Friday, February 26, 2010

Iraq, films

"Updates on the Iraqi 'Elections'" (Layla Anwar, An Arab Woman Blues):
- A martial law/curfew will take effect in all of Iraq, starting on the eve of the 6th of March and that for 48 hours. That will include the closing down of ALL borders, airports, streets, etc...(some democracy huh !)

- Killings continue in Baghdad and its provinces. In Baghdad,- Hurriya district, 4 women gunned down by the silencer, Baghdad's morgue is receiving more bodies - total number so far 70, killing of a judge by the famous silencer and the number of judges killed since 2003 according to the puppet police is 15.

- a cheap ploy by Al.Maliki's government in encouraging 20'000 members of the ex-Iraqi army to apply for jobs in the government. A cheap ploy and a dangerous one because last time a similar offer was made, about 2 years ago, hundreds of ex army officers presented themselves for their pension and were murdered in broad daylight in front of the ministries. So if any of you are reading this - make sure you don't fall in this trap, however difficult your situation is now.

-3 mortars fell on Green zone and a "rain" of mortars fell on an unused airport now transformed into a joint American/Iraqi base in Al-Ammara in Mayssan province - Southern Iraq.

- Diyala - a US convoy was attacked with road explosives.

- Baquba - a joint US/Iraq force caught 4 members of Iranian special forces with another cache of explosives

- Mosul : a witch hunt against Iraqi Christians is taking place in the Nineveh province, 6 have been gunned down by the famous "silencer gun". Iraqi Christians are fleeing Mosul in droves.

- On the Kurdish front a serious split is taking place. A splinter group from the PUK of Jalal Tabalani calling itself the Party of Change is now in some alliance with the Kurdish Islamic group and a few Kurdish communists, their main grievances - lack of transparency, corruption and dictatorship by the Kurdish leadership.

On another note regarding the Kurds and this is an VERY IMPORTANT POINT so pay attention please.
In the past the Kurds managed to secure about 58 seats in the Iraqi parliament, this time around, they are aiming for more seats BECAUSE - MOSUL, KIRKUK and a part of DIWANIYA is placed under the Kurdish electoral list.

- Snoring General Odierno has asked has made a special preliminary request to Obama to keep a good number of troops notably in KIRKUK past their deadline to secure "peace in the area". Obama has given a preliminary OK.

- VP Tariq Hashimi during his visit to Egypt states that IRAQ needs an ARAB government. (No shit - Did he just discover dynamite or what ?!)

- Al- Lami (Chalabi's best friend) of the Justice and Accountability committee has not only banned Saleh Al-Mutlaq from the elections but is presenting him to Iraq's Higher criminal/penal courts. Dr.Al-Mutlaq has been urged by people who support him to leave Baghdad for his own safety, something which he refuses to do...

C.I. had to flip the template and the new one changes up the permalinks meaning that if someone posts, their site goes to the top until someone else posts, etc. So I saw that Layla Anwar was at the top and wanted to grab something from her.

She's a very interesting woman and I love her anger. If you're not angry, you're not paying attention.


I am just tired. Long sessions today. The elections, back to the elections.

The smartest move a crook like Nouri made to cover his own tracks was the insistance that journalists be registered. He knew that would take out most of the in depth reporting by the West since they really do rely on stringers -- both to go out throughout Iraq and also to find the promising leads.

I'm not sure how much truth we would have gotten anyway from, for example, the New York Times. But what's his little 'rule' has done is, in effect, turn the Western reporters into human veal. They're penned in and unable to move freely as usual but now they can't even rely on the Iraqi reporters working for their outlets.

I think there's going to be huge fraud (I base that on the fraud that took place in 2005) and I don't think anyone's going to care. I think international observers see their role solely as legitimatizing the vote by any means necessary.

Those are my thoughts, anyway.

"Where's the election coverage" (The Common Ills):
Turning to an idiot named Martha P. Nochimson whose life made her hateful and stupid.
At Salon, she insists Kathryn Bigelow is a transvestite and means it as an insult. She's got her panties in a wad because Kathryn directed The Hurt Locker. And she's convinced herself that it's a 'macho' movie and 'unnatural' to women. Yes, folks, that's how disgusting Martha is, all these years after women have had to fight for equality, prove that could do any job they wanted to go out for, along comes Martha to trash Kathryn.

And where is the feminist outcry calling this out? For a second, let's pretend that Kathryn's a lesbian. (She's not, we're pretending.) Would it be politic for Martha to call her a transvestite? No. And if Kathryn had what was seen as a masculine appearance, would Martha get away with this 'critique'?

No, she wouldn't.

So why is she getting away with it now and she's not the only one pulling this s**t?

Martha wants to whine about Julie & Julia not getting 'respect.' She wants to compare Kathryn to Nora Ephron.

There is no comparison. First off, Julie & Julia was a flat movie. With the exception of Meryl, the performances are bad, the script is bad and the source material was bad. The direction is static. There are some wonderful shots of food due to Nora's historic obsession with food. That's really all it's got.

Nora is a former columnist and reporter (and media critic). She's very familiar with the word. And that hasn't translated to a visual talent. 'Her' best movie remains When Harry Met Sally . . .
which she wrote but Rob Reiner directed. Nora really doesn't have a visual sense. Not a problem for a writer but a problem for a director.

There are many directors with a visual sense -- Nora isn't one of them. Which is why she needs Meg Ryan to invest a visual into her material. Close ups create the visuals for Nora's film which is why the non-Meg Ryan films flop. There are few actresses or actors who can carry that kind of weight/burden. (Nora's worst films -- Mixed Nuts and Lucky Numbers -- tend to leave audiences exasperated and wondering what the director sees since it appears the camera meanders around with no rhyme or reason.) If you doubt Nora's lack of visual expertise, contrast the bookstore scene in WHMS, directed by Rob, where Meg and Carrie Fisher spot Billy Crystal. Rob uses the space and the framing aspect of the camera as well as angles to add a nice tension to the scene. Contrast that with Meg spying on Tom Hanks in Sleepless in Seattle and realize how the whole thing is basically a close up that exists with no care taken to angles or visuals other than push the camera into Meg's face and make her sell the whole damn scene. Remember too that it turns out her character is almost run over in that scene and there's no visual set up for it, there's nothing done to shape it. The whole scene depends on Meg. That's a big burden to carry and Nora's very lucky to get Meg to play those roles.

Nora has directing strengths. They include a rhythm that can't be topped when she's really going. It leads to scenes that really snap. But in terms of a visual feel, she's never had it. Fair or not, the directors nominated for Best Director (all but four have been men) are usually known for their visuals. A good craftsperson doesn't generally get nominated. That doesn't mean they aren't talented (and Nora is talented), it doesn't mean they can't make a profitable film (Nora's directed many hits) or one that reaches audiences (Nora's Sleepless reached in ways that many directors never do). It just means a writing award may consider the style and a directing award may focus on the visuals.

Kathryn has a visual sense, she's always had a strong visual. Whether it was Point Break, Blue Steel, Strange Days or what have you, the visual sense, a strong director's eye has always been present. There's really no reason to compare the two. It's amazing that Kathryn has to compete against four men for the title of Best Director AND Martha wants her to compete with every woman director as well. Martha's the one who raised the comparison to Nora or I would've kept quiet. I know Nora and I've never offered a take publicly on her films other than that I enjoyed them. But if Martha wants to go there, let's go there. (I'm not taking the bite on Nancy whom I also know and who does have a strong visual. But I like Nancy more than I like Nora -- a lot more.)

Kathryn has made films that speak to her interests and they don't speak to Martha's so Martha trashes her as being a man in drag and think she's offered a criticism of Kathyrn when all she's done is reveal how sexist she is and how determined she is to set the cause back for all women. I know Kathryn, leave that aside. I have campaigned (offline) with other voters, leave that aside. What Martha's done is say that a woman must do something 'girly' or not be considered a woman. That's sexism.

Martha's slobbering over Quentin Tarantino while trashing Kathryn. I'm not aware of any strands of racism running through Kathryn's films. I'm not aware of her attempting to make a buck off exploiting racial stereotypes. But Martha loves her some Quentin and thinks his movies -- violence and all -- are perfectly natural. I'm not remembering Kathryn doing such blantant rip offs of Brian DePalma that she should be sued in a court of law. (That would be Quentin for the Daryl Hannah hospital scenes in Kill Bill Vol. I.) I'm not remembering a scene in one of Kathryn's films where we're supposed to laugh as Bridget Fonda (or any woman) is shot dead because she won't 'shut up.' That doesn't bother 'feminist' Martha. Quentin, famous for comparing Madonna's vagina to "Bubble Yum" (implying Madonna's had 'too much' sex) in his first film, doesn't bother Martha. But Kathryn -- who has long been the female action director -- directing The Hurt Locker is 'unnatural.'

A woman and her work are being termed 'unnatural' because Martha P. Nochimson thinks women should just be interested in romantic coupling. And this sexism on Martha's part isn't being called out?

This is why women lose over and over. Not just awards but in real life. We let a Martha act bitchy (only term for it) and refuse to call her out. She needs to be called out. How dare she declare any woman to be a 'transvestite' (as an insult) in order to spit on that woman's choices. You better grasp that -- and the US is in multiple wars right now -- it's a very short step from trashing Kathryn as 'masculine' to trashing women in the military as the same. You better grasp that Martha's attack on Kathryn is of the same cloth and fabric. And it needs to stop, it damn well needs to stop.

Martha, in the supposed name of feminism, wants to tell all women to sit down and look pretty in a dress while the boys go outside and play. There's nothing feminist about that and there's nothing feminist about Martha. A functioning feminism would result in Martha P. Nochimson being loudly and repeatedly called out.

Jennifer Merin actually knows a thing or two about film.
She offers a critique of The Hurt Locker for Women's eNews.

I read the above yesterday morning and thought, "Friday, I'm cross-posting or re-posting." That is just too good. I love C.I.'s writing. I always have and something like this, it reads like it's spoken. (Which is the feel C.I. went after online from the start, a conversation.)

I think she's saying something so amazing in the above and saying it amazingly well.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, election frenzy continues in Iraq, KBR gets a set back as well as a win (on a technicality), did Gordon Brown scream "You ruined my life" at a well known figure and why, Iraqi Christians flee Mosul, and more.

Iraq elections start in less than seven days (voting lasts from March 5th through March 7th) and there's been very little coverage of the campaigns. In part that's due to the restrictive press environment in Iraq which has only gotten more restrictive.
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) speaks with Iraqi journalist Nadjha Khadum who made her name with repeated investigative reporting during Saddam Hussein's era. She says that back then, you only had to prove that it was true. Today, it's much worse and journalists are targeted for assassinations for exposes. (This is true throughout Iraq -- in the KRG as well as central and southern Iraq.) Since the start of the Iraq War, things have only gotten worse for the press. Londono notes, "The guidelines that Iraq's Communications and Media Commission issued last month bar journalists from withholding the names of sources and threaten action against those who publish information that incites violence -- a criterion that is ill-defined. The rules also say news organizations must apply for licenses, register equipment with the commission and provide a list of employees." Supposedly this elections (voting starts March 5th and ends the 7th) are monumental. The press and the US administration has invested all this meaning in them which, alone, would mean the campaigning would be covered. When you add in that the increase in violence as well as the bannings give it an increased 'timely' quality and news value (conflict is always news), you should expect to read tons of coverage on the campaigning. That's not happening. And it's in part because Nouri's insisting that those covering the elections register with the government. Most outlets rely on Iraqi journalists to be stringers and eyes and ears as well as to be the co- or sole reporter on news reports but many of the Iraqis cannot register as journalists due to threats that might follow as a result of their occupation being known. This has seriously curtailed a great deal of coverage news consumers would otherwise be receiving. And Reporters Without Borders releases an overview today of the problems in the north where the Kurdistan Regional Government rules. Awene newspaper's founder Asos Hardi states, "The authorities do not stop talking about freedom of expression, constantly boasting of media's independence. But these words are meaningless. In practice, the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan do not believe in freedom of expression." AFP reports on the overview and also notes, "Iraq's election commission has imposed a 9:00 pm curfew on campaigning in Sulaimaniyah province after a number of violent incidents were reported. The province has been the focus of considerable tension between rival Kurdish parties, vying for maximum leverage in the event that the Kurds are kingmakers in the next Iraqi government." Sarwar Salar Chuchani (The Comment Factory) interviews Joost Hiltermann -- he's with the Crisis Group which makes him US government adjacent:

Chuchani: Do you believe the Kurdish participation in multi-list Iraqi elections will weaken their position in Baghdad?

Hiltermann: It will not affect the Kurds' position with regard to key questions concerning Kirkuk and other disputed territories, oil and gas, or the powers of the Kurdistan region. But it may have an impact on a host of other questions, such as most importantly the Iraqi presidency, unless -- I suppose -- the Kurdistani list make certain concessions to Goran that Goran is asking for. I don't know whether they will be able to reach an agreement.

Chuchani: What is the debate over Kirkuk leading to?

Hiltermann: Hopefully to a peaceful, negotiated, compromise solution that can be sustainable.

Chuchani: Do you believe Kurdish parties are committed to the establish of the rule of law, democracy and human rights?

Hiltermann: I don't know. But since they have said they are committed to this, they should be held to their word. In this respect, the opposition parties and the KRG's international sponsors could play a constructive role. International pressure has certainly contributed to a certain progress on this front since 1991.

Kirkuk is the disputed region claimed by both the KRG and the central government or 'government' in Baghdad. Each side argues historical rights to the area. The Kurds have repeatedly called for a census and a vote on the issue. In that call, they are on strong ground because the Iraq Constitution mandates that both take place -- both were supposed to have taken place by 2007 and still haven't.
Missy Ryan, Mustafa Mahmoud, Khalid al-Ansary and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) note today that, "The dispute over Kirkuk, which Kurds want to make part of their semi-autonomous northern region, is now seen as a chief threat to security as Iraq emerges from a bloody sectarian war and tests its fragile democracy in national polls on March 7."Voting will take place in 16 other countries besides Iraq due to Iraq's large refugee population. Bassel Oudat (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports from Damascus that no campaigning is going on there yet within the Iraqi refugee community and Oudat notes, "Many had expected changes in the electoral process, but their hopes have been dashed. Now, the refugees believe that the forthcoming Iraqi elections may well turn out to be a farce." In Iraq, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "A little over a week before the Iraq eleciton, the country is a cauldron of political attacks, sectarian divisions, and conspiracy theories that could limit the turnout in the country's most important national elections to date." Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) offers, "In Karbala, a massive turnout of poor people showed up at a rally for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, breaking through security to present him with petitions, knowing that no time is better for ordinary Iraqis to reach out directly to top officials -- and have all their requests answered immediately."

Candidates are running to become one of the 325 members of Parliament. The Parliament elects the Prime Minister. Technically, the current Parliament and Prime Minister (Nouri) aren't 'in office' -- their terms have expired. Elections were supposed to take place in December and then moved back to January and now March. In Iraq, the process is such that the votes will not be counted for several days or weeks. After the vote tallies are released, the Parliament will be known. However, it could be (could be) weeks before a prime minister is named. The naming could take place quickly. If, for example, State of Law holds a large number of seats and enters into political alliance with other major blocs, Nouri could be re-named prime minister in a matter of days. How likely is that? Well, when you run off all your competition, you make it a lot easier. But naming any prime minister may take much longer. There are new factions and parties and the creation of those may have led to grudges that could be hard to put aside. December 15, 2005, the last Parliamentary elections were held (for only 275 seats back then). The election results were not 'official' until January 20, 2006. (They still weren't certified at that point.) And Nouri, who was not the first choice, was not named as prime minister until April 22, 2006.Something similar may take place this time around. If it took as long as last time (which most observers -- including at the UN -- do not expect), it would be July before a prime minister was selected. On the second hour of today's
The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane's panel was composed of Thom Shanker (New York Times), Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) and David Wood ( and, discussing the arrest in Pakistan of Abdolmalek Rigi, Iraq came up.

Thom Shanker: [. . .] and this arrest came literally one week after Gen Ray Odierno, the senior American commander in Iraq, was in Washington spoke very forcefully and for the first time about Iranian influence in the upcoming elections in Iraq and the fact that two leading Shi'ite politicians had been in Iran recently meeting with Quods forces commanders who are on the terror watch list. So this is a lot of sort of, you know, tic-tac-toe and tit-for-tat going on here.

Diane Rehm: Now what about these elections scheduled for March 7th? We're told that the anti-American bloc is gaining power, Thom?

Thom Shanker: Well it's a very complicated situation. The Shi'ite majority have been trying to block some of the Sunni candidates on the grounds that some of their leaders were former members of the Saddam Hussein political party, the Ba'ath Party. Uh -- the Sunni were going -- many parties were going to stay out of the election. They just announced this morning [C.I. note, he means they announced yesterday] they got wisdom and they will participate after all. Although, you know, if it's a fair majority rule vote, they're going to lose. But the Shi'ite majority government did something else very interesting. It reinstated several thousands maybe 10 - 20,000 former Saddam era military officers not at the highest levels but at the mid-levels so there's lots of politicking going on which, overall, is healthy and it's probably going to be thirty, sixty or ninety days after the vote whether we see it will be a stable movement forward or whether things fall apart.

Diane Rehm: And how strong is Nouri al-Maliki right now -- the prime minister?

Thom Shanker: Well, he's in the driver's seat so he has all the advantages of incumbancy but the problem is again that we see in these very tense, kind of confrontations, it's the more radical people who always get the upper hand. In this case, it's Moqtar [Moqtada] al-Sadr who has -- I think the name "fire brand" is permanently attached to his name. He's an extremest, uh, Islamic cleric and led a militia which fought bitterly against US forces for years and was sort of based in Sadr City and so on. It's likely that he will have a major hand in the next government and so the interesting thing is: So what? He can have a lot of anti-American rhetoric and so forth which would be politically helpful but what will it actually mean? US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill said the other day that he'd gotten assurances from major Iraqi political features that whatever agreements Iraq had reached under the current government would still be held by who ever takes power next. Uh, he also said that they'd agreed during his campaign to be nice to each other, not to call each other names and abide by the outcome of the elections, so who knows?

Diane Rehm: Farah?

Farah Stockman: Well it's just fascinating to watch Iraqi politics unfold and if you go back to the days when we were orchestrating everything and the people we put in power and now it's just going to be a surprise to see what happens.

Programming note:
Al Jazeera's Inside Iraq begins airing this evening and repeats throughout (and streams online) the weekend. The guest will be Ahmed Chalabi who will respond to comments by Odierno and others. One of the political parties competing in the elections is the Ahrar Party and they issued the following today:

Ayad Jamal Aldin unveils Ahrar plan for security, public services and employment within Iraq
Last night Ayad Jamal Aldin, leader of the Ahrar Party, cemented the Ahrar Party's electoral credentials in a live TV interview, with questioning from a three-man panel and the public, for Al Baghdadiya.
Revealing Ahrar's plan for security, public services and employment within Iraq, Ayad Jamal Aldin received an unprecedented reaction from the viewers.
Following the interview, Al Baghdadiya reported that they received over 1,000 callers and emails supporting Ayad Jamal Aldin and predicting that he could well be the future prime minister of Iraq.
During the interview, the outspoken leader once again challenged current Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, to a live TV debate where he promised to "demonstrate to the Iraqi people how corrupt the current government has become." So far, Maliki has yet to respond to any of Jamal Aldin's previous invitations.
Jamal Aldin, a descendent of the prophet Mohammed, was asked by viewers how his party's secular policies conformed with his clerical garments. "You make a big issue about my clothes. There are many men wearing clerical dress and they used to wear the military uniform during Saddam's time. It doesn't matter what you wear, what matters is how wear it."
Jamal Aldin's secular views and strong anti-Iranian stance have not made him popular amongst certain factions within the country. He's been the victim of six assassination attempts since 2003. However, he reassured viewers over Ahrar's stance on Israel. "Iraq is an Arabic nation and we are part of the Arab League. We take the same position on Israel as the rest of the Arab world."
The Ahrar Plan for reconstruction within Iraq includes inviting the leading construction companies in the world to pitch for business in the future development projects within the country.
One caller stated that other parties were offering free housing; which Jamal Aldin dismissed as frivolous lies. "If any politician says he will build you a housing compound and give it to the people for free, he is lying. Ahrar knows what needs to be done. We will create a new bank, specifically for these projects, and inject an initial $5 billion dollars. We will then ask rich companies from around the world to be part of the bank. This bank's role will be to provide low-interest loans to the Iraqi people to enable them to build their own houses."
Another viewer asked him about the financing of his campaign and the reported $10 million - of his own money - he was using to fund the party. "Would this money not be better off being spent on reconciliation projects for the poor?"
"$10 million is incomparable to the billions of dollars that the people of Iraq have been deprived of through the corruption and wastage of the current government. If my $10 million enables me to win a position where I am able to force changes within Iraq then it has been an extremely worthwhile investment."
When asked about the likelihood of this occurring, Jamal Aldin accepted it was probable that some cheating would occur however urged people to "come out and vote in order to ensure that corruption within the polls is less likely."
For further information, contact:

Ahrar Media Bureau Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942

About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.
Reuters notes a Mosul dumpster bombing which claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured and a Mosul car bombing which wounded nine people (three were Iraqi soliders). Staying with violence, earlier this week Ruth offered "The assault on Iraq's Christians." She's not 'mass media,' but she's covered the topic. Edward Pentin (Catholic News Agency) notes the "mass media" silence on the attcks and on the fact that "Christian families are leaving the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in their droves to excape a concerted campaign of violence and intimidation." He writes:

Chaldean Bishop Emil Shimoun Nona has said that Mosul is experiencing a "humanitarian emergency" and that "hundreds of Christian families" left the city Feb. 24 in search of shelter, leaving behind their homes, property, commercial activities, according to
Asia News. The situation "is dramatic", he said, and warned that Mosul could be "emptied completely of Christians".
The families have chosen to flee after a spate of violent attacks which left five Christians dead last week, and members of a whole family murdered on Tuesday. "In one house all the family members were killed -- five people," said an Iraqi member of Open Doors, a non-denominational charity helping persecuted Christians.
Adel Kamal (Niqash) explains how this may be tied into the elections:

Following the Archbishops' memorandum, the Naynawa governor, Osama al-Nujaifi, ordered the Naynawa Operations Command to restore security in Mosul. He called on the army command to "shoulder their responsibilities for protecting the Christian community and disclosing the results of the criminal investigations regarding the crimes committed against them." Al-Nujaifii told Niqash that after the earlier attacks on Christians he asked the Operations Command to set-up a joint security. They responded curtly: "Security is our responsibility." "In that case," al-Nujaifi said, "They must take that responsibility and restore security." The Kurds in the area have boycotted the Governorate Council since al-Nujaifi took office and the governor sees the violence as politically motivated. "There are sides wanting to draw the Christians into a conflict that they are not part of." The conflict he is referring to is between the Arab al-Hadba list, which al-Nujaifi heads, and the Kurdish List. Like al-Nujaifi, the Deputy Chairman of Naynawa Governorate Council, Dildar Zaybari, refused to accuse the Kurds.

Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on the extra-legal Justice and Accountability Commission's decision to remove 580 Iraqis from the country's security forces for being alleged 'Ba'athists.' Mohammed Tawfeeq and CNN report on the simultaneous announcement yesterday that 20,000 military officers under Saddam Hussein would be reinstated, "Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said al-Maliki was simply trying to secure more votes. 'This contradicts his anti-Baathist election campaign and it is very obvious that he wants to appeal to voters'." Leila Fadel and K.I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) quote the extra-legal commission's Ali Falial al-Lami stating they have proof that banned candidate Saleh al-Mutlaq is a 'Ba'athist.' Apparently, they've forced some more confessions in Iraq yet again. Al Jazeera adds, "Mohammed al-Askari, the defence ministry spokesman, said on Friday the resinstatement would begin immediately."

Monday the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, gave a briefing in DC where he noted that the draw down could be slowed. This was a testing the water move (by the administration -- though some want to pretend Odierno was a 'loose canon' acting alone). Wednesday morning's New York Times featured a column by former journalist Thomas E. Ricks (speaking for Michele Flournoy to be sure) advocating for a longer US presence in Iraq. Thursday, it was learned that slowing the draw down was actually a request currently submitted to the administration. That's the background. Today Jason Ditz ( observes that Barry O's "soft pullout" just got softer while Michael Hastings (The Hastings Report, True/Slant) takes on Rick's suck up to Australian -- who really needs to take his ass home -- David Kilcullen's assertion that entering stupidly doesn't mean you have to depart stupidly. Hastings observes, "So, if you never leave, there's no worry of acting stupid. Except that you never leave. Which seems kind of stupid, too."

Turning to the issue of one-time Haliburton subsidiary KBR, the
Democratic Policy Committee earlier in this entry and we'll close with this news release:DORGAN: ARMY DECISION TO DENY MILLIONS IN BONUSES TO CONTRACTOR KBR IS "RIGHT CALL," BUT ONLY A "FIRST STEP" ( WASHINGTON , D.C. ) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who chaired Senate hearings on electrocutions of soldiers in Iraq resulting from shoddy contracting work by KBR, said Thursday the Army's decision to deny million of dollars in bonuses to the firm for its 2008 work in Iraq "is the right call, but it is only a first step." Dorgan chaired two Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) hearings in 2008 and 2009 on KBR's shoddy electrical work in Iraq . The hearings revealed widespread problems with KBR's electrical work there including countless electrical shocks including one that killed Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, and perhaps others, and injured dozens more on their own bases as they showered and engaged in other routine activities. Following the hearings, Dorgan and Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) wrote the Army asking that it review KBR's work and the electrocution death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth. They also asked the Army to re-evaluate the millions of dollars in bonuses it has routinely awarded KBR for supposedly excellent work, even when the Army's own evidence made clear it was highly questionable. The Army's investigation of Maseth's January 2008 death found that KBR's work exposed soldiers to "unacceptable risk." A theatre-wide safety review that resulted from the Dorgan-Casey request -- Task Force SAFE -- also found widespread problems with KBR's electrical work that exposed soldiers to life threatening risks. "The decision to deny KBR millions in bonuses for its work in 2008 is welcome news, and is a significant change from the Army's past practice, but the Army clearly needs go much further," Dorgan said. "Specifically, it needs to review the $34 million bonus and other bonuses it awarded KBR for shoddy work that may have contributed to other electrocution deaths and other serious electrical shocks." Dorgan said the Army's decision "will send a long overdue message to military contractors that they will be held accountable for their performance. But the Army needs to send that message much more powerfully. Not awarding a bonus for widespread sloppy contracting work that killed soldiers is just the beginning, not the end point, of accountability." Dorgan has chaired 21 Senate DPC hearings on waste, fraud and corruption in military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003. Evidence at those hearings he said, "has been overwhelming that KBR's work was shoddy and put the lives of U.S. soldiers at risk. KBR's electrical workers were often unqualified, poorly trained and poorly supervised. When questions were raised, they simply denied there was a problem and proceeded with the same shoddy business as usual."Senator Byorn Dorgan addresses the issue in a video at DPC as well. A large number of veterans and contractors have filed suit against Halliburton and/or its subsidiary KBR. Jon Murray (Indianapolis Star) reports that Judge Richard Young of the US District Court for the Southern District of Indiaina dismissed the case filed on behalf of 47 members of the Indiana National Guard with the finding that that he lacked jurisdiction due to KBR being based in another state (Texas) and the exposure (he would say "alleged exposure") took place in Iraq. He only ruled on jurisidiction and did not address the merits of the case. There are at least 22 cases against KBR/Halliburton filed in 22 different district courts across the country. Whether or not the judges in 21 of those will find as Judge Young did isn't known. 21? One of the cases is filed in Texas.

We're moving to England but, before we do, shouts of joy echo all over DC with
this White House announcement. And have fun under the bus, dear. Monday the the Iraq Inquiry announced that the current Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, will offer testimony to the Inquiry on March 5th. When former prime minister Tony Blair's date was announced, BBC noted that "3,000 people have applied for seats at Tony Blair's appearance" and yesterday the BBC attempted to make it seem that Gordon Brown was 'in demand' as well by insisting, "More than 300 people have applied . . ." Alice Tarleton (Channel 4 News) points out that there are 120 seats available because Brown testifies in the morning and afternoon -- while there were only 60 available for Tony Blair's and that this is "a fraction of the 3,041" applying for Tony tickets. Is that why Gordon Brown screamed "You ruined my life!" at Tony Blair? No. Patrick Wintour and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) report that "Gordon Brown repeatedly shouted at Tony Blayr: "You ruined my life" in the final confrontation that forced Blair to agree to announce a date by which he would stand down as prime minister, according to Andrew Rawnsley's new book" The End of the Party. The Telegraph of London adds that he also plotted to undermine Alastair Campbell and that Brown's response to the assertions is, "Given that they are both completely wrong, and that you can almost laugh them off, they are so ridiculous." The Iraq Inquiry is chaired by John Chilcot and Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) reports today:

On Tuesday Labour MP Graham Allen met Sir John Chilcot. Allen was one of the organisers of the rebellion of Labour MPs against the war and wanted to highlight "the three fundamental institutional flaws which were revealed by the lead-up to the Iraq War so that they are not repeated."
Allen told me: "I wanted to give Sir John Chilcot a perspective he has not been exposed to before. I'm hopeful that the story of those who tried to stop the war will form part of the report. The three things I put forward, had they happened the first time round, would have significantly diminished, if not eliminated, the prospect of Parliament authorising the war." Although he declined to reveal what Chilcot's response was, Allen told me that he was "extremely generous with his time" and "open and frank and well-informed".

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves were relocated from Canada toYellowstone National Park and central Idaho to help recover a wolfpopulation that had been exterminated in the northern Rockies. The graywolf relocation is considered one of the most successful wildliferecovery projects ever attempted under the Endangered Species Act; todaythere are more than 1,600 wolves in the region. But a debate has eruptedbetween conservationists and ranchers over the question: how many wolvesare too many?Last year, the Obama Administration entered the fray by removing federalprotection for some of these wolves, paving the way for controversialstate-regulated wolf hunts. The move has wolf advocates fuming, withmore than a dozen conservation groups suing the Interior Department torestore federal protections. On February 26 at 8:30 pm (check locallistings), NOW reports on this war over wolves and implications for thearea.
Staying with TV notes,
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and we'll note who joins Gwen around the table this are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate), David Shepardson (Detroit News) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine). Meanwhile, has a president, in the 'modern era,' ever refused to deliver a State of the Union speech? Washington Week, as part of its site redesign and increased web presence provides an answer to that by dipping into the archives and making available a February 2, 1973 installment of Washington Week. You can also view the Webcast Extra for last week's show (or any other show this year or last year) which is an additional segment where Gwen and her guests discuss topics submitted by viewers of the show. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Melinda Henneberger and Tara Setmayer 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:
Stealing American Secrets"60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy that offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China's spying may pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S. Scott Pelley reports.
Watch Video
Battle Over HistoryBob Simon reports on what the Armenians call their holocaust - the 1915 forced deportation and massacre of more than a million ethnic Armenians by the Turks - an event that the Turks and our own government have refused to call genocide. Watch Video
Kathryn BigelowLesley Stahl talks to Academy Award best-director nominee Kathryn Bigelow about her award-winning film, "The Hurt Locker." If she's chosen, she would be the first woman ever to win in that category. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

the Salem-News has a feature on the questions regarding 9-11 (link has text and video) by Tim King and here's the opening, "The mainstream press is showing interest in a taboo, however glaring subject; the inconsistencies in the Bush White House 9/11 account. As The Washington Post reports today, 'A lingering technical question about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks still haunts some, and it has political implications: How did 200,000 tons of steel disintegrate and drop in 11 seconds? A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7 at the World Trade Center'." Thank you for community member Mia for catching the above. I'd written it would be noted in Thursday's snapshot, I forgot. Others wondered if I was 'scared off' by the subject? Tim King covers Iraq and does a fine job. If he goes into another area, we can make a little space to note that from time to time. If he goes into this area? He's raising questions and, in a democracy, we should all welcome that. 9-11 is not our issue at this site (or my issue offline) but we do not attack people who question here (or people who offer theories -- for example, we've never attacked the 911 Commission and, yes, there 'findings' are a theory). If we were a religious site, we'd say, "Go with God." We're not so we'll just note that Tim King's a fine reporter and anytime we have the space to note him, we will. In my offline life, I have friends on all sides of this topic (there's more than just two sides) and I respect everyone's opinion (even those friends whose opinion is the same as the 911 Commission's). I know this is a controversial topic and I know people look for signs and indications. My forgetting on Thursday was just my forgetting. There was too much for that snapshot and I was trying to squeeze in the House Veterans Affairs hearing. That hearing was covered by Kat covered it last night in "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," Wally filled in for Rebecca and covered it in "Filner asks the money question" and Ava filled in for Trina and covered it in "Stats aren't science." Back to the topic of King's articles about questions. This has been addressed here many times before but my forgetting led to e-mails (and I understand that but I did just forget, I wasn't trying to be 'respectable' -- no one who knows me would ever accuse me of that, trust me). Those who search for answers -- on any issue or question -- are not attacked here. Our fire is aimed at the gas bags and the politicians. There is enough frivilous in the country -- especially among so-called adults -- and anyone dedicating themselves to a 9-11 search has a worthy and admirable topic and, as with the researchers into the assassination of JFK, their work may never turn up a single answer but it will turn up many things of value, that's what research does. And in a democracy, we don't attack those who ask questions (we welcome a free exchange), and in terms of discourse and information, independent research has produced so much information throughout the history of this country. I hope that clarifies it (and if you wrote an angry e-mail, don't worry about it, this is a heated topic, I understand that but, no, we're not part of any clampdown here, nor do we think we're any better than any other citizens of the US, we'll leave the sneering at We The People to the gas bags of cable TV). If not, please e-mail again and I'll try to make it more clear. (And if you're late to the party and wondering what "my issue" is -- it's the word in the title before "snapshot.")

the washington posternesto londono
the christian science monitorjane arraf
nprthe diane rehm show
antiwar.comjason ditztrue/slantmichael hastings
the guardianandrew sparrow
patrick wintouriraq inquiry digest
chris ames
bbc news
cnnmohammed tawfeeqthe los angeles timesliz slyk.i. ibrahimleila fadel60 minutescbs newspbsnow on pbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MoveOn and other liars

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. I grabbed that from the snapshot. I need to do my part in promoting that. Ava and C.I. have been running to A.N.S.W.E.R. poster in their TV commentaries since December. They have done their part online to get the word out (they've done more than that online). I haven't done anything.

I can do one more thing.


I hate logging into Flickr. But C.I. told me a trick that lets you bypass that and makes including the poster very easy so there it is. March 20th.

Why do I bring this up? MoveOn. The useless "It's time to march!" screeches their e-mail. Is it? Good, let's get to marching. I'm so sick of WalkOn and their weak ass 'protests' against the war but, hey, they haven't done a thing on Iraq in years. So let's see what their march is, it might be something worthwhile and . . .

If you've never picked up the phone to call Congress about health care, today's the day to change that. Will you join the Virtual March for Real Health Care Reform?

With the future of health care reform hanging in the balance at the president's summit tomorrow, this may be our last big chance to make sure Congress knows that voters want real health care reform.

So we're aiming to send one million messages to Congress TODAY. The message? It's time to get the job done and pass comprehensive health care reform.

That's their march? You know what, they just need to go away. MoveOn doesn't have members. They're damn liars. In 2004, I joined to vote for Howard Dean in their MoveOn poll. I've never given them money (I never would). I've never voted in anything else they've ever done. I have no connection to MoveOn and haven't since Howard Dean dropped out of the 2004 race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. That was close to six years ago.

Yet they still count me as a 'member.'

You need to remember that when you read about how MoveOn has all these millions of members. They don't have any members. They have lies. They're liars at MoveOn.

I have given to the DNC in the past -- many, many dollars. That includes on the recounts, on everything. If we added it up, I've easily wasted over a million dollars donating to the DNC and it's other committees in my lifetime. (I'm not including individual candidates in that tally, for example the money I gave to Howard Dean's campaign is not counted.) But I think I'm done forever giving to the DNC.

How come?

Got a little e-mail from them today too:

Yesterday morning, President Obama unveiled his health reform proposal.

The President's health reform proposal builds upon existing legislation and includes provisions to cut waste, fraud, and abuse while making health care more affordable and available.

It goes on and on and never stops and wants me to know what his proposal means for me? Not a damn thing, Tim Kaine but you wouldn't know that because you're anti-choice.

The DNC never should be run by an anti-choice person. I will not give any money to the DNC during Tim Kaine's reign and I will not give if his replacement is anti-choice.

While Tim Kaine with his little Sandra Dee, girlish button nose goes ga ga, others tell it like it is.

"White House Health Care Plan Fails Women" (NOW):
"The President's proposal to revive health care reform from its current state of paralysis needs major revision," according to Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. "Although his proposal is an improvement over the status quo on issues such as affordability and accountability of insurers, the effort fails because it embraces the same harmful that are in the Senate health care bill."

The worst feature of the President's proposal -- a real poison pill as far as NOW is concerned -- is retention of the Senate bill's Reid-Nelson anti-abortion language. Forced upon the Senate in order to reach the crucial 60th filibuster-proof vote, this provisions requires any exchange-based health insurance plan that covers abortion care to segregate funds by charging separate premiums each month for abortion and all other services. In practice, everyone in a plan that covers abortion care would have to write two checks each month and health experts have predicted that these restrictions would lead to the end of private as well as public insurance coverage for abortion care. Since about one-third of women in this country have abortions, and nearly 90 percent of private health plans currently cover abortion procedures, the President's plan, like the Senate's, would deprive millions of women of insurance coverage they currently have.

This offensive, discriminatory provision bows to the grandstanding of those who would overturn Roe v. Wade. We had hoped that President Obama -- as a supporter of a woman's right to decide -- would have upheld that right and the notion that abortion is to be treated like all other kinds of health care.

The President's proposal also lets stand a Senate bill provision that permits insurers to charge women more because they are women. Although we have been repeatedly told that gender rating would be prohibited -- and President Obama even stated in a major health policy address that gender rating would be banned in reform legislation -- his Proposal leaves this costly and discriminatory provision in place. As a result, women who get insurance through the new health insurance exchange could be paying as much as 48 percent more than men -- as is currently the case in the discriminatory individual health insurance market.

Another damaging feature is the retention of age rating -- the practice of charging older individuals more for their insurance coverage. The Senate bill allows insurance companies to charge as much as three times more than they charge a younger person. For many middle-aged women who have modest incomes, this is an unacceptable burden.

There is no public option in the President's proposal. Given that a substantial number of House members have refused to accept the Senate bill because of its lack of a public plan, this is curious omission. Some White House spokespersons have asserted that there is a public plan in their proposal, but they are referring to Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) as being the "public plans" where states are encouraged to innovate.

We need a strong public option in both the Senate bill and the President's proposal. Without a strong public plan -- which according to numerous polls is very popular with the general public -- there can be no true competition and very little incentive for private insurers to control their premium rates. NOW supports a single-payer approach similar to that in Canada, which would bypass the need to generate billions in profits to private insurers and bring our health care expenditures in line with what many other industrialized nations pay. At a minimum, health care reform should allow states to adopt their own single-payer plans.

That's the reality. Find out what does for me? For women, it sets back the clock. That hideous poison pill of bill may be swallowed by some, but not by me. It did, however, help me make the decision that the DNC gets no more money from me.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, election madness continues, more alleged 'Ba'athists' are banned, rumors swirl about who is meeting with which country, the US peace movement gears up for action next month, and more.

"I don't know anything about police training but I think if I had a 2.5 billion dollar contract, I could figure out how to train police. That is outrageous," declared US House Rep Russ Carnahan today as he
chaired the House Committee on Foreign Affair's Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight. The subcomittee heard from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen this morning about contracting issues, specifically the lack of oversight. We'll note this key exchange.

Stuart Bowen: This is the top story, Chairman Carnahan. We looked at this four years ago and the problem that we identified four years ago was lack of contract management -- raised in our first audit, issued in the first month of 2007. Then we got into the whole contract and found it was inauditable and so we issued a review in October saying the State Dept asked for three to five years to put things in order because it was just a mess. And then we went in in 2008 to see if there were remedial measures and there were but then we go in last summer and find the same problem, 3 person in country overseeing a contract that is spending hundreds of millions of tax payer dollars. And more-more disturbing the lack of clarity about who is supposed to do what. The in country contracting officer representative my people interviewed said, 'Well invoice accountability is being done back in Washington.' Ask them, they say it's being done in Iraq. Huge vulnearbility.

Chair Russ Carnahan: And with regard to the contractor, Dyncorp, describe how that contract was initially awarded.

Stuart Bowen: It was an existing contract that was held by the State Dept that was, that was used. I don't have the specific facts of the bidding, but it was -- it was -- it was in 2004 and used to apply to this -- to this program at the level of 2.5 billiion. And again as I said it was DoD money that went into it so I think DoD was looking for a vehicle that is could use to spend this money and it did so. I think there are some questions about that process. It certainly shows how bifurcated or disjointed both the source of the money, the contract management of the money and then the execution of the contract. All different places. Uh-uh, it shows, I think, just the lack of clarity in stabilization reconstruction contracting.

Chair Russ Carnahan: In your reviews, to what extent can you account for how that money has been spent?

Stuart Bowen: Uh, we're looking at the execution of it now. My auditors in Iraq today are reviewing that matter and the outcomes, which are an important question for you, we will answer in a later review.

Chair Russ Carnahan: And you expect that report out when?

Stuart Bowen: By July, no later than July.

Chair Russ Carnahan: I'm going to yield to Judge Poe.

US House Rep Ted Poe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. [To Bowen] Which of our government agencies, in your opinion, was most irresponsible about money? DoD, State Dept, USAID

Stuart Bowen: I think that the State Dept did not carry out its contract oversight responsibilities sufficiently enough. In this particular contract we're discuss -- discussing is the most egregious example and the most disturbing point is it hasn't remediated that weakness sufficiently today.

We attended three hearings today and I'll try to pick up the VA one tomorrow. But this hearing was the most sparsely attended by the press. It was scheduled opposite big-ticket or 'hot topic' hearings such as Senator Carl Levin's hearing (Senate Armed Services Committee) on contractors in Afghanistan which is where the bulk of the press went this morning. I was not at that hearing but I have the opening statements of the Chair (Levin) and the Ranking Member (John McCain) and have spoken to Senate staffers about it. Some of the statements and questions are built around a hope that something was learned about contracting in Iraq -- with attention to oversight and cost effectiveness. For example, McCain declared, "Too many scarce tax payer dollars were squandered in the rebuilding of Iraq. I hope we have learned lessons from our experience there." No, there have been no lessons learned. That was obvious throughout the hearing Bowen testified at today.

The problems he is addressing regarding lack of oversight are the same ones he first noticed in 2004, the same ones he flagged in his early reports are still being flagged today. What is the point of having an Inspector General over reconstruction if they have no power? And Bowen obviously has no power or else he doesn't know how to use it. The same mistakes do not get called out over and over unless no one's taking the issue seriously. And if John McCain or Carl Levin are really hoping that Iraq 'lessons' can be taken to Afghanistan, they better get serious in hearings and oversight about what's going on in Iraq still in terms of the lack of oversight on US monies spent.

Not only do they need to pay more attention to it, so does the press. Again, this Subcommittee hearing that Russ Carnahan chaired this morning? Barely attended by the press.
Kat plans to cover an aspect of it at her site tonight and Wally's going to sit in for Rebecca tonight and cover another aspect of the hearing.

March 7th, elections are supposed to be held in Iraq. These are Parlimentary elections and the Parliament will then select a prime minister. Yesterday,
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) offered a report on the campaigning:Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Nouri al-Maliki is Iraq's unlikely strongman. Initially seen as a weak compromise candidate when he was installed as prime minister four years ago, Maliki is now accused by his rivals of being a dictator in waiting. To secure another term, he needs to win big in Iraq's Shi'ite south. On a multi-city tour of the region this past week, Maliki told the crowds that he is a man who can deliver.Nouri al-Maliki: We have achieved security. We've signed huge oil contracts which will give Iraq money. I'm not telling you that we want to achieve something, we have already achieved something.Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Maliki's coalition, called "State of Law," did well in provincial elections last year but more recently his popularity has waned according to some Iraqi analaysts. A series of high profile terrorists attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere have called into question his security credentials and what some call his heavy-handed approach to governance has also provoked criticism. Maliki's main rival in the south is the Iraqi National Alliance It includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, and Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's political bloc. ISCI's leader, Ammar al-Hakim, was also campaigning in the south this week. Speaking to a crowd in Diwaniyah, he said the time is right for change. Ammar al-Hakim: Iraq deserves better than what it has now. With the grace of God and your help, the Iraqi National Alliance will be able to revive this country.Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Both sides are using whatever means they can to secure votes. In last year's provincial elections, Maliki won significant support from so-called tribal support councils that he established. In return for money and positions, tribal leaders promised to deliver votes for the prime minister -- and they did. Of the process thus far, Olivia Ward (Toronto Star) offers this recap, "The election started with a call for unity, which gradually unravelled with scores of people killed in bombings, candidates targeted for assassination or attack, and up to 400 would-be candidates disqualified under a 'de-Baathification' law meant to prevent a resurgence of Saddam Hussein's supporters."

AFP states that the coalition led by al-Maliki and the one led by Allawi are the two chief rivals based on a new National Media Centre poll and they note the NMC "is linked to Prime Minister Maliki". Ayad Allawi is a candidate running. UPI reports unnamed 'sources' are saying that both "Tehran and Damascus would back Allawi" as the next prime minister. If false, the rumor may come from Ahmed Chalabi who is mentioned in the article. UPI claims "sources" for the rumor. Alsumaria TV, reporting the same claim, relies on a "source" -- "an informed governmental source speaking on condition of anonymity". If that source is indeed Chalabi, it would explain why Ammar al-Hakin is also targeted -- the unnamed insists that al-Hakim is in league with Allawi. Earlier this week Muhanad Mohammed, Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami, Rania Elgamal, Souhail Karam, Mohammed Abbas and Richard Williams (Reuters) reported on Allawi's trip to Saudi Arabia spawning rumors (for some) and accusations within Iraq. Iran was worried as demonstrated by Press TV's report on the visit today.

For the record, there's nothing 'wrong' about ties with their neighbor Saudi Arabia. For example,
Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Feb. 16th that their Embassy in Riyadh was doing workshops including their Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Dr. Ghanim Alwan al-Dumaili, doing a lecture on his work with NASA. And February 17th their Embassy in Tokyo hosted "the monthly meeting of Council of Arab Ambassadors. During the meeting the Charge d' affaires a.i. reviewed developments in Iraq and general elections which [are] to be held on the seventh of next March and the Iraqi government's keeness on the success of this national event." Yesterday Michael Wahid Hanna (World Politics Review) observed, "Iraq has also mismanaged its diplomatic relations with its regional counterparts. Most conspicuously, on separate occasions Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki hampered international efforts aimed at thawing Iraqi-Saudi relations by lashing out intemperately against the Saudi monarch. Al-Maliki's rhetorical excess also reversed the historic re-establishment of full diplomatic relations with Syria in the aftermath of catastrophic coordinated bombings in Baghdad in August 2009." So the panic or alleged panic over Allawi seems a bit inflated at best. Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reminds, "The attacks made by the Dawa party and the supporters of the ruling regime in Iraq on Dr. Ayad Allawi can only be understood by recalling an important issue which is that Allawi's visit to Saudi Arabia came at a time that reminds the Iraqi electorate that Nuri al-Maliki's government is isolated from the Arab world, and this is something that has led to the isolation of Iraq as a whole. Of course, this is something that is troubling to the Dawa party followers and the State of Law coalition, especially since the Iraqi elections are just around the corner." Let's leave Allawi for a moment to note Chalabi. Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) explains today, "So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami's Accountability and Justice (De-Ba'athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq's elections and advance their political agendas? Not even. Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba'athification. The list includes a number of important people in senior positions." Lynch offers his take on it which is that Chalabi is setting a trap because al-Maliki either drums out the latest group of 'Ba'athists' or else he looks like a sympathizer (with does not play for the "State Of Law" political party).

al-Maliki, Allawi are only two thought to be vying for prime minister.
Reuters notes the two and others thought to be in the running: Bayan Jabor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Adel Abdul Mahdi, Ahmed Chalabi, Jawad al-Bolani, Qassam Daoud and Raad Mawlude Mukhlis. Reuters also examines some of the political alliances. The Ahrar Poliltical party issued the following today:

Yesterday on the Race to Parliament programme, Ayad Jamal Aldin declared that the Iraqi government has lost control
The leader of the Ahrar Party announced that the government had failed the Iraqi people by failing to tackle three major problems: a census, the constitution, and national reconciliation.
He blamed corruption for this failure and stated that Ahrar has a plan to unite Iraq and end bribery and dishonesty.
Ayad Jamal Aldin said: "This government has lost control and has been overrun by corrupters and outsiders intent on dividing and destroying Iraq.
"Ahrar is the only party to have a credible and detailed plan to end the violence and intimidation that every Iraqi faces every day. We will create a united Iraq with water, jobs, and electricity.
"On March 7 the Iraqi people have a choice. They can vote for more corruption, more violence, and more division. Or they vote for change, with jobs, security and unity. A vote for Ahrar is a vote for change."
Watch the video
For further information, contact:

Ahrar Media Bureau Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942

About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

While some alleged 'Ba'athists' are being banned,
Hannah Allam, Warren P. Strobel, Laith Hammoudi and Jonathan S. Landay (McClatchy) and Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) report that candidate Abu Mahdi al Mohandas is campaiging on the stand 'I'm an enemy of the American government.' He tells McClatchy and the Monitor, "I was told, officially, by the speaker of parliament and a high-ranking Iraqi official that it's preferable I don't show up before the election because they couldn't assure I was protected. Since 2005, the Americans have conveyed a message through an Iraqi mediator that they'll kidnap or assassinate me." (Allam, Hammoudi and Arraf reported Monday on what may have been violence targeting a campaign -- link has text and video.)

Now back to Allawi.
Andrew England (Financial Times of London) reports that he is accusing the current government in Iraq of "reviving sectarianism" through the previous bannings and they quote him stating, "It's a beginning of going back to the drawing table where they started sectarianism. You can sense it unfortunately, in the political landscape again. If this sectarianism becomes an issue, which it already is, and continues to do so then definitely we will slip into more violence and this may lead to a civil war." Meanwhile ever since John Jenkins, British Ambassador to Iraq, made it a 'hot topic,' military coup in Iraq just doesn't go away. The latest to wade in is Adil Abdel-Mahdi, Iraq's Shi'ite vice president. DPA reports that he has expressed concerns about "militarization" in Iraq and what that could mean for the country's future, noting, "There is a historical precende in this case. The country is set for military coups." Iraq has another vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi. Waleed Ibrahim and Rania El Gamal (Reuters) quote al-Hashemi declaring today, "(Reconciliation) is one of the projects that the government has failed at unprecedentedly and . . . the reason is that there is no real intention for national reconciliation. There is no real will for reconciliation."

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


Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing which claimed the life of 1 "senior judge". KUNA identifies him as Justice Mohammad Abdulghafour and notes that he "specialized in cases of terrorism".


Reuters notes 1 female employee of the Independent High Electoral Commission was wounded in a Baghdad shooting.

In my mind I can't study war no more
Save the people
Save the children
Save the country
-- "Save The Country," written by
Laura Nyro, first appears on her New York Tendaberry album, also a hit for The 5th Dimension

Turning to the US, yesterday, a protest against the continued wars and their toll on humanity took place in New York. The demonstration was staged by NYC Peace Grannies. Joan Wile is the founder of
Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She was part of the demonstration and has written "Rain-Drenched, Wind-Tossed New York City Peace Grannies Hold Memorial For The 1,000 Dead G.I.s in Afghanistan:"
It seems as if most of our U.S. populace has forgotten that U.S. soldiers are dying in Afghanistan. Focused on Tiger Woods' sex life and, more understandably, the seemingly endless, unresolvable health reform and jobs battles in Washington, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be ignored.
However, a group of New York city peace grannies and their supporters DO remember, and they publicly so acknowledged on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the just-announced grim tally of 1,000 U.S. soldiers' loss of life in Afghanistan. The event was coordinated by Grandmothers Against the War and the Granny Peace Brigade. Members of Peace Action New York, Veterans for Peace, The World Can't Wait, the Gray Panthers, Brooklyn for Peace, and the Raging Grannies attended as well.
On the cold, wet and windy evening, approximately 30 mostly elderly people assembled in front of Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to pay tribute to the 1,000 American G.I.s sacrificed in the wrong-headed war in Afghanistan. They also mourned the many Afghani deaths caused by our missiles and bombs.
The great actor-author, Malachy McCourt , opened the proceedings with a powerful speech lambasting the tragic expenditure of life and resources in the hopeless pursuit of peace through war. A statement of support by NY State Senator Bill Perkins, who had to be in Albany with the legislature, was read. Following that, the vigil members read the names of deceased soldiers AND deceased Afghani civilians to the accompaniment of a single muffled drum beat.
It was startling and extremely saddening to hear that so many of the Afghanis whose names were read were small children. One wondered: How can we feel morally justified in waging a war that causes so many innocent people to die whom we are supposedly protecting?
Strangely enough, the police erected a barricade around the anti-war stalwarts. This had never been done before in the six plus years that Grandmothers Against the War, the Vets for Peace and the Granny Peace Brigade have been holding a weekly Wednesday vigil on that Rockefeller Center site.
The soggy Peaceniks then walked down Fifth Avenue and over to the Times Square recruiting station where the Raging Grannies sang familiar songs with their revised anti-war lyrics. They kept singing despite the fact that several policemen insisted that the group leave. Finally, thoroughly soaked and shivering, the hardy old folks (and a few young ones) dispersed.
It is worth quoting part of Sen. Perkins' statement: "It is obvious that the lessons of the unjust war launched by the previous Bush administration have yet to sink in on the current administration. Each day the goal of honorable victory will be ever more elusive. The goal of an honorable peace for a dishonorable war will continue to have its price."
As I write, one day later, the tragic number of our young military dead in Afghanistan has climbed to 1,006.

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. Students for a Democratic Society are another organization that will be participating and they note:

While the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is growing ever larger, the occupation of Iraq is still raging, nearing its seventh anniversary. With over 4,300 US soldiers and over 1.3 million Iraqi civilians estimated dead, something has to be done to stop this senseless slaughter.
This year Students for a Democratic Society will hold a national week of action March 15th to 20th where students will organize protests and direct actions at campuses across the country in opposition to the ongoing, brutal occupations.
The need for a vibrant anti-war movement has rarely been felt more than this very moment, while the United States drops trillions of dollars into unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. Students are struggling to pay for school while tuition skyrockets, and states lose billions of dollars to two continuing occupations.
On Saturday, March 20th, SDS will participate in a massive National March & Rally in D.C. hosted by A.N.S.W.E.R. to finish the week of action with tens of thousands of people in the street!
We're calling on students and youth from across the country to join us the week of March 15-20th in demanding: Fund Education, Not Occupation!
For more information visit:

March 13th, a Peace Camp will be set up in DC.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheenhan's Soapbox) explains some of the goals of the Peace Camp in her open letter to US President Barack Obama:

In 2005, I asked for a meeting with President Bush that was never granted, and as you know, Camp Casey in Crawford became the spark that lit a prairie fire of anti-war sentiment that swept you and your cohorts in the Democratic Party back into power and now we are coming to collect the spoils of that victory--which is not more war--but more Peace. You Democrats owe much to your anti-war base--and we will not be quiet nor be ignored as we were in the previous administration. It's time for you to pay the Peace-piper, Mr. Obama. Our demands are profound, yet simple for you to perform: troops out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (where three soldiers were just killed); no more drone bombings anywhere; close the permanent bases and torture prisons; and bring the mercenary soldiers home, too. We will not be closing up Camp, or the movement, until positive progress in the direction of Peace is noted. The first week of Camp (March 13-20), we are asking for a meeting with you to discuss setting up a Peace Council that you will regularly meet with that will have a seat at the table when decisions that will kill, maim, displace, or harm our troops or civilians in any way are being discussed. We also demand that this Peace Council be comprised of grassroots members of the Peace Movement and not rubber-stamp status quo worshippers, or other "Peace" Prize laureates like Henry Kissinger, who already, reportedly, has your ear. If you do not meet with representatives from Camp OUT NOW, we will be a thorn in the side of the War Machine, and we will not go away without a struggle. If you do meet with us and agree to a Peace Council, we will pack up our tents, but we will still be a thorn in the side of the War Machine until Peace is finally achieved--the only difference is that we won't be camped across the street from your home.

Yesterday we noted "foundation ugly" Thomas E. Ricks and Nir Rosen. Today Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) notes the latest bits of foundation ugly:

Thus it's no surprise that Tom Ricks, a former reporter and author who's taken up residence at CNAS, has fired the opening gambit in what is likely to be a direct challenge to President Obama by the military, by conservatives and neoconservatives, by surge-lovers and empire builders, and others, to keep US forces in Iraq.
Ricks penned
an op-ed in the New York Times entitled "Extending Our Stay in Iraq," as if the 98,000 troops there were business travelers asking the front desk for a late checkout. "Our stay"? He means, the US occupation of Iraq.
And Ricks pulls no punches. Obama should forget about his pledge to reduce US forces to 50,000 by August and to zero by the end of 2011. Instead, Ricks says, the troubling internal contradictions in Iraq -- including Iran's influence -- means that the United States should "keep 30,000 to 50,000 United States service members in Iraq for many years to come."

So much to comment on. First, Ricks is doing an 'international sweep' shortly. Dreyfuss has made college students in one country very happy because they've been arguing with Ricks' sponsor (for his talk) over whether or not he's a journalist. He's not. He's now a counter-insurgency (war on a native people) guru at a War Hawk think tank. And this professor has told the students that Ricks doesn't have an opinion because he's a reporter, told the students he's objective. So we should all be grateful that Ricks has yet again pulled his War Hawk Stub out and waived it around yet again. Second, we should be grateful for the column he wrote. We now know where Michele Flournoy stands. Most of us already suspected it but Ricks doesn't write a word that Flournoy (who left his think tank to join the administration -- where she now stalls Congress on the Iraq 'withdrawal' plan) doesn't approve of.

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

In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves were relocated from Canada to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho to help recover a wolf population that had been exterminated in the northern Rockies. The gray wolf relocation is considered one of the most successful wildlife recovery projects ever attempted under the Endangered Species Act; today there are more than 1,600 wolves in the region. But a debate has erupted between conservationists and ranchers over the question: how many wolves are too many? Last year, the Obama Administration entered the fray by removing federal protection for some of these wolves, paving the way for controversial state-regulated wolf hunts. The move has wolf advocates fuming, with more than a dozen conservation groups suing the Interior Department to restore federal protections. On February 26 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW reports on this war over wolves and implications for the area.

iraqnprall things consideredlourdes garcia-navarro
the toronto starolivia ward
hannah allammcclatchy newspapers
warren p. strobel
jonathan s. landay
laith hammoudi
the christian science monitorjane arraf
cindy sheehan
pbsnow on pbs
peace granniesjoan wile
the nationrobert dreyfuss