Friday, August 07, 2009

Iraq and the media

"Bombings kill at least 36 in Iraq" (Free Speech Radio News):
A string of attacks in Baghdad, and a bombing in Mosul have left 36 dead and more than 100 injured. The attacks seemed to primarily target Shiites heading to or from Friday services; 3 roadside bombs hit vans carrying religious pilgrims, and the largest, a bomb in Mosul, was outside a Shiite mosque. Last Friday, several bomb attacks targeting Shiite Mosques killed at least 29 people.

That may be my only audio link this week but I got one in before the week ended.

What if we lived in a country where an ongoing war was reported as something other than a headline when one incident results in a huge death toll?

Iraqis die every day in the ongoing and illegal war and there's no coverage that indicates that. We have an awful media that wastes our time and that refuses to provide coverage of the Iraq War.

What if the media had dropped their coverage of WWII before it ended?

What if the media had decided when Nixon was elected that Vietnam was no longer an issue?

I am appalled by what the news media offers as 'news' and by what they ignore.

When your country is at war, that's news. Every day the war goes on, it is news.

All the grown ups have apparently left the news media. Maybe via buy-outs? Maybe via lay offs? It's a joke. It's all one big joke.

We get garbage day after day and actual news never comes our way. That is only more true when it comes to our pathetic 'independent' media.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, August 7, 2009. Chaos and violence, continue, at least 69 are dead and 198 injured in today's violence, Nouri offers more nonsense, the US administration has no clues on Iraq and neither does the press assigned to cover them, and more.
Three US citizens were allegedly hiking and allegedly crossed from Iraq into Iran and are now -- the only point of the story which doesn't require "allegedly" -- being held by Iran. The issue was raised on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, where Diane was joined by McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef, Foreign Policy's Susan Glasser and National Journal's James Kitfield.
Diane Rehm: And what about the three Americans who were arrested for apparently crossing the border from Iraq into Iran, Nancy?
Nancy Youssef: That's right, that's right. These are three hikers in Iraq in Kurdistan who somehow crossed the border and we learned this week and again there's a question of what their fate is and what-what --
Diane Rehm: But they were warned. That's what bothers me. They were warned by Iraqis that they were getting close to the border.
James Kitfield: Can we -- can we put out an all points bulletin now: "Please American hikers don't go into the Kurdistan mountains near the border with Iran because that's not helpful. It's not helpful to you and it's not helpful to our diplomacy with Iran."?
Susan Glasser: And it's not helpful to Iraq which is so trying to change its image and saying that this is a place you can come to and this is a safe place and trying to revamp it's image and, um, this does not help it.
Diane Rehm: So what happens next or is there some ongoing communication, Susan?
Susan Glasser: Well, I think, unlike in dealing with North Korea, there is a much more established, you know, track record of Americans being able to engage with Iran through back channels. Europeans, of course, several countries actually have relations with Iran. So, you know, there's a much more filled out relationship that's ongoing even in times of stress than with North Korea for example. One question and I didn't see what the follow up was, I think these hikers actually were still being kept in Iranian Kurdistan which probably bodes well for their fate. You know, if they're trucked all the way to Tehran --
Diane Rehm: I see.
Susan Glasser: -- and they're put on trial as spies and that sort of thing, then they're going to -- you might need another President Clinton mission at that point to get them out. If it remains at that level, I think you're dealing with something, once the Iranians verify these do indeed seem to be semi-clueless students who were language students in the region in Syria, at least, a couple of them were. So perhaps they can still be handled at the level of clueless interlopers.
James Kitfield: History suggest they'll use them as pawns in whatever game in whatever diplomatic game they decide to play with us and eventually let them go. What-what I will say about this is interesting to me right now is that the clocks that are ticking on the Iran issue are almost out of sync. We -- Obama has set for next month, as a deadline for Iran to-to-to respond to his offer of engagement. A lot of people are saying we should have a tactical policy because you don't want to be engaging with a regime that's lost significant legitimacy because of these elections. On the other hand, the Israelis who are trying to sort of push them to peace negotiations are saying "You have got to at least put a deadline on your dealings with Iran and your sanctions because we think they're going to get the bomb sometime in the next year to sixteen months." So it's very difficult right now this-this problem, these internal problems with Iran, although interesting have really sort of skewed the diplomatic schedule that Obama has set for Iran and it's difficult to know how you put it back in sync.
We'll come back to that program in a bit but that is covering what's known about the three Americans. And it is, as serious news consumers know, The Diane Rehm Show that you count on to provide you information about Iraq. Each Friday, there's a strong chance it will be addressed in the second hour of the program (the international hour). (In addition, Iraq was touched on by the increasingly flaky Senator Barbara Boxer on Wednesday's program and it was addressed in much more depth by Diane and her guest Anthony Zinni on Thursday's program.) These are discussions, not 15 second headlines. And that needs to be pointed out because Pacifica can't do a damn thing on Iraq as is most obvious with Democracy Now! where Goodman wastes one hour after another each day. Camilo Mejia is on (this week) and maybe we'll get to hear about Iraq? Hear about Iraq? Goodman doesn't even know he's the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Camilo has to correct on air. That's how pathetic and uninformed she is. Because one of the American citizens is a 'journalist' who filed a 'report' on Iraq six months ago for her program, Goodman re-airs that today. And that's supposed to thrill us all. Hey, maybe if Dahr gets detained, she can re-air one of his segments -- though she'd have dip back very far because she hasn't had Dahr on in forever, despite the fact that he's just released a new book. (We'll be noting Dahr's book later in the snapshot.) It's embarrassing and it's shameful and she, not Diane Rehm, claims to go "where the silences are." She, not Diane Rehm, rests her reputation -- in every public appearance -- on her supposed Iraq reporting. When it's time to beg for more money, she's on air reminding people that she did this on Iraq or that and my goodness what about the New York Times' Judith Miller????? It's about time someone told her she looks cheap, disgusting and flithy as she falsely uses the Iraq War to raise money for her increasingly useless program. If you're a serious news consumer considering making a donation to public radio before the end of the year, make a point to remember that it has been The Diane Rehm Show in 2009 which has regularly covered Iraq. Don't buy Amy's self-hype and self-promotion and posing. She's done nothing. So if you do have it to spare before the end of the year and you're wanting to donate to public radio, remember Diane Rehm's the only one who regularly covers the ongoing war.
Today Iraq was rocked by violence. Getting the most attention was a bombing outside of Mosul, targeting a mosque, in which Reuters counts at least 38 dead and and at least one-hundred-and-forty injured. (Despite that and despite the fact that the bombing was known early this morning, Amy Goodman didn't even include it in headlines. Typical.) Sam Dagher (New York Times) informs the bombing utilized 1 Kia truck with reports conflicting over whether it was parked or "was driven by a suicide bomber". Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report, "The massive bomb exploded as worshipers were leaving the mosque in the village of Shraikan after attending Friday prayers, officials said. The bombing, which demolished 10 nearby homes, is certain to raise tensions between Kurds, who control the area, and the Sunni Arab administration of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital." Ernesto Londono and Dlovan Brwari (Washington Post) add, "Zuhair Muhsan Mohammed, the mayor of Mosul, said many people at the mosque were attending a funeral when the bombing occurred. He said the assailant, driving a Kia truck, got through a checkpoint by telling guards he was there to pay condolences to the dead person's relatives." They quote eye witness Hussein Abbas Farhat stating, "I was screaming, but I couldn'te ven hear myself scream." CNN provides this context, "Friday was the end of a Shiite Muslim celebration in Karbala celebrating the birthday of Imam al-Mahdi, the last of 12 historic imams revered by Shiites. Pilgrims participating in such celebrations have been the target of similar attacks by Sunni Muslims."
Turning ot some of the other reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Baghdad roadside bombings which claimed 8 lives and left twenty-four injured, a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 6 lives (three were police officers) and left thirty wounded and a Mosul bombing attack on the home of a Christian family in which two women were wounded. (Some press reports say the Baghdad car bombing was a motorcycle bombing.)
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul, an attack on a Mosul checkpoint in which 2 police officers were killed, 1 woman shot dead on the street in Mosul, a Mosul home invasion in which 1 man was shot dead (silencers used on the guns) and a Sulaimaniyah Province checkpoint was attacked resulting in the death of 1 police officer and two more being wounded.
Reuters notes 1 corpse ("half-burnt") discovered in Kirkuk.
A huge day of violence in Iraq and yet the US State Dept didn't even mention the country during their press briefing and the reporters assigned to cover the State Dept didn't bother to ask. It was the same way at the White House where plus-size spokesmodel Robert Gibbs held court and avoided Iraq -- as you would if you weren't interested in ending the illegal war even though the man you work for promised to do that while campaigning -- and the press wasn't interested. Not only that, but Robert Gibbs, with no objections from the press, defined what he considered the legitmate scope of discussion for the press, "I think continuing to discuss the issues that are important -- ranging from health care to the economy to the war in Afghanistan -- I think those are things that are of great interest to the American people." Iraq was not mentioned. For those idiots who don't grasp it, the US military has approximately 130,000 troops stationed on the ground in Iraq. That's more than were present in Iraq before Bully Boy Bush began his 2007 'surge.' The numbers have still not gone down and Barack's now occupied the White House for over six months -- the man who promised one brigade out of Iraq each month if he was elected.
Those paying attention to reporting this week grasped that the Iraq War has not ended. Scott Fontaine (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) explains approximately "75 members of Fort Lewis' 602nd Forward Support Company" are receiving welding courses in prep for their deployment to Iraq. Writing for the Albany Democrat-Herald, US Spc Cory Grogan reports:
"Soldiers from the Oregon Army National Guard's 2-218 Field Artillery's First Platoon, 2nd Squad were reminded that Iraq is still a combat zone when they were struck by two separate improvised explosive devices last week." Monica Hernandez (Jackson, MS' WLBT -- link has text and video) reports on 170 members of the 114th military police command that is deploying to Iraq. Ruth Ingram (The Clinton News) reports on the departure ceremony, "The ceremony, moved from Arrow Field inside to the auditorium after clouds grew gray, attracted at least 1,000 supporters and family. The 750-seat room was filled; family and friends lined the walls, sat on steps to the stage, and even had to watch from outside the room." Erin Toner (WUWM, link has text and audio) reports on Russell Seager of the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, a 51-year-old nurse who is deploying to Iraq. Henry Cunningham (Fayetteville Observer) reports, "About 3,500 soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team have begun departing for a year in Iraq to advise and assist local security forces, the commander said Thursday." Conan Gasque (News 14, link has text and video) reports they'll be in Anbar and quotes Col Mark Stammer stating what everyone but members of the US Congress should grasp, "It's still a dangerous place down there." Also deploying to Iraq is San Diego's 10News' Angele Ringo who has already done one tour of Iraq. Yet Kimberly Page (WALB) reports that US House Rep Sanford Bishop just completed a for-show walk-around in Iraq and issuing laughable statements such as, "Things seem to be going very, very well. In fact, better than expected." He's claiming there's 'progress' and he's pleased with the 'withdrawal' thus far and generally making the sort of ass out of himself that the country regularly saw Republicans do under Bush. Putting the Democrats in power did not end the illegal war. Cindy Sheehan's latest column walks you through what could have been if the Democrats really wanted to end the Iraq War, or prosecute torture or shut down Guantanamo, Bagram and all the secret black ops sites. They were given the power in the 2006 mid-term elections (filibuster meant they always had the power to end the illegal war, even prior to 2006). They have control of both houses of Congress now and the White House and the Iraq War continues. Cindy Sheehan notes, "I see signs of this country coming out of the 'Hope'-nosis of Obama as positive change is not even in the forecast but the reawakening is not happening fast enough and we really need everyone to walk towards the light of truth and peace if we ever want to see any of my dreams become reality!"
Iraq events were explored on today's Diane Rehm Show:
Diane Rehm: James, tell me how we're doing with Iraq, after the US troop withdrawal from cities and towns?
James Kitfield: Well, you know, it's- it's a mixed bag. But I'll tell you there's a lot of concern on the American side that -- that we have Iraqi elections coming up for the prime minister next January and there's a lot of concern that Maliki, Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki is doing a lot of things to rush -- sort of putting Americans in the background because it plays really well politically. He's removing all the blast areas from Baghdad. [Kitfield means the blast walls, also known as Bremer Walls.] I can tell you, there's a lot of concern that that will lead to a renewal of these suicide bombs in the market places and those barriers do a couple of things for you. They keep the blast contained but they also make it hard for the bombers to-to escape, they make it hard for -- and they make it easy for people to regulate who comes through the main parts of the city. So it will be great if it works and there's not a whole lot of violence but there's concern that will lead to violence. There's concern also that he's taken all American checkpoints out of the Green Zone. He's basically taken -- the Green Zone is now all policed by the Iraqis themselves and the Americans are pretty much consigned to their embassy in the Green Zone.
Diane Rehm: And tensions with the Kurds, Nancy?
Nancy Youssef: That's right he went up to Kurdistan, met with [President Masoud] Barzani who just won his re-election there and this effort to reach out and deal with what the Americans say are the most divisive and long term issues facing Iraq: What to do with Kurdistan -- the autonomous region there, what to do with Kirkuk, the distribution of oil revenues? These are critical issues that frankly I think most people don't think can be resolved by the time the US troops withdraw by the end of 2011. And I think there's an effort and pressure on Maliki to get started on that now because this is something that will take years and years to resolve. If I can just go back to the blast walls because I lived in Iraq and Baghdad when those walls went up and it was really painful to watch. I mean, you just, you almost cried at the sight of it because it was such a sign of defeat when you went -- everywhere you went. In the middle of areas where people prayed, these huge 20 foot high blast walls and it was one of the most depressing times in Iraq, to see them go up. And so I think James is absolutely right, I think Maliki's taking a lot of political risks but I think those symbolize defeat and violence in Iraq in a way that most things didn't in terms of people's daily life.
Diane Rehm: But -- but are you concerned as James said --
Nancy Youssef: Of course -- of course. 37 Shi'ites were killed today in Mosul and Karbala. I mean the costs of that is extremely high. I just want to point out the political costs of those blast walls. They are tremendous.
With all the problems facing Iraq, including Nouri's announcement this week that he can't pay General Electric (Con-Ed would have turned off the electricity by now), Nouri finds the time for the 'important' things: pushing an anti-smoking law. White phosphorus and 'mini-nukes' and everything else that has been used in the last six years on Iraq have created a health hazard and nicotine really is among the least of the country's worries. Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) report, "So news that the government plans to introduce a stringent, Western-style anti-smoking law has been greeted with surprise, and considerable dismay by Iraqis accustomed to lighting up wherever and whenever they choose. The draft law includes a ban on smoking in cafes, restaurants, clubs, and government and private offices, all places where life currently unfolds amid clouds of cigarette smoke. Penalties of $2,500 to $4,200 will be applied to violators." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) speaks with Iraqis one of whom, Ala al-Kanini, wants Saddam Hussein back and another, Waleed Habba, states, "We have no electricity, no jobs, people still get killed. We all have to deal with anger issues here. That's the reason people smoke here, to run away from that."
Independent journalist Dahr Jamail's latest book was just released last month month and is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Foreign Policy In Focus offers a book excerpt and we'll note the opening of it:
The phrase "Winter Soldiers" was adopted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) when they organized the first Winter Soldier event in response to the human rights violations that were occurring in Vietnam. The event, called "Winter Soldier Investigation," was held in Detroit from January 31, 1971, to February 2, 1971, and was intended to publicize war crimes and atrocities perpetrated by the U.S. Armed Forces in the Vietnam War. VVAW challenged the morality and conduct of the war by exposing the direct relationship between military policies and war crimes in Vietnam. The three-day gathering of 109 veterans and 16 civilians included discharged servicemen from each branch of military service, civilian contractors, medical personnel, and academics, all of whom presented testimony about war crimes they had committed or witnessed during 1963–1970.
A smaller, modern-day incarnation of VVAW is IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War), which was founded in 2004. It seeks to offer a platform to those who have served in the military since September 11, 2001, to speak out against what they see as an unjust, illegal, and unwinnable war in Iraq. At the time of this writing, IVAW had more than 1,400 members in 49 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and on military bases overseas. IVAW held a national conference called "Winter Solider: Iraq and Afghanistan" outside Washington, D.C., in March 2008. The four-day event brought together more than 200 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in both occupations. Although largely ignored by the corporate press, the event was of historical significance. For the first time since the invasion of Iraq in early 2003, former and current members of the U.S. military had organized with the specific purpose to make public the truth of their experience. It was hoped, in vain as it turned out, that the testimonies of veterans would provide the press with sufficient information to report on the truly catastrophic nature of the occupations and rouse people to take action.
At this first modern-day Winter Soldier event, I spoke with scores of veterans during breaks in the powerful panels of testimony. A constant refrain I heard was that individuals who had joined the military for honorable reasons were disillusioned upon sensing how they were being misused by the government of the country they had sworn under oath to serve and defend.
Hart Viges had felt compelled to join the U.S. Army the day after September 11, 2001, in the genuine belief that he could help make the world a safer place. Like other speakers at the Winter Soldier event, he admitted that U.S. troops routinely detained innocent people during home raids. "We never went on the right raid where we got the right house, much less the right person -- not once." He said it was common practice for troops to take photographs as war trophies. "We were driving in Baghdad one day and found a dead body on the side of the road. We pulled over to secure the area and my friends jumped off and started taking pictures with it, smiling. They asked me if I wanted to join them, and I refused. Not because it was unethical, but because it wasn't my kill. Because you shouldn't make trophies of what you didn't kill. I wasn't upset this man was dead, but just that they shouldn't be taking credit for something they didn't do. But that's war."
Meanwhile, the US antiwar movement founders in the wake of a substantial part of its membership giving their collective soul to the Democratic Party. Since November 2008, it's as if the bloodshed perpetrated by US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan is okay because Barack Obama is leading the charge instead of George Bush. Besides the National Assembly's call for local and regional protests against the Iraq occupation and Afghan war in October, there has been barely a peep from other national antiwar organizations. This is despite the fact that Congress and Obama have approved several more billion dollars for the wars and the size of the US force in Afghanistan has nearly doubled while the promised withdrawal of US forces in Iraq has not even begun.
It is the opinion of many antiwarriors that veterans have a key role to play in any organized resistance. After all, it was their presence in the movement against the Vietnam war that shook the conscience of the US public in that war's later years. However, as Dahr Jamail and his subjects point out again and again in The Will to Resist, the strength in numbers and the political power of the GI movement against the war in Vietnam was directly related to the strength of the greater antiwar movement. So, despite the commitment of today's GI and veteran resisters profiled in Jamail's book, that commitment is limited by the weakness of the antiwar movement as a whole.
Jamail highlights the various organizations organizing GI resistance, from the Iraq Veterans Against the War to the group Courage to Resist. He also commits a chapter to each of the primary forms of resistance and reasons for that resistance. He describes instances of individual resistance and the refusal of entire units to carry out missions. He also explores the nature of the sexist culture of the military and the immorality of the wars themselves. One of the most interesting chapters in The Will to Resist is titled "Quarters of Resistance." It describes the mission and interior of a house in Washington, DC run by a couple veterans. The purpose of the house is to operate as a sort of clearinghouse for the GI resistance movement. At times, the house has provided shelter for veterans and GIs attending antiwar activities in DC. It is also a place that the founder of the house, Geoffrey Millard, calls a "training ground for resistance." In addition to these quarters, Jamail discusses the beginnings of a coffeehouse movement slowly developing outside major US military bases.
Jamal's book is also about his learning to understand and appreciate the humanity of the US soldier. Originally inclined to consider them all killers without conscience, his conversations and other interactions with the young men and women who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill in America's name have led him to understand that many of these folks struggle with their souls on a daily basis. With this growing understanding of folks who are essentially his contemporaries, The Will to Resist becomes more than just another collective biography of troops who discover their conscience under the duress of war.
Tuesday's snapshot reported on the Democratic Senate Policy Committee's hearing on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tuesday night, Kat covered it at her site and noted how the whole thing struck her as for-show. The hearing was chaired by US Senator Byron Dorgan and, in the hearing, Dorgan noted the government's inability to take accountability from time to time such as with Agent Orange or, more recently, the repeated denials about KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq which led to the deaths of US service members. In an update to the electrical work story, Braden Reddall and Eric Beech (Reuters) report, "The U.S. Army has found that the death of Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth, who was electrocuted while showering at a Baghdad base in January 2008, was accidental, the Defense Department said on Friday." The reporters note the May hearing of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. That's a May 20th hearing. From that day's snapshot:
"Today's hearing is a result of this committee's continuing investigation into the deaths of some US soldiers by the death of electrocution in Iraq," explained Senator Byron Dorgan who chaired this morning's Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing "Rewarding Failure: Contractor Bonuses for Faulty Work in Iraq."
Senator Byron Dorgan: That investigation has led us to internal Pentagon documents showing that in 2007 and 2008, contractor KBR received bonuses of $83.4 million for work that, according to the Pentagon's own investigation, led to the electrocution deaths of US troops. Let me repeat that: The Pentagon gave bonuses of $83.4 million to KBR for work that resulted in the electrocution deaths of American soldiers.
Dorgan spoke of Ryan Maseth, a Green Beret and Army Ranger with the rank of Staff Sgt who died in Baghdad January 2, 2008 from taking a shower in KBR's 'safe' facilities. Dorgan noted that in the July hearing, "we obtained testimony that KBR had known of this very electrocuting hazard since at least February 10, 2007, 11 months before Ryan Maseth's death. In fact, the prior occupant of Staff Sgt Maseth's room was shocked in the same room four to five times between June and October 2007, in the very same shower were Ryan was killed. According to his sworn affidavit, each time this soldier was shocked, he submitted a work order to KBR." In fact, $34.4 million of KBR's $83.4 million in bonus pay was paid after Ryan Maseth was killed by their shoddy, cheap work and the military's investigation, as Dorgan noted, now lists the death as due to negligent homicide.
That's took place in May along with much more. The Reuters' report today reduces the May hearing to basically two sentences and the excerpt above provides more context than the Reuters report which also failes to note that KBR has been found responsible for other electrical deaths in Iraq this year.
Turning to TV notes. Bill Moyers Journal begins airing tonight on most PBS stations. Hi s guests tonight are Chris Jordan and Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot. The shows head writer Michael Winship explores "Neighborhood Watch on Planet Earth:"

For a bit of change, let's talk about a different kind of health care reform - the kind that affects the health of the planet.
The other evening, I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR. Robert Siegel was interviewing Dr. Hal Levison, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, about the king-sized comet that slammed into Jupiter a few weeks ago.
The comet's impact - it punched a hole the size of the Pacific Ocean, and would have annihilated a lesser planet, like Earth - was discovered by an amateur astronomer in Australia. Siegel asked how such an event escaped the notice of the world's great observatories.
"There are only a few really large telescopes," Levison explained. "They're hard to get time on, and so they're dedicated to particular projects. And the amateurs really are the only ones that have time just to monitor things to see what's happening."
"Part of the Neighborhood Watch looking out the front door," Siegel suggested.
Neighborhood Watch. Dr. Levison liked that analogy and so do I. Combined with the recent passing of space enthusiast Walter Cronkite and the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, it got me thinking about the value of exploring the cosmos at a time of economic destitution on the ground and a national deficit that makes the word "astronomical" seem inadequate.
As a kid, I was in thrall to the space program. Squinting into the night above rural upstate New York, my family and I sometimes could see those early, primitive satellites traverse the dark sky, and my younger brother, a skilled amateur astronomer to this day, would haul out his telescope for us to look at the craters of the moon, or Jupiter or Saturn's rings.
In the auditorium of my elementary school, a modest, black and white television set was placed on the stage so we could watch the space flights of Alan Shepard and John Glenn, and for a class project in the sixth grade, I tracked the mission of astronaut Gordon Cooper, dutifully moving a tiny, construction paper space capsule across a map of the world as Cooper orbited the planet 22 times.
Six years later, in 1969, we sat downstairs in the family room of our home and watched the mission of Apollo 11. I remember Cronkite's exultant, "Oh boy!" as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the lunar surface, and staying up through the night to watch the first moonwalk. (Years later, editing a TV series on the history of television, colleagues and I noted how, in his excitement, Cronkite almost talked over Armstrong's "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.")
As time went by, America became blasé about space exploration. The budget for moon landings was curtailed after the first few, and flights of the space shuttle became commonplace save for the horrific, fatal explosions of Columbia and Challenger.
We speak now of returning astronauts to the moon and manned missions to Mars yet efforts to do so seem half-hearted. But there can be no denying the greater understanding of the universe gained from the amazing images obtained by the Hubble Space Telescope, and data from satellites and unmanned interplanetary probes. And beyond the jokes about Tang and Velcro, NASA and the space program have generated advances in a range of technologies.
Which brings us back to that notion of the Neighborhood Watch, for one of the most valuable contributions of our exploration of the skies has been the knowledge gained from being able to examine our own earthly neighborhood from the distance of space.
Invaluable information is obtained from satellites monitoring weather and the damage created by drought, floods, fire, earthquakes and climate change. But that fleet is aging and few new satellites are being launched to replace them.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Jane Lubchenco, the new head of the National Oceanic and Administrative Administration (NOAA), was quoted in the British newspaper The Guardian. "Our primary focus is maintaining the continuity of climate observations," she said, "and those are at great risk right now because we don't have the resources to have satellites at the ready and taking the kinds of information that we need... We are playing catch-up."
The paper went on to report that, "Even before her warning, scientists were saying that America, the world's scientific superpower, was virtually blinding itself to climate change by cutting funds to the environmental satellite programmes run by the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA. A report by the National Academy of Sciences this year warned that the environmental satellite network was at risk of collapse."
This news comes on the heels of a NOAA report that the world's ocean surface temperature for June was the warmest on record and the release of more than a thousand spy satellite photographs of Arctic sea ice that were withheld from public view by the Bush Administration.
On the morning of July 15, the National Research Council issued a report asking the Obama administration to release the pictures; the Department of the Interior declassified them just hours later. A source told the Reuters news service, "That doesn't happen every day... This is a great example of good government cooperation between the intelligence community and academia."
The images are remarkable. You can see a selection of them online at Arctic ice is in retreat from the shores of Barrow, Alaska, along the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska and west of Canada's Northwest Territories, and from the Bering Glacier, among many other sites.
"The photographs demonstrate starkly how global warming is changing the Arctic," The Guardian noted. "More than a million square kilometres of sea ice - a record loss - were missing in the summer of 2007 compared with the previous year. Nor has this loss shown any sign of recovery. Ice cover for 2008 was almost as bad as for 2007, and this year levels look equally sparse."
One reason, of course, for the Obama White House's release of the dramatic photographs is to bolster support for the climate change bill narrowly passed by the House and now awaiting action in the Senate.
The bill's a thin soup version of what many believe needs to be done. It inadequately reduces emissions, gives away permits and offsets to industry, and, as Erich Pica of Friends of the Earth recently told my colleague Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers Journal, strips away the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
But even this watered down version of the climate legislation is in jeopardy, collateral damage from the health care reform fight. "A handful of key senators on climate change are almost guaranteed to be tied up well into the fall on health care," the Web site reports. "Democrats from the Midwest and the South are resistant to a cap-and-trade proposal. And few if any Republicans are jumping in to help push a global warming and energy initiative."
If true, it's hard to imagine a bill passing before December's UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. Harder still, without a law of our own, to imagine the United States being able to convince China, India and developing nations to pass climate regulations and change polluting behaviors.
In other words, there goes the neighborhood.

NOW on PBS rebroadcasts a show from the first of the year:

Will the green energy dream come to fruition? This week NOW explores obstacles to the promise of renewables--energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and rain.
As America looks to dramatically increase its use of renewable energy, an inconvenient reality stands in the way: the need to upgrade the country's antiquated electricity grid. Part of that overhaul involves the construction of gigantic and expensive long-distance transmission lines to carry clean energy from remote sites to population centers.
NOW travels to California, which has the most ambitious clean energy plan in the nation. But the state's efforts face stiff opposition from property owners and conservationists who prefer renewable energy from "local sources," such as photovoltaic rooftop solar panels.
Complicating the matter are claims that the transmission lines are not actually carrying renewable energy at all, but represent a thinly-disguised strategy to stick to old energy practices.

On Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with John Harwood (New York Times), Peter Baker (New York Times) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Bonnie Erbe and her guests explore population growth on this week's edition of PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all four PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Price Of Bananas Chiquita Brands International says it paid murderous paramilitaries in Colombia to protect the lives of its employees there, but the families of civilians killed by the paramilitaries say the company is responsible for their deaths. Steve Kroft reports. Watch Video
Brain Power People who are completely paralyzed due to illness or trauma are getting help communicating with a new technology that connects their brains to a computer. In the future, brain computer interface, or BCI, may restore movement to paralyzed people and allow amputees to move bionic limbs. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
Swimming With Sharks Because tour operators use food to attract sharks for their "shark tourist" customers, critics say surfers and swimmers are in more danger now because the dangerous fish are associating humans with food. Bob Simon reports.
60 Minutes Sunday, Aug. 9, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What do you believe in?

I believe

* we are equal.

* we are all special.

* we all have something to offer.

I do not believe in

* campaigns to fire people we disagree with.

* attacks on the American public.

* 'watchdogs' and a press that goes after the public instead of the powerful.

Think about what you believe in and support.

Fast because Mike and I are headed to the movies. Last minute.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, August 5, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, we examine the useless and uninformed Senator Barbara Boxer who tosses out some Iraq crumbs on NPR, the assault on Camp Ashraf garners worldwide attention, Kurdistan set to become partners in an international oil company, and more.

We'll start with NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show. Today US Senator Barbara Boxer was the guest for the first hour, in part to promote her new thriller, written with Mary-Rose Hayes, Blind Trust. We'll note the section on Iraq -- very brief. Those opposed to the Afghanistan War will have much to dig around in the section that follows -- none of it good for Boxer. We're jumping in where she's been listing regrets and grabbing at Iraq.

Senator Barbara Boxer: I regret that even after voting "no" on the War on Iraq, I should have been down there every day making my voice louder and stronger.

Diane Rehm: Why didn't you?

Senator Barbara Boxer: [Sighs] I thought that I said enough when I voted "no" and I continued to speak but not loudly enough and not clearly enough and you know that's why I like this novel because Ellen's my hero, she does everything right I don't.

Diane Rehm: That's quite an admission.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well it's true.

Diane Rehm: Alright. Speaking of Iraq, there is some talk that the US may, before it's planned deadline, pull its troops out and declare victory. What's your thought?

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well that is definitely some of the advice we're getting from some of our military people. I think it's time to leave, I thought it was time to leave before, so much blood and sweat and tears and guts have been left there and I just have a view of this that-that the people of Iraq have an opportunity now to-to build their own country --

Diane Rehm: They're still killing each other.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well, you know what? The people of Iraq have to decide if they want a country or they don't want a country and we can't decide it for them.

And that was it. It made Barbara's short list of regrets but?

But it passes like the summer
I'm a wild seed again
Let the wind carry me
-- "Let The Wind Carry Me" written by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her For The Roses

A caller brought her back to earth and Iraq but first Barbara had to make an ass out of herself. It's one thing to say that you're not going to speak to the 'birther' topic, it's another to say that and go on to accuse them of not having their facts and then offer up idiocy passed off as fact. I don't follow that issue but I'm damn well aware that John McCain's birth has been addressed by them and, in fact, they point to Claire McCaskill's actions (including an aborted one) within the Senate to back up their beliefs.
Ava and I began speaking to friends of Ann Dunahm's in 2007 and continued through 2008, we spoke to men who were friends with Barack Sr. in college. We do not believe he was born in Kenya. We heard one story repeatedly and consistently. Those who do believe he was born in Kenya should pursue that because this is still, Barbara Boxer's embarrassing performance today on Diane's show not withstanding, a democracy.

(Embarrassing performance? Examples include telling of trying to get a man kicked out of a public event for tossing fake money at her, referring to two journalists as "young women" over and over except to refer to one as a "mother" -- they have careers, Barbara, quit being so damn insulting, and her little grudge f**k against Bill and Hillary Clinton -- we're all sorry your daughter couldn't make her marriage work, quit being such little s**t about it, Barbara).

It's not our issue but, unlike Barbara Boxer, we don't need to tear down people who believe differently than we do. And we don't disgrace ourselves by coming off like a raving lunatic on NPR or, for that matter, by co-writing one book that bombed and inflicting another bad attempt at John Grisham on the American public. And someone who wants to lecture others on facts, should have them. Including on the name of the Feminist Majority Foundation. It's not a difficult name to remember, Barbara. But it's not difficult to follow the headlines and, as her Iraq answer revealed, she can't even do that. (And that's among the most recent statewide poll, PDF format warning
The Field Poll, found 43% supproting her re-election and 44% "not inclined to re-elect her." When you're that evenly divided and you're a sitting senator, you've done a great deal wrong.)

Senator Barbara Boxer: First of all, I have never heard Nouri al-Maliki ask us to stay so I don't know what particular speech he [the caller] was referring to. He said for a long time it's time for Americans to leave and I think it is. And what will guide me, obviously the reports on the ground from the military but my overwhelming belief that we have bled so much and done so much that I already say and I said a long time ago we gave the Iraqi people the chance to govern themselves, to rebuild and anyone who served there or any of the families who lost people there or any of those who were wounded there should know they gave their all to give the Iraqis a chance and now they have to take that chance and run with it.

This is the best my state can do? This passes for liberal? Barbara Boxer lying, LYING, about the Iraq War. Did you hear the Barbara say one damn word about the Iraqis who have died? And excuse me, but Barbara knows Nouri's a thug so is she being stupid or playing us for stupid when she says the Iraqi people have a chance at a government?
The Iraqi people have had a government imposed upon them by the US government. The Iraqi people would never, NEVER, elect a government of exiles to represent them. No one would. You wouldn't elect someone to the board of supervisors if their 'qualification' was they hid in another region because they were too scared to stand up. With each addition of highlights, Barbara loses more intelligence so maybe she truly is as stupid as she came off but it felt more like she was playing listeners for stupid. Reality,
Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." But Barbara wants to turn it into a fledging democracy?

it appears she's not looking at the facts and let me do her snide little laugh at her because the stupid idiot is so out of touch that she's not aware of the speech. Reading list for the failed and failing author, Margaret Talev's "
Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) and, Barbara, Anne Gearan covers al-Maliki's remarks for AP. From the July 23rd snapshot:

The articles repeatedly (and falsely) claim the US will be out of Iraq in 2011. That's not what's happening. It's not even claimed to be happening. Does no one listen to Adm Mike Mullen, Gen Ray Odierno or even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates? Reading the articles today, it doesn't appear that anyone does. Uh-oh. Reality slaps them in the face.
Aljazeera reports, "The Iraqi prime minister has admitted US troops could stay in the country beyond 2011." Yeah, he did it today and it's only a surprise if you've never grasped what the Status Of Forces Agrement does and does not do. The Washington Post, for example, has one person on staff who understands the SOFA completely. That's one more than the New York Times has. Drop back to real time coverage (Thanksgiving 2008) and you'll see the Washington Post could explain what it did and didn't do and get it right. No other US outlet can make that claim. (The Los Angeles Times hedged their bets but did appear to grasp it in an article co-written by Tina Susman.) McClatchy Newspapers? Oh goodness, Leila Fadel made an idiot of herself over the SOFA. Even more so than the New York Times (Elisabeth Bumiller -- in December and January -- offered some realities but they were lost on the other reporters at the paper). The Times just got it wrong. Fadel got it wrong and sang praises of it. It wasn't reporting, it was column writing passed off as such. Today, Nouri declared, "Nevertheless, if the Iraqis require further training and support we shall examine this at the time, based on the needs of Iraq." Sound familiar? It should. This month you should have heard Adm Mike Mullen make the same statement, you should have heard General Ray Odierno make it over and over beginning in May and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made it many times -- generally he's asked when he's visiting a foreign country because US reporters don't really seem to care. One exception would certainly be Dahr Jamail who was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday and explained, "We still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq. Troops are not being withdrawn from Iraq. They are being relocated to different bases, some of the bases still within cities, but they are not being withdrawn thus far." Dahr's latest book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been released this month. IPA provides this context from Global Policy Forum's James Paul: "For all the talk of 'U.S. withdrawal' from Iraq, the reality on the ground is starkly different. U.S. troops still patrol the cities, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, while Washington remains hugely influential in the politics of the country. The gigantic U.S. embassy looms large in Baghdad, U.S. forces still hold thousands of Iraqi prisoners in the vast U.S. prison camp in the southern desert, dozens of U.S. military bases remain in place including the sprawling 'Camp Victory' complex in Baghdad and Washington continues to press towards its ultimate goal -- the de facto privatization of Iraq's vast oil resources."

So before you go to town on others for not knowing the facts, Barbara, how about you first explain how you, a sitting US Senator pretending to give a damn about Iraq and putting the war on your list of regrets, aren't even aware of what Nouri publicly stated less than three weeks ago while he was in DC? Your incompentence does not do a great deal to encourage a belief that the US Senate knows what it is doing. It does, however, explain why you have NEVER led on the issue of Iraq despite the fact that you -- not Hillary -- had the safest seat from which to do it. Our state has sent huge numbers of service members to Iraq and has seen a large death toll and an even large number of wounded. We have had tremendous leadership in the House, we've had none in the Senate. Want to explain that, Barbara? Want to explain how little you've done to end the illegal war while allegedly representing the people of California? Want to match your record (or lack of it) against US House Rep Lynn Woolsey or Maxine Waters or Diane Watson or . . . Get the point?

Boxers done nothing on the issue of the MEK, of course. Someone explain to her how many potential voters in California care about this issue and maybe she'll suddenly 'discover' it?
Last Tuesday, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the assault on Camp Ashraf, home to the MEK. The MEK has been in Iraq for decades. They are Iranian exiles welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein. They are currently considered "terrorists" by the US. They were formerly considered such by the European Union and England; however, both re-evaluated and took them off the terrorist watch list. The US military protected the residents of Camp Ashraf during the first six years of the Iraq War. Matt O'Brien (Contra Costa Times) describes the group as having "an ideology that has blended elements of Islam, feminism and Marxism. To some Iranian-Americans and their political backers in the U.S. Congress, the terrorist label unfairly maligns a group of former militants who have cooperated with America and dedicated their lives to ending an Iranian regime that had oppressed them." Tim Cocks, Muhaned Mohammed and Sophie Hares (Reuters) report the latest involving the MEK at Camp Ashraf, Shirwan al-Waeli (Minister of State for National Security) declares that Iraq will evict them and, if it means sending them back to Iran, they'll do so. Mark Knoller (CBS News) reports a domestic protest in support of Camp Ashraf residents, "Iranian-American protestors have set up camp directly in front of the White House. They're urging President Obama to intervene on behalf of an Iranian enclave inside Iraq." Ken McLaughlin (San Jose Mercury News) explains, "The 3,500 residents of Camp Ashraf are members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen of Iran, a dissident group initially formed in the mid-'60s to help topple the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 revolution that deposed the shah, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini turned against the group, executing more than 100,000 of its members and supporters -- and driving others into exile. Many of those exiles landed in the Bay Area, which has an Iranian-American population of more than 200,000." Ensieh and Parviz Yazdanpanah are among the Bay Area residents with relatives at Camp Ashraf and they tell McLaughling "that emails and phone calls have stopped since the July 28 raid". The National Iranian American Council notes US House Rep Bob Filner introduced a resolution last week calling out the assault on Camp Ashraf and that fellow Californian and Democrat US House Rep Howard Berman has called it out as have Republican US House Reps Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart both of Florida. The resolution (in PDF format form) is here and it is entitled "Deploring the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq:"

Whereas on July 28, 2009, Iraqi troops and police carried out a violent raid against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, the longstanding home of an Iranian opposition group;
Whereas Iraqi troops fatally shot a number of Camp Ashraf residents and wounded scores of others; and
Whereas the United States Embassy Statement on Transfer of Security Responsibility for Camp Ashraf of December 28, 2008, states that, "The Government of Iraq has provided the US Government written assurances of humane treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents in accordance with Iraq's Constitution, laws and international obligations.": Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives --
(1) deplores the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf;
(2) calls upon the Iraqi Government to live up to its commitment to the United States to ensure the continued well-being of those living in Camp Ashraf and prevent their involuntary return to Iran; and
(3) calls upon the President to take all necessary and appropriate steps to support the commitments of the United States under international law and treaty obligations to ensure the physical security and protection of Camp Ashraf residents against inhumane treatment and involuntary deportation by Iraqi security forces.

In England,
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports that a group of demonstrators on behalf of Camp Ashraf have announced they are going on a hunger strike including Farzaneh Dadkhad who has relatives at Camp Ashraf: "'I am here for Ashraf and I will continue this until I die,' Ms Dadkhad wailed, collapsed on a stretcher at the rally because she was apparently too weak to walk. It was impossible to verify her fasting claim. 'I am here so that my voice is heard by the US Government. They are responsible for what happened,' she said. In a message to Britain, she added: 'Why are you silent, why are you doing nothing? You must take action'." Toby Cohen (Religious Intelligence) quotes "Lord Cobertt of Castle Vale, chairman of the all-party British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom" stating, "It is a shame to this Government and to the American government in particular that so far they have not done anything to stop the violence. I don't care about the arguments about the status of those refugees, under international humanitarian law the actions of the Iraqi security forces are illegal and any other UN member state has the authority to take action. The British Government and the American government are especially complicit in those acts of violence. Why? Because we were the powers that gave protected person status to the residence of Camp Ashraf under the fourth Geneva Convention, and we cannot walk away." The National Council of Resistance of Iran notes, "Today is the seventh day of such strikes [to protest the treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents] in Berlin and Ottawa outside the U.S. ebmassies" and that "demonstrations, sit-ins and gatherings by Iranians against brutal attacks by Iraqi forces on Ashraf and killing and arresting of PMOI members in the Camp have been going on in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo in Sweden; Geneva in Switzerland; The Hague in The Netherlands; Melbourne in Australia; Vancouver in Canada; Paris in France, Copenhagen and Arhus in Denmark; and Rome in Italy."

Robert Evans and Jonathan Lynn (Reuters) report, "Iraqi authorities are blocking supplies of food and water going into" Camp Ashraf. They're blocking food and water. At 11:00 p.m. in Baghdad, it was ninety-five degrees. At eleven at night. The high during the day was 114 degrees. And Nouri's thugs are preventing water from being brought into the camp. The reporters quote Jean Ziegler ("a top adviser to the U.N. Human Rights Council") stating, "Preventing people getting food is a gross violation of international law . . . Thas has been going on for 10 days. It is totally scandalous." World Against Torture's General Secretary Eric Sottas is quoted decrying the "sort of passivity on the part of international bodies" and states, "Unless these unarmed and defenceless people are properly protected, this could happen again, perhaps worse." AFP quotes Eric Sottas stating, "The most practical thing would be that the Americans assume their responsibility and intervene again to ensure protection (and) that should late be transferred to an international force." They quote Jean Ziegler stating, "It's shameful. The United States and the European Union should be ashamed of what they did." Massachusetts' Stoneham Sun observes that "an attempt by the Iraqi government to assert control over a camp of Iranian exiles, who until February were under U.S. protection, turned violent. The U.S. reaction was instructive. In essence, it was: While we disagreed with the methods, it was a sovereign matter for the Iraqi government." Eli Lake (Washington Times) maintains the US is pressing for action and quotes an unnamed US official who emailed them the following, "Embassy officials met with representatives from the Government of Iraq [GOI] on July 29, to stress the importance of the GOI fulfilling its commitment to the United States Government to treat Ashraf's residents humanely and to propose permitting an assessment of injuries and deaths by U.S. forces. The GOI allowed a U.S. medical assessment team to enter Ashraf and subsequently approved joint U.S.-Iraqi medical assistance to injured MEK Ashraf residents." Amnesty International issued the following statement:

Iraq: Concern for detained Camp Ashraf residents
Contact: AIUSA media office at 202.544.0200x302
Amnesty International is urgently seeking information about 36 Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf who have been detained since Iraqi security forces seized control of the camp on 28 July 2009 and have been moved to an unknown location in Baghdad amid allegations that some or all of them have been beaten and tortured. According to Abdul Nassir al-Mehdawi, governor of Iraq's Diyala province, quoted by Reuters press agency, "Their cases are being investigated now. They are being charged with inciting trouble. We will deal with them according to Iraqi law; we won't send them back to Iran". It remains unclear, however, whether the 36 have been allowed access to lawyers, contact with their families or any medical treatment that they need.
Amnesty International is urging the Iraqi authorities to disclose the whereabouts of the 36, to allow them immediate access to lawyers, to investigate, fully and impartially, allegations that they were tortured or beaten while held at a provisional detention facility near Camp Ashraf before their transfer to Baghdad, and to ensure that they are being treated humanely.
Amnesty International is also continuing to urge the Iraqi authorities to establish an immediate, independent inquiry into allegations that Iraqi security forces used excessive force when taking control of Camp Ashraf last week. According to unofficial sources, at least eight camp residents were killed and many others injured. 'Ali al-Dabbagh, the spokesperson for the Iraq government, has acknowledged that seven camp residents were killed but said that "five of them threw themselves in front of Iraqi police vehicles" and that two others were shot by other Iranians when they sought to leave the camp. He said that two members of the Iraqi security forces were also killed.
Camp Ashraf, situated about 60km north-east of Baghdad, has hosted some 3,400 members or supporters of thePeople's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition organization, since the 1980s. They were formerly under the protection of US forces in Iraq but in recent months they have come under increasing pressure from the Iraqi authorities to relocate to other parts of Iraq or go abroad.
Public Document
# # #
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

From the human rights organization to the US government's war think-tank, t
he RAND Corporation issued the following press release yesterday:

At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Coalition forces classified the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a militant organization from Iran with cult-like elements that advocates the overthrow of Iran's current government, as an enemy force.
The MeK had provided security services to Saddam Hussein from camps established in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War to fight Iran in collaboration with Saddam's forces and resources. A new study from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, looks at how coalition forces handled this group following the invasion.
Although the MeK is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, coalition forces never had a clear mission on how to deal with it.
After a ceasefire was signed between Coalition forces and the MeK, the U.S. Secretary of Defense designated this group's members as civilian "protected persons" rather than combatant prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The coalition's treatment of the MeK leaves it -- and the United States in particular -- open to charges of hypocrisy, offering security to a terrorist group rather than breaking it up.
Research suggests that most of the MeK rank-and-file are neither terrorists nor freedom fighters, but trapped and brainwashed people who would be willing to return to Iran if they were separated from the MeK leadership. Many members were lured to Iraq from other countries with false promises, only to have their passports confiscated by the MeK leadership, which uses physical abuse, imprisonment, and other methods to keep them from leaving.
Iraq wants to expel the group, but no country other than Iran will accept it. The RAND study suggests the best course of action would have been to repatriate MeK rank-and-file members back to Iran, where they have been granted amnesty since 2003. To date, Iran appears to have upheld its commitment to MeK members in Iran. The study also concludes better guidelines be established for the possible detention of members of designated terrorist organizations.
The study, "The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum," can be found
here. For more information, or to arrange an interview with the authors, contact Lisa Sodders in the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 393-0411, ext. 7139, or

the pathologizing of gender that took place over the issue of female bombers? They were raped. They were this, they were that. There was nothing factual about any of their crap but some MPs in Parliament used that pathology to advocate 'centers' (prisons) for women whose husbands or fathers or brothers died. Because that is the only way any woman would bomb. Because bombing, they insisted, was just not a thing a woman would do. Of course a woman would do it. Their little sexist minds can't handle reality.So they must be spinning as details in a new case emerge. A would-be female bomber has been convicted. Natalia Antelava (BBC News) reports that 16-year-old Rania Ibrahim states "a relative of her husband had told her to wear the vest" and that, by the way, "she was sold into marriage" approximately five months before she was caught in a bombing attempt on August 23, 2008. Jamal Hashim and Ali I-Khaiyam (Xinhua) quote Rania Ibrahim stating, "I haven't committed any crime or any sin. I was the victim. They forced me to wear the explosive-belt. I didn't want to kill any human being." Forced into marriage. Not raped. No relatives died. Another slap in the face to the stereotyping.

Forced into marriage? Does anyone even care? It doesn't appear they do. For example, Iraq will not allow two men or two women to marry each other. In fact, they are assaulting their own gay and lesbian community. The LGBT community is 'wrong' and somehow 'criminal' for their actions. But the government's paying out $2000 to men to marry women who are Shi'ite or Sunni (if the male is Sunni, he's being paid to marry a Shi'ite, if he's Shi'ite, he's being paid to marry a Sunni). And where's the objection? And who's checking to see if, in a country where forced marriage is not uncommon, that the marriages are partnerships both mates want to enter into? No one's checking, no one's objecting. They won't even state the obvious that the man is being paid. They'll say the couple is getting the money.
Bushra Juhi and Deb Riechmann (AP) are the latest to play ASS. In the past, it's been Fox News trumpeting this garbage. Now it's AP. And we're apparently supposed to be charmed by this passage: "His wife, Samma Nasir, said shyly: 'He has chosen me despite my being Shiite'." Men are being paid and whether or not the women really have a choice in this isn't being addressed but US 'reporters' find it 'cute' and rush to coo over it. It's disgusting. And let's note that there are sects in Iraq where the women are kidnapped to force them out of their religion. but Deb and Bushra had other things to grin over, apparently.

Turning to today's reported violence,
Reuters notes an armed clash in Mosul which claimed the life of 1 police officer and 2 unknowns with four other people injured, a Ramadi car bombing which claimed the life of 1 woman and left three people (including two police officers) injured and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 5 police officers and left five more wounded. AFP adds that 11 pilgrims have been kidnapped from a minibus enroute to Karbala.

Meanwhile that government the US installed in Iraq is anti-every freedom. Last month
Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reported the Ministry of Culture is censoring books in 'free' Iraq and quotes the ministry Taher al-Humoud explaining that all publishers now must "submit lists of titles for approval". Yesterday Timothy Williams (New York Times) reported on efforts by Nouri "to ban sites deemed harmful to the public, to requier Internet cafes to register with the authorities and to press publishers to censor books." The Times has still not reported on the latest assault on journalism in Iraq. When Kurdistan was holding elections, the press was meeting with the judiciary about the problems they face. A draft law has been proposed and -- supposedly yea! -- it will provide a few pennies to the families of Iraqi journalists killed in Iraq. The pennies are a disguise. The law actually exists to control the press. It requires that they sign off to note reporting on anything that might 'endanger' Iraq's 'security'. The pennies are the sugar coating which attempts to sell this latest attempt to legislate censorship.

Losing a free press? It's not like the US is in much place to lecture since the domestic outlets rarely utilize the freedomes they have. Example, reporting on Iraqi "confessions." You expect better from
Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times). Maybe if Ned Parker wrote the article, it would be worth reading (it's actually a blog post at the paper). We know Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat was murdered. By whom? The Iraqi government has a confession which they aired -- it's really appalling how US outlets have failed to report on the aired confessions, on how often they air, how they are Iraq's 'reality' television. The Iraqi government has a confession. 'Confession.' They lie about everything. Even a shoe tosser suddenly has a 'confession' only, when he's allowed to speak, he doesn't. Torture. Torture doesn't bother Sly or Hameed. They run with the 'confession.' All that's known is that Atwar Bahjat was murdered in 2006 and that the Iraqi government claim to have her killer (and rapist) and that they are airing a 'confession' which, if pattern holds, was obtained via torture. Such a confession couldn't be admitted in a US court. But the reporters are happy to run with it.So are Timothy Williams and Rod Nordland (New York Times) who add the lurid details that Sly and Hameed may have had the good sense to leave out. Let's note how the confession doesn't add up (which doesn't mean it's not true but it does make it all the more suspect):The man, Yasser Mohammed Hamad al-Takhi, 25, was shown on Iraqi television in a videotaped confession describing how he and three other men, including one of his brothers, had set up a checkpoint on a road outside the city of Samarra to stop a car carrying the journalist, Atwar Bahjat, and two members of her crew. Mr. Takhi said he had been working for a Sunni armed group with ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown insurgent group that American intelligence agencies say has some foreign leadership. Ms. Bahjat, a journalist working for Al Arabiya, a satellite television station based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had been returning to Baghdad after having covered the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, an event that pushed Iraq into sectarian warfare.So you blow up a Shi'ite shrine and you do that . . . in public. Meaning, you do that to send a message. To send a message you need . . . the media. So you blow up a shrine and you also kill a reporter covering the bombing? Doesn't make sense. You might kill a reporter not covering it. But why kill a reporter whose amplifying your deed?Here's another thing to think about. When Nouri's toppled, and he will be at some point, and there's a truth commission in Iraq, it's going to be really interesting to find out how many Sunnis were wrongfully convicted, tortured into confessions and blamed. Remember last Tuesday's big bank robbery and how it was Sunnis and it was al Qaeda in Iraq and it was . . . Oh, it was Shi'ites. Working for the government.Yara Bayoumy and Tim Pearce (Reuters) explain what the Times of LA and NY forget to. Suspects were arrested days ago. A key detail. Arrested days ago and yesterday a confession begins airing? When someone confesses, the first thing you want to look at is the timeframe of the confession. You want to consider whether or not it's logical that a torture free confession took place based on the timeline. Based on the timeline, this would appear to be a forced confession. And the key detail: "Iraq previously accused a different man of murdering Bahjat."
Official results from the Kurdistan elections last month have still not been released. But
Robin Pagnamenta (Times of London) reports the region "is set to become one of the biggest shareholders in Heritage Oil in a variety of corporate marriages/mergers which would put it in bed with Turkish corporations. The deal requires the Kurdistan Regional Government "cancel a $1.1 billion . . . payment that Genel had been due to make to the KRG for its right to drill and produce oil in the region." Meanwhile Larry Kaplow (Newsweek) explores possible resolutions for oil-rich Kirkuk and observes:

According to the Iraqi constitution, written under U.S. supervision in 2005, Kirkuk residents are supposed to be able to decide their fate in a public referendum. The vote was required by the end of 2007 but has been delayed despite Kurdish protestations. In fact, the extra time has accommodated the return of thousands of Kurds displaced by Saddam Hussein's "Arabization" of the region. Arab leaders allege many more have come in too. No one knows the demographic breakdown of the cities Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen and a census -- with all its own controversial sidelights -- is scheduled for October. But the Kurds probably hold a majority, something that frightens the minority factions. That's probably why Barzani slyly stresses the referendum -- secure that the Kurdish will would triumph.
But the constitution does not spell out what the referendum question is. Barzani says it should be: "Do you want Kirkuk to be part of the Kurdistan region or not, or to be an independent region by itself?" He further said, "The people of Kirkuk are free to decide their future, whether they want to be part of the KRG or an independent region or to join another region."

the diane rehm show
tim cocksmuhaned mohammed
mark knollercbs news
margaret talevmcclatchy newspapersanne gearan
the new york timestimothy williams
the los angeles timesliz slysaif hameed
rod nordland
newsweeklarry kaplow