Friday, August 13, 2010

Noam Chomsky

"Why WikiLeaks Won’t Stop the War" (Noam Chomsky, ZNet):
The War Logs—a six-year archive of classified military documents about the war in Afghanistan, released on the Internet by the organization WikiLeaks—documents a grim struggle becoming grimmer, from the U.S. perspective. And for the Afghans, a mounting horror.
The War Logs, however valuable, may contribute to the unfortunate and prevailing doctrine that wars are wrong only if they aren’t successful—rather like the Nazis felt after Stalingrad.
Last month came the fiasco of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, forced to retire as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and replaced by his superior, Gen. David H. Petraeus.
A plausible consequence is a relaxation of the rules of engagement so that it becomes easier to kill civilians, and an extension of the war well into the future as Petraeus uses his clout in Congress to achieve this result.
Afghanistan is President Obama’s principal current war. The official goal is to protect ourselves from al-Qaida, a virtual organization, with no specific base — a “network of networks” and “leaderless resistance,” as it’s been called in the professional literature. Now, even more so than before, al-Qaida consists of relatively independent factions, loosely associated throughout the world.

Good for Chomsky. It is a well written article with many strong points and the biggest one being the fact that it is not about 'success.' It is about when something is wrong. The Iraq War is wrong. The Afghanistan War is wrong.

We do not need to finetune illegal wars, we need to stop them. We need to prevent them.

Chomsky has had -- my opinion -- his strongest year this year. His speeches and writings have been free-range while everyone else has tended to remain in a fixed point.

At Chomsky's age and with his reputation coasting on his name wouldn't be surprising. Instead, he's continued to challenge and expand our understanding.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, August 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, rumors swirl throughout Iraq, and more.

Today on the second hour of
The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane discussed Iraq with Daniel Dombey (Financial Times), Yochi Dreazen (National Journal) and Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy).

Diane Rehm: And now we have Iraq's most senior soldier saying the Iraqi army will not be ready until 2020. What does that mean, Dan?

Daniel Dombey: Well I think one of the things that it really means is that if you were a betting person, I think you would be very advised to bet that there will still be US soldiers in Iraq after the 31st of December 2011.

Diane Rehm: The question is how many?

Daniel Dombey: Well at the moment there supposed to come down to 50,000 by the end of this month. That from a peak of over 140,000 when President [Barack] Obama took office. I have to say they talk a lot about the combat mission ending. I would say a large part of that is just semantics. They're still going to be involved in counter-terrorism, they're still going to be an essential part in terms of communication and logistics and transport -- all the really difficult actions against al Qaeda or against insurgengents are going to likely rely on US forces for some time to come, I would say.

Yochi Dreazen: Two quick points. One on this issue of semantics, it's important also to look at what General Zubari -- Babaker Zubari -- was actually saying. He was asked about Iraq's ability to defend its borders externally. Which is a very different issue when it has Iran on one side, Turkey on other side, I mean it has multi-powerful countries on almost all of its borders. That's a very different question from its ability to patrol within its borders. And clearly the US focus rightly has been can you get Iraqi security forces capable of fighting insurgents, controlling areas, operating on their own. And there's been really remarkable progress. I mean, admist all the bad news from Afghanistan, I've spent a lot of time with Iraqi forces over the years, they've gotten markedy, markedly better. So the question of what their main mission is in the near future, they're already doing it. I would also add that I totally agree with Dan's point. I think that there's no question in the mind of anyone I talk to in Afghanistan -- I'm sorry, in Iraq or the Pentagon, that there will be an amendment to the deals to allow for some number -- usually in the low thousands is the number I hear -- to stay after 2011 when they're supposed to all leave.

Susan Glasser: I think those are all really important points. I think a couple of things I would add. One, is Iraq unlike Afghanistan had a large standing army that was to maintain internal and external order. This was Saddam Hussein's police state which functioned in a very militarized way so they had something they were reconstructing there which is very different from in Afghanistan which has hadn't a very meaningful army in a long time.

Could Yochi explain this: "One on this issue of semantics, it's important also to look at what General Zubari -- Babaker Zubari -- was actually saying. He was asked about Iraq's ability to defend its borders externally. Which is a very different issue when it has Iran on one side, Turkey on other side, I mean it has multi-powerful countries on almost all of its borders." Is he implying that Iraq installed new borders after 2003 (when the illegal war started)? Or is he implying everyone overseeing the illegal war is so stupid they didn't know basic geography? Iraq's borders were well known. I believe a considerable amount of press ink was spent in 2002 and 2003, for example, on how Turkey might or might not allow the US to fly over (they decided not). Iraq's defense is its borders. It's stupid to act as if this just popped up or to say, "Woah, they can do the internal, just not the external!" That's stupid and crazy. And, point of fact, Iraqi forces can't protect the country internally. As
AP notes, "Bombings continue almost daily in Baghdad and around the rest of Iraq, a grim reality illustrated by the fact that the number of civilians killed by insurgents in July was the highest in two years. Though violence is far lower than it was between 2005 and 2007, when revenge attacks brought the country to the edge of civil war, Iraq is far from secure." Matthew Rusling (Xinhua) speaks with Statfor's military analysist Nathan Hughes who also sees realities different than Yochi.

Michael Jansen (Irish Times) observes, "Iraq has just begun to receive some of the equipment it needs to defend the country. Eleven of 140 US battle tanks have arrived but crews will not be trained and the rest of the tanks will not be in service until mid-2012. Iraq has no independent air cover, an essential component of any defence strategy. Last March the government contracted to purchase 18 US F-16 fighter jets, but these are not set for delivery before 2013." Arab News notes the following in an editorial:

Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari went on to claim his troops might not be able to take control of the military situation for another decade. It is hard to imagine what the general thought he was going to achieve by this outburst, which surely cannot have been authorized by any government figure, if for no better reason than the deplorable fact that over five months after elections, Iraq still has no proper government.
It will be suspected, of course, that Washington may have been behind Zebari's words, since they constitute an invitation for the US to continue its occupation. However, there are powerful factors arguing against US complicity. Barack Obama won the presidency with a clear promise to quit Iraq. The American message has been that the Iraqi police and armed forces have reached a level of competence and equipment where they can assume responsibility for security. Indeed in recent months, much has been made of the fact that very few US troops have been out on the streets, leaving the job of dealing with the violence to the Iraqis. Only in the field of sophisticated signals intelligence is the US likely to have any future role alongside the Iraqi military. That contribution probably need not involve the continued presence of US boots on the ground.
Besides, if Washington's assurances about the standards achieved by the Iraqi security forces really are nonsense, what does it say about similar protestations over the level of training and efficiency currently being claimed for the Afghan police and military?

And the line Yochi's attempting to draw -- "security" relegated to internal -- is as false as the claim that "combat" missions are now over and the US has housed Iraq with "non-combat" troops.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The
Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 6 days. Andrew England (Financial Times of London) visits the Parliament and speaks with an unidentified MP who tells him, "Ten per cent of parliamentarians [those involved in political negotiations] are active, the other 90 per cent have nothing to do. The whole of Iraq is a vacuum, for God's sake. You know when you get a black hole in the universe? It's exactly the same now." Hayder Najm (Niqash) states:

Iraqis have no idea when both the US and Iran have agreed to throw their combined support behind Nouri al-Maliki's candidacy for Prime Minister . The leader of the State of Law coalition has never been a 'key ally' to Tehran or Washington. In fact, he has probably been more of a source of concern for both. The US and Iran have managed to align their interests on the future of Iraq, despite their clashes over many issues. The US accuses Iran of supporting armed groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan. Iran is critical about Washington's stances on Israel at the expense of its neighbours' interests. The Iranians recently detained three US citizens who crossed the border, who it accuses of spying. Iran's nuclear ambitions also remain on the US file.

Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) runs through a number of possibilities on what's taking place (including that the stalemate lives on). As Azzaman notes, many rumors are flying around and they provide a list of some of the more popular ones:

· The crime of killing medical doctors is back in Baghdad in full force.
· Al-Qaeda is luring Sahwa Councils -- the Sunni militia the U.S. raised and armed -- by paying them salaries higher than those the U.S. offers.
· The Iraqi army is asking U.S. troops to extend their occupation of the country for another decade. The reason is that the army comprises mainly candidates from sectarian parties who are not capable of guarding the country.
· Iran wants free shipments of Iraqi oil in return for compensations of the 1991 Gulf War.
· The bombing of fixed U.S. military bases is easier than smoking a cigarette.
· Militia leaders have returned to Baghdad camouflaged in parliamentary garb and quiet and moderate turbans.

The Iraq War did create some things. Such as the refugee crisis.
Michael Otterman pens a column about the refugee crisis for the Christian Science Monitor:

And there are currently 4.5 million displaced Iraqis languishing on the outskirts of Iraqi cities and scattered throughout nearby Jordan and Syria. This represents the largest urban refugee crisis in the world.
Most displaced Iraqis fled Iraq amid the height of the civil war in 2006 and 2007. At the time, as many as 30,000 Iraqis per month poured into Syria. Thousands fled to Jordan everyday. The torrent slowed by 2008, but the refugees remain.
Dozens of them have shared their stories with me.
"I don't own a thing and even if I owned the world, if Iraq would become a country again, I would never return," said an Iraqi I met two years ago in Jeramana, a hub for Iraqis in Damascus, Syria. He told me between sobs about the kidnapping of his youngest son, whom he later found dead in an abandoned Baghdad schoolyard. He fled to Syria with his wife and two surviving children the day after he recovered the body.
"Everything is gone," an Iraqi living in a crumbling apartment in East Amman, Jordan, told me in 2008 while his pregnant wife paced nearby. In 2006, his house in Baquba, Iraq, burnt down amid crossfire between Iraqi insurgents and US forces. He sat at home and smoked cigarettes while pondering the future. "I never want to go back. [Iraq] will be divided," he said.

The Iraq War was also a 'growth industry' for ophans.
Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered) reports, "The war in Iraq has taken a heavy toll on children, many of whom saw their own family members kidnapped, tortured and executed during the brutal sectarian fighting from 2006 to 2008. More recently, orphanages are filling up with children left without parents after attacks from insurgent groups, including al-Qaida. But there are very few services for Iraq's estimated 4 million to 6 million orphans. Plans to open the country's first ever child-psychiatry clinic have been approved. But the project has stalled because there is still no government amid political wrangling after the March election."

And file it under "rumor," Samir Sumaida'ie is weighing in with his 'knowledge.'
Caroline Alexander and Margaret Brennan (Bloomberg News) report that the the Iraqi Ambassador to the US is insisting that all US forces will be out of Iraq at the end of next year. Realities come in Jamal Dajani's column for the Huffington Post:

But will the U.S. actually withdraw from Iraq?
Not really. Tens of thousand of U.S. troops will remain in the country to train the Iraqi army and provide it with logistical support. If need be, they will be engaged in combat missions. Meanwhile, the number of private contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq in sectors such as security, communications, utilities, and commerce is estimated at 100,000. This number is likely to increase significantly once the "combat forces" are gone, especially in the security sector.
Move on US Marines, here come
Xe Services (better known as Blackwater)!

This week on
Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. Click here for the interview at Antiwar Radio and here for it at Peace of the Action. Excerpt:

Cindy Sheehan: Well, you know I've learned in the last five years, I think I've learned -- I couldn't even measure how much I've learned. But I know in the last five years I've learned more than the previous years I lived put together. And I've learned, Republicans will be Republicans. And you know they're very unapologetically pro-war. Not every Republican but, you know, most Republicans are unapologetically pro-war. The faction that I learned the most about, I think, would be the anti-war movement or the so-called anti-war movement. The people who are supposedly on the left, the progressives. And, you know, it's just very disheartening that all of my -- my colleagues -- most of my colleagues, or friends or associates that I worked with before Obama was elected have basically fallen off the face of the earth or they support now what Obama is doing or they're not as energetically against it as they were when Bush was president. So the major thing that I've learned, I think, is that we have one party system in this country and it's the War Party. And it just depends on if you have an "R" or "D" after your name if you support what's happening or if you're against what's happening. So that's what I've learned. There's no noble cause for war, there never has been, there never will be. And, you know, we just have to stop being such hypocrites and such supporters of empire depending upon who is president. It doesn't matter who's president. The empire is what has the momentum, not political parties.

Scott Horton: Well, you know, I think one of the things about your story that really captured everybody's attention is the specificity of your complaint -- particularly that your son was sent off to die for -- in a war that should have never been fought. That he was betrayed. And I read -- you know me, Cindy, I'm, into this. I read about it all day. And yet still the casualty reports come in -- 'A couple of soldiers died in Iraq today.' That's still going on. Summer of 2010 here if you're listening to this on MP3 format years from now, doing your thesis on it. Soldiers still dying. Soldiers still dying obviously more than ever in Afghanistan as the war escalates there. And often times, even for those of us who deliberately try to not think this way or whatever, you know, 'a number's a number. Some soldiers died, some soldiers died.' But, you know, I've been reading -- you just get desensitized to it. It's not a scene that you see. It's words and a headline, you know what I mean?

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Scott Horton: That's what you get to picture -- is the shape of the news article, not the event that actually happened. So I've been reading
The Good Soldiers by David Finkel which is about a group of guys, a battalion, that were part of the surge in 2007 in Baghdad. And they were basically -- they were part of the ground crew from that Collateral Murder video actually. But anyway, it's the story of 'Hey these are real people driving around in aluminum Humvees getting their bodies torn apart by EFPs and IEDs on the side of the road, getting their brains sniped out by some guy hiding behind a wall. These are -- you know, there names are Gary and Dave and Bob and DeShawn and, you know, Juan and whoever, they're our friends and our neighbors. Their names are Casey.

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Scott Horton: And they're out there dying for nothing. Real people, individuals, crippled for life, brains scrambled by shock waves and by the things that they've seen. And that's if they're lucky! That's if they come home with their arms and legs and life intact. This is not playing around. It's not some movie scene we're talking about here. These are people's sons and brothers and brand new husbands and fathers in a lot of cases as well.

Cindy has her own radio show,
Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox and this Sunday the guest is Tommy Chong. This past Sunday, she had on Ethan McCord, Iraq War veteran and on the ground during the assault captured in the Collateral Murder video and who says there was no threat and he perceived no threat prior to the assualt. Ralph Lopez (OpEdNews) reports of the interview:

At one point McCord criticized media war analysts, whom he called "these supposed war analysts [who] were going over this video, who knew nothing of what happened that day..."
In the wide-ranging interview with Cindy Sheehan on her weekly radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox, McCord also again attested to witnessing a high-level war crime, that of
random execution of civilians in retaliation for an attack on U.S. forces, a crime which was successfully prosecuted after World War II. McCord's allegation was broadcast widely across the Internet two months after he first made it in an interview in April.

Turning to the isssue ov violence,
Reuters notes 1 police officer was shot dead last night in Garma and that an attack in Samarra on a Sahwa leader and police with over eighteen injured. Sinan Salaheddin (AP) reports a Baghdad home invasion which claimed the life of 1 woman who was stabbed to death. In other violence news, the PKK has declared a ceasefire for the holiday and state the ceasefire will last through September 20th.

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Pig-Pen Ambassador," from April 5, 2009, commented on Chris Hill's confirmation hearing (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th snapshot ). Today Anthony Shadid (New York Times) reports Chris Hill is out of Iraq and "Hours before his departure from Baghdad, he said a power-sharing arrangement between the main winners in the March election was just weeks away." Though Hill makes that assertion, Shadid notes Iraqi officials are not rushing to agree with it. It's a portrait of the manic depressive Hill that comes as close as the press will probably ever come to telling the truth about the uninformed Hill. The Iraqis are the most honest in their assessment. Hill spoke no Arabic and struggled with the basics. He goes on to outline some of James Jeffrey's past work experience (Jeffrey is the new US Ambassador to Iraq) and see how many in 'independent' media bother to comb over that.Also worth noting is this from the article, "Preparation for the election, the vote and the negotiations on a new government have dominated the tenure of Mr. Hill, who took over the American Embassy at a time when Iraq was less violent and more stable, but only in comparison to the anarchic months of 2006 and 2007." Good for Shadid for not applying the false baseline/benchmark when evaluating the violence. Alsumaria TV reports, "In an interview with a US TV station, Hill explained that the political situation in Iraq is normal and doesn't differ from any other country where the difference is slight between two winning parties." Hill has a tendency to repeat himself (heavily scripted) in one interview after another; however, they may be referring to the interview Steve Inskeep did with him for NPR's Morning Edition earlier this week.

National Lawyers Guild has issued their [PDF format warning] Summer/Fall 2010 publication. You can check out a photo of the new federally trademarked NLG Legal Observer caps with Heidi Boghosian and Joel Kupferman wearing them and Jamie Munro contributes "Lynne Stewart re-sentenced to 10 years in prison" which contains this quote from NLG President David Grespass.It appears that being a vigorous and conscientious advocate for one's clients is becoming ever more dangerous. As you know, our former president, Peter Erlinder, was held in a Rwandan jail for the better part of a month because of his representation of a client before the ICTR. From Puerto Rico to the Philippines, lawyers who display principle and courage face dire consequences, including assassination. I know it is cold comfort, but you have long since joined that illustrious company. Our colleagues in Pakistan were arrested and beaten for defending the rule of law but they, in the end, triumphed. We hope the same will be said of you and we remain committed to you and to doing all we can to secure your freedom. Whatever you call upon us to do, we stand ready. There's much more in the issue but those are two things that stood out. And remember that Heidi co-hosts Law and Disorder with Michal Ratner and Michael Steven Smith -- WBAI airs it on Mondays and other radio stations air it throughout the week. Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner.

TV notes. On PBS'
Washington Week, Charles Babington (AP), Dan Balz (Washington Post), Todd Purdum (Vanity Fair) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Leaning Left and Right: Why Labels Won't Help This Year." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with US House Rep Donna Edwards, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Darlene Kennedy and Sabrina Schaeffer on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is an interview with Nancy Pelosi. 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 a look at youth violence in Chicago. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Swiss bank accounts offered people, including American tax cheats, a safe place to hide money. But Switzerland's largest bank has given authorities formerly sacrosanct information on its American customers because of tips provided by whistleblower Bradley Birkenfeld, who tells Steve Kroft some of the secrets Swiss bankers never tell.
Watch Video
130 Million Tons of WasteIf coal ash is safe to spread under a golf course or be used in carpets, why are the residents of Kingston, Tenn., being told to stay out of a river where the material was spilled? Lesley Stahl reports.
Watch Video
Al PacinoIn a rare sit-down interview, Oscar-winning actor Al Pacino talks to Katie Couric about his films and how he prepares for them, including his latest movie in which he starred as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, August 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
antiwar radioscott hortoncindy sheehan
the financial times of londonandrew england
the irish timesmichael jansen
gulf times
the world today just nutscomicchris hillthe pig-pen ambassadorthe new york timesanthony shadidalsumaria tvnprmorning editionsteve inskeepthe national lawyers guildjamie munro
bloomberg newscaroline alexander
morning editionsteve inskeepall things considered
kelly mcevers
law and disorderwbaimichael ratnermichael smithheidi boghosian
need to know
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Follow This You Bitches

Reading C.I.'s "SOFA doesn't mean 'end of war'" this morning, I really thought she should have just said, "Follow This You Bitches."

If anyone's earned the right to scream, "I TOLD YOU SO!!!," well it's C.I. But she's not done that. We all tell her to. But I'll do it here.

She told you. She covered the SOFA in the lead up to it passing the Iraqi Parliament. As soon as it did pass, the White House released it (the first time it had been released, all other versions were not official). What did she do? She read it and marked it up spending easily an hour on it. She made calls to make sure her understanding of it was correct.

Only after that did she write about it -- and she wrote about it at length.

I Hate The War
Iraq snapshot


It was a Thursday. She had a ton of things to do. We all did. I was there, at her home, because, since college, you can count on one hand the number of Thanksgivings we haven't shared. Thursday, Thanksgiving. She'd overseen a huge feast (including doing a great deal of the cooking herself) with a huge number of guests. She had already written twice that day at TCI. A snapshot was conditional. If there was news out of Iraq, she'd write one.

There was news. The SOFA got pushed through Parliament.

Amidst all of that, she did an analysis that was spot-on.

Her thanks for that?

To be called every filthy name by the likes of Raed Jarrar and others. To be repeatedly harassed and attacked and told she was wrong.

She was right.

Her analysis not only stands, it is what Ryan Crocker says today to the press, it is what others say to the press today.

She was not just attacked for the Thanksgiving snapshot. She was repeatedly attacked with nasty e-mails as she refused to back down. A friend of C.I.'s, a reporter, was also right in real time. That's because the reporter went over C.I.'s analysis to make sure it was understood. The reporter wrote a similar analysis and was attacked like crazy. That reporter not only doesn't cover it anymore, that reporter asked C.I. not to give credit for being right. That reporter just wants to leave the whole thing behind because it just got too ugly with the Hopium addicts insisting that the SOFA meant the end of the Iraq War.

Do you remember 'informed' Juan Cole telling you what C.I. did about the SOFA? No. Because he didn't know the truth (or maybe just wouldn't tell the truth). So much for 'informed' Juan Cole.

I would be very, very careful about ever questioning C.I. on a legal matter. Especially if you haven't put her on a spot. She's always reviewed the issue at length if she brings it up on her own. Add in that, goodness knows, she knows all about contracts. Including, when needed, how to legally break them.

The "bitches" -- like Raed Jarrar? They never knew what they were talking about.

Repeating, I really believe C.I. should have called this morning's entry, "Follow This You Bitches."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, August 11, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Chris Hill offers America another chance to play Are You As Stupid As A US Ambassador?, Sahwa remains under attack, a maternity doctor is slaughtered in her home, the political stalemate continues, more talk of how SOFA doesn't always make it right, the Iraq Inquiry seeks input from Iraq War veterans, and more.

Is there a bigger idiot than Chris Hill? Well, there's always the one that appointed him to his current post. The outgoing US Ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill manages to public embarrass himself yet again, this time in
an interview with Steve Inskeep on today's Morning Edition (NPR).

First up, Chris Hill offers a break down of population but somehow forgets the Kurds. Don't think they aren't paying attention. Don't think it didn't register: "Did that fool just include Turkomen but forget us?" How typical, how very much like his embarrassing confirmation hearing. Hill never understood the Kurds, never understood the dispute over Kirkuk and, let's be honest, he never made the effort to.

Steve Inskeep: As you prepare to leave Baghdad, do you leave Iraq thinking that this a country that still could collapse?

Chris Hill: Actually, I look at this in pretty optimistic terms. Its obviously a complex country. Its where the Shia world meets the Sunni world. Its where the Turkmen world meets the Arab world. There are a lot of complexities here. And I think its a very important country to our interests, and I dont mean that from an ideological point of view. I mean that from the point of view of looking at a map. So I think there's a lot at stake here, but I think its also a place thats going in the right direction. They signed 11 major oil deals while I was here. I mean these are oil deals with all the major oil companies. Indeed, they are oil deals with all the companies from all the countries who are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. So Iraq is no longer just Americas problem; other countries have a real stake in its success.

That's progress? That's progress to Hill who rarely left the Green Zone with one exception: He acted as tour guide from time to time for Big Oil. There's something rather disturbing about the US government whoring out the ambassador for Big Oil. But maybe the logic was: "It's not a real ambassador, it's just Chris Hill"?

Steve Inskeep: Ambassador Hill, as you know very well, the United States if formerly reducing its role in Iraq this month. And even as that happens, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, very respected voice on foreign affairs, in looking over the accomplishments or lack of them over the last couple of years, wrote recently: National reconciliation, which the surge, the surge in American troops, was supposed to create the space for, has not occurred. Is that correct? There's been no national reconciliation?

Chris Hill: Well, first of all, there has been national reconciliation. But there are people known as unreconcilables. I mean, people, you know, firing rockets in the Green Zone or, you know, exploding car bombs. I mean these are not people who are going to be bought off by, you know, by giving them the Culture Ministry and a government formation exercise. But I would say, in terms of main political groupings, I would say there's been a lot of reconciliation here, but obviously more needs to be done. National reconciliation? Inskeep asked him about it. Did he mention Kirkuk? There was supposed to be -- it's in the 2005 Constitution -- a referendum on Kirkuk. That's part of national reconciliation. So is the de-de-Ba'athification process.

National reconciliation? It's a benchmark, one of the 18 benchmarks by which progess in Iraq was to be measured, signed off on by the US government and by the Iraqi government and Chris Hill has no idea what it is.

He's an idiot. How the hell did someone who didn't even know the benchmarks -- and obviously never bothered to learn them -- get nominated for the post to begin with? Okay, the US, via Paul Bremer (Bremer was ordered to do this though Colin Powell likes to pretend otherwise in a last ditch attempt to salvage his own reputation), implemented de-Ba'athification in Iraq following the invasion. This was a purge of numerous senior officials in the government who were Ba'athists. To get ahead politically in Iraq, you had to be Ba'athists. Ba'athists were not just Sunni, they were also Shi'ite. Ayad Allawi is one example of a Shi'ite who was a Ba'athist. Long before Saddam Hussein was overthrown, Allawi had left the Ba'ath Party (and left Iraq). The Ba'ath Party was, regionally, part of a Ba'ath movement, a Pan Arab identiy. Saddam Hussein and others rode the Ba'ath Party into power. By 1979, Hussein had eliminated all of his one time Ba'ath allies and, in Iraq, had total control of the Ba'ath Party.

de-Ba'athification as carried out under Paul Bremer targeted the top levels of the Ba'ath Party. That de-Ba'athifcation, the Iraq Inquriy has been repeatedly informed, played out on the ground as a mistake. British witnesses have repeatedly told the Inquiry they were opposed to the idea. That included the ones who learned about it shortly after Bremer arrived and that Bremer intended to implement it right away. They spoke with Bremer about their concerns which did not alter the orders he had (as the witnesses testified) and de-Ba'athification was pushed through. British government witnesses have stated that the policy wrapped up too many people and it should have been much more narrow. It was agreed by all witnesses offering testimony to the Inquiry on this topic that de-Ba'athifcation helped ensure paralysis in the government because those experienced in the process were no longer allowed to work for the government. While some witnesses may (or may not have) been offering statements that benefitted from hindsight, certainly those who warned Bremer before the policy was implemented were able to foresee what eventually happened.
So, for example, John Sawers testimony on
December 10th:

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: You arrived on 8 May, [head of CPA, the US' L. Paul] Bremer on the 12th, and within Bremer's first two weeks he had promulgated two extremely important decisions on de-Ba'athification and on dissolving the former Iraqi army. Can we look at those two decisions? To what extent were they Bremer's decisions or -- how had they been pre-cooked in Washington? I see you have got the Rand Report there, and the Rand Report suggests there had been a certain interagnecy process in Washington leading to these decisions, albeit Rand is quite critical of that process. And, very importantly for us, was the United Kingdom consulted about these crucial decisions? Was the Prime Minister consulted? Were you consulted? It is pretty late in the day be then for you to have changed them. Can you take us through that story.

John Sawers: Can I separate them and deal with de-Ba'athification first.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes.

John Sawers: When I arrived in Baghdad on 8 May, one of the problems that ORHA were facing was that they had been undiscriminating in their Iraqi partners. They had taken, as their partners, the most senior figures in the military, in -- not in the military, sorry, in the ministries, in the police, in institutions like Baghdad University, who happened to be there. And in several of these instances, Baghdad University was one, the trade ministry was another, the health ministry, the foreign ministry, the Baghdad police -- the working level were in uproar because they were being obliged to work for the same Ba'athist masters who had tyrannised them under the Saddam regime, and tehy were refusing to cooperate on that basis. So I said, in my first significant report back to London, which I sent on the Sunday night, the day before Bremer came back, that there were a number of big issues that needed to be addressed. I listed five and one of those five was we needed a policy on which Ba'athists should be allowed to stay in their jobs and which should not. And there was already a debate going on among Iraqi political leaders about where the line should be drawn. So I flagged it up on the Sunday evening in my first report, which arrived on desks on Monday morning, on 11 May. When Bremer arrived late that evening, he and I had a first discussion, and one of the first things he said to me was that he needed to give clarity on de-Ba'athification. And he had some clear ideas on this and he would want to discuss it. So I reported again early the following monring that this was high on the Bremer's mind and I needed a steer as to what our policy was. I felt that there was, indeed, an important need for a policy on de-Ba'athifciation and that, of the various options that were being considered, some I felt, were more far-reaching than was necessary but I wasn't an expert on the Iraqi Ba'ath Party and I needed some guidance on this. I received some guidance the following day, which was helpful, and I used that as the basis for my discussion with Bremer -- I can't remember if it was the Wednesday or the Thursday that week but we had a meeting of -- Bremer and myself and our political teams, where this was discussed, and there was very strong support among the Iraqi political parties for quite a far-reaching de-Ba'athification policy. At the meeting itself, I had concerted beforehand with Ryan Crocker, who was the senior American political adviser, and I said to him that my guidance was that we should limit the scope of de-Ba'athification to the top three levels of the Ba'ath Party, which included about 5,000 people, and that we thought going to the fourth level was a step too far, and it would involve another 25,000 or so Iraqis, which wasn't necessary. And I thought Crocker was broadly sympathetic to that approach but at the meeting itself Bremer set out a strong case for including all four levels, ie the top 30,000 Ba'athists should be removed from their jobs, but there should be a policy in place for exemptions. I argued the alternative. Actually, unhelpfully, from my point of view, Ryan Crocker came in in strong support of the Bremer proposal, and I think he probably smelled the coffee and realised that this was a policy that had actually already been decided in Washington and there was no point getting on the wrong side of it. I was not aware of that at that stage and, in fact, it was only when I subsequently read the very thorough account by the Rand Corporation of these issues that I realised there had been an extensive exchange in -- between agencies in Washington.

As noted after that snapshot, it's John "SAWERS" and not "SAWYERS" as it reads in the December 10th snapshot. It's corrected above. (Refer to the
May 28th snapshot for Bremer's statement to the Inquiry.) Even the US government realized (finally) it was a mistake which is why they began encouraging reconciliation and ended up putting it into the 18 benchmarks. From the Iraq Inquiry, we'll note the testimony from January 8th as one example of the discussion of de-Ba'athification:

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Going beyond the military, we heard from earlier witnesses how a lot of teachers, doctors, civil servants, competent professionals, who had to be in the Ba'ath Party in order to do what they did, were excluded. Do you feel that that has now been corrected?

John Jenkins: I do not have a real sense of that.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Do you want to comment on that?

Frank Baker: If I could. I would comment more about government employees in Ministries across Baghdad where I think it is certainly the case that a large number of Sunnis, and, therefore, by definition, former Ba'ath Party members, are now being employed -- have been employed, in fact, for the last two or three years. If you look at, for example, the Ministry of Water, where a lot of them are technocrats, but the Minister for Water had made an effort to bring back a lot of the previous Ba'athist experience in order to try to get the Ministry up and running properly back in about 2007/2008. So I think the indications there are, yes, they have done so. I think, if I may, just to revert to your previous question about the democratisation, I think these two are related because on of the big changes we have seen since 2005 has actually been the re-emergence of the Sunnis as a political force in Iraq, with the Sunnis having essentially taken their toys out the pram and walked away. Back in 2004, not actually partaking in the 2005 provincial elections, not really being a part of the 2005 national elections, and, in fact, what we saw in 2009 was that they played a full part in that and they are going to play a full part in the national elections scheduled for March this year. In that sense, we are seeing the Sunnis now coming back and trying to play a full role -- a large part of the Sunni movement.

So de-Ba'athification was implemented in 2003. Following the 2006 mid-terms, the US White House came up with a list of 18 benchmarks. Reunification was number two: "Enact and implement legislation on de-Ba'athifcation reform." In other words, de-de-Ba'athifcation. By early 2008, Iraq's Parliament had passed a questionable law. The
Center for American Progress noted in January 2008 of the Accountability and Justice Law, "the controversial legislation, passed with the support of less than a third of Iraq's members of parliament on a day when the body barely achieved a quorum, has received significant criticism from former Ba'athists and some Sunni groups. [. . .] More than a dozen Iraqi lawmakers, U.S. officials, and former Baathists here and in exile expressed concern in interviews that the law could set off a new purge of ex-Baathists, the opposite of U.S. hopes for the legislation. According to Khalaf Aulian, a Sunni politician, the de-Ba'athification law 'will remain as a sword on the neck of the people'." Which ended up very true. Ahmed Chalabi used the commitee and the law to purge various candidates ahead of the election -- to purge various political rivals ahead of the elections.

Steve Inskeep noted that the escalation ("surge") was supposed to create space of the diplomacy and that no national reconciliation had taken place. Chris Hill was, as ever, clueless as to what the issue being discussed actually was.

Asked about the five months of political stalemate, he insisted that was "politics." Then he went on to cite 'progress,' Iraq had signed 12 oil deals. Even for someone who opposed Hill's confirmation, it was appalling to hear that interview. You were stuck with the realization of just how little he cared for or thought of the Iraqi people. He never mentioned the lack of potable water, he never mentioned the electricity shortage, he never mentioned the assault on Iraqi Christians, he never mentioned anything.

So like a ghost in the snow
I'm getting ready to go
'Cause, baby, that's all I know --
How to open the door
And though the exit is crude
It saves me coming unglued
For when you're not in the mood
For the gloves and the canvas floor
That's how I knew this story would break my heart
When you wrote it
That's how I knew this story would break my heart
-- "That's How I Knew This Story Would Break My Heart," written by
Aimee Mann, first appears on her album The Forgotten Arm.

No need for broken hearts just yet, the war hasn't ended and it doesn't appear it will end in 2011.
Tim Arango (New York Times) speaks with a variety of people including the former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker about the Status Of Forces Agreement:

The reality in Iraq may defy that deadline, because many American and Iraqi officials deem the American presence to be in each nation's interest. "For a very long period of time we're going to be on the ground, even if it's solely in support of its U.S. weapons systems," said Ryan C. Crocker, who was the American ambassador in Baghdad until 2009 and helped to negotiate the agreement that tethers the two countries and mandates that all American troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011. Even as that deadline was negotiated, he said, a longer-lasting, though significantly smaller, presence of American forces had always been considered to be likely.

The SOFA never meant the end of the war. Peace talks were not what the SOFA was about and how idiotic that so many people who should have known better (they lived through the Paris Peace Talks) instead whored it out as "End of war." That's never what it was. It replaced the UN mandate for the occupation of Iraq by foreign forces -- a yearly mandate. The SOFA was a three year contract which had a kill clause (but, after activated, the SOFA dies in 12 months -- meaning it's pointless for either side to kill it now). For the uninformed, a peace treaty never ends 3 years from now. That's not how they work. A large number of the once-upon-a-time informed either developed Alzheimer's or decided to lie. Take it up with them. Meanwhile
AFP reports: "The Iraqi army will require American support for another decade before it is ready to handle the country's security on its own, Iraq's army chief of staff said on Wednesday. Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said Iraq's politicians had to find a way to 'fill the void' after American troops withdraw from the country at the end of next year under a bilateral security pact." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) reports that Iraqi Lt Gen Babakir Zebari is stating that Iraq's military "will not be fully trained until 2020 and that the army would not be able to cope without the support of the Americans."

In addition, the militarization of 'diplomacy' means R.M. Schneiderman's "
Mercenaries to Fill Void Left By U.S. Army" (Newsweek) covers some of the details of the continued Iraq War:An influx of mercenaries will become especially important for the State Department, as the military leaves and as Iraqi security forces -- while much improved -- remain unable to provide the necessary security for what Patrick Kennedy, the undersecretary of state for management, calls "a major expansion" of the department's postwar presence. Indeed, the number of private security contractors employed by state will grow from roughly 2,700 to as many as 7,000. And those figures don't include the more than 1,000 tasks that state will inherit from the military once it leaves, according to the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bipartisan government panel created in 2008.These tasks -- which include clearing travel routes and driving armored combat vehicles -- do not involve attacking, and thus are not military functions, Kennedy argues. But they do potentially increase the chances that "people acting in the name of the U.S.…can get the U.S. involved in perceptions of misconduct," says a spokesman for the contracting commission.Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report that this transition/transformation was agreed to "more than two years ago" and that the economic climate today is different with skyrocketing costs and a Congress increasingly concerned about rising costs: "The State Department has signaled in recent weeks that it will need up to $400 million more than initially requested to cover mushrooming security costs, but lawmakers seem in no mood to acquiesce."
Progress, Chris Hill insisted, was the oil deals. This tied Iraq, he maintained, to permanent members of the UN Security Council and other nations. Iran doesn't sit on the UN Security Council but it has been strengthening it's diplomatic ties to Iraq.
Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Iran's new ambassador to Iraq promised to double trade volume and bolster economic ties between the two countries, the latest economic outreach by Tehran as its influence here grows. The move also comes amid fresh sanctions against Iran by the United Nations, the U.S. and the European Union, aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Analysts said Tehran could be redoubling efforts at building economic ties with Baghdad to help limit the impact of those measures." Iran's Press TV adds: Hassan Danaeifar made the remarks in his first press conference at the Iranian embassy since arriving in the Iraqi capital to replace former Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi, a Press TV correspondent reported. Calling Iraq a niche market for Iranian goods, Danaeifar reiterated that "the sanctions will not affect economic relations between the two countries."The new ambassador said that Iran is currently supplying 750 megawatts of power to electricity-starved Iraq daily, in addition to fuel to a number of power stations across the country. He added that two Iranian banks -- Parsian and Karafarin -- recently received preliminary approval to open branches in Iraq. But a cloud rises over the diplomatic horizon. Tehran Times reports, "The Iranian parliament is drafting a plan to obtain war reparations from Iraq, MP Eivaz Heidarpour announced on Monday. The Iraqi government inflicted a $1 trillion loss on Iran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, and the plan will require that the government demand compensation from Iraq through international channels, Heidarpour, who is a member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told the Mehr News Agency." In other cloudy diplomatic news, Alsumaria TV reports, "Ali Akbar Velayati, adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied any dispute between Syria and Iran over the nomination of a Prime Minister in Iraq stressing that the Iraqi people will soon reach an understanding in order to establish its government without any foreign interference. Velayati denounced news saying that his country has special requests in the regard."

"It's politics," insisted Chris Hill to Steve Inskeep when asked about the political stalemate. Just politics? March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 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.
In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 3 days. As many Iraqis enter into a lengthy observation of a religious holiday, many Iraqi politicians are noting no progress is likely to be made on the issue of creating a government. For example, yesterday Alsumaria TV reported that State Of Law's Ali al-Dabbagh states that there will be no formation of a government this month and that "it is not easy to set dates to announce the formation of the new Iraqi government." Federico Manfredi (Huffington Post) offers an analysis of where things stand currently:

Now the National Alliance may decide to form a coalition with Allawi, even though he heads a secular list. Wahil Abdul Latif, a judge and a member of parliament within the National Alliance bloc, told me that he personally supports Allawi because of his ability to reach out to the Sunni minority. He also said that the National Alliance would be willing to join forces with Allawi and support his bid to become the new prime minister, if only he accepted to remove certain "tainted" Sunni leaders from his list. Among these, he named Vice-President Tariq Al-Hashimi, the leader of one of the main Sunni political parties, and Saleh Al-Mutlak, another Sunni, whom he accused of conspiring with Ba'athist reactionaries to overthrow the Iraqi government.
Allawi, however, is unlikely to exclude these individuals from his list, since they represent pillars of his cross-sectarian outreach strategy.
When I asked Abdul Latif how long it might take the various leaders to reach an agreement on the formation of a new government he laughed and said: "This could take another two months. Perhaps more." Such a delay, though, could severely strain Iraq's fragile institutions, since it would not only protract the current state of governmental paralysis but might also lead the army and police to question the constitutional authority of their leadership.

Also weighing in on Iraq today was Kenneth M. Pollack.
At the Brookings Institution, he held an online chat:

12:32 [Comment From Jennie: ] What do you make of this seeming inability to put together a new government since the elections last March? What would it take for Allawi and Maliki to get together?

12:32 Ken Pollack: This is the $64,000 question. Both Maliki and Allawi KNOW that the best outcome for both of them is a coalition of their two parties. But the problem is that they really don't like each other, and both want to be the senior partner in the coalition. So far, no one has been able to get around that. I think the Administration is on the right track by trying to farm out some of the powers that the PM has accrued to other official positions -- both to make people more comfortable that the next PM won't emerge as a dictator, and to create additional positions that would be acceptable to the two of them and other important groups who will also want to have a key position of authority. My concern is that what the US, UN and Iraqis have been talking about -- some new positions and legislature to give force to their authority -- may not fix the situation, and might even make it worse. As PM, Maliki has demonstrated an ability to subvert and work around other such new positions that were created as counterbalances to his office. That suggests that he, or whoever is the next PM, might be able to do so again if that is all we do. In addition, especially with the new parliament, the PM will probably be able to manipulate the CoR fairly easily to get legislation repealed or merely ignored. It is why I'd like to see constitutional changes to shift the role of commander-in-chief and responsibility for the security services to the Presidency. That would create a real balance of power between the Presidency and the PM, and would create two positions that I think either Maliki or Allawi would be willing to take.

He took questions on many Iraq topics, so refer to the chat for other issues and, for any late to the party, we don't worship at the feet, midsection or head of Brookings which was infamously wrong about the illegal war and Pollack was one of their chief analysts then and remains so now.

The never-ending violence continued today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left one person injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two police officers wounded, a Salahuddin Province bombing which claimed the lives of 5 Sahwa members and, dropping back to Tuesday, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left one person injured and a Baghdad mortar attack which left two people injured. Meanwhile Sadiya is slammed with a bombing. BBC News reports that Iraqi soldiers were shot at from a home and as they were about to raid the home in Saadiya, it blew up. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds 11 people died in the bombing. Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports at least five Iraqi soldiers were injured and that at least 2 of the dead were civilians: "In the morning, Iraqi security forces and civil a defense tram removed the debris of the collapsed house and found bodies of a man and a woman who were shot dead before the explosion of the house, the source added. The insurgents apparently attacked the house earlier at night and killed the two victims, and then they planted bombs in the house before they sent a false information to the security forces saying that hostages were kept in the house, the source said." Reuters notes a Baghdad rocket attack which claimed 1 life and left three people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad rocket attack last night injured one woman and one child. Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) notes the bombing of a Kurdish pipeline last night and that it remains ablaze.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad invasion of the home of Dr. Intisar Moahmmed Hasen ("Administrator of Ilwiyah Maternity Hospital") in which she was assassinated and her son and husband were left "hand-bound and blindfolded". Reuters notes 2 police officers shot dead in Baghdad.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad yesterday.

5 Sahwa killed. Sahwa are also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq." They are Iraqis the US military paid (with US tax payer monies) to stop attacking US military equipment and US service members.
Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported yesterday that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia was offering money to Sahwa in an attempt to get them to return to fighting with al Qaeda.

Turning to London. The Iraq Inquiry now would like to hear from Iraq War veterans. Inquiry Chair John Chilcot [PDF format warning]
issued the following invitation.

To: Military personnel who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2009

The Iraq Inquiry will be holding an event at Tidworth Garrison on 14 September to hear the views of military personnel (serving or retired, regular or reserve) who were deployed to Iraq between 2003 and 2009. The purpose of this event is to gain insights from those who are in a unique position to talk about how the campaign was conducted and the impact it had upon their lives. This event is an opportunity for you to ensure that your voice is heard and your views feed into the lessons that the Inquiry identify.

My colleagues on the Iraq Inquiry Committee and I believe it is vital that we hear direct from those most affected by the Iraq campaign. In the latter half of last year we met the families of some of the 179 service personnel, and other British citizens, killed in Iraq. We heard how they have been affected by their losses and their views on what they would like the Inquiry to address. We also held an extremely useful event earlier this year at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham where we met service personnel who served in Iraq.

The Inquiry is primarily about learning lessons so these meetings are crucial to our work. We need to understand what went well and what could have been done better. I hope that the lessons the Inquiry identifies will help us, as a nation, to continue to improve in many areas, including the way in which we approach expeditionary campaigns and nation building, and the impact on military personnel.

If you would like to express an interest in attending this event please contact the Iraq Inquiry ( before noon on Friday 10th September.

This event is not the only means by which you can give your views to the Inquiry. We are happy to receive the toughts of anyone who served during the campaign or from relevant groups or associations on behalf of their members. If you would like to send a written submission to the Iraq Inquriy please use the address above. [Iraq Inquiry: 35 Great Smith Street, London SW 1P 3BQ]

The Committee is grateful for your help in this aspect of the Inquiry's work and looks forward to receiving your views in person, or in writing.

iraq npr morning edition steve inskeep
the wall st. journalsam dagherpress tvtehran times
the new york timestim arangocnnjomana karadshehbbc newsxinhuadeng shashanewsweekr.m. schneidermanthe washington postkaren deyoungernesto londono
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
the guardianmartin chulov
the telegraph of londonrichard spencer

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cher and peace

A reader e-mailed this Cher video of "Love and Understanding." He wondered if I liked it?

Of course, it's Cher.

"We got more than enough, but there's one thing there's just not enough of . . . Not enough love and understanding . . ."

I loved Cher's whole 80s rocking period. In the years since, "Don't Come Crying To Me" has become my favorite track from that period but I love pretty much all of the Geffen work.

And, in answer to his other question, yes, I will be seeing Burlesque, probably multiple times. Cher's a one of a kind treasure. Not to mention a strong woman who doesn't take s**t from anyone. We need more women like that.

I can't figure out
But a heart must be the one thing you were born without
I've been wasting my time
I don't know where I'll sleep tonight
You say that you can do without me
Go ahead now try and live without me
Baby, save up all your tears
You may need them some day
When the tears start to fall
I won't wipe them away
When you cry in the night
For the love that you need
Baby save up your tears
'Cause you'll be crying over me.

That is from Cher's "Save Up All Your Tears" and I would guess Diane Warren wrote it with Desomond Child.

Cher's strong and we've got to be. You're strong or you're a doormat. That is how it goes. You can apply that to peace as well. We have to be strong in our sense of peace or we can be weak and get walked over and over.

We needed a strong person of peace yesterday on To The Point. Warren Olney had a lot of gas bags on. The worst was Joseph Cirincione. Faux peace types -- think Katrina vanden Heuvel -- love to present Cirincione as a man of peace. He is no such thing. You should have heard him when William Tucker (Nuclear Townhall) was proposing some level of sales on nuclear power plants. Cirincione was adament that other countries shouldn't have the bomb . . . but the US should. We're the only country that's dropped it on another one. But Cirincione ignored that. His big beef is that we must not let any other country have the bomb, we must maintain our position for, he foolishly said, our national security.

Bombs don't brign security, idiot.

This is what passes for a man of peace. How very telling.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, August 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Sawha remains targeted for violence and now they're also a target for money according to the Guardian, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, veterans express frustration with the Obama administration and more.

On the alleged withdrawal due to supposedly (and slowly) follow this month's drawdown of US forces in Iraq,
Voice of Russia seeks out the Russian Academy of Sciences' Pavel Gusterin for his take on it:

"The statement by [the top US commander in Iraq] General [Ray] Odierno does not correspond to the current realties in Iraq. Iraqis cannot cope with the security of their nation by themselves, even if the US gives them money and equipment. At issue is not providing security in the ordinary sense of the word. The security of a country must be sustainable, but Iraq is a much more complex nation; fighting is ongoing and a country which has no functioning government cannot provide tangible security for the citizens."
"General Odierno spoke the words that are music to the ears of his listeners, especially US voters who want to see an end to the Iraqi military campaign. In truth, the military presence of the US in Iraq will be maintained for a long time to come. The Iraqi oil fields are a plum that cannot be given up easily."

Should the US military 'leave' Iraq, the Carr Center plan will be implemented putting thousands of foreign contractors on the ground to do military operations which will be coordinated by the US Ambassador to Iraq and other US government staff.
Renee Montagne (NPR's Morning Edition) spoke with Nada Naji about some of the current knowns today. Nada Naji revealed that her hopes for a free Iraq vanished as the war continued ("nothing change and the suffering of people is just increased") and how random violence is the new norm -- leading her to pull her oldest child out of kindergarten -- and takes place with no explanation and or reason leaving everyone wary and unsure of whom to trust. She states, "Every day people dying here without any reason, only because they were in wrong place and time." In the same segment, Steve Inskeep speaks with Deborah Amos about the status of Iraqi refugees. Amos is back from Lebanon, Syria and Cairo. and explains that the slow number of refugees who have returned has gotten even slower so you're most likely looking at a refugee class of people for some time to come.

Steve Inskeep: And let's just emphasize here, is this turning into almost a permanent refugee population, a permanent population of Iraqis who will be outside their country the same way that there are Palestinians who have been outside of the Palestinian territories for decades now?

Deborah Amos: It begins to look that way. Not that there was ever a flood of returnees, there wasn't, but 2010 has been less than 2009. And people are making this calculation, that as long as there's a government crisis as the Americans drawdown, why would you go back now? It is not easy to be a refugee. It's likely that your kids are out of school. It is likely that your diet is a mess, that you're probably eating mostly, you know, sugared tea and bread, for at least two of those meals. The international community's largesse -- while never large, is less. People want this crisis to be over.

Steve Inskeep: And I suppose if you had another round of sectarian warfare, you'd have to be prepared for that possiblity of another million people coming across the border at some point.

Deborah Amos: You know, 18 months ago that was the nightmare scenario. As Americans drewdown, there would be a return to the full out sectarian war. It doesn't look like that's going to happen. However, it is this randomness of the violence and, more important, it is the inability of this government to find some power sharing agreement between Sunnis and Shi'ites. As you know, the majority of the refugees outside are Sunnis and Christians. They are watching a government that cannot come to terms with a Sunni-backed political coalition that won the most seats in Parliament, and yet has not been able to use that power to come into the prime ministership. Every country in the region is now meddling in Iraq because of the weakness of the state. And so, it is very difficult for them to consider returning. Better to wait, better to wait and see what happens.

Deborah Amos new book is entitled
Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. As Amos noted, a large portion of the Iraqi (external) refugee population is Sunni and/or Christian. Catholic News Service reports, "The ancient Christian communities that one thrived in Iraq 'now face potential extinction,' said U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, urging the United States to develop a postwar plan to help Iraq resolve the humanitarian consequences of the seven-year war." Meanwhile Steve Schmidt (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports on the Chaldean refugees resettling in the San Diego and El Cajon area and how St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Catherdal 's Father Michael "Bazzi will speak Thursday to more than 200 schoolteachers and education staffers who want to get a better fix on the immigrants and what brought them here." Schmidt notes "a recent San Diego State University study" found that "one out of four Iraqi refugees coming to the U.S. ends up in San Diego County." Refugees International issued the following last Thursday:As the Security Council seeks to renew the mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Refugees International urges the UN to put humanitarian objectives, and not only development needs, at the forefront of its work in Iraq. Craig Johnstone, Refugees International interim president, stated:"Security rules have restricted UN staff's access to people, who desperately need their help and protection. The UN needs to relax these restrictions, so that humanitarian needs can be properly addressed. The staff of RI have traveled without security escorts throughout most of Baghdad, and in other locations, so it is possible to do more.""There are an estimated one and a half million displaced people in Iraq, 500,000 of whom live as squatters in slums. These people have no land rights, no access to basic health and sanitation, and are almost entirely dependent on the UN."Many of these families live under cardboard, alongside polluted rivers and amongst garbage dumps. Some are completely dependent upon the UN to provide clean water. Refugees International urges the UN to work with member states to help these people until long term solutions become available. They should not resort to such desperate measures. Displaced people have the right to more protection."Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding.

For Immediate Release: August 5, 2010Contact: Refugees International, Gabrielle MenezesP: 202-828-0110 x225/ 347 260 1393

And the Iraqi refugee crisis is not the only thing continuing. Also continuing is the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 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.
In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 3 days.And today Alsumaria TV reports that State Of Law's Ali al-Dabbagh states that there will be no formation of a government this month and that "it is not easy to set dates to announce the formation of the new Iraqi government." Nouri went to the KRG Sunday seeking their support and leading to many rumors of what he might be bargaining/bartering with. The report by Namo Abdulla and Hemin Baban (Rudaw) won't calm any fears among Shi'ites:Maliki reiterated in Erbil that he is best candidate for prime minister and not going to compromise. "Just like any other side, we have our own candidate for the post of prime minister" Maliki said. Maliki expressed his full support for Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, a package that could annex the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to Kurdistan, through a referendum it calls for. Maliki's words were not taken as serious by Kurds as they were five years ago when he made a pledge to implement the article. He has never done it, though. "No one will be able to block article 140," said Maliki. In addition, Alsumaria TV reports, "Member of Iraqi Kurdistan Alliance Ala Talabani said that the coalition of the Kurdish blocs back Al Maliki for a second term and pointed out to the importance of political accordance and the formation of a national partnership government." Arab News offers this analysis:There are two clear dangers here. The first is already manifest. The power vacuum continues to be exploited by those who are opposed to the American occupation with bombings and murders. The bloodshed may not be on the scale of the past, but as the police and security forces battle with them, they carry the disheartening knowledge that they are acting in the name of a political process that is proving itself spectacularly incoherent or incomprehensible to outsiders. The second danger is perhaps less well appreciated. It is that Iraqis will become used to living without a government and will fall even further back upon the support and resources of their different communities. Though in some respects this may not be a bad thing, we should not forget that Iraq is a country deeply polarized by war and occupation. In such a situation it is easy for anybody -- the occupying authorities, disgruntled Iraqis or neighbors -- to sharpen the divisions between the communities and with these schisms, the death squads will return to the streets, butchering innocent individuals purely because they come from a different confessional or ethnic background.
The refugee crisis didn't stop, the political stalemate didn't stop. The violence? You know it didn't stop.

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people and 3 Baghdad bombings "in quick succession" which claimed 4 lives and left twenty people injured. Reuters notes a Jurf al-Sakhar home invasion in which Sahwa leader Malik al-Janabi and 3 of his bodyguards were murdered, a Baghdad roadside bombing in which two people were injured and last night, Alsumaria TV adds that "rockets fell in the US Embassy campus in the Green Zone, the damages were not determined yet, police sources told Alsumaria News. As soon as the rocket fell sirens wailed inside the Green Zone and helicopters roamed in the surrounding." ,

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Adnan Khidhir ("owner of a currency exchange business") was shot dead in Kirkuk "late Monday," a Salahuddin Province attack left a football player and Kurdish intelligence officer injured, and a Monday Mosul attack which left six people wounded.

Reuters notes 1 corpse (handcuffed) discovered in Jurf al-Sakhar.

Sahwa remains under attack. Dropping back to
yesterday's snapshot to note the one reporter going beyond "al Qaeda in Iraq!":

Michael Jansen (Irish Times) appears to be the only one offering anything other than that, "The rise in violence is attributed to two factors. First, analysts say al-Qaeda, which has claimed a number of recent attacks, is reviving because it is recruiting former members of so-called 'awakening councils', made up of Sunni militiamen who joined the US in the 2007-2008 war against al-Qaeda and its allies." Jansen goes on to note how Nouri never did supply the jobs the Sahwa needed. But possibly noting that explanation would underscore just how much the violence is Nouri's fault?

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports:

Al-Qaida is attempting to make a comeback in Iraq by enticing scores of former Sunni allies to rejoin the terrorist group by paying them more than the monthly salary they currently receive from the government, two key US-backed militia leaders have told the Guardian.
They said al-Qaida leaders were exploiting the imminent departure of US fighting troops to ramp up a membership drive, in an attempt to show that they are still a powerful force in the country after seven years of war.

Meanwhile, as Gen Ray Odierno prepares to be "outgoing" commander in Iraq, he
tells Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) that Iraq's security forces need lots of money. We're also supposed to hiss and boo that when Ray & company requested $2 billion, 'mean old' Senator Carl Levin cut it down to one billion. Having spent $18 billion of US tax payer moneys on 'security forces' in Iraq already, the $1 billion is not only more than generous, it's honestly more than American can afford.

And note all that gets ripped off and ignored to toss over that $1 billion as well as other wasted monies. Noting Barack Obama's weekly address given Saturday,
Sarah Kliff (Politico) reports, "The address came shortly after the administration launched a months-long, multimillion-dollar television campaign featuring Andy Griffith to promote health reform's free preventive care and lower prescription costs." A multi-million dollar campaign? To sell what? A piece of crap legislation. Where's the money going? It's a PSA, where is the money going? Though no one in the press will bother to ask that question (look for those faux news segments on your local news trumpeting ObamaCare), note where it's not going: to address PTSD and veterans suicides. July 14th, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on veterans' suicides, chaired by US House Rep Harry Mitchell. From that hearing we'll note this:US House Rep John Hall: Thank you. I know I'm over my time. But I would just mention that this committee has -- the full Veterans Affairs Committee on the House side has voted to give funding not just for PSA, as Ranking Member Roe mentioned, but for paid advertising. And IAVA who will hear from shortly partnered with the Ad Council in one effort to put together an ad that was more powerful than the average PSA -- Public Service Announcement -- shown in the middle of the night because that's when the time's the cheapest and the TV station will give it up to do there public service whereas what we really need is advertising during the Superbowl, during American Idol, during the highest rated shows, during prime time where the half-hours -- I mean, the thirty-second spot costs the most money. But we're willing to do that to advertise "Be All That You Can Be" [Army recruitment ad], or "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" -- you know, the lightening bolt coming down onto the sword. And if we want to recruit and attract people to go into the armed services and to go fight for our country, we'll spend the money for prime time advertising but when it comes time to help them find the resources that they need to stay healthy after they come home, we want to do it on the cheap. And just do it at 3:00 a.m. in the morning on a PSA. And I think that needs to change, something we in Congress should fund so that the outreach is just as strong afterwards as it is before they were recruited.Millions aren't being spent on that. Despite the large number of veterans taking their own lives, despite the large number of service members taking their own lives. But the White House has multi-millions to waste as a campaign tool? US tax payer dollars being wasted for what really is nothing but propaganda purposes. The Baxter Bulletin notes today:If they haven't yet captured the attention of the American public, the suicide rates in the U.S. Army have sounded alarms among veterans groups and in the active-duty military.The Army suicide rates doubled from 2001 to 2006, even as civilian rates of suicides remained the same. Last year, 160 soldiers killed themselves -- the Army says 60 percent were "first-term" soldiers, or those with one or no deployments to war zones -- and more than 1,700 soldiers made attempts on their lives.It's not a minor issue and Mark Benjamin (Salon via Veterans Today) reports that many veterans are beginning to express frustration with the administration over the lack of focus on PSTD and on suicide -- including veterans who, in 2008, were part of Veterans For Obama:

The flagging support among veterans results from a combination of unforced errors by the White House in basic constituency relations, coupled with rising frustration that the Obama administration is not aggressive enough in tackling wartime crises that continue to escalate, like suicides in the military. The damage is serious enough that it threatens to lurk as a political liability for Obama in 2012, since disgruntled surrogates might refuse to help the next time around.
"Suicides are skyrocketing, people are being deployed to war with PTSD, people are being denied their healthcare benefits, and the Obama administration is allowing the Department of Defense to punish people who are suffering from PTSD rather than giving them the medical care they deserve," said Steve Robinson, a retired Army Ranger and longtime veterans advocate who has worked for a number of veterans' organizations. Robinson closely advised then-Sen. Obama on veterans policy and was prominently featured in
a video tribute to Obama made by the campaign that played at the Democrats' 2008 convention in Denver. "I am confident that he believes in this generation and that he is actually putting into practice what he believes," Robinson said about Obama, from a huge TV screen at the convention. The Democratic nominee fought for vets, he added, "by stepping out, by speaking up, by legislating, by holding government accountable to take care of this generation when they send them to war."
Now, Robinson says he can't get his e-mails returned. "There is a deafness in the White House," Robinson said. "Let's forget about the idea that you might want to do the right thing and keep your campaign promises. It is politically stupid."

And lastly,
Iraq Veterans Against the War issues a call for accountability:

At its seventh annual national convention in Austin, Texas, IVAW called for the prosecution of senior Bush administration officials for allegedly conspiring to manipulate intelligence in order to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
IVAW alleges that Bush administration officials conspired to create the perception that Saddam Hussein presented an imminent threat to the United States in order to bypass an uncooperative U.N. Security Council and secure a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq. The growing body of evidence, including testimony from British officials in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry, indicates that Bush officials could be charged with criminal offenses against the United States and violations of international law for making false claims to national self-defense.
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution vests the power to authorize use of military force in the Legislative Branch, not the Executive. In order to do so responsibly the Congress must be provided with accurate and objective intelligence. Bush officials' alleged distortion of the intelligence picture created a climate of fear and uncertainty in which the constitutional power of Congress was subverted.
IVAW further alleges that the Bush administration's alterations to Iraqi laws were made for the intended benefit of U.S. multinational corporations and are illegal under international law. Efforts to pressure Iraqi officials to open up the country's oil industry to foreign investment exacerbated the insurgency and undermined the U.S. military's ostensible mission there.
IVAW finally asserts that senior Bush officials are responsible for the illegal treatment of Iraqi and Afghan officials in U.S. custody and that this treatment was detrimental to the security of American citizens.
Tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths have resulted from the Bush administration's disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. Millions of Iraqis have been internally displaced and hundreds of thousands are forced to subsist as refugees in neighboring countries. Thousands of American men and women have lost their lives and tens of thousands suffer from wounds sustained while fighting there. Families and communities across the United States are now suffering from veteran suicides, homelessness, substance abuse and domestic violence. The long-term cost of this war, including the provision of VA support for our returning veterans, is estimated to run into the trillions.

iraqthe voice of russianprmorning editionrenee montagnenada najisteve inskeepdeborah amos
the irish timesmichael jansen
the washington posternesto londono
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa