Saturday, February 20, 2010

It says a lot about what kind of people we are

Well Carol E. Lee of Politico was correct (see Tuesday's post).

"Obama appoints panel to slash social programs" (World Socialist Web Site):
President Barack Obama's establishment by executive order of a bipartisan commission on deficits on Thursday is the latest step in his administration’s attack on health care and retirement programs upon which millions of Americans depend.
The 18-member panel will propose measures to slash government spending on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. It will also consider a series of regressive taxes, including a consumption or value added tax, to force the working class to pay for the budget deficit. Its aim, according to the White House, will be to reduce the deficit from its current level of over 10 percent of gross domestic product to 3 percent by 2015.
Speaking on Thursday, Obama repeated a theme that has been a constant refrain of his administration—that partisan divisions between Democrats and Republicans are blocking the implementation of policies deemed necessary by the financial and corporate elite. “For far too long, Washington has avoided the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal crisis,” he said. “Everything is on the table,” he added.

I hope everyone still loves Barack, still grooves on him, after he destroys Social Security and Medicaid. Let me be perfectly honest, it's not going to effect me one damn bit. My parents left my brother and I more money than we could ever spend. I never had to worry about college expenses. I had a thriving practice for many years. (I have one now but I don't charge anymore and all I see are vets.) I'm set and I've always been set. I won't hurt financially. I'm diversified in my investments.

So Social Security vanishing before I even qualify for my first payment? Not a big concern for me personally.

I could, therefore, take the attitude of: Well they voted for him, they got what they wanted or maybe what they deserved and it's really not my problem.

But it is my problem.

The safety net doesn't just help those in need, it says a lot about what kind of a people we are. If we don't care enough about those in need, if we don't care enough about basic dignities, then we really aren't a civil society. We're some other grouping, but we're not one that I really want to be a part of.

A lot of people are already struggling on fixed incomes and that's going to be even worse after Barack's motley crew begins monkey around and cutting the safety net.

In my lifetime, I have seen non-stop assaults on Social Security despite its huge popularity.

Because it is so very popular (understandably so), to assault it, they tell lies. They claim it doesn't have the money or that it won't have the money.

Of course it does.

Social Security is not part of the General Fund. While it is very much true that the executive branch has dipped into the funds, that dipping was always 'allowed' because the people of this country expected the government to honor those markers they left when they borrowed from Social Security.

That was the people's money. No one would have okayed the dipping if they'd known the government would attempt to avoid paying all that they borrowed.

Social Security is not insolvent.

It will not be insolvent.

But it's under attack again.

I remember C.I. hitting this note over and over during the primaries. I wondered why people wouldn't pay attention. I remember her devoting a huge part of a snapshot, right before Barack was sworn in, to his talk to the Washington Post editorial board and staff and his remarks about how he would monkey with Social Security.

People are going to have to start paying attention.

This is about your lives. Mr. Hopium is not delivering salvation. All he's done thus far is continue illegal wars and give the people's money away to big business. People need to wake the hell up.

For the issue of Medicaid, please read Tom Eley's article on the way it's being attacked.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 19, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the election madness continues, no one is who they seem including Ahmed who's reportedly lined up a post-election deal, Gordon Brown tests the waters, and more.
Today on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane's guests were Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and the topic of Iraq's upcoming elections (scheduled for March 7th) was addressed.
Diane Rehm: Alright and one of our listeners in Intervale, New Hampshire has a question about Iraq. She wants to know what is the current state of play regarding the upcoming March elections in Iraq? Were the 500 suspected Ba'athists candidates re-instated? Will they be permitted to run? Karen?

Karen DeYoung: Well this started out -- the Iraqi elections are two Sundays from now. They are on the seventh of March, these are national elections, the first ones since Prime Minister al-Maliki was elected in 2005 [Parliamentary elections held December 2005], after a lot of horse trading among Iraqis [Nouri became Prime Minister in April 2006 after the US rejected the Parliament's choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari]. I think for the United States this is a question of [coughs], excuse me, whether this democratic experiment is actually going to hold there, if they're going to progress to a sustainable democracy. The -- part of the new constitution which we helped put in place, which we put in place in Iraq, calls for de-Ba'athitication which is removing anyone who had anything to do with the party of Saddam Hussein. The people who control the de-Ba'athification process are considered to be very close to Iran which would like a strong Shia government in Iraq. And so they put out a list, to the surprise of everyone, that had more than 500 people on it who they charged had some kind of ties with the Ba'ath Party and were therefore ineligible to run for elections. These were all people who had been promoted by their parties. Most of them -- the majority Shia but because Sunnis are in the minority there, the number of Sunnis there was seen as a concern. It was seen as an effort to push the Sunnis out of contention. There were -- there was a lot of manuevring. The list has been whittled down to about 120 people. The Americans at least think that the crisis has passed. No one -- none of the major parties, including the Sunni parties, have said they will boycott the elections which was one of the big concerns. But I think everyone is sort of on tender hooks waiting to see if this is actually going to work.
Diane Rehm: James?
James Kitfield: One of the interesting little sidebars to this story is the person which is running the [Justice & Accountability] commission which is totally opaque -- no one understands what criteria is used to how close you are to the Ba'ath Party and what remaining ties you may have to the Ba'ath Party -- is Ahmed Chalabi. You know, we've been through this story before with this guy. He was put in charge of de-Ba'athification by the Bush administration and Paul Bremer. He did the same thing, trying to clear the field of Sunnis so he could -- his political rivals. It's not very helpful.
[. . .]
Diane Rehm: Let's go to Chris in Lincolon, Nebraska. Good morning to you.
Chris: Good morning to you, Diane, I'm a huge fan. I want to say your show makes me a more informed citizen and I can't think you enough.
Diane Rehm: I'm so glad, thank you.
Chris: My question is about James Kitfield's comment about Ahmed Chalabi still being involved in the Iraqi political system. I was just curious as to how much power this man still has considering his shady reputation?
Diane Rehm: It is a very good question, James Kitfield.
James Kitfield: Yeah, and if you -- if your viewer can get to the bottom of it, I'd love to hear about it. Because it's astounding to me. Clearly the Americans have been -- have been frustrated by this guy forever. He's got -- uh -- we had General [Ray] Odierno was in town this week, the chief US commander saying that he has close ties to Iran. They've tracked him going to Iran and meeting with senior officials. So clearly this is not a guy uh who has our interest in mind. But you have to believe he has some sway with Prime Minister [Nouri] al-Maliki otherwise he wouldn't be in this key position.
Karen DeYoung: You know Chris Hill who is the US Ambassador to Iraq has been here this week and made a lot of public statements and he was asked this several times. What is the -- what's the constituency that Ahmed Chalabi has? And he's described it as a sort of way at looking at how the United States needs to be a lot more humble about what it knows about the inner workings of the country. I mean, Ahmed Chalabi, was not only a favorite of the Bush administration and certainly of-of the US Defense Department, he was -- he was thought of as someone they wanted to put in as prime minister. And he ran the exile organizations here. He was sent there specifically. He was put in charge of this system in '03 and '04, when-when Paul Bremer was there. And so he clearly had a different agenda. And he's been acting on that agenda. And I think that, uh, the question I have had is is as the Iraqis in this electoral process denounce the United States for interfering -- and this is all part of its politics -- you don't hear much denunciation of Iran.
Meanwhile some Iraqi voters don't hear a great deal from the candidates supposedly wanting their votes. Alsumaria TV reports that Sadr City residents are complaining that their candidates have not shown to campaign nor have they bothered to "address people's complaints" regarding sewage and garbage issues. Turning to the KRG, Delovan Barwari (Kurdish Herald) reports:

In the last elections, nearly all of the Kurdish political parties, along with a number of Chaldo-Assyrian and Turkmen parties, entered the elections under a banner called the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan (DPAK). DPAK secured 53 of the 275 parliamentary seats, became a key player in Iraqi politics, and allowed Kurds to expand their political influence in Baghdad. As a result of DPAK's strong showing in the national parliamentary elections, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Secretary General Jalal Talabani, became the first Kurd in Iraq's history to become president of the country.
However, the political atmosphere in Iraqi Kurdistan has changed quite significantly since then. A new opposition group, known simply as "Change" (or "Gorran" in Kurdish), has emerged in Iraqi Kurdistan as a strong political force. This new group is led by Jalal Talabani's former deputy, Newshirwan Mustafa. The Change List received enough votes to turn heads, winning the majority of votes in the Sulaymaniyah province and receiving nearly 25% of total votes in the Kurdistan region. Many analysts expect the Change List to have a strong showing in the upcoming Iraqi national elections and, as Kirkuk will also be voting, some believe that the Change List will receive an even greater share of Kurdish votes this time around.
The new political reality in Kurdistan may weaken the Kurdish position in Baghdad as the fundamental source of Kurdish power has been previously fueled by the united stance of the various Kurdish political groups. Today, there are three major Kurdish political lists entering the Iraqi elections independently. The largest of the three remains the bloc led by the President of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, and the current Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (from the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PUK, respectively), which will be joined once again by a number of smaller Kurdish political parties. The newly-emerged Change List will be the second largest political bloc that is comprised of a number of important players who formerly identified themselves with the PUK. Another noticeable political power is an alliance between the two Islamic parties in Kurdistan, the Islamic Group and the Islamic Union.

Gorran is fueled by US funds and US interests. And it's turnout wasn't remarkable in the provincial elections -- and that's before you consider how many US dollars were poured into funding the 'grassroots' party. AFP reported yesterday that Goran was claiming that Jala Talabani's forces had shot three of their workers -- this was PUK accused, not related to Talabani being the president of Iraq.
On this week's War News Radio from Swarthmore College (began airing today), Abdulla Mizead reported on one candidate running for Parliament.
Abdulla Mizead: Iraq remains among the world's most corrupt nations. In last year's edition of Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, Iraq was the fifth most corrupt countries. No one knows more about this problem than Moussa Faraj. He was head of Iraq's Public Integrity Commission until mid-2008, urging Iraqis to get in the business of fighting corruption.
Moussa Faraj: I was the first Iraqi to call for fighting corruption. I joined the anti-corruption committee at the governing council where we drafted the two laws that formed the Public Integrity Commission and the Ministry Inspector Generals. And, in 2004, I was Inspector General for the Ministry of Public Works.
Abdulla Mizead: Though he was considered the country's best Inspector General, several ministers were displeased with is decency. He got moved from one ministry to the other. He says it was hard to stay in one position for more than two months. But when he finally made it to the top of the Integrity Commission, he was overwhelemd by the size of financial and administrative corruption.
Moussa Faraj: When I was the head of the Public Integrity Commission, I said corruption in Iraq was different from any other corruption anywhere else in the world. Why? Because corruption elsewhere is limited to bribery and money laundering and it doesn't exceed millions of dollars a year.
Abdulla Mizead: But in Iraq, he says it's much more complicated.
Moussa Faraj: I warned of the legitimate corruption in Iraq. It's the most dangerous corruption in the world. Government officials and law makers make laws that steal public money. They protect themselves with the law because they know they can't be tried. Courts only go after illegitimate acts.
Abdulla Mizead: He says the political situation after 2003 was mainly to blame for the increase in levels of corruption.
Moussa Faraj: Why is there corruption? First, the failures in government performence. Appointing ministers and high officials in the state who lack academic qualifications or have fraudulent certificates, lack expertise and are loyal to their parties rather than the people. Parliament members are loyal to their parties. They take the Constitutional oath to serve the interest of the Iraqi people but instead they serve the head of their bloc in Parliament.
Things are never simple in Iraq. For background on Faraj, September 7, 2007, David Corn (The Nation) reported on the attacks on Radhi al-Radhi which led him to be replaced on Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity:
Regardless of the legality of Rahdi's ouster, Moussa Faraj, who has been named for Radhi's replacement, is an odd pick for the job. He was once a deputy at the CPI -- having been installed at the commission by the ruling Shia Alliance Party. Accodring to the secret U.S. embassy report on corruption, Faraj regularly posecuted and delayed cases on "sectarian bases." Worse, the report notes that Faraj, a political ally of Sabah al-Saidi (the Parliament leader who has assailed Radhi), once "allowed a Shia Alliance member [charged in a multi-million-dollar corruption case] to escape custody." And after Faraj was dismissed from the CPI, the report says, he stole "literally a car load of case files." An arrest warrant was issued for hi.
Several weeks ago, accordign to Radhi and his investigators, Faraj was arrested, placed in prison, and subsequently released on bail. "How can he be in jail and then be head of the integrity commission?" Radhi asks. Putting the CPI in Faraj's hands, Radhi says, will allow Maliki's office and Saidi to control its actions and prevent the commission from conducting investigations that inconvenience them and their political confederates. It will mean, he claims, the end of any meaninful anticorruption effort in Iraq.
In testimony to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee May 13, 2008, James F. Mattil stated, "After Judge Radhi resigned, the Prime Minister appointed a new acting CPI commissioner, Moussa Faraj, who three weeks earlier had been arrested and jailed on corruption charges. Faraj was out on bail and had yet to appear in court when he was appointed commission of Iraq's lead anti-corruption agency." [PDF format warning, click here for his remarks.] Meanwhile, Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) surveys the scene and doesn't see anything to inspire:
Who are these people and where are they leading us ? Every sane Iraqi must ask himself/herself this question. Where the f**k are you ? Have you disappeared in the ether, in communion with the dead or are you patiently waiting for your turn to finally join them -- your easy way out, since the only thing they promised you -- your liberators and your idols, is death...
They guaranteed you death, and now you just wait for it, like a terminally ill patient in a doctor's waiting room. He knows he's on his final way out, but he still pays his weekly visit...
How did my world shrink to turbans and charlatans and quacks, to a vicious authoritarianism that has suck up every God notion from my vocabulary..did my soul die in this tunnel ?..the idea itself is more murderous than a physical death...
We are the soul zombies of the new world order...the soul zombies of the new Middle East...
Perhaps the only meaningful statement in the testimony of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in front of a committee investigating the war on Iraq, is the one that disclosed that the US wanted in 2003 the elimination of Saddam Hussein's family-Baathist regime. All Blair did, to summarize his testimony before the committee, is become 'convinced' of the viewpoint of the Americans and practically comply with their desires that see the justifications for war as not important as long as the aim is set in advance.
There was indeed a justification to get rid of a regime that plunged Iraq into three devasting wars. The first with Iran, the second with the international community after committing the crime of invading Kuwait and the third with the United States and its allies, who in 2003 found the right opportunity to finish off an important Arab state and turn it into a state with a lost identity. Saddam's regime did not cause the third war, but did everything to facilitate it; starting by ignoring the regional and international realities to the extreme and its lack of knowledge of the importance of the balance of power in relations between states. All of the justifications put forward by Blair to justify war that are meaningful and are not based on facts or legitmacy. This is why Clare Short, who was a cabinet minister in his government at the time, was pushed to describe him as 'a liar' in her statement a few days abuot the circumstances of Britain's decision to participate in the war on Iraq.
[. . .]
In 2010, targeting political parties was done in the same manner of Ba'ath. The Ba'ath's Revolutionary Commanding Council in March 1980 passed a law on the "prohibition" of Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Perhaps the difference is that the there are no mass executions these days, especially since the US military is still present in its bases inside Iraq. The case becomes to retaliate against a vulnerable person here or there, who has no clan protected like Mr. Tariq Aziz, whose only fault was to be a Christian and he responded early to Iran, which tried to assassinate him in 1980 before the start of the war between the two countries as a symbol of a particular regime that allows him to be a Christian and a minister. That the treatment of Tariq Aziz in prison, especially after suffering a stroke and was taken to a US hospital, does not bode well. It indicates a malicious manner in dealing with a man who did not have any power at decision-making levels, as a desire for revenge Saddam's way, no more.
Tony Blair and Clare Short gave their testimony to the Iraq Inquiry in public hearings. The Inquiry, chaired by John Chilcot, is currently in recess but Gordon Brown, the current Prime Minister of England, will appear before the Iraq Inquiry shortly (the date has not been publicly released yet). Eddie Barners (The Scotsman) reports:

Speaking to Tribune magazine, the Prime Minister declared that the real issue had not been the danger of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, but the dictator's failure to comply with UN resolutions that demanded he provide full disclosure to weapons inspectors.
This, said Brown, was the reason Britain and America were right to send in the troops.
Mr Brown's words represent a marked change from the government's main rationale for military action in 2003, when it asked MPs to support invasion. The motion, voted on by MPs, declared first and foremost that the UK should send in troops "to ensure the disarmament of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction".

The comments ring more than a little hollow since Tony Blair sold the illegal war to England with the claims of WMD (specifically, that Iraq could strike the UK with WMD within 45 minutes). Brown may realize how hollow it sounds and may be attempting to publicly craft his testimony -- to test it out before appearing. He's enough trouble in terms of holding onto power and he really can't afford public ridicule but that's all his current idiotic statements invite. It may not be too late for him to save Labour's election chances by announcing his resignation as Prime Minister. In England, there are many experts on the Inquiry who have followed it and written of it at length. Near the top of anyone's list should be Chris Ames who has covered it for the Guardian (the Inquiry itself -- he's covered the issues for The New Statesman, the Guardian and many others) and who runs Iraq Inquiry Digest. In a post today, he notes:
In the light of Gordon Brown indicating (as in this piece yesterday) that he intends to tell the Inquiry that it was "Saddam Hussein's failure to comply with international demands on disclosure that persuaded him that action was necessary", I think it will be necessary to analyse this position on the basis of clear evidence.
[. . .]
This, admittedly, is a brief and simplistic pen-portrait of the situation. I have to admit that these issues are by no means my strong point. So, as I say, this is an open invitation to readers and contributors to provide information as to the extent to which Iraq complied or failed to comply with UNSCR 1441. I would particularly welcome contributions from readers and contributors who believe that there was significant non-compliance and can point to it. My intention would be to make the issue the subject of a new question page.
Again, Chris Ames would be at the top of any list of experts on this topic. Others wouldn't be and for those who have e-mailed since mid-week, yes, Ava and I will be covering that dabbler at Third.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one person and, dropping back to last night.
Reuters reports 1 police officer shot dead in Tal Afar and, dropping back to last night, 1 man shot dead in Mosul.
The violence continues because the Iraq War continues -- albiet under 'new management' (Barack Obama) and apparently with a new name. Last night Jake Tapper (ABC News) broke the story that the Iraq War will drop Operation Iraqi Freedom and go by the name Operation New Dawn. US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates wrote a memo to CENTCOM's Gen David Petraeus and copied it to Adm Mike Mullen, the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs. [PDF format warning] ABC has posted the memo:


SUBJECT: Request to Change the Name of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM to Operation NEW DAWN

The requested operation name change is approved to take effect 1 September 2010, coinciding with the change of mission for U.S. forces in Iraq. Aligning the name change with the change of mission sends a strong signal that Operation IRAQI FREEDOM has ended and our forces are operating under a new mission. It also presents opportunities to synchronize strategic communication initiatives, reinforce our commitment to honor the Security Agreement, and recognize our evolving relationship with the Government of Iraq.

Jake Tapper notes objection to the name change (or the attempt to pretend something's changed) by Brian Wise speaking on behalf of Military Families United. He also notes that "Operation New Dawn" was used for the fall 2004 assault on Falluja. Greg Jaffe (Washington Post) adds, "Since U.S. forces charged across the Kuwaiti border toward Baghdad in 2003, the war has been known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The new name is scheduled to take effect in September, when U.S. troop levels are supposed to drop to about 50,000." But that wasn't always it's name, now was it? It was Operation Iraqi Liberation at first. Then it became a joke on the White House because the acronym for Operation Iraqi Liberation is "OIL."

That name was used. For those who doubt it, here's the opening statement of the White House press briefing on March 23, 2003 by Ari Fleischer.

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. Let me give you a report on the President's day. The President this morning has spoken with three foreign leaders. He began with Prime Minister Blair, where the two discussed the ongoing aspects of Operation Iraqi liberation. The President also spoke with President Putin to discuss the situation involving Iraq. They discussed cooperation on humanitarian issues. They both reiterated their strong support for the U.S.-Russia partnership, and agreed to continue, despite the differences that the two have over Iraq. And the two also discussed the United States' concerns, which President Bush discussed, involving prohibited hardware that has been transferred from Russian companies to Iraq. Following the call, the President also spoke with Prime Minister Aznar of Spain.

All the name change is another wave of Operation Happy Talk. Since the illegal war began, the ones running it have tried to trick you -- usually with the help of a very compliant press.
There is no peace in Iraq but at a time when US reporters seem unable or unwilling to write about the upcoming elections (we'll come back to that), they could be exploring other topics. For example, David Macary (CounterPunch) explores unionizing in Iraq:
Approximately 70-percent of the Iraqi economy is state-owned. And because it wasn't until recently that it even became legal to unionize public sector workers, the overwhelming majority of the workforce still remains non-union (as it is in the U.S.). It will be an uphill battle tapping into that sector. Still, even with those obstacles facing them, Iraq's unions are on the ascendancy.
The original IFTU, formed in May of 2003, was and remains affiliated with the Iraqi Communist Party (founded in 1934), and under its new name the GFIW is the only "officially recognized" labor group in the country. The other two organizations are the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) and the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq (FOUI)--more or less competitors of the GFIW. All three federations have ties with the Iraqi Communist Party.
The tendency to view Iraq (or any Moslem country, for that matter) as a religious-cultural monolith is set on its head by the presence of an active communist party. Yet, given communism's ideological underpinnings (i.e., atheistic dialectical materialism), the notion of doctrinaire Iraqi Marxists capering in the desert with twitchy Islamic fundamentalists is stubbornly counterintuitive.
But counterintuitive or not, it's true. Secular Iraq has had a significant communist influence since the 1940s, manifested by peasant uprisings, organizing drives, and the progressive leadership of the ultra-nationalist but "benign autocrat," Abdul Karim Qasim, who, in 1958, abolished the monarchy and became Iraq's first prime minister. One of Qasim's first acts was repealing the official ban on the communist party. Had Qasim not been overthrown by the Baathists, there's no telling how strong labor could have become.
And we're back to elections. I don't think it was in the snapshot yesterday but I'm dictating this quickly and three e-mails swear it was. (I believe I wrote it in an entry I typed, not yesterday's snapshot.) I had written something to the effect of the US had walked away from the elections. That seems a puzzler to some. Elections will be held in two weeks and where is the US Ambassador to Iraq? Helping in any way in Iraq? No. He's in the US. That doesn't strike you as strange? Really? Joe Biden flew in and did what he could and the push back against it was too extreme and there's the fact that Hill's not qualified for his job. So the US is walking away from the elections and saying things like, 'It's fine now.' No, it's not fine. And that will probably become very clear in the battle that follows the election and if French 'gossip'/intelligence is correct, that's when Nouri learns that buddy and pal Ahmed Chalabi cut a deal to become the next Prime Minister -- a deal that Nouri's 'friends' in Tehran not only support but helped orchestrate. If French 'gossip'/intelligence is correct.

Back to England, Danny Fitzimons is an Iraq War veteran and suffers from PTSD. In August 2009, he went back to Iraq as an employee of AmrourGroup Inc and is charged in the August 9th shooting deaths of Darren Hoare (Australian contractor), and Paul McGuigan (British contractor) and in the wounding of Iraqi Arkhan Madhi. BBC News reports that his father and step-mother continue to work on getting Danny's trial move to the United Kingdom and quotes Liz Fitsimons stating, "Imagine if it was your son or brother who was facing a death penalty. We are setting our hopes on Danny getting a fair trial, a sentence and he is brought back here." AP reports he was in an Iraqi court yesterday and informed that he needed to appear again April 7th. (To be clear, Danny is being held in an Iraqi prison. He's not wandering through the Green Zone.) Yesterday, Amnesty International issued the following:

Responding to news that Danny Fitzsimons' trial on murder charges in Iraq has been delayed until April, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
"We've always said that it's right that private military and security contractors are held fully responsible for any alleged wrongdoing when they're working in places like Iraq, but we're seriously concerned about this case.
"Iraq has a dreadful record of unfair capital trials and there is a real danger of Danny Fitzsimons being sentenced to death after a shoddy judicial process.
"At the very least we want to see the Iraqi authorities ruling out capital punishment in his case."
Iraq is one of the biggest users of the death penalty in the world and Amnesty recently revealed that Iraq is preparing to execute approximately 900 prisoners, including 17 women.
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. The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are thought to have been sentenced after unfair trials.

There is a petition on Facebook calling for Danny to be tried in the United Kingdom and not in England. Reprieve is raising funds for Danny's defense.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

From the raucous tea party rallies to the painful sacrifices families
are making behind closed doors, voter angst and anger are sweeping the
country like a storm. Directly in its path: the 2010 midterm elections.
On February 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW examines the
strong impact this groundswell has already had on electoral politics,
and what we can expect in November. Our investigation uncovers what
motivates people who've come together under the tea party banner, and how a larger dissatisfaction among voters spells trouble for incumbents
in both parties, some of whom have decided to avert the storm by leaving Congress altogether.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Gloria Borger (CNN), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Eamon Javers (Politico) and Alexis Simendinger (National Journal). Two things on Washington Week, first a PBS friend asked me to note that the website has been redesigned again and that they will be featuring many moments of past moments where the show weighed in on historic moments. (Ronald Reagan being sworn in -- the roundtable on that -- is currently offered.) So be sure to check out the website and it's new look and design (and remember the new show won't be posted online until Monday afternoon -- however, if you podcast, you will be able to download it no later than Saturday). Second, look at the line up. It would be great to say that they've had three female guests and one male guest many times before. They haven't. They have, however, had three male to one female. I've repeatedly stated that the chat & chew shows book like 'hot' radio programmed well into the 80s -- limiting women. (As late as 1985, Whitney Houston and other women suffered because many radio stations refused to play two women in a row. They'd play whole blocks of songs with male vocals but they just knew, JUST KNEW, two women in a row would run off listeners. Turns out it wasn't the listeners that were running scared, it was the programmers.) Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Bernadine Healy, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Nicole Kurakowa and Irene Natividad 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:

Blackwater 61
"Blackwater 61" is the call sign of a plane flown by the embattled government contractor Blackwater that crashed into a mountain in Afghanistan killing all onboard. The widow of one of the soldiers killed - a pilot herself - says the firm was negligent in the way it operated the flight. Steve Kroft reports.

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

Ground Zero
It's been eight years since the attack on the World Trade Center and billions of dollars have been spent, yet none of the promised buildings and memorial has been completed in what its developer calls "a national disgrace." Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Lastly, and sorry that it's "lastly," Trina's "Operation Bottom Dollar" Wednesday reported on the FTA news conference Jess gave a heads up to with "Consumer scams (Jess)" on Sunday.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Michael Kazin nails A People's History

"Howard Zinn's History Lessons" (Michael Kazin, Dissent magazine):
His failure is grounded in a premise better suited to a conspiracy-monger's Web site than to a work of scholarship. According to Zinn, "99 percent" of Americans share a "commonality" that is profoundly at odds with the interests of their rulers. And knowledge of that awesome fact is "exactly what the governments of the United States, and the wealthy elite allied to them-from the Founding Fathers to now-have tried their best to prevent."

History for Zinn is thus a painful narrative about ordinary folks who keep struggling to achieve equality, democracy, and a tolerant society, yet somehow are always defeated by a tiny band of rulers whose wiles match their greed. He describes the American Revolution as a clever device to defeat "potential rebellions and create a consensus of popular support for the rule of a new, privileged leadership." His Civil War was another elaborate confidence game. Soldiers who fought to preserve the Union got duped by "an aura of moral crusade" against slavery that "worked effectively to dim class resentments against the rich and powerful, and turn much of the anger against 'the enemy.'"

Nothing of consequence, in his view, changed during the industrial era, notwithstanding the growth of cities, railroads, and mass communications. Zinn views the tens of millions of Europeans and Asians who crossed oceans at the turn of the past century as little more than a mass of surplus labor. He details their miserable jobs in factories and mines and their desperate, often violent strikes at the end of the nineteenth century-most of which failed. The doleful narrative makes one wonder why anyone but the wealthy came to the United States at all and, after working for a spell, why anyone wished to stay.

Zinn does reveal a few moments of democratic glory-occasions when "the people," or at least a politically conscious fraction of them, temporarily broke through the elite's thick web of lies and coercion. Agrarian rebels formed cooperatives, allied with radical unionists, and charted their own financial system, the subtreasury, which they hoped would break the grip of heartless bankers. But, alas, the Populists were seduced in 1896 by William Jennings Bryan, who sold out their movement to the retrograde Democratic Party. During the Great Depression, wage earners across the industrial Midwest staged heroic sit-down strikes that demonstrated their ability to shut down the economy. But, for unexplained reasons, these working-class heroes allowed CIO unions and the New Deal state to smother their discontent within long-term contracts and bureaucratic procedures. Similarly, the civil rights movement toppled the Southern citadel of Jim Crow without taking on the capitalist system that kept the black masses mired in poverty.

THIS IS HISTORY as cynicism. Zinn omits the real choices our left ancestors faced and the true pathos, and drama, of their decisions. In fact, most Populists cheered Bryan and voted for him because he shared their enemies and their vision of a producers' republic. Unlike Zinn, they grasped the dilemma of third parties in the American electoral system, which Richard Hofstadter likened to honeybees, "once they have stung, they die." And to bewail the fact that liberal Democrats saw an advantage to supporting rights for unions and minorities is a stunning feat of historical naiveté. Short of revolution, a strategic alliance with one element of "the Establishment" is the only way social movements ever make lasting changes in law and public policy.

I knew Howard Zinn, I liked him. Once upon a time (pre-2008), there was no one I respected more. Then he went about destroying everything he stood for.

But the excerpt above? It captures 2008 without meaning to. It also captures the over-rated A People's History of the United States. That is not Zinn's best work by any means. Yes, yes, I know it's highly popular with various airheads of the celebrity set but most of them aren't what any of us would consider smart. As a remedial piece of history, it's a good starting point. It's probably excellent for middle and high school students.

But that's really it.

It's insulting little book written by a little man with little dreams and little hopes left.

It argues: 'There is no progress, only crushing defeat. We're all victims or oppressors.'

That really does capture the Howard Zinn that endorsed Barack Obama. He did it because? He wanted to glom onto something. He was buying his own silly beliefs in 'history' as fact when it wasn't fact. But he decided he's be on the winning side. It didn't matter that the side stood for nothing.

He was living out his own bad book.

(Do not e-mail me that Howard endorsed Ralph. I know who Howard endorsed and Howard knew he endorsed. When a number of us called him out personally, he came back a few days later with that weak ass and meaningless endorsement of Ralph. An endorsement, by the way, that only existed for one day's news cycle and, when talking to AlterNet at the start of 2009, one that he'd already forgotten.)

C.I. sent me the above and I would love to use C.I.'s Zinn joke (which broke up an entire room recently -- including me) but I'll just urge her to use it online at some point. It's very hilarious and very true.

On Zinn, I wish someone had pulled him aside and told him he was embarrassing himself. But there were too many around him telling him "Barack's the man." They know who they are and they better live with the fact that an increasingly feeble old man was encouraged to trash his own legacy by them. I didn't encourage that and I called him out personally. Many, many of his 'friends' can't make that same claim.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 17, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, KETK 56 is the DUMBEST TV station in the land and home to the BIGGEST LIARS as well, campaign charges/attacks fly (including 'Joe Biden is a Ba'athist!'), Last-Of-Iraqi's Dr. Mohammed and his family are granted asylum in the US, and more.

Every now and then we hear how uninformed the US public allegedly is. And a lot of gas bags snicker as if the people just decided to be mistaken or wrong. The Iraq War was sold with lies. That is George W. Bush, yes, but that is also the media. And for those who've forgotten just how bad the lies are, KETK decided to let the world know what a LIAR really looks like this morning. KETK carries NBC programming to the Tyler and Longview area in East Texas (I believe that's Smith and Greg counties). If you're able to stream, you need to do so. If not, you'll have to take my word for it.
The segment allegedly poses the question: "Has the war in Iraq been worth it?" But no sooner is that question asked, word for word, then the very ugly -- Texas can't get people on with full heads of hair? -- he's overweight, he's ugly and this is what people have to wake up to in the morning? -- Bob Brackeen jumps in to add, "Uh-uh, you know perhaps people could see -- say that about previous wars? Perhaps people even say that about WWII -- the-the defeat of Nazi Germany?" You really need to stream to get his pompous and dismissive attitude. This from an ugly man wearing an ugly tie in a suit jacket that looks like it came from Goodwill and is several sizes too large for him. But that's just the outer layer of ugly. Bobby Brackeen tosses to conservative talk radio's Garth Maier who insists that this was more than expected -- this illegal war -- by politicians, generals and citizens. Uh, no, asshole, some of us never bought the cakewalk lie.

Ass Face Maier then goes on to declare that, "To date, there have been more than 4,300 US soldiers killed in the Iraq War, we're not including Afghanistan." Two things first off. "Soldiers"? Those in the army gladly cop to that term. Is Ass Face Maier unaware that other branches feel differently and that's why the terms "troops" and "service members" are more often used? Second, more than 4,300? You're in charge of what passes for 'news' at your Hannity-Savage-Limbaugh-Beck station and you know you're going on TV and you know what the topic is and you write your own copy but you're too damn lazy to know the death toll? Is that it? 4376 was the toll this morning. I'm sorry if that's just too damn much work for you who helped cheer lead the country into the illegal war. I'm not surprised it's too much work for you because those of you cheering the loudest were of course the laziest when it came to action though your mouths were world athletes -- often placing first and second in the Liar Olympics. And for those who watch the full segment, you'll catch him say it's more than 4,300 at the start of the segment and, near the end, say that the count is 4,300.

And if you doubt it, when Ass Face is talking about how the war's not what was expected and going on about 4300? During all of that, KETK, channel 56, is showing what footage? The Twin Towers with the smoke. The Pentagon after it's hit. Yes, they're showing 9-11. Why? Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. The hijackers of the planes weren't Iraqis. George W. Bush repeatedly made the false link to 9-11, remember?

In October 2002, the Council on Foreign Relations and PEW conducted a poll.
Lee Feinstein wrote up the results, "The Pew results indicate that the imputation of an Iraq-9/11 link strongly resonates with a majority of Americans, even though most analysts inside and outside government have disputed the suggestion of a direct link, and earlier suggestions by administration officials asserting such a link have been muted. Two-thirds of those surveyed (66%) say they believe 'Saddam Hussein helped the terrorists in the September 11 attacks'." Dana Milbank and Claudia Deane (Washington Post) reported
in September 2003, "Nearing the second anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, seven in 10 Americans continue to believe that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks, even though the Bush administration and congressional investigators say they have no evidence of this."

In March of 2003, the always idiotic
Tom Zeller (New York Times) was having 'fun' at the public's expense and comparing it Jay Leno's interviews of people (people, PIg Zeller) on the street when noting that people wrongly believed there was a link between Iraq and 9-11. He insists this view "was widespread from teh beginning". Really? Widespred how? The public just decided to believe that? No the Bush administration and the media sold that LIE. The New York Times, in particular, sold that lie with the first front page story -- of any major daily US newspaper -- claiming a link -- that story depended on a source now discredited. Tom Zeller and the Times are happy to laugh at people, they're just not willing to correct their errors and own up to their role. In June of 2004, the 9-11 Commission released a finding. Dan Eggen (Washington Post) reported, "There is 'no credible evidence' that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq collaborated with the al Qaeda terrorist network on any attacks on the United States, according to a new staff report released this morning by the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." Eggan notes that Dick Cheney and George Bush had pushed a link -- a non-existant link. October 6, 2004, speaking to Margaret Warner on PBS' NewsHour (link has text, audio and video options), Daniel Benjamin talked about how the Bush administration pushed the false linkage:

I think the administration pursued a well thought out strategy of associating the two at virtually every opportunity. There was a reason why 70 percent of the American people believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11, and that is because the administration time after time put the two of them together in the same framework. Look, long after the CIA and the FBI had knocked down the story of Mohamed Atta meeting with an Iraqi agent in Prague, the vice president was peddling the story over and over again. And that's just one of many different instances of this kind of association. I think that when the vice president says that he never said that they were connected or never involved in 9/11, he is technically correct but in a way that not even a trial lawyer would find serious.

Now we could stay with this topic for the full snapshot. We could offer the BBC's coverage. We could offer any number of sources. But the media LIED about the link for years. And now when the media wants to be trusted, you've still got LIARS pimping this. Grasp that this isn't Fox "News." This is an NBC affilliate. This station serves at least two counties, two big cities (Longview and Tyler) and multiple towns (Chandler, Kilgore, Jacksonville, Marshall, etc.). And they're LYING. They're trotting back out the never-existed, long ago proven wrong link between Iraq and 9-11 and they're doing that by talking about Iraq while showing footage -- not a second, not even just a few seconds. The segment is less than seven minutes long but over 129 seconds -- two minutes and nine seconds -- is devoted to showing footage of the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

Garth Maier is a sad, sad man. At one point, playing calls, he is, eyes filled with 'regret' and, he says, surprised that so many calling in say the Iraq War wasn't worth it and, watch the screen, you know what's about to play. Yes, they immediately roll the footage of the plume smoke coming off the Twin Towers. And they just can't stop lying. Here he is:

Remember, the uh, the uh statement of President Bush, US forces entered Iraq looking for Weapons of Mass Destruction and they believed it was a strong hold for al Qaeda terrorists and what not. So that's the reason the US invasion began in the first place and, of course, Saddam Hussein would not open up to complete inspectors completelyuh to find -- to- to investigate his facilities, to see if he was involved in Weapons of Mass Destruction.

These are lies that were told and, pay attention, they're the lies still being told. All this time later. So all the beggars of
Panhandle Media (that would be so-called 'independent' media, so called 'alternative' media in the US) who couldn't make time for Iraq or for the Iraq Inquiry, grasp that all your usual b.s. didn't do a damn thing. You never accomplish a damn thing and the reason is that the other side stays on it. The other side never lets go. That's not a surprise to any of us who have lived through all the revisionary attempts on Vietnam. It shouldn't be a surprise to Panhandle Media. The Iraq War is not over, the attempts of revisionary history on it continue. It is an assault on humanity and on facts, but you go spend your two worthless weeks at the Sundance Film Festival and offers us a lot of bad interviews with bad film makers and pretend like you accomplished something, self-stroke again. In the real world, they're still selling this illegal war and you aren't doing a damn thing to stop it.

For the record, inspectors were let in. They were not allowed to complete their inspections -- that wasn't Hussein's fault, that was George W. Bush's fault. Those paying attention to the Inquiry should be aware why Bush did that. And thank you to community member Renee who saw KETK's b.s. and e-mailed the link.
A.N.S.W.E.R. and other organizations are sponsoring March 20th marches in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The march is to demand the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

yesterday's snapshot: "Speaking to DC's Institute For the Study of War today by video link, the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, declared that Chalabi and Ali al-Lami are strongly influenced by the government of Iran and that they meet with senior-level members of the Iranian government regularly. Lara Jakes and Anne Flaherty (AP) report, 'Odierno told an audience in Washington at the Institute for the Study of War that al-Lami "has been involved in various nefarious activities in Iraq for sometime" and called it "disappointing" that he was put in charge of the commission'." Correction to that, Odierno was broadcast online (live) by video link but he was in DC when speaking. That was my mistake, my apologies. From the video (transcript also available at link):

Kimberly Kagan: Elections questions. Elections. Bob.
Robert Dreyfuss: Yeah. Two very quick ones.

Kimberly Kagan: Please introduce yourself.

Robert Dreyfuss: Oh, I'm Bob Dreyfuss with The Nation magazine. One is Ali al-Lami, who was arrested by the U.S. a year and a half ago. And I was wonderinf if you could kind of clear up who this guy is and what his connection to Iran are and why he was arrested and why he was freed. And sort of the related question is, I mean, you seem reluctant to talk about Iran's influence in Iraq. But a lot of people say that the fact that Maliki, you know, didn't cave in or exceed or agree with, whatever you want to do, with the American suggestions about transparency and other things indicates that Iran has a lot more influence as the U.S. drawdown approaches, and the U.S. has a lot less.
Gen Ray Odierno: Yeah. al-Lami is a Sadrist by trade. He was arrested after an operation in Sadr City where both Iraqi security forces, U.S. civilians, and U.S. soldiers were leaving a meeting that they had witht he local government in Sadr City, and their vehicles were attacked with IEDs as they left the meeting. There were some accusations. We had some intelligence that said that al-Lami was the one who directed these attacks on these individuals. He was released in August of '09 as part of the drawdown of our detention facilities because we did not have the acutal prosecutorial evidence in order to bring him in front of a court of law in Iraq. All we had was intelligence that linked him to this attack. So, as we had some others, we had to release him. He has been involved in very nefarious activities in Iraq for some time. It is disappointing that somebody like him was in fact put in charge or has been able to run this commission inside of Iraq, in my opinion. He is, him and Chalabi clearly are influence by Iran. We have direct intelligence that tells us that. They've had several meetings in Iran, meeting with a man named Mohandas, which is an ex-council representative member -- still is a council representative member -- who was on the terrorist watch list for a bombing in Kuwait in the 1980s. They are tied to him. He sits at the right-hand side of Quds Force commandant, Qassem Soleimani. And we believe they're absolutely involved in influencing the outcome of the election. And it's concering that they've been able to do that over time. Chalabi, who you know, has been involved in Iraqi politics in many different ways over the last seven years, mostly bad.

Robert Dreyfuss blogged about the exchange this morning at The Nation. Thom Shanker (New York Times) characterizes the conversation and terms Odierno's remarks "unusually blunt". Jason Ditz (Antiwar) offers, "Though the conspiracies may be interesting to speculate about, the truth may be far simpler. Chalabi's political bloc stands to gain considerably with the effective destruction of the rival Allawi bloc, and he hardly needed a foreign dictate to see a political opportunity and take it." Eli Lake (Washington Times) adds, "The Washington Times reported in August that Mr. al-Lami was arrested in 2008 on suspicion that he was a liaison for Mr. Chalabi with an Iranian-backed militia group in Iraq known as the League of Righteous." For those unfamiliar with the League of Righteous, they currently boast of having kidnapped a 60-year-old US contractor, Issa T. Salomi. They kidnapped 5 British citizens in Baghdad and, when Barack Obama's administration entered into negotiations with them, released 3 corpses and 1 hostage alive (Peter Moore was the one alive) after their leaders were released from prison -- al-Lami is thought to have been released as part of that trade. The Obama administration's decision to enter into talks with the group was shocking considering the group also brags of their attack on a US military base in Iraq in which five American soldiers were killed. Tony Rennell (Telegraph of London) provided an adaptation of Mark Urban's new book Task Force Black which notes the League of Righteous.

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports on the sectarian violence that is bubbling back up in Iraq (never completely vanished, it is now more visible):The Mashhadani family, which is Sunni, has lived in Hurriyah for 40 years, save two years when family members were forced to flee. They say it's once again time to leave. On Jan. 23, Omar Mashhadani sat on a flimsy mattress in his living room, waiting to watch a soccer game on television. There was a knock at the door. When Omar answered, he was shot at least three times. His brother, Jassim, and his mother, Nadima Taha Yasseen, rushed toward the front door. Omar limped into his brother's arms, the Iraqi flag on his green jersey soaked in blood. No one came to the family's aid. No one helped load Omar into the minibus that took him to the hospital. No men came to pay condolences after he died last month; they were too afraid to openly mourn his death.

Fadel notes that Sunnis are fearful and that slogans are appearing such as "Death to Baathists and Wahhabis" and "Death to Sunnis." The last time Iraq held national elections for Parliament, a number of candidates campaigned by attacking other ethnic groupings and stoking the sectarian tensions. A similar dynamic has emerged in the lead up to the elections scheduled for March 7th. What followed the last elections were two years of ethnic cleansing usually referred to as "the civil war." It's all guess work at this point as to what will follow Nouri and the thugs effort to reinflame sectarian tensions.

And Joe Biden, US Vice President, is accused of being a Ba'athist.
Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) explains, "This is what W. Qanbar, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), the grouping of the Shiites parties such as Muqtada al-Sadr (the college drop out who recycled himself in drilling), Ammar A-Hakeem (the Shiite playboy and smuggler of the South, head of the notorious Badr Brigades), "Dr" Adel Abdul Mahdi, the so called Phd holder from France, who got his Doctorat from the bistrots of Pigalle, Paris . . . and a few other riffraffs -- all working for Iran . . . This is what Qanbar said on Al-Arabiya TV yesterday . . . he said that Biden was working for the Baathists -- I kid you not."

Hamza Hendawi (AP) reports that political slogans abound in Baghdad and "With three weeks left before a key nationwide vote, Baghdad looks little different from how it did back when the country was on the brink of civil war in 2006 -- divided, gripped by fear and dissected by concrete blast walls." Michael Hastings (The Hatings Report, True/Slant) reports on attacks on the Aharar political party -- Saturday, four were held for 24 hours in Sadr City where they were attempting to put up campaign visuals and Tuesday a group of worker were attacked leading up to today where an Aharar Party candidate was attacked in Maysan Province with at least one body guard killed in the attack. Hastings offers these possible reasons for the repeated assaults:

1)The Ahrar party is headed by a secular Shiite cleric named Jamal Ayad Aldin. Their list is made up of other secular candidates. We've seen the Iraqi government–in its efforts to ban over 500 candidates–target secularlists. The number two man on Ahrar's list, a secular Sunni named General Najeem Said, was in fact banned from running. This might very well be part of a larger effort by the Shiite Islamist government in Baghdad to make life more difficult for secular parties.
2) Jamal Ayad Aldin has been very, very, critical of Iranian influence in Iraq. He's also been getting some favorable TV coverage on Iraqiya, a popular satellite TV channel. So could the Iranians be trying to take out an enemy? Well, just this week top American General Ray Ordierno
accused Iran of being behind the election ban, so it's not far fetched that they'd support attacks on their enemies inside Iraq as well.

Violence continues in Iraq and is often related to the campaigns.


Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which left five people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Mosul grenade attack that injured a young girl.


Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul and 1 Kurdish military member shot dead in Tuz Khurmato.


Reuters notes that the corpse of an Iraqi Christian was discovered in Mosul with gun shot wounds. This is the 4th Iraqi Christian shot dead since Friday, a fifth was wounded in a shooting. Asia News identifies the latest killed as 20-year-old Wissam Georges and notes that he was studying to become a teacher. Jamal al-Badrani, Aseel Kami and Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) observe, "With Iraq's March 7 parliamentary vote looming, a spike in attacks against Christians could be a sign of voter intimidation by factions in the bitter Kurd-Arab dispute, or another attempt by al Qaeda to derail the election." Mujahid Mohammed (AFP) gives the names of the others killed and wounded: Tuesday 21-year-old Zia Toma was shot dead and 22-year-old Ramsin Shmael was wounded, Monday Fatukhi Munir was shot dead and Sunday Rayan Salem Elias was shot dead.

In Iraq,
Nibras Kazimi (Talisman Gate) offers, "The De-Ba'athification stunt proved hugely popular for the Iraqi National Alliance (Hakim, Ja'afari, Sadrists, Chalabi), and at least for now, it seems to have galvanized Shias around this slate to Maliki's detriment. Bolani's slate, although very well funded and starring some household names (…or at least those made prominent in the last few years, especially on the Sunni side: Abu Risha, Mashhadani, Ahmad Abdel-Ghaffour al-Samara'i), isn't having much traction. What seems to have stuck to Bolani is the assertion that the hand-held bomb detectors at checkpoints don't really work; the Ministry of Interior is being held responsible. The problem with this accusation is that Iraqis remember it every time they are snarled in traffic due to checkpoints, which is most of the day." Roads to Iraq reports on rumors that Nouri al-Maliki has made a deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government ("Kirkuk in exchange of Support Maliki's second term"). Yesterday's snapshot included: "Fanning those flames was Iraqi MP Baha al-Araji. AFP reports that that MP from Moqtada al-Sadr's political bloc declared 'the majority denomination (the Shiites) was the victim of a plot since Abu Bakr [573-634] until Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr [1912-1982].' Nouri's mouthpiece, ali al-Dabbagh, insisted the statement was outragoues and a violation of Article 7. He then warned it should not happen again." Omar (Iraq The Model) notes that "there were reports that thousands of protesters took to the streets in Diyala and Fallujah demanding that MP and senior member of Sadr movement Bahaa Al-Aaraji be prosecuted under the Justice and Accountability Law" for his remarks.

The Iraq War has created the largest refugee crisis in the world. Counting internal and external refugees, there are over four milliion. The United States has accepted very few Iraqi refugees (but always insists that's going to change . . . soon . . . maybe).
Dr. Mohammed (Last-Of-Iraqis) and his family were granted asylum to the US and left Iraq this month. He explains:

After some interviews and CIA checks I have been accepted and given a departure date which was Feb 1st. . . .We went from Baghdad to Amman and stayed there for a night and as usual the Jordanians were jerks and gave us some really hard time, despite that the trip to Jordan was the shortest but it was the hardest!! next day at 10 am we left from Amman heading to NY in a direct flight . . .Thank god for the good reading and searches I have done in which I discovered there are cribs for babies in big airplanes like the ones we were traveling by so I booked a seat in front of the crib and that made the trip much easier . . . after more than 13 hours flight and to be honest it wasn't that hard at all as we expected and Linda (My daughter) behaved better than adults . . . we reached JFK airport and I was surprised for how easy the procedures were comparing to Amman . . . we just finished our papers with the IOM and that took about 2 hours (because we were travelling with a group of 10 families) . . . . .We went from Baghdad to Amman and stayed there for a night and as usual the Jordanians were jerks and gave us some really hard time, despite that the trip to Jordan was the shortest but it was the hardest!! next day at 10 am we left from Amman heading to NY in a direct flight . . . Thank god for the good reading and searches I have done in which I discovered there are cribs for babies in big airplanes like the ones we were traveling by so I booked a seat in front of the crib and that made the trip much easier . . . after more than 13 hours flight and to be honest it wasn't that hard at all as we expected and Linda (My daughter) behaved better than adults . . . . we reached JFK airport and I was surprised for how easy the procedures were comparing to Amman . . . we just finished our papers with the IOM and that took about 2 hours (because we were travelling with a group of 10 families) then we headed to the counters and it was a matter of seconds, just a fingerprint and a photo and that's it! No body search? No interrogation? No hours of waiting? No there was nothing like that, everyone is smiling and welcoming and that was a real push up . . . and there I was, the electric door opened and I was in NY . . . Goooood, what a clean air, what a great weather . . . . the air feels really different, the clean streets, the lights, the cars…everything is different . . . they took us in a bus to the motel which was like a shit hole, it was disgusting and in a very bad neighborhood, I wasn't able to see NY, we stayed in the ugly motel near LaGuardia airport for a night and the next morning we went to the airport and headed to Dallas TX at about 11am and from Dallas we went to Houston TX which is our final destination . . . through these trips I made some impressions about the Americans in general which proved to be right till now, I discovered that they are really nice and smiling to you when you meet their eyes, they are so calm and I like that.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

From the raucous tea party rallies to the painful sacrifices families are making behind closed doors, voter angst and anger are sweeping the country like a storm. Directly in its path: the 2010 midterm elections. On February 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW examines the strong impact this groundswell has already had on electoral politics, and what we can expect in November. Our investigation uncovers what motivates people who've come together under the tea party banner, and how a larger dissatisfaction among voters spells trouble for incumbents in both parties, some of whom have decided to avert the storm by leaving Congress altogether.

the washington postdana milbank
tom zeller jr.
dan eggen
pbsthe newshourmargaret warner
the nationrobert dreyfuss
the new york timesthom shanker
layla anwar
antiwarjason ditzthe washington timeseli lake
leila fadel
now on pbs

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Barack overrules/sidesteps Congress

Carol E. Lee (Politico) has a brief story where she cites an unnamed White House source telling her that Barack will create the bipartisan committee (that the Senate rightly shot down) by executive order.

We need to be noting this. C.I. said we should have been stressing it. She pointed that out Sunday. Said we needed it loudly on the record that Congress refused it. So people would get that Barack is overriding Congress to put this committee together.

That is what he's doing, if the anonymous source of Lee's is correct.

Which only reminds me of the fools insisting, "Kill the filiburster! Kill the filibuster!" I heard Amy Goodman, of all people, calling for it and thought, "You stupid idiot." She wants 'majority rule.'

Really, Goody Whore?

Because "majority rule" would not have led to a number of the Civil Rights victories.

Equally true, we don't want: Mob rule. There's a fine line between the two. Our system -- which I know Red Diaper Baby Amy doesn't care about -- was created for many reasons and one was to protect the minority from mob rule.

But what really ticks me off is that these idiots aren't all young.

To those 20 and younger, I would just say, "Hey,newbie, wait until you sprout some pubes, then we'll talk."

Meaning? If you've lived long enough you know one party's never in charge forever. You don't destroy something you're going to need. You don't burn the bridge you may need to cross.

That's basic.

"TV: Human Target" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):

Listen to any Pacifica radio program with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Note how many times the host and/or guest(s) tosses out Hillary's name to deflect from Barack. Note how many times the host rips apart Hillary Clinton for what the president has done. Note how many times Barack is called out.

We think you'll quickly grasp that Pacifica's all-time human target remains Hillary Clinton. John Murtha died last week and Amy Goodman 'marked' the passing by . . . playing her insults of Hillary. It's non-stop, never ending hatred from Amy Goodman and so many of the on air loons of Pacifica.

And in a real world like that, it's completely plausible that Christopher Chance could be needed week after week to protect one person after another. In fact, we'd suggest that they do an episode about a bitter Nancy Kulp look alike who never made it as a writer and sank as a radio host, someone with zero accomplishments to her name but who keeps pouring out sheer hatred day after day. Have her plot to kill the Secretary of State and let Chance fight her to her bloody death. Should Amy Goodman be too busy to take the part, we'd also highly recommend Laura Flanders.

And thinking of Amy Goodman and Laura Flanders and the two bitter no-talents' never ending assault on Hillary had us realizing that it wasn't envy or hatred that fueled their actions, it was the realization that their own lengthy lives had meant and resulted in so little. Maybe the true motivator of crime is absence of accomplishment? That would certainly explain Mark David Chapman as well as Goodman and Flanders.

I love that and do think they've made a strong proposition: Absence of accomplishment leads to the layers of emotions such as envy and hatred.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, February 16, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the mock/joke 'elections' in Iraq remain scheduled for March 7th, US Gen Ray Odierno fingers two as working closely with Iran, Iraq's human rights record is examined in Geneva and more.
On the most recent
Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) which began airing Friday, Jasim al-Azawi addressed the tensions stemming from the election chaos (national elections are currently scheduled for March 7th) with guests Anas al-Tikriti and Saad al-Muttalibi.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Anas, let me ask you the last question in my intro. Is al-Malki upholding the law or is he playing with fire?

Anas al-Tikriti: Jasim, I think that most people recognize electioneering when they see it and while most people would recognize that we entered electioneering mode several weeks ago, practially, well we are in election mode. But several weeks ago, every single stance and every single statement feeds into the election campaign. But this, I fear, this risks to drag the entire country back to the brink. One thing that we were all looking forward to -- and you and your viewers will recognize that I'm an incredible, fierce critic to the entire political structure that was set up in 2003 -- but we were looking forward to this coming election as being some sort of landmark and turning point in the history of Iraq in terms of us transcending the sectarian lines that were drawn over the past six, seven years. Unfortunately, it seems there are elements -- and particularly al-Maliki, surprisingly -- who initiated the national reconcialition effort a couple of years ago and inisisted that that was his slogan, it seems that now he is hell bent on drawing the entire country back to where we were three, four years ago. There is nothing good that can come from this.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Not only that, Saad al-Muttalibi, but the appeal panel that was constituted and empowered by Iraqi Parliament to look into the banning of candidates has just given its verdict and that verdict is it's going to exclude many that's on the list, primarily Saleh al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani. How will that impact the political process? Many people feel that violence may come back with vengence.

Saad al-Muttalibi: No. Definitely no. No return to violence. The rulings have clearly indicated that em, uh, a political section or sector of people in Iraq will not be able to participate in the coming elections. And those are the Ba'athists. Those Ba'athists were initially -- under item seven of the Constitution -- were barred from entering politics and the political life in Iraq; therefore, we don't see -- I personally don't see any chance in what is happening. The hype, the excitement that took place, was directed because Mr. Saleh al-Mutlaq's name was mentioned on the list. Him as being an activist within the political process --

Anas al-Tikriti: But Saad --

Saad al-Muttalibi: -- within the last four years has proved.

Anas al-Tikriti: But Saad, if I may, if I may interrupt you. The ironice -- the actual hilarity of this situation is that Dhafir al-Ani andSaleh al-Mutlaq have both been members of the Parliament that drew up the Constitution that approved of Article 7, that you're talking about, over the past six, seven years. Why now? Why come up with this particular decision now if not to actually inflame tensions that we were hoping were left to lie this time around and then hopefully allow us to depart from violence? Why now? They were part of the Parliament that you sit in, al-Maliki sits in. They were part of approving the Constitution that now they're being vilified for. As well as that Article 7 you mention -- it also mentions besides the Ba'athists, it also mentions sectarian parties. Are you telling me that there are no sectarian parties who are going to fight this coming election?

Saad al-Muttalibi: All sectarian -- and as you clearly said, sectarian, Ba'athist, whatever, they are to be banned from the coming elections. The list? You mentioned only two names. But the list was mainly constituted of two-thirds Shia and one-third Sunni who were excluded from participating from the elections so there is no question that this is being pointed at a particular section of society -- sector of society. It's not --

Jasim al-Azzawi: How do you explain, Saad al-Muttalibi, that the Defense Minister is also excluded.

Saad al-Muttalibi: Because he was an ex-Ba'athist. [Chuckles at himself.] Nobody decides, there is a data base --

Anas al-Tikriti: Saad, Saad, how many --

Saad al-Muttalibi: -- with a red mark.

Anas al-Tikriti: How many, how many of your colleagues were ex-Ba'athists? How many of your colleagues? How many Iraqis do you know, do you work with today, who are leaders of parties that are going to fight the next elections are Ba'athists. More than 78% of the Iraqi people had to become Ba'athists in the past. All along, this law is a wrong, immoral law simply because it was inoperable and secondly because it would reach people who had to join the Ba'ath Party simply because of the brutal regime of the past.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Before he answers [cross talk] the question, Saad al-Muttalibi, the governor of Baghdad has threatened to dismiss all Ba'athists from office.

For those wondering, al-Muttalibi never answered the host's question. Nor did he ever answer the question of "why now?" That question was on the mind of
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) recently, "Maybe I can understand it if the commission was banning only newcomers, new names -- new faces that have not been part of the political scene before -- people whom it has just now investigated and decided to reject. But to suddenly, after years of silence, and in the critical period of time that precedes national elections, cross out names that have been part of Iraqi politics for years – How "un-political" a ruling can that be?" Saturday, Reuters noted seven people wounded in Baghdad bombings in what are seen as attacks on various political parties or politicians (including Saleh al-Mutlaq who is 'banned' from participation). That was only reported attack. Monday Xinhua reported a political party's office in Baghdad was hit by a bombing injuring a security guard and damaging the office Meanwhile Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) translated a bulletin from Iraq's south:Title : Bulletin from the movement for the liberation of the South, condemning the statements of Ahamedinejad and his interference in Iraqi affairs. " With all the arrogance, audacity and disrespect towards the feelings of the Iraqi government, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi soil, Ahmedinejad proclaims that he will not allow the return of the Baathists to Iraq. And here we are not debating whether the Baath party should return or not. We are however very surprised by the arrogance of this leader who stated his intentions, knowing full well that this public statement is an open admission of his country's involvement in Iraqi affairs. And by doing so, he (Ahmadinejad) is embarrassing his friends more than his opponents, but it seems that the game is now in the open, this time round. The Tehran government is clearly the winner out of this (American) Occupation of Iraq, otherwise Ahmedinejad would have not said what he said. But let Ahmadinejad and company know that there is a people in Iraq, who will never allow their occupation and let them know that their end as well as that of their (Persian) empire dream, will be made a reality through Iraqi hands, by the will of Allah. And who is Ahmedinejad to speak on behalf of the Iraqis. Let him and those who follow him know that if a people want a thing, no one can stop them and if a people hate a thing, nothing will make them love it, even if that thing covers their hands with rings and rosaries. We, in the movement for the liberation of the South, consider this statement by Ahmadinejad, a public admission that all the decisions taken by the Justice and Accountability committee were made in Tehran and by Iranian orders. We shall retain our right of reply. So from today onwards, we do not want anyone to shy away from intervening in Iranian affairs, whoever that person is, in removing the rule of the mullahs. Had Iran not started and intervened in Iraqi affairs, we would have never contemplated interfering in its affairs. The one who started this is the real oppressor. We are committed and adamant about the liberation of Iraq and her people first, and the Iranian people second, from this fascist tyrannical regime."

Saturday, the New York Times offered the editorial "
Mr. Maliki's Dangerous Ambition" which included:

To resolve a dispute with the Tikrit provincial council this week, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq did what any good autocrat would do:
He sent in the army. The problem is, Mr. Maliki isn't supposed to be an autocrat. And the United States didn't train Iraq's Army so it could be used for political coercion.This is just the most recent example of thuggery by Mr. Maliki, who is determined to do anything he can to win re-election next month. If he and his Shiite-led government continue this way, the vote will not be seen as legitimate and opposition groups may well return to violence. That would be a disaster for Iraqis and the United States, which is supposed to be on its way out of Iraq.

Today, the Toledo Blade offered the editoiral "
Don't yield to Iraqi stunts" I which includes:

On the one hand, the occupation government's snub of U.S. pleas to open up the elections is evidence of some independence on its part, even if it is in defense of an unhelpful approach.On the other -- pointing toward a more-likely outcome -- excluding Sunni and nonsectarian candidates from the electoral process leaves the field clear to Mr. Maliki and the Shiite Iraqi National Congress of former U.S. favorite Ahmed Chalabi. That would invite a Sunni boycott, as occurred in 2005, and likely subsequent civil disorder.

Ahmed Chalabi? If Bush were the 'tough guy' his cheerleaders think he was, Chalabi would have been found with a bullet to his head long ago. If the US was the democracy it's supposed to be, Chalabi would be standing trial -- right alongside Bush and Cheney -- for War Crimes. Instead the coward and double and triple agent roams Iraq, his knuckles dragging against the ground.
AFP reports Coward Chalabi has accused the United States of 'interference.' Interference? From Chalabi? The man who spent over a decade building lies and pressure to force an Iraq War -- a war he was too cowardly to attempt on his own. And now he wants to accuse foreign governments of interference?He's even more vocal with Iran's Press TV:Press TV: Why do think Washington has been behind a lot of pressure on the Iraqi government into allowing these individuals who have been affiliated with the Baath party to run for office? Chalabi: It is unfortunate that the United States has put very narrow foreign policy interests in its relationship with Iraq over the will of Iraqi people. I believe that what the US is following in this regard is the continuing conflict towards Iran. They think that the presence of Baathists in the government and parliament of Iraq would be important card in their hands in stopping the so called spreading influence of Iran in Iraq. It's unfortunate that a coward like Ahmed Chalabi who fled from Iraq shaking in his boots and pissing in his drawers and then hid out for years and years in other countries only to take his yellow tail back to Iraq AFTER the US invaded was ever installed into leadership. The Iraqi people deserve better, a lot better. Gordon Campbell (New Zealand's Scoop) noted, "Amazingly, there are signs that the shortlist of viable compromise figures includes the perinnial Shia opportunist Ahmad Chalabi, the former Jordanian fraudster who was the US neo-cons favourite candidate to lead the nation after the 2003 invasion -- at least until he turned out to be a double agent working for the Iranians." Speaking to DC's Institute For the Study of War today by video link, the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, declared that Chalabi and Ali al-Lami are strongly influenced by the government of Iran and that they meet with senior-level members of the Iranian government regularly. Lara Jakes and Anne Flaherty (AP) report, "Odierno told an audience in Washington at the Institute for the Study of War that al-Lami 'has been involved in various nefarious activities in Iraq for sometime' and called it 'disappointing' that he was put in charge of the commission."
Over the long weekend, Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported that Ahmed and his boy-pal Ali al-Lami run the extra-legal Justice and Accountability Commission which has banned various candidates including Saleh al-Mutlaq who states, "It is not possible to raise the white flag. The entire country and its people shall be threatened." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Mr. Mutlaq, a member of Parliament since 2006, held the No. 2 spot on the ballot of Iraqiya, a secular coalition of Sunnis and Shiites that has emerged as a strong rival of the election bloc led by Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. The No. 3 candidate on the Iraqiya list, Dhafir al-Ani, was also barred from running." Pure coincidence that Nouri's two biggest rivals got knocked out of the race, right? Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) explains that al-Mutlaq's Iraqi National Movement party has temporarily "suspended campaigning Saturday and hinted at a possible boycott of next month's elections to protest a decision to uphold a ban on candidates because of their alleged ties to the outlawed Baath Party. [. . .] The group called for an urgent meeting of top leaders, a review of the banning process and an emergency session of parliament." Monday, Naseer Al-lly (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports that now Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi is being accused of "supporting terrorism" by MP Asharq al-Awsat. This is what passes for 'campaigning.' Oliver August (Times of London) observed, "Politicians are engaged in crude power games meant to destroy rather than defeat opponents. Murder, blackmail, corruption and intimidation are a central part of the process used to choose the next government." Mohammed Abbas (Reuters) notes that "Maliki is likely aware of his dented popularity as he has reverted to proven vote-winning methods, like stirring up Shi'ite fears of a return of Saddam's Baath party, to win the ballot, analysts say." It's 'campaigning.' Of course, the last time 'campaigning' like this took place, ethnic cleansing (popularly known as "the civil war") took place for the following two years. Fanning those flames was Iraqi MP Baha al-Araji. AFP reports that that MP from Moqtada al-Sadr's political bloc declared "the majority denomination (the Shiites) was the victim of a plot since Abu Bakr [573-634] until Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr [1912-1982]." Nouri's mouthpiece, ali al-Dabbagh, insisted the statement was outragoues and a violation of Article 7. He then warned it should not happen again.


Article 7 was violated? Well that would mean expulsion from the elections. That's exactly what was established on Inside Iraq -- by both guests. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi service members and left two bystanders wounded, another Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi military officers injured as well as one bystander and a Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi police officers and left nine people injure.


Reuters notes 1 Iraqi Christian was shot dead in Mosul and another wounded and, dropping back to yesterday for the rest, 1 Christian was shot dead in Mosul and 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul. And Reuters notes a Kirkuk shooting today at a police officer's house by unknown assailants who left the police officer injured.


Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul on Monday.

Aaron J. Leichman (Christian Post Reporter) explains, "Iraq officially kicked off the campaign season Friday and Christians, while a minority, have typically been the election-time targets of insurgents who try to push them out of the electoral process by casting fear into them and driving them out of their homeland" and that, since Friday, 1 Iraqi Christian has been kidnapped while four have been shot. Jalal Ghazi's "Eye on Arab Media: Middle East Christains Face Uncertain Future" (New American Media) focuses on the entire region and we'll zoom in on Iraq:Al Sharqiya satellite television in Baghdad reported that out of the 1.4 million Iraqis Christians who lived in Iraq before 2003, only 800,000 remain. Al Jazeera English also reported that over half of the estimated 20,000 Christians who lived in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq prior to 2003 have already left.Iraqi Christians are kidnapped and murdered; their shops and churches are burned and destroyed and their leaders assassinated. According the London based Arab News Broadcast (ANB), some Christian communities now dig trenches to protect their homes and neighborhoods.It is unclear who is behind the acts of violence against the Iraqi Christians. Some accuse extremist groups. Others accuse the Kurds, saying that they are trying to intimidate Christians into moving out of contested areas such as Kirkuk and Mosul. Others blame the United States and British-backed Iraqi government.Father Shafiq Abu Zaid, an Oxford University lecturer, told ANB, "The Christians constantly feel that a war is being declared on them and they don't know where it is coming from"What is clear, however, is that Christians were not under attack when the former regime was in power. Abu Zaid said that despite Saddam Hussein's many shortcomings, Iraqi Christians felt safer under the Baath regime of the former president.Baath, which means resurrection, was a form of pan-Arab nationalism that was founded by the Syrian Christian Michael Aflaq. It is still the ideological foundation in Syria, where large numbers of Iraqi Christians fled."You can't compare the situation of Iraqi Christians when they were under Saddam to now. They were much better off," said Abu Zaid. They were safe and they held very influential positions, including Tariq Aziz, Iraq's former deputy prime minister. He was sentenced to 15 years to prison in March 2009 by the Iraqi supreme court.The collapse of pan-Arab nationalism in Iraq created a vacuum that was quickly filled by many extremist groups, which have been further radicalized by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. These groups do not necessarily differentiate between Iraqi Christians and western Christians, whom they blame for the bloodshed in Arab and Muslim countries.

Meanwhile in Geneva, the
United Nations' Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review Working Group is holding their seventh session to examine human rights issues involving several countries: Qatar, Nicharagua, Italy, El Salvador, Bolivia, Fiji, Gambia, San Marino, Kazakhstan, Angola, Iran, Madagascar, Iraq, Slovenia, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The latest session will mean 112 nation-states out of 192 that are members of the UN will have had their records examined. Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters) reports the US, UK, France, Germany and Canada were some of the nations who "pressed Iraq on Tuesday to clean up its human rights record by investigating allegations of torture, halting honour killings of women and abolishing the death penalty." Michael Kelpsch (Germany) called out the assaults on journalists and freedom of the press, Julie Garfieldt Kofoed (Denmark) expressed concern about "the widespread use of torture" and "the short period of time between sentencing and execution."

We'll note the statment of Douglas Griffiths, US Charge d'Affaires, in full:

We welcome this opportunity to participate in the Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review of Iraq and we welcome the Minister of Human Rights and the rest of the Iraqi delegation. We view this as an opportunity to collaborate with government representatives, non-governmental organizations, and UN officials who share our strong interest in helping Iraq's democratically elected government improve the human rights situation. We hope to see the new government sustain and improve its commitment to human rights by standing up and empowering the constitutionally-mandated Human Rights Commission.
We commend Iraq's efforts to improve respect for human rights and address poor prison conditions, investigate allegations of detainee abuse, and bring all detention facilities and prisons under the authority of the Ministry of Justice. To make further progress, we recommend that Iraq complete the transfer of detainees to Ministry of Justice custody. Additionally, we recommend that Iraq continue to improve conditions in Ministry-operated facilities and hold accountable any law enforcement official suspected of involvement in torture, abuse, or coerced confessions.
The United States is deeply concerned about the protection of vulnerable communities, in particular religious and ethnic minorities, women, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Continued attacks on religious places of worship, kidnappings of clerics, and other sectarian violence hamper the ability of Iraqis to practice their religion freely. The Government's role in providing security for minority communities and allowing them to expand their full political rights needs to be strengthened. We welcome Iraq's efforts to investigate acts of violence and intimidation against minority communities, and recommend that Iraq continue to combat the culture of impunity surrounding violence against these vulnerable populations. We recommend that Iraq thoroughly investigate crimes against women and minorities and fully implement laws intended to enforce constitutional protections for women and minorities, including laws against discrimination, and extend greater protection for these groups from targeted attacks.
We recommend that Iraq make efforts to ensure that all Iraqis, including religious minorities, can participate in elections that are safe, fair, and free of intimidation and violence, and make certain that the new government fully protects religious freedom.
The United States further recommends that Iraq do more to ensure that the hard-fought freedom of expression is guaranteed by the government and protected under Iraqi laws and in Iraqi courts. The United States also recommends that Iraq take steps to end intimidation and abuse of journalists by government officials and hold all perpetrators of violence against and harassment of journalists fully accountable.

For those attempting to keep track, Griffiths now joins US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Dept spokespersons for noting the assault on Iraq's LGBT community. Others in the executive branch of the US government? Not a peep.

Finally from from Ron Jacobs' "
Once Again, Get the Hell Out!" (Dissident Voice) we'll note the following: :Perhaps, there was once a time when most westerners could pretend that the US-led onslaught against the Afghan people was a good thing. Perhaps they convinced themselves that because the government of that country had allowed Osama Bin Laden to live in the mountains there that there was reason enough to attack his neighbors and destroy what remained of their nation. Perhaps, too, westerners (especially US citizens) believed that the true purpose of the US-led military mission in Afghanistan was to capture Bin Laden and destroy his terror network.Yes, perhaps there was a time when the facade of justice and righteous revenge provided enough of a moral veneer to the US war in Afghanistan that even intelligent westerners could live with the death and destruction occurring in their name. However, that time is long past. The war has gone on for more than eight years without any sign of cessation. Indeed, since Barack Obama took up residence in the White House, the casualties in that war have spiked. There are at least 40,000 more US troops in the country since that date last January and another thirty or forty thousand more getting ready to go there. In addition, the number of mercenaries has similarly increased .The reasons provided for this escalation range from going after terrorists to creating a civil society. As I write, another offensive against Afghans is being prepared. It primary purpose is to install a governor appointed by the US-created government in Kabul. No matter what the reason, it is painfully clear that those of us expecting a truthful explanation for Washington's presence in Afghanistan will not receive it from those who continue to send troops and weaponry over there. Nor will they receive it from those in Congress that continue to fund this lethal endeavor.Yet, the antiwar movement–which should know better–remains virtually silent. A day of bi coastal demonstrations is planned for March 20, 2010, but otherwise there is not even a whisper of protest. Students go to classes while their generational cohorts in uniform face the prospect of death and killing. Antiwar organizations send out the occasional email or call for action, but there is no action. Congressmen and women ignore the letters and faxes constituents send them asking that they refuse to vote for the next war-funding legislation. Furthermore, these legislators refuse to make the connection between the destruction of the US economy and the trillion dollars spent to kill Afghans and Iraqis the past eight years. The media rarely covers the war except to promote the glory of the men and women sent to do America's dirty work. There is no critical debate in the mainstream media. Opponents of Washington's imperial program–rarely acknowledged in the mainstream media at any time–are now completely ignored.

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