Friday, July 23, 2010

I feel something in the air

Not that anyone asked but, in my opinion, the net must-reads this week were:

Those are all by C.I. She wrote other things this week as well; however, I see those as her strongest of the week. They include three snapshots where she reports on Congressional hearings and one snapshot where she covers a new UN report.

They include the militarization of the State Dept. That is the story and where is Jeremy Scahill? (Am I the only one who feels Scahill's head, face and neck resemble a circumcised penis?) Where are any of them? The great useless. Refusing to write about how the war in Iraq continues as the State Dept. gets militarized, is over a large army of contractors/mercenaries and establishes outposts. Where's the story?

C.I. led it on it Tuesday and Wednesday.

She really works harder than she should.

Then you get these idiots who want to whine to her or gripe at her and they don't give even give her credit for all that she does because they're nothing but Barack Obama apologists and groupies. They're not about peace, they're not about ending any wars.

I loved "Come Undone" this morning. That was such an amazing piece of writing. When she was dictating the snapshot, I was begging her to include it as is. She included a few lines of it but that's it. Which is too bad because I love that. I also love the video she included of Robbie Williams performing "Come Undone" live. Not to mention how she worked Carly Simon into the piece. It was just my dream piece. If you'd given me the topic and asked me what I was going to do with it, I'd tell you that I'd grab some music and hit on some points . . .

But I wouldn't have pulled it off the way she did.

'Because I'm scum, and I'm your son, I come undone." I love that song and I really love Robbie Williams. He has a voice that often reminds me of Elton John. I'm thrilled he's huge in England but I'll never grasp why he's had such difficulty finding the same level of appreciation in the US.
I think "Rock DJ" is my favorite of Robbie's faster songs.

Anyway, it's another week. In a year where people wake up slowly. But they do wake up. Soon they will be demanding an end to the wars. "I feel something in the air," as Cher used to sing.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 23, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, 3 US service members are wounded in an Iraq attack, depleted uranium is back in the news, the Congress examines VA health care, and more.
Yesterday, Lt Dan Choi learned he was the latest casualty of the US government's continued homophobia. Today he appeared on PRI's The Takeaway.
Lt Dan Choi: A big surprise. It's painful as much as much as I'm prepared for that. Anytime somebody knowingly breaks Don't Ask, Don't Tell for the sake of integrity and telling the truth about who we are, we still have to be prepared for the consequences --
John Hockenberry: Which were what? What did your commander say to you?
Lt Dan Choi: He said that I'd been discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
John Hockenberry: You're out.
Lt Dan Choi: I'm fired.
John Hockenberry: He said fired or he just said -- 'You're being honorably discharged'?
Lt Dan Choi: I'm being honorably discharged. That is an end to an entire era that I've started since I was age 18 --
John Hockenberry: How long have you been in the service?
Lt Dan Choi: -- I'm sorry. I have not been a civilian since then. And as much as you might be interested in how it was said and what was in the letter, to me, it's all a summation of the entire journey and it says it's all over. As much as you can prepare yourself and build up the armor to get ready for that, it's hard, it's very painful to deal with that. I think about every moment of being in the military since starting from West Point eleven years ago and preparing for deployments and infantry training and then going to Iraq and coming back and then starting a relationship and then all of the emotions of this entire journey just came right back at that moment when he said that your - your - your service is now terminated. I got the letter. He e-mailed me the letter, I got the letter yesterday morning, and in very cold words, it just said that I'm finished.
Turning to the issue of depleted uranium, Tom Eley (WSWS) reports:
According to the authors of a new study, "Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009," the people of Fallujah are experiencing higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality, and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by US atomic bomb strikes in 1945.
The epidemiological study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Studies and Public Health (IJERPH), also finds the prevalence of these conditions in Fallujah to be many times greater than in nearby nations.
The assault on Fallujah, a city located 43 miles west of Baghdad, was one of the most horrific war crimes of our time. After the population resisted the US-led occupation of Iraq -- a war of neo-colonial plunder launched on the basis of lies -- Washington determined to make an example of the largely Sunni city. This is called "exemplary" or "collective" punishment and is, according to the laws of war, illegal.
Press TV also covers it by interviewing former US Congress member and Green Party presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney.
Press TV: Mrs. McKinny is now with us from Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks so much for joining our broadcast. Why is it that the use of depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan is largely being ignored by the media at large; in addition, this is much more dangerous than the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, isn't it?

McKinny: Well, you're absolutely right that is dangerous. And not only is the use of depleted uranium contaminating the areas that are considered the war theater but because of air current the contamination by depleted uranium is spreading over major world cities like for example London where the air has tested positive for depleted uranium. We also have to be concerned about the side effects of depleted uranium. We have seen an incredible increase in the severity and in the proliferation of birth defects in these areas that are considered the war theater by the US and the British troops. They have used depleted uranium and it has affected the population.

Press TV:The Pentagon has denied risk from the use of depleted uranium and has refused to help Iraq decontaminate affected areas, yet is also seeking alternatives citing environmental factors. Is that last part as close as we are going to get to admitting to the truth?

McKinny:Well, we should have people in the United States Congress who care about this particular issue. I did introduce legislation to ban all use of depleted uranium munitions while the jury was out with respect to what the health effects would have been as a result of the use of these kinds of weapons. Now we know what the health effects are. We have seen what the health effects are, and the impact on the people of Iraq. But, now the United States is using depleted uranium munitions not only in Iraq but has been using them in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. So, it's not about the environmental problems only that we are concerned, but we are concerned about the health effects on human beings. We are concerned about the health effects of war on human beings and that's why we are engaged in our activities to fight the 'US war machine' in general.
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 3 US soldiers were wounded in an attacak on a US Nassiriya base, a Kirkuk car bombing injured a police chief, claimed the life of his son and injured nine other people, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured two people, a Baghdad home invasion killed the parents of one police officer, and, dropping back to Thursday for the rest, one army officer injured in a Baghdad shooting, an Iskandariya bombing which injured nine people, a Baghdad mortar attack which injured three people, and a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people.
Yesterday the US House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing on physical war wounds. Chair Michael Michaud explained in his opening statement, "The purpose of today's hearing is to explore how we can best serve our veterans who have sustained severe physical wounds from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, we will closely examine VA's specialized services for the severely injured, which include blind rehabilitation, spinal cord injury centers, polytrauma centers and prosthetics and sensory aids services. With advances in protective body armor and combat medicine, our service members are surving war wounds which
otherwise would have resulted in casualties."
The first panel was made of veterans advocates: Blinded Veterans Association's Thomas Zampieri, Paralyzed Veterans of America's Carl Blake, Disabled American Veterans' Joy J. Illem, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tom Tarantino and the American Legion's Denise Williams.
Thomas Zampieri: The VA, I want to start off on some good news, the blind rehab services have expanded services throughout the system. Ironically, back in 2004, they developed the plans for a continum of care based on the idea that the aging population of veterans would need a lot of low vision and blind rehabilitative services. Little, I think, did they realize back then that the plans that they were making to expand services would suddenly be immediately useful for the returning service members with eye trauma and Traumatic Brain Injuries with vision impairments associated with the TBIs. And so what we have is now the VA has expanded. They've had ten in-patient blind centers which offer comprehensive, rehabilitative services for those with blindness but they also have all the specialized staff in those centers such as consultants with orthapedics, general surgeons, neuroligists, psychologists, pharmacologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech pathologists, the list goes on and on. So those individuals refered to the ten blind centers get, I think, excellent care. But the VA has also expanded and they now have 55 sites where they have either low-vision specialists or advanced blind rehabiltative centers. And those centers have specialized staff -- they've actually hired about 250 staff including about 60 low-vision optometrists and they're screening these patients with visual problems and visual impairments. And so that's the good news.
In addition, Zampieri noted problems such as the fact that BROS (Blind Rehabilitative Outpatient Specialists) can visit the VA and do various things but they can't do what they're trained to and so he asks that the VA grant BROS the same Medical Treatment Factilities (MTF) clinical privileges as VA clinical staff. We're going to stay with opening statements and, please note, this is what was stated. It may or may not track with the prepared written opening statement which are submitted ahead of time and submitted for the record. So here's a sampling of the first panel, via their opening statements. And these are excerpts, not their entire opening statements.
Carl Blake: It is important to emphasize that specialized services are part of the core mission and responsibility of the VA. For a long time, this has included spinal cord injury care, blind rehabilitation, treatment for mental health conditions -- including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder -- and similiar conditions. Today, Traumatic Brain Injury and polytrauma injuries are new areas that the VA has had to focus its attention on as part of their specialized care programs. The VA's specialized services are incomparable resources that often cannot be duplicated in the private sector. For PVA, there is an ongoing issue that has not received a great deal of focus: Some active duty soldiers with a new spinal cord injury or dysfunction are being transferred directly to civilian hospitals in the community and bypassing the VA health care system. This is particularly true of newly injured service members who incur their spinal cord injuries in places other than the combat theaters of Iraq and Afghanistan. This violates a memorandum of agreement between VA and DoD that was effective January 1, 2007, requiring that "care management services will be provided by the military medical support office, the appropriate military treatment facility and the admitting VA center as a joint-collaboration" and that "whenever possible the VA health care center closest to the active duty member's home of record should be contacted first." In addition, it requires that to ensure optimal care, active duty patients are to go directly to a VA medical facility without passing through a transit military hospital -- clearly indicating the critical nature of rapidly integrating these veterans into an SCI health care system. This is not happening. For example, service members who have experienced a spinal cord injury while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq are being transferred to Sheppard Spinal Center, a private facility, in Atlanta when VA facilities are available in Augusta. When we raised our concerns with the VA regarding Augusta in a site visit report, the VA responded by conducting an information meeting at Sheppard to present information and increase referrals. However, reactionary measures such as this should not be the standard for addressing these types of concerns. Of additional concern to PVA, it was repoted that some of these newly injured soldiers receiving treatment in private facilities are being discharged to community nursing homes after a period of time in these private rehabilitation facilities. In fact, some of these men and women have received sub-optimal rehabilitation and some are being discharged without proper equipment. PVA is greatly concerned with this type of process and treatment.
Joy Ilem: Today's injured military service members are experiencing higher survival rates than in previous wars, with the overall survival rate among wounded troops being about 90 percent. This increase is attributed to the widespread use of body armor, improved battlefield triage procedures and expedited medical evacuation. For a majority of our wounded service members, the first level of complex intervention on their journey to a VA PRC nomrally occurs at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, operated by the US Army. Up until 2009, VA received little or no information about wounded service member transport, the full extent of the acute care process that service members had undergone or the stress that these patients had experienced before arriving at a VA PRC. However, in October of 2009, a team of two VA physicians and two nurses from VA's Polytrauma System of Care spent four days at Landstuhl to gather information and put a system in place to establish a regular exchange of information between medical teams in the military and VA's PRCs. The PRCs are now able to track patients from the beginning of their jouneys and can identify medical complications much earlier. This system of coordination has established a continuum of care that is not proprietary to the DoD or VA and has aieded them to develop one system that benefits our wounded personnel and veterans.
Tom Tarantino: We asked our members what they though of the treatement they were receiving at the VA and we've received a wide range of opinion, both complementary and critical. However, several-several common themes appeared: Long waits for appointments, frequent interaction with rude administrative staff, a growing distrust of VA health care and long drives to VA facilities. Fortunately, we received very few complaints about the actual quality of care at VA medical centers. But in addition to the concerns listed above, our members have expressed concern with how the VA deals with Traumatic Brain Injury. To properly treat returning combat veterans with mild to severe TBI the VA must completely rethink and adapt their medical rehabilitation practices. IAVA is concerned that the VA has limited or denied access to some veterans seeking recovery services for TBI because current statute requires that the VA provides services to restore functions to wounded veterans and while full recovery should always be the desired outcome for rehabilitation, sustaining current function or just preventing future harm should also warrant access to VA services.
Denise Williams: In response to the large number of veterans with prosthetics and rehabilitative needs, VA established Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers (PRC). The VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers provide treatment through multi-disciplinary medical teams including cardiologists, internal medicine, physical therapist, social work and transition patient case managers and much more specialty medical service areas, to help treat the multiple injuries. Currently, VA maintains four VA Polytrauma Rehabilitation Centers in Richmond, VA; Minneapolis, MN; Palo Alto, CA and Tampa, FL. However, the American Legion is concerned about VA's ability to meet the long term needs of these young veterans. As stated by the Military Medicine Journal, rehabilitation is a crucial step in optimizing long-term function and quality of life after amputation. Although returning veterans with combat-related amputations may be getting the best in rehabilitative care and technology available, their expected long term health outcomes are considerably less clear. It is imperative that both DoD and VA clinicians seriously consider the issues associated with combat-related amputees and try to alleviate any forseeable problems that these OIF-OEF amputees may face in the future.
We'll note this exchange.
Chair Michael Michaud: This question is actually for all the panelists. I've heard some anecdotes from veterans who applaud prosthetic services that they receive at the Dept of Defense but are very leery of the care that they might receive through the VA system. Do you believe that DoD provides better overall prosthetic services compared to the VA? Or do you believe that these anecdotes that I'm hearing are just a few isolated cases? And I don't know who wants to address that.
Joy Ilem: I'll go ahead and take a stab at that. I think early on, you know, we heard reports -- I mean, I remember from hearings even with [Iraq War veteran] Tammy Duckworth [now the Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs at the VA], one of the situations that's very unqiue is DoD and Walter Reed obviously have had -- you know, the focus has been on them for really doing much of the prosthetics and rehab there on site. I know that VA, from attending their prosthetics meeting, have integrated their people to go out and see, you know, what's going on as these people start to transfer back to the VA. But the complaints were that when they returned to the VA to have either their item serviced or to continue their rehabiliation they ran into sort of a disconnect from anyone at the facility they had been working with. The prosthetician had very much attention to and all the access to the newest items and options at the DoD site -- it seemed very different within the VA. I think that, you know, VA's prosthetic services tried to really improve that and make good strides in trying to make sure that they are ready to accept these veterans as they transition back into VA to repair their equipment , to have -- I know that they have access to all of the vendors that are working out there and they have done this liason work. I'm hoping that -- that percetion, as Tom has mentioned, you know, it lingers when you hear so much about DoD and then people want to return there because it's a very sensitive issue in terms of the people that they're working with and the items that they're working with and then to have to go to a new system where people that haven't seen the high tech equipment, you know, you don't have a lot of confidence, I'm sure. They're saying, 'That's the first time I've seen that' but the truth is they're getting access to some of the most high quality equipment that nobody has seen, so I'm hoping it's changing but it still may be the case in some situations.
Carl Blake: Mr. Chairman, I just want to sort of piggy-back a little on what Joy had to say and also make another comment first. Representing a membership that is probably one of the highest in the users of prosthetic devices and equipment from the VA, I would say that our members generally never -- I won't say "never" -- generally do not have problems getting the most state of the art wheel chairs and other types of equipment that they need. In the occasion where maybe there's some difficulty getting some prosthetic equipment or whatever it may be, it's usually just a matter of working with the prosthetic department through our service officers or what have you to make sure that the right steps are taken. But-but our members are not experiencing a lot of problems getting what they need and, believe me, when it comes to state of the art wheel chairs, you'd be surprised at what's out there. I want to sort of tag along on what Joy had to say, I think you would find that DoD is not unlike VA in sort of the prosthetic structure and some of VA's prosthetic services is not unlike the rest of its health care, it has to become adaptable to the changing needs of this generation. Prosthetics is no exception. I think a lot of focus is put on the high tech -- we talk about these advanced prosthestics the service members are getting from DoD but it really boils down to them getting through Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke or some of the major military checkpoints. But if they went back to a lot of home stations, I think you'd find that a lot of these military treatment facilities, they don't exactly have the capacity to meet their needs when it comes to prosthetics or the maintenance required for that equipment either. So DoD is not unlike the VA in that respect and I think that VA is probably trying to address it more than DoD would in that respect and we've heard time and again from Mr. [Fred] Downes who overseas the VA's prosthetics that -- I think he recognizes the need for them to become more adapatable and get it to the field so that, as these men and women are ultimately going to come to their local facilities, the VA can meet their needs particularly on the maintance of this high-end equipment. I mean, they are intimately involved in what's going on out at Walter Reed in particular because that's sort of where everything begins when it comes to these advanced prosthetics. So I -- You can beat up on the VA for it but in fairness to the VA, they're seeing demands on their system that they never could have imagined before now also.
Chair Michael Michaud: Thank you very much. My next, my last question for all the panelists actually is: When you look at speciality care within the VA system, do you believe that speciality care is provided equally among all of VA facilities talking to your membership?
Carl Blake: I'll speak to the SCI [spinal cord injury] side of it. I think because of the model that's been established, we feel pretty confident that it's sort of a uniform policy in the way that all SCI care is provided across the system. That again is a function of how the entire SCI service has been set up through the hub-and-spoke model. We're encouraged to see that the VA is sort of moving that way in the polytrauma aspect. And yet there are a lot of challenges as it relates to TBI that Joy raised and going forward that the VA is going to have to figure out how to deal with along the way. But I feel pretty confident that they do the right thing across the board when it comes to SCI service in particular.
Joy Ilem: I would add on to that, some of the complaints that we've heard from veterans contacting us about mild to moderate TBI is that their family sort of recognized that they had an issue, they had been using the VA system for other things, they went to the VA, weren't satisifed in certain areas of the country -- I mean, I'd received calls from sort of different locations saying, you know, 'I ended up in the private sector with VA fee-basing me into an out-patient program that really offered a range of things that I've learned so much in the last six months in terms of mild TBI, how to deal with it for my family centered care, addressing a range of issues and opportunities for them to have this wide range of out-patient care.' And in those cases, you know, I've contacted the VA directly and tried to find out is it just this location that they're having this problem or is it a systemic problem. It's hard to say unless, you know -- someone like PVA really has people on the ground that are doing site visits and the Legion. But in that specific area, that's a concern of ours. We're hoping that in certain areas, we're hoping that they've got the interdisciplinary teams that are needed to provide that care and that they've developed a wide range of services and a good type of program for that but I'm not convinced of that, that it's everywhere yet. I think it's in certain locations -- obviously with the major polytrauma centers -- but as you go further out, and then obviously in the rural areas where those services are-are not available and they have to connect them with the nearest prviate sector facilities. You know, we'd like to see some continuity of care and make sure that care is available everywhere.
Denise Williams: I'd like to add that during our site visit that was a main issue: staffing shortages. As Joy just mentioned, in the areas where they have the polytrauma centers, you'll see where they have a lot of speciality care available but as you go out to the other facilities there is definitely a shortage for speciality care. And we hear that from the veterans and we also hear that from VA staff themselves at the facilities, that there's a shortage.
Thomas Zampieri: Same thing. The major centers, both the military polytrauma centers, Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center, Balboa out in San Diego, or you go to any of the four VA polytrauma centers, it's amazing. I think everybody gets seen by everybody. I mean it's not unusual to have a team of thirty different specialists seeing a patient and the hand off has improved dramatically since 2005 when I was sitting in this room, I think, with a couple of things. One is that we're always concerned with everybody focuses on -- the famous beat-up in this town is Walter Reed. You know, when something goes wrong and the universe focuses there. But the patients who are evacuated back through Landstuhl come back into the United States, I think there's a misperception that everybody goes through Bethesda or Walter Reed and actuality, some people will admit that about thirty percent of all the wounded and walking wounded actually go back to the original home platform base of deployment. So if you go to Fort Drum or Fort Carson, Coloardo or Fort Gordon, Georgia or -- just name a base. Fort Hood, Texas. You'll find individuals who are evacced back through the system that didn't get seen in one of these highly specialized centers. And some of those are the ones that we find that have a vision problem -- you know, they didn't have a lot of other severe injuries so they were evacced back and then they sort of get lost. Somebody on one side doesn't notify the VA Blind Rehab Services or the local VIST coordinator that they have somebody that's experiencing vision problems and that there's treatment available, that there's specialized devices from prosthetics that are available to help them in their recovery and treatment. And so that's why the visions centers of excellence is important -- because it isn't just the major trauma severe cases that need to be tracked, it's all of the types of injuries -- mild, moderate, severe -- as far as vision goes -- that need to be carefully tracked and followed and the providers need to be able to exchange the information between them -- between the VA providers, the opthamologists and the military, their colleagues, and the military treatment facilities. Because, again, a person at Fort Drum, New York may suddently have somebody come in that was evacced back from Landstuhl with injuries and that's where one of the problems is. Thank you.
Turning to peace news, Mick Kelly (Fight Back!) reports that Minneapolis groups are gearing up to protest at the 2012 DNC convention. Meredith Aby is quoted stating, "We are prepared to organize a significant protest of thousands of people to demand an end to the wars and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. For the 2008 RNC we organized an impressive coalition of anti-war, economic rights, student, immigrant rights and labor groups to protest the war on Iraq and these forces are ready to come together again to give a loud and clear message of opposition to the Democrats' support for the war in Afghanistan." Let's take the pulse of the political parties.
CNN reports, "The Senate passed an emergency supplemental spending bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, setting aside a House package that includes additional social spending." So the Democratically-controlled Senate is sending the war supplemental -- which Barack swore would take place once and only once in 2009 and never again under his watch -- back to the Democratically House and welcome to Bizarro World. Michael Steele, chair of the GOP, calls the Afghanistan War Barack's war and he's only 'wrong' in that he forgot the Iraq War. They're both Barack's wars. And welcome to Bizarro World. Governors do photo ops in Iraq and praise the conditions there -- and they're Democrats -- like Governor Tim Pawlenty. And Governor Jim Douglas. And welcome to Bizarro World. Michael Bell (Globe and Mail) writes a strong column which opens with, "The American-led interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq are failing." A UN report this week, [PDF format warning] "Regional Response Plan for Iraqi Refugees," explains that Iraq continues to be unstable, that "human rights violations continue, including illegal detention, targeted killing, kidnapping and discrimination. The formation of a new Government following the Parliamentary elections in March continues to be delayed and the political vacuum may continue until August or September 2010." And, for those wondering, the Green Party continues to refuse to mount a left critique of Barack yet again signaling that they are content to forever be the kid sister of the Democratic Party.
Still on peace news, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes in "Myth America II: FREE PDF FILE" (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox), "Last year in January, I found myself in an awkward place--being pro-peace in a nation that had seemed to have turned itself upside down either in questionable euphoria or abject fear because a new member of the elite class had been installed as president of the United States." Cindy's offering Myth America as a PDF for free or for a donation to Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Michael Duffy (Time magazine), John Harwood (New York Times and CNBC) and Dana Priest (Washington Post) join Gwen. This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood 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 of women priests. 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) features Bob Ivry on the financial-reform bill. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Narrative
A former member of a Muslim extremist group tells Lesley Stahl the reason for the increase in home-grown jihadists like the U.S. Army major accused of shooting 13 at Ft. Hood is an ideology called "the Narrative," which states America is at war with Islam. |
Watch Video

Growing Body Parts
Morley Safer reports on the emerging technology of growing body parts from human cells taken directly from patients, providing new hope for amputees and patients on organ-transplant lists. |
Watch Video

Tyler Perry
When Hollywood refused to produce his films his way, Tyler Perry started his own studio in Atlanta and now his movies - including the popular "Madea" series - are drawing huge audiences. Byron Pitts profiles the new and unlikely movie mogul. |
Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, July 25, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's not about political leanings

Politico reports Wired says of Spencer Ackerman:

"We hired Spencer Ackerman for his well-informed national security reporting and fully support it. Anyone with access to Google can discover his political leanings, as well as his long track record of top-notch opinion journalism from Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and the Pentagon,” a Wired spokeswoman told POLITICO.

Wired is full of s**t. It's not his political leanings. I'm to the left of that centrist ass wipe Spencer Ackerman. What matters is that he plotted.

What especially matters -- and should to Wired -- is that his suggestion was to call anyone a "racist." It didn't matter to Spencer whether it was true or not, just yell "racist!"

That's not about political leanings. It's about lying.

No journalist can have a career after that.

Spencer may kid himself. Wired's already in enough trouble for being in bed with Adrian Lamo.

But it really is over. They are the Jayson Blairs and Judy Millers of today. There is no comeback. This failure to address this situation is disgusting.

By the same token, a woman who works for a station which carries NPR programming has issued an apology ('apology') -- at NPR -- for her comments. Read along and see if you can see how she just doesn't get it.

I made poorly considered remarks about Rush Limbaugh to what I believed was a private email discussion group from my personal email account. As a publicist, I realize more than anyone that is no excuse for irresponsible behavior. I apologize to anyone I may have offended and I regret these comments greatly; they do not reflect the values by which I conduct my life.

The problem, Sarah Spitz, was not that you laughed about the idea of Rush Limbaugh dying. Yes, there are some who will be bothered by that. But the reality is Rush Limbaugh does stuff like that all the time. The difference is: He does it publicly.

He doesn't hide it.

I'm not distressed that Sarah Spitz -- an NPR contract employee six times (I've read their full statement on Sarah Spitz, they aired six stories by her, that makes her contract labor and until reading that, I was of the opinion that she had nothing to do with NPR) -- wishes Rush would die. I'm distressed that she thinks it's okay to reveal things in private like that. Have the guts to say it publicly.

Also, how about this: "to what I believed was a private email discussion group from my personal email account"-- climb down from the cross.

She needs to be fired. NPR wants to draw a line between her and them -- when they air six of her pieces on their programs, she's contract labor. NPR wants to pretend it's no big deal. It is a huge deal.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 21, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, the militarization of the State Dept takes place with little notice from the US press, journalists remain under attack in Iraq, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- A United States Division - North Soldier died today in Diyala province when the Soldier's vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device. Following the attack, the Soldier was treated on the scene by unit personnel and then evacuated to the Combat Support Hospital located at Joint Base Balad. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and released by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The death brings the total number of US service members killed in the Iraq War to 4413.

For the second day in a row, Baquba is in the news for a car bombing.
Jim Loney and Philippa Fletcher (Reuters) report a Baquba car bombing which claimed 15 lives and left twenty-six injured. Reports note that the death toll (and wounded) continued to rise. Press TV puts the death toll at 28 (wounded at 46) and states it took place "near a mosque". AFP notes 28 people dead as well. Ali al-Tuwaijri (AFP) reports the death toll has risen to 30. Al Jazeera is also reporting 30 dead. CNN states, "The bomb was in a parked car and exploded at the market, which includes a clinic and a Shiite mosque." Timothy Williams (New York Times) quotes resident Ali Hader, "Why this killing? Why this destruction? Where is the security and stability the government is talking about? I hold the government responsible for what happened because they are busy fighting over seats while terrorists are playing with our blood."

In other reported violence,
Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left three people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, another Baghdad roadside bombing which also left two injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which wounded three people and, dropping back to yesterday, 3 people shot dead in Kirkuk.

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi had a face-to-face last night but that "no deals were reached and the stalemate continues". Stalemate? 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 fourteen days without any government being established. And the US government is getting nervous. US Senator John Kerry asked yesterday, "Is there any way in which you might judge that Prime Minister Maliki is simply not going to work in good faith to try to put together a legitimate government here? That he will just hang on and we stay in the stalemate and we transition and we sort of crumble out of the democracy we've created into another strong man situation?"

Yesterday Kerry asked that of James Jeffrey during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of US Ambassdor James Jeffrey. He is currently the US Ambassador to Turkey, President Barack Obama has nominated him to be the US Ambassador to Iraq. (He would replace the current disaster, Chris Hill.) Last night, Kat covered it at her site with "Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "Kaufman and Casey," and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Kerry, Lugar and Feingold." Russ Feingold's exchange with Jeffrey hasn't been noted yet.

Senator Russ Feingold: [. . .] And last year Ambassador Hill testified that any delay in withdrawing our troops by 2011 would "be poorly received by the Iraqi people." Do you agree with that assessment? Share that assessment?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I have seen all the polls, Senator, I just reviewed them in the last two days -- that we've taken and that other people have taken -- and, uh, the Iraqi, uh, populace in very large numbers -- at least outside of the Kurdish areas -- does want to see our forces withdraw.

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, sir. The State Dept is planning to make up for the departure of US troops by doubling its security contractors. Even though such contractors often don't have the essential security capabilities that are provided by our troops. I'm concerned this will be dangerous and also lead to a situation where we don't have meaningful control over our own contractors. What alternatives have you considered?

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, sir. The State Dept is planning to make up for the departure of US troops by doubling its security contractors. Even though such contractors often don't have the essential security capabilities that are provided by our troops. I'm concerned this will be dangerous and also lead to a situation where we don't have meaningful control over our own contractors. What alternatives have you considered?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: Senator, this is an extremely important point. Uh, if confirmed as chief of mission, my first responsibility will be for the safety and security of the personnel under my supervision and I've put a lot of time and effort into looking at this. Uhm. The -- after the incident in 2007 in Baghdad involving the Blackwater security people, the State Dept did a very thorough investigation called the Kennedy Report. I've read that report. It concluded -- and I think that this conclusion remains true today -- that the State Dept has done a very good job in an extremely lethal environment protecting its people and keeping them alive and safe; however, there needed to be certain steps, technical steps, rule of engagement steps, coordination steps -- coordination both with the US military and with the Iraq authorities, and more supervision. Now we put, uh, a direct hire State Dept officer or person with all movements So -- And we have more technical control through, uh, basically recordings, audio and video equipment and such so that we're able to determine what happened and review any incident and since then there has not been a serious incident. But I want to underscore, this is a very, very difficult mission. This is, uh, uh, a defensive mission, not an offensive one, but it involves thousands of people, many movements in a very lethal environment and it is something we have to remain very concerned about.

Senator Russ Feingold: Thank you, Ambassador. State Dept Human Rights Report on Iraq found that -- as in previous years -- reports of abuse at the point of arrest and during the investigation period -- particularly by the Ministry of Interior's federal police and the Minister of Defense battalion level forces -- continued to be common. Federal law requires a certification before the United States can continue to provide certain kinds of security assistance to any state that has "consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." In your view, how many years of violations must occur before such a certification of a consistent pattern of abuses is required?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I've read the report, Senator, I would have to look at this in more detail. The effort that we're trying to do, including the police training effort, is to try to get at the violations and the abuse which we have seen in the past and we have seen it -- We saw it when I was there, we've seen it since then, it's been documented. Our hope is that we can see this on a declining slope. And it is something that I will look at very carefully if I'm confirmed and if I go out there.

Senator Russ Feingold: Well of course I applaud that and I urge you on in the effort to make sure that these units are vetted, but my question was: How many years of violations?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I can't assess that at this time, Senator.

Senator Russ Feingold: Can you get back to me on that?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: I can.

Senator Russ Feingold: Okay. More broadly, how if confirmed will you work with the relevant US and Iraqi entities to faciliate improvements in human rights in Iraq which according to the State Dept report are far less -- far below adequate?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: Again, that is the assessment of the State Dept Human Rights Report and Iraq is coming out of a horrific conflict and out of thirty years of dictatorship and almost constant war, both civil, internal war, war with Iran, war with Kuwait. It's going to take some time for Iraq, even with a democratic government and democratic institutions to move into a environment even more in the average in the region but certainly what we would like to see in the more developed parts of the world. It's going to take time.

Senator Russ Feingold: And in that regard, sectarianism obviously remains a very real problem in Iraq, including in security forces. If confirmed how will you work with the Iraqi government to help make this a priority issue and to push for concrete improvement?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: There are various efforts that we already have underway that I will review and reinforce if I'm confirmed Senator for example, we now do joint-patrols with the US forces, Kurdish forces, peshmerga forces, Iraqi army forces along the disputed internal borders. We are putting a special effort into the minority communities -- I mentioned that in my opening statement, it's of great concern to me. It was then when I was there last time, it remains so. We are also looking at the makeup and the composition of the security forces. It has improved over time but it is something that has been worrisome in the past and it is something that requires continued vigelance.

Senator Russ Feingold: Yes, sir. Finally, the New York Times recently reported on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crude oil and refined products being smuggled across the Iran-Iraq border every year. What steps is the Iraqi government taking to address this problem? given not only its potential to undercut our efforts with Iran but also tensions over resource revenue sharing in Iraq itself?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: We're very concerned about this given the latest, uh, uh, sanctions legislation that the US has passed but also, uh, the role of that in the relationship between Iraq and Iran. I know that we're looking into this latest charges -- the latest information -- at the embassy and with the Iraqi government and also with the folks in the north [Kurds] because some of that smuggling has been identified in the north.

There's a great deal in the above worth commenting on but we'll go for the obvious: Did you notice he didn't mention the Iraq War in his reply to a question about human rights? He was mentioning this conflict and this war and how this and that had hurt Iraq, but he really didn't seem aware that the Iraq War had caused suffering in Iraq, did he?

Mike Mount (CNN) reports that the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, has (yet again) declared the US is on track with the drawdown. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes Odierno was speaking at a Pentagon briefing and quotes him stating, "To be successful, Iraq must have a unity government." The drawdown is a success! Thus far! Is that really the story or was Odierno trotted out before people could process what took place in the Jeffrey's hearing yesterday?

Ranking Member Richard Lugar and Jeffreys had a lengthy exchange during which, asked about post-withdrawal or 'withdrawal,' Jeffreys explained, "We [State Dept] are taking on missions that the US military has done." Exactly because under the Samantha Power Doctrine, the State Dept becomes militarized in Iraq: It is over 'operations' and has armed 'employees' at various "outposts" in Iraq; it becomes responsible for training Iraqi security forces, it doubles the number of contractors/mercenaries, etc. These are not State Dept duties. The militarization of the State Dept, the armed wing of the State Dept. Jeffreys declared, "The security for all of this would be done by the Deapartment of State under the current plans."

For those present and paying attention, it was obvious that there was no end of the Iraq War in 2012 even if the SOFA was followed. This is the plan Samantha Power didn't attempt to hide from the press. But when the press is in the tank with Barack and/or scared of being attacked by the peers who are, they don't tell you what you need to know. Which is how Davey D had his ridiculous moment of defending Samantha Power on air on KPFA and revealing how dumb he truly could be -- he got her name wrong and he thought she was a woman of peace. This is the woman who blurbed the US military's counter-insurgency manual, the woman from the Carr Center. The one who preaches war eternal. And this plan Jeffrey was discussing, largely with Lugar, in yesterday's hearing. In fact, let's go to the moment Lugar and Jeffrey found so amusing -- it takes place during Lugar's "do not appreciate" when each came close to laughing.

Ambassador James Jeffrey: [. . .] We're going to have to do more if we want to have the kind of presence nationwide that everyone believes is necessary to carry out the President's program, sir.

Ranking Member Richard Lugar: I appreciate your response. I simply made the point because many Americans and members of Congress talking about the withdrawal of our troops from Iraq do not appreciate a whole new contingent is moving. And these aren't military people, these are civilian people. The State Dept and affiliated people. But it is a huge commitment by the American people and a considerable budget. And it follows that after we've had a war and a consideral period of peace making, moving on to the future is not the same maybe as the conventional embassy situation in a country where there's not been this sort of conflict. And we appreciate your outline of it and we will appreciate your management of it.
Just to be sure we're all aware of what Lugar outlined, we're going to drop back to his opening statement, which he delivered after he and Kerry took a lengthy break from the hearing and after acting chair Bob Casey paused the hearing for a recess.

Ranking Member Richard Lugar: While making fewer headlines, the situation in Iraq continues to be vital to the national security of the United States. Iraq held parliamentary elections on March 7, 2009, but an agreement on who will be the Prime Minister may not be concluded for several months. The redeployment of American forces in Iraq has begun, and by September, all but 50,000 U.S. troops will have departed the country. President Obama has said that by the end of 2011, all US troops will be out of Iraq. Plans submitted by the Administration suggest that US involvement in Iraq will remain robust well beyond that with more than 5,000 diplomats and civilian advisers working with civil society and the Iraqi government. The uncertain political situation creates risks for our transition plans. Our military has been involved in areas of governance far beyond security and turning over those critical responsibilities will be challenging. The State Dept has asked for more than $800 million in start-up costs for a police mentoring and training program. The program envisions having 350 advisors at three camps who will fan out to 50 sites in the country, about half of which would be reachable by ground and the rest requiring air support. With the military's departure, we are told, the Dept may hire as many as 7,000 contract security personnel. An AP article last month suggested the Iraq mission would need the equivalent of a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters, 50 ambush-protected vehicles and equipment to protect against rockets and mortars. It is important that the Administration flesh out how all the pieces of this unprecedented operation will fit together in Iraq as American troops depart.

That's the militarization of the State Dept and the continuation of the Iraq War. It was interesting to watch Jeffrey, for example, during the exchange with Feingold. Jeffrey stuck to the polls of the Iraqi people on withdrawal; however, he never noted that many Iraqi leaders do not want the US military to levae at the end of 2012. Nouri al-Maliki has publicy made noise about extending the US stay (he did so in August 2008). He is not the only one voicing such desires. Jeffrey is aware of that. Jeffrey chose to ignore that and was less than fully upfront in his reply.

Less than fully upfront desribes the US press and Iraq. They sold the illegal war with their wide-eyed wonder (to put it kindly) and their non-stop whoring (to tell it like it is -- as the
Neville Brothers and the Wilson sisters of Heart once sang). Despite the half-truths and outright lies they both repeated and invented, they felt no desire to clear the record when they had the chance to do so via the testimony Eliza Manningham-Buller, former MI5 Director General (2002 - 2007) gave to the Iraq Inquiry (see yesterday's snapshot). At 9:00 pm last night, the New York Times published Sarah Lyall's "Briton Who Led MI5 Disputes Reasons to Invade Iraq" online (and ran it in today's paper). What other newspaper covered the story? As of 8:00 a.m. EST, that was it. Let's be clear on what was testified to. The intelligence stated Iraq was not a threat, the intelligence indicated that tensions would increase as a result of the Iraq War and it would make England's risk of a terrorist attack increase. And, she testified that when then-US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was unable to get the CIA to say that Iraq was a threat to the US, he created his own 'intel' outfit.

So where was everyone? Was, for example, the CBS Evening News so busy with the Jeffrey's hearing that they didn't have time to cover it last night? No. They ignored the hearing. That was the case with everyone including PBS' NewsHour. The same who sold the illegal war couldn't be bothered with it yesterday.
Taylor Barnes (Christian Science Monitor) offers a summary of the testimony. And did so before noon today. It should have been huge news. It wasn't. Remember that if there's another terrorist attack. Remember that, despite all of the back patting and self-stroking by the media after September 2001, 9-11 didn't change a damn thing when it comes to the way the media operates. Ask ABC why Facebook or Michael Jordan qualified as news when terrorism and war didn't? No time for either report that mattered yesterday or today but they've got time for fluff? Katie Couric (CBS) had time to tell us about a new book that's nothing but rejection letters? That kind of s**t really saved anyone's life on 9-11? When the Twin Towers were burning and later collapsing, you really think anyone gave a s**t about some stupid coffee table book? Really? And you think that's how you inform the American public today? With that garbage passed off as news?

How embarrassing.

David Hughes (Telegraph of London) asks, "
Why did Tony Blair ignore MI5's advice?" and concludes: "It's hard to conceive of a more comprehensive foreign policy disaster yet the man responsible is now the Middle East peace envoy. It's beyond parody." Andy McSmith (Independent of London) notes various reactions to the testimony:But the evidence presented by Lady Manningham-Buller does not just call Mr Blair's credibility into question, it also throws down a challenge to the coalition Government, warned Lord Carlile of Berriew, a Liberal Democrat peer who has acted since 2005 as the independent reviewer of anti-terror laws. He told The Independent: "It's certainly the case that the threat and number of home-grown terrorists -- and 'not home-grown' terrorists coming into the UK -- increased after the Iraq war. "This makes life difficult both for the old government, who have criticisms to answer, and for the current Government. It makes their review of current terrorism law a delicate exercise because there is no evidence of any significant reduction in the threat. We are where we were." Sir Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, added: "I should be astonished if Mr Blair were to return to give further evidence, but questions will remain as to what it was which prompted him to disregard the reservations of officials and their advice. If only Britain had been as well served by its politicians as it was by Eliza Manningham-Buller then we would never have got ourselves into the illegal mess of Iraq." Lord West, who was counter-terrorism minister in the Home Office under Gordon Brown, told the BBC that he had "no doubt" that the Iraq war increased the threat of terrorism in the UK, which hit the government like a "bow wave" in 2003.Ken Livingstone, who was Mayor of London at the time of the 7 July bombings, said: "Eliza Manningham-Buller's evidence is a damning indictment of a foreign policy that not only significantly enhanced the risk of terrorist attacks in London but gave al-Qa'ida the opening to operate in Iraq too."

And though ignored in the US, Tuesday's testimony is still news in London. The
Daily Mail reports that the Liberal Democrat's Nick Clegg filled in for the Conservative Party's David Cameron today during Prime Minister's Questions. Cameron is prime minister as a result of a power-sharing coalition the Conservative Party formed with the Liberal Democrats following the May elections in the UK. War Hawk Jack Straw (now out of power) asked a question which Clegg responded to with, "I'm happy to account for everything we are doing in this coalition Government, which has brought together two parties, working in the national interest to sort out the mess that you left behind. Perhaps one day you could account for your role in the most disastrous decision of all, which is the illegal invasion of Iraq." The Guardian offers video of the moment in their write-up. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) covers the coverage here.
While US journalists show little respect for the power of the press or its obligations, in Iraq, journalists are under attack. The
Committee to Protect Journalists notes today:

The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Iraq 's Supreme Judicial Court to disclose details about the decision to establish a new press court and to explain the mechanisms under which it will operate.
Abd As-Satir Birkdar, spokesman for the Supreme Judicial Court , which announced the creation of the court on July 11,
told Al-Mada newspaper that the court is being established in accordance with the Judicial Organization Law that allows the head of the Supreme Judicial Council to "establish special courts in accordance with the public interest."
The new court, the first of its kind in Iraq , will only examine cases connected with media and publishing offenses, like defamation, libel, and press freedom violations. Journalists and non-journalists will be able to file complaints there, according to press reports.
Some journalists have expressed reservations about the court. Sarmad al-Tai, the editor-in-chief of the private daily al-Alam, said he is concerned that there is not enough public information about the court for Iraqi journalists to decide whether or not they support it.
The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), a local press freedom group, issued a statement last week in which it stated that the decision to establish a special court is unconstitutional, according to
Article 95 of the Iraqi Constitution, which states that "Special or exceptional courts may not be established." Ziad al-Ajili, JFO's director, told CPJ that the court is "a move to control the media" by the authorities. Al-Ajili said Iraqi authorities should instead modify articles in the regulations inherited from Saddam Hussein's regime, which hinder freedom of speech.

Returning to the topic of a self-amused US press attempting to overdose on infotainment passed off as information that actually effects your life,
Robert Farley (PolitiFact) feels he's caught something: Joe Biden's plan for three equal regions in Iraq, Joe denies it was a partition!

Check the archives of this site, Farley, Joe never considered it a partition. [Disclosure, as noted before, I know Joe Biden and have for years. I like Joe and I'm probably including this item for that reason.] He preferred the term "federalism." Farley thinks he's proven Joe wrong by (selectively) noting some real-time press. It doesn't matter what the press said. Did Joe ever consider it a partition? No. And we noted that here repeatedly. I consider it a partition. Joe Biden didn't. That he still doesn't consider a partition is not news.

Serving up four-year-old, stale news, Robert Farley wants to pretend he accomplished something and he wants to make fun of Joe. Thing is, the one looking like a dumb ass? Not Joe Biden.

January 22, 2008, when a vote on the measure took place, he issued a press release. His online Senate office is, of course, closed. (He's not Vice President of the United States.) However, that legislation was co-sponsored with Senator Sam Brownback and you can find
a copy of the press release -- a joint one from Brownback and Joe Biden -- at Senator John Kyl's online office and you'll note it includes the following:

A few key facts about the Biden-Brownback amendment:

The legislation does not tell Iraqis what to do. It speaks only to what U.S. policy should be.
Federalism is not a U.S. or foreign imposition on Iraq. Iraq's own constitution calls FOR a "decentralized, federal system" and sets out the powers of the regions (extensive) and those of the central government (limited). The Constitution also says that in case of conflict between regional and national law, regional law prevails.
Federalism is not partition. In fact, it's probably the only way to prevent partition or, even worse, the total fragmentation of Iraq.
Federalism will not accelerate sectarian cleansing; it's the only way to reverse it. Iraqis have already voted with their feet, with 4.5 million fleeing within Iraq or abroad. Unless Iraqis come to some kind of agreement on sharing power peacefully, the results of extensive cleansing will solidify and set the stage for future instability.

So there you go, in a joint-release, Biden was stating his opinion -- as he did numerous times before -- that it was not "partition." So that's what passes for gotcha journalism these days? What's next? Robert Farley's going to break the news that George W. Bush mispronounces "nuclear."

iraq the new york times timothy williams
cnnmohammed tawfeeq
mike mount
xinhuamu xuequan
sarah lyall
the telegraph of londondavid hughesthe independent of londonandy mcsmith
the committee to protect journalists

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Spencer Ackerman is a s**t

Well C.I. told you. She told you Spency Ackerman -- apparently Thomas E. Ricks jerk-off buddy -- was nothing but trash. She even stood alone in calling out the trash when he 'live blogged' Petraeus testifying before Congress. As C.I. pointed out, Spency 'missed' Hillary. Tried to claim he was streaming on CSPAN and lost the stream. What a liar.

Hillary Is 44 has the details:

Spencer Ackerman shouted “CALL THEM RACISTS!”:

“What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.”

What the DailyCaller and the thugs on JournoList do not acknowledge however is that even though Ackerman named Barnes and Rove as examples of whom to call RACISTS – the inescapable truth is that this occurred during the Democratic primaries and THE ONES CALLED RACISTS WERE HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTERS – US.

The “call them racists” strategy was not supported by Kevin Drum in what surely is a fitting testament to the stupidity of these Big Media/Big Blog boobs:

“Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, also disagreed with Ackerman’s strategy. “I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama is trying (or says he’s trying) to run a campaign that avoids precisely the kind of thing Spencer is talking about, and turning this into a gutter brawl would probably hurt the Obama brand pretty strongly. After all, why vote for him if it turns out he’s not going change the way politics works?

But it was Ackerman who had the last word. “Kevin, I’m not saying OBAMA should do this. I’m saying WE should do this.”

“Cal them racists” was a coordinated attack on Obama opponents from Obama and Obama worshipers.

We are just beginning to get the truth.
We are just beginning to understand what happened in 2004-2008. We are just beginning to document the suppression of the news and the protection of Barack Obama. (Don’t Miss – “Ed Driscoll put together a video showing the correlation of this effort on Journolist and the declaration by CNN that it would be a “Wright-free zone.”)

For those who've forgotten, Spencer Ackerman was fired from The New Republic. For those who've forgotten, the WHORE presented himself as a journalist.

I read the list of all the Whores and how they schemed to manipulate the coverage and I see a lot of two-bit whores. Richard Kim chief among them.

Remember when Barack used homophobia in South Carolina in 2007? Richard Kim couldn't call it out (despite being gay). We know why. They ignored.

They ignored intentionally anything that might hurt Barack.

They are two-bit whores.

Chris Hayes is the only real disappointment.

We'd all backed off from him at C.I.'s request in 2007. I have a feeling Chris Hayes is about to learn for the first time in his life what happens when you piss a woman off. I have a feeling Chris Hayes is going to learn that it requires doing more than calling yourself a journalist to be a journalist.

I read the Hillary Is 44 post with shock and realize that there was a cabal yet again. A cabal went after Bill Clinton and a cabal worked overtime to go after Hillary. To destroy Hillary, in fact.

These people are not journalists. That their editors and publishers allowed them to plot is disgraceful. They devised name calling to deflect and silence to obscure.

They are trash. Pure trash. Nothing but trash.

They are not journalists and they never will be. Every one of them should be fired.

"Of stupidity and NPR (Ava and C.I.)" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):
In what feels like a lifetime ago, The Common Ills called out NPR's ombudsperson for refusing to do their job. That ombudsperson was Jeffrey A. Dvorkin and he had been asked by listeners to weigh in on Morning Edition using Robert Kagan to critique John Kerry's presidential campaign.

Dvorkin played fast and loose with the facts and reduced the issue to whether or not Kagan was a War Hawk. Earlier, NPR had sidelined Michele Norris from campaign interviews due to her husband (in 2004, he advised the Kerry campaign). No one at NPR thought Michele couldn't be objective but they did realize that NPR guidelines dictate that listeners should not be presented with even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Therefore, Michele was pulled from political interviews.

Do you follow that?

What Dvorkin 'forgot' to inform readers was that Kagan's wife worked for . . . Dick Cheney. Kagan critiques the Kerry campaign, finds it lacking, and Dick Cheney is on the other ticket. Yeah, it appears to be a conflict of interest. This was covered in "When NPR Fails You, Who You Gonna' Call? Not the Ombudsman" and, approximately six years later, that's still the case.

We'd argue Alicia's a nicer ombudsperson and a better informed one than Dvorkin. But, even allowing for the huge number of issues raised to her each month by listeners, we'd argue listeners still aren't being served. They probably can't be with just one ombudsperson. Equally true, Daniel Okrent did his finest ombudsperson (or public editor) work on after he left his job (see his The New York TimesPublic Editor #1-- and, disclosure, The Common Ills is mentioned in one sentence of that book).

For the record, C.I. discloses. She's avoided ever mentioning Okrent's book (or any others she's mentioned it as C.I. -- let alone from her offline life). But it required a disclosure and she made it even though to her that statement reads like bragging.

But these so-called journalists, they don't do a damn thing. They never have and they never will. I want their heads. I'm not joking.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, July 20, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry learns a number of details about the intelligence assessments before the start of the Iraq War (which did not support an invasion), the US Congress learns that the US may never leave Iraq, violence continues, Thomas E. Ricks makes an ass out of himself, and more.

I'm not in the mood. The biggest little s**t these days is Thomas E. Ricks who just gets bitchier (and fatter) each day. No longer a journalist, just a stupid little cheerleader for War Crimes, we now ignore him. But he's such a little s**t that we'll start the snapshot by calling the piece of trash out. There's no excuse for what he did and it goes way beyond the pale. Because Avatar was against Rick's precious counter-intelligence, he trashed the movie and we could all just roll our eyes because Ricks' opinion on film stopped mattering somewhere around the time What's New Pussycat? was in general release. Though no one -- except the New York Times -- appeared to notice,
Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone article was all about counter-intelligence and it wasn't pretty. So in order to grudge f**k Michael, Thomas E. Ricks puts I Lost My Love in Baghdad down as one of the "Ten worst Iraq war memoirs." The book is about Hastings time in Iraq working for Newsweek and with his signifcant other Andi Parhamovich. The book is about her death and his dealing with it. It takes really bitchy person to attack Hastings via that book but bitchy is all Thomas E. Ricks has left. Anybody else get the feeling that if he'd get a breast reduction, Thomas E. Ricks would stop being such a s**t? Hey, Thomas Ricks, I see an elderly woman with a walker trying to cross the street -- if you hurry, I'm sure you can trip her. What a low life.

In London today the
Iraq Inquiry continued receiving public testimony. The big witness today was MI5 Director General (2002 - 2007) Eliza Manningham-Buller. Prior to her testifying, a [PDF format warning] letter she sent to John Gieve (Home Office) was declassified [though some parts remain redacted]. Gieve was the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office at that time and the position provided oversight to MI5 (which is Military Intelligence, Section 5).


We have been giving some thought to the possible terrorist consequences should the US, possibly with UK support, seek to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. I thought that you might find it helpful to see our current assessment, together with an outline of our own preparations.

2. Since the end of the Gulf War Iraq has been implicated in a small number of murders of Iraqi oppositionists in the Middle East but only one terrorist plan directed against a Western target -- a planned car bomb attack on ex-President Bush in Kuwait in 1993. There is no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks.

3. We judge that the current period of heightened tension between Iraq and the US is unlikely to prompt Saddam to order terrorist strikes against Coalition interests. Even limited military action (for example, cruise missile attacks such as the those in response to the attempted murder of ex-President Bush) would be unlikely to prompt such a response. We assess that Saddam is only likely to order terrorist attacks if he perceives that the survival of his regime is threatened.

In the UK

4. If Saddam were to initiate a terrorist campaign, we assess that Iraqi capability to mount attacks in the UK is currently limited. We are aware of no Iraqi intelligence (DGI) officers based in the UK. There are up to DGI agents here who report on anti-regime activities. But most of these agents lack the inclination or capability to mount terrorist attacks. So if the DGI wished to mount attacks in the UK it would need to import teams from overseas. It is possible that some Palestinian groups based outside the UK might be willing to mount attacks in support of Iraq,

5. Nonetheless, in case Iraq should try to co-ordinate action by existing UK-based agents, or to import its own or a surrogate terrorist capability, we will be taking a number of steps over the coming months, including:

reviewing our knowledge of past and present DGI visiting case officers to identify and disrupt any increase in DGI activity;

putting in place arrangements to deal with (and capitalise on) any increase in defectors, volunteers or callers to the Service's public telephone number who might have relevant information. Experience during the Gulf War leads us to expect an increase in such contact with the public in the event of conflict;

with the police, maintaining coverage of the Palestinian community, some of whom, as during the Gulf War, may react adversely to any threat to Iraq.

6. You may recall that, at the time of the Gulf War, a number of suspected Iraqi sympathisers were detained pending deportation on grounds of national security. These included members of Iraqi support organisations, as well as individuals believed to be associated with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as the Abu Nidhal Organisation. We currently assess that the number of individuals in the UK who potentially pose sufficent threat to be subject to deportation or detnetion is small. We are currently reviewing the cases of those who could pose a threat to establish whether there might be grounds for action.

7. We believe that Middle Eastern countries would be the most likely location should Saddam order terrorist attacks on Western interests. Other locations, for instance SE Asia featured in attempted DGI co-ordinated attacks during the Gulf War and are thus also a possibility. We will, of course, continue to liaise closely with FCO colleagues to ensure they are in a position to brief missions if the situation develops.

Chemical or biological (CB) threat

8. There were media stories during the Gulf War suggesting that Iraq planned to mount CB terrorist attacks in Western countries, and a 1998 scare (arising from a tale put about by Iraqi emigres) that Saddam planned to send anthrax abroad in scent bottles. Given Iraq's documented CB capabilities, we can anticipate similar stories again.

9. Most Iraqi CB terrorist attacks have been assassination attempts against individuals, often emigres.
Iraq used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war and also against civilian Kurds in 1988, but there is no intelligence that Iraq has hitherto planned or sought mass-casualty CB terrorist attacks. As with conventional terrorism, we assess that Saddam would only use CB against Western targets if he felt the survival of his regime was in doubt. In these circumstances, his preferred option would be to use conventional military delivery systems against targets in the region, rather than terrorism.

10. There have for some years been reports of contact between the Iraqi regime and Al Qa'ida about CB. But we have yet to see convincing intelligence that useful co-operation developed, or that Iraq provided genuine CB materials.

11. I am copying this letter to Stephen Wright, John Scarlett, Julian Miller and Tom McKane.

E L Manningham-Buller
Deputy Director General

That letter was sent in March 2002, nearly a year before the start of the Iraq War. And that was the intelligence assessment. At Committee member Usha Prashar's request, Manningham-Buller explained the Security Service's tasks: "collect intelligence from a rance of sources, some of them secret, on threats to the United Kingdom and to develop that intelligence, to analyse it and, where necessary, to act on it in mitigating or reducing those threats and also using intelligence generated by us to provide information to government on which policy can be placed and on which more general countermeasures can be developed." Committee Member Prashar wondered about "the intelligence pciture" on Iraq?

Eliza Manningham-Buller: But if I can refer to the letter from me as Deputy Director General from March 2002 which was released -- a redacted version was released today, six months before I became Director General we felt we had a pretty good intelligence picture of a threat from Iraq within the UK and to British interests, and you will see from that letter we thought it was very limited and containable.

We'll move ahead to the start of Committee Member Lawrence Freedman's questioning. Before we do, in the US, Bully Boy Bush and his lackeys were fond of tossing in "mushroom cloud" among their lies. In England, in the leadup to the Iraq War, liar and prime minister Tony Blair publicly insisted that Iraq could deploy WMD on England in 45 minutes. That was a lie. But he insisted it was true.

Eliza Manningham-Buller: As I said to Lady Prashar, we regarded the threat, the direct threat from Iraq as low. We did think -- and it comes in that letter -- that Saddam Hussein might resort to terrorism in the theatre if he thought his regime was toppled, but we did not believe he had the capability to do anything much in the UK. That turned out to be the right judgment. What the letter -- has been redacted from the letter, like I say, in general terms is that is partly as a result of action we took. But I don't think the threat in the UK was anything other than very limited.

Still in the exchange between Freedman and Manningham-Buller. And when you read this, grasp that in 2002 the CIA knew this. Therefore the White House knew it. And the British intelligence knew the White House wasn't happy with the truth the CIA was providing.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can I just ask one final question, which is related to the things that Iraqis might have done, and this refers to the proposition that Saddam's regime were in some way responsible for providing support, potential support to Al-Qaeda, and even might have been involved in 9/11. Did you give any credence to these sorts of assessments?

Eliza Manningham-Buller: No. I think you have material suggesting that there had been intelligence on occasional contact in the past but I think -- I wrote this down when I was preparing for today -- there was no credible intelligence to suggest that connection and that was the judgment, I might say, of the CIA. It was not a judgment that found favor with some parts of the American machine, as you have also heard evidence on, which is why Donald Rumsfeld started an intelligence unit in the Pentagon to seek an alternative judgment.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne asked about her Queen Mary College speech in 2006 where she stated that the Iraq War had increased the chances that England could be a terrorist target. She informed him, "I think it is worth saying that I needed the approval of the Home Secretary to make public speeches and he cleared the text with me, and John Reid and I discussed that part of it and he agreed that I should say that in public."

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So you're saying you had evidence that the Iraq conflict, our involvment in the Iraq conflict was a motivation, a trigger, for people who were involved in the attacks in London in July 2005, who were going to Afghanistan to fight. Were there other attacks or planned attacks in which you had evidence that Iraq was a motivating factor?

Eliza Manningham-Buller: Yes. I mean, if you take the video wills that were retrieved on various occasions after various plots, where terrorists who had expected to be dead explained why they had done what they did, it features. It is part of what we call the single narrative, which is the view of some that everything the west was doing was part of a fundamental hostility to the Muslim world and to Islam, of which manifestations were Iraq and Afghanistan, but which pre-dated those because it pre-dated 9/11, but it was enhance by those events.

Lyne asked her to speculate about how such a threat might have been lessened even with the Iraq War proceeding and she responded that the peace could have been planned for, that following the initial invasion, measures could have been taken to return Iraqi lives to normal. "The insistence, for example," she offered, "of the Americans on sacking, you know, much of the Civil Service and the Army, the Ba'athists, was an error. Others much better informed than me will have given you evidence on that. I was asked on a visit to the United States on other matters to talk to Paul Wolfowitz about this issue and to seek to persuade him that it was not sensible to do this." Lyne asked if she managed to "convert him?" "Not a hope," Manningham-Buller replied.

Along with
Manningham-Buller, Maj Gen Andy Salmon and Lt Gen Louis Lillywhite (Surgeon General, 2006 - 2009) (link goes to video and transcript options). Manningham-Buller was the witness to watch. BBC News notes that she's testified the Iraq War has "substantially" upped the chance of England being a target for terrorism and that the threat assessment wasn't "substantial enough" to merit going to war: "If you are going to go to war, you need to have a pretty high threshold to decide on that." Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) quotes her stating, "Our involvement in Iraq radicalised, for want of of a better word, a whole generation of young people -- not a wholel generation, a few among a generation -- who saw our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan as being an attack on Islam. . . . Arguably we gave Osama bin Laden his Iraqi jihad so that he was able to move into Iraq in a way that he was not before." Miranda Richardson (Sky News) emphasizes the same quote Rayner did and the link has video of Manningham-Buller testifying. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) is live blogged the testimony. Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) reports on the testimony here. What stood out to me this morning while streaming the testimony -- and still does -- was that the big moments include her assessment that Saddam Hussein was contained and not a threat to England. And that this was in writing in 2002. The Inquiry heard testimony Monday as well. Chris Ames covers the military testimony here.

What may be most interesting about the coverage is how it's being ignored. Not in England. (As noted above and you can also click here for
England's Channel 4 coverage.) And not in the Arab world (Al Jazeera among others). Emma Alberici is covering it for Australia's ABC. But in the US. AP has covered the testimony of Manningham-Buller with several stories and Glenn Greenwald (Salon) covers it. But we were noting it this morning and, all this time later, where is the US press? UPI, let's not forget them. But shouldn't US outlets be all over this? British spy chief testifies that Donald Rumsfeld set up new 'intel' division when the White House refused to accept the CIA's assessment? Did you notice that she knew the name of everyone she felt deserved blame? Did you notice she faulted the de-Ba'athification process? Did you notice she did not pin it on Paul Bremer? (It was the White House who gave the orders to Bremer though a number try to now pretend Bremer was acting on his own.) A year before the war started, British intelligence judged Saddam not to be a risk. The US press sold the Iraq War and has repeatedly attempted to dispute some of the realities Manningham-Buller testified to. They owe it to their audiences to report on her testimony. The Liberal Democrats (UK political party now in power with the Conservative Party via a power-sharing agreement) found the testimony newsworthy and issued the following today:

Commenting on Eliza Manningham-Buller's evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry, in which she said the conflict in Iraq 'substantially' increased the threat to the UK from international terrorism, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Tim Farron said:
"This is a shattering blow for Labour's claim that the Iraq war did not increase the terrorist threat to Britain.
"We already knew that this was a disastrous war for our own brave service personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. Now we have the head of MI5 at the time saying it increased the threat to Britain -- the precise opposite of what Labour claimed it would do.
"As Foreign Secretary in the last Government, David Miliband must come clean on why his administration misled the British people on this issue for so long."
Notes to editors
1. Appearing before the Chilcot Inquiry today, Eliza Manningham-Buller said: "What Iraq did was produce a fresh impetus to people prepared to engage in terrorism." "Al Qaida had not focused on the UK. It attacked us abroad in 2003 but it became clear that its ambition was to attack us in the United Kingdom."
2. When asked by Roderic Lyne, "To what extent did the conflict in Iraq exacerbate the overall threat your service and your fellow services were having to deal with from international terrorism?", Manningham-Buller replied, "Substantially".
3. Labour has long denied that the Iraq invasion led to an increased terrorist threat against the UK. In 2004, Jack Straw said: "No one should get the idea that somehow if you were a country which was opposed to the military action in Iraq, you are less of a target for al-Qaida."

CNN reports, "The United States has spent more than $1 trillion on wars since the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, a recently released Congressional report says. Adjusting for inflation, the outlays for conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world make the 'war on terrorism' second only to World War II." And yet the United Nations reports:

The United Nations humanitarian arm warned today that a lack of funding is hampering efforts to assist vulnerable Iraqis, with food distributions to hundreds of thousands of pregnant women and schoolchildren already having been suspended.
So far, only $22.3 million -- or 12 per cent -- of the required $187.7 million sought for the 2010 humanitarian action plan for Iraq, which was launched six months ago, has been received, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (
"We appeal to donors not to give up on their commitment to the Iraqi people and to help pave the way for Iraq's future development," urged Christine McNab, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.
The lack of funding has already resulted in the World Food Programme (
WFP) suspending food distributions to 800,000 pregnant and nursing women and malnourished children, as well as to 960,000 schoolchildren.
In addition, the livelihoods of 500,000 drought-affected people in the Suleymaniyah and Dahuk governorates are threatened, and some have started to become displaced.
While there was a plan to support 22,500 vulnerable IDP families with emergency shelter, this will now have to be suspended as well, OCHA noted.
"Thousands of households will therefore be left to continue living in desperate shelter conditions, unable to be protected from often severe climatic conditions and vulnerable to sickness through inadequate water and sanitation provision," the Office stated in a news release.

There's always money to destroy human lives. It's only when it's time to spend on improving lives that governments balk. Which is how the Iraqi refugee situation continues. Which is how so much continues.
Sammy Ketz (AFP) reports on Sheikh Alaa Aziz' regret that a religious ceremony for Sabeans that used to take all day and night was accomplished by early afternoon because "there's nobody left already. It's really sad, everybody is emigrating."

Violence never stops in Iraq.


DPA (via the Hindu) reports that a Baquba car bombing has claimed 8 lives and left twenty-two people wounded while a Kirkuk bombing injured three police officers. Tang Danlu (Xinhua) adds, "The powerful blast destroyed three houses in the Shiite Turkman neighborhood, the source said. A one-year-and-a-half child was among the dead and a woman was among the wounded, the source added." Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Sahwa Hameed Hasen al Zowab'i's Baghdad home was targeted with a bombing which wounded "his wife and daughter," a Jdaidat al Shat car bombing targeting pilgrims claimed 4 lives and left four wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing wounded three police officers, a Mosul bombing injured six people, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and a Tikrit roadside bombing which wounded four police officers. Reuters notes a Qara Tappa car bombing claimed 2 lives and left seventeen injured while a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured an Iraqi soldier and, dropping back to yesterday, a Basra roadside bombing which injured three soldiers.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 suspected suicide bomber shot dead in Mosul and a Baghdad attack on Agricultural Minister Deputy Muhammed Kheleel Wardi which left him "severly injured".

In other violence, fighting continues on Iraq's northern border.
Steve Bryant and Benjamin Harvey (Bloomberg News) report continued fighting between the PKK and Turkish military has resulted in the deaths of "at least six Turkish soldiers" and that the fighting continues. The PKK is a Kurdish group -- labeled a terrorist organization by many governments including Turkey, Iraq and the US -- which seeks an autonomous Kurdish homeland among other things. Press TV adds, "The PKK has intensified its militant attacks against Turkey since May 31, when they stormed a Turkish naval base in the port city of Iskenderun, killing six Turkish soldiers." Seyhmus Cakan, Pinar Aydinli and Daren Butler (Reuters) explain, "Most of the PKK's estimated 4,000 fighters are based in the mountains of neighbouring northern Iraq, from where they launch attacks on military targets in southeast Turkey."

Grasping there's no way to make sense of
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) doesn't try to hide the question marks when noting Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr's face-to-face in Syria yesterday, "But in the calculus of Iraqi politics, yesterday's enemy can become tomorrow's friend. And Sadr's relationship with Maliki soured two years ago after the prime minister ordered his security forces to attack Sadr's militia in 2008. Will Allawi and Sadr's huddle break the logjam? Time will tell." Citing Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Today's Zaman notes the meet up and the role Turkey's official played in what's being billed as "positive developments" towards Iraq forming a government. 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 thirteen days without any government being established. Al Sumaria TV notes, "Head of Al Iraqiya List Iyad Allawi affirmed that it has been agreed with Sayyed Moqtada Al Sadr on the necessity to accelerate the formation of an inclusive government."

While Turkey's government may be hopeful things are moving, every one is not so sure. James Jeffrey is currently the US Ambassador to Turkey and he made statements that were a bit more vague today when he appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator John Kerry chairs the Committee and Jeffrey was appearing before them as US President Barack Obama's latest nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq. Chris Hill currently holds the post and has been a disaster. Unlike Hill, Jeffrey is already one step ahead since he has experience in the region.

Chair John Kerry: Few Americans know Iraq better than today's nominee. Ambassador Jeffrey has served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad and as coordinator for Iraq policy at both the White House and State Department. Most recently he served as Ambassador to Turkey. He's also a native of Melrose, Massachusetts, so I'm especially pleased to welcome him here today.

That would go over better if Kerry hadn't also praised Chris Hill in his confirmation hearing (see the
March 25 and 26, 2009 snapshots). Equally true is that some of Kerry's statements (as disclosed before, I know Kerry and have since the seventies) were laughable. Some were frightening. On the latter, "As the remaining American military forces come home by the end of 2011, our civilians will not only be responsible for resolving Iraq's many outstanding political diplomatic issues. They will also take on responsibilities previously performed by our troops, including police training and providing security for diplomatic missions outside Baghdad." Uh, John, as you damn well know, police training and providing security are not civilian duties. As you should know, if the US leaves in 2011 (yeah, you're doubtful as well), the US should not "be responsible for resolving Iraq's many outstanding political diplomatic issues." Where the hell does that come from? Oh, right, we're not really offering Iraq sovereignty. I forget. He noted the approximately 4,400 US service members killed in the Iraq War (4412 is the current toll). He noted the political stalemate and how it wasn't "clear whether a resolution is days, weeks or months away." While sticking to the problems facing Iraq, he was on stronger ground -- but he's always had a strong grasp on the various factions competing for power in Iraq.

Senator Richard Lugar is the Ranking Member on the Committee. With Hill, the Republicans opposed him. This was a strategy -- and apparently a successful one since Hill has been such a loser. The strategy with Hill was to pin it on the Democrats and on Barack. 'Things were successful before Barack screwed up by making Hill the ambassador.' That's how they begin the walk away from Iraq. When we noted that in real time, a number of people insisted it would never happen. There are Republican members of Congress -- besides Ron Paul and Walter Jones -- who express it's time to leave Iraq and you saw more manuevering from Michael Steele recently when he called Afghanistan Obama's war. Yes, there was a push-back from some Republican members but Steele remains in his job. If you're paying attention, you're seeing how Republicans plan to pin the wars -- wars Barack has continued and made his own -- on him.

All of that made Lugar's remarks especially interesting.

Ranking Member Richard Lugar: While making fewer headlines, the situation in Iraq continues to be vital to the national security of the United States. Iraq held parliamentary elections on March 7, 2009, but an agreement on who will be the Prime Minister may not be concluded for several months. The redeployment of American forces in Iraq has begun, and by September, all but 50,000 U.S. troops will have departed the country. President Obama has said that by the end of 2011, all US troops will be out of Iraq. Plans submitted by the Administration suggest that US involvement in Iraq will remain robust well beyond that with more than 5,000 diplomats and civilian advisers working with civil society and the Iraqi government. The uncertain political situation creates risks for our transition plans. Our military has been involved in areas of governance far beyond security and turning over those critical responsibilities will be challenging. The State Dept has asked for more than $800 million in start-up costs for a police mentoring and training program. The program envisions having 350 advisors at three camps who will fan out to 50 sites in the country, about half of which would be reachable by ground and the rest requiring air support. With the military's departure, we are told, the Dept may hire as many as 7,000 contract security personnel. An AP article last month suggested the Iraq mission would need the equivalent of a squadron of Blackhawk helicopters, 50 ambush-protected vehicles and equipment to protect against rockets and mortars. It is important that the Administration flesh out how all the pieces of this unprecedented operation will fit together in Iraq as American troops depart.

Jeffrey outlined the big concerns in Iraq today and did so very well. If there was an interest group within the US that felt left out, I can't imagine who they were. He even addressed the plight of Iraqi Christians. He was well informed -- again, he knows the region -- and he'll be confirmed without objection. He has strong ties to many Republicans -- including on the Committee -- and he has regional experience. In his opening remarks, he also thanked a number of people including Barack, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his wife Gdrun, his children Jahn and Julia and his late parents Herbert and Helen Jeffrey. Luger and Kerry had to step out of the hearing and left Senator Bob Casey Jr. in charge as acting chair.

Senator Bob Casey: One of the -- one of the overiding issues that I had a sense of at the end of our visit [to Iraq recently] -- and, of course, you can only learn so much in two days, but we did a learn a lot, especially about the security situation. We saw one graphic presentation by way of a chart which very simply -- by way of cataloguing and therefore plotting on a graph the number of [. . .] violent incidents, suicide vests, car bombs, those kinds of violent incidents. When you looked at the six month period at the end of '06 and the first six months of 2007, in both time periods, it numbered above a 1,000. So well over 2,000 for roughtly a one-year period. When you compare the same to the first six months of 2010 in terms of suicide vests, suicide bombs and that kind of substantial violence, the number was -- I don't remember the exact number was somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty. Fifty to a hundred at the most. So obviously it's come down a lot. And that's good news. To highlight when we have, uh, a little bit of good news.

Why is that good news? The number fell due to the Iraqi refugee crisis more than anything but why the hell, Bob Casey, are you using 2006 and 2007 as your benchmarks? Did the Iraq War start then? No, it did not. (Casey's numbers are incorrect by the way. They're too low -- 2,000 for 12 months during the 'civil war' -- way too low.) It seems to make peopel feel good to take the all time worst and use that as the benchmark. But that wasn't the start of the war. Nor do his numbers acknowledge the fact that violence has been on the increase since February 2009. Why the hell, in fact, is Casey comparing 2010 to three years ago as opposed to comparing it to the years immediately before it? What a bunch of crap. It's only 'good news' because you've got your finger the scale.

Casey prattled on. And on. And finally came to something resembling a question. Jeffrey began his reply with, "I've seen similar charts as well. They document at least a 90% drop in violence from the period you cited -- at the peak of the attacks from 2006 and 2007 [. . .]"

It was crap. Casey wasn't prepared to chair and he was too busy trying to whore for a war. People often mocked Joe Biden (I know and like Joe Biden) as someone who couldn't shut up. (I believe I noted it during one hearing as well.) Casey is far worse. And that he's starting out this way? Frightening. The best moment of his speechifying was when he accidentally hit the microphone button and for a few moments we just watched his lips flap and heard nothing. It was so wonderful.

Casey: "and asked him -- or raised -- raised with him a question -- about what I thought was President Bush's -- uh, uh, uh --" If he thinks Bush was misleading with language (Bush was), maybe he shouldn't be tossing around the same garbage. Two minutes and 27 seconds after he began his 'reply' to Jeffrey's answer, he finally said, "Here's the question." He uh-uh-uh stumbled as he tried to ask about metrics. He then noted the 'violence going down' as an example of a metric. But violence isn't going down, it's going up. It only goes down if each year you act as if the 2006 and early 2007 period was the only time that mattered.

And here's a thought Casey, you were a member of Congress when the Congress called for Benchmarks for Success and the White House proposed them. Did you forget that? Did you sleep through it?

Jeffrey indicated the US will never leave Iraq when he said that he had his marching orders from President Obama: "An Iraq that is stable, self-reliant, is sovereign, with a government that is just, that is accountable and that is representative.'' What the hell is that? Is the US ever leaving Iraq? And since when are those ways you end the war?

Ambassador James Jeffrey: We don't know now how sustainable this will be. That's one reason why we are continuing our military presence for the next, roughly, 18 months and will move gradually to a still very, very broad and very, very deep engagement with Iraq but without as much emphasis on the military side.

But without as much emphasis on the military side? Why does that not sound like US troops leave. Oh, right, they don't and they end up part of the "Little State Dept" at the US Embassy/Fortress in Baghdad.
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox) writes about the poverty draft and proposes a measure she'd like to see introduced in Congress:The Casey Sheehan "End to War" Bill: Immediately upon the president signing this bill into law, forced military conscription will begin. The bill will have NO EXEMPTIONS to those who are eligible to the draft and the age limit is 18 to no upper limit. This bill seeks to draft those eligible from both genders and all gender and sexual preferences. There will be very limited health exemptions as most people can perform a skill that is valuable to the military. As University is now open to all ages and attended by old and young alike, there will be no education exemptions. The draftees can resume or attend college when their stint in the armed forces is up. There will be no GI education benefits extended to the draftees, as they will be members of the wealthy of the US. Citizens will be drafted in this order in the event of a Constitutionally declared war, or un-constitutionally started war, or any of these euphemisms (but not limited to) for war: police action, entanglement, theater, hostilities, occupation, special operations, interventions, cluster-fu@k, pacifications, war on drugs, peace-keeping, fighting for "freedom and democracy," etc: The President and his/her Cabinet and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above. Senators and Congress Members and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above. CEO's of the Federal Reserve and Banks and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above. CEO's of any company (including the media) that profit directly or indirectly from war and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above. Anyone who by word or deed supports the entry into war, or any of the euphemisms associated with war, and their age appropriate dependents. This includes media pundits, male or female and their age appropriate dependents, including spouses. No exemptions as outlined above. Any citizen of the United States of America who does not fall into one of the above categories is categorically ineligible for this forced conscription draft. This bill will also provide college tuition grants to anyone who does not fall into one of the above categories and who wishes to go to college -- without having to join the military. Related, Koyuki Yip (World Can't Wait) writes about the latest efforts in counter-recruitment:Under the non-profit tent @ the Camden, NJ -- Warped Tour - Matthis Chiroux (the Iraq War resister), Jessica, and I embraced the 95 degree weather to set up the World Can't Wait table and meet young people to bring the We Are Not Your Soldiers Tour to their school, town, or wherever. It was an unbearably hot day, but it was a pretty amazing day, because we talked to hundreds of kids, passed out flyers, and posted flyers around the venue. Even as we began setting up and decorating our table at 9am, our knee caps were sweating from the heat and humidity. The heat wasn't going to stop our determination to get our visuals up and out there for everyone to see. Mainly we stood in front of the table with one of our Abu Ghraib images, and passed out the We Are Not Your Soldiers flyers. The Abu Ghraib image along with Matthis' body signs (he wrote on his stomach - "No U.S. Genocide" and on his back "Soldiers Are Not Heroes") challenged hundreds of people to stop -- look -- and comment on the wars in the Middle East. While many people walked by our table and rubbernecked our images - many people stopped in their tracks and either: were totally upset by the image, pissed off by our anti-war position, or agreed and were interested in who we were. A number of young women, either in high school or younger, were taken aback by the Abu Ghraib image and just asked with their mouths open where these images came from. A bunch of people would walk by Matthis and say "that sign is not cool." And even one asshole had the nerve to tell me that he didn't care about the Abu Ghraib prisoner. While these people were in the minority, they were vocal about their disagreements. While others were the complete opposite they were drawn by our poster and our table and were interested in talking about Obama, Afghanistan, or the tour. A couple of people thanked us for being out at Warped Tour. Also, we learned that many of the kids that signed our list were from small towns. It wasn't just youth that stopped by our table, there were many people of different ages some people were in their twenties and others were parents accompanying their parents.

iraq inquiry digest
chris ames
bbc newsthe telegraph of londongordon raynersky newsmiranda richardsonthe guardianandrew sparrow
cnncindy sheehanthe world cant waitkoyuki yip