitimacy? Does anyone remember the talk after the US invaded? Ruth?
Ruth: I surely do. The women are liberated! Why won't they take off those burqas! It is safe now! And, no, it was not.
Marcia: I had actually, sorry to say, forgotten that. We had said that. We in the West. And imagine if they had all followed suit. And imagine what it would be like for them now as the US flirts with re-installing the Taliban. I mean, I don't know. To have had hope and have it stripped away? That's worse than to have had no hope. And put yourself in their shoes. You didn't see big changes but you thought maybe things would improve. And now the Taliban may come back and at the invitation of the US. Put yourself in the shoes of Afghani women and realize how awful that is and what it says.
Betty: Exactly. Because you thought you had hope and now you don't but you also know that even a supposedly major world power can't help you. How depressing and how awful. They can't help you but they will put your attacker back in power.
Kat C.I. just walked back over to the table and is on the laptop.
C.I.: I've got it, hold on. A friend, a diplomat, told me to try a place and I want to copy and paste it up at The Common Ills before it too vanishes. Okay, I'm done. Sorry, I had to add a banner. When the US designates someone a terrorist, it goes up at the State Dept website. It's gone now. There. But the State Dept distributes the statement to various US embassies around the world. The US Mission to Italy still has it online. This is the man the US reportedly wants to put in charge of Afghanistan. I'm going to read it out loud and this is from February 19, 2003:
The U.S. government has designated Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the head of the Hezeb-e Islami Afghanistan party, a terrorist, according to a statement from State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
The statement said Hekmatyar supported terrorist acts carried out by al-Qaida and the Taliban. The United States will seek to have Hekmatyar's name included in the U.N. sanctions list of people and entities associated with Usama bin Laden, al-Qaida and the Taliban, the statement said.
Following is the text of the Boucher statement: (begin text)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman February 19, 2003
STATEMENT BY RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN
Designation of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar as a Terrorist
The U.S. Government has information indicating that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has participated in and supported terrorist acts committed by al-Qa'ida and the Taliban. Because of his terrorist activity, the United States is designating Hekmatyar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under the authority of Executive Order 13224. At the same time, the United States will request that the UN 1267 Sanctions Committee include Hekmatyar on its consolidated list of entities and individuals associated with Usama bin Laden, al-Qa'ida, and the Taliban, which would obligate all Member States to impose sanctions, including assets freezes, under UN Security Council Resolutions 1267, 1390, and 1455.
C.I. (Con't): Word for word, that is the press release. That's what Elaine was attempting to put into the record of this roundtable.
Elaine: Correct. And this is a man who has been in hiding because of his actions. Actions that have been ongoing with his group claiming responsibility for attacks on Karzai -- Hamid Karzai, the US installed leader of Afghanistan -- and for attacks on US helicopters. He has made statements about wanting to join and help al Qaeda. He has then denied them. But he made a tape and Al Jazeera broadcast it -- this is 2006 -- where he's saying he wants to help Osama bin Laden. And this is who the US flirts with putting in charge of Afghanistan.
Rebecca: Okay, I've pulled up al Jazeera on this story and Gulbaldin Hekmatyar. This is Al Jazeera: "The talks, between Taliban-linked mediators, Western officials and the Afghan government, are believed to involve a proposal for the return to Afghanistan of Gulbaldin Hekmatyar, the country's former prime minister, who has been in hiding for seven years.
Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hezb-i-Islami forces fighting alongside the Taliban and labelled a 'terrorist organisation' by the United States, would be allowed to return to Afghanistan with immunity from prosecution, according to information revealed to Al Jazeera." I should have done that deep voice, "This is Al Jazeera," like James Earl Jones doing, "This is CNN." But that's from February 27th. If you're doing a link, I am, make a point to e-mail Elaine with it or give it to her over the phone after the roundtable ends so she's not typing this and hunting down links. Okay, so that's who the US wants to put in charge. And it just gets better and better, doesn't it?
Trina: I'm going to have to steal from Betty right now and say I'm enraged. I was mad. I was angry. Now I'm enraged.
Ruth: I am going to quote Joe Biden, US Vice President, and I am very disappointed, very.
Ava: C.I. and I saw a huge variety. Are you at the White House website?
Ruth: No, but I will go there. I was at a news article. Hold a minute. Okay, White House and these are Mr. Biden's remarks:
Well, let me just say -- and to paraphrase Secretary Holbrooke, our Special Envoy, and I agree with his assessment after numerous visits to the region and throughout the country -- 5 percent of the Taliban is incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated. Another 25 percent or so are not quite sure, in my view, the intensity of their commitment to the insurgency. And roughly 70 percent are involved because of the money, because of them being -- getting paid.
To state the obvious, as you know, the Taliban, most of whom are Pashtun -- you have 60 percent of the Pashtun population in Pakistan; only 40 percent live in Afghanistan. The objectives that flow from Kandahar may be different than Quetta, may be different than the FATA. So it's worth exploring.
The idea of what concessions would be made is well beyond the scope of my being able to answer, except to say that whatever is initiated will have to be ultimately initiated by the Afghan government, and will have to be such that it would not undermine a legitimate Afghan government. But I do think it is worth engaging and determining whether or not there are those who are willing to participate in a secure and stable Afghan state.
Ruth (Con't): C.I., can you decipher Joe Biden on that?
C.I.: Well. With his "they're on the payroll." There are people on the payroll. They attack Karzai's people and the US and do so for money. Most news outlets in the last two years have covered that. I don't know that they're considered Taliban for that reason only. Joe's lumping them in and that's not a call I would make. It's one many others would, however. So that's what he's talking about there. In terms of the rest of it, I can't defend or explain it. First off, Afghanistan is supposed to be a sovereign nation. It's not. It's supposed to be. It's interesting that the reports never have Karzai -- a US puppet, in my opinion, yes, but that country's leader if only in terms of symbolism -- at these meetings to invite the Taliban back. But, I can't defend any of the above and wouldn't. I can explain the one comment I did. About what he means in terms of payroll.
Elaine: And I'm jumping in to explain that further because I agree with C.I. The Taliban has money. For all their high mindnessness -- their 'ideals' are why they attack women -- the Taliban's just 'too wonderful for this world'. But for all of that, they do profit from the drug trade. They had stomped much of it out when they were in charge of the country but it is a way to make cash and the war lords grow it and pay the Taliban a cut which the Taliban gladly takes. Like C.I., I wouldn't assume someone is necessarily Taliban because they are on the payroll. Afghanistan is a war-torn country and has been since -- well since the US made the decision, during Jimmy Carter's presidency, to draw the USSR into the sinkhole of quagmire. So there are not economic opportunities. In that regard, I don't see them as Taliban but do see where Biden's coming from on that. On that. And only on that. Like C.I., my attitude is, he's on his own on the rest of it.
Ruth: Well, I am really disapointed in Joe Biden. I want to go on the record saying I expect this crazyness from Barack who is not a smart man. But what is the point of serving in the US Senate all those years, as Senator Biden has, if they mean nothing and that is how I feel on this.
Elaine: No argument on that from anyone here.
Ava:: We all know what's going on. The US wants to lessen their burden in Afghanistan and they're doing what they always do: Going about it the easiest way possible.
Dona: And by lessen, you don't mean leave.
Ava: No, of course not. The US government wants the Caspian Basin. It would prefer control of it. But it will settle for a share of it or access to it. The US will happily reduce the number of forces, but they aren't leaving Afghanistan. My opinion.
Betty: I agree with you and I believe Gore Vidal's work on this issue backs you up and then some.
Dona: And that's another issue on the disgusting front. There's no departure, there's no autonomy for the Afghan people and all this illegal war for nothing except to maybe make a few people hope for a few seconds before things return to exactly what they were before.
Trina: I would absolutely agree with that and I know we need to wind down. So I'll offer my closing thoughts. The US needs to leave Afghanistan. No if-and-but about it. They need to leave. However, they do not need to install anyone and that we would flirt with installing a terrorist says a great deal about how short sighted our government is.
Marcia: As C.I. notes in today's snapshot, Elaine's "Anti-feminist Barack Obama" and Kat's "Afghanistan" covered this region last night so I'd recommend people look there and, specifically, that they read over Sarah Chayes "Comprehensive Plan for Afghanistan January 2009." Yes, it's PDF format and that may not work for all due to computer issues. But if you can, you need to read it. Even if you can't, you can still visit SarahChayes.net and find out more information there.
Ava: Sarah Chayes went to Afghanistan to cover it for NPR. She ended up leaving NPR to work in Afghanistan. This is an issue she is highly knowledgable on.
Marcia: And another reason I happen to like Chayes is she dressed like the locals. Not like the women. She didn't put on burqa. She dressed in the garb the men were wearing. So she made a gesture to the culture and she also refused to take on the sexist element of the clothing as so many Western women do when they go to Afghanistan. They need to follow her example and stop doing that.
Rebecca: Okay, Ruth, Betty and Dona. Closing thoughts?
Betty: I really have a very difficult time talking about this because I am so angry. I cannot believe that the women of Afghanistan, already having suffered so much, are now about to suffer even more and just so the US can grab the easy solution. I'm not talking withdrawal by 'easy,' I'm referring to the re-installing of thugs.
Ruth: I agree with Bettty and we see this all the time. And it is why we have no real foreign policy. We put in strong men who are dangers to communities and then a generation or two on down the line has to deal with it. And they do not think twice about shoving the same burdens onto future generations. It is very sad we have such a limited and unknowing foreign policy.
Dona: Well I agree with what Betty said and I was going to expand on that but, wow, Ruth, yes. We do create the same problems. This is why the Iraqi women suffer today. The US did the cheap thing -- used thugs to provide 'order.' Thugs are always the ones the baton's handed off to. And over and over, it creates the same problem. Over and over. Well said, Ruth.
Rebecca: Kat, closing thought?
Kat: I keep telling myself that I can be neither surprised nor disappointed by Barack. That I have no faith in him so nothing he does has any reaction other than an eye roll but, boy, does he manage to disappoint even those who were expecting nothing from him.
Ava: I will go along with Kat on that. It's really something and, as she pointed out earlier, what a slap to women around the world for him to have timed his announcement to coincide with International Women's Day. What an insult.
Rebecca: Elaine, closing thoughts will hold for a minute. I'm going to let you have the last word because I'm going off topic for a question Sherry wanted me to ask C.I. Jane Fonda is on Broadway right now in the play 33 Variations. Ben Brantley critiqued it and he writes, "Ms. Fonda's Katherine seems more polite than passionate. This is one instance in which the cinematic restraint of Ms. Fonda's performance works against her. It's hard to credit the words Katherine remembers her 7-year-olddaughter saying to her: 'When you listen to music, Mom, you look like you're talking to God'." Sherry was thinking of seeing, her aunt got tickets, but now she's not sure. C.I., that question is for you.
C.I.: Okay. Well Ava and I saw the play and we loved it. I assume from the sentecnes that Brantley otherwise raved over Jane's performance. It's an amazing performance. He seems unhappy that there's not a fevor when Jane's character listens to music. If you want fevor, you hire Ellen Burstyn. And that's not an insult, I love Ellen. But she does that very well. She did it amazingly well in Resurrection. Fonda's not an unknown at this point in the career. We know the type of actress she is, we know her style. We know her temprament. I actually disagree with him, with Brantley. But I don't expect that every line of dialogue is on the nose. Nor do I -- nor does Jane or Samantha Mathis, Samantha plays Jane's daughter -- assume that what we see of our parents as children is what they are or even what is really taking place. Carly has a wonderful song, Carly Simon, entitled "Embrace Me, You Child." In it, she has God and her father speaking. Now that didn't happen. But she's writing about what it was like to her as a child. And she's capturing the distortions we place on our parents. It's an amazing song and I really think it's more, that it goes more to what the daughter said when she was seven-years-old. There are dynamics, there are parent-child dynamics, in the play that are very important and I'm not sure Brantley -- I haven't read his review -- is grasping some of what Jane and Samantha are doing on stage. For Sherry, go see the play. The performances are amazing. As soon as the run is over, it's a limited run, the play should immediately be filmed because they have really accomplished something. I mean Jane and Samantha but Colin Hanks is wonderful as well. The play is 33 Variations and its at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre through May 24th. It's a limited run. Anyone who has the chance to see it should see it. I don't think you'll be disappointed. You can go with just the text, the play has a very unusual and unique rhythm and style, or you can go to enjoy some amazing performances. Or you can go because you're a huge fan of Jane's. Samantha and Colin have fan bases as well. But if you've ever enjoyed Jane's performances -- her two Oscar wins, many times nominated performances -- and wanted to see it in peson, you need to go. But you won't be registering Jane. The play will be over and you'll realize that you got caught up in Katherine, her character. You won't be sitting there saying, "Oh, there's Jane." The play will grab you and pull you in very quickly, almost deceptively so. And you will be surprised how much you care about the characters and you better make time for either a long drive after or for a meal because you really want to process and share what you just saw. Jane's given an amazing performance, it will be Tony nominated. To tie this back into Afghanistan women, Jane has long contributed to the cause of Afghanistan women with both her pocket book and her words.
Rebecca: Thank you and I'm sure Sherry thanks you. She'll be going this week.
C.I.: You sure she's going to go?
Rebecca: You just gave it a rave. She'll be there. Elaine, closing thoughts on Afghanistan or, if you prefer, the New York theatre.
Elaine: I actually would prefer to talk about the latter. There's much more worthy of praise. But what I can praise is the women in Afghanistan. As Betty explained, one woman set herself on fire Sunday. Things were so bad that the only 'freedom' for her was death. We have it bad. Women around the world have it bad. But we do not have it as bad as the women in Afghanistan. As many have said, it really is a heart breaker, that a US administration could be in talks with the Taliban, could be talking about bringing them back in. That's where C.I. and I part with Joe on the definition. See, these people earning money from the Taliban -- by attacking US forces and the Afghanistan's government's forces -- are not going to be installed. They are not power brokers. They are people barely getting by. Those aren't the people Barack's talking about. He's talking about the leaders of the Taliban. You've got Yusef the farmer trying to make ends meet and he takes the equivalent of $10 a week from the Taliban to shoot his rifle down the street at the local police station. Yusef's not the Taliban. Nor is Yusef the sort of person who would be given a leadership role. So I think Joe Biden's attempting to divert the situation, attempting to water down what Barack's talking about. No one is having meetings with Yusef. No one is meeting with Yusef in Dubai or London.
Ava: Let me jump in to say Elaine's put it into words perfectly. That really is the difference and it's why Joe Biden's words really do seem like spin control.
Rebecca: Okay, well before we wind down, you saw Jane Fonda onstage as well. Since you're speaking, you recommend it as well?
Ava: Yes. Very much so. C.I. and I went with my mother and my aunt. And, yes, you really need to carve out some post-play time to discuss it. It's a wonderful play and anyone who has a chance to see it and doesn't should kick themselves in the head.
Rebecca: Okay. On that note, we'll wind down. We are doing a roundtable on Friday for Iraq. That remains on. This is a rush transcript.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, March 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, another deadly Baghdad bombing with mass fatalities, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and Thomas E. Ricks talk Iraq realities while Phyllis Bennis sounds like a raving lunatic, and more.
Let's start with reality and then we'll turn to the nut jobs. Yesterday Thomas E. Ricks appeared on NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday. Ricks is the author of The Gamble. Appearing with him on the show were NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (who heads NPR's Baghdad bureau) and Ghassan Adnan (Iraqi producer). Neil Conan is the host of the program.
Thomas E. Ricks: I think that Obama and the people around him are repeating the optimisim of the Bush administration. It's not a departure from Bush to say you want to get out of Iraq. George Bush didn't invade Iraq saying, "I have a great idea. Let's go get stuck in a quagmire for ten years." The original war plan had us down to 30,000 troops by September 2003. Well here we are seven years later. We have more than four times that number of troops and the new president is saying "I want to get us out of Iraq, out of fighting in Iraq by August of next year." Well just because you hang a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner doesn't mean the war ends, just because you say it's a non-combat mission doesn't mean the war ends. The war ends when American troops stop dying. And I was over at the White House the day of the president's speech [Feb. 27th] and I said, "Does this mean American troops will stop dying in August of 2010?" And a military official there said, "No, it does not mean that."
[. . .]
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: I'd just like to speak to something that Thomas Ricks just said. Um, it's kind of interesting, the war ends when no US soldiers are killed here. You know, it's -- through all of this, you tend to forget the Iraqi narrative. We're talking about the Obama administration, what they think, what they believe. Of course there is a sovereign, now, Iraqi government who also has a say in what happens here and what kinds of, you know, US forces remain here and what the war will look like for them. It's not only US soldiers who die but of course Iraqi civilians, Iraqi army, Iraqi police and that also has a -- that characterizes what will happen here in the coming years and months.
Thomas E. Ricks: That's a good point. I should have said "our war ends when US troops stop dying." I think the war goes on for decades.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: It's just -- possibly. And it's certainly a sobering thought for the Iraqis I speak to here. I do spend -- you know, when you're living in Baghdad and covering it -- I've been covering this since 2002 actually -- we have to deal with the US military and, of course, the Iraqis as well. And we -- you know, it's a balancing act. And our staff monitors six [Iraqi] papers a day, three Iraqi channels, and, of course, we go out. Now the security situation is better, I travel all over the country. Tomorrow I'm going into Anbar Province, up near Haditha. I've been pretty much everywhere now days in Iraq and that, of course, allows you to do reporting as you would in any other country, which means getting on the ground, talking to people and seeing exactly what's going on for yourself. Before we had to rely on the US military. They're the ones that had to take us places, we had to embed, we had to see things through their prism. Now that has changed dramatically and we can really go out in a way that we've never been able to since the early days of the war to see for ourselves exactly what's going on.
Neal Conan: And let me quickly follow up again on something Tom Ricks said, decades, Tom?
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah, I think there will be people fighting and dying in Iraq for decades.
Neal Conan: And Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, do you agree with that?
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Well, I think that may possibly be true. As I try and point out in many of my reports, I think the -- for many Americans, they believe that the war is over. I mean there's a lack of interest now that President Obama has said they will be withdrawing US forces in great numbers in the coming year -- not this year, but next year. I think people have sort of thought, 'Well, the war is over in Iraq.' But people die here every single day. There are many simmering conflicts. It might not look like the conflicts that we saw before during the sectarian violence but there are other things that are going on here that could presage many bad days to come. I don' t know, I'm not a prognosticator but certainly Iraq is not stable yet.
Thomas E. Ricks: I think it's a good point that the war has changed several times. It started as a blitzkrieg invasion, then it was a botched occupation, then it was a slow rising but durable insurgency, then it was an American counter-offensive. The war is changing again. It kind of feels like a lull right now. But just because it's changed doesn't mean it's ended and a lot of Americans have stopped paying attention because I think they wrongly think that it's over.
We'll come back to that broadcast -- including Lourdes expanding on her thoughts of the Iraqi government. And Thomas E. Ricks is scheduled to be on Tavis Smiley (PBS) tonight.
From reality to the cracked ravings of Phyllis. Phyllis Bennis would like to be the voice of something. Even she doesn't know what. And that's very clear when she churns out a bad piece like she did at ZNet. First off, Phyllis, where were you in 2008? You managed one carefully worded column questioning Barack. So when you show up today tossing around "we," you really need to just stop. In fact, your 'moral' authority is such that, frankly, you have none. You have no standing. Not on Iraq. You have no standing because you dabble. That's how you end up on CounterSpin over a year after Nancy A. Youssef (in what was her last story for Knight-Ridder -- it flipped to McClatchy the next day) broke the news about the US military keeping a list of the Iraqi deaths. You show up a year after that blabbering on about how the US must be keeping a list and why don't we know about this list and why have no reporters asked about this list. You dabble and you end up looking like a fool. Like an idiot. You have no pull, you have no authority. You need to stop thinking you can show issuing orders every three months via a (bad) Iraq article that reads as if you dashed it off while you had a load of whites on rinse.
Phyllis blathers on with a lot of "we" and she doesn't speak for the bulk of the peace movement. She'd like to but she doesn't and she needs to be blown off when she tries to present herself as a voice. She is, at her best, an analyst. Not of the US government, not of the peace mvoement. Those are not her areas. But she's not interested in her areas which is how her lengthy blather never gets around to noting Iraqis. Their wants, their needs, their issues. She can't write about Iraqis, she can't speak for the peace movement, so what's she jawboning our ears off about? Barry. President Barry Obama.
Phyllis yammer about ". . . our job is not to convince the people of this country that there is no way President Obama will end the occupation of Iraq. Our job will be to convince people that the only way President Obama will be able to overcome the powerful pro-war opposition inside and outside . . ." No one asked you. Do you get it? No one asked you. No one wants your opinion. You're allegedly an analyst. Of foreign affairs. That's what your IPS bio says, that's how you're billed when you're brought on some program. How about doing your job? Or is that too much for you? Brookings doesn't go on TV yacking about "our job." Cato or any of the right wing organizations don't do that. They offer analysis of the issues. In this case, they'd be analayzing Iraq. When you refuse to do that, when you think you can ignore your role and grab others, you make a fool out of yourself. And I'm wording that very kindly. Probably too kindly. You are a professional apologist for the do-nothings at United for Peace and Justice. There are actions taking place and Phyllis doesn't want you to know about them. Her latest crap is similar -- almost word-for-word -- to the crap she posted at United for Pathetic and Juvenile pimping their crap for April. UPFJ which will not call out Barack. It goes to the 20th Century Closet Communist panics and fears of confronting a "Black" man. Hate to break it to you, UPFJ, but unless you're going to operate in an all-White world, you're going to have to call out leaders of color.
Their cowardice on this issue was on full display at UPFJ's December 'strategy' session where the alleged peace movement 'leaders' explained they can't take on a "Black" man. So instead they proposed to 'honor' Barack via MLK. Barack isn't Black (he's bi-racial) and he's not MLK. Grow the hell up, Phyllis and quit hanging with those nut jobs at UPFJ. They're toast. Leslie Cagan is a grown woman, an elderly woman some might say, and she can't state publicly, "I am a Communist." Therefore, Leslie is a FAILURE and everyone working with her is a FRAUD or a FAILURE. There is nothing wrong with being a Communist, a Socialist, a Democrat, a Republican, what have you. There is something very wrong with being in a political closet. And it's important that we start all getting honest.
UPFJ has launched non-stop attacks on A.N.S.W.E.R. and benefitted from the fact that A.N.S.W.E.R. is seen as "Communist" (while UPFJ is not seen that way). There are Communists in A.N.S.W.E.R., there are anarchists, there are people of every political stripe. UPFJ has played the game their spiritual forebearers played during McCarthyism: Closeted Communists finger point at others. That happened repeatedly during the McCarthy witch hunt. And if you could do, for example, then what UPFJ does now, you could and did work for The Nation. But if you were upfront about who you were, as some Communists in A.N.S.W.E.R. are, the doors were closed for you and there was an effort made to point fingers at you. Those were the sacrificial lambs. And it's past time we all stopped treating Victor Navasky's Little Golden Reader version of history as accurate. It was a start. But it was as bad as any Disney take on history and refused to point to those who benefitted from the witch hunt. There is more reality on Heroes, the NBC program, currently doing a story on witch hunts, than in Naming Names when it comes to seriously exploring the hows and whos. As happened during McCarthy, the witch hunt on Heroes benefits from . . . someone in a closet. (There's also more honesty and maturity in Sara Paretsky's novel Blacklist.) The good news is that except for a 'sociologist' and Red Betty, the closet cases had no careers (or flipped to neo-con) fairly quickly. And the same will happen with today's because Barack Democrats will not stand for Leslie, Judith, Carl and all the other Communists in the closet trying to elbow their way to the front. They fear those closeted freaks will embarrass Barack. And they, Barack Democrats, grasp they can't keep holding the line. They can't keep insisting, "Oh, that evil Republican Noise Machine, trying to draw connections between Barack Obama and Communism or Socialism! It's all false!" You can't keep insisting that and allow the likes of Leslie, Carl, Judith, et al to go around as they do. I'm not talking a round-up. I am saying walls are being constructed to make sure that those elements have no access and no influence on Barack Obama. And hooray for that because these closet cases have run a tepid and wimpering peace 'movement' and they've done so because they can't admit who they are so they can't really engage in a struggle. When you're lying to your followers as well as to the press about what you are and who you are, how can you lead a damn thing? You can't. And they need to own their guilt and they need to own the blood of Iraqis which is on their hands because if you can't step up into the spotlight and say, "I'm ___ and I'm a ___" -- whatever "____" is -- you have no business attempting to be a political leader. You are corrupted before you say a single word because you have chosen to live in a closet. And the little games you play have very deadly consequences. And in a sane moment, if she's still capable of them, Naomi Wolf would agree with me. Before she went drunk on Barry Obama, she was getting ready to make that point (and does include it in her book The End of America: Letters of Warning to a Young Patriot).
This month groups such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War -- are taking part in a real action. Iraq Veterans Against the War explains:IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution, click here.) To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately. For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: www.pentagonmarch.org or www.answercoalition.org.
Back to NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday. Thomas E. Ricks asked Lourdes whether or not she thought Iraq's government could be termed a sovereign one.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: No. I think -- I think that even they would say that they aren't considered sovereign. I think when you have the presence of 140,000 US forces here, I don't think any government would say that it is sovereign. I think the Iraqi people certainly don't think that they are sovereign. You speak to them on the streets and they will not say that this is a sovereign country. They will say that this is a country under occupation. That said, there is now a legal framework in place and I do see the Iraqis . . . taking . . . control more and more.
Also addressed was the issue of the press coverage of Iraq and who remains and who is leaving?
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Ah. These are very, very difficult days in Iraq because, of course, it's extremely expensive and has been, prohibitively expensive to cover this war. NPR I think spends on the order of one million dollars a year which is a lot of money for an organization like us -- security costs and everything else. And what we are seeing is a drawing down of the press corps as well. We are seeing many of the important news organizations here, the Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, the ones who have been here from the very beginning are now actually reducing the number of correspondents that will be covering this conflict and I think that that is a measure of the fact that there are important stories out there that deserve a lot of attention like, of course, the global finacial crisis, among others. Afghanistan, of course, is getting a lot of attention as well. and we are seeing diminished interest in what is happening here in Iraq.
Neal Conan: Tom Ricks, you were saying earlier, obviously there are still many more American troops in Iraq then there are in Afghanistan -- or even plan to go to Afghanistan -- and you were saying one of the things the soldiers were telling you, 'Does anybody still know we're here?'
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah, that came up a lot in my last trip. Is people just wondering do people still know we're out here?" The numbers have really not come down. Even the numbers if they come down as they're planning this year. We'll still be at 132,000 troops which is roughly the average we've had there for the entire war.
The Iraq War has not ended. Liars and fools (which would include Phyllis Bennis) would have you believe that it has. But it continues and people continue dying. In Iraq today, another suicide bomber. Early this morning AP was reporting 28 dead and twenty-eight wounded. Reuters gave the same figures and noted: "A source at Yarmouk hospital, the main hospital in western Baghdad, said it had received the body of a journalist working for al-Baghdadiya, an independent television station. Another journalist with al-Iraqiya state television was wounded, he said." Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) was reporting close to immediately and noted an eyewitness who said the bomber was "wearing a national police uniform" and that the death toll was 33 with forty-six wounded. She also added, "The bombing suggest a renewed ability by insurgents to mount more effective suicide bombings, after a long period in which such attacks were relatively few and less lethal because of heavy security precautions." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explains the bombing took place "in the Abu Ghraib municipality, 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the center of the Iraqi capital, President Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party said on its Web site. The tribal leaders and a group of soldiers were visiting a market when the bomber struck, the PUK said. Two Iraqi journalists, including one from the independent al-Baghdadiya television station, were among the dead." NDTV Arabia identifies the two journalists killed as Suhaib Adnan and Haider Hashim. A third journalist, Ibrahim al-Katib, working for Iraqi state TV, was wounded. Ennahar Online offers a recent look at attacks on journalists in Iraq. Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) explains that the tribal leaders were "attending a reconciliation conference" and "The bombing unleashed chaos in the ramshackle market that lines the street near the municipal buildings of Abu Ghraib, on Baghdad's western outskirts. In the confusion, soldiers opened fire, wounding more people, and hospital staff complained that they were overwhelmed with the flood of casualties brought to their facility." Alissa J. Rubin and Marc Santora (NYT's International Herald Tribune) note, "There is an investigation into whether the shooting after the bombing was an ambush by gunmen or undisciplined gunfire by Iraqi security forces, said Marjor General Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Baghdad security plan." Wail al-Hofath and James Hider (Times of London) state, "The attack was a clear attempt to sabotage efforts to reconcile the Iraqi people at the crucial tribal leve, which has been vital in diminishing violence over the past two years. . . . The Sunni and Shia tribal leaders were in talks aimed at alleviating the deep and lingering animosity between the communities in Iraq after years of death squads, suicide bombings and ethnic cleansing." Jamal Hashim and Gao Shan (Xinhua) report, " An Interior Ministry source told Xinhua Tuesday that up to 33 people were killed and some 46 others injured in the latest bloody suicide bombing when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a crowd of tribal leaders and army officers while they were leaving the town hall" though another version the reporters were told had a suicide bomber wearing a vest (most outlets are reporting a car). Matthew Schofield (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes an unnamed eyewitness declaring, "I have seen a dog carrying human flesh, a shoulder, as another dog was eating part of a human leg covered with blood. Iraqi soldiers chased the dogs, tryign to take these parts from them. I saw a human jaw thrown on the ground, and Iraqi soldiers refusing to allow to any one to pick it up. They said it belonged to the suicide bomber."
BBC's Mike Sergeant observes, "At the weekend Maj Gen David Perkins, the coalition spokesman, said that Iraq had moved 'from a very unstable to a stable position'" and notes how, later Sunday, over 30 were killed by a suicide bomber in Baghdad. Sergeant states it's too early to tell about March and violence could dip as the month continues but notes, "Those policy makers who think that the Iraq 'problem' has somehow been 'solved' might be starting to wrry that they had, once again, been over-optimistic and guilty of simplifying a very complicated place." Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) notes that the increase in violence (which most are tracing to Thursday's suicide bombing but Caroline Alexander notes continues the increase that February saw over January) comes as al-Maliki tries "to cobble together a semblance of pan-Iraqi political solidarity. He has made an overture of reconciliation to low-level former members of the Baath Party, which ruled Iraq under Saddam Hussein." Abouzeid reports:Still, the audacity of the attacks, coupled with their lethal effectiveness and high casualty rates, may signal the resumption of a reinvigorated insurgency that has had time to regroup. A source close to the insurgency told TIME that sleeper cells in and around the Sunni stronghold of Abu Ghraib -- site of the infamous prison now renamed the Baghdad Central Prison -- have been planning renewed attacks for months. Tuesday's strike in the marketplace was carried out by the sheik of a local extremist Takfiri mosque, a man in his 20s named Abu Taymiyeh, the source claimed. The allegation could not be independently verified.
Hazim al-Nuaimi, a political analyst, tells Waleed Ibrahim and Aseel Kami (Reuters), "These attacks raise questions about political power struggles" and he questions the rush by some to blame al Qaeda in Mesopotamia (which is only one of many groups resisting the US occupation). Regardless of responsibility (still unclear), Amanda Ruggeri (US News & World Reports) concludes, "And for Iraqis, the attacks are a reminder that, despite an increase in stability that has allowed many civilians to warily resume more normal lives, their country remains far from peaceful." Staffan de Mistura, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, has termed today's bombing "a horrible crime that is deisgned to sabotage reconciliatory efforts by the Iraqi people."
China's Xinhua reports, "An American marine died in Iraq at a result of an incident that did not involve combat on Tuesday, the U.S. military said. The soldier, assigned to Multi National Force-West (MNF-W), died on Tuesday, a military statement said without providing further details about the incident." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4257.
In other reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul car bombing that claimed 2 lives -- a docotr and "the son of the Head of the local Judicial Council" -- and left six other people wounded and, dropping back to last night, a Mosul grenade attack on a wedding party that resulted in twelve being wounded "including women and children." Reuters notes a bombing outside of Mosul that claimed the life of 1 "young girl."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 "woman who works in Mosul University, Department of Computer Science" was shot dead in her home in Mosul this morning.
Turning to Iraq court news. February 19th, Muntadar al-Zaidi (also spelled Muntadhar al-Zeidi) had one day in court before the judge adjourned to figure out what Bully Boy Bush was doing in Iraq. December 14th Bully Boy was in Baghdad and Muntadhar threw one shoe and then a second at George W. Muntadar exclaimed, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog" and "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Muntadar was immediately attacked by Nouri al-Maliki's thugs and has been imprisoned ever since. February 19th, he had a brief (90 minute) hearing. The judge ruled they'd be back on March 12th. Camada's CBC reported he was briefly back in court today before the judge "adjourned to Thursday" -- there was time for Muntadar to be greeted with "applause and shouts of support in the courtroom and the hallway". CBS and AP also note the trial is due to resume Thursday and they report that Dargham al-Zeidi, Muntadhar's brother, was attempting to stage a demonstration at Firdous Square in Baghdad; however, police broke it up and refused to allow it to take place. Michael Howard (Guardian of Manchester) adds, "A 25-strong team of lawyers has been preparing the journalist's defence. It is led by Dhiya al-Saadi, who said he would ask for an immediate release because the law under which Zeidi is charged is not applicable in his case."
Turning to the US and starting with the White House. A friend in the administration asks that I note this White House blog post which includes, "The President and Ms. Obama salute Senator Ted Kennedy on his birthday." If Michelle Obama is now going to be billed as "Ms. Obama," more power to her. She's a grown woman and, prior to 2007, was a very strong one. It would be nice to see that side re-emerge publicy. Now we're back on the subject of her husband and while silly Phyllie Bennis can't do anything of value (but she can get it for you wholesale), Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) offers this on War Hawk Barrack Obama's 'withdrawal':
As always, the president chose his words very carefully. The parsing was so clever that it fooled many people into celebrating when there is no reason for joy. There will still be American troops in Iraq, up to 50,000 of them. "As I have long said, we will retain a transitional force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 25-50,000 U.S. troops."
[. . .]
The damage done by the complete capitulation of many progressives to Obama is now bearing fruit. He is able to dismiss them and his own party without suffering any political damage. He said as much in a PBS interview with Jim Lehrer.
JIM LEHRER: You're not the least bit uneasy over the fact as John McCain and John Boehner, the Republican leader of the House, have praised your plan while the Democrats are criticizing it?
BARACK OBAMA: You know, I don't - I don't make these decisions based on polls or popularity. I make the decisions based on what I think is best.
In other words, the Democrats can go to hell. He doesn;t care what they think. He doesn't have to care what they think because they gave him carte blanche to say and do anything he wanted during the campaign. McCain and Boehner are now his cheerleaders and Democrats have to be happy with whatever their leader deems to be acceptable.
Finally, Amy Goodman did her usual spin for Barack today. New rule, Afghanistan women commenting on Afghainstan? They need to be raised there. We don't need an American who went to Afghanistan (and increased her wealth) after the US invaded in 2001 passing herself off as Afghanistan. The FRAUD tosses kisses to the Taliban. That's why Pravada on the Hudson put her on the air. In the real world, Alisa Tang (Ms. magazine) writes: "There are many brave Afghan women who continue to fight for their rights. Some like Samar are vocal. Others surreptitiously push forward women's rights within a male-dominated society. There is a sense of urgency among them, because with the Taliban back in strength and potentially at the negotiating table with the government, their lives are on the line again." Elaine's "Anti-feminist Barack Obama" and Kat's "Afghanistan" covered the topic last night.
iraqthe new york timesalissa j. rubin
marc santorathe washington postanthony shadid
talk of the nation
thomas e. ricks
like maria said pazkats korner