Friday, May 28, 2010

Graham Nash's Songs For Beginners

"I Used To Be A King" (Graham Nash, Songs For Beginners):
I used to be a king
And everything around me turned to gold
I thought I had everything
Now I'm left without a hand to hold
But it's alright
I'm okay
How are you?
For what it's worth
I must say
I loved you
And in my bed
Late at night
I miss you
Someone is going to take my heart
No one is going to break my heart

I love that song and I love that album. "I Used To Be A King" is 'inspired' by Joni Mitchell's "I Had A King." Joni's song was written to early in her career to have been about Graham (she hadn't met him yet); however, he wrote "I Used To Be A King" as he and Joni were in the process of breaking up. Though not about Graham, the two songs do work as a call and response.

Graham Nash was always my favorite of the three in Crosby, Stills and Nash. I like David Crosby and Stephen Stills (and love Neil Young) but Graham Nash's vocals and lyrics always spoke to me in a way that few ever manage to. I consider it one of the great losses of this period that Graham released so few solo albums. I think he easily outpaced other solo male singer-songwriters (including Jackson Browne and James Taylor) and that he could have been among the finest.

Songs For Beginners makes that so clear. It remains a perfect album.

"Be Yourself"
We needed a choser
So built a computer
And programmed ourselves not to see
The truth and the lying
The dead and the dying
A silent majority
Don't theorize
Look in their eyes
Are they telling lies
The ones that we learn on TV
What a way to be 'free'

Those are only two of the strong songs on the album. "Better Days" is among my favorite tracks and I've always felt (and am not alone) that Paul McCartney owes a huge, HUGE debt to that song and Graham and that it's doubtful Paul would have 'written' "Live And Let Die" without the template of "Better Days." Then there's the gentle sway of "The Sleep Song:"

When you were asleep
I was kissing your forehead
You gave a frown
So I kissed you again
You started waking and put your arms around my waist
Just making sure I was there
And you drifted away
Then you drifted away

When I awoke
I found out I'd been dreaming
Some of my bed clothes were still on the floor
I looked around realized you were leaving me
I saw the back of your dress
As you slipped through the door
As you slipped through the door

When I return
I will kiss your eyes open
Take off my clothes
And I'll lie by your side
Then I'll wait until the sandman has done with you
And as you sleepily rise
You'll find I'll be there
You'll find I'll be there.

The entire album is strong. It's eleven tracks of perfection and "Military Madness" remains as true today as it did when it opened the 1971 album.

And after the wars are over
And the body counts are finally filed
I hope that man discovers
What's driving the people wild
Military madness
Is killing our country
So much sadness
Between you and me.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, May 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Newsweek's end seems poetic, Paul Bremer talks to the Iraq Inquiry, and more.
Starting with The Diane Rehm Show and here is how the website notes their second hour and how it was noted in on air promos leading up to the (live) broadcast:
Vice President Biden says U.S. troops will be out of Iraq as scheduled [C.I. note: For the drawdown, this is not a withdrawal, for the August drawdown]. North and South Korea continue to ratchet up their rhetoric. And drug violence in Jamaica leaves dozens dead. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Wow. Iraq the first mentioned. At last, it was going to get some serious attention, right?
Wrong. It was one brief minute badly bungled by the biggest idiot on the show. Diane's guests were Elise Labott (CNN), Michael Hirsh (Newsweek) and David Sanger (New York Times). David Sanger's out of his element as a second hour guest. (The paper's Helene Cooper could handle it though international reporters would actually be better.) Elisa Labott covers the State Dept and has an international background. She would have been the best choice if ONLY ONE guest was going to BRIEFLY speak on Iraq. Of the three, Sanger would be the second choice. Michael Hirsh?
Uh, I believe America's rejected Newseek. I believe that's why it can't find a buyer. The trashy weekly (infamous for falsely printing that Jean Seberg was pregnant with the child of a 'Black activist' -- a willing and knowing cooperation with the US government in an effort to destroy Jean) may get some CIA funding but the publishing industry's done with it because it can't grasp reality: There is no Barack publishing market.
Apparently, the Cult of St. Barack has either stopped drinking the Kool-Aid or they don't read. But as one failed book after another, as one hyped magazine cover after another has failed to move, others in the publishing industry have moved on. Newsweek can't stop dry humping Barack. America has no trust in that rag, American has no interest in it.
So Biden says the drawdown is on track? We addressed that in yesterday's snapshot. Joe says the number of US troops in Iraq will be 50,000 by the end of August. Next week is the start of June. June, July and August. 3 months. The Pentagon states there are 92,000 US troops in Iraq (they fed the press that number this week to trumpet that there were more troops in Afghanistan). 92,000 minus 50,000 is 42,000 troops. The average number of troops in a brigade is 3,500. That's well over ten brigades. Candidate Barack Obama promised one brigade a month would be withdrawn from Iraq over his first sixteen months in office if elected (he broke that promise) and stated that it couldn't be more because more than one brigade a month would put too much stress on the system and put too much at risk. (Those are what as known as "lies.") Over 3 troops must be withdrawn in June, 3 in July and 3 in August for the deadline to be met.
Michael Hirsh couldn't offer any of that. He could stammer like the fool he is uh-uh-uh-uh. He could lick the boots of Barack and pass that off as journalism but he couldn't deal with any of the facts. His babbles summed up Newsweek. A piss poor, piece of s**t, that never cared about the facts and never had anything to offer but opinion.
In partnership with the CIA, they published the lie that Jean Seberg was pregnant with the child of "a Black activist" in an effort to destroy Jean Seberg who was both an actress and a political activist speaking out agains the war in Vietnam and racism. The CIA hooked up with Newsweek's foreign correspondent in France who did an interview with Jean that she described as bland. But Edward Behr had already agreed to write up info the CIA wanted in his report for Newsweek. Kermit Lasner would offer excuses for how he, as editor, allowed the statement into print which would include a tough lunch that gave him 'hard gas' and a spill on scooter. Here's what Newsweek printed in the August 24, 1970 issue: "She and French author Romain Gary, 56, are reportedly about to remarry even though the baby Jean expects in Ocotober is by another man -- a black activist she met in California." The US government wanted to destroy her and just knew that was the way to do it. Publishing the lie, destroyed Jean personally for other reasons. She lost the baby. Romain sued. He sued Newsweek.
But the CIA has so many helpers that a huge disinformation campaign has taken place over the last years and allowed Joyce Harber, a gossip columnist, to be blamed. Joyce ran a blind item in May of 1970. It could have been about Jean, it could have been about Jane Fonda, it could have been about any number of women and it caused no ripple. Jean did not miscarry in May. Jean didn't go into the hopsital in May. That happened in August after Newsweek published their lie. But Joyce Harber has been the target of the disinformation campaign and you will read the lie all over the net -- or hear from FAIR in any of its forms -- that Joyce is responsible and was working with Hoover's FBI. Joyce didn't get the tip from the FBI. CIty editor Bill Thomas passed that rumor on to Joyce. Joyce was always clear about where she got the information and how. Bill? Bill lied a million and one times and constantly changed his story. He got his tip from the FBI. He was doing Hoover's bidding.
But that attack didn't work out. Harber was smart enough to know what she could and what she couldn't print. And she also didn't think the tale (which she assumed true) was worth more than any other bit of gossip regarding who is sleeping with whom.
Edward Behr, fed by the CIA, ran with as a non-blind item months later. Kermit Lasner knew better but printed it because Newsweek was but an organ. And Jean Seberg lost her baby. So as Newsweek falters and falters, good. Justice for Jean Seberg.
As illegal wars continue today in Iraq and Afghanistan, anyone considering themselves part of today's peace movement needs to reject the disinformation campaign that blames a blind item by Joyce Harber (which ran in May) for Jean's August miscarriage. Anyone who considers themselves part of the peace movement needs to grasp that Newsweek actively and knowingly worked with the CIA to destroy Jean because she spoke out against American actions in Vietnamand against racism at home. The government wanted to destroy Jean Seberg and Newsweek was more than willing to enlist in that campaign. It is very easy to (wrongly) blame Harber and taking a stand against a (dead) gossip columnist never required bravery. A lot of people have spent a lot of time over the last decades rewriting history. Romain sued one and only one publication: Newsweek. It's amazing how that falls from the public record as a disinformation campaign takes hold.
Who has been the most mentioned US citizen in the London inquiry chaired by John Chilcot into the Iraq War? If you followed the coverage, the answer's obvious and it's in many snapshots such as the February 3rd one: "Paul Bremer is mentiioned in the Iraq Inquiry more than any other American (that includes Bush, Tommy Franks, Condi Rice, Blot Powell and all the rest)." And as we noted as well, Bremer wasn't pleased about that. Nor should he have been. He wasn't occupying the Oval Office (that was Bush), he wasn't running things (that was Cheney). As demonstrated with Jay Garner's firing, when the White House was displeased with the way their orders were being carried out in Iraq, they dumped the person immediately. (The second most blamed by witnesses testifying before the Inquiry? Condi Rice and usually for a multi-page article published in 2000 that had approximately one paragraph on Iraq in it.) So it never made sense to hear one British witness after another repeatedly lay the blame on Bremer.
But it always made sense that Bremer would want his say and he has. In addition to offering testimony, he's issued a lengthy statement. So lengthy that were this Monday or Tuesday, we'd serialize it with excerpts in each snapshot of this week. It's Friday and I don't care for the New York Times' bitchy way of 'covering' Bremer which is to repeat charges against him and ignore his responses except on letters page where they usually fail to print his response in full. So we're noting all of Bremer's statement in full. Again, it is lengthy:
Mr. Chairman, distinguished members of Commission:
Thank you for the opportunity to address this commission. The purpose of my statement is to convey my understanding of the objectives of the occupying authority in Iraq and to account for the major activities that authority undertook. I take this opportunity to summarize for the commission the points that I consider important to its review. After my statement, I am prepared to answer your questions.
At the outset I would make three general points.
  1. I should remind the commission that prior to assuming my duties in Iraq I had been in the private sector for about fourteen years. In the prewar period, I was neither in the US government nor informed of governmental deliberations except through press reports. Therefore I had, and still have, no firsthand knowledge about those prewar deliberations.
  2. While I recognize the focus of the commission is on British government decisions involving the CPA's time in Iraq, my perspective is on American government actions with which I am familiar.
  3. It is impossible to exaggerate the difficulties created by the chronic under-resourcing of the CPA's efforts. This problem, and the fact that the Coalition was unable to provide adequate security for Iraqi citizens, pervaded virtually everything we did, or tried to do, throughout the fourteen months of the CPA's existence.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Three weeks after the fall of Baghdad, President Bush asked me to become Presidential Envoy to Iraq. I spent the next several weeks in a round of meetings and briefings with the relevant departments of the US government in Washington. I arrived in Baghdad on May 12, 2003 and stayed until June 28, 2004. During this period, I served as Presidential Envoy to Iraq and Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA).
I have written an extensive account of my experience in My Year in Iraq; The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope (2006).
My authorities as Presidential Envoy, enumerated in a letter from the President, were modeled on the standard letter every American Chief of Mission receives and were consistent with American law concerning those authorities. As with the standard Chief of Mission letter, mine affirmed my authority for all American government employees within Iraq, except for American military personnel serving there under the command of military authorities. Thus, consistent with American law and long-standing practice, I was not in the military chain of command.
The Secretary of Defense appointed me Administrator. His letter stated that in that position I was to exercise all executive, legislative and judicial authority over the government of Iraq. I was given to understand that these authorities derived from the Coalition's status as an "occupying power" under international law, as recognized in the relevant UN Security Council resolution.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
In Iraq the Coalition had three major challenges:
  1. To provide security for the citizens of Iraq.
  2. To help the Iraqis rebuild their economy.
  3. To help the Iraqi people put their country on the path to representative government.
The Coalition military had responsibility for the first task; the CPA for the other two.
It was evident to me from the start that the prewar planning had been inadequate, largely because it was based on incorrect assumptions about the nature of the post-war situation on the ground in Iraq.

Pervasive Lack of Security

Even before I left for Baghdad, I was concerned that the Coalition had insufficient troops to carry out its primary duty of providing security for the Iraqi people. I was struck by the evidence to this effect provided in a draft study from the RAND corporation shown to me before I left for Baghdad.
That study examined a number of post-conflict situations to determine in such situations the appropriate ratio of troops on the ground to the host country population. Applying the lessons of that study, the RAND report concluded that the Coalition military in Iraq should number some 480,000. Yet the day I arrived in Iraq, total strength of Coalition forces was less that half that number. Troop strength declined thereafter.
Restrictive Rules of Engagement (ROEs) under which Coalition forces operated in Iraq compounded this numerical deficit. For example, although there were some 40,000 Coalition troops in Baghdad when I arrived, since the collapse of the Saddam regime looters had pillaged at will for more than three weeks undisturbed by Coalition forces. Coalition troops had no orders to stop the looting and the Iraqi police in all major cities had deserted their posts.
The looting was done out of rage, revenge and for profit. It later became evident that some looting was also part of a prewar plan of Saddam Hussein's intelligence services.
The unchecked violence had three consequences. First was the enormous economic damage, not just in Baghdad but throughout Iraq. The CPA's economic experts later calculated the economic cost of the looting to be $12 billion, an amount equal to half Iraq's prewar GDP.
Secondly, focusing much of their rage on hated Iraqi governmental institutions, the looters destroyed a large part of the physical infrastructure of the government. The Baghdad headquarters of 21 of 25 ministries were entirely or largely destroyed. Throughout the CPA's tenure, the crucial Ministry of Finance had room for only half of its civil servants, who therefore worked in shifts throughout that time. The same was true of the Ministry of Education.
All the country's police stations were ransacked, often burned down. Iraq's military bases and barracks in most cases were entirely disassembled -- windows, doors, furniture, pipes and bathroom fixtures--so that often not a brick stood on another.
But the most pernicious effect of the unchecked looting was to send a message to the Iraqi people, and to enemies of the Coalition, that the Coalition military would not, or could not, provide security for Iraqis, the most basic of government functions.
I would like to set the record straight on the decision about the Iraqi army. The decision was based on the nature and role of Iraq's army during Saddam's three decade rule; the status of the army after the fall of Baghdad; and the practical and political considerations about the structure of any future Iraqi army.
Since the establishment of Iraq after the First World War, the army had played an important, and at least initially, constructive role in Iraq. However, for more than three decades Saddam had used that army as an essential element of his brutal repression and terror against the Iraqi people.
During the 1980s, the Iraqi army had conducted a vicious war, considered by some legal experts to be a war of genocide, against Iraq's Kurds. Hundreds of thousands of Kurds were killed, maimed or tortured. More still were made refugees after the army destroyed their homes. This "anfal" campaign culminated in the use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish town of Halabja on March 18, 1988 in which at least 5,000 innocent men, women and children were killed; thousands more were horribly scarred for life.
After the first Gulf War, Saddam used the army to brutally repress a Shia uprising in the South. Again hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens were killed -- machine gunned and thrown into mass graves; for example, one field discovered near al-Hilla the week I arrived contained more than 30,000 bodies. During the 14 months of the CPA, over 300 mass graves were discovered.
Iraq's prewar army had been composed of some 300,000 enlisted men, all of them drafted into the army and the vast majority of them Shia. The officer corps, which was almost as large, was composed almost entirely of Sunnis. The enlisted men were regularly mistreated, even brutalized, by their officers.
When it became clear that Iraq was losing the war, this army had "self-demobilized", as the US Defense Department put it. Shia draftees by the thousands deserted their posts and went back to their villages, farms and families. Before I arrived in Iraq, the top commander of the Coalition forces, General Abizaid, had reported to the Department of Defense that not a single unit of the old army was in place intact anywhere in Iraq.
Thus, any prewar thought of using the army for peaceful reconstruction projects had become simply irrelevant -- unless the Coalition proposed to recall the old army. While some American officers had discussed the possibility of recalling elements of the former army, such a course ran straight into practical and political objections.
The large corps of enlisted men had gone home and would not voluntarily return to serve under brutal Sunnis officers. So the Coalition military would have had to send Coalition troops, already short-handed, into the Shia villages to force draftees back at gunpoint. This was not a course of action which commended itself to anyone of responsibility in the US government. Moreover, since looting had destroyed Iraq's military infrastructure, there would have been no place to train and house the army.
To these practical problems were added decisive political arguments against recalling the army.
Already before the war, the State Department's extensive study for post war Iraq (The Future of Iraq) had stated that: "The Iraqi Army of the future cannot be an extension of the present army, which has been made into a tool of dictatorship." Kurdish leaders, hearing rumors that some Coalition officers were considering reconstituting Saddam's army, made very clear to me that such a move would trigger Kurdish secession from Iraq. That would have provoked an immediate civil war and a broader and more dangerous regional war.
Moreover, Iraq's Shia population, following the counsel of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, was openly cooperating with the Coalition. But they, too, had powerful historic reasons to resent the idea of recalling the Iraqi army. Together the Kurds and the Shia make up about 80% of Iraq's population.
So the best course open to the Coalition, announced in late May, was to build a new professional Iraqi army. This decision had been under review by senior Defense Department civilian and military leaders since it became evident in early April that the former army was no longer intact.
The CPA's senior advisor, Walter Slocombe conducted these discussions, first in Washington, then in London and Baghdad. American officials recognized that any prewar plan to make use of the old army had been rendered irrelevant by facts on the ground. On his way to Bagdad on May 13 and 14 2003, Slocombe briefed senior British officials in London on the plans. His British interlocutors recognized that demobilization was a fait accompli. None of them expressed the view that the Coalition should instead try to recall the Iraqi army. In fact, Slocombe reported that the British officials agreed with the need for vigorous de-Baathification, especially in the security sector.
The first battalion of the new army went into training in late July 2003. We made clear at the outset that this would be an all-volunteer army and that enlisted men from the old army were welcome to seek reenlistment. The CPA also announced that officers from Saddam's army up to the rank of Colonel could apply for positions in the new army.
Recognizing the impact of not recalling all of Saddam's army, the Coalition decided to pay all enlisted men a separation bonus. And because the planned new Iraqi army would be much smaller than Saddam's, we also paid all but the most senior former officers a monthly pension set at a level higher than they would have received from Saddam's government. Those payments, made from Iraqi government funds, continued throughout the CPA period and were continued after the return of a sovereign Iraqi government. It was a mistake not to announce the payments at the same time we announced the Coalition's intent to create a new army. As soon as we did announce the payments (in mid June 2003), unrest and demonstrations by former officers immediately stopped.
No doubt some members of the former army may have subsequently joined the insurgency. But if they did so, for most of them it was not because they had been denied an opportunity to serve their country again or otherwise to live on their pensions. It was because they wanted to install a Baathist dictatorship.
Today the new Iraqi army, built from the ground up, is the country's most respected institution; a significant contrast to the police which the CPA did recall and which continues to be plagued by human rights and criminal abuses.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

Rebuilding a devastated Economy

The second challenge facing the Coalition was to get Iraq's economy back on its feet and to begin restoring essential services to the Iraqi people.
Through a combination of large-scale corruption, spectacular misallocation of Iraq's capital resources and UN-imposed sanctions, Saddam's three decade rule had destroyed one of the region's best economies. A few specifics show magnitude of the CPA's economic challenge.
  1. In 1980, Iraq's per capita income had been greater than Spain's. By 2002 it had fallen below Angola's.
  2. During the 1990s, Saddam cut healthcare spending by 90%. The World Bank estimated that Iraq had shortest life expectancy and highest child mortality in region.
  3. The UN reported that at least half of Iraq's schools needed to be entirely rebuilt.
  4. Iraq's industrial sector was dominated by 192 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), value- destroying entities dependent on politically-mandated loans, often buying goods at politically-fixed prices and making products for non-existent markets.
  5. The World Bank estimated that the country needed between $75 and $100 billion in new investment just to repair the country's dilapidated economic infrastructure
The state budget had been a secret under Saddam, but what was clear is that it was in chronic deficit. Every Friday, the central bank would simply print the amount of new currency Saddam estimated would be needed the following week. As a result of this colossal fiscal indiscipline, Saddam's Ministry of Planning estimated that at the end of 2002 inflation had been running at an annual rate of over 100,000%. The same ministry reported that the prewar unemployment was 50%.
Even before the war, Iraq's electricity production was estimated be fulfill less than half demand. At the fall of Baghdad, the entire country was producing less than 300 MW of electricity, about a tenth of prewar levels; no oil was being exported so the Iraqi government had no revenues. Civil servants, by far the majority of the employed population, had not been paid salaries or pensions for months. Hospitals and schools were closed. The primitive banking system was shuttered. In short, Saddam's Iraq had been the equivalent of a well-armed Potemkin village.
The CPA took aggressive action to deal with the economy. Salaries and pensions were increased three to five fold and paid out within a week of my arrival. Barriers to trade were removed by eliminating import tariffs. Taxes were lowered and exchange rate freed to be determined by the market rather than by bureaucrats. Massive employment projects were set on foot to create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Over the next 14 months, the CPA and Coalition military units completed over 22,000 individual reconstruction projects all over the country.
Within 4 months, the CPA's actions had begun reviving the economy. By October 1, 2003, the Coalition had rebuilt over 2,000 schools. The CPA had increased Iraq's healthcare budget by 1300%. All Iraq's hospitals and clinics had been reopened and distribution of drugs had been increased 700%. Electricity and oil production had returned to prewar levels. All the nation's bank branches were reopened (though they still lacked capacity for electronic transfer of funds so Iraqi government expenses had to be paid in cash).
At the same time, the CPA worked with Iraqis to establish principles and institutions fitting for a modern economy. Iraqi ministries, working with CPA advisors, produced balanced government budgets for 2003 and 2004. The CPA introduced the principles of monetary responsibility by establishing the independence of Iraq's central bank and freed interest rates to be determined by the marketplace, not by bureaucrats as had been done under Saddam. Working with the Iraqis, the CPA repealed Saddam's prohibition against foreign investment, except in the oil industry. Despite a primitive banking system, poor infrastructure and a war, the CPA succeeding in replacing Saddam's near-worthless currency with a New Iraqi Dinar which has since floated freely against all world currencies.
The CPA evaluated the SOEs and found that most of them probably could not survive in a free market. The economic arguments for privatizing those that could survive and closing the rest were powerful. But because these firms employed over 500,000 people, the CPA decided that the consequences of privatizing or closing the SOEs in the midst of a growing insurgency were too risky. So the CPA did not privatize a single SOE and instead continued to pay the salaries of the all SOE employees, even of those "employed" at SOEs that were definitively closed.
The CPA's economic record has largely gone unreported. In June 2004, when the CPA handed over to a sovereign Iraqi government, the economy was well on the way to recovery. Oil production had been running at prewar levels for 10 months. Bank deposits were 90% over May 2003 levels. Electricity production was half again as high as prewar levels, though still far short of meeting demand. Monthly inflation had been cut to only 2%. And according to a massive study by the United Nations Development Programme, unemployment was just 10.5%. A later study by the International Monetary Fund found that the Iraqi economy rebounded by over 46% in 2004.
* * * * * * * * * * * *

Helping Iraq's Transition to Representative Government

The major political goal of the Coalition was to help the Iraqis establish responsible representative government. In this goal, the Coalition was pushing on an open door. The remarkable turnout of Iraqis in four elections and one referendum since 2004 is conclusive evidence that Iraqis wanted to replace Saddam's tyranny with democracy.
The first step toward this goal was to deal with the overhang of Baath Party dictatorship. Saddam's party had been the primary political instrument of repression. Dissent and criticism of his rule were answered with summary brutality, torture and death. The party, consciously modeled on Hitler's Nazi party, even recruited children to spy and report on their parents.
The State Department's prewar plan, The Future of Iraq, recognized that "no member of the Baath party has any stature in the country" and urged that if Saddam were overthrown, steps should be taken "to ensure that Baathist ideology in whatever guise does not seep into the public realm" and to "block the appointment or promotion of any figure who has Baathist sympathies or loyalties of who expresses Baathist 'thought'".
Consistent with this plan, on April 16, 2003, General Tommy Franks, commander of Coalition Forces, outlawed the Baath Party and its repugnant ideology. No responsible official that I am aware of, in Washington or any other capital, nor in Iraq itself seriously suggested any other possibility. It was clear that there would be some level of de-Baathification. The questions were: how much and what would happen to Baathists.
Our intelligence estimated that the party had a membership of two and a half million. The Coalition recognized that many Iraqis had joined the party, not out of conviction, but in order to get access to jobs or favors from Saddam's regime.
So the Coalition's deBaathification decree was narrowly drawn in two respects. First, it affected only the top one percent of party members. Moreover, the only restriction placed on them was that they could not hold government jobs. Thus even top party members were free to work in the private sector, to set up businesses or newspapers, to become farmers, etc. Moreover the CPA authorized scores of exceptions even to this lenient policy, permitting many ranking Baathists to remain in high government positions. The myth that deBaathification collapsed the Iraqi government is simply unsupported by the facts.
Although the CPA's policy was intended to target a small portion of party members, it was later abused by Iraqi politicians and became a political tool with large negative consequences. In retrospect, it was a mistake for the CPA to devolve the implementation of the Debaathfication program to Iraqi politicians who then attempted to broaden the decree's effect. It would have been wiser to have set up an Iraqi judicial panel to oversee implementation. The difficulty three successive sovereign Iraqi governments have had wrestling with deBaathification illustrates the strong emotions Iraqis continue to have about the proper role for former Baath party members.
The CPA moved quickly to get a responsible interim Iraqi government in place, working with the UN Secretary General's Special Representative to establish the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC) in just two months. This effort benefited greatly from the professional efforts of British members of the CPA under the able leadership of Ambassador Jonathan Sawers. Hundreds of other able British officials including Ambassadors Greenstock, Sinnott and Richmond, participated in CPA activities over the next 14 months.
All CPA employees were volunteers. They came from 25 different nations and worked long hard hours. But the CPA was never adequately staffed. At its best, the CPA had only 56% of its positions filled.
The IGC was afforded responsibility to oversee drafting a modern constitution for Iraq, a step that all Iraqi political leaders we consulted favored. On September 1, 2003, the IGC also appointed Iraqi Ministers to run the Iraqi government. The CPA gave the Iraqi Ministers responsibility for the policies, personnel and budgets of their respective ministries. I do not recall once overruling a decision by an Iraqi Minister.
After considerable internal debate, the IGC deadlocked over the process by which to draft a constitution. The result was an agreement on November 15, 2003 that the Iraqis would draft an Interim Constitution as an essential step to regaining full sovereignty. This document, the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) came into being in March 2004, after months of intense negotiations among Iraqis in which the CPA paid an essential and very active mediating role.
The Interim Constitution was the CPA's most important contribution to Iraq's political future. The law established the principles of democracy, individual rights and federalism on which Iraq's permanent constitution came to be based.
The Interim Constitution laid the foundations for open, representative and legitimate government. The document established the architecture of Iraq's government, based on the separation of powers, and a balance between the executive and legislative branches. It also confirmed an independent judiciary and civilian control over the military. The Interim Constitution established basic rights for all Iraqis, irrespective of gender, sect, religion or ethnicity. It committed Iraq to the rule of law and set out principles such as the right of the accused to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, to confront his accusers and to have legal counsel. Through the document recognized that the majority of Iraqis are Muslim, it confirmed the freedom of religion.
This document gave Iraq the political structure and opportunity to remain a united, free and democratic country. And although Iraq has been through very difficult times since 2004, the Iraqi people have remained committed to that structure.


The Coalition faced three enormous challenges in Iraq: providing security for Iraqi citizens; helping Iraq move toward representative government and helping them modernize their economy.
The Coalition military had responsibility for security. This task was never adequately resourced throughout the CPA time. Lack of security impinged on the CPA's ability to deliver in the other two areas. Constant attacks on Iraq's fragile infrastructure complicated the task of restarting essential services. Two leading members of the Governing Council were assassinated in office; others subjected to shootings, bombings and harassment. The CPA itself lost staff to insurgent attacks and its work environment was far short of ideal.
Despite these handicaps, and chronic understaffing, the historic record of the CPA's accomplishments is clear. When the CPA left, Iraq's economy was rebounding smartly, not just from post war levels, but well beyond the prewar levels. And by helping Iraqis draft a modern, liberal constitution, the CPA gave the Iraqi people the political structure to define a path to representative government, a path they have followed despite severe provocation by insurgents and terrorists.
We've called Bremer out repeatedly over the years and our points of disagreement are a matter of record. Due to that and due to the fact that the witness testimony against him during each day of public hearings at the Inquiry were covered in the snapshot, we'll let him have his say above without comment. The Inquiry also met with Australia's Ambassador to the US Kim Beazley, John Bellinger (advised Bush and the NSC), Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction's Stuart Bowen and Ginger Cruz, Eliot Cohen, US Ambassador to Iraq (2007-2009) Ryan Crocker, Charles Duelfer (Iraq Survey Group), David Kay (Ibid), Gen David McKiernan, NSC's Franklin Miller, USAID's (2001-2005) Andrew Natsios, CPA's Meghan O'Sullivan, William Taft IV (State Dept legal adviser, 2000-2004), Philip Zelikow and French Ambassador to the US Pierre Vimont.
Khalid Farhan, Muhanad Mohammed and Michael Taylor (Reuters) report a Najaf bank was robbed today after at least one insider (a security guard) drugged his c-owrkers tea allowing robbers to make off with the US equivalent of $5.5 million. AP adds, "A policeman who was guarding the bank offered cups of tea laced with sleeping medication to four guards at the bank, knocking them out for the night, according to a local police and a bank official." In other violence, Alsumaria TV reports a Baquba bombing yesterday which left seven people injured. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Thursday Mosul mortar attack which left twelve people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which left two people injured and, today, Baghdad home bombings "of two Sahwa members and one policeman" which left three bystanders wounded.
In the US, Brian Faler (Bloomberg News) notes, the Senate pushed through the war supplemental bill late last night on a 67 for and 28 against vote. The bill now goes to the House which will debate it sometime after their Memorial Day vacation. At The Huffington Post, US House Rep Jan Schakowsky observes:
As of 10:06 on Sunday, May 30th, we will have spent $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A trillion dollars is a baffling amount of money. If you write it out, use twelve zeros. Even after serving in Congress for over a decade, I, like most Americans, still have a hard time wrapping my head around sums like this.
This month, we mark the seventh anniversary of President Bush's declaration of "mission accomplished" in Iraq, yet five American soldiers have been killed there in May alone. Iraqis went to the polls nearly three months ago, but the political system remains so fractured that no party has been able to piece together a coalition. There are some indications that sectarian violence is again on the rise.
The only clear winner of the Iraq war is Iran. Their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, was taken out and fellow Shiites are in charge. Iran has been emboldened to the point of threatening the stability of the region and the world with its growing nuclear capability.
And we'll close with this from Military Families Speak Out:

Contact: Nikki Morse, 347-703-0570,
Deborah Forter, 617-983-0710,

May 27, 2010, Nationwide -- This Memorial Day Weekend, Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq, can speak a truth Americans need to hear.

Celeste Zappala, a member of Gold Star Families Speak Out from Philadelphia, PA, whose son was killed in Iraq and was the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman to die in combat since World War II, said,

"With great sadness my family and I recognize Memorial Day and the 7 years since we last saw my son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker alive. On April 26, 2004 he died in an explosion while looking for the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. We are but one of the over 5,000 American families who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan; physical and spiritual casualties affect thousands more - and yet the wars that kill our young and drain our treasure do not create peace. It is long past time to bring our troops home, and find real solutions for Peace."

Earlier this month, an ABC News /Washington Post poll found that a majority of Americans are again opposed to the Afghanistan war, with 52% saying it's not worth fighting.

Military Families Speak Out members Larry and Judy Syverson, of Richmond Virginia, said,

"We are the parents of three active duty sons. Our oldest son, Branden, is in Afghanistan with the Second Infantry (our family's sixth deployment in these wars). We are disheartened by Obama's foreign policy. With the 1,000th American soldier killed in Afghanistan this past week and war spending reaching $1 trillion on May 30th, 100,000 troops are in Afghanistan chasing an illusive target that has not made us safer in this country or closer to achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. In poll after poll, the American people have repeatedly stated they want these wars to end. President Obama should honor the American people's wishes and end both wars and bring our troops home now."

Gold Star Families Speak Out members whose loved ones died as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Military Families Speak Out members who have a loved one who has previously served or is currently serving in Afghanistan or Iraq are available for interview over Memorial Day Weekend. To schedule an interview, contact Nikki Morse at or Deborah Forter at

ELSEWHERE IN THE COUNTRY: Members of Military Families Speak Out will also be participating in events around the country. To arrange for an interview, contact us at the information above.

Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) is a national organization of over 4,000 families who are opposed to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and have loved ones who serve or have served in the military since the fall of 2002. Gold Star Families Speak Out is a national chapter of MFSO with families whose loved ones died as a result of these wars.

For more information about Military Families Speak Out, please visit
For more information about the chapter Gold Star Families Speak Out see

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Carville calls it

Democratic strategist James Carville blasts White House over rig spill reaction. "I have no idea why their attitude was so hands-off, it's unbelievable. I hope he sees it now cause very seldom we get something that's really good politics and really the right thing to do," Carville said.

Carville says President Obama "could have done" several things such as deploying people to the coast.

"They're [The people are] begging for something down here and he just looks like he's not involved in this. He's got to get down here and take control of this, put somebody in charge of this thing and get this thing moving, we're about to die down here," an emotional Carville said.

The link contains the video. C.I. is right and if you doubt her, you need to watch James Carville. "He's got to get down here and take control of this," Carville says.

So the White House needs to stop lying -- and their WHORES need to stop lying -- the buck stops with Barack and he has the power here. This is just like with Vicky ToeJam. I forget the ___'s real name. But she showed up insisting that a law said ___ when it did not. She attacked Valerie Plame and lied non-stop. A large number of reporters printed her nonsense as fact.

She was wrong. She was lying.

C.I. took that on and said, "This is what the law says." She does that all the time, over and over. It gets so old for her because she's usually the only one talking about the law. Everyone else is spinning and lying. You saw it with Canadian 'helpers' this week if you paid attention.

It's like with the SOFA. C.I. has explained that over and over. She knows what she's talking about. She's discussed it repeatedly with attorneys and Constitutional Law professors. But you get these assholes who come along (Raed Jarrar, for example) and insist she's wrong and it doesn't matter because the SOFA says that at the end of this August, troops will be . . .

The SOFA says nothing about this August. That is a deadline Barack created. He wasn't in office when the SOFA was signed. Right there, you should grasp that a Raed or whomever does not know what the hell they are talking about.

Yet before C.I. says a word about any law, she's read over proposed legislation if it's something to do with Congress. If it's already law, she's read the actual law. She's gone through any court history on the topic. She's conferred with her own attorney as well as with numerous friends who are lawyers and law professors. She does all of that before she ever weighs in publicly.

She may not have done that with "And the war drags on . . ." If she didn't, the reason is she's very well versed in this area and was studying oceanic law when the leadup to the war started and she had to put that on hold. Studying it because? She doesn't want her mind to go mushy. She always has -- and always has had -- these big think projects to educate herself on this or that. That's how she is. If she had time, she'd probably go back to school right now to get yet another degree. (Sidebar, she'll probably hate that I'm telling this story but a month after grad school, I'm looking around for something and find her diploma on the floor under a desk and her pet turtle has 'gone' on it. She just laughed. She didn't care and didn't pick it up. The bulk of her diplomas she's never had framed and she has many.)

But those who think they can challenge her on legal issues should tread very carefully because she generally knows the law backwards and forwards and knows all relevant case history. In college, no one wanted to go up against her in moot court. It didn't matter what the issue was. She would win. In a very liberal college, she was assigned a position to advocate for school prayer. She did so. The justices (students) ended up siding with her, she was that persuasive and knew her case law that well. It didn't matter that she was arguing a position she didn't care for, she knows how to do her work and with nine liberal students (she's a liberal herself), she managed to get five of them to vote for school prayer.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, May 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri 'suffers' for his public, Barack proves his presidential cry is "MEOW!", to avoid debt payments Iraq breaks up an airplane company, and more.

Last night, catty Barack Obama teamed up with catty Barbara Boxer who appears to be begging California to vote her out of office. Barry was droning on in his stop-stop, Sandy Dennis manner -- so many vocal tics you expect him to ask for a Coke. With. Crushed ice. Come Back To The Speech Therapist, Barry O, Barry O. He ended up heckled. And between his vanity and
his well known bitchery, you knew Barry wasn't going to stand for it. As he scowled, Barbara Boxer snarls that "it's the same guy" who heckled Barry last time. The guy was Kip Williams and Barbara only likes it when closeted lesbians heckle Karl Rove. That she'll get behind and cheer.

Rafael Corral (KFRC) posts video of the exchange.
Barry: I have to say. You know. I saw. ThisguydowninLA. At a Barbara Boxer event.

Bitchy Barbara: That's right!

Barry: At. A. Barbaraboxerevent. About a month and a half ago. And -- uhhhh- I would -- two points I'd like to make. Number one. Uhhh. I hate to say this but he should -- I hate to say this but he really should like buy a ticket to -- Uhhhh. If-if he wants to demonstrate, buy a ticket to a guy who doesn't support his point of view and then you can yell as much as you want there. The other point is maybe he didn't read the newspapers.

That's enough of Barack's bitchy tirade against an American citizen. Forever low class, that's Barry O. And the holler monkeys assembled -- sounding like the same wet dreamers for George W. Bush in 2003 -- lap it up. Like many other things, Barack isn't good at math. A month and a half ago? Go to the
April 20th snapshot to read about the last California heckling on April 19th.

On the joke of 'repealing' Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle) notes GetEQUAL's Lt Dan Choi:But Iraq veteran Lt. Dan Choi, who is facing dismissal for publicly stating that he is gay and who twice chained himself to the White House gates in protest, argued that there should be no compromise on ending discrimination and said the White House could stop dismissals now."If any groups are saying this is a reason to rejoice, they need to wake up to the reality of soldiers on the ground," Choi said. The policy "is still in place and (gay and lesbian personnel) are still going to get fired for telling the truth."At Newsweek, Dan explains:

I'm not going to lie. This compromise isn't what I, or any of my fellow advocates, wanted or expected. The compromise does not end the firings. Nor does it restore our integrity. It is the result of a White House that has been AWOL on "don't ask, don't tell" repeal for the last year and a half, and now is desperately trying to find a solution -- any solution, regardless of how unworkable -- to a problem and a promise it would rather just go away. Our "fierce advocate," as the president promised the gay community he would be, has presented us with a last-minute Hobson's choice, and it is no cause for celebration. As the clock continues ticking toward a Thursday vote in Congress, the president is asking the lesbian and gay community to praise this compromise because it's the best we could possibly get. My question for the president that I ask
in this video is simple: under your compromise, when will the discharges end? How long can we ask gay service members to live a lie? How long can we deny existence to their families? How long do we need to study the injustice in order to understand that discrimination is un-American? Poll after poll shows that the American people don't need another study in order to know what's right. Nearly 80 percent of Americans, from all walks of life, already understand what the president and the Congress still find so hard to grasp. The people support a full repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" now. When will their leaders do the same?

At Blue Oregon, Iraq War veteran Eric Zimmerman explains:

The last sections of the amendment by Sen. Lieberman strike all concern for a timeline, implementation, and any actual substantive qualities of the effort to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Unfortunately there is no meat to this amendment and it quickly becomes a talking point rather than a policy change and a piece of anti-discrimination legislation. Would we have settled for such weak legislation, lack of timelines, and lack of implementation for any of the civil rights legislation of generations past? Absolutely not!
Contrast this amendment with racial civil rights legislation. Race would have remained a point of discrimination legally until the President of the United States, and members of his cabinet decided it was time to change. They would have received a report about implications; the report would have sat on their desk for weeks, months, years? Perhaps an entire term of the Presidency. Nothing in this bill holds decision-makers' feet to the fire. Congress, who enacted the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policies of the early nineties, washes their hands of the issue. No longer are the individual representatives and senators who represent us responsive to us on this issue because this amendment puts power in the hands of the President, his Secretary of Defense, and his Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The President could of course replace the other two positions until he found people who would put their name to this policy change- but I don't have that kind of confidence in the President's agenda, nor should I. Politically, this issue does not warrant that kind of maneuvering. This is the right thing to do; it's a matter of just doing it. The SECDEF and the CJCS are good at what they do, they shouldn't be replaced for their lack of movement on the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. It shouldn't be their decision at all. Congress needs to repeal the ban and the President needs to sign the repeal into law. Bottom line.

What's really amazing, looking at this issue, is thinking of all the people who came of age after the March On Washington and other landmark events. They always like to say, coming of age after the battle, that they would have been on the right side. Reality is far different. They wouldn't have the guts then because they don't have it now. Instead of applauding Dan and Eric and everyone else fighting for a more equal America, they slam them. They say, as an idiot does at Blue Oregon, that you need "comrpomise. This is a compromise that will work". And they sneer "purity" at those striving for full equality.

People like that? That attitude? They were the same ones who felt that a few morsels tossed out justified continuing racial discrimination. Social change does not come about easily and look and see who today is on the side of equality and who is too busy carrying water for a president who will be out of office in two or six years. See who believes in equality and who believes in worshipping false gods. There is a very real battle going on for equal rights today. And it's not the within We The People. We The People have decided we want Don't Ask, Don't Tell ended. The battle is between We The People and our alleged representatives in the federal government. History doesn't come with do-overs. The present quickly becomes the historical record. People better be keeping that in mind when they decide whether they stand for equality or whether they're lustful teenage groupies making fools of themselves.

Meanwhile Joan Crawford in all her 'working girl' films never faced as much drama as Nouri al-Maliki attempts to create for himself.
Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports the desperate-to-remain prime minister is claiming numerous assassination attempts have taken place and, here's the kicker, he didn't order them, he was the target. At one point, he insists that, in 2009, an airplane he was on was targeted: "A missile was fired against the plane but thermal decoys diverted it." He's seen far too many movies. AFP quotes the drama queen claiming, "There have been several attempts like this but they have all failed." Is he attempting to paint himself as indestructable or goading his alleged assassins on?

Each day brings us more laughable Nouri 'news' and it's getting so bad you expect to discover shortly that his agents trying to plant items in
Liz Smith's latest column. Elections took place March 7th. The Iraqiya political slate won the most seats in Parliament (91). Nouri al-Maliki has repeatedly attempted to circumvent his slate's second place showing (State Of Law won 89 seats). Yesterday, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq, Ad Melkert, gave a report to the UN Security Council. The UN News Centre quotes him stating to the Council, "At this juncture, Iraq would probably be better served by a broadly inclusive Government as a radical alternative to exclusion and disenfranchisement that many communities have experienced in the past. [. . .] Failure by the next government to address the needs and aspirations of the population will predictably be a source of increasing instability and undermind the gains of the democratic process so far." So tight with the US government that you can't tell them apart, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace weighs in with a post-election analysis by Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi:

Fissures are also appearing among the Kurdish parties, although they had announced after the elections that they would participate in national politics as a unified bloc. According to some reports, the agreement reached by State of Law and the INA when they formed the National Alliance assumed the Kurds would back the Alliance, and that they would keep the presidency in return for their support. Statements made recently by various Kurdish leaders call that idea into question. There is no doubt that current President Jalal Talabani and his Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party want to retain the presidency and will back the INA-State of Law alliance as a result. But the leaders of Gorran, the party that broke off from the PUK and remains its main rival, is now suggesting that the Kurds should not demand the presidency, but the speakership of the Council of Representatives. Ostensibly, this is because the latter position is more powerful. Not incidentally, if the Kurdish parties accepted Gorran's position and opted for the speakership rather than the presidency, Talabani would be deprived of the position he covets. Even more revealing of dissension among the Kurds is that fact that Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region and the leader of the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, appears to be distancing himself from Maliki. Barzani has stated that Iraqi politicians must respect the constitution and the people's will, and thus Allawi, whose Iraqiya coalition won the largest number of seats, should receive the mandate to form the government.

It is impossible to determine at this point whether Barzani's position is just an opening gambit to win more concessions from the Shi'i parties or whether there is a possibility that at least some Kurdish parties will break ranks and back Allawi. Two conclusions are clear, however. First, State of Law is both angry and worried about Barzani's position, because it needs Kurdish support to form a government. Speaking for the State of Law, Ali Dabbagh angrily declared that the Kurds were welcome to side with Iraqiya if they wanted, but then thought better of it and denied having made such a statement. Second, the Kurds are trying to exact a high price for their support. Reports indicate that they are demanding the implementation of Article 140 of the constitution, which calls for a referendum in Kirkuk; control of the presidency plus at least one of the sovereign ministries; an oil law that defends their interests; and a commitment by the government to provide funding for the peshmerga forces even though the peshmerga have a degree of autonomy from the Iraqi security apparatus. Baha'a Aaraji of State of Law has declared that the Kurds will have to reconsider their exorbitant demands if they plan to negotiate seriously.

Press TV reports the government or 'government' out of Baghdad continues to insist that the UN sanctions be lifted. This as Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "The Iraqi council of ministers decided to dissolve Iraqi Airways and liquidate its assets after the airline dropped flights to England and Sweden in a row with Kuwait over war reparations." Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) adds, "Kuwait Airways Corp. is seeking $1.2 billion in compensation for 10 planes taken by Iraq, under the rule of Saddam Hussein when his forces invaded Kuwait in August 1990." Left unstated in both reports is that Nouri and his council really shouldn't be doing this because they really aren't in power. It's amazing what Nouri is pushing through in this post-election period and amazing how news outlets seem to work overtime to ignore that its taking place. Representing Kuwait Airways is Chris Gooding of Fasken Martineau LLP who tells BBC News:

This is not an action that's being pursued by the government of Kuwait. It's being pursued by Kuwait Airways company against Iraqi Airways company. So attempts to portray it as a political witchhunt are sadly misplaced. [. . .] It relates to the incorporation of airpcraft and spare parts taken from Kuwait International Airport by Iraqi Airways as part of an attempt to encorporate Kuwait Airways into Iraqi Airways. [. . .] These are not reparations, these are commercial court judgments totaling $1.2 billion. As I say, Iraq has defended itself throughout this action as far as the courts are concerned, these are commercial court judgments.

Hassan Hafidh and Daniel Michaels (Wall St. Journal) add, "Kuwait Airways, also state owned, has in recent years been awarded some $1.2 billion by British courts in compensation from the Iraqi carrier for the theft of 10 airplanes and millions of dollars worth of spare parts during Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Iraqi Air hasn't paid the award, so Kuwait Air recently sought to freeze the company's assets world-wide."

In other bad news for Nouri,
Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports the one time head of South Oil Co (state-owned Iraqi oil company) is criticizing the oil deals Nouri's cabinet awarded and is calling for them to be re-examined. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report Nouri's running another secret prison, this one on Muthanna Iraqi Army Base, according to an Iraqi security forces member. This one appears to target Sunnis (based on the way the prisoners are described -- for example, Shi'ites aren't usually accused of being part of al Qaeda in Iraq) as did the last one but it also includes children, such as "an infant and a 3-year-old named Tiba." Along with children, wives are also being held:

In some cases, the women were being interrogated as possible suspects, but in others they were being used to try to extract confessions from their husbands. Using threats against women to elicit confessions from male relatives is a practice well-documented by rights groups.
"Four days ago when one of the men wouldn't confess they said, 'Bring in his wife.' They put her in a separate room nearby and beat her so he could hear her screaming," says the witness. "They went back to the man and said, 'We will rape her if you don't confess.' "

As part of another report, on prisoner abuse,
Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) notes, "As the US prepares to withdraw from Iraq, serious concerns are surfacing about systematic torture by Iraqi forces in a country where ending human rights abuses was one of the main American goals."

Reuters reports a Tuesday Mosul clash in which 2 police officers were shot dead, a Tuesday Kirkuk attack in which an old man was shot dead and his corpse then hung and a 1 "agricultural crops guard" killed in Daquq Tuesday. Yesterday Baghdad saw the big gold robberies. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "A nearby four-man police patrol responded to the sound of the grenades and got into a shootout with the attackers. All four officers were wounded, one attacker was killed and the other robbers fled with the loot, according to the Baghdad command center." Liz Sly and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) add, "On a street dotted with pools of blood and piles of broken glass, residents wondered how the gang had managed to launch such a well-organized attack in an area surrounded by blast walls and many checkpoints."

And as if Iraq hasn't suffered enough,
Dan Healing (Calgary Herald) reports Canada's WesternZagros Resources were drilling a well in noterhn Iraq's Kurdamir and the village had to be evacuated -- everyone it -- and will apparently be homeless for "about 30 days" and everyone's supposed to rejoice that the company's chief executive has announced that "a temporary camp for the people" was built.

In the US
RTT News reports the unethical Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (aka "Gimmie freebie tickets to all events!") joined with Democratic Party boi toi Jon Soltz of the front group VoteVets to accuse Republicans opposed to the war supplemental of not providing service members with what they need for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Special shame on Senator Jack Reed who actually does know right from wrong and shouldn't have participated in that garbage. (Reid and Soltz are apparently amoral judging from their past actions.) The best way to protect US troops is to stop funding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I really don't care why some Republicans aren't for the measure. It doesn't matter. What's needed is a large number of "no" votes. (Republican objection, by their designated spokespersons public remarks, is to the supplemental war bill being stuffed with domestic agenda items.) And for those rubbing their eyes, yes, we are talking about a war supplemental and, no, you are not dreaming. Despite claiming in spring 2009 that he was doing his one and only war supplemental and despite offering a campaign promise of no war supplemental funding measures, Barack's back at the trough.

Also in the US,
Bryan Mims (WRAL -- link has text and video) reported on a video apparently shot in Iraq -- by someone with the US military -- which was posted on Facebook May 14th by Robert Rodriguez and has the voice of a US male questioning two small children, apparently Iraqis, who do not understand English and making derogatory comments about sexuality and calling them terrorists. Sarah Netter (ABC News) quotes US Army Maj Bill Coppernoll stating, "The content in the video is disgraceful. [. . .] The vast majority of soldiers are doing the right thing, and I think the public knows that." Netter goes on to offer some pros and cons of a random sample of videos posted online by service members.

Weighing in on the Iraq War and how things are headed within the US,
Andrew J. Bacevich (American Conservative) observes: Whether out of self-delusion or pure, unvarnished cynicism, those who promoted the invasion of Iraq as an appropriate response to 9/11 are now declaring the entire enterprise a great triumph. Celebrating the putative achievements of the surge, they evince little interest in recalling either the several years during which the war was grotesquely mismanaged or the very reasons conjured up to justify the invasion in the first place. "Bush's War," in their telling, has now been rechristened "Petraeus's War." Barack Obama has made himself party to this calculated revisionism. Keen to focus on their own agenda (to include their own war in AfPak), ostensibly liberal Democrats -- the ones who promised to change the way Washington works -- collaborate with neoconservatives and other right-wing militarists to put Iraq in the nation's rearview mirror. Will Washington succeed in perpetrating this fraud? The answer is almost certainly yes. No doubt the Congress will soon take up the business of commissioning an Iraq War memorial to be erected somewhere on the Mall amidst all the other memorials commemorating past American wars. What Congress will not do, however, is demand a full accounting of all that our long misadventure in Iraq has wrought. Nor will the American people insist on such an accounting. Truth will remain unwelcome. Our preference for sanitized history will persist.

Santized history may already be hear courtesty of Broadcasting & Cable and John Eggerton.
Eggerton writes: "CNN has launched a Web subsite devoted to a list and various stats about the 1,761 U.S. and coalition casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan." Were this accurate, CNN would be a dumb ass. We all know, for example, that the number of US service members killed in Iraq currently stands at 4400. CNN doesn't say that but Eggerton hasn't learned to navigate the web yet. Someone get him a laptop with training wheels. When you go to the page, you do see "1,761" when the page finishes loading. But you are clearly on the Afghanistan tab. You have to hit the "IRAQ" tab to get "Showing 4,7171 US and Coalition casualties." CNN's John King USA on Memorial Day will devote the program to the fallen. Someone needs to explain how Broadcasting & Cable -- an industry news journal -- could be so out of it that they would actually print "1,761" as the number of fallen for US and ALL coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan? It's not that they got the number wrong. Getting the number wrong would be their being off by twenty or, if you want to be generous, by a hundred. But they are off by thousands and the writer didn't know that? And no one caught the mistake? Do they even register that the US is involved in two wars? Did they spend the last seven to nine years snoozing?

We'll close with an excerpt of Elaine Brower's "
Philly: Army Experience Center Protesters Acquitted" (World Can't Wait):

On Monday, May 24th six co-defendants (Elaine Brower, Debra Sweet, Richie Marini, Joan Pleune, Beverly Rice and Sarah Wellington, appeared in a Philadelphia courtroom in front of Judge DeLeon to stand trial for arrests dating back to September 12, 2009.
On that date, hundreds of protesters converged on the "
Army Experience Center", a place that literally takes small children and turns them into video thrill-seeking killers, on the taxpayer's dime. If you are not familiar with the place, it was built after the Pentagon decided to shut down five other recruitment centers in the Philadelphia area, and combine them into a high-tech, $14 million facility, complete with 19 gaming stations all equipped with the latest versions of murder software.
The DoD filled the place with nice looking recruiters, which they say are not recruiters, but mentors for the "children" who just want to "understand" today's Army. Really, a "PsyOps" program.
On that date last year, seven protesters were plucked out of the crowd of hundreds which was escorted into the mall by the local Philly PD, and civil affairs personnel, and selectively arrested. All were charged with "Conspiracy and Failure to Disperse". One was a
journalist, who battled with the Philly DA and got her case dismissed, but the remaining six waited 8 months for our day in court. Our attorney, Paul Hetznecker, a Philadelphia civil rights attorney, did an amazing job of protecting our freedom of speech, and First Amendment rights.
Considering that we had been escorted into the privately owned mall, but were protesting a federally owned recruitment center, many issues came into play. Mr. Hetznecker spent months preparing his trial, actually serving a subpoena on the AEC to deliver the photos and video tapes of inside the center from that day.

the san francisco chroniclecarolyn lochhead
bloomberg newscaroline alexander
the calgary heralddan healingcnnmohammed tawfeeqnayla razzouk
the christian science monitor
jane arraf
mcclatchy newspapersmohammed al dulaimi
wralbryan mims
abc news
sarah netter
hannah allam
the los angeles timesliz slyusama redha
american conservativeandrew j. bacevichbroadcasting and cablejohn eggerton
the world cant waitelaine brower

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lisa Jackson: This is the best the administration can do

Americans are growing impatient with the Obama administration's inability to elicit a more urgent response to the BP oil spill and to better protect and cleanup the coast.
That has federal officials on the defensive, and the nation is demanding that President Obama assume a more forceful role in commanding BP to stop the gushing oil and clean up this mess.
The administration argues that federal law limits its ability to take over cleanup efforts from the company. Officials also note that the industry, not the government, has the expertise and equipment needed to stop the leak.
But the federal government, which is supposed to ensure that BP assumes responsibility for this disaster, has often acted timidly during the crisis. President Obama has the bully pulpit to come down hard on BP and its executives, and he should use it. Most Americans are ready for the president to light a fire under the company and under the bureaucracy overseeing the disaster response.

Barack's not done a damn thing and there's a big push from the White House currently to convince us otherwise with little anonynmice showing up to swear Barack's been so upset about this he's been cursing. He's said "damn."


Anyone else get the feeling that they poll tested a variety of words before finding out the "damn" was considered "strong" but not "crossing a line"?

Yes, me too.

Everything about Barack is fake and mapped out ahead of time. Which is why he's no help in an emergency. He strikes his trained poses but he never learned to think on his feet so he just
sort of stands there. Waiting for direction. Receiving none.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson appeared on NPR's All Things Considered today. She was offended that people thought the administration wasn't doing anything. She wanted the American people to know the administration had been hard at work on this issue from the start.

So, Jackson, what you're basically telling us is that the administration has given its all?

That's honestly scarier than imagining Barack's been wood shedding.

This is the best the administration can do?

"Republicans escalate criticism of oil spill response" (Shailagh Murray, Washington Post):
Republican criticism of President Obama's response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill is escalating, as lawmakers grow increasingly frustrated with what has so far proved an unstoppable flow.
Members of both parties say they are alarmed by the unfolding crisis, but Republicans are upping the ante by questioning whether the Obama administration is doing enough to shut down the gushing underwater well and to contain the resulting environmental damage.
"Today is Day 36" since the well's drilling rig exploded, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said Tuesday during a hearing on offshore drilling liability. "The cloud of confusion over how much oil is spilling into the gulf is very concerning. And it's also very unclear who was in charge."

It is unacceptable. This is an emergency and has been. The federal government needs to take control or we need to outsource the federal government.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, May 25, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, post-election madness continues, fear rise, a gold robbery takes place in Baghdad, and more.

"Two months after elections, the main political parties are no closer to forming a government, some progress has been made towards ratifying the results of the vote but the negotiations over the next prime minister might take weeks if not months,"
observed Riz Khan on his self-titled program last week (Al Jazeera, May 17th). "Iraqis are concerned that if either Shia or Sunni groups feel left out of the political process, sectarian tensions will rise again." Yesterday, newly elected MP Bashar Hamid Agaidi of the Iraqiya slate was assassinated in Mosul. In the lead in to reporting by Peter Kenyon (NPR's Morning Edition) notes today, Renee Montagne observed, "One of the biggest fears in Iraq is that it'll be overtaken, again, by sectarian violence before it can form a new government. And that fear was reinforced yesterday after a newly elected lawmaker was murdered." Iraq's not going to fall apart, it is falling apart and has been falling apart for some time. Catholic Culture reports Auxiliary Bishop William Shomali of Jerusalem delivered "The Middle Eastern Synod in Geopolitical and Patoral Context:"

The U.S. invasion decimated the Christian community. Before 1987, it numbered 1.25 million followers, mostly Chaldeans. Today they are less than 400,000. One of the great disasters of this century is the massive exodus of Iraqi Christians due to the insecurity and harassment of which they are victims. In Iraq, the war unleashed forces of evil in the country, among varying political streams and religious denominations. It has taken a toll on all Iraqis, but the Christians have been among the main victims because they represent the smallest and weakest of Iraqi communities. Even today, global politics completely fail to take them into account. This is in addition to other calamities that have struck the Christians of the Middle East in the past two centuries:
The genocide of one million and half Armenians in Turkey in 1915;
The genocide against the Maronites in 1860 and the Lebanese Civil War caused the exodus of many Christians;
The constant emigration of Christians from the Holy Land for more than a century.

Vatican Radio reports that Erbil has a bishop after not having one since 2005: "Pope Benedict XVI appointed Redemptorist Priest, Father Bashar Warda bishop of the Diocese" and "[s]ince the outbreak of war in Iraq it has become the place of refuge for thousands of persecuted Christians from the south." The persecution of the religious minorities has never stopped in Iraq. It is part of the reason Iraq has the largest refugee crisis in the world. And, in fact, for all the credit given to the "surge" and paying off Sahwa to stop attacking US troops and equipment, another reason why what's known as the "civil war" (ethnic cleansing) decreased may be due to the fact that so many who were being targeted fled the country -- over two million. Equally true is that another approximately two million Iraqis fled their homes but remained in Iraq (internal refugees).

A fear of being overtaken by sectarian violence? It's that fear, in part, that motivates Kirk Johnson (
The List Project To Resettle Iraqi Allies) in his work attempting to garner asylum for Iraqis who were US collaborators during the illegal war. Johnson appeared on NHPR's Word Of Mouth today and told Virginia Prescott that the project currently has "a slate of several thousand names" of Iraqis they would like to resettle.

Virginia Prescott: Well what is the plan? I mean the US plans to have half of its 100,000 troops out of Iraq by the end of August of this year. What is the strategy for the Iraqis left behind?

Kirk Johnson: Well right now . . . I hate to say it but I'm worried that the plan is wishful thinking.

Asked for an estimate by Prescott of how many Iraqis are being discussed, Johnson revealed that the US has never kept a tally of how many Iraqis have worked for the US. When the British left Basra, Johnson asserted, those collaborators with the British military were targeted: "There were Iraqi interpreters that were dragged through the streets to their deaths. There was a single, public execution of 17 interpreters and their bodies were dumped in the streets." Earlier this month, Johnson wrote on the topic at Foreign Policy in "
Left Behind in Iraq." Johnson left out an important development (it wasn't known when he appeared this morning) that will effect all Iraqi refugees including the ones his group wants to help.

Today the
White House announced that Mark C. Storella was being nominated to be the US Ambassador to Zambia. This really is not the time for anyone in his position to be relocated (unless they're doing a poor job, we'll get to Chris Hill in a moment) and the White House notes:

Mark C. Storella is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service. He currently serves as the Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. He previously served as Deputy Permanent Representative and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva. Mr. Storella was also the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His other overseas assignments include Rome, Paris, Bangkok and a previous tour in Phnom Penh. In Washington, Mr. Storella worked on the NATO and Japan desks, and as Executive Assistant to the Counselor of the Department of State. He received his A.B. degree from Harvard College and an M.A. in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Storella is the Senior Coordinator for Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons at the US Embassy in Baghdad. Johnson (rightly) worries that the US government has no plans regarding the refugees Johnson's concerned about. Not only do they not have a plan but the go-to person in Baghdad, the US diplomat overseeing the refugee issue, is about to be transferred to another continent.

And for those left behind in the ongoing war?
Zeina Khodr (Al Jazeera) looked at Iraq's children who have lost their parents to the illegal war:

Zeina Khodr: Hameedd and Abbas are victims of Iraq's War. Still traumatized from events three years ago, Abbas rarely speaks. His brother tells their story.

Hameed Abed Ali: My mother had psychological problems, terrorists captured her, they wanted ransom and asked my father whether we were Sunni or Shia. He didn't have the money. They put an explosive belt around her and blew it up among worshipers coming to Karbala.

Zeina Khodr: Many have similar stories. Three brothers and a sister are among scores of orphans left behind due to killings and violence. They all saw their father taken by armed men wearing masks from their home in Diyala just over two years ago.

Moustapha Sabah Hassan: First of all they took my father from the house and after three days they brought him back tortured and badly beaten. He died a few days later.

Zeina Khodr: Many of those who lost their parents in violence don't understand why they were killed and they have little understanding about the war and politics in their country; however, some of them fear for their future. They are aware of the world outside this orphanage. The realities in today's Iraq. Violence is still a part of daily life.

Social worker Intisar Shaker: Sometimes they're worried about the security situation. They ask me whether the terrorists will come and hurt them. We do our best to comfort them.

Zeina Khodr: But social workers and psychologists can only do so much. Shelter, food and care are just not enough for some to deal with the psychological scars.

Ahmed al-Amari of the Sayyed Hussein Sadr Institution: Maybe after years, they will be able to get better and re-integrate into society but we have one child who has been here for three years and continues to suffer, sometimes cries for hours.

Zeina Khodr: There are others who just don't remember their ordeal. Ali is one of them. He survived a car bombing in which his parents were killed in 2008. But those who do remember wish they could provide safety they themselves didn't know.

Hameed Abed Ali: When I grow up, I want to be a police man. Police men protect people and, when people need help, I can assist them.

Zeina Khodr: It is children like Hamid who need assistance now. A whole generation that will have to reconcile with a past while trying to build a future. Zeina Khodr, All Jazeera, Baghdad.

And for those lucky enough to be part of intact families?
Peter Kenyon (NPR's Morning Edition) reported today that the violence and the uncertainty "Hamed wouldn't call it a panic, but the families he sees are those who have decided to play it safe by leaving now - to Syria, Jordan, and sometimes onto Europe or elsewhere - at least for this period of uncertainty." On The Real News, Paul Jay spoke with Amjad Ali about life in Iraq currently.

Paul Jay: Iraq has enormous oil reserves. The leaders of all these various ethnic factions are sections of the Iraqi elite who are fighting over who's going to divide up this enormous wealth. There's a lot to fight over, and it has been very violent in the last few years. What are the possibilities -- or how serious is the threat of civil war in Iraq?

Amjad Ali: Civil war is always on the verge. Iraqi people are always on the verge -- not the people, actually; those factions. As I mentioned earlier, the issue of armed groups, it's still there. Each faction has its own armed group and wants to get to a point that they cannot resolve their problem, their disputes, they resort to weapons, they resort to killing each other. And it happened just prior to the election -- a number of candidates were assassinated in Mosul. It happened in Baghdad prior to the election, when the government security forces went to Adhamiyah district, which is a Sunni-dominated area. They arrested a number of people there for no apparent reason. They were jailed, and they were released after the election. The election result right now, nobody got the majority. Nobody can form a government by himself. They are in the face of each other. Just yesterday there was a meeting between the Islamic Supreme Council group or faction with [Ayad] Allawi faction, Allawi who had 91 seats, who had the highest number of seats in the Parliament today. He said, I must -- and this is what -- I'm quoting -- he said, I must form the government because I do have the highest seats in the Parliament. The other faction, which is the Islamic Supreme Council, who formed another faction with al-Maliki, they are trying to be a mediator as to who's going to form what and what sort of government it's going to be, who's going to be the prime minister. There are a number of ministries or posts they are going to fight over, just like happened in 2005. The Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior, they call it, the Ministry of Oil, the Ministry of Finance, these are the ministries that there will be major issues among these factions.

Paul Jay: It's often said in the American press that it's the American troops—and the U.S. says this quite officially as well, that they think it's the U.S. troops that are preventing this civil war from breaking out. So to what extent is that true? And if in fact the U.S. does leave at the end of 2011, is that actually going to create the conditions for the beginnings of this kind of conflict?

Amjad Ali: Well, actually, no, that is not true. The American troops were in Iraq since 2003, and we saw a version of sectarian conflict and of kind of civil war in Iraq. The American troops did not participate, did not prevent that. They were just watching the whole issue. They wanted to know -- this is what we think they wanted to know -- who's going to win in the end. They did not have a serious intervention as to be a mediator to solve this conflict. They never did that. And what happened, who settled that, and this is what we strongly believe who settled that, is the people themselves did not want to be part of the civil war. They did not want to be part of the killing and kidnapping. It is right that we saw a lot of people were displaced from their neighbourhood to somewhere else.

In 2007, Bully Boy Bush started the escalation ("surge") and did so, he stated, because it would provide the space for diplomatic developments and advances. That never happened.
Ernesto Londono and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) report that US diplomatic staff in Iraq no longer feel "overshadowed by their military counterparts"; however, as you read in, you grasp there's been no diplomatic surge, they're just referring to a tiny decrease in the number of US service members and, on the issue of Iraq descending into violence (as opposed to what today?), "U.S. diplomats say the oft-heard concerns of their military counterparts are unfounded. They argue that they are better suited to build on the security gains that the military helped achieve." The US military can't do anything. The Iraq War was illegal but the first step of the illegal war was a military mission: take out a leader. That was done. (Illegally, but it was done.) Everything since has not been a military operation. And the alternative is to have the US military continue to play mall cops for the next forty or fifty decades or to withdraw them. They should have never been sent to Iraq. There is nothing the US military can do. There's little the diplomatic team can do now either and that's thanks to Chris Hill who should never have been confirmed. You have to wonder how furious Ryan Crocker is when he looks at what he handed to Hill and what Hill didn't do with it? Chris Hill was never qualified for the post and the idea that the ass will remain in Baghdad -- continuing to create chaos with his personal drama -- until July shows that the diplomatic mission is still not a serious one.

Jamal al-Badrani (Reuters) notes that the MP Bahsar Mohammed Hamid al-Aqidi was buried today. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports, "Mr. Hamid's cousin, Mahmoud al-Qaidi, said two men approached Mr. Hamid's office next to his home at 7:45 p.m. and joined a meeting in progress with six others. After a few minutes, they drew pistols and fired, hitting Mr. Hamid with seven bullets, the cousin said. One gunman was reported arrested." Mu Xuenquan (Xinhua) adds, "Two killers were captured in the northern city of Mosul, the third killer escaped, but was wounded by police, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." Alsumaria TV notes that Bashar Hamid al-Ukaidi's driver was injured in the shooting and reminds, "Al Ukaidi is the second candidate of Al Iraqiya List to be assassinated in Nineveh. The first candidate was Soha Abdullah Jarallah Al Shammaa who was assassinated by unknown gunmen early February." Michael Jansen (Irish Times) provides this context:The killing coincided with a call by the ministries of interior and defence to the electoral commission to disqualify two candidates who won seats in the March 7th parliamentary election. The first, from the Iraqiya list faces criminal charges, and the second, from the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), allegedly broke the law by standing for parliament while serving in the armed forces.While the exclusion of these winners does not alter the result, the move shows that prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, who continues to hold the levers of power, is not ready to admit defeat. His State of Law bloc, with 89 seats, was edged out of first place by Iraqiya, headed by Iyad Allawi, with 91.According to the 2005 constitution, Mr Allawi's slender lead should have given him first crack at forming a government, but Mr Maliki mounted a blocking campaign which failed, leaving Iraqiya the largest grouping in the assembly. However, Mr Allawi has been unable to secure partners for a coalition commanding 163 seats.

Alsumaria TV notes that Ayad Allawi is traveling to Qatar on a visit "aimed to put Arab leaders in the loop of the situation in Iraq." Allawi and Tariq al-Hashimi (Sunni Vice President of Iraq) were among those visiting Ayatoallah and an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers share this observation:

From my own point of view, visiting Sistani is the most obvious sign of failure. It represents the miserable condition of our politicians. Since the announcement of the elections' results until now, they could not reach an agreement about the biggest parliamentary bloc and I don't expect them to agree about it soon. Although the fight over the prime minister position is exclusively between Iraqiya list and State of Law Coalition but truth is much bigger. Its a fight between the Islamists' ideology represented by Maliki and the secular ideology represented by Allawi. The two men always say they want to create a new Iraq where law is the real master. yet, the two man ruled Iraqi and we barely noticed any changes in Iraq. Bribes and administrative corruption was common during Allawi's reign in 2005 and it was the same since Maliki became the prime minister in 2006.
Meanwhile today Baghdad has seen multiple deaths as a result of what
Al Jazeera's terming "deadly gold robbery" as criminals "hit nearly a dozen stores . . . killing the store owners and planting bombs". Citing Ministry of Interior sources, BBC News states there were ten robbers and "They threw grenades and then made off with gold and money after shooting some of the shop-keepers, says the BBC's Jim Muir in Baghdad." AFP notes the most recent big Baghdad robbery: "Eight police guards were killed in a massive bank heist in the Iraqi capital last July. The pre-dawn raid on a branch of Al-Rafidain bank saw the robbers make off with 3.8 million dollars, but the sum was later recovered."

And because some numbers matter, we'll again note this. Journalists like to hide behind numbers and claim that numbers are objective and they don't lie. They may not lie but journalists damn well do decide what to emphasize and what to ignore. If you want an example of how that works, note
this CBS News story by David Martin, this ABC news story by Jake Tapper, and we could go on and on but those are two of the better reporters and if that's what the best are doing . . . . Are they lying about the number of troops in Afghanistan? No, they're hiding behind that number (fed to them by the Pentagon, no reporter did the actual work on the numbers) and avoiding telling you about other numbers.
The most important number this week, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, is
171. That's the number of US service members who have died in the Iraq War since Barack was sworn in as President of the United States. "We want to end the war! And we want to end it now!" He hollered that often as tent revivals causing damp panties for many men and women. Now? End the illegal war now? He's been in office 16 months and the Iraq War drags on. The 'peace' candidate took office 16 months ago and has not ended the Iraq War, has continued it and is responsible for those 171 deaths. Now the Pentagon didn't supply that number. To get it, journalists would have to do what I did which was find out the death toll number when Barack was sworn in and then do the math. That may be more work than many of the well coiffed personalities are capable of. And certainly the fact the Pentagon isn't supplying that number makes it actual news -- as opposed to repeating and refurbishing the government's many press releases. Here's another number that matters but isn't being posted all over the place: The total number of US service members killed in Iraq to 4400. The 4400 number was noted by Hari Sreenivasan on last night's The NewsHour (PBS). The ease with which journalists rush to do the Pentagon's bidding (often out of laziness -- so much easier to file numbers the Pentagon gives you than to actually do the math yourself) makes it more jaw dropping that, as Walter Pincus (Washington Post) reports this morning, the Pentagon is still working propaganda operations within the US: "It is essential to the success of the new Iraqi government and the USF-I [U.S. Forces-Iraq] mission that both communicate effectively with our strategic audiences (i.e. Iraqi, pan-Arabic, international, and U.S. and USF-I audiences) to gain widespread acceptance of core themes and messages," according to the pre-solicitation notice for a civilian contractor or contractors to provide "strategic communication management services" there. Calling strategic communications "a vital component of operations in Iraq," the notice says one goal is "to effectively build U.S. decision makers' and the public's understanding of Iraq's current situation, future and strategic importance as a stabilizing presence and ally against terrorism in the Middle East." For propaganda the CIA weighed utilizing in the lead up to the Iraq War, click here for Jeff Stein's report. In other news, Waterkeeper Alliance's Kristine Stratton writes about the Gulf Disaster at Huffington Post (for 35 days now, the US government has allowed British Petroleum to oversea the disaster of their own making):

The implications of the BP oil disaster for the world are enormous - and far too great to be entrusted to a company with a history of environmental crimes, which is still on probation for some of them. The fact that BP will likely be named in upcoming criminal complaints and lawsuits is even more reason for observers to question their central role in response and their primary role in management of information.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton recently commented: "What we've done is worked with the responsible party to do everything we can to stop oil from leaking from the bottom of the Gulf and to mitigate the environmental disaster that we're seeing in the water right now. We are obviously working with BP because, frankly, they have the equipment that's necessary in order to get down to the bottom of the Gulf to help plug that hole."
BP should not be in charge simply because they "have the equipment" - any more than the oil industry should be in charge of regulation simply because they "have the equipment." The devastating results of that approach are quite visible in the Gulf of Mexico right now. As recently as September 2009, BP lobbied Congress extensively in opposition to regulations designed to prevent exactly the kind of disaster that we are experiencing today.

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