Saturday, December 05, 2009

E-mail theme

Today's snapshot is really something and it allows me to answer a theme Sunny's detected in e-mails. A number of people think it must be great to be C.I. and/or wonder if I ever want or wanted to swap places?

I love C.I. and she has a wonderful and exciting life, but no, I wouldn't change places and, if you're thinking you would, you should consider how much work it entails.

Monday through Friday, on the road speaking out against the Iraq War. While also writing one thing after another to go up online. Take tonight with the snapshot. She thought she was ready to dictate it after going over the inquiry with the study group but she's returning calls before dictating and one's an NPR friend who, in passing, mentions Diane Rehm's show. C.I. didn't listen to the show and got a quote from it from a friend with the show. She says they obviously didn't talk about Iraq much and the friend on the phone fills her in.

So now C.I. has to put dictating the snapshot on hold -- and she's tired and she's hungry -- to instead listen to today's Diane Rehm broadcast and take notes.

Saturday, after she flies home, her obligations will include attending a lunch and a dinner and trying to squeezein things she actually wants to do. Sunday will be another dinner and then it will be time to pack for the road. During all of that, she will be writing at TCI and Third Estate Sunday Review.

It never ends and it would be too much for most people. It would be too much for me. If it's not too much for you, start a site online and speak out in your own circles because you're needed. Now more than ever.

Barack's a War Hawk. If you want to speak out, get to it. We need as many voices as possible.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the Iraq Inquiry continues in London and we learn that the US rules England -- long live Queen Barack apparently, NPR finds time to advance war with Judith Miller like claims while refusing to cover Iraq, and more.

Starting with NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, the second hour where the panelists are Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) which was a wealth of stupidity and lies. So many lies, so little time. Let's start with Barbara.

Barbara, grab your passport and, yes, Annie Grab Your Gun, and get your ass over there. Over where? Where ever it is from one moment to another that Barbra 'knows' Osama bin Laden is. Take your ass, take your gun and get the hell over there, Big Girl. Reality, Barbara Slavin doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is -- a point Diane Rehm should have made -- but it isn't it interesting that Barbara's claims support further war? And isn't that really the point of your claims, Barbara? You really want to be the next Judy Miller? Really? And what about you, Diane? You going to keep letting guests claim to know where Osama is and use that 'knowledge' to launch a verbal attack on a country? You going to do that? And delude yourself that you've informed the public? How very, very sad.

James Kitfield, I have heard repeatedly how I hurt your feelings when I pointed out that you needed to learn speak. Well boo-hoo cry baby. This time you actually finished a few sentences. But maybe you should return to your stammering half-sentences? You don't know what the hell you're talking about as usual. There's reality and then there's James Kitfield's reality. The paying off Sunnis (Sahwa, the "Awakenings," the "Sons Of Iraq") was not about getting people "off the fence." That's a bold face and ignorant lie. Then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and then-top US Commander in Iraq General David Petreaus testified publicly to Congress in April 2008. Where the hell were you, Kitty? What did they say? They said the US paid the Sahwa so that they would stop attacking American military equipment and US service members (they put the emphasis on military equipment in their testimony to the House and Senate). People who are attacking the US military equipment and US service member are not "on the fence." They have made a choice. You can agree with the choice or disagree with it but they are not "on the fence." Try knowing something before you open your mouth.

It was the third Friday show where Iraq was not addressed (in fairness, last Friday was a canned special and not the roundtable). Diane will claim otherwise. No, Iraq popped up as a 'historical' to compare Afghanistan to. Iraq itself was never discussed. Except for the last thirty seconds when Abderrahim Foukara was supposed to provide an 'update' -- in 30 seconds. As he spoke vaguely of whether "elections are going to happen or not" the audience was likely confused if Diane Rehm's show is their primary news source.

Diane Rehm listeners who hear only her show have no idea what's happened for two weeks now in Iraq. And when James Kitty Litter and others are lying about 'success' in Iraq, it damn well matters.

Diane and her guests need to grasp FAILED STATE is the only term for Iraq. FAILED STATE. Now Diane's listeners would know that if they knew there were not going to be January elections. But that topic has NEVER been addressed and the final 30 seconds Diane tossed to Abderrahim Foukara were confusing at best as he attempted to sum up the problems and, honestly, didn't do a very good job. But, in fairness to him, you can't in thirty seconds. You can't update her audience in thirty seconds. The last time The Diane Rehm Show discussed Iraq (a discussion is more than 30 seconds) -- FOUR FRIDAYS AGO -- the listeners were told that elections were a go. What were they told. Let's drop back to the
November 13th snapshot for a reminder of what listeners of Diane's show were told:

Susan Page: Roy Gutman, I know that you were reporting from Iraq last month. This week we hear that Iraq's Parliament finally has approved a law for its election in January. There had been a kind of stalemate before that.

Roy Gutman: Well there had been and it was a very damaging stalemate. If they hadn't approved the law by this point then you begin to have to predict the country going downhill rather quickly. Uhm, had they approved it a month ago, you could have said Iraq is almost heading towards a normalcy despite all of the violence. This kind of muddled middle that took a long time to decide actually is nevertheless huge progress. This election, uh, is in a way is going to create a new Parliament. There will be what they call open lists -- every parliamentarian or every person running for a seat uh will be named before the elections so it's possible for people to find out who they are and rather they have dual citizenship. You know I heard while I was there that as many as 70% of the Iraqi -- of the current Iraqi Parliament has dual citizenship. Many of them Iranian-Iraqi dual citizenship. So that-that part will end and it looks like -- they have an independent election commission, they run elections that I think, in comparison with Afghanistan, certainly in comparison with Iran, are going to look good, very clean. It's possible that this election could make a real big difference.

Is that possible? Not currently. There will be NO January elections. Diane's audience still doesn't know that, even after the 30 second update today. But there will be NO January elections. None. That's all fallen apart. Iraq is a FAILED STATE. It may hold elections at the end of Februrary, it may do it in March. It may do it later. But the reality is these elections were supposed to be held in December, mid-year Nouri kicked them back to January and the US wasn't alarmed by that. The Parliament and Nouri are legally no longer in office February 1st. By the Constitution, their terms are over. But they will remain in office, in violation of the Constitution, because they couldn't get it together to meet their Constitutionally mandated deadline. That's reality. It makes Iraq -- forget being ranked the second most corrupt state currently -- a FAILED STATE. When you can't follow your own Constitution for elections, when you can't meet a simple election deadline, you are a FAILED STATE.

And when your show tells listeners that Iraq elections are a go four Fridays ago and then they aren't a go, you do a damn update. In four weeks, you've got more than enough time to do an update. If you don't make the time for it, that's telling something about you and what passes for journalistic standards on your program.

FAILED STATE. The only term for it and though Diane Rehm avoids it, the US State Dept is in the midst of a major spin operation. Tariq al-Hashemi vetoed the law that Roy Gutman was discussing above. As one of the three members of the presidency council (he's one of the country's two vice presidents), he has that right (not explained in the 30 seconds on Diane's show today). The response to the veto from Parliament (not touched on at all) was to offer a counter-proposal which stripped seats from Sunnis and gave them to Kurds and a few of Iraq's minority population (ethnic and relegious). al-Hashemi is not pleased, nor are Sunnis. At present, the UN and Iraq's independent election commission (also not discussed on Diane's show today) say elections might be able to happen at the end of February or the start of March if Iraq can get a law in place.

Yesterday, the US State Dept's Rachel Schneller contributed "
Avoiding Elections At Any Cost" at the Council of/on/for Foreign Relations. In this piece of spin, Schneller tries to stamp Happy Faces all over the disarray:

But the derailing of the election law may not be as bad as it sounds. The version approved by the governing council actually could have triggered greater instability in Iraq. Not only could corruption and fraud call the results and a new Iraqi government into question--even if Iraqi elections are free, fair, and uncontested--the new election law could lead to troubling divisions over oil revenues. The law has created conditions for even greater Kurdish control over Kirkuk and oil resources in northern Iraq. Other oil-rich regions of Iraq, such as the largely Shia south, will also have a basis to agitate for oil revenues to flow to regional governments. With the Iraqi central government still relying on oil for more than 90 percent of its national budget, the long-term viability of the country is called into question even if elections signal short-term success. The Sunni minority in Iraq, facing ever more desperate political and economic conditions in Iraq, is likely to resort to increasingly desperate measures to ensure survival as they face another round of elections where they could lose further seats in parliament.

Schneller calls for the US to stop pressing Iraq to put through an Iraq law. Schneller calls for? A US State Dept employee calls for the US to stop doing something?

Are you laughing? How stupid do they think everyone is? The State Dept knows they have no power on this issue (Iraqi MPs tried to block US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill from the Parliament in November) but they need to spin it and along comes Rachel Schneller to 'advocate' for the US not to 'pressure' when, in fact, the US has no power to pressure on this issue as has been repeatedly demonstrated in the last weeks.

Is it a good thing, as Schneller argues in her spin, that the election law has not yet gone through? If this were October, it might be. But this is December. And Iraqi elections are Constitutionally mandated to take place in January. That's not blaming al-Hashemi for any of this. He has the right to veto and he used that right and did so, according to his public stated remarks, for valid reasons: Concerns that Iraq's refugee community was being under-represented. He did what he did and he's stated why he did it. But to spin this, as the State Dept is attempting, as a good thing is a HUGE STRETCH to the point that the truth just broke apart.

FAILED STATE. Iraq's installed government always knew that elections had to take place no later than January. That's why they were supposed to take place in December. After the elections take place, it will take weeks for the ballots to be counted and weeks for process to go through -- as has happened with every election held in Iraq since the start of the 2003 war. This is known. It is known that the Parliament and the Prime Minister's term expires at the end of January 2010. Is known and was known. And yet the Constitution is going to be 'bent' (thwarted) and al-Maliki will get to serve additional days. How many? Who knows. But everytime you treat your highest law of the land as something you can ignore, you set a dangerous precedent.

It is a FAILED STATE and the State Dept needs to stop embarrasing itself by sending Rachel Schneller out to spin it. There is no way to spin the Constitutional crisis -- that's what it is -- that Iraq's currently going through. That's true if Iraq's passes a law tomorrow. They are in a Constitutional crisis. They have disregarded their Constitution. That's the reality.

Reality is also that an Iraq Inquiry continues in London and reality is that Diane Rehm listeners don't know that because the show never tells them. Despite all the revelations, Diane's show has ignored the inquiry. From today's
Free Speech Radio News:

Dorian Merina: The British government continues its inquiry into its role in the Iraq War. The inquiry, which began last week, showed that senior diplomats had doubts about the legality of the war. This week, Tony Blair's former foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning testified. Panel members asked about the controversial Crawford Ranch meeting, during which some speculate former US President George W. Bush convinced Blair to support an invasion of Iraq regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction were discovered.
FSRN'S George Lavender reports.

George Lavender: The five person commitee of inquiry, selected by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is chaired by Sir John Chilcot, a career civil servant.

John Chilcot: My colleagues and I come to this task with open minds. We are apolitical. We are independent of any political party. And we ought to examine and rely on the evidence.

George Lavender: Despite assurances that the inquiry is impartial, the committee includes prominent supporters of the war. Among them Sir Lawrence Friedman, a former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair. Nadji Mahmoud is an Iraqi political activists in the south of the country.

Nadja Mahmoud: I watched the news on Iraqi TV channel sattelite it's an inquiry that comes from the establishment, it's not outsiders that want to do this inquiry. Iraqi people don't put a lot of of hope on the results.

[. . .]

George Lavender: In a small room near the Houses of Parliament the panel heard evidence last week from senrior government officials and diplomats that regime change in Iraq was supported by many in Washington even before 2001.

Christopher Meyer: There is a more of a continuum here with previous administrations before George W. then maybe the Democratic and Republican party would be willing to admit.

George Lavender: Former Ambassador to the United States, Christopher Meyer, testified on the third day of the hearings.

Christopher Meyer: So sometimes people say to me, well, it was the nutiers, the right-wingers, the neocons who invented regime change. Absolutely wrong.

George Lavender: The panel asked Meyer when the British governement became committeed to the policy of regime change? He speculated that Tony Blair and George W. Bush reached an agreement on taking that action almost a year before the war started.

Christopher Meyer: To this day, I'm not exactly clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at-at the Crawford Ranch.

George Lavender: For many antiwar activists the inquiry lacks credibility. Witnesses may be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony and are not under oath. In setting up the inquiry, Gordon Brown also made it clear it would not apportion blame. For many Iraqis, the inquiry is inconsequential. Again, Nadja Mahmoud.

Nadja Mahmoud: I think what the Iraqi people are really concerned about is not what the Iraq Inquiry is going to find out. They are really concerned about their daily life, about security, about jobs. It is chaos here, it is a mess here and people really care about these things.

George Lavender: Violence has increased in the country in advance of government elections last month [October] more than 155 people were killed in two car bombings in Baghdad in the deadliest attack since 2007. The panel will also hear from both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. It's expected to publish a final report at the end of 2010. George Lavender,
FSRN, London.

Staying with the inquiry, which heard from British Maj Gen David Wilson, from Dominic Asquith and from Lt Gen Anthony Pigott today.
Click here for video and transcript options.

Maj Gen David Wilson testified today about being at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood at the start of the Afghanistan War and serving "as a conduit for communication between the operational level heaquarters, Central Command, commanded by General Tommy fRanks, and the permanent headquarters at Northwood, a conduit for information" on Afghanistan. He stated he was kept in the dark and "not made aware" of any plans on Iraq.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: When did this change? When did Iraq come within the argument?

Maj Gen David Wilson: It did change. It changed in the latter part of June of 2002 and it changed very suddenly from where I sat in Tampa. The change was signalled by what was then the draft planning order for Iraq, early stage work, being authorised to be sent to the Permanet Joint Headquarters and that is what happened. Soon thereafter, there was a high level team visit led by General Sir Anthony Pigott, which I was invited to join and he spoke to that this morning, when they closed in Washington and then came down to Tampa. So the first -- it is almost a defining moment this, in a way. This is when, not just we, the British, but also, I understand, the Australians, were made privy to the planning that had gone to that point by the US.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: In addition to being made privy to the planning, at what point were you asked by the United States, what questions of the possibility of integrating British forces into the overall American plan, when did this become, if it did become, a question of discussion?

Maj Gen David Wilson: That comes later, and we can -- I will certainly speak to that, of course, and that takes us into the beginning of August, when we had -- when the United Kingdom had received an invitation from Central Command to attend the whole, as opposed to half, which is what we had done previously, of the two-day programme. This -- I can't remember exactly when the invitation went out, some time in July, and the -- after debate -- whatever discussion in London, I was instructed that -- I pulled a long straw, or the short straw, depending on your perspective, and I was going to step up as the representative and I was going to say words that were produced for me, helpfully, which I received the day before I was due to get on my feet.

Wilson went on to testify of things he learned later such as that US Gen Tommy Franks came up with "a commader's concept for military action in Iraq" at "the end of November 2001" and had done that at the request of the then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There was a 1998 plan that Rumsfeld was not happy with because it called for a large number of US forces.

Maj Gen David Wilson: What General Franks determined very early, as I understand it, was that whatever he and the team at CentCom came up with, it needed to have three dimensions to it. It needed, if you like, a robust option; in other words, all the enablers fell into place within the AOR. The countries that were required provided the staging, the basing, the overflight, the three critical enablers that he needed to project force. So a robust option. Reduction option, as it would sound: they didn't all sign up; and then his worst case option was the unilateral 'go it alone'. He did see that was the worst case option.

Half-way into the testimony, an important question was raised.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: What I'm interested in is, as you are having these discussions, if I was an American planner, it could get a bit irritating after a while to say, "Well, hypothetically, this is the sort of thing the Brits might do." At some sense you would want to firm this up. How was that happening? Were we able to go a little bit beyond a hypothesis or was it, "This may well happen, although we can't actually confirm it at the moments"?

Maj Gen David Wilson: I understand your question. I said, in answer to an earlier question, that the Americans were pragmatic, accomodating and very flexible. I was never put on the spot, if I can put it as crudely as that. I was never brought in at any level and they said, "Look, what's going on?" They know what's going on, they knew what was going at that level because it was my job to make sure they did, that we were in a process, we were in permissions and authorities, and they knew very well indeed that no commitment could be made until the process moved forward.

That was a less than complete answer as anyone paying attention grasped. Minutes afterwards, he would explain, regarding the US hopes that the British might be able to provide support in northern Iraq, "As I mentioned to you, on 2 August I spoke to the northern option and I, under direction, floated the notion that if everything was to fall into place, there might be a tract or we might be . . ." He wasn't put on the spot because he was always providing that reassuring float.
Matthew Taylor (Guardian) covers Lt Gen Anthony Pigott's testimony noting that he stated that "Britian committed a large land force to the invasion of Iraq in an attempt to buy influence with the United States."

Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: Well, you know the US/UK, Mil/Mil relationship, you would enhance that no end by offering this sort of option that eventually was selected. You would enahnce it no end, and that's a pretty important relationship politically -- I'm talkin gon the Mil side -- where we have enormous access and enormous say in a whole range of things, not just to do with Iraq, but with other things, because they know you are a serious player and they know you have got . . . I put that right up at the front of -- at the heart of the UK/US Mil/Mil relationship, required from a military perspective a -- hence it coming through from the military perspective, something meaty to do, and if there wasn't anything meaty, then we weren't really -- it was a long way to go to do nothing -- you know, meaty.

Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: So it was good for our standing, it was good for our relationship, but they didn't actually --

Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: Good for future links on future operations, it's good for sharing intelligence --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So it has some broader benefits --

Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: -- it helps with logistics --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: -- but they didn't actually pay attention to our advice on how these big issues should be handled in the campaign? They didn't put in enough boots on the ground, they didn't plan properly for the aftermath, as Lord Boyce told us yesterday, despite our advice to the contrary.

Back to Taylor who quotes the coldest comment by Pigott, "You buy that on your contribution and your willingness to put ‑ not just boots on the ground ‑ [but] people in danger." Lives were traded for influence, to be 'let in the game.' It's cold blooded and you got your tip off on that yesterday. We noted this exchange in yesterday's snapshot:

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can you say something a bit more about this question of influence as a factor in British military planning? Because it is assumed that if we had just gone for the package 2, which would not have been a trivial thing, which would have been quite a substantial commitment by the UK, that that would not have brought influence? After all, the Australians didn't provide that much, but they seem to have got a certain amount of influence and kudos with the Americans from what they did. We're a different sort of power to the Australians, but is there a direct relationship between the size of force and the amount of influence?

Michael Boyce: I am not sure the Australians did have any influence. They certainly got a lot of kudos from the Americans and we were very grateful for their contribution. I don't think they were as heavily involved in the planning process as we were. Also -- although you might say the final outcome didn't indicate it -- we had quite a lot of influence with regards to what was called Phase 4, all the aftermath planning as well, as a result of the size of our contribution.

Freedman whines, "We did! We did! We did this! But the Australians didn't do anything! Why didn't we have more influence!!!!" That exchange was telling yesterday and it only became more so today. As Tony Blair's foreign advisor, Freedman's singing his own blues. He apparently isn't pleased with the arrangement he advised on -- the one that sent British soldiers into an illegal war so that the UK could get a closer to the US.

Mark Stone (Sky News) reports:

The third witness to appear revealed perhaps the most interesting lines today. Dominic Asquith was the director for Iraq at the Foreign Office from 2004 to 2006 before becoming ambassador to Baghdad during 2006 to 2007.
He said that inter-departmental co-ordination within the UK was good but that the funding given to the post-invasion effort in Iraq was not.
"The direction was that this was a high priority but we weren't being given the extra resources to deliver..... It was left to Whitehall departments to put the case to the Treasury for resources to cover this to which the answer was 'There are no resources'."

Michael Savage (Independent of London) adds to that, "Political tensions were so great in the years following the invasion that Iraqi politicians told him that only the heavy presence of international troops stopped the newly formed government in Baghdad from being toppled." Opinions on the inquiry vary. We'll note two, one pro and one con. Richard Ingram (Indpendent of London) observes:

It's supposed to be an inquiry but there's not much sign of any inquiring going on. I have been studiously following reports of the current investigation into the Iraq war and have even seen bits of it on television and I have yet to read or see a single case of any of the five-strong panel asking a question of those giving evidence. One by one the civil servants and the army generals queue up to say their piece and that's about all there is to it.
The lack of probing questions ought not to surprise us given the composition of the panel, all of them with close links to the political establishment. One of them, our old friend Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, pictured, of King's College London, provided further evidence of this when during Tuesday's session he volunteered the information that he had "instigated" a pre-war seminar for Blair to discuss Iraq because, he said, "I was aware of misgivings among some specialists in Iraq about the direction of policy". He added that this was "my only direct engagement in Iraq policy making". We were not told how a professor of history came to be in a position to organise such a seminar for the Prime Minister, nor, for that matter, whether there might have been some indirect engagements subsequently on the part of Freedman.
This hitherto unreported seminar is further proof of Sir Lawrence's close links to Blair. We already know that he provided the bones of a speech Blair made in Chicago in 1999 justifying the military intervention in rogue states. Later, in a TV interview, Freedman spoke of the "rather noble criteria" which lay behind the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
In a more scrupulous society than that in which we nowadays live there would be calls for Professor Freedman to resign from the inquiry.

While Peter Biles (BBC News) argues, "The Iraq inquiry has produced another week of compelling evidence. We are beginning to understand how and why Iraq ended up in such a parlous state after the 2003 invasion. A number of witnesses have pointed a finger of blame at the United States for the chaos that ensued." Biles go on to insist upon a coherent war plan being needed before the war started. A few snapshots back, I noted how a number of British government witnesses were hiding behind Condi Rice's skirt and, in some cases, distorting her. This week, they've moved on to Donald Rumsfeld. Now Conid and Rumsfeld need to be answerable for their actions, no question. But, help me out here, because I guess my history is rather loose.

As I understood it, the American Revolution was fought with the British so that what is now the United States would not be under British rule. As I understood it, that meant that Americans were free from British rule but I did not understand the American Revolution to mean that British was under American rule.

Did I miss that? Did I fail to grasp reality?

Point: This is embarrassing. British government officials and now military persons are testifying over and over about how they wish Donald had done this or Condi wanted that and blah, blah, blah. The US does not rule Great Britian. Tony Blair's government made its own decision to get into the Iraq War. There's no point in blaming the US for that and it is past time that the inquiry got serious and started correcting witnesses who want to push blame for decisions made by the British government off on the US government. Bush's administration was nothing but War Criminals. I don't deny it. But Tony Blair's a War Criminal as well and it's really interesting to watch all these War Criminals in England insist that the Holy Doofus Bush managed to outwit and enslave them. They have yet to take accountability for their own actions which led England into an illegal war.

In related news,
Tim Shipman and David Jones (Daily Mirror) report, "Tony Blair and George Bush were orchestrating a witch-hunt against Saddam Hussein that ended with the Iraq War, according to a former UN weapons inspector. Hans Blix said the two leaders behaved like 17th century witchfinders in their willingness to oust the dictator." The Daily Mail notes the Iraq Inquiry has not called Blix to testify which is rather strange and adds, "Most alarmingly, Dr Blix reveals that, after he made a speech to the UN asking for more time to complete his work, he received a phone call from Mr Blair. The Americans had been deeply disappointed by Dr Blix's contribution, the Prime Minister said, in a clear attempt to bounce him into backing the war."

Staying in London a bit more,
Amnesty International (UK) issued the following earlier this morning: 17 women among those set to die with fears government is 'playing politics' Iraq is preparing to execute hundreds of prisoners, including 17 women, warned Amnesty International today, as it issued an 'urgent action' appeal to try to prevent the deaths. The 900-plus prisoners have exhausted all their appeals and their death sentences are said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council, meaning that they could be executed at any time. Amnesty supporters are contacting Iraqi embassies around the world, including that in London, in a bid to stop the executions. The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are likely to have been sentenced after unfair trials. The 17 women are thought to include a group known to have been held on death row at the 5th section (al-Shu'ba al-Khamissa) of Baghdad's al-Kadhimiya Prison. Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: 'This is a staggering number of people facing execution and the fact that the government may be playing politics over these cases is truly frightening. 'Wholesale use of the death penalty was one of the worst aspects of Saddam Hussein's regime and the present government should stop aping his behaviour. 'Instead of sending nearly a thousand people to a grisly death by hanging, the Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and impose an immediate death penalty moratorium.' Iraqi media reports suggest that the Iraqi government is currently trying to present itself as 'tough' on crime ahead of national elections scheduled for January. Iraqi opposition politicians have expressed concern that executions may be carried out to give the ruling party a political advantage ahead of the elections, and there have been calls for the government to temporarily suspend all executions. Amnesty is warning that Iraq's use of capital punishment is already spiralling. At least 120 people are known to have been executed in Iraq this year, greatly up on the 34 executions recorded during 2008. Iraq is now one of the world's heaviest users of the death penalty. After the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, Iraq's subsequent reintroduction of capital punishment led to a rapid acceleration in death sentences and executions. Despite this, and contrary to some claims made by the Iraqi authorities, use of the death penalty has not seen a drop in crime levels in the country, with rises and falls in insurgency violence having no discernible relation to execution rates.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing which left five people wounded and a Mosul bombing in which 1 person was killed and a second was wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Turkman Hazim Akbar was shot dead by unknown assailants in his Salahuddin Province home. Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Kirkuk.


Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.

Turning to TV,
NOW on PBS debuts its latest episode tonight on most PBS stations and this one examines: As Congress hammers out legislation that will determine the future of health care in this country, NOW travels to the nation's heartland to see what reform could mean for the middle class. On Friday, December 4 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa meets two tight-knit Oklahoma families whose problems with private health insurance left them unable to get proper medical care -- and on the brink of financial ruin. One of those families - the O'Reillys -- grapples with the issue of how to cover needed respiratory therapy treatment for their eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who was denied coverage for what the insurance company labeled a "pre-existing condition.""People pretty frequently say, 'Oh, you know, my plan works great for me'," says Sophie's mother Natalie O'Reilly." And my answer to that is -- insurance works really well until you need it. Until you really, truly need it." Washington Week also begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the roundtable are Michael Duffy (Time), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Irene Natividad, Tara Setmayer and Wendy Wright to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers: The Zone Geoffrey Canada's remarkable experiment in inner-city education, the Harlem Children's Zone, has helped put historically low-achieving students in New York City on academic par with their grammar-school peers. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports. Watch Video [here] Personal Foul Disgraced ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy speaks for the first time about betting on pro basketball games, his Mafia involvement and subsequent prison term. Bob Simon reports. (This is a double-length segment.) Watch Video 60 Minutes, Sunday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

That's it. We'll try to grab Iraqi press issues next week along with other issues. Thank you to the Iraq Study Group at
Trina's (put together sometime ago by Mike and his friends) who gave an hour tonight for me to go over the Iraq Inquiry and then thirty more minutes stating what they felt should be emphasized from that. There was a great deal to cover and without their help, I wouldn't have been able to narrow it down. Thank you.

iraqsky news
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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Curious Mister Erik Prince

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "I Am The War Hawk You Have Been Waiting For"
I am the war hawk you have been waiting for

I love Isaiah's comic and think it's perfect for framing.

"Tycoon, Contractor, Soldier, Spy" (Adam Ciralsky, Vanity Fair):
Iput myself and my company at the C.I.A.’s disposal for some very risky missions,” says Erik Prince as he surveys his heavily fortified, 7,000-acre compound in rural Moyock, North Carolina. “But when it became politically expedient to do so, someone threw me under the bus.” Prince—the founder of Blackwater, the world’s most notorious private military contractor—is royally steamed. He wants to vent. And he wants you to hear him vent.
Erik Prince has an image problem—the kind that’s impervious to a Madison Avenue makeover. The 40-year-old heir to a Michigan auto-parts fortune, and a former navy seal, he has had the distinction of being vilified recently both in life and in art. In Washington, Prince has become a scapegoat for some of the Bush administration’s misadventures in Iraq—though Blackwater’s own deeds have also come in for withering criticism. Congressmen and lawyers, human-rights groups and pundits, have described Prince as a war profiteer, one who has assembled a rogue fighting force capable of toppling governments. His employees have been repeatedly accused of using excessive, even deadly force in Iraq; many Iraqis, in fact, have died during encounters with Blackwater. And in November, as a North Carolina grand jury was considering a raft of charges against the company, as a half-dozen civil suits were brewing in Virginia, and as five former Blackwater staffers were preparing for trial for their roles in the deaths of 17 Iraqis, The New York Times reported in a page-one story that Prince’s firm, in the aftermath of the tragedy, had sought to bribe Iraqi officials for their compliance, charges which Prince calls “lies … undocumented, unsubstantiated [and] anonymous.” (So infamous is the Blackwater brand that even the Taliban have floated far-fetched conspiracy theories, accusing the company of engaging in suicide bombings in Pakistan.)

That's the basics on Erik Prince of Blackwater. This community is no fan of Blackwater. We do try to be fair. C.I.'s certainly been fair to Prince and avoided whispers about him repeatedly when it would be very easy to advance them. Prince was outed.

So are we hypocrites?

On the left? Some are. Not all of us, though. When Plame was outed this community (check the archives) was firmly of the belief that the White House had no right to out Plame. We were also (and Ty and C.I. went over this at Third in depth) that Robert Novak or anyone in the press wasn't the White House and that the press should be writing about the CIA.

From the Vanity Fair article:

Prince blames Democrats in Congress for the leaks and maintains that there is a double standard at play. “The left complained about how [C.I.A. operative] Valerie Plame’s identity was compromised for political reasons. A special prosecutor [was even] appointed. Well, what happened to me was worse. People acting for political reasons disclosed not only the existence of a very sensitive program but my name along with it.” As in the Plame case, though, the leaks prompted C.I.A. attorneys to send a referral to the Justice Department, requesting that a criminal investigation be undertaken to identify those responsible for providing highly classified information to the media.

Those screaming Robert Novak had commited treason should be screaming on Prince's behalf now because it is similar. However, we were outraged that the White House would out a CIA agent. Prince doesn't know who outed him. (C.I.'s sources have long indicated that Prince was outed by intelligence 'assets' which would explain how one reporter got ahold of the story. Prince says Congressional Dems outed him but he has no proof of that or even just cause to make the assertion.)

I'm sure life is difficult for Prince and for his children. But (a) he made a choice and (b) unless we learn (or get some strong indication) that Congress outed him, his case is not like Valerie Plame's for this community.

Our outrage was over the White House -- especially that White House because the father had faked outrage over CIA outings and had pushed through the law that Junior's administration broke.

I can see how it looks the same to Prince because not everyone drew the line we did. Many felt Robert Novak should be executed. Many attacked the press. Many did everything and anything to play political ball with the case.

Those people? Prince has a justifiable beef with.

But he doesn't need to confuse everyone or lump everyone in together. Some of us were opposed to the actions of a White House, any White House. If Congress outed Prince? I think he'd have a case to make similar to Plame's.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military is mistaken for 'insurgents' in Iraq, Barack Obama wants more war all the time on all the channels to make up for his own miserable life, Congress examines VA care, those intended January elections may take place in February . . . or March, and more.

Last night
Barack Obama gave a speech at West Point in which he flashed every last one of his War Hawk feathers. It was so outrageous that Democratic Party boot licker and professional party girl Tom Hayden insists he's taking the Obama bumper sticker off his car. (Or at least off his wife's car.) It's outrageous, fumes Pock Marks On His Soul, but not that outrageous apparently since he goes on to insist: "I'll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era." The pre-Obama era. One year is now an era? Well, Tom was never smart or informed. Tom's on the prowl (women, watch out) and ready to 'organize' and 'fight' as he insists on "no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out." Then he boasts, "the fight is on." Yes, he truly is a limp dick and that's been a fortunate thing for many a woman. Kisses, Tom-Tom, kisses. Remember back in April 2008 when Doug Henwood (at ZNet) rightly pointed out of Barry O, "And despite the grand claims of enthusiasts, he doesn't really have a movmeent behind him -- he's got a fan club. How does a fan club hold a candidate accountable?" As Tom-Tom always demonstrates, they don't.

Unlike the eternal bobby-soxer Hayden,
Justin Raimondo (Antiwar) doesn't feel the need to stroke Barack to climax:

Those who were hoping for some real change in our rhetoric, if not our foreign policy, with Obama in the White House are no doubt sorely disappointed right now, because George W. Bush could just as easily have spoken these very same words – and,
indeed, he did utter endless variations on this identical theme when justifying our actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the truth of the matter is that there are barely one-hundred al-Qaeda fighters in the whole of Afghanistan – so what are we doing there?

Rebecca never drank the Kool-Aid and she weighed in last night noting, "there is no difference between bush and barack. none. and that realization is making my stomach feel awful. ulcers, i'm sure." Cindy Sheehan (Cindy's Soapbox) explains, "Obama is just another coward that has risen to the highest office in the world and I am tired of having to be shoved by crazy people, chased and shot at by police, tear-gassed, arrested, called names that make even me blush, scrimping for every penny to stay afloat in this peace business, traveling and protesting to the point of exhaustion, etc. Not only did Obama condemn 30,000 troops to horror, with just one speech, he also condemned the real anti-war movement that was opposed to his policies from the beginning, to many more years of our sacrifices." Betty's very young and very pretty daughter got it, "Mommy, I'm sorry. I know it's wrong to hate but he's sending more people to die." Mike shared, "I had to get up every few minutes during the speech. He's such a damn liar. I couldn't take him for too many minutes straight. He such a liar and he revealed that tonight. Let's see who has the guts to stand up and call him out? I bet it'll be the same group of us who always have. And the usual Kool Aid drinkers will find a way to suddenly be in love with war." Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) would fall into "the same group" category since he's long exposed Barack's War Hawk nature -- on last night's speech he notes, "Barck Obama's speech, and the policies embraced in it, and the sinister implications underlying it, are all abysmally awful. They are a death warrant not only for the thousands of Afghan and Pakistani civilians who will be killed in the intensified conflict, but also for the countless thousands of innocents yet to die in the coming gnerations of a world roiled and destabilized by an out-of-control empire." Floyd references Arthur Silber's take which opens with:

To all those who repeatedly claimed that, no matter what "mistakes" he might make and regardless of the scope of the devastating effects of those errors, Obama had to represent a markedly better choice than McCain, take note: in certain respects, Obama is far more dangerous than McCain could have been. For the same reasons, Obama is also more dangerous than Bush was. I remind you that I have written numerous essays damning Bush for almost every single one of his policies. It is hardly the case that I viewed Bush in anything approaching a positive light, however remotely. In large part, the danger represented by Obama arises from the fact that Obama's election gutted whatever effective opposition might have existed. To their eternal shame, the Democrats never opposed Bush in any way that mattered -- but at least the possibility of opposition had not been obliterated entirely. In the near term and probably for longer, that possibility now appears to have been extinguished.

Cedric's "
Barry's boo-boos" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BARRY BOMBS!" had the herculian task of attempting to fact check the wily Barack who insisted April 9, 2009 that he was asking Congress for the last war supplemental but last night acknowledged he'd be asking them for another one (for at least $30 billion) and who self-stroked last night by declaring he "will close Guantanamo" -- uh, after being sworn in, he said Guantanamo would be closed by the end of this year. As of today, he has 29 days before 2009 is over. He might want to forgo yet another trip out of the country this month and instead sit his ass down and get to work. Back to Justin Rainmondo who especially found interesting Barry O's fact-free comments on the Iraq War:

"Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention -- and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world."
Yes, the bad thing about the Iraq war wasn't that it needlessly killed thousands --
many thousands of Iraqis, and a far lesser number of Americans. Oh no: the really really bad thing about it was that it diverted attention and resources away from the battle Obama wanted to fight, the one in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That all happened in the bad old days of Republican rule, however, before the invention of "hope":"Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011 ... We have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people."
What a crock: we have given Iraqis eight years of
utter horror, including hundreds of thousands of dead, countless wounded, a sectarian civil war that still rages, and a government just as tyrannical and unaccountable as the one we overthrew, if not more so. If that's "success," then I'd hate to see what failure looks like.

Iraq? As we noted Sunday at Third in "
Editorial: Barack The Never Ending Liar," Barry O promised to pull a brigade out of Iraq each month after being sworn in. But never lived up to that promise, now did he? Trivia question: Who said this in response to Barack's promise to end the Iraq War in 2009: "But these were words worth holding the candidate to. The astonishing thing is that antiwar sentiment among Obama's base is running strongly enough to push the candidate forward to a stronger commitment."??????????? Why it's Tom-Tom Hayden. And just as soon as he gets done peeling his bumper sticker off his latest wife's car, maybe he can explain how he thinks he ever held Barack to those words? World Socialist Web Site's editorial board weighs in today on the speech:

The most glaring contradiction in a speech shot through with contradictions was Obama's attempt to disentangle the war in Afghanistan from the war in Iraq. "I opposed the war in Iraq," he said, "precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force ..." But he was unable to establish any essential difference between that criminal enterprise and his war in Afghanistan.
Obama's escalation is yet another flagrant violation of the will of the American people. In one election after another, they have gone to the polls to express their hostility to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In every case, their will has been ignored and the wars have been expanded.
Obama won the presidency by running as an opponent of the Iraq war and appealing to popular opposition to militarism. Once in office, he quickly increased the US deployment in Afghanistan by 21,000, while reneging on his promise to carry out a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. Now he is increasing the total US troop level in Afghanistan to 100,000, more than double the level under Bush.

Staying in the US, we'll move over to Congress. "I think all of us over our time of service on the committee," US House Rep Bob Filner declared today, "hear about issues that suggest that sometimes federal funds may not be flowing to the local VA facilities in the way that we had envisioned -- either efficiently or effectively -- to best serve our veterans." Filner was chairing the House Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing on VA Health Care Funding: Appropriations to Programs. Chair Filner noted that there is currently a hiring freeze at the VA medical centers in his district "which my be linked to the growing queues that our veterans face for medical health care appointments." Chair Filner represents the 51st House District in California which can be summarized as southern half of the county of San Diego and Imperial County.

US House Rep Steve Buyer is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks he addressed the allocation process. Following the hearing,
his office released the following statement which covers that topic as well as what's been done since the hearing:

Today, Ranking Member Steve Buyer said he will request an independent review of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allocation process to help ensure that each VA medical center is able to provide timely treatment for veterans.
Buyer pointed to the need for the study during a full House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing on the resource distribution process that occurs between VA's Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) and its 153 medical centers.
Chairman Bob Filner and members on both sides of the aisle, including Subcommittee Chairs Mike Michaud and Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, and Subcommittee Ranking Members Dr. Phil Roe and Henry Brown, agreed to join Buyer in a joint letter requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the process.
Members on both sides of the aisle also expressed special concern about how the allocation process affects veterans in highly rural areas. Michaud, Herseth-Sandlin, and Roe all inquired how VISN directors ensure that facilities affiliated with medical centers, such as outpatient clinics, are afforded proper consideration in funding requests.
"Over the past twelve years, VA has relied on a decentralized funding model for the VISNs to fund their respective medical centers," Buyer said. "VA provides general guidance but permits a substantial amount of flexibility to allow for a more patient-centric process at the local level."
"I believe this requires clear delineation of responsibility, careful planning, and performance measures to gauge coordination and accountability. Therefore, it is prudent for us to ask the key questions such as whether the allocations should be formula-driven or standards based with real-time analysis."
"It has been five years since GAO has placed its eyes on VA funding allocation issues, so I will request that it perform a review of the criteria and process VA has established for VISNs, how VA ensures that VISNs comply with those criteria, and how VA centrally tracks and assesses the distribution and use of the funds at the medical center level."
"Accurate assessment of these measures is critical to VA's ability to provide timely access to quality veterans' care, and prevent delays that could be detrimental to veterans with critical conditions and those with special health care needs."

The hearing was composed of two panels. The panel was Clyde Parkis who has many credits including being a Vietnam veteran, many years with the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the former director of Veterans Integrated Service Network. The second panel was composed of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Rita Reed and Michael S. Finegan (Finegan was accompanied by William Schoenhard and W. Paul Kearns III).

Parkis's prepared statement is posted
here (if that doesn't work go to the Committee's hearings page and select it -- but I'm told the bugs have been worked out and that link will work). Chair Filner said the statement would be entered in full into the record and encourage Parkis to utilize his opening five minutes hitting additional topics. We'll note this from his opening remarks where he's speaking of his time working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Clyde Parkis: As a Vietnam veteran, I sometimes have trust issues and it took me a long time to figure out who to -- who to trust in the process as we move through the budget cycles. I was aware that OMB liked to screen VA testimony before it came to the committees and I thought sometimes that prevented us from asking for what we thought we really needed. I was told to say, 'We don't have our budget official yet so I can't speculate on the impact of that.' That made it difficult to answer my local Congressman in terms of what was going on with the VA. And I thought some of that was actually coming from this Committee but maybe that was not the case. As I gained some trust over time, there are some things I wished I had spoken up about a little -- a little earlier.

OMB is the Office of Management and Budget and falls under the executive branch of the federal government. That statement, an important one, wasn't an issue in the questioning. Despite the fact that this committee and every other one has heard that answer repeatedly "no final budget, can't speculate." Instead, there were questions regarding the counting of veterans, US House Rep David Roe praised the VA outpatient clinics (CBOCs) and wondered how they were determined? Parkis explained, "It was a combination of where the veterans are -- you look at your demographics spread out by zip code or by county -- and in addition to that where are you experiencing the demand?"

US House Rep Harry Teague noted how, in New Mexico (his state), "the number of people who have to travel five, six hours" to a VA "is pretty large." And he also wanted to drop back to Roe's questions and know about the outpatient and how New Mexico might qualify so that "people don't have to drive five, six hours" to get care? Parkis began stressing tele-care (health care over the phone). Since many of the veterans Teague is speaking of (we speak to veterans groups in New Mexico quite often) are complaining about the lengthy drives to Alberquerque for check ups or to diagnose new issues, it's not really clear how tele-care would assist them in that.

US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick worried that "demand" qualification might hurt rural areas where many factors effected how many veterans in an area utilized a VA facility. This includes some veterans, including Native American veterans, who do not access care because they aren't aware of the care that is available. Parkis identified Prescott, Arizona as one such area and Kirkpatrick agreed it was. He suggested outreach, "talking to the tribal leaders" and insisted that "most health care these days is actually chronic not acute." Kirkpatrick's concerns really weren't addressed by Parkis who admitted rural areas really weren't his expertise; however, Chair Filner said that in "January we're going to be concentrating on rural -- access for rural veterans because everything you say is right."

Moving to Iraq, Saturday barriers around the US base in Basra collapsed.
Steven Edwards (CANWEST News Service) reports that the US military is insisting the collapse was not a result of mortar attacks or any other attack but a result of "rainfall". Because Iraq is infamous for rainfall. In fact, dust storms are a thing of the long ago past. Right? Right? (No.) In other news, Li Xianzhi (Xinhua) reports armed clashes between US forces and Iraqis "guarding their own homes" in Baquba today which resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi and three more injured. Xianzhi quotes a police source who states, "The gunmen thought the [US] soldiers approaching their homes were insurgents." Xianzhi quotes the source explaining a US helicopter was called and it "bombed a house and totally destroyed it".

Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Monday grenade attack in Kirkuk which left twenty-six people wounded.


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 civilian shot dead in Baghdad and, an hour later, 1 soldier shot dead in Baghad.

In other news,
Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie and Matthew Jones (Reuters) report, "Iraqi politicians have 24 hours to resolve an impasse over a law needed for next year's election to take place, otherwise the country's Sunni Arab vice president will veto the legislation again, a spokesman said on Wednesday." If Tariq al-Hashemi chooses to veto the legislation, he must do so tomorrow according to Reuters. Meanwhile the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq released a statement on the elections: "UNAMI strongly supports the efforts undertaken to clarify voting for Iraqis abroad, as well as the inclusion in the law of the distribution of seats among the governorates, and the announcement of a final election date, with 27 February 2010 as a feasible option for practical and constitutional reasons." BBC News notes that the United Nations is saying February 27th is doable as an election date for the former January elections but that "Iraq's Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told the BBC that the election could be pushed back to the end of March." Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports Ayad Allawi (prime minister immediately prior to Nouri al-Maliki) says there's a call for February 27th or March 1st.

The latest
Inside Iraq began airing Friday on Al Jazeera and joining Jasim al-Azzawi were Saad al-Mattalibi of Iraq's Ministry of National Dialogue and Abdelbarri Atwan, editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi. The issue was the continued conflict between the US-installed exile government and Ba'athists in Iraq. Saddam Hussein headed the Ba'ath Party. It's a political party. It had many, many members (the majority of Iraqis participating in politics). Since the exiles were installed, and with the help of Paul Bremer, Iraq has been 'de-Ba'athified'.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Saad al-Mattalibi, excluding the Ba'ahtist from running for power, to some people smacks nothing more than vengance, to others, it's a fear of a well organized party [which] given the chance, it might come back for political as well as social influence.

Saad al-Mattalibi: Many people see differ -- have a different view to that, to that introduction because the Ba'ath Party -- without talking about persons, personalities or individuals -- as a thought, as a school of thought, believes in attaining power through coups and through conspiracies. Once they're in power, they believe in excluding everybody and dictating their way or their vision upon society. This, in itself, cannot be accepted in New Iraq, where we have a multiple political ideologies and multiple political views and they can compete in a peaceful manner and allowing the voters to be the decider on who is elected and who is not.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Abdelbarri, the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has warned of upcoming Ba'athist Parliament. He said, "And I'm going to use all my constituional powers to stop them." Are these scare tactics or he is generally scared that they might come back?

Abdelbarri Atwan: You know Dr. Saad talked about exclusion and he accused the Ba'athists of excluding other ideology or other thoughts in Iraq during their rule. And al-Maliki and Dr. Saad are applying the same in democratic Iraq. So what's the difference here? I believe if you're looking for initial reconciliation, if you're looking at rebuilding the country again, I think you need everybody, you need all the color of the shade. We know some Ba'athist were dangerous -- they are locked, or executed or tried. But the rest of the Ba'athist people are Iraqis and they have the right to be part of the New Iraq like everybody else. It is true there are some side of the Ba'ath or Ba'athist ideology which is bad. For example, the dictatorship. But there are other sides which I believe are very bright. For example, secularism, the equality between men and women, the actually -- education, the scientific achievement, universities, good health service --

Jasim al-Azzawi: Let me run this by Saad, Abdelbarri

Abdelbarri Atwan: We cannot exclude all of this.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Saad, you're a practicing what Saddam Hussein practiced against other political parties. You're excluding just as much he did.

Saad al-Mattalibi: I don't think that really applies here, looking at the history of the 35 years the Ba'ath Party ruled in Iraq. We are not excluding individuals. We are trying to prevent a particular school of thought from entering and wrecking the political process. If you look at today's Iraqi Parliament, there are many Ba'athists who are actually serving today as members of Parliament. The difference is that those people believed in the national -- in the new national principles of Iraq. They believe in democracy. They believe in peaceful transition of power. They believe in elections and so on. They believe in the institutions. They believe in the freedom of the press. All these ideas that the Ba'ath Party refused generally. Now the other thing I would like to say to my, uh, good colleague, uh, Mr. Abdelbarri is that the achievement -- the scientific achievement or medical achievement in Iraq was not done by the Ba'ath Party. It was done by the individual Iraqi -- men and women and scientist. And by the way we uphold the same, aaah, values --

Jasim al-Azzawi: That particular point, Saad, let me just remind you that hundreds if not thousands of Iraqi scientists, as well as professors and even university presidents, they have fled the country. Some of them simply because they were targeted because they were Ba'athists. So there is a measure here that a brush --

Saad al-Mattalibi: That's not true

Jasim al-Azzawi: -- which has touched --

Saad al-Mattalibi: That's not true.

Jasim al-Azzawi: -- everybody.

Saad al-Mattalibi: No, no, no. That is not entirely true. What has happened is there was a vicious attack against scientific development and all walks of life really in Iraq. Many people fled the country. I mean, mechanics and simple carpenters fled the country. I mean, were they Ba'athists? No. There was a huge attack on all development in Iraq. This led a vast sector in Iraq to leave Iraq.

Abdelbarri Atwan: I'm surprised. Dr. Saad is a highly educated person and I believe he is not actually reflecting what's happening on the ground in Iraq. There are at least -- at least -- 500 scholars assassinated in the New Iraq. That middle class which is supposed to rebuild Iraq? Actually non-existent. Most of them left the country. They are working now in the Gulf or taking refuge in Europe. And you know secteraianism splitting in Iraq now. You know 4 million displaced, a million widows, about four million orphans. I think this is -- Is this the achievement of the New Iraq which the New Iraqi rulers are proud of? When we talk about accountability, who shall we actually judge here? Who shall we charge here? When the whole country dismembered under the pretext of de-Ba'athification which is a very ugly word. So I think we should -- we should admit, you know, the Ba'athists will be seen as angels in comparison what's happening in Iraq now. I've never been a Ba'athist, I will never be a Ba'athist but actually, the whole of a country dismembered, destroyed, sectarianism, women actually in a very bad situation and democracy. What kind of democracy if people cannot have water or electricity? Or education? Or they are not safe in their houses?

Saad al-Mattalibi: Well they didn't have electricity, they didn't have education. They had only war and mass graves in Saddam's time, in the Ba'athist time. What we are trying to say is that what started 35 years ago, we today pay the price for it. Democracy is not about only getting clean water and getting good health to people. Democracy, of course, include this, but also include the freedom of speech, including the right to choose our leaders. We -- I can today criticize my own government and not be punished or executed for it. And I refuse to accept everybody left Iraq is a Ba'athist. This is a very dangerous accusation. Many people, one of them is my uncle, left the country because the environment in Iraq was very dangerous. Gangs were roaming the streets in 2006, 2007, killing people. And those scientists you're talking about, many of my very, very good friends who are professors Baghdad University, they were killed and they were not Ba'athists and they were not even from that sect, they were from this sect.

Abdelbarri Atwan: Dr. Saad, you know, democracy is good governance.

Saad al-Mattalibi: Of course.

Abdelbarri Atwan: If we see the situation in Iraq, there is no good governance.

Saad al-Mattalibi: Correct.
Abdelbarri Atwan: When Iraq is the second most corrupt country on the -- on earth according to the International Transpancy Organization, it means there is no good governance. And democracy did not produce what the Iraqi were waiting for: to have a good government, to have accountability, to have actually transparancy, to have good services, to have the middle class there. Yes, when you say not everybody who left Iraq is a Ba'athist, this is affront to the new regime in Iraq because it means neither the Ba'athists or the non-Ba'athists are accepting the situation and they are deserting the country -- four million actually displaced in Iraq and it is a fact so there is nothing to be proud of to be honest. You know, I believe the new regime should admit they did not produce the good example for the Iraqi people.

In the US, Colleen Murphy searches for answers to her daughter's death. Staff Sgt Amy Tirador was serving in Iraq when she was killed at the start of last month, shot in the back of her head.
Russell Goldman (ABC News) reports Murphy has many questions including, "How could this have happened on a secure American base? I don't know why they can't rule some things out. This can't be a suicide. But there are so many probabilities and prospects and guessing games. They've given me no hints, and I can't stop thinking about all the different scenarios. Am I aggravated? Absolutely. Thursday will be a month. I want the truth. I will be patient and I will wait. But I want the truth." Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Lt Col Jim Gentry was buried yesterday after dying of cancer which was most likely the result of his exposure to toxins in Iraq. Melissa Swan (WHAS11 -- link has text and video) reports on the funeral and notes, "Veterans from several wars held the stars and stripes as members of Jim Gentry's family, both by blood and by military arrived for a final, formal goodbye." Eric Bradner (Evansivlle Courier & Press) reports: "Gentry, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed in 2006 with a rare form of lung cancer. Military doctors say it most likely was caused by exposure to sodium dichromate, which contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. The dustlike toxin littered the desert facility. It was yellow in some places, orange in others. It stuck to soldiers' boots and blew into their faces during Iraq's many windstorms. For months, no one wore protective gear. They were told they didn't need it." In yesterday's snapshot, we noted Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a federal registry for US service members exposed to toxins. Brander quotes Bayh stating, "The circumstances of his death are tragic, but the quiet courage with which he lived his life, served his country and advocated for justice for those exposed at Qarmat Ali inspired everyone who knew him. I will continue to do everything in my power in the United States Senate to honor his life and improve the medical care of those who served at his side." As noted in yesterday's snapshot, that bill is currently buried in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which has no hearings (not even mark-ups) scheduled for this month. January starts a new year meaning the bill would have to be reintroduced then. None of that is meant as a criticisim of Bayh (who introduced the bill in October) but it is a criticism of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which desperately needs a new and healthy chair -- something it does not have at present.

Well close with this is from Tom Eley's "
US Supreme Court suppresses torture photos" (WSWS):The US Supreme Court on Monday nullified an appeals court order that would have obligated the Obama administration to release photographs depicting US soldiers subjecting prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq to horrific acts of torture.In an unsigned three-sentence decision in the case, Department of Defense v. ACLU, 09-160, the Supreme Court granted an Obama administration petition vacating the order and sent the case back to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, telling the lower court it must review the case in light of a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in October.The law in question was written as a specific response to the circuit court's ruling in October 2008 requiring that the photos be released. Attached to an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security and signed into law by Obama, it gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the power to suppress the torture photos if he determines they may threaten US military operations. Gates invoked the measure on November 13. It is now anticipated that the circuit court will side with the Obama administration and rule against the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.)

iraqcindy sheehan
chris floyd
doug henwood
jenan husseinmcclatchy newspapers
al jazeera
inside iraq
jasim al-azzawi
eric branderevansville courier and pressmeliss swan
tom eleywsws

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The sad special and the sad man

"TV: What's the return policy?" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
We're pretty sure most women -- other than Beyonce -- already know this, but for the fellas, when you're breasts do not meet when squeezed into a tight top, you're flat chested. All the tape in the world, all the push up bras, shoving them all the way up to your neck, will not conceal that fact. Beyonce seems convinced that she can trick the audience into believing that she has breasts worth sporting.
But, then again, she also seems to think shifting from one foot to another for the bulk of the special (especially in the first half hour of the non-special) qualifies as dancing.We said we'd get back to lip synching on stage. Even during the first half, when not dancing, she was lip synching. We couldn't believe it. She's standing still on stage, on a TV special that she's starring in, and she's not singing her vocals?
She fooled one R&B star.
We were on the phone with her during the special and asking, cleaned up version, "What the f**k is this lip synching? She's not dancing and working up a sweat like Janet [Jackson] or Madonna."
The R&B singer insisted she must be singing. Later on, she called us back when Beyonce moved onto the song from the Charlie's Angles film soundtrack. Beyonce was dancing around and singing . . . but her lips weren't moving and she didn't have the mike to her mouth. There was no attempt on her part to even mouth the lyrics. And yet the exact same voice kept singing.
"She's not singing! She's not singing!" insisted the R&B star.
"We know!!!!!" we screamed back into the speaker phone.

I was present for the above (I had Thanksgiving at C.I.'s) and I would have known whom "R&B star" was without being present. The only surprise for me was hearing her (she was on speaker) disagreeing at first that Beyonce was lip synching. She said after (after the "We know!!!!" which ends her participation in Ava and C.I.'s article) that she guessed she just didn't expect any singer to lip synch in their own special. True that.

It was an awful special. Beyonce bragged about herself to the camera in spoken bits, used her rehearsals to pad out the show and lip synched a few numbers. That was supposed to account for a special, a TV special. Back in the day, that wouldn't have even qualified for an episode of The Midnight Special.

So Barry Boom-Boom wants to send more troops to Afghanistan. Are we surprised? We shouldn't be. It's outrageous and it's disgusting. But that's Barack. No one wanted to listen. No one wanted to pay attention. They wanted to smoke the hopium. Maybe they could pin the blame on a hookah smoking caterpillar? I have no idea. I only know a War Hawk didn't just self-present as a person of peace, he had a lot of liars vouch for him. CODESTINK vouched for him. They attacked Hillary just to get him elected (and Jodie spent all her saved pennies to get Barry elected). United For Peace And Justice worked it to get Barry elected. FAIR, CounterSpin, Extra all whored for Barry. In fact, you'll have a difficult time finding any who refused to.

They do exist.

But they are a very, very small group. For obvious reasons: It's easier to go along with the crowd than stand for convictions.

The press demonstrated that in the lead up to the illegal war and we saw the same craven behavior among bloggers and lefty gas bags in 2008. They lied. They whored. Now they will have blood on their hands.

A very sweet e-mail was passed on by Sunny. He (the e-mailer) had praise for me (undeserved) and for C.I. I agree 100% with the praise for C.I. She is stronger than anyone, she does more than anyone and she never loses her way. Never.

She was that way from the minute I met her. She's perfectly fine being the only one standing up for an issue and she will do so loudly if she believes it's right. She'll tell you, "I may be wrong today but I am right in the long run and time will be on my side, time will prove me right." That has been the case time and again.

The man e-mailing pointed out that C.I. really does set the game at TCI when it comes to Iraq and that is true. She is defining the bar. There's no one like her.

He made a point that he asked me to pass on (I will) which was he knows that C.I. and I both want to stop our online lives (Ava does as well) but he hopes we grasp that there were so few sites in 2008 and even less after Barack was elected ("when even some of the truth tellers felt they better fall in line") who would tell the truth, who would call Barack out. He noted that a real accomplishment was made by staying online after the election. (The 2005 plan was for all sites to go dark in November 2008.) I do agree that C.I. has performed an amazing service.

I will also point out that she did the same thing when the country was supposed to be in the midst of Bush-love. She had no problem saying, "He has no clothes on!" It never mattered to her what anyone might say back because she knew, in the long run, she was correct. Same with Barack. (To the e-mailer, I will pass your remarks on when I speak to C.I. on the phone tomorrow.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, December 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry in London continues with witnesses stating the US government placed too much faith in Iraqi exiles, the birth defects among Iraqi children continue, and more.

Today in London, the Iraq Inquiry continued. Last Tuesday was when the public hearings began.
Mary Dejevsky (Independent of London) offers this evaulation of the Inquiry thus far, "The Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war is a week old and even at this very early stage it appears that its chief victim could be Tony Blair, the man who has so successfully prevented the mud sticking to him hitherto. The questioning may have been gentle, but one after another, the top civil servants of the time have plunged the knife in to the former prime minister, sometimes brutally, sometimes with a surgeon's finesse. Whenever the question of responsibility for the war arose, they were clear that it was not theirs. Which is the constitutional truth. Their duty as civil servants is to execute the policies of the elected government, not, for all the fun and games of Yes, Minister, to thwart them." Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) also weighs in, "Many people feared that the Iraq inquiry, which opened last week, was going to be a whitewash. While that is still a strong possibility, the inquiry's first week has revealed the continuing crisis in the establishment over the invasion in March 2003."

Today the committee heard from Peter Ricketts (Political Director of the UK Foreign Office Sept. 2001 through July 2003) and Edward Chaplin (British Ambassador to Jordan May 2000 to April 2002, Director for Middle East and North Africa April 2002 to Sepember 2003). The session opened with Chair John Chilcot offering a "good morning everyone" before noting there were not "as many in the 'everyone' as there have been on previous days, but you are very welcome." The witnesses are not put under oath before they offer their testimony; however, after the transcripts have been typed up and corrected, they are "asked to sign a transcript of their evidence to the effect that the evidence they have given is truthful, fair and accurate." Chair Chilcot went over the particulars with a little more emphasis today and the hearing also got to the point a little more quickly today.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: My first question is from the perspective of the Foreign Office, from your perspective, when did it become apparent that the United States was contemplating a more active approach to regime change in Iraq than during the first years of the Bush administration, during the first year?

Peter Ricketts repeated what he had said last week about it being policy Bully Boy Bush being installed in the White House by the Supreme Court -- he again pointed to an article Condi Rice wrote for the journal Foreign Affairs calling on regime change. The way Ricketts continuously references this article by Condi Rice, you'd think it was all about Iraq. It's not. "Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest" was in the January/February 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs (house organ of the Council on, of and for Foreign Relations). She uses a sizable amount of space blaming Bill Clinton for everything -- including for deploying, in her opinion, too many miltiary personnel overseas (yes, it is laughable) and claiming that the next president will have to clean up after Clinton (yes, it is laughable). She mentions Saddam in passing in terms of 1990s action and then, much later in the paper, she writes:

As history marches toward markets and democracy, some states have been left by the side of the road. Iraq is the prototype. Saddam Hussein's regime is isolated, his conventional military power has been severely weakened, his people live in poverty and terror, and he has no useful place in international politics. He is therefore determined to develop WMD. Nothing will change until Saddam is gone, so the United States must mobilize whatever resources it can, including support from his opposition, to remove him.

She's much more concerned with Russia (which was her area of expertise -- although I never saw any expertise in any of her statements on that country), China and North Korea. The way Ricketts and others have referenced this lengthy article one could easily walk away with the impression that Iraq was her focus in the paper. That is simply incorrect. Her call for regime change in Iraq (the section quoted above) is 83 words -- 83 word out of over 6,596 words in the essay. And, repeating, China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and other areas receive far more attention in the paper. I'm not saying Rice didn't want regime change in Iraq, she clearly advocated for it. Far into her paper. It would be interesting to know what other things she advocated for in that paper the British government was willing to sign off on.

Interestingly for someone who keeps name dropping Rice and referencing her paper, Ricketts never explains -- nor is he asked -- why either the US or the UK governments were insisting they believed Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction? In Rice's paper -- from 2000, only two years prior -- she's asserting Hussein is "determined to develop WMD." When did he do that? In two years time, how did he manage that? Iraq had no WMD -- NONE -- but it's interesting that the official position in 2000 was that he was "determined" to create some and two years later -- while Iraq is still under sanctions and still has no-fly zones and is heavily monitored by many Western countries -- the word Bush and Blair's administrations put out is that Iraq has WMD. Ricketts the one who can't shut up about Condi's article. So maybe he should have been asked when he believed Iraq developed WMD and why he believed that? That really is more to the point or does he just intend to hide behind Condi's skirts for the entire inquiry? But would it even matter if the question were asked? Follow this exchange from today, note the very clear question and try to find where in Ricketts' response he answers the question.

Commitee Member Martin Gilbert: How do you account for the scepticism, the general scepticism of the British public, that Saddam constituted a serious danger to the region.

Peter Ricketts: We had spent the previous months concentrating on the threat from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. We had been through the military intervention in Afghanistan and we were still, at that stage, involved in the aftermath of that, an international security force and the civilian effort in Afghanistan. There was a lot of public attention on Al-Qaeda and the threat from Afghanistan. As we have discussed in previous evidence sessions, we had, in Whitehall, been seriously concerned about the threat from weapons of mass destruction and the risk that they would be reconstituted as the sanctions regime broke down and Saddam got access to more moeny, and it had been a consistent worry. 9/11 and the evidence of terrorist interest in weapons of mass destruction was a further boost. It was a very strong strand in the Prime Minister's thinking and the Foreign Secretary's thinking, but it hadn't been a big feature of public presentation of the counter-terrorism strategy. Therefore, as we focused harder on Iraq, as that was clearly rising up the US political agenda, it was important that we should get out to the public more information about what we saw as the threat from Saddam, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

That was Ricketts' full response. I didn't leave out a word. Did he answer the question? No, not really. Unless the answer is: "We worked real hard to sell the war on Afghanistan and then had to scramble after that to sell the war on Iraq -- and since we were already tired from selling one war, we didn't have it in us to be convincing and the public caught on."

Pressed by Committee Member Martin Gilbert, Ricketts admitted that the Foreign Office was involved in planning "just after the Crawford meeting" with the Ministry of Defence. Let's jump in at his but. And see if you can catch Peter Ricketts lying.

Peter Ricketts: We didn't discuss military planning as such. We discussed the implications of military planning for other departments' activities, and the key initial work that I was involved in was trying to define an end-state for any miltiary action we took. We had never supported the idea simply of regime change, that was not our proposal, but to say disarming Saddam of his weapons of mass destruction was not adequate either, and so we developed some ideas on what an end-state should be, the sort of Iraq that we would want to see, law-abiding, sovereign, with territorial integrity, not posing a threat to its neighbours, respecting its obligations on weapons of mass destruction and so on. We worked up in that group an end-state which was one of the political implications of any military plan.

Ricketts is such a liar. He says that "we" "never supported the idea simply of regime change." He creates the impression that this wasn't the UK goal but it was the UK goal and it was the goal post-Crawford (which is when Tony Blair begins using the phrase in speeches -- speeches echoing the Blair Doctrine he outlined in his 1999 speech). He's being asked about that and he's lying. Gilbert persists and forces this response out of Ricketts: "It is hard to imagine that an Iraq of that kind was possible with Saddam Hussein in charge, and if -- because the presumption of this work was that in due course there would be a miltiary operation." Yes, it is hard to imagine that UK was planning for anything other than regime change. Ricketts then attempts to backtrack insisting that would only be the outcome -- regime change would be the outcome -- if there was military action. At which point, Edward Chaplin jumps in.

Edward Chaplin: Could I add one point? There was also the possibility, perhaps you have touched on already, that under pressure, including military pressure, build-up, Saddam Hussein would be persuaded by other Arab heads of government to step down and go into exile; in other words, we would achieve a change in the regime's policies without military action.

And forcing someone into exile? That's regime change. Or failed regime change if you want to consider the CIA-backed attempt to force Hugo Chavez into exile in 2002. On the issue of countries neighboring Iraq and how they were sounded out, Edward Chaplin offered:

Obviously there were very frequent conversations with leaders in the Arab world, particularly those likely to be most affected. I already mentioned conversations I had when I was ambassador in Jordan. There were real fears about the impact of military action in Iraq articulated very clearly by the King of Jordan and others, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. In terms of the impact it would have on the stability of the Middle East, and the impact it would have on the peace process -- the double standards I have indicated -- and, indeed, the impact it would have on the wider campaign against terrorism post-9/11. So they were flagging those up. What we were doing was the messages we were passing to all these governments, particularly those with any influence in Baghdad, was, "We hear all that and we can see it very clearly, as clearly as you can, but this is a very serious problem and it has to be resolved. We have been at this for 11/12 years, we cannot go on, particularly after 9/11, without resolving this threat." Therefore, our hope was that they would add their own actions and pressure through private or public means, to persaude the Iraqi regime to start cooperating seriously with the UN, and we assured them that, if they did that, then, you know, we would react accordingly. We were not looking for an excuse to take military action, far from it. We did want this problem resolved and that was as much, we thought, in their interest as ours. Of course, their perception of the threat, the WMD threat, was not as serious as ours, with the one exception perhaps of Iran, the neighbour that had suffered quite severely from the actual use of WMD, I have to say.

Mark Stone (Sky News) feels that today offered "a developing narrative" which he sums up as:

In the run-up to war -- those key months between 9/11 (when the Bush Administration's grumblings about Iraq turned to more distinct drum-beats) and the invasion in March 2003 -- the UK was determined to lead America down the 'UN route'.
All the witnesses have cited numerous occasions when Tony Blair, with the help of his diplomats and ambassadors, pushed an increasingly disinterested American Administration back to the UN table.

If that is the narrative, the UK push for the UN ended with 1441 (authorization for weapons inspectors to return to Iraq) -- which was made obvious by Jeremy
Greenstock's testimony last week or have we all forgotten that?

Michael Savage (Independent of London) emphasizes, "Despite declarations that Britain would lead an 'exemplary' operation to bring back normality to the area around Basra, in the south of the country, the Chilcot Iraq inquiry heard that the demands of the task soon outstripped the money provided by the Government." Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video) emphasizes the testimony by Chaplin that the US had "touching faith": "The US administration had 'toughing faith that once Iraq had been liberated from Saddam Hussein . . . there would be dancing in the streets,' Mr Chaplain said. 'We tried to point out that was estremely optimistic'." Chaplain returned to that 'touching faith' in another response which we'll note in full:

Edward Chaplin: I think we were all very concerned at the lack of preparations in terms of what we could see happening in Washing. What was happening there was that the rather detailed work that had already been done by the State Department over many months, didn't seem to be finding its way into the policy-making, the preparation for the aftermath, which was all in the hands of the Pentagon. The Pentagon took the decision to set up this organisation ORHA [Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance], and appoint an ex-General to be in charge of it. But there was a certain disregard -- an unwillingness, I think, to use the State Department expertise to devise a policy and -- or indeed to attach some of the experts who actually knew a lot about the region and spoke the language and so on. Again, this goes back to what I was saying earlier about a touching belief that we shouldn't worry so much about the aftermath because it was all going to be sweetness and light.

But where could this 'touching faith' have come from?

Edward Chaplin: I think one of the problems that the Amreicans had this view was that they relied heavily on what they were hearing from different opposition groups, and these were the opposition groups outside Iraq. We were always a great deal more sceptical about what they were saying and what they were claiming would happen in the aftermath of an invasion, but I think some Americans were hearing some very happy talk from the likes of Mr [Ahmed] Chalabi that, once Saddam Hussein had gone, they didn't need to worry, everything would be fine, the subtext being particularly if they handed over power to someone like Mr Chalabi. We were always very firmly of the view and expressed this to everyone including the Americans, but also in the region, that we held no particular candle for any opposition, any exiled group. We had a view that they carried actually very little credibility where it mattered in Iraq.

Wait a minute. The British government thought that? Then why has the press never thought it? Why has the US press -- in total -- refused to question the installing of exiles? The role of the press is supposed to be a skeptical one. So why is it that all these exiles got installed and the press didn't question it? No fiery editorials from the New York Times, for example. It was always basic. It's popped up in many snapshots. A group of people who flee the country while you live there and suffer aren't seen as 'heroes' or 'special' or 'leaders' when they strut back in with foreign invaders. Doesn't work that way. Never has historically. But the press was somehow blind to that. It's a strange sort of blind spot -- one that the British government didn't have. The press had and continues to have that blind spot because they're not about what's right or what's fair. The press long ago enlisted to sell this illegal war. In the US, they embedded with the illegal war while dickering over a few details. The illegal war?
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains, "In the event of military action, Ricketts told the inquiry, Lord Boyce, then chief of the defence staff, needed the agreement of the government's law officers. That was an 'absolute requirement', said Ricketts. On 7 March 2003, less than a fortnight before the invasion, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, advised that British commanders could be arraigned before the international criminal court if they joined the US-led invasion." On the legality issue, Johan Steyn's "Invading Iraq was not just a disaster: it was illegal" (Financial Times of London) went up last night and advocates for the inquiry to release an interim report issuing a finding "on the legality of the Iraq war". Steyn writes, "I would expect the inquiry to conclude -- in agreement with Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations -- that in the absence of a second UN resolution authorising invasion, it was illegal."

Padraic Flanagan (Daily Express) reports Tony Blair is insisting he's innocent and declaring he made the right decision and "if you can't stand the heat, don't come into the kitchen." What kitchen would that be, Tony, and what did you cook? It's a question worth asking as Suadad al-Salhy, Mohammed Abbas, Michael Christie and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) report on the increase in birth defects and cancer in Iraqi infants. Dr. Jawad al-Ali tells the news agency, "We have seen new kinds of cancer that were not recorded in Iraq before war in 2003, types of fibrous (soft tissue) cancer and bone cancer. These refer clearly to radiation as a cause." This is only the latest in a series of recent reports on the issue. In October, Lisa Holland (Sky News via Information Clearing House) reported on the damage being done to Iraqis and future generations due to toxic and deadly weapons foreign forces (which would include the US) have used (and continue to) in Iraq:

An Iraqi doctor has told Sky News the number of babies born with deformities in the heavily-bombed area of Fallujah is still on the increase. Fifteen months ago a Sky News investigation revealed growing numbers of children being born with defects in
Fallujah. Concerns were that the rise in deformities may have been linked to the use of chemical weapons by US forces. We recently returned to find out the current situation and what has happened to some of the children we featured. In May last year we told the story of a three-year-old girl called Fatima Ahmed who was born with two heads. When we filmed her she seemed like a listless bundle - she lay there barely able to breathe and unable to move. Even now and having seen the pictures many times since I still feel shocked and saddened when I look at her. But the prognosis for Fatima never looked good and, as feared, she never made it to her fourth birthday. Her mother Shukriya told us about the night her daughter died. Wiping away her tears, Shukriya said she had put her daughter to bed as normal one night but woke with the dreadful sense that something was wrong. She told us she felt it was her daughter's moment to die, but of course that does not make the pain any easier.

In November,
Dennis Campbell (Guardian) and Larry Johnson (Seattle PostGlobe) reported on the issue. Also last month, Martin Chulov (Guardian) wrote about it and, November 17th, spoke with Free Speech Radio News about the issue.

Dorian Merina: As US military attention shifts from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan, the effects of six years of warfare are emerging. Falluja, in central Iraq, was the site of some of the most intense fighting, including two battles in 2004, in which the US used heavy munitions. Now, five years later, a sharp rise in birthd efects in the area has doctors and residencts concerned. We're joined by Martin Chulov, Iraqi correspondent for the Guardian. His article on the rise in birth defects in Falluja came out over the weekend. FSRN spoke to him earlier today by mobile phone in Baghdad. Martin Chulov, welcome to Free Speech Radio News.

Martin Chulov: Thank you, it's nice to be with you.

Dorian Merina: You visited a local hospital in Falluja, what did you see?

Martin Chulov: We were there over a three week period, looking at neonatal wards and spending time with pediatricians and obstetricians and what we did see for ourselves is a very obvious sign of-of a spike in congenital defects, in birth deformities and all sorts of other abnormalities in Falluja's newborn. From babies of only a few hours old to babies of six months old. There were numerous cases of babies being brought in with -- all born with serious birth defects.

Dorian Merina: And in 2004, the US marines and infantry engaged in heavy fighting in the area. The US has confirmed that it used heavy munitions including the controversial white phosphorus. Let's start with that. What is white phosphorus and how is it used?

Martin Chulov: White phosphorus is a -- is basically an illumination round that detonates maybe 70, 80 meters above the ground and scatters out across a wide area. It's an anti-personnel weapon as well. It's extremely hot to touch and it will burn flesh for many minutes afterwards. It's made of a phosphorus compound. It-it is used in urban warfare and it is used in battlefields around the world. It's highly controversial because of the impact it does have on a broad area of the battlefield. And it is sworn by by the American army and by the Israeli army who used it in Gaza as recently as January.

Dorian Merina: And it was used there in Falluja during the battles. You spoke with a neurosurgeon there named Dr. Abdul Wahid Salah. What did he tell you?

Martin Chulov: He said that he'd been working in neurology in Falluja for 12 years and over the last twelve months -- more specifically, I should say, the last six months, he's seen a dramatic spike in neurology defects in newborn babies. Mainly neuro-tube defects which are a debilitating, congenital defects at birth -- swollen head, uh, limited use of the lower limbs in babies, and they need substantial corrective surgery to lead anything like a normal life. And there are all sorts of accompanying ailments with this defect as well. The main one being cardiac deficiencies. The neurologist said he's been seeing them on a daily basis for the last six months now and there are many others who haven't been disagnosed because home births are still quite popular in Falluja which is a very impoverished area five years after the two big battles that you speak about.

Dorian Merina: Now do they have the resources there -- do health workers have the resources there to deal with this?

Martin Chulov: They certainly have the skill set because they've been working on these cases for so long now and so frequently. But there's only one senior neurologist at Falluja Hospital, there's not one obstetrician, there's a pediatrician, there's a couple of specialist doctors who do help out. But they are doing it alone and they say that there's no other hospital in the world which would have to deal with such a large number of debilitating defects in newborns. It's something that they're not geared up for. They're doing as best as they can

Dorian Merina: Iraqi and British officials have petitioned the UN General Assembly to ask for an investigation into birth defects. So what is the next step here?

Martin Chulov: I think the next step is that scientists have to play a role. And there's limited means at the moment for Iraqis to take things further. The international community has been reluctant to intervene or to even come to Iraq -- for obvious reasons. It has a very unstable place and Falluja was ground zero for a lot of the insurgency for all throughout 2004, '05, '06 and most of '07 as well so there's an understandable reluctance of international donors or international scientists or international health officials to come here. I think we've reached that rubcion now where there needs to be some kind of a study, some kind of an analysis into what is going on and why.

Again, Tony Blair, which kitchen and what was being cooked? And will you be sending Nicholas, Kathryn, Leo or Euan to live in Falluja. Hey, Leo's only 9. Children that age adapt so very quickly. Want to send him to the toxic cess poll you've cooked up in Iraq? No, I'm not at all surprised. Nor should Leo or any child have to go there -- regardless of War Crimes carried out by their parents. It's not just the toxic dump the US created at the Balad base, they've poisoned a huge portion of the country.

In other reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left another person injured and a Mosul grenade attack which resulted in two people being wounded. Reuters reports on Monday's violence: a Hawija hand grenade wounded eleven people.


Li Zianzhi (Xinhua) reports attacks of Garma checkpoints today which left five security forces injured and notes, "The attacks targeted checkpoints manned by Iraqi police and paramilitary members of the Awakening Council groups in the town of Garma near the city of Fallujah, some 50 km west of Baghdad, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 people shot dead in a Baghdad currency exchange office. Reuters reports on Monday's violence: 1 man shot dead in Rabia and three others wounded (it was an attack on Yazidis -- Reuters says the assailants were also Yazidis) and 1 Iraqi army Col shot dead in Kirkuk.

Turning to the latest news on Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist. al-Zeidi came to international fame and applause when he screamed "You lie!" during Barack Obama's speech -- oh wait, scream "You lie!" and be seen as a scourge. Toss shoes at George W. Bush and Nouri al-Maliki and become an international hero. Well today Muntadhar and his family were far from a family of peace.
Al Jazeera reports the shoe tosser gave a press conference in Paris and, during it, a man threw a shoe at al-Zeidi and hollered, "Here's another shoe for you." They also report, "Al-Zeidi's brother, Maithan, chased the attacker in the audience and pelted him with a shoe as he left the room." As someone who rightly objected to Nouri's dogs being sicked on al-Zeidi (objected from the start) and called out the brutality al-Zeidi experienced then and after, I find it offensive that his family's response now is to chase down someone and throw things at them. If it's good enough for al-Zeidi to throw shoes, he and his family shouldn't be surprised if people throw shoes at him (the shoe thrown at him today missed, by the way). Sophie Hardach and Andrew Dobbie (Reuters) reports it was "a scuffle" that followed the toss. So if al-Zeidi's brother had supported Nouri, he would have been beating Muntadhar? Frank James (NPR) has posted on the topic and includes raw video. In it, you see the 'scuffle' and then the thrower is led away. As he is being led away, the brother does a cowardly thing, runs up behind him, hits him over the head with a shoe and shouts at him. As he's being led away with both arms held, the brother attacks him with a shoe. What a coward, what a creep. There's no excuse for it and Muntadhar should have called out his brother. In the exchange, you saw all that is wrong with 'politics' in Iraq:

You treated me wrong! So I will do this to you!

I was treated wrong! So I will do this to you!

How dare you do that to me! Even though it's what I did to you!

No one ever takes responsibility and no one ever attempts to heal, they just lash out over and over and pick at the scab that is all their oozing resentments. And that is the government the US installed in Iraq. Muntadhar's an exile and the man who threw today's shoe claims to be an Iraqi exile as well. They carry their grudges as all forced out of a country will. Which is why you don't install them into leadership especially when you're trying to 'heal' a country.

In the United States, Lt Col James C. Gentry was to be buried today.
Jason Thomas (Indianapolis Star) reports that the Iraq War veteran died last Wendesday of lung cancer and Thomas explains:Gentry, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, last spring joined a federal lawsuit filed in December 2008. It accuses Texas-based KBR and several related companies of concealing the risks faced by 136 Indiana National Guard soldiers potentially exposed to a cancer-causing agent, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.The suit originally was filed on behalf of 16 Indiana soldiers but has grown to 47 plaintiffs, including the family of a soldier, David Moore, Dubois, Ind., who died of a lung disease in 2008.Most of the plaintiffs served with a Tell City unit sent to Iraq with the Indiana National Guard's 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry Regiment, based in Jasper. For three months beginning in May 2003, the unit provided security for KBR employees charged with rebuilding the Qarmat Ali water-pumping plant near Basra.December 22nd Armen Keteyian (CBS Evening News with Katie Couric -- text and video) reported on James Gentry's developing lung cancer after serving at Iraq where he guarded KBR's water plant, "Now CBS News has obtained information that indicates KBR knew about the danger months before the soldiers were ever informed. Depositions from KBR employees detailed concerns about the toxin in one part of the plant as early as May of 2003. And KBR minutes, from a later meeting state 'that 60 percent of the people . . . exhibit symptoms of exposure,' including bloody noses and rashes."

October 21st,
US Senator Evan Bayh appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and made the following statements about Gentry and about the need for S 1779 -- The Health Care for Veterans Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act:

Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for the invitation to testify today -- and for all you're doing to ensure that the VA has the tools and authority it needs to help our brave men and women who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan nursing the wounds of war.
I am here today to testify about a tragedy that took place in 2003 on the outskirts of Basrah, Iraq.
I'm here on behalf of Lt. Colonel James Gentry and the brave men and women who served under his command in the 1st Battalion, 152nd Infantry of the Indiana National Guard.
I spoke with Lt. Col. Gentry by phone last week. He is at his home with his wife, Lou Ann, waging a valiant fight against terminal cancer.
The lieutenant colonel was a healthy man when he left for Iraq. Today, he is fighting for his life.
Tragically, many of his men are facing their own bleak prognoses as a result of their exposure to sodium dichromate -- one of the most lethal carcinogens in existence.
The chemical is used as an anti-corrosive for pipes. It was strewn all over the water treatment facility guarded by the 152nd Infantry. More than 600 soldiers from Indiana, Oregon, West Virginia and South Carolina were exposed.
One Indiana Guardsman has already died from lung disease. The Army has classified it a service-related death. Dozens of others have come forward with a range of serious respiratory symptoms.
The DoD Inspector General just launched an investigation into the breakdowns and gaps in our system that allowed this tragic exposure to happen. Neither the Army nor the private contractor KBR performed an environmental risk assessment of the site, so our soldiers were breathing in this chemical and swallowing it for months.
Our country's reliance on military contractors -- and their responsibility to their bottom line vs. our soldiers' safety -- is a topic for another day and another hearing.
Mr. Chairman, today, I would like to tell this committee about S.1779. It is legislation I have written to ensure we provide full and timely medical care to soldiers exposed to hazardous chemicals during wartime military service.
The Health Care for Veterans Exposed to Chemical Hazards Act of 2009 is bipartisan legislation that has been cosponsored by Senators Lugar, Dorgan, Rockefeller, Byrd, Wyden, Merkley and Specter.
My bill is modeled after similar legislation that Congress approved in 1978 following the Agent Orange exposure in the Vietnam conflict.
The bill ensured lifelong VA care for soldiers unwittingly exposed to the cancer-causing herbicide in the jungles of Vietnam.
Some have called toxic industrial hazards the Agent Orange of the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.
My legislation would make soldiers eligible for medical examinations, laboratory tests, hospital care and nursing services. It would ensure soldiers receive priority health care at VA facilities. It would recognize a veteran's own report of exposure and inclusion on a Department of Defense registry as sufficient proof to receive medical care, barring evidence to the contrary.
My legislation will help ensure that we provide the best possible care for American soldiers exposed to environmental hazards during the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan. At a bare minimum, my bill will ensure compassionate care so families are spared the added grief of going from doctor to doctor in their loved ones' final days, searching for a diagnosis.
The 1978 Agent Orange registry only covered one chemical compound. But my bill is broader. It covers all members of the armed forces who have been exposed to any environmental chemical hazard, not just sodium dichromate. It recognizes a new set of risks that soldiers face today throughout the world.
Senate testimony last year identified at least seven serious instances of potential contamination involving different industrial hazards -- sulfur fires, ionizing radiation, sarin gas, and depleted uranium, to name a few.
S.1779 ensures that veterans who were exposed to these chemicals will be eligible for hospital care, medical services, and nursing home care. It allows the Secretary of Defense to identify the hazards of greatest concern that warrant special attention from the VA.
My bill switches the burden of proof from the soldier to the government. Soldiers exposed to toxic chemicals will receive care presumptively, unless the VA can show their illness is not related to their service.
Exposure to toxic chemicals is a threat no service member should have to face. It is our moral obligation to offer access to prompt, quality care. We should cut the red tape for these heroes.
Mr. Chairman, I promised Lt. Col. Gentry that I would fight for his men here in Congress. I promise I would use my position to get them the care they deserve and to make sure we protect our soldiers from preventable risks like this in the future.
This tragedy will be compounded if we do not take the steps to provide the best medical care this country has to offer.
Thank you for this opportunity to offer testimony today. I urge this committee to adopt S. 1779 to honor the sacrifice of Lt. Colonel Gentry and all of our brave men and women doing the hard, dangerous work of keeping America safe.

At present, the bill remains buried in the Senate Veterans Affairs committee. No surprise, it's the Senate committee that holds the least hearings. It's the Congressional committee that holds the least hearings. Anyone want to guess why? Anyone want to notice that Robert Byrd's not chairing any committees so why are we allowing someone with health issues to chair one -- especially so important of a committee as the veterans committee when two wars are ongoing? Anyone want to guess? If Bayh's bill remains buried through this month, it dies. It has to be reintroduced. (Bayh is not the chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, nor does he serve on it.) At present, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has no plans to meet this month -- not even for mark ups. Gentry died while the bill was buried in committee and though it wouldn't help him, it would help many others. While the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has no hearings scheduled, the House Veterans Affairs Committee, chaired by Bob Filner, has three scheduled for the month. (I know Bob Filner and I like him. I also know and like Daniel Akaka. That doesn't mean I won't call either out and Akaka is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affair Committee.)

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