Friday, February 04, 2011

The beggar media

"A ship is safe in harbor but that is not where a ship is meant to be" (Liam Madden, Iraq Veterans Against the War):
On behalf of the nine IVAW members who made it to Key Largo, Florida for an unforgettable sailing expedition, I submit to the curious and adventurous among us a brief recap.

It started on an awkward foot, I announced to the entire membership that the trip offered by Outward Bound was free and had 20 positions available. Then I had the far from enviable task of informing many of the people whom I respect and hold dear that Outward Bound revised its offer and we would need to pay $375 and only 10 of us could go.

Fortunately, the trip recovered, and on January 8th nine veterans and two civilian instructors went underway for six days that replenished our spirits, tanned our bodies and imprinted our lives. Many of us were afraid of forced sing alongs and contrived talks about our “feelings.” Instead, those with reservations were astonished with Outward Bound’s extraordinary ability to allow us to create our own culture while borrowing from their rich tradition.

If I could bottle a day it would pop like champagne with laughter, the ocean’s beauty and community. On the first day we were welcomed by a pod of dolphins playing underneath and around our vessel. Our instructors informed us that it was our duty to name the boat before the trip was over. In honor of one of the most underrated party foods ever served, and a serendipitous mis-hearing of Jeff Key’s suggestion, “Devil Dove”, we christened her the “Deviled Egg.”

It starts off as prose and quickly (after the excerpt) turns into poetry so make a point to read it. IVAW has an event upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event: and I need to join with C.I. in doing my part to promote it:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am
Busboys & Poets, Langston room
14th & V st NW Washington DC
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (
Big Noise Films)

That's this month. C.I.'s been noting it regularly and does so again in today's snapshot. She was hoping to note an interview Geoff Millard gave on the event but the radio program and host are repugnant.

It's a shame that Geoff can't say, "Oh, and we're going to Egypt too!" If he said that, you can be sure Democracy Now! and a variety of Pacifica Radio programs would open up to him. Instead, it's nothing but silence.

You really need to ask why that is and why we want to pretend in the US that we have an independent media that serves us?

I'm tired of pretending. I saw that in the 70s. Saw all the we'll-change-the-world begging for money by Panhandle Media turn into nothing but 'we'll create our own offices and pay and make sure that our ends are protected.' I saw them sell out a genuine peace movement to elect the pathetic and embarrassing Jimmy Carter (whose administration is responsible for the Taliban). I saw these pathetic independent media 'leaders' stay silent as their 'hero' Jimmy Carter reintroduced registration for the draft.

Do you not get how repugnant that was?

I saw them whore for Jimmy and swear that war resisters would be allowed back in the US without threat of prison. But the reality was that Gerald Ford's weak-ass program at least included war resisters (those who left the military) while all Carter would do is provide clemency for those who avoided the draft. Not a damn thing for those who left the service.

Jimmy Carter was Barack Obama.

Nothing changes but the faces and they reshuffle the names.

That's why I refused to give a cent to the so-called independent media. I knew they'd show their true colors soon enough and wasn't at all surprised as they dropped Iraq like a hot potato.

They've continued to run from the ongoing illegal war and that's why IVAW's upcoming event has received so little attention from our beggar media.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 4, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US State Dept puts more financial burdens on state and local communities, troops continue to deploy to the (ongoing) Iraq War, despite being fired upon yesterday the protesters in Diwaniya continue to take to the streets, the US Congress allows the administration to intimidate them, and more.
Cache Valley Daily reports 33 members of Utah's National Guard are deploying to the ongoing war in Iraq while Ray Arzate (CBS Atlanta) reports on a send-off ceremony for 60 members of Georgia's National Guard yesterday as they prepare to deploy to Iraq. Iraq Veterans Against the War's Geoff Millard is going back to Iraq and hopefully he'll be invited to discuss that on a radio program we can link to. He discusses the demilitarized IVAW Super Bowl with Dave Zirin on Zirin's Edge of Sports radio program (last weekly broadcast for January). I don't care for Zirin but I can link to his show without any self-hatred. The same is not true for a program that IVAW friends asked me to link to. A) I know Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan and I'm offended with any show that attempts to use Michael or his illness to press their own political agenda. I find that grossly offensive. If you have a guess as to how someone catches Parkinson, find a way to discuss it without insulting someone suffering from the disease. 2) I do not call for an end to sexist skin mags. I believe in free speech which does include the right to publish many things offensive. However, I also believe that the left needs to have some standards. If you would not publish in a racist magazine (and no one on the left should), you should not publish in a sexist magazine. (To be clear, we're not referring to Playboy or Penthouse but to the gutter trash that demonizes women's bodies and encourages mutiliation of women's bodies -- and I'm not referring to mutilation via implants.) I'm not in the mood to link to interviews with 'authors' who publish in those magazines or hear their 'jokes' about how, sadly, their articles in those sexist and dehumanizing magazines do not also feature the pictures found in the rest of the magazine. (Yes, I suffered through some of that damn program.) I'm not interested in hearing how a piece of trash is wonderful because he supports the First Amendment. Bob Barr made the last ten years about supporting the First Amenmdent (I'm not calling Barr a piece of trash) and I've yet to hear these same lefty sources take to praising Barr. The host of that program is a frightmare and that's why he's no longer on radio. For those and so many more reasons, and my inability to join in the trashing and dehumanizing of my own gender, I cannot and will not link to or transcribe that interview. (I also didn't hear Geoff's remarks or any of his segment, I gave the broadcast to the count of three -- the host and the first guest -- and then said, "No way.") Geoff's returning to Iraq and that's an important story but I would not link to praise or excuses for racism or praise or excuses for homophobia and I will not link to praise or excuses for sexism. Again, I don't care for Dave Zirin -- to put it mildly -- but can link to his program (Edge of Sports) with no self loathing. I cannot do the same with regards to the other audio program.
I have promised to promote this upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am
Busboys & Poets, Langston room
14th & V st NW Washington DC
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (Big Noise Films)
And I would argue the commentary above does more to do that than would a transcript from the audio program in question. Hart Viges shares his thoughts on the upcoming visit here (it's two paragraphs or we'd excerpt from it). Let's stay on the topic of veterans, Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that many veterans who mistakenly put their trust in "special government-backed mortgages," such as DoD's Homeowner's Assistance Program, have seen their homes taken away from them in foreclosures. In related news, Rick Maze (Army Times) reports that the US Labor Department released unemployment figures today and the unemployment "rate for veterans climbed to 9.9 percent, up from 8.3 percent the previous month. For Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, the unemployment rate for January was 15.2 percent. This is a sharp increase from 9.4 percent in November and 11.7 percent in December, a clear trend of worsening job market for younger veterans, many of them combat veterans."
And there are more veterans from the wars each day because they are ongoing wars as noted in yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. The hearing was covered in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Jim Webb," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "It's a bi-partisan hole (Wally)" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "In appreciation of Lindsey Graham (Ava)." John T. Bennett (The Hill) reports on the hearing and the rush by so many to continue the US 'mission.' Let's get honest about what took place yesterday, a lot of people not wanting to be responsible if the civilian mishaps that might take place. Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "At the same time, in the face of ongoing instability on the ground, officials offered one of the first hints that the American military could stay in Iraq beyond this year. US troops must pull out of Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011 under the current security agreement." Jason Ditz ( points out, "Which goes against the official position of the administration, that every last soldier will be out of Iraq by the end of December as per the Status of Forces Agreement. Given the Obama Administration's penchant for false promises and abortive "ends" to the Iraq War, it's perhaps no surprise that even the SOFA deadline is at risk."

Don't want the mishaps (read "deaths" and "injuries")? Get the US out of Iraq. It's not that damn difficult. But, as Wally noted, the Iraq War is a bi-partisan hole that both are eager to dig. Bennett tells you that John Kerry (never trust a man who choses his career over a sick wife -- as we should have all learned from the John and Elizabeth Edwards saga) wants to start "a stand-alone funding bill to pay for civilian-led Iraq functions." Really? So off the books again, supplementals. Exactly what John Kerry and others condemned Bush for.

Apparently, for Democrats in Congress, the real problem from 2001 through 2008 with the wars wasn't the wars but that their fellow wasn't the one making the calls. Today they rush to continue the wars -- overtly (hopes of an extension of the SOFA or a new treaty that will allow US forces, under the Defense Dept, to remain on Iraqi soil) or covertly (transferring the forces over to the State Dept -- a word trickery allowed in the agreements). The Iraq War never should have started but Bush knew the minor objection from Democrats in Congress would vanish the minute troops were on the ground and that the bulk of them would refuse to oppose funding his illegal war out of fear that they would be demonized if something went wrong. It's Barack's war now and he too knows the score. He insists US forces are staying, one way or the other, and despite the Great Recession the US is still experiencing, he's confident that Congress will waste billions on continuing the war out of fear that, if they don't, they will be blamed for any attacks. "THE US EMBASSY IN BAGHDAD WAS INVADED TODAY AND UNKNOWN ASSAILANTS -- THOUGHT TO BE LINKED TO AL QAEDA IN MESOPOTAMIA -- QUICKLY SHOT AND BEHEADED EMBASSY STAFF!" The Congress fears that such an attack -- or one on any scale -- would lead to them being blamed because they didn't provide enough tax payer money to the continued war.
The way to avoid such an attack, or any at all, is to demand that the US leaves Iraq. But that requires bravery and you don't find a great deal of that from career politicians. So the State Dept will most likely get every cent that Barack wants it to have barring riots in US streets.
We're spending $2 billion a year now on State Department operations in Iraq alone, and we intend to spend $1 billion a year on construction for some years to come. That's some withdrawal! I know that when Sen. Barack Obama asked to be entrusted with the presidency by repeatedly saying, "I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home," he only said "troops." But I can't believe that the voters who heard him anticipated leaving thousands of Americans and spending billions of dollars in Iraq for many years.
If members of Congress are looking for ways to cut a trillion-dollar deficit, they might look at our construction and employment and nation-building plans in Iraq.
And instead of aiding state and local communities, to continue the Iraq War, the State Dept is looking to rob state and local communities. Because the US tax payer hasn't given enough to the illegal war, the US State Dept now wants to raid local and state police forces. Yesterday, they posted the following:

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs met last week with local and state law enforcement offices, as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to discuss opportunities available within the Iraq Police Development Program beginning this fall. The bureau is seeking to recruit both active and retired U.S. law enforcement officers as the U.S. Department of State builds a team of senior level and expert advisors to serve one-year missions in Iraq.

Beginning October 1, 2011, U.S. Department of State, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, will assume full responsibility for the development of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior's police and border forces while continuing strong support of professional development in the corrections and justice sectors. Under Department of State leadership, the Police Development Program will partner with the Government of Iraq in developing management, leadership and technical skills to support the rule of law and maintain Iraq's internal security.

Experienced U.S. police officers have the opportunity to contribute to this large, post-conflict police development mission, partnering with Iraqi ministers, commanders, and police chiefs who will have impact on the future of the Iraqi police service. Through the Police Development Program, the Department of State is contributing to the broader goal of promoting security, stability, and respect for the rule of law in Iraq.

While appearing before Congress currently (via Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey) to ask for the biggest budget in State Dept history, they now also want to poach trained police officers which will add to the costs for states and municipalities who will have to hire and train new officers instead of retaining current ones.
Today in Iraq, a plane went down. Al Rafidayn reports the crash claimed the lives of 7 people and is being blamed by some on "bad weather conditions" -- but they also note that the plan "burst into flames" while still in the air -- according to an unnamed airline source and following its takeoff from Sulaimaniya airport which has led the airport director, Taher Abdullah, to blame the crash on "an outbreak of fire" on the plane. CNN adds that it was a private airplane and Sulaimaniya "is the second largest city in Iraq's Kurdish region." Technical issues and/or including a fire would explain why airport official Hadi Amer tells AFP that the plane "turned back to try to return to the airport" prior to its crash.
Iraq is slammed with bombings again. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes a Ramadi suicide bombing last night in which the death toll has risen to 5 police officers. Tawfeeq has already updated that to note 9 now dead and twenty-three injured. Alsumaria TV counts 3 Ramadi bombings. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes of Ramadi's Anbar Province, "The vast desert area has been relatively calm for more than three years after Sunni tribes and anti-U.S. insurgent groups turned to cooperate with the U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces against al-Qaida network in Iraq."

In addition, Reuters notes "an Anbar University professor and cleric who criticised al Qaeda during prayers last week" saw his Falluja home blown up today and two of his children left injured, a Trikirt bombing of a police officer's home injured him and his teenage son and 1 police officer was shot dead in Falluja. In equally disturbing news, Basra has the polio virus. Al Mada reports that two children have polio, confirmed by the Ministry of Health. No word on whether immunizations are being planned or what efforts will be taken to contain the outbreak. There are entire generations that may not get how serious that is. Others will note the migration in and out of Iraq (not just Iraqis and that includes US citizens) and will remember that the polio vaccine stopped being dispensed in many countries when it was assumed the world had conquered it. Any who remember or studied the previous polio outbreak, however, will find the news very disturbing.

Alsumaria TV reports two developments, Nouri al-Maliki has reportedly given Parliament the names to fill three vacant posts in Cabinet (which would leave 7 still needing to be filled for those keeping track). Which three? Minister of Electricity, Trade and the State Ministry for Women Affairs. In addition, Nouri appears to have been check-mated/bluffed by Parliament: "Al Maliki and Parliament Speaker Ousama Al Nujaifi agreed in their meeting on Thursday to have the Supreme Court clarify its ruling to place independent bodies under ministerial and not parliamentary control, the source told Alsumaria News. The clarification should be made through an announcement that confirms the independence of these bodies, the source noted according to Al Maliki and Al Nujaifi." Al Rafidayn reports that clerics used morning prayers today to warn against the instability in Iraq. Iman Soran ABdullah Abdul Rhaman warned that the government must "speed up to serve the people, otherwise the change is coming, revolution." Iman Abdul Sattar al-Janabi warned against "the injustice of the rulers to their poeple". Iman Mohammed al-Juburi delcared that Iraq could see the "spark sweeping other Arab countries as a result of the corrutpion and the political conflict." Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot to note:
In Iraq, Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports, many Iraqis see not the progress Jeffreys spoke of but "a paralysis of government" and more and more and more are taking to the streets to protest "the deterioration of living conditions" which is why leather and textile workers protested in Baghad and Hilla this week and activist Mohammed Salami is quoted stating, "There is daily frustration over the fact that successive political changes have not brought a new [better] level of service." That was earlier this week. Today things were not so peaceful. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the police began shooting at protesters in Diwaniya today (at least three were injured). Approximatley one thousand were out in the streets calling attention to the "shortages of power, water and other services" and they "set tires ablaze, hurled stones and tried to storm the local police station, witnesses said." But Jeffrey wanted to ride yet another wave of Operation Happy Talk while appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Al Arabiya Net reports that protests continued today in Diwaniya and that the security forces "shot randomly at hundreds of protesters" (at least 1 was killed and four were left wounded). The protesters are calling for "the removal of al-Hamza head official and for the Iraqi government to provide basic services. In addition to demanding employment, the protesters carried lamps and small sacks of sugar to symbolize their demands for food and electricity. The ration card system includes only ncessary items such as wheat, rice, flour, and the government is mulling to cut the ration food supplies into four items only." Mandy Samira ( reports that yesterday Diwaniya's local government was announcing it had things under control and the protests were over. Obviously, the local government was wrong. As for the violence targting the demonstrations, Samira quotes political analyst Hassan Hashem declaring 80% of the police officer are illiterate and have no concept of basic human rights which makes them willing to shoot at those protesting. Lara Jakes (AP) reports "a stunning statement for Nouri al-Maliki" -- that he is declaring he'll give back half his yearly salary. That's nonsense. Jakes notes it follows the clerics speeches this morning. But even more importantly, Nouri doesn't reveal how much he makes. How is anyone going to check that he's returned a dime let alone half of his salary? The records on his pay aren't open to the public. It was more spin from Nouri. Poverty is nothing new in post-invasion, oil-rich Iraq; however, the numbers of Iraqis living in poverty continues to increase. Ahmed al-Zubaidi ( reports that there are estimated to be 100,000 Iraqis in Baghdad -- just in Baghdad -- who depend upon begging to survive with 95% of those being children.
In other news, October 31s, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked (approximately 60 people were killed, approximately 60 were injured) touching off the latest wave in the Iraq War of targeting Iraqi Christians. As the wave of violence has continued in Baghdad and Mosul, many Christians in those areas have left their homes for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq or to go to other countries. UPI notes that Abdullah al-Nawfa has told the press "that the rate of Iraq Christians fleeing the country doubled in November and increased again in December after the attacks." In his opening statements at yesterday US Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Chair Carl Levin declared, "Finally, an important issue for the government of Iraq remains the security of Christian and other religious minorities. During our visit we met with leaders of Christian communities, which have suffered from suicide attacks, targeted killings, kidnappings and other intimidation by violent extremist forces. These communities live in fear and large numbers of Christians have either fled the country or uprooted to safer regions in northern Iraq. The leaders we met [on his recent trip to Iraq] explained with pride how Iraq has been home to some of the earliest Christian communities and Iraqi Christians do not want to have to leave their country to feel safe. Iraq has a long tradition of religious tolerance. On our visit we urged the government of Iraq to act with urgency to provide the security necessary to preserve these ancient Christian and other religious minority communities and to protect its religious minorities." There is news of some movement on the issue, Catholic Culture reports that Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil "has announced that the regional government has approved his plans to construct a Catholic university and a 100-bed Catholic hospital." He is quoted stating, "The plans we have been developing over the past few months are symbols of hope for the Christian presence in our country. The people arriving here [northern Iraq] from places of violence are receiving the gifts of relative security. They themselves are willing to offer the gift of their services in a region which cannot cope with the demands of an increasing population." Catholic News Agency adds, "Archbishop Warda said in a Feb. 1 interview that a fundraising campaign was necessary before the building work could begin. He expressed hope that the two institutions would open within the next couple years."
Though the Diane Rehm Show (NPR) yet again turned their so-called international news hour over to Egypt! Egypt! Egypt!, it was a busy week for news about and out of Iraq. One of this week's stories that Diane and so many others avoided was the release of the Human Rights Watch report on Baghdad's secret prisons. Tuesday, Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered -- link has text and audio) reported on it:
KELLY McEVERS: The latest report by New York-based Human Rights Watch says that a special unit of about 3,000 Iraqi soldiers, known as Brigade 56, or the Baghdad Brigade, is in charge of the secret facility. Human Rights Watch researcher Samer Muscati says this brigade works in partnership with two other brigades. One of which was trained by U.S. Special Forces, and all of which report directly to the prime minister. Muscati says that means they aren't accountable to anyone else.
Mr. SAMER MUSCATI (Researcher, Human Rights Watch): When you have these institutions that are operating outside the rule of law, it creates a situation where there's no transparency, where forces are likely to engage in activity that is reprehensible, and there's no way to rein them in.
McEVERS: After reviewing government documents and conducting interviews with Iraqi officials, Human Rights Watch found that the Baghdad Brigade transferred these detainees to the newest secret facility in November, just as human rights inspectors were planning a visit. Detainees at the original facility told the L.A. Times that conditions were appalling, that detainees were hung upside down, beaten and given electric shocks to their genitals. Officials say these men are hardcore terrorism suspects. But Muscati says that shouldn't deprive them of all their rights.
Mr. MUSCATI: These are fathers, these are sons. These are people who are supposed to be innocent before a court of law.
McEVERS: In previous statements, Maliki's office has denied Human Rights Watch's findings, claiming their reports are the work of his political enemies
The UK publiciation The Week covers the secret prisons today with a rundown of the basics including:
Is there evidence of secret jails in Iraq?
Yes, in fact one was disclosed last year, and Maliki promised that the detainees there would be transferred to the Ministry of Justice. Detainees at the original facility -- Camp Honor, in the Green Zone -- told the Los Angeles Times that prisoners there were hung upside down and given electric shocks to their genitals. "The interrogators beat me repeatedly," one former Camp Honor detainee told an investigator, "and told me that they would go to my house and rape my sister if I did not sign a confession, so I did. I did not even know what I was confessing."

Is there hope of progress?
The reports of abuse suggest that some Iraqi authorities are "behaving in much the same way" as the disgraced government they replaced,
says Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director of Human Rights Watch. "The difference now is there are political forces in Iraq that are not at all happy with this kind of thing," he said. "This has sparked outrage, as it should."
Staying on the topic of imprisonment but moving to the US, picked Steve Kroft to go after and the real question there is why he's yet to defend Bradley Manning from the hatchet job Nancy A. Youssef did on him -- excuse me, the most recent hatchet job she's done on him. Who is Bradley Manning? Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." He remains imprisoned and the thought of a right to a speedy trial flies out the window. Watler Smolarek (Liberation: Newspaper of the Party of Socialism and Liberation) observes:
Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified materials to Wikileaks, continues to suffer under deplorable conditions at the Quantico military base in Virginia, where he is imprisoned. Although he passed psychiatric evaluations, Manning was recently placed on suicide watch for two days, meaning that he was confined to his cell for 23 hours a day without receiving visitors.
Manning faces this new abuse in retaliation for the critical role he allegedly played in exposing some of the criminal actions of U.S. imperialism. He stands accused of leaking the famous "collateral murder" video of an aerial massacre of civilians and reporters by U.S. forces in Iraq as well as 250,000 state department communications.
Manning has not committed any crime. If he indeed shed light on the secrets of the U.S. government, he has made a major contribution to the struggle of oppressed people around the world and inside the United States. Progressives and revolutionaries should stand in solidarity with Bradley Manning and demand his immediate release.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich is requesting a visit with Bradley and has released a copy of his letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates requesting the visit:
Dear Secretary Gates:
I write to request that I be able to visit Private First Class Bradley Manning at the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.
As you know, I am concerned about reports of his treatment while in custody that describe alarming abuses of his constitutional rights and his physical health. A March 2009 article by surgeon Atul Gawande discusses the effects of solitary confinement on prison inmates and prisoners of war: "Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury." Studies highlighted that such prisoners, months after being released, revealed severe brain abnormalities mirroring those who had endured significant physical head trauma[1] .
Private Manning's guilt or innocence is a question for adjudication and his treatment at Quantico severely undermines the presumption of innocence as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and raises questions as to whether he is truly able to stand trial. His care while in the custody of the Department of Defense is the responsibility of the U.S. Government and as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform it is my duty to conduct effective oversight.
Thank you for your attention to this request. I look forward to your prompt reply.

AFP reminds, "Amnesty International said late last month that the 23-year-old army private has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a sparsely furnished cell at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia since July. The group said last month it was worried that the conditions of his detention were "unnecessarily severe and amount to inhumane treatment."

Moving over to trial news, Amal Khalaf took the witness stand yesterday in Phoenix. Who? Dropping back to the November 3, 2009 snapshot:

In the US, Noor Faleh Almaleki has died. The 20-year-old Iraqi woman was intentionally run over October 20th (see the October 21st snapshot) while she and Amal Edan Khalaf were running errands (the latter is the mother of Noor's boyfriend and she was left injured in the assault). Police suspected Noor's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, of the assault and stated the probable motive was that he felt Noor had become "too westernized." As noted in the October 30th snapshot, Faleh Hassan Almaleki was finally arrested after going on the lamb -- first to Mexico, then flying to London where British authorities refused him entry and he was sent back to the US and arrested in Atlanta. Karan Olson and CNN note that the judge has set the man's bail at $5 million. Philippe Naughton (Times of London) adds, "Noor died yesterday, having failed to recover consciousness after the attack. The other woman, Amal Khalaf, was also seriously injured but is expected to survive. "

Edecio Martinez (CBS News) reports Wednesday the trial heard from police detective Christopher Boughey who stated that Faleh Almaleki deliberately ran over his daughter. Lisa Halverstadt (Arizona Republic) reports Amal Khalaf testified yesterday that she screamed and threw her hands up in the air pleading for Faleh Hassan al-Maleki to stop the car when he hit her with his car before turning it to run down his daughter. Paul Rubin (Phoenix New Times) reports:

She described how an irate Faleh Almaleki and his wife came by her home one night to try to convince Noor to return to the fold, with Mrs. Almaleki entering the residence through a window. The police were called, but no arrests followed.
A few months later, on the morning of October 20, 2009, Khalaf and Noor went to a state Department of Economic Security office. Faleh Almaleki unexpectedly showed up in the lobby, though neither woman said anything to him or vice-versa.
Khalaf said she later went outside, told Noor to wait by the front door, walked to her car and drove around the lot looking for Almaleki, whom had left some time earlier. She said she didn't see him, and parked back in the same spot.
She got out of the car and went to get Noor, but then realized that she nervously had locked her keys in the vehicle.
"[Noor] told me to calm down, 'He's not going to harm us,'" Khalaf testified.

"60 Minutes" Presents: Gotti
John Gotti, Jr. talks to Steve Kroft in his first extended TV interview about growing up with the infamous father whom he strove to please by living a life of crime but whom he eventually betrayed by leaving that life. | Watch Video

Sunday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Activism and naval-gazing

"Stuck in Stage Two" (Cindy Sheehan, Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox):
From Cheney having pre-invasion meetings with oil execs, to Condi having meetings with foreign diplomats saying that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy"(Downing Street Minutes) of invading Iraq, to George Bush even admitting in his recent book that he was an enthusiastic supporter of torture—the murderers of Casey, et al, should not be roaming free and prospering from their eight years of unfettered carnage. “It’s just not fair,” is the refrain that keeps running through my mind.
I worked super hard for the impeachment of the Bush administration. I even ran for Congress against Nancy “Impeachment off the table” Pelosi for this very reason, announcing my run right before Congressman John Conyers, who was at that time Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had me and about 49 other impeachment activists arrested in his Capitol Hill office.
Even though the US has committed international crimes of aggression since they were more precisely defined after World War II, and since the US regularly violates UN resolutions and runs roughshod over the Security Council for its own interests, and not one US president has ever been held accountable, I have all but given up on my son receiving justice for his murder. It’s sad because I don’t think complete healing (of me, or humanity) and acceptance can be achieved without justice. I am not talking about revenge. Revenge is just perpetuation of violence.

That's from an important column by Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. It's worth reading in full.

I'll use it as a jumping off point. She recently had Yoko Ono on her radio program. I like Yoko and I know her. C.I. mentioned the Yoko interview in an entry and maybe even in a snapshot but didn't quote from it.

In came the e-mails. Why wouldn't Yoko rate a quote?

Because we (C.I. and I) happen to disagree with everything she was saying.

Yoko's a mature woman. We understand that and understand that she's always been more introspective than John Lennon. She started out as an isolated artist and that's how she's comfortable.

What Yoko believes in, and it's her right to believe in it, is that how we make change is doing one thing every day -- she told Cindy Sheehan something like 'being nice to your mother.' That, Yoko insists, will change the world.

That's not political activism, that's the Golden Rule mixed in with a bunch of EST.

That's a withdrawal from the public sphere and it's the reason for the withdrawal John Lennon did for so many years before re-emerging. If Yoko believes in it today, chances are John still would as well. They were a team. I'm not, in any way, trying to state or suggest that John would disagree with Yoko.

But I'm not John. I'm not Yoko.

Nor am I a silly little fool who believes if I go around smiling at everyone US troops will leave Iraq.

This is the eternal naval gazing that became so popular among the New Left as the seventies took hold. It is not political activism, it is political retreat.

I am far from the first person to note that and will not be the last one.

I love Yoko, she's a great person and the one thing most people don't know about her is her sense of humor (and sweet laugh). But it's a retreat.

This goes back to the whole argument John and Tariq Ali were having regarding the song "Revolution" and its meanings. At that point, John did come around to seeing Tariq's point of view. But he clearly lived his later life in harmony with the same beliefs Yoko has today.

You may find harmony within by following what Yoko's espousing; but don't for a minute think it's going to change the world. It will not do that. It will not end a war, it will not stop drones from being sent to kill innocent people.

Yoko's belief, to me, has always been Kent State. There were those students and they thought they could smile and pass out the flowers and they were being peaceful and radiating love for others so they were doing that whole harmonic thing Yoko's into. What was the result?

That was always my gut reaction to Kent State and I've never waivered in that belief.

If you need an English garden to sip tea in, great, do what you need to in order to maintain your sanity. But please don't push naval gazing off as political action.

(I am not accusing Cindy Sheehan of naval gazing. I love her column and it's an important column. But if you were to ask her, I believe she would tell you it was inspired in part by the interview with Yoko. During the interview, Cindy made similar statements.)

I love Yoko and will always defend her but I will not allow that 'inner work' is political activism. Nor have I ever seen anyone self-help a nation out of a war.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, February 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a dodgy Jack Straw testifies before the Iraq Inquiry, Iraq's Speaker of Parliament publicly denounces a threat to Iraq's democracy, some Iraqi women talk mobilization and protest, and more.
Today in London, the Iraq Inquiry concluded public testimony as they heard from Jack Straw for the third time. It was a dodgy and nervous Straw appearing today when contrasted with his January and February 2010 appearances, one who took to quibbling over even basic defintions of "containment" ("it depends what you mean exactly by containment") such as when, at the start of the hearing, he declared, "If you mean by containment as I set out in my latest statement, containing and removing the problem of Saddam's failure to comply with United Nations' obligations, then containment remained the overall strategy of the government right up to the time when we took the decision to use military action, because in a sense [UN Security Council Resolution] 1441 was a continuation of a series of policies by the United Nations Security Council to secure the compliance of Saddam Hussein and to ensure that all his WMD had been removed,his programmes and capabilities had been broken up. As I said repeatedly, and it was absolutely explicit at the time, if Saddam had done that, then he would have stayed in post."
And with that Straw made clear that he just can't stop lying. If the issue was compliance, you don't run the UN inspectors out of the country before they have completed their work. But that is what happened. It was nearly eight years ago and so much has happened in the Iraq War that we need to drop back to shortly before it began. Tuesday, March 18, 2003, CNN reported, "Saying the United States 'will not be intimated by thugs and killers,' President Bush gave Iraqi President Sadam Hussein and his sons a 48-hour ultimatum Monday: Leave the country or face military action. The ultimatum was delivered in a 13-minute televised speech from the White House." UN inspections were ongoing when Bush made that statement. Dan Stober reported for Knight Ridder Newspapers on March 18, 2003:
As United Nations nuclear inspectors flee Iraq, some of them are angry at the Bush administration for cutting short their work, bad mouthing their efforts and making false claims about evidence of weapons of mass destruction.
Some inspectors are "scandalized" at the way President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell, among others, have "politicized" the inspection process, according to a source close to the inspectors.
None of the nuclear-related intelligence trumpeted by the administration has held up to scrutiny, inspectors say. From suspect aluminum tubes to aerial photographs to documents -- revealed to be forgeries -- that claimed to link Iraq to uranium from Niger, inspectors say they chased U.S. leads that went nowhere and wasted valuable time in their efforts to determine the extent of Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons banned after the 1991 Gulf War.
Inspections were ongoing and the UN inspectors were forced to flee as a result of Bush and Blair. And the Iraq War began. It's a reality missing from Straw's spin. Committee member Roderic Lyne quoted from a letter Straw's office had written to Tony Blair (December 3, 2001) which declared, "Military intervention for the purpose of regime change would be illegal." Which is was. Which is why the Iraq War had to be dressed up by both the British and US government with lies. A paper to Straw followed the letter and Lyne said it "discussed, and I quote: 'How we could combine an objective of regime change in Baghdad with the need to protect important regional interest'. That second paper put a much broader case for regime change than dealing with the threat of WMD. Now your office received these papers and they the wrote to Number 10 to say that you thought the two papers were very perceptive, and that you hoped the Prime Minister would read them."
Straw got defensive and finally declared he was having similar conversations with then US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Committee member Roderic Lyne: But the second paper set out what has been described in an earlier evidence session as setting out a route map for regime change. Now you just commended the papers, said you hoped the Prime Minister would read them and they were very perceptive. Why did you commend a paper setting out a route map for regime change?
Jack Straw: You will have to forgive me. I was given no notice you were going to raise this.
Apparently Straw feels he must get the questions in advance if he's expected to answer them. And it was a huge dilemma for him because the paper and his praise of it to Blair was very revealing. Lyne told Straw, "I am very curious you didn't react to the second paper by saying regime change cannot be an objective of the UK foreign policy. Warn the Prime Minister."
We can go through Straw's lies bit by bit but there's really no point in that. Let's get to what the Inquiry may have come across. My opinion on what follows, feel free to disagree with my conclusions. Committee Member Roderic Lyne observed early on, as Straw was saying Blair wanted to be on Bush's side, "Get on side of President Bush but presumably not get ahead of President Bush on this issue or encourage President Bush to push it ahead at high speed?" To which Straw replied "certainly not" and more yada-yada.
But that is what the record shows. This is not to say that Bush is an innocent but this is to note that Tony Blair was not the poodle he was thought to be. (And poodle's don't generally end up with Blair's current post, how do you think that happened?) Of all the documents released by the Inquiry, the most interesting one is on the eve of the 2000 US election. The British find Al Gore (Democratic Party presidential nominee) and George W. Bush (Republican Party presidential nominee) to be similar in their stance on Iraq. Of then-current President Bill Clinton, the British lament his "line in the sand" that must be crossed before war would be declared on Iraq. They fear the same resolve in both candidates (Gore and Bush). Put that with the Chicago 1999 speech Blair gave (known as the Blair Doctrine). Blair wanted regime change and was willing to break the law to get it. You can tie it into the 'ultimate good' his religion preaches. Nick Cohen (Guardian of London) on Blair's religious ceremonies:

During their stay at the Maroma Hotel, a pricey retreat on Mexico's Caribbean coast, Cherie Booth/Blair took her husband by the hand and led him along the beach to a 'Temazcal', a steam bath enclosed in a brick pyramid. It was dusk and they had stripped down to their swimming costumes. Inside, they met Nancy Aguilar, a new-age therapist. She told them that the pyramid was a womb in which they would be reborn. The Blairs became one with 'Mother Earth'. They saw the shapes of phantom animals in the steam and experienced 'inner-feelings and visions'. As they smeared each other with melon, papaya and mud from the jungle, they confronted their fears and screamed. The joyous agonies of 'rebirth' were upon them. The ceremony over, the Prime Minister and First Lady waded into the sea and cleaned themselves up as best they could.

And maybe it would be blood and bones that Iraq was semared with, not melon and papaya, but it could be 'reborn' as well.
As Blair's inner circle repeatedly demonstrated to the Inquiry (Straw did so today), they knew what was legal and they knew what was illegal. And the reason for the split in the Cabinet is that some were trusted and some weren't. The inner circle has repeatedly insisted that somethings had to be kept (from the full Cabinet) because it might be leaked to the press but the reality is that Blair and his inner circle leaked to the press more than anyone and what was being protected was a portion of the Cabinet (including Blair) wanting illegal war and concealing that from the rest of the Cabinet. You can see the lines drawn in Richard Norton-Taylor's report for the Guardian last week of Adm Michael Boyce's testimony was a "striking contrast to previous evidence about the former prime minister's war aims" with Boyce testifying he was told regime change could not be the policy while, Richard Norton-Taylor notes, "Blair's closet advisers, including Sir David Manning have told the inquiry that the former prime minister assured President George Bush he was willing to undertake regime change. Lord Turnbull, cabinet secretary at the time, described Blair as a 'regime changer'." Or, another example of who was let in and who was kept out, take Richard Wilson, Cabinet Secretary and Head of Home Civil Service, telling the Inquiry January 25th:
Committee member Lawrence Freedman: I mean the July, 23rd meeting. A version of this is in the public domain -- recommended the establishment of an ad hoc group of officials under the Cabinet Office chairmanship to consider the development of an information campaign to be agreed with the US. Tom McKane told us in his evidence that this was not connected to the dossier and that work had not really started when he handed -- you left the Cabinet Office. Do you have any understanding of this ad hoc group?
Richard Wilson: I think Tom McKane would be right. If you remember -- you don't remember, because I have not told you -- after the -- this is memory -- after the Crawford meeting David Manning -- my memory is that David Manning sent me a minute, which has not been found on the file, so it is perfectly possible it is a figment, but I can see page 2 in my mind, and it had -- it simply said -- my understanding of Crawford, which you have very kindly not asked me about -- my understanding of Crawford, which is another twist in the story, was that we came back realising -- because the purpose of Crawford was to find out what the Americans were thinking, what Bush himself was thinking, because there were all sorts of people around him thinking all sorts of things -- where was Bush on this -- was that he was more serious about regime change and about the possibility, if necessary, of military action than we had grasped. The Prime Minister had asked for further work to be done on three areas, and this is relevant to in answer to your question. One of those areas was building up opinion both in this country and overseas for United Nations action on Iraq. My understanding of the group that was being set up on 23rd July was that was about this process of building up a campaign of public understanding in this country and overseas. I think Tom McKane's evidence is right.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about Crawford?
Richard Wilson: No, other than I would quite like to know what happened to Crawford.
Blair did not twist Bush's arm on illegal war. (It's doubtful Bush cared much whether the war was legal or illegal as evidenced by his repeated comments that history would decide long after everyone was dead -- to which one can add, and after the criminals have escaped punishment.) But he did get him over the line in the sand Bill Clinton had drawn, the one Tony Blair's inner circle lamented.
Called for the third time to testify -- and supposedly spending six weeks preparing for today's appearance, Jack Straw couldn't answer a basic question and wanted to whine that no one told him that would be brought up. The inner circle (including Straw) papered over reality with various correspondence. That's why Lyne may have been getting at when noting Straw's finding that war for regime change would be illegal. There was no real reason to send that document. As documents the Inquiry released prior to 9-11 demonstrate, Tony Blair's Cabinet was already aware that war for regime change was illegal. But the papering over of what was really planned (such as finding a fake reason for war and piggy backing regime change on that) was part of concealing their real actions and motives. That's what the documents released by the Inquiry indicate and it's what the testimony indicates to me.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) observes of today's testimony, "The inquiry made clearer than ever that Blair had gone much further in private letters to President Bush than he admitted in public about the prospect of war to topple Saddam Hussein -- an aim of military action that Straw said repeatedly in written and oral evidence would be 'palpably illegal'." Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) has a report on Straw's testimony which needs to be read in full but we'll excerpt the opening:
On the final day of hearings at the Iraq Inquiry, Mr Straw admitted he advised the Cabinet that invasion would be legal without a fresh United Nations mandate days after Lord Goldsmith, the then attorney general, had said privately that the opposite was true.
In the end, Lord Goldsmith changed his mind about the legality of the war on the eve of the invasion and gave the green light to conflict without ministers ever being made aware of his earlier reservations.
Explaining the decision not to share important documents with the Cabinet, Mr Straw said that he and Mr Blair had been "depressed" after a Cabinet discussion on Iraq a year before the 2003 invasion had become public.
Richard Perle, John Bolton, George W. Bush and Colin Powell. These are only some of the names Jack Straw brought up in his testimony to the Iraq Inquiry today. For Bush, Straw had kind words; for Colin The Blot Powell, Straw stated Powell insisted that 'you couldn't delay action too long' (starting the illegal war). After returning from a brief break at 6:12 EST, Straw appeared even more agitated and frustrated and, at one point, lashed out at a previous witness (Steven Wall), labeling the testimony that had been offered "incredulous." One of his most important contributions this go round may be his explanation that "serious consequences" equals "military action."

One impression that's hard to escape is the death of Saddam Hussein and that Straw is obsessed with it. Guilt-ridden? He keeps bringing it up, without prompting. And sounds a bit like he's referring to the 'final solution.' Certainly, when you consider all the world leaders the US and British governments have protected from their people, prevented from going on trial, it is surprising on some level that they executed Saddam Hussein (Iraq was occupied and staffed with exiles, do not pretend that Iraqis executed him whether they wanted to or not, the occupiers were in charge). Is it guilt over the death or fear over later charges to come if the world gets behind calling out the illegal war? He insisted that Hussein was given the chance to disarm but, of course, that's really not what happened. And as he continued to harp on that and other details, it was hard not to notice his obsession with the death of Hussein.

In Iraq, Alsumaria TV is breaking news (where are the US outlets)? Despite Nouri and a so-called legal expert insisting that the power-grab (Nouri got the Supreme Court to put independent bodies under his control) was Constitutional, "Alsumaria News got a copy of a document released by Iraq's Supreme Court in 2006 in clarification to the inquiries of the former Parliament's Integrity Commission over the exact meaning of independence mentioned in Constitution Article 102 and the difference in content between Articles 102 and 103. The court's clarification came contradictory with its last ruling on January 18 stipulating to have independent institutions supervised by the Cabinet and not the Parliament." It should be noted that the Electoral Commission has specifically asked the United Nations to step in (and, no, they didn't mean the embarrassing nonsense Ad Melkert offered already). Salam Faraj (AFP) reports Osama al-Nujafi, Speaker of Parliament, commented today on the controversy declaring, "We think that there is now a real threat to the constitution and democracy as a result of the court's decision. The parliament will present in the coming days a draft law to reform the composition of the supreme court and the Higher Judicial Council." Where is the US media? Various people have called Nouri's move a "coup." Today the Speaker of Parliament calls it a threat to democracy. As the US media rushes around pretending to report on Egypt and pretending to give a damn about democracy, how do they reconcile their silence on this issue? Maybe the same way they've reconciled their silence on the plight of Iraqi women? (Denial.) Nizar Latif (The National) reports:
Madia al Rawai, a member of the Iraqi Women's Association, a group that campaigns for women's rights, said: "There can still be a revolution here, as there has been in Tunisia and Egypt.
"The Iraqi government should pay attention. There is an army of women, with no jobs and no money, and they are ready to take to the streets unless something is done to improve their situation."
Ms al Rawai said that while Iraq has democracy, unlike Egypt and Tunisia, its government was still failing its people.
"The Americans came and wanted to change Iraq, but there have been no changes for the better in the lives of many women. Yes, we have democracy and elections, but that has not brought benefits for many of us."

NCCI: As the former Regional Coordinator for Women for Women International in Iraq, what do you feel are some of the greatest obstacles facing NGOs which operate in the sector of women's rights?

Manal Omar: The biggest challenge is when women become the negotiating chip. One of the titles of my chapters in my book is "Negotiating Chip," because I witnessed too often how women's rights were used during political or social bargaining. For example, you may have high-level Kurdish representatives that believe 100% in women's rights. However, during political debates, or when it's time to vote on a resolution, they will not vote pro-women. When I would challenge them, they often would say that their primary issue is federalization, and as a result, they would strike a deal on a resolution for women if more conservative parties would vote on the resolution of federalization. The second challenge is what I call the "not now" argument. This argument usually states that because of overall violence and instability, it is not an appropriate time to discuss women's issues. I have witnessed how the "not now" easily becomes the "not ever." Women must maximize the window of opportunity to push their rights forward.

Today PBS' Frontline features a report (link has text and video) from Anna Badkhen on Iraqi women:

No one knows exactly how many Iraqi women have been raped since the U.S-led invasion in 2003, but activists in Iraq and abroad put the numbers in the thousands. Human rights groups began to see an increase in rapes in Iraq immediately after the fall of Hussein's regime, and evidence that different factions were targeting women. In 2008, Amnesty International reported that "crimes specifically aimed at women and girls, including rape, have been committed by members of Islamist armed groups, militias, Iraqi government forces, foreign soldiers within the U.S.-led Multinational Force, and staff of foreign private military security contractors."

The report went on to say that such crimes are rarely prosecuted or even recorded by Iraqi officials.

Under Saddam's Baath Party rule, security forces used torture and rape against political prisoners; and the dictator's eldest son, Uday, reportedly ordered any woman who caught his eye to be delivered to his palace. But rape was otherwise not widespread.

"There was law," said Yanar Mohammed, an Iraqi women's rights advocate and feminist. "Nobody would go around raping."

In news of violence, Reuters reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured three police officers, 1 police officer was shot dead inside his car in Rabea with his passenger left injured, 2 Iraqi soldiers were shot dead at an Abu Ghraib military checkpoint, and, dropping back to Tuesday for the rest, 1 official with the National Intelligence Service was shot dead in his car in Taji (two passengers were left injured), a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 man and left his wife and their child injured, a police officer was injured in a Mosul attack and another person was injured in a shooting which took place in front of his home

Yesterday's snapshot
covered some of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing which took testimony from US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Lloyd Austin. The following sentence requires a correction:

Senator Ben Cardin asked about the refugee returns and Jeffrey noted that "the overaching reason why people don't return is concerns about security."

That should be "overarching". I speak quickly when I dictate these and people do a wonderful job keeping up and I thank them for that but Jeffrey used the term "overarching." Kat covered the hearing with "Senate Foreign Relations Committee," Ava with "The forgotten covert wars on Latin America (Ava)" (at Trina's site) and Wally with "It's a boom economy!" (at Rebecca's site). Someone e-mailed the public account stating Austin was ignored the snapshot. I believe I made it clear that early on he made his own testimony worthless; however, if you need more of his 'worthy' testimony, "Opportunity." That was his one word reply to a question in the second round about the bombings of the last two weeks. He elaborated that it was due to the vast number of people (pilgrims) taking part in the holiday. That would be the holiday which takes place every year. No, last year didn't see that level of attacks. No, Austin doesn't know anything he's talking about but he manages to string together words in something which resembles a sentence, if not quite a response.

In this morning's Washington Post, Walter Pincus reports on the hearing noting:

James F. Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that his staff of 8,000 will grow in the coming year to about 17,000 people, the vast majority of whom will be contractors.
And while the State Department is spending about $2 billion annually on Iraq operations now, it plans to spend an additional $1 billion on the construction of facilities in each of the next several years.
"We face a critical moment now in Iraq, where we will either step up to the plate, finish the job and build on the sacrifices made," Jeffrey said, "or we will risk core U.S. national security interests, be penny-wise and pound-foolish and cede the field to al-Qaeda and other dangerous regional influences."

Hearing that, it sailed over me. Reading it in Pincus' report, I wonder if veterans and diplomats (as well as US tax payers) might argue, "When didn't we step up to the plate?" That's really an insulting remark from someone whose job it is to be diplomatic. The illegal war's been going on for eight years next month but, apparently, thank goodness, we've got James Jeffrey at last who is going to see to it that the US 'finally' steps up to the plate. What an idiot. Jason Ditz ( adds, "The fact that, some eight years after having removed Saddam Hussein, the US is still talking about a 'transitional' period points to just how poorly the regime change plan has gone, and Ambassador Jeffrey's exhortations to 'finish the job' by keeping diplomats in a palatial estate in Baghdad on an open-ended mission to prop up the Maliki regime are unlikely to be met well."

As the US State Dept tries to demand more tax payers money in the midst of the Great Recession, the Pentagon and the President are doing their own little dance. David Swanson (War Is A Crime) tackles the defense budget:
Did you know that the U.S. public wants military spending cut? Did you know that President Barack Obama wants to increase it for his third year in a row? Actually I already know that most of you didn't know either of these things.

poll released on Tuesday and in line with other polling over the years asked: "To ensure its safety, should the United States always spend at least three times as much on defense as any other nation?" This question mislabels the military "defense," which most of it isn't, and claims the interest of "safety," albeit in the context of other questions about spending money, and yet only 25% of voters said yes, while 40% said no and 35% were not sure.

In reality, the United States could cut its military budget (just the Department of so-called Defense, not counting the hundreds of billions spent through other departments) by 85% and still easily be the most expensive military on the planet. Taking the DOD down to merely three times the expense of China's military (the world's next largest) would mean cutting it by 55%. Taking it down to twice China's military would mean cutting it by 70%.

The same poll asked "Does the United States spend too much on the military and national security, not enough, or about the right amount?" If respondents had been informed of what the United States spends, then something smaller than 25% of them should have answered "not enough" and "just right" combined. Instead, 27% said "not enough" and 37% said "just right" while only 32% said too much. Despite 35% saying they were not sure on the other question, and nearly everyone not knowing what they were talking about, respondents all had an opinion on this one, and most of them were wrong by their own measure.

When a pollster tells Americans the facts and then asks for opinions, the
results are predictably different. When told how much money goes where in the federal budget, 65% of Americans want the military cut. But only a small minority of Americans is aware of that.

And anyone paying attention at all almost certainly believes that President Obama is cutting the military. When he has increased it in the past, the
media has made so much noise about particular weapons being cut, that nobody's noticed the overall increase.

There are two upcoming actions in the US that will be here before you know it and I'm not noting them often enough (and haven't noted them at all since January 21st), my apologies. First, this is the upcoming Iraq Veterans Against the War event:

February 25, 2011 9:30 - 10:30 am
Busboys & Poets, Langston room
14th & V st NW Washington DC
This report back will be to answer questions from media and the peace movement about the recent trip back to Iraq by members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. The war is not over but it is not the same as it was in years past. What is the humanitarian situation in Iraq?
How can we do reparations and reconciliation work?
Speakers are all returning from this delegation and include:
Geoff Millard (IVAW) Hart Viges (IVAW) Haider Al-Saedy (Iraqi Health Now)
Richard Rowely (
Big Noise Films)
The following month, A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in this action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

Click this link to endorse the March 19, 2011, Call to Action.