Friday, May 20, 2011


60 days after the March 21 informing of Congress of the attack, President Barack Obama has missed his legal deadline to obtain Congressional approval for the Libyan War. NATO insists the war will continue, but under US law, it is now completely illegal.

That's the War Hawk Barack. I will be so glad when he leaves the White House. He gets away with everything. As bad as things were under Bully Boy Bush (and they were bad), at least we could (on the left) feel like we were engaging in a struggle that had to be fought. Now so much of the left is just meaningless.

So much seems meaningless these days. However, C.I.'s "I Hate The War." If I ever wrote one post here as good as that -- or even just half as good -- I might be satisified with my posting.

While I'm not, I can still enjoy reading C.I.'s. You will too.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 20, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Countdown Friday sees protests in Baghdad and Mosul, Barack's speech does not go over well in Iraq, the country sees another prison break, Joan Wile talks peace and more.
Today was Countdown Friday in Iraq. The Great Iraqi Revolution offers photos of the handbills for the demonstrations here and here. And people turned out in Baghdad. Revolution of Iraq offers photos of the protest (check out the one of 'shy Nouri' especially) here. They gathered in Tahrir Square, also known as Liberation Square because it has been a focal point of people action in the last months. Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "A number of protestors were beaten and cursed by the security services in Tahrir Square." Revolution of Iraq also notes the violence against the protesters. And Great Iraqi Revolution offers video of the protests here. The Great Iraqi Revolution has an important, must-read essay on the Baghdad protest. Excerpt:
But, first, let me tell you about COUNTDOWN FRIDAY – today – Tahrir, Baghdad welcomes hundreds of its old residents who visit it every Friday and they held a public auction for Haliki and his goons – the highest bid was a quarter of an Iraqi Dinar! People were obstructed by goons dressed in black carrying clubs and donkey sticks who tried to keep people away from the square, in particular on the western side of the square. A number of protestors were badly beaten up and verbally abused. Normal! We were told by protestors, live on air, that security forces were out in strength and some areas in Baghdad a curfew had been imposed. But the usual colourful crowd was in Tahrir, singing and reading poetry with the sad view of women with disappeared relatives holding their relatives' photographs. They had displayed beautifully amusing caricatures of Maliki! They all stated that it is not Maliki's or the parliament's decision to extend or not, the stay of the American Occupation – that it is the decision of the people and that they wanted the immediate departure of the American and the Iranian Occupations. Of course, they all sang our favourite song of Maliki being a liar and a thief. This song is a must as well as many others which have been composed since the Revolution began. A lady in Tahrir said that she had 5 brothers who had disappeared one of which was 13 years old since 2005, another, a son who was 15 years old and others and others…. I wonder what country Mr. Obama was talking about in his speech – and had he not intended to have his troops stay and had he not been sure that they were staying I wonder why he stated that Iraq was still under emergency rule for another year and why he stated that our funds are under protection for another year!!!!! At any rate, we know that the Americans and Maliki have already signed up. 5 bases at a cost of USD 400 billion – bases that are cities, totally self-sustaining and the largest embassy in the world – could it be called an embassy I wonder – with 20,000 employees as well as 18,000 mercenaries to protect it, or are they? Could they not be troops dressed in different uniforms???? With 2 official consulates and 2 regional offices as well as agents in every single Iraqi institution no matter how distant and unimportant as well as advisors. By the way, the British who announced a couple of days ago that that was their last day in Iraq are lying of course because there are and will be 5,000 British "advisors" remaining in Iraq! Just as there will be around 20,000 American advisors!
Don't imagine that I am one of the few people who know these facts – Most of the Iraqi people know – go out amongst the simplest in out-lying areas in the country and you will be told this by the simplest farmer!
Not that I have anytime for Mr. Obama and his lies, really – we really don't care about him or about what he has to say - we neither care nor are we impressed…. Lies, Lies, and more Lies!!
I will only say one thing to Mr. Obama and the powers that be in America, watch out for the Iraqis. You really don't know what we can do when we get angry and just wait for July and August!
I wonder what sort of democratic process he is speaking about and just as Haliki speaks about another planet so does Mr. Obama!
Dar Addustour notes approximately 2,000 protested in Mosul, carrying banners and chanting with demands including the departure of Nouri al-Maliki. Aswat al-Iraq notes that there were "hundreds" participating and that the demands also including that "the Iraqi government stop paying compensations to the Kuwaiti government. The compensations were imposed on Iraq after Gulf War I in 1991 by the UN Security Council."
That was a new development in the protests. Long standing demands have been for an end to corruption, the creation of jobs, the release of detainees and an end to the occupation. Let's stay with that last aspect, the occupation. Yesterday at Fort Leonard Wood, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke on the topic of a possible US withdrawal from Iraq and stated, "I think that most of us in our government believe that there is value in a residual U.S. force remaining in Iraq. [. . .] They still have a lot of work to do with logistics and things like intelligence. They basically have no air defense capability." It really is amazing how little US media attention the possibility of the US military remaining in Iraq past 2011 has received. The US print outlets (and AP) with reporters in Iraq have covered it. But so few others have. And, outside of CNN, there's been very little serious broadcast coverage of this issue (no, I'm not forgetting NPR -- NPR can't even keep a reporter in Iraq these days). In the Iraqi press, there's actually interest in the issue and some might argue "of course" noting it's the country in question; however, that same self-interest motive should prompt coverage in the US but hasn't.
Today Al Mada notes MP Sabah al-Saadi stating that it is highly likely that the agreement between the US and Iraq will be extended to keep approximately 20,000 US forces on the ground in Iraq past 2011. al-Saadi notes that 20,000 is the number being tossed around by the US in discussions with Iraqi officials. Another Al Mada article (also published today) on the issue notes that Robert Gates is pitching US troops as a way to "protect" the Iraqi government from popular protests. Gates appears to be on a mission to demonstrate just how hollow Barack's words were in yesterday's speech. In another article published today, Al Mada notes that Hezbollah Brigades have issued a statement that if the US stays in Iraq, armed violence will take place and the foreign occupiers will be expelled. Dar Addustour reported yesterday that Moqtada al-Sadr is now insisting that troops from "Arab and other foreign countries" be used to help stabilize Iraq in 2012. The other, right? Just sticks out there, doesn't it? Sounds like he means Iran, doesn't it? Wonder why that is? But he does realize the security situation talking point needs to be combatted so he runs with "our neighbors will help our defense." Fadel-Al Nashmi (Niqash) observes:
On one hand, locals have heard many Iraqi politicians say they don't want to see giant Hummers (American military vehicles) racing around their countryside anymore. On the other, they hear rumours, some of which come from inside the country's political elite, that there is a genuine need to keep US troops in Iraq for the sake of security, in a fledgling democracy not yet familiar with stability.
Yet failure to declare an opinion on this issue remains the most common attitude in Iraq's political circles presently. During his most recent press conference, a journalist asked al-Maliki where he stood on the matter. Without any trace of irony, the prime minster replied: "There are governments and many other protagonists who want to know where I stand on this. Why would I tell you?"
Nonetheless Azza Shabandar, an MP for the State of Law coalition, the second largest coalition in the Iraqi parliament which is headed by al-Maliki, told NIQASH that, "I can say with certainty that 80 to 90 percent of the political parties have a genuine desire to extend the presence of US troops in Iraq."
Al Rafidayn reports that a spokesperson for the Iraqiya (Ayad Allawi heads this political slate) stated yesterday that an agreement had been reached with State Of Law (Nouri heads this political slate) to move forward -- by submitting to Parliament -- drafts on the National Council for Strategic Policies and possibly move towards nominating a President of the National Council. What is that? March 7, 2010, Iraq held national elections. Allawi's slate came in first place. Slightly behind -- but behind nonetheless -- was Nouri's slate. Nouri refused to step aside or follow the Constitution. (The Constitution dictated that Allawi would have first short at forming a government -- that would have made him prime minister-designate -- and if he failed to do so after 30 days, the Parliament would pick a new prime minister-designate.) Nouri stubborness and crooked ways helped create the political stalemate that extended over nine months. Leaders from the National Alliance, State Of Law, Iraqiya, the two main KRG political parties and others gathered in Erbil in an attempt to end the stalemate. The deal they formed is known as the Erbil Agreement. It was formalized, it was signed, it should have been a done deal.
Immediately, it was announced the stalemate was over and, November 10th, efforts were made to move forward in Parliament. Nouri was named prime minister-designate (he would be named much later by Jalal Talabani in an abuse of power intended to give Nouri more than 30 days to form a Cabinet), there were efforts to clear up the names of several Iraqiya politicians who'd been falsely accused (by Nouri's henchman) of being Ba'athists. But Ayad Allawi and some others in Iraqiya walked out of that November 10th Parliament session. Why? He wanted the National Council to be voted on so it could become official. The Erbil Agreement made the National Council a board of review that had independence and true powers. And the deal was that Allawi would head it. Allawi sensed in the November 10th meeting that he was being played.
He was being played. And the National Council never did get created. All this time later. The rumors Al Rafidayn reported on could, if true, actually indicate some progress or progression in Iraq. However, yesterday evening, Aswat al-Iraq reported that Maysoun al-Damalouji, Iraqiya's spokesperson, was stating that no agreement had been reached. Aswat al-Iraq identifies Iraqiya's Shakir Kattab as the original source for the rumor and notes that the National Coalition denied any agreement had been reached. As Al Mada notes, this conflict has now raged for over a year and a half and, as it continues, there is a fear that this impass will become a norm in Iraqi politics.
That is one obstacle. February 3rd, the US Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing and the Chair, Carl Levin, noted obstacles in his opening remarks.
Chair Carl Levin: Last December, after eight months of discussions, Iraq's political leaders agreed to form a national unity government. But the agreement was only partial. Iraq still awaits the nominations by Prime Minister al-Maliki to the key cabinet positions of Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Minister of National Security as well as the resolution of issues relating to the powers of the National Council on Higher Priorities, to be headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The pressure on the Iraqi government to fill in these large gaps must continue.
The National Council we've noted above. Iraq still has no Minister of Defense, no Minister of Interior and no Minister of National Security. It's three months since Senator Levin made those remarks. It's over five months since Nouri became prime minister and over six since he became prime minister-designate. (Per the Constitution, he should not have moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister unless he filled all the posts in his Cabinet. Per the Constitution, if he couldn't do that in 30 days -- and he couldn't -- then Parliament was supposed to select a new prime minister-designate and give them a chance to put together a Cabinet.
As violence continues to rise, Nouri al-Maliki still can't get his act together. Parliament will be taking a vacation shortly. Still no rush to fill the posts. These are the three security ministries. They are vacant. (Nouri insists that he is filling all three posts -- and being Prime Minister -- while they are empty. If so, it's past time that he was called out for the lousy job he's doing on security.) Not only is violence on the rise but Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) points out that government officials are now being targeted and "the latest wave of violence in the country, especially in past few weeks, has raised questions about the ability of Iraqi security forces to protect the country as the United States plans to have all its troops out of Iraq by the end of this year."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a police officer left injured in a Kirkuk attack, a Hawija roadside bombing which injured two people, a Baquba roadside bombing injured an imam and claimed the lives of 2 other people (one of which was the imam's son), 2 workers for "the Iraqi intelligence facility" were shot dead in Baghdad, and Col Nameer Khazaal was shot dead in Baghdad. Aswat al-Iraq notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers leaving eight others injured, a Tikrit sticky bombing injured a police director (and his driver and the police director's legs were amputated."
We're not done. May 8th there was an attempted prison break. From the May 9th snapshot:
Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report on a prison break aatempt of a suspect, Huthaifa Batawi, in the October 31st assault on Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church. The death toll is 11 prisoners and six police officers: "The prisoners Sunday overpowered guards and killed a senior counter-terrorism general and five others before they were detained or shot dead. It was unclear how many detainees participated in the mayhem that lasted several hours." Jack Healy (New York Times) explains, "The melee inside the Baghdad prison began around 10 p.m. on Saturday when the man believed to have masterminded the church attack, Huthaifa al-Batawi, seized a police lieutenant's pistol, shot him in the head and led other inmates on a rampage, the officials said. It was unclear exactly where Mr. Batawi was when he grabbed the gun, but the authorities said that he and the other inmates had not been handcuffed, making it easier for them to overpower their captors, break out of a holding area and overrun the jail." Philip Caufield (New York Daily News) adds, "After killing his captors, al-Batawi freed nearly a dozen members of his crew, who snatched a cache of weapons -- including guns and grenades -- and attempted to overrun the prison, officials said." al-Batawi is among the dead.
Today a prison break. Alsumaria TV reports, "An Iraqi informed security source revealed on Friday that five chiefs of the Mehdi Army managed to escape from Taji prison, north of Baghdad. Three detainees were reported missing while transferring them to Karkh central prison, the Justice Ministry said. A special force from Prime Minister's office headed on Thursday night to Taji Prison, nothern Baghdad, to transfer detainees to one of the capital's prisons, the source told Alsumarianews. Five chiefs of the Mehdi Army including senior leader Saad Sowar managed to escape during the transfer, the source said." New Sabah states that 182 detainees were being transferred when the escape took place.
Yesterday US President Barack Obama gave another pretty speech. Iraqis were not impressed. Salar Jaff and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report on the reaction at a Baghdad cafe and quote college student Ahmed Qoraishi stating, "Don't tell me the 'Arab Spring' is due to his efforts. On the contrary, I can tell that, deep inside, the Americans prefer a dictator here or there if they take care of the American national interests." Al Sabaah notes that some observers in Iraq feel Barack has contradicted himself and remember the campaign promises of 2008 and his Cario speech in 2009 -- how both years found him insisting that the internal affairs of Arab countries were their affairs and the US didn't need to interfere. Al Sabbah also points out that the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq has still not taken place. The Great Iraqi Revolution observes, "In his speech to the Arab World, asks Arab Leaders to respect their people and carry out reforms; he also mentioned all the Arab Revolts but did not mention the Iraqi Revolution whatsoever" and "Of course he would not mention us -- we are under their occupation and we are being ruled by his quizzlings but he is going to be surprised pretty soon!!!!!!" In the US, Trina observed, "Barack's decided he is the world's savior and set forward a list of conditions and pre-conditions that all nations will follow or else. [. . .] This was an awful speech and it was also a major one. It's the Barack Doctrine. The speech today is the equivalent of the 1999 Chicago speech Tony Blair made that became known as the Blair Doctrine. "
From the US War Maker to a US peace maker, activsts and artist and inspiration Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book
The day was downcast, but the wonderful high school seniors from Brooklyn Collaborative School standing in the rain on Fifth Avenue were not. You could say they were upcast. They were living proof that daring and principled teachers could raise their students' consciousness about the material and political costs of our current wars and integrate them into the anti-war movement.
It was the morning of May 18. About 8 or 9 kids, all Latino and African American, had joined the Grandmothers Against the War weekly vigil at Rockefeller Plaza. Their Social Economics teacher, Stephen Simons, thought it would make a good field trip to supplement their class discussions regarding the question: was the Iraq war a just one?
Seniors from the Brooklyn Collaborative Studies school at (photo by Rex Bounds)
the Grandmothers Against the War vigil May 18, 2011
It would have done your hearts good to join with them, just as it did our hearts. Every single one of the youngsters is going on to college -- one with a full scholarship to Bard College and one with a full scholarship to Franklin and Marshall College. I suspect this impressive feat is due in part to the influence of their teacher.
Carol Husten, a former teacher and member of the Granny Peace Brigade, began the event by drawing the kids out about their thoughts relative to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It became quickly apparent that the students were very well versed in the causes and effects of the war. When Ms. Husten asked them, for instance, why they thought we invaded Iraq when there were actually no weapons of mass destruction, one young man promptly replied, "Oil." They were also very aware of the fallacies spouted by military recruiters to lure kids into their ranks.
Barbara Harris, Chair of the Granny Peace Brigade Counter Recruitment Committee, explained Opt-Out options so that recruiters wouldn't be able to harass them in their homes. She told them that though they would be assured of being trained for all sorts of non-fighting jobs, in actuality they would be trained for only one thing -- combat!
Vietnam veteran and member of the Veterans for Peace, Bill Steyert, described the horrors and the immorality of the Vietnam war and urged the young people to stay out of the military.
At that point, the kids read to us a statement they prepared for our event, as follows:
"In May of 2003, former President Bush stated the Iraq War was part of 'Mission Accomplished.' Last year, 2010, President Obama shared that troops would come home by August 2011. Please, Mr. President, keep your word. No May 18th, 2012 with our troops in Iraq, no American troops engaged in warfare in our name. For the future of this country, re-do the American military budget. Switch for education and peace."
One of the students, Miguel Gomez, the person going to Franklin and Marshall, had this to say when asked what his conclusion was as to whether the Iraq war was a just one:
Iraq war is one of the most controversial wars that impacted society.
Thousands of innocent civilians died in Iraq, thousands of our own men died
and to this day they are still recovering dead bodies. I believe the
Iraq war is an unjust war because of the amounts of
lives that were taken in vain due to an unclear cause, and because we
destroyed a country that never hurt us. The
living conditions in Iraq are worse in comparison to
Saddam Hussein's control in the past. We are enemies to ourselves because we
are hurting another country, killing our own men, and hurting our economy.
Bring our Troops Home !!"
Senior Andrea Navarro, who will
be attending the College of Staten Island in the fall, answered the same
question this way:
"I believe the war in Iraq was an unjust one. We
went in for mysterious reasons and it has taken away funds needed at home for
education and health care."

We were extremely inspired by these marvelous youngsters. We have long bemoaned the fact that there are no youths in today's anti-war movement -- we believe that without them policy cannot be changed, as it was in the Vietnam era. But the Brooklyn kids gave us hope that they can reverse the inertia of their generation about the wars and lead the way for them to become committed peace activists.
We grannies will not be here forever, and we urgently need to believe others will follow us and continue our struggle for peace. The Brooklyn high school students helped assure us we needn't worry.
Postscript: We were delighted to learn after the vigil that one of the students told
his classmates as they left that he had thought about joining the military, but after hearing Barbara Harris describe the truth about the recruiters' phony promises he had changed his mind.
ABC News Radio reports on the annual mental health survey for the Army which finds "actue stress and combined psychological problmes in 2010 is more than double what it was in 2005." That's surprising how? This issue's been raised before Congress in one hearing after another during the last five years. Lot of talk, lot of promises from the Defense Dept Secretary Robert Gates. No changes. Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) reports of the study:

Senior US military officials say they are hopeful that the research will provide insights into better caring for American soldiers currently facing "incredibly high" levels of combat.
The increased exposure to heavy fighting appears to be the No. 1 reason for the decrease in morale among soldiers, according to US military officials. "As a group, we were struck by the fact that levels of combat are extremely high," says Col. Paul Bliese, director of the division of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington.
Nearly two-thirds of the respondents in the survey, for example, reported having roadside bombs explode "near" them, and more than three-quarters of troops surveyed say that they had seen a fellow soldier in their unit killed.
Some 80 percent reported "shooting at [the] enemy," and nearly half, 48 percent, said they were "responsible for the death of [a] combatant."

So "senior US military officials say they are hopeful that the research will provide insights," are they? Again, five years of this nonsense. The definition of insanity may need to be changed to "expecting Congress to solve the nation's problems."

Zooming in on women veterans, Shari Roan (Los Angeles Times) reports from the American Psychiatric Association, "In the study, presented this week, researchers studied 922 National Guard members -- including 91 women -- under mandatory deployment to Iraq in 2008. The guard members were screened using mental-health measures before deployment and three months after deployment. The study found that women were much more likely than men to meet the criteria for PTSD after returning home -- 18.7% of women had PTSD compared with 8.7% of men. There were no significant differences between men and women in their level of combat exposure. The women were much less likely to feel well-prepared for combat before deployment and were more likely to report a lack of unit cohesion during deployment."
Gee. Why might there be a problem with unit cohesion?

WENDY BARRANCO: My first experience with sexual harassment was with my recruiter...

NATHAN PELD: There was a young girl who I went to nuke school with who was working in our divisional office...

BARRANCO: Through that whole deployment I was harassed like every single day, I dreaded every day I went to work...

PELD: And she had a direct superior come in, and they had talked for a while, just genuine conversation, and then he dropped his pants and exposed himself to her...

BARRANCO: And I never reported it because it was just - I knew command wasn't going to do anything about it so there was no point...

PELD: When this reached the senior enlisted commander in my department he took it and tried to initiate a cover up...

BARRANCO: The last thing I would've imagined would've been joining an organization where by my own peers, by my own comrades I would've been harassed in that way.

PELD: Those members who try to play games of male dominance, you know, they receive all but a free pass.

That's from a text and audio report by Holly Kernan, Martina Castro and Rahsida Harmon for KALW News and the San Francisco Chronicle. One sexual assault victim explains in the report, "I felt really powerless and really helpless. You know, I was in this foreign country on a U.S. military base, an institution that wasn't really backing me up but that was in complete control of my life." Though they can be sexually assaulted and though many women have served in non-officially in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, women are prevented from certain positions. Irin Carmon (Jezebel) addresses that topic today and she also notes Anna Holmes' column on the topic for the Washington Post. From that column:
The policy against women assigned to ground combat units has been in effect since the beginning of the U.S. military. (Regulations forbidding women to serve as crew members of planes and ships engaged in combat weren't even lifted until the mid-'90s.) But as circumstances change -- asymmetric wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: higher numbers, expanding opportunities and growing visibility of women in uniform -- it's becoming increasingly clear that the next blow against the military's bulletproof glass ceiling will be directed against the ban on women in Special Forces.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Someone awakens

"Rise of the Obamabots" (Ted Rall, Information Clearing House):

Does Obama ever do anything right? Not often, but sure. And when he does, I shut up about it. Cartoonists and columnists who promote government policy are an embarrassment.

But that’s what “liberal” media outlets want in the age of Obama.

I can’t prove it in every case. (That’s how blackballing works.) The Nation and Mother Jones and Harper’s, liberal magazines that gave me freelance work under Clinton and Bush, now ignore my queries. Even when I offered them first-person, unembedded war reporting from Afghanistan. Hey, maybe they’re too busy to answer email or voicemail. You never know.

Other censors are brazen.

There’s been a push among political cartoonists to get our work into the big editorial blogs and online magazines that seem poised to displace traditional print political magazines like The Progressive. In the past, editorial rejections had numerous causes: low budgets, lack of space, an editor who simply preferred another creator’s work over yours.

Now there’ s a new cause for refusal: Too tough on the president.

I’ve heard that from enough “liberal” websites and print publications to consider it a significant trend.

A sample of recent rejections, each from editors at different left-of-center media outlets:

• “I am familiar with and enjoy your cartoons. However the readers of our site would not be comfortable with your (admittedly on point) criticism of Obama.”

• “Don’t be such a hater on O and we could use your stuff. Can’t you focus more on the GOP?”

• “Our first African-American president deserves a chance to clean up Bush’s mess without being attacked by us.”

I have many more like that.

What’s weird is that these cultish attitudes come from editors and publishers whose politics line up neatly with mine. They oppose the bailouts. They want us out of Afghanistan and Iraq. They disapprove of Obama’s new war against Libya. They want Obama to renounce torture and Guantánamo.

Obama is the one they ought to be blackballing. He has been a terrible disappointment to the American left. He has forsaken liberals at every turn. Yet they continue to stand by him. Which means that, in effect, they are not liberals at all. They are militant Democrats. They are Obamabots.

Sorry to again note the obvious but Ava and C.I. have long covered this terrain. Unlike Ted Rall, they didn't need to awaken because they were never asleep.

They've covered the cult-like behavior, they've stood up to it. They did so in early 2008 and continued all the way through. Rall can't make that claim.

When he notes the following: "Does Obama ever do anything right? Not often, but sure. And when he does, I shut up about it. Cartoonists and columnists who promote government policy are an embarrassment.," I'm left remembering all of Ava and C.I.'s calling out of Saturday Night Like the most recent one.

"TV: The show that keeps getting worse" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
Despite being a public figure for many years now, Barack's never gotten the Saturday Night Live treatment. It's why past SNL alumni consider the last two years the worst of Saturday Night Live. Seth & company have pulled the punches, have repeatedly refused to take on the powerful and turned the show that was the class clown into the teacher's pet.

I'm glad Ted Rall's speaking out. I hope it encourages others to do the same. But it's a shame that we're almost at the half-way point of the year and Ted feels he has to explain (repeatedly) why he doesn't care for Barack.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, May 18, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hears from the VA and DoD on 'progress,' the British military will finally be out of Iraq this Sunday . . . sort of, the US withdrawal remains a speculative point, a Tony Blair crony attempts to enrich himself off Iraqi oil, and more.
Starting in DC where Senator Patty Murray declared this morning, "I was shocked to hear of a veteran who, after receiving advanced prosthetics, from the military went to the VA to have them adjusted and maintained; however, when the veteran got to the prosethic clinic, the VA employees were fascinated by his device, having never seen that model before. More interested, he said, in examining it than him. With the rates of injuries requiring amputation rising, we need to have the best possible care. As of early March 2011, 409 Operation Enduring Freedom service members have needed limbs amputated." Operation Enduring Freedom is the Afghanistan War. The situation is serious and has been for years now. In 2004, Raja Mishra (Boston Globe) was reporting, "US troops injured in Iraq have required limb amputations at twice the rate of past wars". In it's Fall 2006 issue, Clamor magazine noted "that since the onset of the Iraq invasion and occupation upwards of 400 U.S. soldiers have come back needing amputations and prosthetics (30 percent have multiple amputations)."
Senator Murray was addressing the issue this morning as Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and tying it into other issues arising as service members become veterans and move from DoD to the VA. "It is imperative," Murray stated in her opening remarks," that those individuals receive a truly seamless handoff to VA medical care so a provider there can manage those medications after the individual has left the service. If that link is not made, those new veterans become far more likely to abuse drugs, become homeless or commit suicide." This morning's hearing was the first of a two-part hearing. Next week, the scheduled hearing's focus will be on veterans shairng their experiences in the care system. Today's hearing focused on the care giving and heared from VA's Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould and DoD's Deputy Secretary William Lynn.
Chair Murray outlined the conflicts and the Ranking Member noted the time since a scandal lit a fire -- at least temporarily -- and put a strong focus on meeting the needs of veterans and those serving.
Ranking Member Richard Burr: It has now been four years since the issues at Walter Reed [Army Medical Center] came to light and I cannot help but wonder if what we have done is to just create more bureacracy? One are that was implemented at the suggestion of the Dole - Shalala Commission is the Federal Recovery Coordination Program. As this program was visualized, the government would hire Federal Recovery Coordinators to help veterans and their families navigate all of the benefits the service members were entitled to throughout the entire federal governement. Unfortunately, this is a perfect example of an idea that look great on paper but has not yet lived up to expectations. A recent GAO report on the program shows that there are still problems with the two agencies working together.
"Whether you're talking about employment or medical records or mental health counseling -- the list goes on and on -- we have an obligation," Senator Jon Tester added.
The opening statements (written) by the two witnesses contained some information worth noting. Before we get to that, at the request of a veteran present, we're noting that the VA's Gould felt the need to note how many veterans were enrolled in the GI Bill program. The problem was not enrolling, the problem was getting them their checks. And if VA is doing that currently (they apparently are), they should have noted it. But that defect is minor compared to William Lynn's problem.
We've already noted her but let's do it one more time: Senator Patty Murray.
She is the Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee. I would have thought the name "Patty" -- as opposed to "Paddy" -- would have clued people in as to the senator's gender. Not only does Lynn's written statement end, "Mr. Chairman, thank you again for your support . . .," but he also read that statement out loud -- without glasses so he can see what's immediately in front of him but he appears to have long range vision issues since he was addressing Patty Murray and didn't grasp the "she." If you're going to use the term "chairman" (we don't, we use the gender neutral "chair"), it is either "Mister Chairman" or "Madam Chairman." It is the latter when the chair is a woman. I cannot believe no one at the Defense Dept read over a DoD Deputy Secretary's prepared remarks before they were sent to the Committee.
From Gould's opening (prepared) remarks, we're going to note some date regarding the VA's efforts with preventing suicides. 1-800-273-8255 is the number for the suicide prevention hotline and veterans then press 1. Gould noted the call center started July 2007 and has:
* Received over 400,000 calls;
* Initiated over 14,000 rescues;
* Referred over 53,000 veterans to local Suicide Prevention Coordinators for the same day or next day services
* Answered calls from over 5,000 Active Duty service members
* The call center is responsible for an average of 300 admissions a month to VA health care facilities and 150 new enrollments a month for VA health care.
The Veterans Service Chat started in July 2009 and it has "responded to over 15,000 chats."
In his opening remarks, Lynn stated, "Today's average IDES processing time is approximately 400 days from referral to post-separation, down from 540 days. The goal of IDES is to bring processing time down under 300 days and a tiger team is currently devising means to reduce this further" Murray refers to that statement at the start of the following hearing excerpt:
Chair Patty Murray: Secretary Lynn, you said that you want to go beyond the 300 days. We're not there yet. When do we expect to reach the goal of 300 days?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: The hope is to have the system which is now implemented in about half -- or for half the service members, half the 26,000. We hope to have that system fully implemented by the end of this-this year. So that's this fiscal year, so this fall.
Chair Patty Murray: And the 13,000 that Secretary Gould talked about that are in the new system?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: The 13 and then there's another 14,000 or so that are in the old system. We want to transition those over the next six or so months into the new system. What we found though, as we transitioned them in, what happens is that initially we actually get quite a lowering of the number of days frankly as we work through the more routine cases on-on the faster system. But then what we tend is that the time tends to come back up as we hit the harder backlog of cases. We need to work our way through that backlog which is what we're doing now with the existing cases so that data's actually gone up from where it was last fall. But we're working our way through that backlog. We're going to get our way through that backlog. We'll then have a system where we're taking members who enter -- who start in the new system and finish in the new system. At that point, we should hit that 295 days. I can't give you a date but I would say --
Chair Patty Murray: Are we talking months, years?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: I would say one-to-two years.
Chair Patty Murray: It will still take that long just to get people --
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: I would hope to do it in less -- do it in a shorter period of time, but I don't want to overpromise.
Chair Patty Murray: Is there anything this Committee can do to help expadite that because these are individuals who are living in limbo?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Well I think both departments are committed to putting the resources to working through the backlogs and also, when you go to a new system, you create transition difficulties, you end up -- you need to surge resources to uh-uh-uh bases and facilities that are having problems. So we've -- we've committed with our VA partners to do that, it's going to take over $700 million over several years, so we're certainly looking -- We'll -- We'll present that in our budget. We'll certainly look for Congressional support to spend those resources.
Chair Patty Murray: Well this Committee needs to know honestly what the budget needs are because this is an obligation. We throw around 13,300 names, these are individuals who are living through this. And I'm very conscious of that. So I want to work with you but we need honest budgets from both of you about what that will take.
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Absolutely.
Chair Patty Murray: I referenced something in my opening remarks I want to ask about. The Department of Defense provided this Committee with information on those service members who have died while they were enrolled in the Joint Disability Program. Of the 34 deaths, 13 were suicides or drug overdoses. That is very troubling information. That means that the rate of suicide for those that are going through this program is more than double the rate of the Army or of the Marine Corps. So I wanted to ask both of you what your respective departments are doing to address this troubling trend of suicides within the Joint Disability Program?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Well should start agreeing with you, Chairman. The level of suicides is-is too high frankly. It's-it's too high Department wide. It's -- It is, as you note, higher, uh, with the people facing the challenges with disabilities -- It is -- Certainly they have a more challenging life, uh, uh and we need to do everything that we can to ease those challenges. Part of it is what we've just discussed to make that -- the disability transition -- that transition from DoD to VA as, uh, as expeditious and as congenial as poss -- as possible. It's what we're about. We also need to support family members of service members with disabilities, uh, strongly in terms of the care coordinators, in terms of wounded warrior transition units. We need to inform families what are the warning signs for suicide --
Chair Patty Murray: You're saying that we need to do that. Are we doing that?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Yes, we are.
Chair Patty Murray: And how is that being done?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Well -- uh -- The system -- the system's in place -- right now we work with care coordinators to-to alert them to the signs --
Chair Patty Murray: Actively? So everybody's invovled in this?
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: Actively. Everybody's involved in this. The warrior transition units are-are particularly trained to look for signs and they're trained in how to deal with those. We have a broader suicide prevention system. We pay particular attention to the families of service members because they are the most likely to, uh, be in a position to, uh, observe the early warning signs.
Chair Patty Murray: Something isn't working when we have this high number. So, you know, is it -- Can you give me ideas or even a commitment to go back and take a look at these numbers and really look at our outreach? What are we doing to help support our families? Is it over use of drugs? And come back to us because this is just unacceptable.
Deputy Secretary William Lynn: The numbers are too high and I'm happy to come back to you.
Chair Patty Murray: Secretary Gould, how about in the VA?
Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould: . . . [inaudible, microphone wasn't on] that list of individuals from DoD who had committed suicide, it's heart rending. As Secretary Lynne just said, we are very focused on making sure this transition goes well. The individuals who -- thank you [to the man who adjusted his microphone -- the individuals who obviously are in that data are all on active duty and under the care of the DoD during that time. What we're trying to do is back stop in that process. VA is moving in parallel while those individuals are getting direct care and Bill has mentioned all of the various attritubes in that. When transition time does come, VA is very focused on making sure that we are working to prevent suicides, are conducting outreach and public education, we're amping up the resources that we bring to the fight on these issues, we're working to destigmatize it, we have a national crisis line that has served over 400,000 people, 14,000 saves since 2007. We're working very, very hard in a --
Chair Patty Murray: Now that's a result of the Joshua Omvib bill that we all worked to pass and support, I know that. But I just want to say, Secretary Gould, I'm -- I'm very concerned about the high number of suicides as I just said. But knowing that, we need to double our efforts with soldiers who are coming out of that program and are leaving.
Again, next Wednesday the Committee is scheduled to hear veterans share the reality of what is taking place from their experiences. Trina's senator on the Committee is Senator Scott Brown and Ava will cover Brown's contributions from today's hearing at Trina's site tonight.
In related news, Senator Murray's office notes:
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, applauded the announcement by the Department of Veterans of Affairs (VA) that they have started accepting and processing applications for the critical caregiver benefits program. After only a week and a half, the VA has assisted over 625 veterans, servicemembers, and caregivers apply to receive the new benefits provided under the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010. This program will provide much-needed and long-awaited financial and health care support to family members caring for severely wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
"I'm very pleased that in the first week and a half of accepting applications
for this critical program, the VA has helped more than 625 veterans, servicemembers, and family caregivers start the process to receive new
benefits," said Chairman Murray. "Family members who have left behind
careers, lives, and responsibilites to care for their loved ones while they
recover from wounds they suffered defending our country can finally start
receiving the financial support and care they need and deserve."
Applications can be processed by telephone through Caregiver Support Line
at (855) 260-3274, in person at a VA medical Center with a Caregiver Support Coordinator by mail or online at with the new Caregiver Application (VA Form 1010-CG). The website application also features a chat option that provides the Family Caregiver with a live representative to assist in completeing the application form.
As Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, Murray has led congressional efforts to push the VA to stop delaying the implementation of the caregivers' benefits programs and restore the eligibility criteria to the intend of Congress when the Caregivers program was passed last year. In fact, since the criteria limiting elegibility criteria to the intent of Congress when the Caregivers program was passed last year. In fact, since the criteria limiting eligibility for certain caregivers was announced by the VA in early February of this year Senator Murray has taken numerous steps to fight the decision including:
* Personally discussing the issue with President Obama in the Oval Office.
* Questioning VA Secretary Eric Shinseki on the program changes and delays in front of her Committee.
* Sending a bi-partisan letter, cosigned by 17 other Senators, calling on the Administration to end delays in moving forward with the law, and
* Joining with leaders of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committees to call on President Obama to stop the VA from severely limiting the benefit.

Evan Miller

Specialty Media Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray


Last Wednesday, Nouri al-Maliki raised the issue and said if 70% of the political players agreed to extend the US presence, then that's what would happen. Mohammed A. Salih (Rudaw) offers four perspectives on US forces leaving Iraq from four political participants. Just as the Kurdish view (stay) was long known, so was the opinion of the relatively small Sadr bloc. So we'll ignore those two. Any observer paying attention should have long ago learned not to trust State Of Law. In addition, per Nouri's edict -- have we all forgotten -- only he or his spokesperson can speak for the government so we'll ignore the State Of Law statement. Iraqiya has remained a wildcard for many observers (including in the US government). One MP from the Iraqiya political slate, Haidar Mullah, shares an opinion which may or may not represent the consensus within Iraqiya:

The law and the constitution are run by political groups; therefore we believe that the imminent withdrawal of American troops will not have a positive impact on general security in Iraq.
We support the withdrawal, but it should be done in an orderly manner and not before several conditions are met, including the consolidation of the concept of national partnership, the disarmament of political parties and other groups -- only the state should carry weapons -- , and the development of the army and security forces into national forces that are protected from political meddling.
Also, agreements that Iraq has signed to procure weapons for its army must be carried out quickly, because the Iraqi army is not ready to maintain the security of the country and its borders. A hasty withdrawal of American troops would allow some neighboring countries, especially Iran, to further strengthen their existing influence on Iraq's internal issues.
We do not believe that the presence of invading forces in Iraq will lead to the development of the country -- on the contrary; the presence of such forces will further weaken Iraq. However, it is not only the US that has invaded Iraq; Iran has invaded as well, but in a more secretive manner.
Iran's secretive role in Iraq has allowed Iran to strongly rival the US in Iraq. Iran has weapons, forces, and militias inside Iraq and fights the US in Iraqi territory. Therefore, you can say that we support the withdrawal of US troops, but at the same time have fears about another occupation in which Iran would replace the US. This would be much worse than the US invasion.

Again, that view may or may not be representative of the Iraqiya bloc as a whole. Moqtada al-Sadr's viewpoint is most likely represented in this report from the Fars News Agency:

Chairman of Iran's Expediency Council Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq would pave the ground for the establishment of security in the occupied country.
Speaking in a meeting with the visiting Head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al-Hakim, here in Tehran on Tuesday, Rafsanjani said full transfer of sovereignty and responsibility of affairs to the Iraqi people would pave the ground for the country's independence and security.

To call the issue of withdrawal 'confusing' is an understatement, especially for US troops on the ground in Iraq. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "'How many of you know when you're going to be going home?' Gen. Martin Dempsey, the US Army's top general, asked a group of soldiers during a recent visit to Baghdad. Only a handful raised their hands." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times' At War blog) notes, "Wherever American military leaders turn in Iraq, they are peppered with a question they don't seem to be able to answer: Will the United States keep its troops in Iraq after 2011? The answers, sought by Iraqis, reporters and American soldiers, are as redundant as they are critical to Iraq's future. American military leaders say it's not up to them." Gerald Greene (Gather) adds, "Should the US and Iraq agree on some level of American troops to stay in Iraq beyond December 31 there would likely still be an increased risk of violence directed towards those troops. The number of troops that Iraq is likely to let stay in Iraq would be fairly small as they would be serving in a limited training capacity for the Iraq army. It is likely that the reduced level of troops would be in extreme danger as the Shiite militias would still want to take credit for driving them out. It is increasingly clear that the militias will fight to drive all American troops out of Iraq."
Further confusing the issue, the White House issued the following yesterday:

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 17, 2011 Message from the President regarding the continuation of the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq

May 17, 2011

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

Section 202(d) of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1622(d)) provides for the automatic termination of a national emergency unless, prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the President publishes in the Federal Register and transmits to the Congress a notice stating that the emergency is to continue in effect beyond the anniversary date. In accordance with this provision, I have sent the enclosed notice to the Federal Register for publication continuing the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq. This notice states that the national emergency with respect to the stabilization of Iraq declared in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as modified in scope and relied upon for additional steps taken in Executive Order 13315 of August 28, 2003, Executive Order 13350 of July 29, 2004, Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, and Executive Order 13438 of July 17, 2007, is to continue in effect beyond May 22, 2011.

Obstacles to the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I have determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency with respect to this threat and maintain in force the measures taken to deal with that national emergency.

Recognizing positive developments in Iraq, the United Nations Security Council decided, in Resolution 1956 (2010), to terminate on June 30, 2011, arrangements concerning the Development Fund for Iraq established in Resolutions 1483 (2003) and 1546 (2004). The Security Council also called upon the Iraqi government to finalize the full and effective transition to a post‑Development Fund mechanism by June 30, 2011. My Administration will evaluate Iraq's ongoing efforts in this regard, as well as its progress in resolving outstanding debts and claims arising from actions of the previous regime, so that I may determine whether to continue beyond June 30, 2011, the prohibitions contained in Executive Order 13303 of May 22, 2003, as amended by Executive Order 13364 of November 29, 2004, on any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process with respect to the Development Fund for Iraq, the accounts, assets, and property held by the Central Bank of Iraq, and Iraqi petroleum‑related products, which are in addition to the sovereign immunity accorded Iraq under otherwise applicable law.


The US declaring (again) Iraq a national emergency? That would appear to lay the groundwork for the continued occupation of Iraq. It would also beg the question of what the hell the fools in the administration who want the US to remain in Iraq think is being accomplished? Eight years. A non-functioning puppet government. And the US still continues Iraq a national emergency? Is Barack prepared to commit the US to eight more years in Iraq?

On that non-functioning puppet government, New Sabah reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh is stating that the Cabinet approved a "law on freedom of expression, assembly and peaceful demonstration." Which means what? First, the Constitution already guarantees those rights. Second, never believe anything Nouri says (or what his flack says). Third, the Cabinet does not pass laws. Nour is trying to circumvent the Constitution and trying to force Parliament to stop writing laws and only take up the Cabinet's proposals. But even in that power-grab, Nouri was not attempting to pass laws.
June 7th, the stalling tactic ends (or is supposed to). That's the deadline Nouri al-Maliki created to divert frustration against his 'leadership.' As protests became the norm in Iraq, Nouri proposed "100 Days" -- 'give me 100 days and corruption in government will be addressed.' 100 days is supposed to come to an end June 7th. New Sabah reports that Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has declared that when the 100 days is reached, the government will face a critical situation which will include not only the refusal to comply with the Erbil Agreement (an agreement hammered out to end the political stalemate that lasted over nine months) and but the inability for the National Alliance to come together on nominees for the security ministries. He notes Iraq has now been without heads of security ministries for five months (Minister of Interior, Minister of National Security and Minister of Defense).

In a comment on the continued inability to form a functioning government in Iraq, Chuck Larlham (Gather) includes the following:

The coalition Iraqi government began badly and deteriorated. Allawi demanded several ministerial seats, and embroiled parliament in electing as many as three "Deputy Presidents" as a way to partially fill the need for ministerial level slots. Nouri al-Maliki eventually threatened to dissolve Parliament in April. Then, on Monday, May 16, there was a rumor that al-Maliki had issued a warrant for the arrest of Ayad Allawi. All parties denied it, and it may have been based on a case filed against the former leader in Iraq's western Wasit province.

Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports that al-Hashemi is concerned about the increase in political assassinations and that he met with US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey Tuesday with the two discussing the Erbil Agreement and the failure to implement it as well as Jeffrey passing on congratulations to al-Hashemi from US President Barack Obama on al-Hashemi's re-election as vice president. (al-Hashemi is one of three vice presidents. The other two are Shi'ite, he is Sunni.)

While the outcome of the 100 days is seen as a reflection on Nouri al-Maliki, he and his supporters in State Of Law continue to attempt to spin the outcome. They've apparently dropped (at least for now) their assertion that a poor outcome will reflect badly on those who backed certain candidates (and not on Nouri) and now, al Sabaah reports, are insisting that 6 ministries have achieved and, big surprise, State Of Law can claim credit. (The six are the Ministries of Youth; Sports; Justice; Industry and Minerals; Health, Financial and Muncipalities; and Public Works.) As they crow, they also state they are ready to begin whittling down the staff for the ministries. With more on that last issue, Alsumaria TV notes:

"The State of Law Coalition is unsatisfied about the fact that there are three vice presidents, three deputy ministers and 44 ministers in addition to many positions", State of Law Coalition senior official Haidar Al Ibadi told Alsumarianews.
"The Prime Minister wants to reduce the government's ministries, political parties however did not approve yet", Al Ibadi said.
"Following the vote on Vice Presidents, State of Law Coalition called to reduce the government's ministries and cut off the number of ministers. The State of Law is ready to cede the ministries that are deemed unnecessary", he continued.

The Erbil Agreement allowed second place State Of Law to 'win' and Nouri to become prime minister-designate in exchange for certain positions for Iraqiya (and also for clearing the name of several Iraqiya members who were tarred and feathered by the so-called Justice and Accountability Commission to prevent them from running for public office). Nouri got what he wanted and immediately trashed the agreement. Hopes that the agreement by restored in some manner appear to be faint. Al Mada explains that no invitation has gone out from KRG President Massoud Barzani to Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya). There was talk of a meet-up between Barzani, Allawi and al-Maliki. That seems less likely today. (Who knows about tomorrow.)
Violence continues in Iraq with Reuters noting a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Mosul assassination attempt on "the manager of the police internal affairs department," Baghdad sticky bombings attached to two tanker trucks resulting in 1 death and one person lfet injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people.
Turning to the issue of bad (offensive) reporting and dropping back to Saturday:

While all this goes on, the New York Times attempts to channel Lily Tomlin's The Tasteful Lady. At least Lily played that for laughs. Michael S. Schmidt and Yasir Ghazi toss around terms like "tacky" leading one to wonder how far up the food chain reporters think they are? The police tell the American outlet judging Iraqi taste that they don't have the people to police such an issue. Nor would such an issue be a crime, but the paper seems to forget that. The police don't say, but should, that in the powder keg that is Iraq, looking for new ways to piss citizens off would probably enrage the population even more.

Yes, the article was insulting. Yesterday Margaret Hartmann (Jezebel) observed:

After years of having drab colors and building regulations foisted on them by Saddam Hussein's government, the Iraqi people are now free to decorate as they see fit. The New York Times reports that this has given rise to some really unusual color choices for buildings. In other words, it's the ugliest effing country they've ever seen.

It's interesting to learn that Iraq has exploded in a "riot of color," now that the government isn't mandating that most buildings be made of beige brick, with color usually reserved for mosques. However, the Times reports this in the bitchiest way possible.

Margaret Harmann notes Matt Welch (Reason) commenting on the NYT article: "Maybe I'm having a case of the Mondays, but it seems to me every last thing about this article is contemptible."
Mvoing over to England, where Gordon Brown, while briefly prime minister, liked to claim he pulled British troops out of Iraq. It was a nice fantasy. After Iraq decided to end the UN mandate (decision passed on to the United Nations in December of 2007), England had to enter into their own agreement with Iraq -- which they did because, otherwise, they would have had to leave Iraq December 31, 2008. By instead entering into their own agreements, the allowed the BBC to run many comical headlines such as December 17, 2008 "UK troops to leave Iraq 'by July'" (according to Gordon Brown) and November 24th, 2010 "UK troops 'to leave Iraq in May'." Like his American counterpart, Gordon loved to split hairs. He announced the end of the "combat operations" April 30, 2009 (and pronounced the illegal war a "success story").
Like Tony Blair, who started the British involvement in the Iraq War, Gordon Brown is now out of office. The Iraq War was such a stain on the Labour Party that they lost the prime ministership. From May 2, 1997 until May 11, 2010, the United Kingdom was presided over by a prime minister from the Labour Party. The UK Ministry of Defence notes that 179 British soldiers died in the Iraq War. After all of that, finally today Theo Usherwood (Press Association) can report, "The UK's military operation in Iraq will finally end this weekend when the Royal Navy completes its mission to train the country's sailors, Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said." Nick Hopkins (Guardian) terms the Iraq War "one of the most controversial military campaigns in recent history" and notes, "Britain's eight years of military commitment in Iraq will finally and formally come to and on Sunday, when the remaining forces in the south of the country will withdraw." But even then . . . Claire Sadler (British Forces News -- link has text and video) explains, "While this marks the end of Operation Telic, the UK will continue to support the NATO Training Mission in Iraq as the second-largest contributor, leading on officer training and education."
As Great Britain continues to struggle at extracting itself from Iraq, Today's Zaman reports that a Turkish general is lamenting that Turkey didn't take part in the Iraq War. The ex-Chief of General Staff Gen Ilker Basbug's upcoming book The End of Terrorist Organizations (Teror Orgutlerinin Sonu) contains the following passage, "When the government motion [to allow military cooperation with the US] failed to get enough votes in Parliament on March 1, 2033. Turkey missed once again an opportunity to marginalize the PKK." Today's Zaman goes on to state, "According to excerpts published in Hurriyet, Basbug argues that it would have been possible to contain the PKK militans based in the mountains of northern Iraq if the March 1 vote had produced a different result."
Maybe the general also misses the chance to know people to ask favors of? Kim Sengupta (Independent) reports Jeremy Greenstock, then-prime minister Tony Blair's special envoy to Iraq, began lobbying the Iraqi government on behalf of British Petroleum three months after he left public service. Three months. Sengupta reports:

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments had specifically asked Sir Jeremy not to visit Iraq on business, nor have commercial dealings with companies there, for six months after taking up the post of special adviser with BP in June 2004. However, three months later Sir Jeremy and the then BP chief executive Lord Browne, met Mr Allawi during his visit to London. An internal email by an official in the Department of Trade and Industry said: "BP Meeting: in the end, BP decided they wanted a "private" meeting (Allawi, Lord Brown [sic], Sir Jeremy Greenstock and Mike Daly, President BP Middle East) so I dropped out."

We started with the US Congress, we'll close with it. As noted during Sandy Berger's scandal,I know Sandy (and like him). Once he admitted that he did what he was accused of (smuggled documents out that weren't supposed to leave), he lost the right -- my opinion -- to ever take an appointed office again. He broke the public's trust. But if he runs for public office and voters say "YES!" that's between him and the voters. In Texas, a War Criminal wants to run for the US Senate. Since no charges were brought against him, this will end up being between him and the voters. Kelley B. Vlahos ( reports on Ricardo Sanchez' political hopes:

Sanchez is probably best known for his role in the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison scandal. He's in the headlines again—this time for throwing his hat into the ring for U.S Senate in Texas.

In 2006, Sanchez retired from the Army a year after evidence emerged that he had approved the use of dogs for intimidation, sleep deprivation, withholding of food and water and other harsh interrogation methods at the infamous detention center.

Although Sanchez was cleared of wrongdoing in official reports, a leaked memo released by the ACLU in 2005 showed the former commander of U.S. forces may have set into motion the events that led to the graphic abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by importing extreme tactics from the Guantanamo Bay prison for use by military interrogators, private contractors and the National Guard soldiers policing the Iraqi prison.