Friday, July 16, 2010

The fall of Cockburn

Alexander Cockburn is such a supreme loser. As noted before, I no longer link to CounterPunch. But I did get e-mailed Crazy Cockburn's latest.

In it, he's writing the political death of Barack. Yet somehow he never holds Barack accountable. This was wrong, and this was wrong, and serving business interests and not the people, that was wrong. But absent from the column is any condemnation of Barack, any scorn expressed torwards him.

Alexander Cockburn has gotten fat and lazy. He's the cat you had fixed and then declawed. Now he has no drive or energy but offers a meek meow from time to time.

That's all Alex is and, though he might argue it is too early to write his own political death, but as Goldie Hawn says in Deceived, "Oh, for Christ's sake! Isn't anybody in charge around here?"

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 16, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, a US conference to end the war is on the horizon, corpses are again found in Baghdad (is it 2007 all over again?), and more.
David Vine: Counterinsurgency, just quickly, because it features in the title, it features in the title of the book that we're going to disccus today The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual: Notes on Demilitarizing American Society. Counterinsurgency, just quickly, is a term that dates to about 1960, the Vietnam era, came to mean the elimination of an uprising against the govenrment. Although the tactics of course are much older. Dating centuries, most likely the United States so-called "Indian Wars," the occupation of the Philipines and certainly the tactics employed by the people inside the British and French empire.
David Vines is with the American Anthropological Association and he was speaking as moderator of the December 5, 2009 discusion by Network of Concern Anthropologists in Philadelphia for the AAA's annual meeting.
You won't hear these voices on NPR very often (David Price was on The Diane Rehm Show addressing this topic -- see the October 11, 2007 snapshot for an excerpt of the October 10th broadcast of Diane's show). You will, however, hear the 'insight' of David Kilcullen on Morning Edition and you won't hear it or him questioned. Is Morning Edition unaware of what took place in Philadelphia last year?
The American Anthropological Association's annual meeting started yesterday in Philadelphia and continues through Sunday. Today the association's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities issued their [PDF format] "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program." The 74-page report is a blow to War Criminals and their cheerleaders who have long thought that the social science could be abused or that the social sciences were psuedo sciences. It was in December 2006 when Dumb Ass George Packer raved over Dumb Ass Montgomery McFate and her highly imaginative and fictional retelling of both her childhood and her current work which Packer identified as "Pentagon consultant" working on Cultural Operations Research Human Terrain. Packer was jizzing in his shorts and not even warnings from other anthropologists ("I do not want to get anybody killed") could sway him.
In May the US House of Representatives made an unusual move. Noah Shachtman (Wired) reported in May that the House Armed Service Committtee announced it would be limiting funding for the program.
If you click here, you will be taken to the AAA website and to a podcast (where I grabbed David Vine's statement from) of the Network of Concern Anthropologists' symposium featuring Roberto Gonzalez, David Price, Andrew Bickford, Gregory Feldman, Dylan Kerrigan, Cahterine Besteman, Catherine Lutz and Nancy Scheper-Hughes.
Counterinsurgency is war on a native people. In its current usage by the US government, anthropologists are embedded with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq and they give the guise of "social science," the appearance of it. The cover to allow what really are War Crimes to take place. It turns social scientists into spies, spying on a native people so they can run back and fine tune the US policies and goals of war and occupation. It is not social science by any means. At its most basic, social science, when studying a people, requires informed consent. Counterinsurgency dismisses it. Those interviewed do not know who is interviewing them. They often think it's the military (because the 'social scientists' are dressed in military garb) and that they have no choice but to answer the questions. That is not informed consent.
Information is not gathered to illuminate the human condition, it's gathered to advance military goals. That is not social science, it's so far beyond a bastardization of social science that it is, in fact, a War Crime.
When he thinks no one is watching, David Kilcullen can be very illuminating and drop all pretense that he's attempting to help anyone other than a military. Speaking this month to Byron Sibree (New Zealand Herald), Kilcullen described counterinsurgency as "a form of what the French call counter-warfare which kind of morphs in response to whatever we're dealing with." Michael Hastings' article on Gen Stanley McCrystal was about McCrystal's objections to counter-insurgency (portrayed in the article as McCrystal thinking they were a waste of resources). McCrystal is now out as the US' top commander in Afghanistan. Gen David Petraeus is now the top US commander in Afghanistan. Petraeus is a close friend of Kilcullen's (he even attend Kilcullen's wedding -- no word on whether he was the ring-bearer or flower girl). And all the War Criminals hang out together. The civilian side (which Kilcullen is on now, having left the Australian military) is represented by War Whores such as Samantha Power and Sarah Sewall -- America's very own Josef Mengele and Kurt Lischka. If you're late to the party, Ava and I covered the group in 2007 when two little War Criminals -- Sarah Sewer and Monty McFate -- went on Charlie Rose -- that's the episode where Sarah Sewer brags she can get Barack to say whatever she wants. Where were you brave journalists of the left? Oh, that's right. You were all up Barack's crack or else playing the quiet game. And if you're trying to lose weight, click here and see the War Criminals Monty McFate, Sarah Sewer and Michele Flournoy (I'm sure Susan Brownmiller could analyze that photo at great length). It may be days before you regain your appetite. These women are liars and include Samantha Power who is a blood thirsty War Hawk who blurbed the counterinsurgency manual Sarah and Monty 'wrote.' (Monty's academic 'writing' appears doomed to the same fate as her juvenile 'writing' -- massive charges of plagiarism. For those late to the party, I knew Monty McFate when she was an ugly, little girl and, if nothing else, her life has demonstrated that the old wives tale of "Ugly in the cradle, pretty at the table" was wrong. Sometimes it really is ugly in the cradle and ugly at the table.) You can also click here for Noam Chomsky's thoughts on the War Criminals (Monthly Review, 2008). Though women often lead on this (at least publicly -- and Ms. magazine and Feminist Majority Foundation were stupid enough to promote these War Hawks in a so-called 'feminist' confrence), Michael Ignatieff and many other men are also part of it. (One-time journalist Thomas E. Ricks, John Nagl and many others.) One of the few journalists to tackle counterinsurgency is Kelley B. Vlahos (Antiwar.com). Most recently (June 15th), she took on the counterinsurgency 'brains' big Center for a New American Security conference:
But a year later, "victory" in Afghanistan is more elusive than ever and the "COINdinistas" are either disappearing to other realms of pop doctrine or standing around defensively, trying to backtrack and redefine tactics to accommodate the negative reality on the ground. So, as last year's event mimicked the preening confidence of a new sheriff in town, this year it amounted to a lot of whistling past the graveyard.
Whistling past the graveyard seems to be the only way to describe the sense that no one really wanted to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room: how their venerated COIN formula -- you know, the one that would have worked in Vietnam if spineless bureaucrats and long-haired hippies hadn't gotten in the way -- is actually playing out in Afghanistan today.
This was the largest congregation of the uniformed and civilian defense policy establishment all year. CNAS (pronounced see-nass) had been writing non-stop about Afghanistan in some capacity since its inception in 2007 -- including a recent study by fellow Andrew Exum, "Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan." The fact that on June 10, the morning of the conference, one of the major front-page headlines in the Washington Post blared "Commanders Fear Time Is Running Out in Marja" should have been the perfect launching point for a stimulating discussion.
Instead, you had panel after panel nibbling around the edges and a keynote speech that managed, gratingly, to avoid talking about current operations altogether. Indirectly, the day provided a few tiny glimpses into how the COIN community and all of its defense industry hangers-on are feeling about the state of things. And it is not good. Unfortunately for them, the lack of public candor just added to the growing sense of doom.
But a year later, "victory" in Afghanistan is more elusive than ever and the "COINdinistas" are either disappearing to other realms of pop doctrine or standing around defensively, trying to backtrack and redefine tactics to accommodate the negative reality on the ground. So, as last year's event mimicked the preening confidence of a new sheriff in town, this year it amounted to a lot of whistling past the graveyard.
Whistling past the graveyard seems to be the only way to describe the sense that no one really wanted to talk about the 800-pound gorilla in the room: how their venerated COIN formula -- you know, the one that would have worked in Vietnam if spineless bureaucrats and long-haired hippies hadn't gotten in the way -- is actually playing out in Afghanistan today.
This was the largest congregation of the uniformed and civilian defense policy establishment all year. CNAS (pronounced see-nass) had been writing non-stop about Afghanistan in some capacity since its inception in 2007 -- including a recent study by fellow Andrew Exum, "Leverage: Designing a Political Campaign for Afghanistan." The fact that on June 10, the morning of the conference, one of the major front-page headlines in the Washington Post blared "Commanders Fear Time Is Running Out in Marja" should have been the perfect launching point for a stimulating discussion.
Instead, you had panel after panel nibbling around the edges and a keynote speech that managed, gratingly, to avoid talking about current operations altogether. Indirectly, the day provided a few tiny glimpses into how the COIN community and all of its defense industry hangers-on are feeling about the state of things. And it is not good. Unfortunately for them, the lack of public candor just added to the growing sense of doom.
Good. And good for Kelley for continuing to call out the counterinsurgency 'gurus' at a time when most others take a pass and in spite of the fact that Thomas E. Ricks launches personal and sexist attacks on her for doing so.
In Iraq, the Sahwa movement was part of the counterinsurgency effort. The main part, according to Petraeus (who is now trying to replicate it in Afghanistan even though for two years now it's been noted that it probably can't be done in Afghanistan). Sunni fighters (and, according to Petraeus' April 2008 Congressional testimony, some Shi'ites) were put on the American tax payer's dime. A little over 90,000 of them were paid not to attack US miltary equipment or military personnel. It was like paying a school bully off not to beat you up in the playground. And how did it work out? Shor-term it may have helped somewhat. (The large refugee crisis did more to end the bloody ethnic cleansing than paying off Sahwa -- by Petraues' own testimony and that of then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker -- Sahwa was only paid to stop targeting the US.) But there was never a diplomatic push (which the Sahwa and the escalation -- "surge" -- were sold on) and what we really see today is that the Sahwa is not, has not and will not be integrated into Iraqi society as long as Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister.
And how long might that be? Trend News Agency reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi's adviser Khalil Azraa is stating the US has not done enough to resolve the political stalemate in Iraq and quotes him stating, "The U.S. can exert political pressure on the formation of the government, because it is responsible for building democracy in Iraq." Tariq al-Hashimi is a member of Iraqiya, in fact, he is, after Ayad Allawi, probably the most prominent member of Iraqiya (especially post-purge by Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami).

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and, in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today makes it four months and nine days without any government being established. Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) notes the lengthy delay:
With many Iraqis describing this new postponement as unconstitutional, there are widespread fears that the ongoing political crisis over who will lead the country will now escalate further.
The parliament had previously convened on 13 June, the country's constitution stating that the president should be selected within 30 days of its convocation. The possibility of further delay raises the question of whether inaction is flouting a constitution that many Iraqis believe has already been violated by politicians.
Iraqi voters went to the polls on 7 March to elect a new 325-member parliament, but an indecisive result, and bickering over who should be the country's next prime minister, has delayed the formation of a new government and plunged the country into political stalemate.
Under the country's constitution the Iraqi parliament should have convened 15 days after the results were announced in order to elect a speaker, and a new president should have been elected within 30 days of the parliament's first session. The president should then have nominated the new prime minister, who should have submitted his cabinet within 30 days for ratification.
According to an understanding that emerged after Iraq's first post-Saddam elections in 2005, a Shia Arab would be prime minister, a Kurd president, and a Sunni Arab speaker of the parliament. This quota system also covers top jobs, such as ambassadors and senior government and army posts, and the country's Shias and Kurds have been insisting on the quota system despite strong Sunni opposition.

Tim Arango (New York Times) reports 29 dead in Sulaimaniya hotel fire. Gabriel Gatehouse (BBC News -- link has text and video) reports forty were also injured and that some of the dead "died jumping from their windows to escape the flames". Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) reports the death toll is up to 43 and "many of the dead were from Bangladesh, Phillipine and Thailand, said the [local police] source, adding four Americans were among the dead." Zhang Xiang then noted that the death toll had been lowered yet again. Al Jazeera notes that the death toll flucuates based on the governmental source and quotes their correspondent Rawya Rageh stating, "There is still confusion over the exact death toll -- but we know that the dead include Americans, Europeans, Koreans, Bangladeshis, Arab nationals and various other nationalities." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that the KRG e-mailed an official death toll of 28 with twenty-two wounded. UK Today News notes that the fire took at least seven hours for fire fighters to put it out.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Jabbar Yawer, spokesman of the local security forces, told CNN that three Asians who work for a local cell phone company were among those killed." ABS-CBN reports that a female, Filipina engineer was among the dead according to the Phillppine Embassy in Iraq. The Inquirer notes that two Filipinos were wounded in the fire. AFP reports 4 US citizens were among the dead. Sam Dagher (New York Times) notes "two babies and a pregnant woman" were also killed in the fire and states that the Kurdistan hotel was "lacking basic safety precautions such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers". BBC News offers a photo essay on the fire.
In other violence . . .
Bombings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured four people, another claimed 3 lives, a Baghdad motorcyle bombing claimed 2 lives and left ten people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two more people, and, dropping back to Thursday, a Tikrit car bobming claimed six live and left fourteen people wounded.
Shootings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 teacher was shot dead last night in Baquba and that the teacher had been a Sawha.
Corpses?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses were discovered yesterday in Baghdad
Meanwhile Turkey is forming new relationships to tackle the PKK (a Kurdish group which is in a battle for self-autonomy and resorts to violence leading it to be labeled a terrorist organization by many governments including Turkey, the US and Iraq). As noted in yesterday's snapshot, they want to pull together a 'professional military' with neighbors Syria and Iran (even floating the thought of that sent panic through the US White House) to combat the PKK. Xinhua notes (link has text and video) that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip "Erdogan said Turkey had mobilized all resources to fight terrorism, and was holding talks with executives of the European Union (EU), Iraq, Iran, Syria, Russia and the United States. Erdogan also said around 150 mini unmanned aircraft, manufactured by local resources, were joining the fight against terrorism, adding that a ceremony would be held later on Friday to launch the first local-manufactured unmanned aircraft."
On this week's Law & Disorder (began airing on WBAI Monday and on other stations around the country throughout the week), Michael Smith spoke with Jim Lafferty about the July 23 through 25 end the wars conference in Albany. Lafferty recommended two websites, we'll note National Assembly (because I don't think the other web address was correct, I may be wrong) and their explanation of the conference:
The purpose of this conference is to bring together antiwar and social justice activists from across the country to discuss and decide what we can do together to end the wars, occupations, bombing attacks, threats and interventions that are taking place in the Middle East and beyond, which the U.S. government is conducting and promoting. Attend and voice your opinion on where the antiwar movement is today and where we go from here.
In these deeply troubled times, Washington's two wars and occupations rage on, resulting in an ever increasing number of dead and wounded; more and more civilians killed in drone bombing attacks; misery, deprivation, dislocation and shattered lives for millions; and a suicide rate for U.S. service members soaring to unprecedented heights. At the same time, trillions are spent on these seemingly endless Pentagon conflicts waged in pursuit of profits and global domination while trillions more are lost by working people in the value of their homes, in the loss of their jobs, pensions and health care, and in cuts for public services and vitally needed social programs.
That was a brief segment. A longer one was with a discussion with Clifton Hicks.
Michael Smith: Why did you go? Did you think that Iraq had something to do with 9-11?
Clifton Hicks: Yeah, I sure did. Yeah. I didn't -- you know, I didn't think about it. Looking back, it's hard to sort out the thoughts that were going through my mind or the lack of thoughts that were going through my mind. But I definitely -- I was just a typical, Whitekid or just a typical kid in general. And I saw Arabic people, Muslim people, and sort of figured that they were all in cahoots and that they were all out to get us kind of thing really.
Michael Smith: Newspaper reports or TV reports that led you to believe? Because it was quite conscious on the part of the Bush-Cheney administration to mislead people into thinking that Iraq had something to do with 9-11. Was it the mass media that influenced you?
Clifton Hicks: There - there was probably an influence from mass media. I listened to a lot of AM radio, a lot of daytime, right wing radio. Both my parents and my two sisters and my whole family is a bunch of -- they're all sort of very open-minded, liberal, nice folks. And I was, I was real rebellious and black sheep as a kid and I was real, real heavily right wing and conservative in a lot of ways -- or so I thought.
For background on Hicks, from the June 11, 2007 snapshot:
Clifton Hicks is now discharged and some may remember his story from Peter Laufer's Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq. In the book Laufer recounts how Hicks father posted one his son's letters home (from Iraq) online and the military's response was "a Field Grade Article 15" (p. 185) which Hicks learned after his woke him up one morning kicking his cot and, pay attention easily shocked Heather Hollingsworth-types, cursing at him. "They were going to throw me in jail for treason." After he was demoted to private and fined $800, Hicks applied for CO status. Hicks told Laufer, "If I don't get it? I have other avenues of approach to get home. I've told them I am not going back to Iraq" and would rather go to prison but "[i]t won't come to that, though, because I think I'm too smart for that to happen to me. Civil disobedience is an option -- just refuse to put the uniform on. Maybe a hunger strike. There's all kinds of things you can do. It's looking like they'll approve it. But if they don't, I have Plan B, Plan C, all the way up to desertion" (p. 187). Laufer's chapter on Hicks ends with Hicks being told he will receive CO status and a discharge.
Back to the interview.
Michael Smith: How did your attitude change? Not just about the war but about the Iraqi people?
Clifton Hicks: Yeah, when I first got there, I had this whole opinion that -- I was toeing the party line just like everybody was. We didn't think we were going to be there long and actually my biggest disappointment was that I had missed the invasion. I'd felt like the war was over, I'd missed it and we'd won and I was just going to do just like police duty basically -- which is mostly what I did. I felt like a liberator, like I had helped these folks out and wanted to continue helping them. And really I've always been a pretty good kid, even back then, and I had pretty positive feelings about it and I was very nice to people and very polite and all that I could but it started to wear on me and then my buddies had already been there for six months before I got there. They were pretty nasty set. I mean, these were great guys, wonderful every one of them but they had got pretty nasty being over there.
Michael Smith: Nasty not to each other but nasty to the civilians whose country they were occupying.
Clifton Hicks: Yeah. Well. Just, you know, and there's a reason for that. Guys get nasty because their friends get killed and you realize that you really can't trust anybody and that nobody wants you to be there but you're stuck there and you're sort of like the grit between the sole of the boot and the ground. I mean, you're just getting ground up in the middle of it. It's them or you in many, many cases. And so the way that you get over that is by becoming a very callous, young man. And so I wasn't like that when I first got there but, after a few months, it wore on me. I saw a couple of people get killed and stuff and nasty things happen and I just got to where I just hated, hated every last one of them to death.
PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Well, there are a lot of extraordinary things about this case. The appellate court was very harsh in its language and in its instruction to the district judge who initially heard the case. And they called the sentence "breathtakingly low," which, you know, the judge could have done anything. He didn't have to increase the sentence, but he would have really had to justify very carefully what he was doing, because if the government could have come back with another appeal and said, "We want this reviewed again," there might be other legal options, as well, on the appellate side. So it seemed inevitable that some increase would happen. The question was how much?
What is really amazing about this case is that it has spanned now three presidents and five attorneys general. It has gone on for year after year after year. And at the heart of the charges against Lynne is that she violated special administrative measures, and she spoke about that in the comments she made earlier, this morning in the clip we heard. But what is not really talked about a lot is that was a pre-9/11 offense that has occured in a post-9/11 world, and it makes a huge difference in terms of the context in which this has all played out, because at the time that the SAMs were imposed in 1996, Rahman was one of the first individuals who had these SAMs applied to him. It was a very new legal tool. It was evolving. There were several versions of the SAMs that came out. It's interesting to note that Patrick Fitzgerald, the assistant US attorney who was in charge of that process, when Lynne initially violated the SAMs, his reaction was not to seek an indictment. It was simply to give her a call and say, "Hey, you violated the SAMs. You're not going to be able to see your client anymore," which is kind of what she was expecting. And it's true, she was gaming the system to a certain degree. I think that there are a lot of judgment calls that maybe -- certainly she -- I'm sure she regrets at this point and that were probably the wrong decision to make at the time. But she was not barred from seeing him -- well, she was for a while. And then she re-signed a new version of the SAMs, so --

AMY GOODMAN: The special administrative measures.

PETRA BARTOSIEWICZ: Yeah, the special administrative measures, which essentially are a series of security requirements. They're designed kind of to prevent the defendant from communicating with the outside world. That was what she violated, in a sense. But they have other aspects to them which essentially keep defendants in total isolation, which is one of the reasons that she breached the agreement, because she saw how isolated he was.
And click here for Petra's column on Lynne published before the judge ruled yesterday. Also see Ruth's "No justice" and Marcia's "Lynne" from last night. At World Can't Wait, Elaine Brower reports:
I sat in the elaborate overflow room, with all of Lynne's supporters. She pleaded for the court's mercy by presenting her statement to the judge. In it, she declared that she no longer had a relationship with her grandson, who could not visit her any longer in the horrible prison. She said she felt alone, and withdrawn. Only when her friends and family came to visit for one hour a week did she rejuvenate for a short period, but then would retreat back into somberness and sadness.
At one point she choked up when saying that if the court decided to sentence her to anytime longer than the original 28 months, it would be a like imposing the "death sentence". She reiterated that many times, in so many different ways. She threw herself at the "mercy" of the judge.
Then the US Attorney stood up and for 30 minutes recounted the details of the entire trial, repeating hundreds of times "we were attacked on 9/11", and "Ms. Stewart gave comfort to Islamic terrorists." These references were the cornerstone of the prosecution's argument, and he couldn't say it enough. In every way, he connected Lynn with the terrorist "murder groups", and in reality tried to paint her as a terrorist. He said "the government trusted her as a lawyer, and she shouldn't have been trusted." He referred endless times to the DVD of her press conference prior to her remand to prison in 2009, and referenced her statements that she had "no remorse."
Lucky for me I was in an overflow room. I commented, loudly, how I hoped this guy would get the pox, and I wasn't alone. People booed, and said he better not come into their neighborhoods. How could he sleep at night? I would be embarrassed to be in his shoes. Is there no dignity?
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Dan Baltz (Washington Post), Eamon Javers (CNBC), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Entering the 'Twitterverse'." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Nicole Kurokawa and Patricia Sosa on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's online bonus is a discussion onf 'Facebook fanatics.' Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast (Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings) will feature "Congressional Oversight Panel chairwoman Elizabeth Warren on the possibility that a national commercial real-estate foreclosure crisis may occur, and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Agency." And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Golf Company
Scott Pelley spends time with a U.S. Marine company battling the enemy in Helmand Province, sent there as part of President Obama's troop buildup in Afghanistan. | Watch Video


Penelope Cruz
In a rare interview, the Spanish starlet opens up about her life, career and childhood. Charlie Rose reports.


Guiding Light
Morley Safer interviews the actors and writers behind broadcasting's longest running drama, "Guiding Light," as they celebrate the soap opera's incredible run and discuss its cancellation after 72 years. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, July 18, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Brief thought

I am so sick of NPR trying to sell us on giving up our benefits. Today's Morning Edition nonsense
was about trying to make us gleeful about what other nations might lose.

But what we should have taken away is: Free college, free day care, free this, free that? Where was our peace pay-off after WWII?

We got nothing.

That should be the point. I doubt NPR will inform the audiences of that.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, July 14, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US House explores the issue of veterans' suicides, the US Senate addresses claims issues, Bradley Manning needs support, and more.
Linda Bean: I think what -- There are families like mine who have experienced the home coming of a much loved child who is now out of harm's way and you are so grateful that they are back with you that you may overlook the fact that they are drinking too much or that they are irritated or that they insist upon being isolated. And you're not empowered as a mother or a sister or a wife to go to the VA and say, "My veteran is in trouble." I don't even know that I would have known how to do that. I think in the way that Mr. Cintron described we need to make sure that people know there are places to go before you hit the suicide hotline. There are veterans who are not -- who may, in the end, be alone in a room with a gun to their heads but the day before would not describe themselves to you as suicidal. So I -- I guess I would go back to my very strong feeling that as part of that, in addition to the messaging, we need to make sure that there are community based programs that are easily accessible. And we need to make sure that the information the VA has is geared to family and friends in a friendly and accessible way, made easily available so people can find it. And that the VA is willing to say, "Look, if you won't come here, it's okay. We'll help you find help somewhere else."
Linda Bean is the mother of Coleman Bean and the above is from her replies to questions from Committee Members today. Coleman Bean served two deployments in the Iraq War and was an army Sergeant. He returned home and struggled, taking his own life September 6, 2008. His mother was testifying this morning to the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations which is chaired by US House Rep Harry Mitchell. We'll note this from Mitchell's opening remarks.
Chair Harry Mitchell: As Chairman of this Subcommittee, I have repeatedly called upon the VA to increase outreach to veterans who need mental health services and are at risk of suicide -- and members on both side of the aisle have urged the same. In 2008, the VA finally reversed its long-standing self-imposed ban on television and their families about where they can turn for help. As part of the campaign, the VA produced a public service announcement featuring Gary Sinise, and distributed it to 222 stations around the country that aired it more than 17,000 times. The VA also placed print ads on buses and subway trains. According to the VA's own statistics, the effort proved successful. As of April 2010, the VA has reported nearly 7,000 rescues of actively suicidal veterans, which were attributed to seeing the ads, PSAs, or promotional products. Additionally, referrals to VA mental health services increased.
We're going to jump to US House Rep John Hall's questions because PSAs -- and when they air -- come up during that.
US House Rep John Hall: It's been obvious to many of us that when a person joins the military, they should also be automatically enrolled in the VA. And that members of the armed forces and their families should have access to their information and education about assimilating back into civilian life, into their communities before, during and after deployment. One of the problems as I see it here is that the Veterans Affairs Committee has one piece of jurisdiction and the Armed Services Committee has another one, on the executive side, there is one piece and the VA has another piece and there's not that overlap and seamless transition that we've talked about in so many ways -- not just medical records but health follow up. So perhaps, Ms. Bean, you could talk a little bit about what kind of information or resources were available to you and to your son before he took his life? What kind of outreach was there? You've told us a little bit about what you'd like to see available but was there any of substance?
Linda Bean: We have -- we have a strong VA system in New Jersey. When Coleman came home from his second tour of duty, the VA services were certainly available to him. Mental health care is at a premium and it's difficult to get an appointment in a timely fashion. I don't know when or how Coleman called the VA to seek mental health assistance. That's something that we learned only after Coleman had died. I didn't know -- this is a gap in my own understanding as much as anything else -- I didn't know what else was available. I didn't go looking for something else to be available and it wasn't until Coleman had died that I learned that there were many other programs that could have been available. I keep going back to the idea that, you know, our local newspaper run Little League box scores, we run the Butterball turkey hotline at Thanksgiving, we put out notices about bowling leagues. I think our local newspapers and radio stations could run a little box of resources. If you're a vet, if you're a soldier, if you're a family, you can go to these places for help. And that list could include the VA hospital and the vet centers. But it needs to go beyond that to include civilian resources, localized civilian resources. I'm not sure I'm answering the question.
US House Rep John Hall: No, that's helpful. Thank you. Mr. Cintron, would you discuss the kind of prevention that might help a veteran from reaching the point where they take their own life? We've heard about how Coleman and other veterans have -- have no exhibited or used the word suicide and then not exhibit those tendencies until it was too late. So what kind of outreach would you suggest could reach a veteran before they get to that point?
Warrant Officer Melvin Cintron: I think there are a few outreach efforts that can be done. But the first step would have to be to have the people to reach out to and that can reach out to the folks. And they have to have some minimal training. Not a lot. All it takes, often times, like I said, I've encountered many veterans and they start talking to me and share their experience. And it's like, "Wow, you don't the weight that was on me." And it just lingers with them. And al they wanted to do was get it out at least once with someone that can understand -- not to judge, but just listen to them. That? That's what needed. Those outreaches, I think, you know when you get with some of the groups that are available to us, if there's a combined effort with the groups, find the synergy with them and with the government organization so that we all own part of the solution and it's not just a VA solution, not just a DoD solution, not just the solution of any individual program. It is a combined solution we all own part of it. So the outreach would be retraining and identifying personnel who are willing to take the call -- at any [time]. Anybody -- I give my phone to friends and veterans that I need and I say, "Hey, if you ever have an issue, call." And I have actually received calls in the middle of the night. I was just thinking about this. And we talked through and we're done. But having that outreach -- the ability to call somebody -- doesn't have to be somebody that they know but it has to be somebody that knows what it is that they're going through.
US House Rep John Hall: Thank you. I know I'm over my time. But I would just mention that this committee has -- the full Veterans Affairs Committee on the House side has voted to give funding not just for PSA, as Ranking Member Roe mentioned, but for paid advertising. And IAVA who will hear from shortly partnered with the Ad Council in one effort to put together an ad that was more powerful than the average PSA -- Public Service Announcement -- shown in the middle of the night because that's when the time's the cheapest and the TV station will give it up to do there public service whereas what we really need is advertising during the Superbowl, during American Idol, during the highest rated shows, during prime time where the half-hours -- I mean, the thirty-second spot costs the most money. But we're willing to do that to advertise "Be All That You Can Be" [Army recruitment ad], or "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" -- you know, the lightening bolt coming down onto the sword. And if we want to recruit and attract people to go into the armed services and to go fight for our country, we'll spend the money for prime time advertising but when it comes time to help them find the resources that they need to stay healthy after they come home, we want to do it on the cheap. And just do it at 3:00 a.m. in the morning on a PSA. And I think that needs to change, something we in Congress should fund so that the outreach is just as strong afterwards as it is before they were recruited.
Linda Bean and Warrant Officer Melvin Cintron were the witnesses on the first panel. Melvin Cintron served in both the first Gulf War and in the current Iraq War. From Cintron's opening remarks, there's something that has to be noted because VA and military officials repeatedly deny that it happens but it does happen and it's not by accident.
Warrant Officer Melvin Cintron: As an example, when returning from Iraq, as we out processed in Fort Dix, New Jersey, in an auditorium, a sergeant asked, "Is there anybody here who feels they need to talk to someone about anything they saw or did?" Nobody raised their hand. He then stated, "If you want to do it confidentially, please sign the roster that will be in the adjoining room." On the day prior to our leaving the out processing center the sergeant again addressed the crowd of soldier and, with the pad in his hand, he read out the names of those soldiers that had signed up confidentially for the offer made the previous day and asked, "Do you still need to see somebody?" Needles to say, nobody responded with a "yes." I was one of those soldiers.
It happens, it's not an accident. And it would end tomorrow if the brass took it (and the need for mental health) seriously. This is not the first time Cintron has publicly shared that story. He's never had anyone call him up and say, "This sergeant that you're talking about. Not to get him in trouble, but just to talk to him and correct this behavior, could you tell me what his name is?" There's never been a follow-up and there probably never will be. Until there is, the commanders can pretend that they're 'changing' the attitudes but they're not doing a damn thing.
PSAs? When someone's despondent, it's most likely going to be during the middle of the night. That is usually why, in fact, you're not asleep like many people. (You can also be up because you work nights or because you're an insomniac or you had too much caffeine.) So it's good that they're available then. They should, as Rep Hall noted, be available at other times as well. But, to be clear, he wasn't just talking about the standard PSAs. He was talking about the ones that could reach those struggling before suicidal thoughts became the norm. Before he questioned Linda Beam, she'd already been asked what type of PSA she thought was needed.
Linda Bean: I think it would be the Public Service Announcement that said, "You're home, you're drinking too much, you're fighting with your wife, you can't get along with your boss, you need help." That's a message that resonates with people who are in that position. The message that says, "You're home and you're suicidal"? Not so much.
And this was why he was referring to Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's ad they made with the Ad Council which went far beyond the standard PSA of "Here's a number to call." I'm not mentioning Republicans, I'm not mentioning them for a reason. I didn't enjoy the crap that went down at one point. Others at the hearing may report on it at their sites. If so, we'll link to them in tomorrow's snapshot and note the issues. Today, I'll just give all the Republicans a demerit and ignore them and hope they can bring one of their own in to order. (Hint, it's not about you. What a witness went through, their pain, is not about you. Nor is it a competition. You're a member of Congress and should show a little dignity.) I was at the hearing of the House Subcommittee for the start through the first two panels. I then went to Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on veterans' claims processing. I had missed the first portion where Chair Daniel Akaka and other Committee Members had heard from and questioned VA's Acting Under Secretary For Benefits Michael Walcoff. From Senator Akaka's office, we'll note this:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans' Affairs)

July 14, 2010 (202) 224-9126

AKAKA CHAIRS HEARING ON VETERANS' DISABILITY CLAIMS PROCESSING REFORM

Chairman preparing to move legislation, urges parties to offer suggestions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Following a hearing today on how the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) processes claims from veterans seeking benefits, U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, urged interested parties to continue offering suggestions on how to improve the timeliness and accuracy of VA's claims adjudication.

"Compensating disabled veterans is among VA's most solemn obligations, and fixing the current system demands our best ideas. I am pleased that the Claims Processing Improvement Act is moving the discussion - from whether to change the status quo - to how to change it. I intend to move a claims processing improvement bill forward, and I ask those with an interest in this issue to continue to share their ideas," said Akaka.

Last month, Senator Akaka introduced S. 3517, the Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2010, to improve VA's disability claims processing. The bill would make various changes to the way VA processes disability compensation claims, including provisions to:

Set up a process to fast-track claims that have been fully developed;

Help veterans with multiple disability claims by allowing VA to provide partial disability ratings; and

Require that the Department give equal deference to the medical opinions of a veteran's non-VA doctor.

At today's hearing, top VA officials, veterans organizations and advocates testified about the current status of VA's claims processing system and made suggestions for changes to S. 3517.

Today's hearing and the current legislation are a continuation of Senator Akaka's ongoing effort to improve the claims processing system. Akaka sponsored many of the provisions of the Veterans' Benefits Improvement Act of 2008, enacted as Public Law 110-389. This and other bills have improved claims processing and enhanced compensation and other benefits for veterans. During Akaka's chairmanship, Congress has funded the hiring of thousands of Veterans Benefits Administration employees to respond to the rising number and increasing complexity of claims for disability compensation and other benefits.

More information about the hearing including statements, testimony and the webcast is available here: veterans.senate.gov

-END-

Kawika Riley

Communications Director

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs

Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman

http://veterans.senate.gov

Because there was a lengthy break between the first and second panel, I was able to catch the second panel. The second panel was composed of the American Federation of Government Employees' Linda Jan Avant, the National Organization of Veterans' Advocates Inc.' Richard Paul Cohen, VA's former Under Secretary for Benefits' Joseph Thompson and Disabled American Veterans' Joseph A. Violante. It was Linda Jan Avant's birthday and Chair Akaka wished her a happy birthday and noted her mother was present for the testimony. Thompson felt that the system was out of date and cautioned on the reading of pilot programs. The system being out of date provided a new "challenge" ("challenge" was his most used term). He saw each challenge as an opportunity. Avant went over the work requirements and duties. And, guess what? Under-staffed and the new staff -- permanent staff brought on by the economic stimulus -- will require at least two years to be fully trained. (These days? They busy themselves with photo copying.) Joseph Violante noted the VA's desire to get rid of the backlog, "Mr. Chairman, the backlog is not the problem, nor even the cause of the problem, rather it is just one symptom, albeit a very severe symptom, of a very large problem: too many veterans waiting too long to get decisions on claims for benefits that are too often wrong."
S 3517 was the heart of the hearing and it is a bill proposed by Senator Akaka entitled "Claims Processing Improvement Act of 2010." Summary of the bill, "To amend title 38, United States Code, to improve the processing of claims for disability compensation filed with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and for other purposes."
Chair Daniel Akaka: While my legislation [S 3517] is largely a claims processing bill, I included a pilot program to test an alternative to the current rating schedule. I did this because I'm concerned that progress on claims processing will be limited until the rating schedule is reformed. Do you agree that status quo on the rating schedule is unacceptable? Do you have suggestions for specific changes?
Joseph Violante: Mr. Chairman.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Aloha.
Joseph Violante: Certainly DAV believes IB believe that changes are necessary; however, we have some concerns about the proposal and the legislation. As has been pointed out previously, we believe that there could be a great inequity in veterans similarly situated, the same disability being rated differently. In addition to the act, the VA will have to learn two different systems because not everyone will come under this new pilot program. If these two veterans -- one who is rated under the current system, one who is under the new pilot -- appeal those decisions, then the Board of Veterans Affairs and ultimately the court also have to make a determination based on two different sets of criteria. And we believe there have been other proposals out there again by the Veterans Disability Benefits Commission and the ongoing advisory committee that have made recommendations that should be looked at also and not just focused on this one change.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Mr. Cohen?
Richard Cohen: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, NOVA believes that you're on the right track on this proposal. As you suggested, the status quo is unacceptable. The present schedule is too difficult for rating teams to work with consistently. This is uh a well thought out system. Uh, the problems that were perceived by some -- and Mr. Violante had mentioned about the disparate treatment -- could be resolved by taking files that had already been rated into the pilot to see what the result would be had they been rated under the pilot program and not changing the particular rating that it had but just seeing how it would be rated under the new program. That's a way that the program could be tested on a pilot basis and then compare the results. And actually, the rating team could be requested to provide input on the difficulty or ease of using both systems. But the proposal that you've come up with is something that it time honored. It's been used consistently in the workers' compensation system and doctors know how to deal with frequency of symptoms and severity of symptoms so it should work.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Any other comments?
Linda Jan Avant: Yes.
Chair Daniel Akaka: Ms. Avant.
Linda Jan Avant: AFG also agrees that the rating schedule does need to be updated. I understand VBA has been working on that. There are some sections that have not been updated since 1945. And as a rating specialist, viewing actual medical evidence, it's very apparent that there hasn't been a lot of changes in the information requested on the VA template, that what the rater gets and when they try to apply to the schedule, many terminologies and diagnosis have changed over the years. Also many items seem to be under-evaluated, musculoskeletal are very difficult. If you have a knee condition, it is easily -- does not reflect what the symptons are in the VA exam and some of the mental disabilities are also the same way. And we think it would be beneficial if there are changes. The changes to the ICB Code? It will take some adjustment if VA does change from our diagnostic code to the ICB Code but it is something that is used nationally and with all physicians so it is something that would be easily adaptable.
And we'll skip Thompson because the answer wasn't that in depth and we're short on space.
Today Chris Vallance (BBC News) reports that US State Dept spokesperson Megan Mattson has stated that State Dept cables may have been stolen as a result of "greater information sharing" among government departments following 9-11. The BBC argues this is how Bradley Manning could have accessed documents if, indeed, he did. (They state she argues that but they don't quote Mattson actually doing that.) And on this topic, dropping back to yesterday's snapshot, these three paragraphs confused some:

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Last Tuesday, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Today on Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton discussed the issues with Glenn Greenwald. Strangely, Glenn Greenwald was able to talk about what Bradley was charged with, what he was alleged to have done. Example below.
Glenn Greenwald: Well one of the interesting parts of the charging document is how different it is than the chat logs that were released by Wired magazine in which he allegedly confessed to this hacker Adrian Lamo which is what started this case in the first place. There's a lot of facts that are very different if you look at what the charging documents said he did versus what he allegedly said in those chats.
In the final moments, Scott would point out that Wired refused and refuses to release the alleged transcripts in full (unexpurgated) and Glenn would talk about how, based on his legal experience, when someone refuses to do that, they generally are attempting to conceal something that doesn't jibe so easily with the rest of the narrative. This was a very brief segment.
There were five paragraphs. The confusion isn't the fault of anyone trying to follow along. The snapshot was too long and that's one of the dangers of editing in your head without looking over it. I said, "Pull __ and pull ___" and two of the paragraphs pulled (there was more pulled but that was largely a commentary about the State Dept event with Hoshyar Zebari and Hillary Clinton) were after "a very brief segment." I wrongly thought the comparison had been made in the above paragraphs. If you drop back to Friday's snapshot, you'll note it opens with Nancy Youssef's garbage -- broadcast over NPR's The Diane Rehm Show -- about Bradley. In Nancy's world, if you're charged with something, you are guilty. In Nancy's world, if a convicted felon insists you said something, even though you've never publicly stated anything, you said it. The term "allegations" is as foreign to Nancy as is "innocent until proven guilty." To show your support for Bradley -- who's been found guilty of nothing at this point -- you can click here:

We Stand With Bradley Manning

This statement was signed by almost all attendees at the IVAW conference this past weekend.

Write to Bradley with your support:
Inmate: Bradley Manning
TFCF (Theater Field Confinement Facility)
APO AE 09366
USA
Bombings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing wounded two people and, dropping back to Tuesday, a Mosul bombing in which eight children and one police officer were wounded, 2 Baghdad roadside bombings which claimed the lives of 2 police officers (and wounded five more people), and a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing which injured one Iraqi soldier, a a Baghdad sticky bombing which assassinated 1 "senior appeal court judge," 2 Baghdad grenade attacks in which four police officers and three civilians were injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a Sahwa member, a Mosul bombing which left two people injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured four police officers, and an Abu Ghraib home bombing (home was base for Abu Ghraib military) in which 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed.
Shootings?
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Yousifiyah home invasion ("around dawn") on the home of Sahwa leader Khudhair Ouda in which his wife and 3 sons, a Falluja home invasion on "the home of a candidate of the National Unity Coalition" in which "his wife, daughter and son" were killed (the politician was not at home) and, dropping back to Tuesday a Baghdad home invasion in which university professor Adnan Mekki Abdullah was shot dead. Reuters notes an armed attack on a Baghdad checkpoint which resulted in three people being injured, 1 man shot dead in Mosul, a Mosul military raid which claimed the lives of 3 'militants.'

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cindy weighs in on her trial

"Government Persecutors Read my Blog by Cindy Sheehan" (Cindy Sheehan, Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox):
I took the stand at the end of the defense case and I testified that I came upon the scene when the resistance was already in progress and that when I saw Elaine and Matthis being penned in there that it was my intention to go and lie down next to them and the coffins in solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people our nation has slaughtered in the name of profit.Persecutor Branch thought she had damning “evidence” in two of my blogs where I wrote in one that I “crossed the police line.” Well, I was arrested for “crossing a police line" and held in jail for 52 hours for “crossing a police line.”
Persecutor Branch said: “Then you agree with the charges.” Wow, was that one of the dumbest questions ever? “If I agreed with the charges, I would have plead guilty and I wouldn’t be here today,” I answered her. "No further questions."
I, and my co-defendants, have spent a considerable amount of personal money, time, and energy to protest the Bush/Obama wars. Elaine Brower’s convertible can probably drive down to DC from her NYC home by itself by now.
Jon Gold has taken considerable time off of work to join Peace of the Action in DC last March and this July. Both Elaine and Jon had to take the 12th off to be here on trial. Matthis has to live with PTSD and part of his “therapy” is the antiwar sacrifices that he makes. If we “agreed” with being arrested for exercising our human freedoms and the freedoms guaranteed to us under the First Amendment, then we wouldn’t have taken the time, expense and energy to come to DC for trial after trial.

That's Cindy describing the trial on Monday where she and other "peace criminals" were harassed yet again, this time in the form of a 'hearing' into the 'crimes.'

The crimes was they may or may not have crossed a police line.

For that, tax payer money was wasted on a judicial farce. (The judge actually appeared to have some sense.)

The police were clearly out of control.

That is not a new development. But as you read Cindy's account grasp how the police didn't seem phased or concerned about their own actions on the video tape being played to the court.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, July 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, US Gen Ray Odierno warns about potential attacks on US bases in Iraq, tensions continue between northern Iraq and Turkey, Iraq's LGBT community continues to be targeted, and more.

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, stated today that an Iraqi Shi'ite group -- backed by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps -- is plotting attacks against US bases in Iraq and quotes him stating, "In the last couple weeks there's been an increased threat. We've increased our security on some of our bases. We've also increased activity with the Iraqi Security Forces. This is another attempt by Iran and others to influence the U.S. role here inside Iraq." AFP adds, "Odierno said specific intelligence had been received which showed the insurgents planned to strike US bases, although it was not clear if the Tehran government was involved." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quotes Odierno saying the drawdown is going as scheduled and the withdrawal should as well "unless we think that the government is going to fail, which could create incredible instability, which would not allow us to move forward with the politcal process".

Oh, so the US is leaving as long as Iraq's able to move forward with its political process. Well thank goodness that's not an issue, right? Thank goodness there's no problem there.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. It's four months and five days and,
in 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. Today it is four months and six days. And counting.

On the
latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera, began airing Friday), Jasim Azzawi discussed the political stalemate with the Arab Lawyers Association's Sabah Al Mukhtar and the Institute of World Politics' Joshua Muravchik.

Sabah Al Mukhtar: I think it is absurd to talk about politics in Iraq. Iraq is an occupied territory. You have two leaders there who are appointed by the Americans. Both of them are the Vichy of France. They are fighting over power and nothing else because the agenda of both of them is identical. Both of them are protecting the interests of America. Both of them have zero interests in the Iraqi interest. The records of both of them shows that. The results which have just been illustrated in your report indicates that those people care absolutely nothing about Iraq and this is an exercise in trying to put a face lift -- It's like a Monopoly game. This is not a state. This is not politics. This is just a Monopoly game which the Americans is playing and Iraq's history had before -- just like other countries in the region where the Foreign Office used to fight the India Office, both of them used different factions of the same audience to make them fight and pretend as if it is the same situation, again we are repeating the same situation in Iraq. When the British left Iraq, they left them with three documents. One of them was a Constitution which now we have failed. [. . .] The second one are the treaties for oil and now the Iraqis have signed the agreement. The third one was the military presence of Britian in Iraq and now we have the American presence and all of this talk about pulling it and what have you, this is just for the domestic consumption of the USA. They're going to leave something like 50,000 military men plus 100,000 mercenaries which will bring back the figure to 150,000 soldiers.

And the other guest? Americans need to get a damn grip when they go on Al Jazeera. When you've just started speaking and you're screaming at the top of your lungs, you look like an ass and you're disgracing not only yourself but the entire United States. Six yelling tirades in less than ten minutes. That's disgraceful. So was the name calling. So was screaming "Shut up!" over and over at Jasim who is the host of the program. For those trying to pin Joshua Muravchik on the political map, he's another Socialist who became a neoconservative. For those trying to pin Joshua Muravchik on the social skills map, he's a pig.


Sabah Al Mukhtar: You cannot have a democracy under occupation. But the Americans have changed everything upside down. So you have an occupier who comes into a country and he calls it a liberation and you have a foreigner who tells the nationals that he's bringing democracy there because he's ruling them -- sending us Mr. Biden who is the vice president of America, not Iraq, to try and have a government. And this is democracy?


At the US State Dept today, Iraqi Foreign Ministry Hoshyar Zebari met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (link has a video and text).

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, hello, everyone, and I'm delighted to be welcoming back to the State Department a colleague and a friend, someone who has served his country with great distinction. And I am very pleased to have this opportunity with Foreign Minister Zebari here to reaffirm the importance and strength of the long-term strategic relationship between the United States and Iraq. I also, Minister, offer our sincere condolences for the loss of life suffered in recent attacks against religious pilgrims and security forces in Iraq. But I am confident that Iraqis will not be deterred from working together to build a new future of peace and security for all of their people. This will be the second meeting of the Diplomatic Joint Coordinating Committee of the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. This committee guides our engagement on a wide range of diplomatic, cultural, economic, and security issues. It is the roadmap for our long-term partnership. The foreign minister is co-hosting the committee along with Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Jeff Feltman, and they are working on a range of common concerns, including Iraq's removal from UN Chapter 7 sanctions and other important matters that are of concern to Iraqis. We also discussed the critical need for Iraq's political leaders to continue the hard work necessary to form a proportionate and inclusive government that represents the voices of Iraq's diverse communities and can deliver on the promise of democracy. More is needed from everyone involved. The United States expresses no preference for the outcome in the government formation, but we share a sense of urgency. The people of Iraq deserve to have a government that is ready to meet their needs, and we hope that that occurs soon. The Iraqi security forces are growing in confidence and capability, which has been evident in the way that they've handled some of these recent attacks. As our Ambassador Chris Hill recently said, our soldiers may withdraw from Iraq, but our interests will remain. We are committed to this relationship, and after August 31st, 50,000 U.S. troops will remain in Iraq to train, equip, and advise Iraqi security forces, conduct joint counterterrorism missions, and protect ongoing U.S. and civilian military activities. We are working every day to create a very strong foundation for a long-lasting relationship between the United States and Iraq, and the reduction in troops in no way reflects a decrease in American engagement with Iraq or our commitment to the Iraqi people. Guided by the Strategic Framework Agreement, the United States will continue to be an active partner and supporter as Iraqis strengthen their democracy, improve their security, and reintegrate fully into the regional and global community and economy. We believe a sustained U.S. role will be crucial to lasting peace and security in Iraq. But ultimately, we recognize the long-term success of the Iraqi nation depends upon the leaders and people of Iraq. It is their determination and hard work that will make the difference. The strong turnout in the March 7th election underscored their resolve, but we know some delays have occurred on the road to forming a government, but we're betting on the Iraqis. We think the Iraqi people are a tough, resilient, determined people who are more than up to the task. And the United States will stand with the Iraqi people for the long term. So again, Minister Zebari, thank you for your visit, thank you for your friendship and cooperation, and I look forward to continuing to work with you.

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: Thank you. Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. It's always an honor and pleasure to see you, whether here in Washington or in Iraq. I am here with my delegation, in fact, as Madam Secretary indicated, to convene the second session of the Joint Coordination Committee for Political and Diplomatic Cooperation. This is a message to all the people of Iraq, to the region, that our long-term relationship is there and it will flourish, it will be strengthened; it has nothing to do with the drawdown of U.S. troops by August 31st. I think this long-term strategic friendship and cooperation has been enshrined in an agreement which is to the benefit of the people and of the region's people of some stability. In fact, we come from New York and we had good discussions with the secretary general, with a number of the permanent Security Councils, the P-5, in order to discuss means and ways for Iraq to get out of Chapter 7 regulation. And here, Madam Secretary, I want to thank you and the U.S. Government for all the help and the assistance you have given us, in fact, to get Iraq back to its rightful place in the community of nations. And we are making progress on a number of issues. We discussed, as you know, the efforts -- the current efforts of government formation. And this is an Iraqi issue and the people of Iraq, the Iraqi leaders, in fact, face this challenge to form their own representative government based on the outcome of March the 7 historic elections. Now we have some delays. Eventually, I think a government will emerge and we are doing our best, in fact, to do that in order to avoid any constitutional governmental vacuum. I think that people are aware of the urgency. As you have, we as Iraqi also feel a sense of urgency. But we are confident we will overcome and we will form our next government. And once again, thank you very much for hosting us and it's a pleasure to see you. Thank you.

And we'll note this from the questions and answers.

Nihad Ali: This is Nihad Ali from Al Iraqiya Channel, and the first question goes to the foreign minister of Iraq. Mr. Foreign Minister, you met yesterday with the secretary general of the United Nations as well as the ambassadors of the various member countries of the Security Council. You -- did you -- what is -- is there a ceiling, a timeline ceiling, for taking Iraq out of Chapter 7? As well, did you discuss the crisis of the formation of the Iraqi Government? The second question goes to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Despite the visit, the recent visit of Vice President Biden to Iraq, until now there are no signs that Iraq is going out of its crisis pertaining to the formation of the government. Did you discuss with Foreign Minister Zebari any suggestions about this issue?

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: Welcome to you. And yes, we met with the Secretary General of the United Nations Mr. Ban Ki-moon as well as the ambassadors of the five permanent countries, members of the Security Council. We discussed the ways and the means of -- and other measures that the Iraqi Government has been undertaking in order to take out Iraq from the provisions as well as the repercussions of Chapter 7. And in the past year, we have achieved a lot of progress, mainly pertaining to ridding Iraq of weapons or at the issue -- about the issue pertaining to the weapons of mass destruction, as well as issues pertaining to the remaining contracts related to the Oil-for-Food and also issues pertaining to our relationship with our brother country Kuwait. Therefore, we are building on all what you have been achieving over the past year and we will continue to do so.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: We discussed at great length the status of government formation. I reiterated that the United States does not have any preference in the outcome as to who is awarded what position, but we are concerned by the delay. We think that there needs to be more of a sense of urgency to resolve this matter. I watched with interest as the people of Iraq demonstrated over the lack of electricity in the very hot weather that they are suffering through. And it takes a government to solve such problems. So we urge the leaders of Iraq to reach an agreement and to put their personal interests behind the national interest. And therefore, anything the United States can do, we stand ready to do, in order to encourage the government formation as soon as possible.

As the violence and the political stalemate continue, evaluations continue to come in. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy offers "
Bring Paul the Octobus to Iraq. We need him badly" at Inside Iraq which includes:I talked to some people I know and others I met by chance. All of then agreed upon one point. They all feel so sorry that they participated in the last election. They all repeated one sentence: "we had been decieved by our political leaders". Members of my family praised me because I did not participate.
since no one can pridect what might happen during the coming days and since our unique political leaders can not reach any kind of agreement about the most important issue (chosing the coming Prime Minister) and since its not really late. I suggest that we send a delegation to Germany as soon as possible to bring Paul the Octobus to Iraq before the german turn him into delecious meals and before the Dutch marines assassinate him because he predicted their loss. In this issue, we have to cooperate with Spain to save the octobus's life and prepared a great glass pool for him provided with some good mussels. We should also put each mussel in a small glass box writing the names of the politicians who are fighting over for the Prime Minister position and mainly Nouri Al Maliki and Ayad Allawi and Adil Abdul Mahdi. Of course we will have other names.

Turning to some of the reported violence . . .

Bombings?

Timothy Williams and Tim Arrango (New York Times) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings claimed 2 lives and left five people injured and a Mosul grenade attack on a TV news crew which left eight children and one police officer injured. Ahmed Rasheed, Rania El Gamal and David Stamp (Reuters) report at least 9 dead in Diyala Province as a result of a coffin bombing.

Shootings?

Reuters reports Sahwa leader Khudair Awad al-Jubouri and 4 of his family members were assassinated in Yusufiya yesterday.

Sahwa, Iraqi Christians, Iraqi women, the list is endless. Everyone's a target in 'democratic' Iraq. That would include the Iraqi LGBT community.
UK Gay News reports:

Hard on the heels of an Iraqi police raid on a Kerbala 'safe house' for gays, run by the London-based
Iraqi LGBT, comes news that there has been another raid -- on a Baghdad male beauty parlour, with five men arrested.
Iraqi LGBT reported this evening that five gay mean were seized by "Interior Ministry forces" in the raid on June 25.
The latest raid was on a house used as a business for services such as waxing and massage in the Baghdad district of Karada.
Such services have long been used in a country with a body building tradition.
Iraqi media coverage, which included three days of TV reports, however described the house as used for prostitution, according to Iraqi LGBT.
However, witnesses have told Iraqi LGBT that this was not the case. Neither waxing nor massage is illegal in Iraq however it is 'forbidden' by Shia clerics.


Staying with violence, Saturday
AFP reported that the Turkish government has informed the governments of the US, Iraq and the KRG that it wants it to hand over rebels in nothern Iraq which they number at 248 and one official (unnamed) is quoted stating, "The net is tightening." Press TV added, "The list included senior PKK chiefs such as Murat Karayilan, Cemil Bayik, and Duran Kalkan. The call was made shortly after military and civilian leaders in Turkey voiced growing frustration with Baghdad and the Iraq-based US military over their inaction in confronting the PKK." Umit Enginsoy (Hurriyet Daily News) reports today that unnamed sources say the US has increased it's "cooperation" with Turkey: "The U.S. and Turkish militaries have been sharing intelligence about the PKK since November 2007, when President George W. Bush agreed to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan's request in the wake of stepped-up attacks by the outlawed group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by both countries as well as the European Union. Stronger U.S. support for Turkey's fight against the PKK has been reflected in a number of recent developments, sources said Monday, citing increased Turkish access to Iraqi airspace, an agreement to transfer attack helicopters and the ramping up of intelligence sharing." Northern Iraq is shelled and bombed by both the Turkish government and the Iranian government. Today Human Rights Watch issued "Iran/Iraq: Iranian Attacks Should Not Target Iraqi Civilians:"Iran needs to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians at risk of serious harm from artillery bombardment and other military operations in an area that includes dozens of Kurdish villages inside northern Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.The Iranian attacks, directed against the Iranian Kurdish armed group Party for Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), intensified in late May and have led to the displacement of more than 500 families, wounded an unknown number of villagers, and killed a teenage girl. Iraqi villagers also told Human Rights Watch, which visited the area in late June, that Iranian border guards have targeted their livestock and sometimes fired at the villagers themselves. "Iran should take all feasible precautions to spare civilians from artillery and other attacks," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Firing artillery shells into populated areas, especially where there are no military targets, and targeting livestock are serious violations of the laws of war."Since June 3, 2010, about 500 families have fled their border villages to crowded tent camps elsewhere in Erbil and Sulaimaniya provinces, joining about 250 families who had fled Iranian shelling in previous months. Aid organizations and local municipalities have struggled to meet the displaced families' basic needs. The recent attacks also led an unknown number of other Kurdish civilians to flee elsewhere throughout the countryside and to surrounding towns.

Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Philip Shenon (Daily Beast) reported last month that the US government is attempting to track down WikiLeaks' Julian Assange. Last Tuesday, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported he had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Today on Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton discussed the issues with Glenn Greenwald. Strangely, Glenn Greenwald was able to talk about what Bradley was charged with, what he was alleged to have done. Example below.

Glenn Greenwald: Well one of the interesting parts of the charging document is how different it is than the chat logs that were released by Wired magazine in which he allegedly confessed to this hacker Adrian Lamo which is what started this case in the first place. There's a lot of facts that are very different if you look at what the charging documents said he did versus what he allegedly said in those chats.

In the final moments, Scott would point out that Wired refused and refuses to release the alleged transcripts in full (unexpurgated) and Glenn would talk about how, based on his legal experience, when someone refuses to do that, they generally are attempting to conceal something that doesn't jibe so easily with the rest of the narrative. This was a very brief segment

In an update from Monday,
AP notes that Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan court appearance yesterday resulted in a verdict of "not guilty of crossing a police line during an anti-war protest in March." You can click here for another AP brief on the trial. Cindy wasn't the only one on trial (the AP names no other defendants) and Jon Gold (Peace of the Action) writes about the trial and how Matthis Chiroux, Elaine Brower and Lafloria Walsh were found guilty of failure to obey" while he, Cindy and Jim Veeder were not. Jon Gold reports:
After the prosecutor and defense were finished, and the time came for the judge to make his decisions, I thought for sure we were all going to be convicted. The first words the judge said had to do with the prosecution proving things "beyond a reasonable doubt," so I thought for sure we were done. I pulled out my prepared statement to read in the event I was convicted, and had it ready to go. Much to my surprise, I never got to read it, which was kind of a disappointment, but I did get to read it during the press conference we had this morning, so all is good. I was the second to be let go, and Cindy was the third. The case against Cindy seemed strong enough that she was going to be convicted, but the judge seemed to be on her side. She was completely surprised when she was acquitted. I'm glad the judge was at least able to do that for her. A late
birthday present.


Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner. She's certainly not a criminal. She's an attorney behind bars in prison. But you only go to prison if you break the law, right? That used to be the US judicial system. Lynne's in prison for breaking . . . some guideline. Did you realize that? Did you grasp that she broke no law? That no law on the books can be pointed to, no government prosecutor can waive it in the air and say, "This is the law Lynne broke." Lynne is no criminal. She's an attorney who has defended a wide variety of clients. Usually ones very few other attorneys would touch. In the US judicial system, every one deserves a fair trial. Lynne's career has been all about that. And that's probably why the Bush administration targeted her.That guideline that she broke? It happened while Bill Clinton was president. The Justice Dept was fully aware of it. Then-Attorney General Janet Reno looked into the matter. Reno had the wisdom to grasp that if no law was broken, then there's no prosecution. The Clinton Justice Dept did not seek to put Lynne on trial. Later, the Bush administration would put her on trial and make that trial not about the laws but all about 9-11. The trial which took place in NYC.Lynne was convicted of doing her job. What a proud moment for American justice or 'justice.'Events tomorrow and Thursday in support of Lynne:July 14, 20105:30pmMarch from Tom Paine Park (Worth St. between Centre & Lafayette Streets)3 blocks to Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC- where Lynne is detained)7-9pm Vigil in Support of LynneAt Metropolitan Correctional Center 150 Park RowJULY 15, 2010SENTENCING DAYSentencing is at 2:30pm, we will be there at 11amFederal Courthouse500 Pearl StreetNY, NYDoors will open at 2pmLET'S PACK THE COURT!!!As she so often does, Ruth noted Taking Aim. (Airs Tuesdays on WBAI.) Mya Shone and Ralph Schoenman are the hosts. They spoke with Ralph Poynter about Lynne Stewart. And this is from last week so it includes an action that has already taken place.Mya Shone: First we're going to a very brief update with Ralph Poynter about the case of Lynne Stewart.Ralph Schoenman: And about the rally tomorrow or rather on Thursday.Mya Shone: Thursday. Ralph?Ralph Poynter: Yes, Mya.Ralph Schoenman: How are you Ralph?Ralph Poynter: Yes, I -- As you know, our hearts are in our throats. We're waiting for the re-sentencing of Lynne Stewart. And we're very upset that she was sentenced at all, that she was found guilty of terrorism by way of a press release and a prison regulation. And we've lived seven months of Lynne's incarceration in the prison system. With her medical situation, being in the hospital handcuffed and shackled while being there and dealing with this. And hoping to get some relief come next July 15th when she is re-sentenced. And many of us --Mya Shone: Ralph, on Thursday, July 8th, 6:00 p.m., Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South, speakers include our one and only here Ralph Scho, yourself, Chairman Fred Hampton Jr., Pan-African --Ralph Poynter: Yes, Pan-Africa. We have many --Mya Shone: Many others.Ralph Poynter: -- on the issue of imprisonment and incarceration in general in America. And, as I was saying, we're hoping that we get an improvement because although Lynne has -- Her liver has proved not to be cancerous, it was quite a scare for us. And we're hoping that she would get home -- house arrest where she could go to the hospital and take care of the problems she had when she first went into the hospital. So the event that you mentioned tomorrow is to help us you know like help us keep our spirits up and to help Lynne keep her spirits up. And also the 14th at Tom Paine Park, right down on Center & Worth, we're going to gather at 5:30 and have a little cermony and then march three blocks to MCC and speak on Lynne's behalf for about two hours, from seven to nine-thirty to life up her spirits to be ready for the sentencing. Mya Shone: Great. Okay, all out Thursday July 8th at six p.m., the Judson Memorial Church Ralph Schoenman: And remember, brothers & sisters, Lynne Stewart is being victimized because the government is involved in attacks on people of the world and the United States, 9-11, 1993, these are the government's actions for which they seek demons in order to create the architecture of the fascist state. Stand together, fight for Lynne, fight for ourselves, fight for the salvation of this society and for a fundamental change in its rule and its conduct. See you Thursday.

iraq
the washington postleila fadelafp
the wall st. journal
ben lando
al jazeera
inside iraq
jasim al-azzawi
antiwar radioscott horton
the new york timestimothy williamstim arango
reutersahmed rasheedrania el gamaldavid stamphuman rights watchinside iraqmcclatchy newspapers
cindy sheehanjon goldpeace of the action
ruths reportwbaitaking aimlynne stewartmya shoneralph schoemanralph poynter