Saturday, September 17, 2011

Look at their silence on Iraq

Marcia has long documented how worthless DC Blogger (Corrente) is: see here, here and here for three examples. C.I. notes DC Blogger's stupid post in the snapshot (in full below).

You know what? If I were the self-important DC Blogger, I'd -- First off, I'd apologize and seek therapy because I'd never be a centrist or an apologist for corporatism which is what DC Blogger has been repeatedly online.

As Marcia notes, DC Blogger is the most right-wing voice at Corrente.

That's nothing I want to read but, like C.I., my attitude would be to just roll my eyes and move on to something else; however, DC Blogger thought she could trash peace activists.

Were I grown woman who never acknowledged the Iraq War in my posts -- DC Blogger in the last three years -- I think I would know enough to keep my mouth shut when it came to peace efforts by others.

Let me further add that it is shameful Corrente does so damn little on either the Iraq or Afghanistan Wars. You could read Corrente for a full month and never know the US was engaged in wars.

But they can waste your time with:

OMG I just watched Al Jazeera so let me tell you about what's going on Egypt!!!!!

That's pretty damn stupid.

It's stupid because how informed are you from one source? Can you imagine if C.I. single-sourced for Iraq coverage?

But the Corrente kids can't even read a foreign language apparently -- not even one. (When I went to college, we were required to master a foreign langauge. I grabbed French and Russian. C.I., of course, mastered signing, French, Spanish, Italian and Arabic. She can also handle some forms of Mandarin.)

But will insist that watching Al Jazeera for a few hours has made them experts on, for example, the so-called Arab Spring.

As they focus on that, they will ignore the wars their own country is engaged in which strikes me as both stupid and chicken s**t.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, September 16, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri still can't play nice with others, a boom in housing construction doesn't lead to lower prices (hmm), peace efforts gear up for next month, and more.
We'll start with an excerpt from Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio) interviewing Kevin Zeese about Come Home America:
Scott Horton: I think that Come Home America is the most important thing in the whole world, why don't you tell everyone about it.
Kevin Zeese: Well Come Home America is an effort to bring people across the political spectrum together if they oppose war, militarism and empire. We don't care what your political views are on other issues, whether you're a Libertarian or a progressive, a liberal or a conservative, a Republican or a Democrat, or an independent or a third party member. We just want to bring people together who oppose war and militarism. We look at the power of the military industrial complex, the control of the Congress and we see that in order for us to be successful in challenging that military machine, we need to unite and put aside our other differences and unite to really work to reduce the political power of the military industrial complex and their minions in Congress.
Scott Horton: It occurs to me that you could probably use millions and millions of dollars, am I right?
Kevin Zeese: I think that's very true. You know the military industrial complex certainly spends hundreds of millions of dollars to control the political process. And we can't compete with them dollar for dollar but I think we can compete with them person for person. I think the more we get out the message about US empire and its negative impact on our national security, on people's lives around the world and on our economy, the more people who will support our views and the stronger we'll -- the quicker we'll end this militarism of our foreign policy.
Let's stay with peace for a bit more. DC Blogger (at Corrente) has justified one hundred one useless politicians over the years, had a real struggle coming to grips with the realities of Barack Obam (Corporatist War Hawk) and is most infamous for useless, "Call this 1-800 number and tell them . . ." I've never said a word about DC Blogger here (or elsewhere). I consider DC Blogger highly inept but that's my opinion and it wasn't necessary to share it. Unless and until DC Blogger becomes the problem. Such as Tuesday when DC Blogger did an offensive post at Corrente where he or she whined and stomped their feet over the actions of real activists. And what appears to have bothered DC Blogger the most was skin color. White was offensive, to DC Blogger who hated the activists because of their skin color. In 2011, if you have to bring in skin color to explain why you don't like someone, I'd argue you have some issues. DC Blogger's attack was joined by trashing from Twig and Lex in the comments. What the hell's going on at Corrente?
The video is street theater. And it has a point and purpose which is to make people think about the Iraq War. They were never rude, the activists, to anyone. They were polite and they smiled. (They could have been rude and it still would have been street theater. I'm sorry but Miss Manners doesn't rule in a movement. A movement is a group of people from all walks of life who will rarely agree 100% on anything other than core statements.) Watch the video here.
Activist: Remember when Barack Obama was a candidate and he inspired so much hope for change by saying things like this?
Barack Obama October, 2007: If we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Screen shot of a check 'from' Barack Obama for payment of "Priceless" to be made to "Citizens of the World."
INT. BANK OF AMERICA - DAY
Activist: Congratulations Bank of America, Cambridge branch. We come in peace to let you know that you are the winners of a promotion -- a promotion being held by the president of these United States of America who said on the campaign trail --
Barack Obama: We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.
Activist: Today we are at the Bank of America taking this to the bank. Is there any manager available who's like to pose for a photo op? We just want to know who we should give this to --
Bank employee: Come upstairs, I'm the banking center manager. I'd be happy to take it for you. So take all the pictures you'd like.
Activist: Is the Bank of America not the place to redeem this check? Bring the troops and the money home. Who should I --
Bank employee: Sir, could you please stop disturbing our customers?
Activist: So you're not willing -- you're not willing to bring -- the customer here all have the same check in their hands.
EXT. CITIZENS BANK - DAY
Activist: We went to Bank of America and they could not cash this check. We'd could establish an account here at Citizens Bank, the poetry of that for this priceless amount paid to Citizens of the World, bring the troops hom and redirect money towards human and environmental needs and could I have some popcorn?
Woman's voice: Yes, you can.
Activist: Alright!
INT. CITIZENS BANK - DAY
Bank employee2: We cannot have this.
Camera Operator: Yeah, yeah, we'll just be a minute.
Activist: So who should I give this check to? Who wants to bring the troops home and redirect that money towards human and environmental needs? Is there a local community bank we could go to?
Bank employee2: No, we cannot suggest anything. But you cannot stay in here.
Bank employee 1: Can you please? [He covers camera with his hand.]
INT. CITIBANK - DAY
Bank employee: We could not allow that in the branch.
Activist: We've been to several banks. We've been trying to make a deposit but now we realize that we need to make a withdrawal.
He signs the check on the back.
Activist: Listen the only reason I'm doing this today is because I know there are people out there who know, who feel in their bones that the representative democracy is not working the way it's supposed to. A majority of people want to tax the rich. A majority of the people want the wars to end bring those troops and those dollars home, spend them on environmental and human needs. That's not happening by who you vote for. So that's why I'm trying to redeem Barack Obama's promise and take it to the bank. Now imagine, just think, if one person a day did that, they would just think that that person was crazy and they would ignore him. Imagine if two people a day did that, they might think that they were lovers on a lark and they would have a little laugh. Imagine three -- no, imagine 50 people a day walking to a bank with that check and trying to withdraw all those troops based on Barack Obama, they might think it's a movement. That's what it is. The homecoming October 2011 movement Bring The Troops Home, bring the dollar home, spend it on human needs. Take care of the poor, tax the rich. All you have to do to join me is send me your e-mail [at TheHomecoming 2011@Gmail.com], join me in Freedom Plaza starting October 6th for the protests that will not go home, for the protests that will not go away
The video is both prompoting the October 2011 actions in DC and it's putting the war out there.
It's not any different from what CODEPINK does with regards to the war, the FCC or any number of issues. So I'm not grasping the offense. But I am grasping that the Iraq War doesn't exist at Corrente. They've got someone doing recipes, they've got someone doing plants, they've got someone doing books from time to time, they've got someone singing the praises of the state-owned (and subdued -- see WikiLeaks as well as criticism of the Libyan War coverage) Al Jazeera, they've got lots of stuff. They just don't cover the wars and they specifically refuse to acknowledge the Iraq War. When 15 lives were lost in the Iraq War in the month of June, Corrente didn't lead on the coverage or even do a single post on that topic. And I notice that DC Blogger refuses to tell people what the video is about -- ending the wars. There are a lot of people, please pay attention, who have hearing issues. They will never be able to enjoy a video that is not closed captioned. So all you blogger who think you're so wonderful by posting a link to a video or posting a video, please grasp that we all get that you live in a world where you are supreme and no one you know is challenged or disabled. We get it. How very lucky for you that realities never touched your circle. But that's not how it is for everyone.
So when you post a video, how about grasping that you NEED TO SAY WHAT HAPPENS IN THE VIDEO. Or you need to put a message that says: "If you're deaf or hearing challenged, this site doesn't welcome you and will not include you."
In addition to the deaf and hearing challenged (which does include a huge number of veterans of today's wars) there are people in rural areas who do not have DSL, there are people all over the country who cannot afford DSL, there are people who are still using computers with Windows 98 -- and some of those people are glad to have those computers. I realize that in the world of DC Blogger, no one's ever sick or ill or has any condition and they buy any laptop as soon as it rolls off the assembly line. But considering how often Corrente looks down on the "creative class" and tries to self-present as "of the people," I can't believe I'm having to offer this remedial in human abilities and disabilities, in computers and economics, in rural disadvantages, etc.
Repeating: If you post a video you presumably want people to know what's going on in it. Failure to explain what goes on it cuts you off from a significant part of the audience and that's an audience that does not come back to you once the message is clear that only the well to do and non-disabled are welcome.
It's not a minor point with me. I learned to sign years ago and, as I've noted before, if someone's at a Congressional hearing I attend and I know they can't hear and there's no one there signing, I will sign throughout the entire hearing (while I take notes, yes). [The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee will provide services for challenged and disabled attendees if they are informed the services are needed 3 business days prior to the hearing -- this includes making space for wheel chairs, as well as providing translators/signers, etc. And for those e-mailing, we haven't covered the hearings in the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees because there haven't been any. They resume later this month.]
And when we speak to groups about the wars, that includes groups where I sign and speak and groups where I just sign. And while the bulk of the country didn't watch, refused to watch, the strongest campus protest of the last decade was at Gallaudet. How dare anyone not grasp that, regardless of physical abilities, everyone in this country can make a difference and that, around the country, so many are making a difference but because they don't you fit your filter of 'normal' or 'accepted' or 'just like me!,' you ignore them. I do not believe in forced community service but I do believe a lot of people, particularly those online, would do well to do some community service that put them into contact with people who don't have all the breaks they do.
Were that to happen, they might realize how stupid they looked slamming people because of their skin color. [And before someone e-mails that Betty, Stan or Marcia did it -- Ann or Cedric are more likely to use that technique in roundtables at Third than at their own sites due to what they cover at their sites -- when they call out a White person and make a note of the skin color, it is because that White person has decided they know more about African-Americans than, in fact, African-Americans do. That's the point of Betty, Stan and Marcia calling those people out. It's not "They're white!" It's "that fool is saying this is what it's like to be Black and that fool is White and we don't anyone to speak for us, we can speak for ourselves thank you very much."]
The video was street theater.
It is supposed to attract attention as a video to get the word out on the October protests. Did it succeed? I really wasn't planning to note them. I'm at a distance from a number of people who I feel have not taken accountability for their past misdirections. But I noted the actions today and that's entirely due to that video. Which was funny and to the point. And which brought the issue of the Iraq War into three different banks, forcing it on the employees and the customers in those banks.
Good. The United States government continues the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. If you are a US citizen I don't know where the hell you get off thinking you've earned a pass from having to care or think about the wars your elected government continues.
The video's not the problem.
Colleen Flaherty (Killeen Daily Herald) reports, "Black Hawks hummed over North Fort Hood Thursday as Kansas National Guardsmen rehearsed personnel recovery ahead of their upcoming deployment to Iraq." And some may wonder why are we still deploying US forces to Iraq? But then again, in this country, the reason troops were ever deployed to Iraq wasn't honestly answered. Not by the Bush administration and not by the current one which replaced it. Chris Hinyub (California Independent Voter Network) reports on the US military spending and observes, "Finally, the cost for the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars crossed the $1.25 trillion mark." Matt L. Miller is currently serving in Iraq and he shares his thoughts on the US remaining in Iraq with the Baltimore Sun:
Now I'm no diplomat, but from my foxhole it appears that the U.S. is negotiating with the government of Iraq from a position of weakness. We are deferring to every Iraqi government whim at the expense of our own safety. We literally are permitted only to sit on our enclosed bases and hope that the IRAMs -- improvised rocket-assisted mortars -- don't hit their mark. In other words, we are sitting ducks.
[. . ]
I urge President Obama to take charge of this upside-down situation. He should simply tell the Iraqi government that we are going to operate the way we know how and that they are welcome to participate, or that we are leaving tomorrow. Continuing to serve up Americans as targets while the Iraqis play favorites between us and Iran is not an acceptable course of action.

Let's stay on Iran for a moment. Iranian dissendents welcomed into Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign are currently residents of Camp Ashraf. They are protected persons under the Geneva Conventions. The Tehran Times reports that Ammar Hakim, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq leader, has declared "that the members of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) based in Iraq must leave the country by the end of 2011. Hakim, who travelled to Iran to attend the fifth meeting of the Ahl al-Bayt World Assembly, made the remarks during a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Abdul Karim Mousavi Ardebill in the holy city of Qom on Friday." Is he serious? One would assume so except Press TV reports that he also declared he would "not allow any of them [US troops] to stay in the country" beyond 2011 and "The occupiers must leave before the deadline under the security pact." The US Embassy will have troops in as do all US embassies. (The Marines guard the embassies.) In addition, the militarization of diplomacy means that some troops (maybe 300, maybe more) will remain in Iraq under State Dept control. There will of course be "security contractors" (mercenaries) as well. And the US may keep troops in Iraq under the Defense Dept as well if Nouri and the White House can reach an agreement. In other words, it's very hard to see Hakim's second state as remotely true or even across the street from true. So that calls into question his statement about the Camp Ashraf residents.
Dan Froomkin (Huffington Post) writes about the US Embassy in Baghdad -- the biggest US embassy in the world and 108 acres:
Yet the embassy is turning out to be too small for the swelling retinue of gunmen, gardeners and other workers the State Department considers necessary to provide security and "life support" for the sizable group of diplomats, military advisers and other executive branch officials who will be taking shelter there once the troops withdraw from the country.
The number of personnel under the authority of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq will swell from 8,000 to about 16,000 as the troop presence is drawn down, a State Department official told The Huffington Post. "About 10 percent would be core programmatic staff, 10 percent management and aviation, 30 percent life support contractors -- and 50 percent security," he said.
As part of that increase, the State Department will double its complement of security contractors -- fielding a private army of over 5,000 to guard the embassy and other diplomatic outposts and protect personnel as they travel beyond the fortifications, the official said. Another 3,000 armed guards will protect Office of Security Cooperation personnel, who are responsible for sales and training related to an estimated $13 billion in pending U.S. arms sales, including tanks, squadrons of attack helicopters and 36 F-16s.
In yesterday's snapshot, noted a column by "Peter Van Burn" -- that was my mistake. I said "Burn" while dicating the snapshot. It's Buren. My error and my apologies. We'll again note this from Peter Van Buren (Huffington Post):
In Iraq today, diplomats, military officials, and Washington busybodies are involved in a complex game of maneuvering into place American troops meant to remain in Iraq long past the previously 12/31/2011 negotiated deadline for full withdrawal. Iraq will eventually agree, probably in some semi-passive way, such as calling them trainers, or visiting students, or temps. There will be endless argument over numbers -- should it be 3000 soldiers or 10,000? The debate over whether troops should stay on, or how many should stay, begs the real question: What will all those soldiers do in Iraq?

Iraq has its own governmental issues, to put it mildly. New Sabbah reviews the Kurdish issues with Nouri's government (the failure of Nouri to implement the Erbil Agreement, the proposed oil and gas law, etc.) and notes Nouri's raging that Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) and Nouri's insistence that Allawi has no place in the current government. Iraqiya's spokesperson tells Al Mada that Allawi is speaking not for himself but for Iraqiya and has the political slate's support. She also notes that the tensions between the blocs have always been present and that current tensions have resulted from the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement. (Iraqiya is a political slate made up of various groups -- primarily Sunni and Shia.)

Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq speaks with State of Law MP Ali Al-Shalah who deems Allawi "a trouble maker" and insists Allawi is plotting with Saudi Arabia. Aswat al-Iraq notes, "Vice-Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq called on the Iraqi to adopt a national spirit and not follow the rumors that destabilize the country among different Iraqi provinces." This as Aswat al-Iraq also reports, "Ex- Basra Governor Mohammed Musabih al-Wa'ili announced today that the signatures of 20% of Basra population shall be gathered, following Premier Nouri al-Maliki's rejection to establish a region there, pointing out that such rejection is 'constitutional violation'."
Reuters reports "hundreds" protested throughout "Iraq's Sunni Muslim province of Anbar" today as aresult of the arrests of 8 men accused of the Monday killings of 22 Shia pilgrims. Nouri expressed his dismay over the protestors and apparently was most offended by their chant of "We will cut the hand of whoever reaches (across) our borders." Moqtada al-Sadr's protests took place as well. His admirers called it "a huge demonstration." Of course, Prashant Rao (AFP) reports it was "thousands" and that alone would be disappointing since we're talking about Sadr City in Baghdad. Where allegedly 2 million Moqtada supporters live. That's where the protest took place. A couple of thousand out of 2 million-plus isn't significant at all. The Reuters photo with the AFP article demonstrates it was Moqtada's armed militia marching through the streets. Did the people watching the march get (again) counted as protestors? In downtown Baghdad, Tahir Square saw NGOs demonstrating and calling out the attacks and perceived attacks on Iraq from Iran and Kuwait, Aswat al-Iraq reports.
Turning to violence, Reuters notes a Haditha military raid resulted in the death of two suspects and 1 Iraiq military officer (three Iraqi soldiers and one police officer were wounded), a Garma drive by resulted in the death of a police officer "in front of his home," a Jbela car bombing left three people injured and a bomb that immediately followed (after help arrived) left seven peopl injured and, dropping back to last night for the rest, 2 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, a Baghdad attack on police resulted in 2 being killed and two more police officers left injured, two Mosul roadside bombings left nine police officers injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left one Iraqi soldier wounded and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.
The violence has made Iraq the source of the largest Middle East displacement since the 1940s. Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer via Sacrament Bee) reports:
In July, I wrote about the plight of Iraqis who worked with U.S. soldiers and civilians but face death as "collaborators" when we leave. Their situation remains unresolved.
Congress set up a special program in 2008 to grant these Iraqis 25,000 special immigrant visas (SIVs) over five years. Only 3,629 have been issued thus far; at least 1,500 are pending.
Yet, some Iraqis who have virtually completed the process have been told they must wait an additional eight months while more security checks are conducted.


Iraq's in its second consecutive month of inflation and Mayada Al Askari (Gulf News) interviews Iraq's Undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Housing and Construction to talk about the construction boom in Iraq. (When you bomb a country repeatedly, you do create the need for a construction boom.) Excerpt:

GULF NEWS: How can you be so ambitious about building housing when the infrastructure's main element, electricity, is not available? Buildings -- as an example -- require lifts, electric water pumps, etc. How can communities live without electricity?

Faleh Al Ammiri: Certainly, the implementation of these projects requires time during which infrastructure and providing the community with electricity will be completed. As for major investment projects, electric power stations will be built to provide such projects with electricity as well as water and sewage systems.

What about paving roads in Iraq, why are there so many projects in this area?

Road networks in Iraq were previously neglected and the whole system is out-of-date as it was overused by the army, but we now have plans to refurbish the system. A renovation of the roads network is currently underway. Weigh stations across the country's provinces were officially announced lately, as overloads are the main reasons behind the recent road damages. There is also the intent to carry out a highway connecting Umm Qasr with the Turkish border, along with other roads connecting the Iraqi cities. Construction of bridges is also part of the plan, however maintaining roads and bridges require users to abide by load limits, and the provinces need to carry out their commitments in this regard.

The minister's not interested in housing people. It's a corruption scam waiting to be turned over as he confesses that "the ministry-run corporation has dozens of factorizes specialising in the production of concrete products including pipes, bridge pillars as well as asphalt, stone breakers and ready-mix factories". That quote right there also answers the question about why the ministry has placed so much emphasis on building roads at a time when Iraqis continue to lack not just reliable electricity but also potable water.

It's a lot easier to keep approving projects that enrich your own budget.

If you doubt it, why is South Korea winning a construction bid in Iraq? Why is any foreigner? Iraq's never suffered from lack of construction workers.

Iraq also suffers not from a lack of concrete. In fact it's a big mob industry in Iraq. But the Ministry's in it too. Hmm. Al Sabaah reports on how Iraq's got all these new houses and housing areas being built and yet the glut hasn't depressed market prices and the homes are so expensive why? Due to the high cost of the construction materials. Seems like that cost could be somewhat controlled if Iraq's Ministry of Housing and Construction were doing it's job -- and that's before you factor in the fact that the Ministry owns many of those construction material producing businesses.

And all of this comes as the Integrity Commission's finding on Iraqi real estate has embarrassed Nouri and forced him to make a move. Al Rafidayn reminds that he's stopped the sale of Iraqi property as a result of the Commission finding fraud and price manipulation by government employees in the real estate market. Nouri's quoted calling out the "corruption and abuse" in his government on this issue. The Commission has also located over a hundred million smuggled out prior to the start of the Iraq War, this would be under Saddam Hussein.


In related news, the Great Iraqi Revolution has released "a document leaked from the Prime Minister's office which orders the recruitment of 1000 nurses and 150 doctors from India and Bengaladesh . . . while there are tens of thousands of unemployed Iraqis who are well qualified for these jobs!!!"
ItalicTurning to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. We'll close with this from her office:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office - (202) 224-2834
Thursday, September 15, 2011 Burr Press Office – (202) 224-3154


Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr Call on VA to Provide Answers about Department's Budget Projections

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richard Burr sent a joint letter to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki expressing their concern that VA may not have sufficient resources to adequately address increasing demand for veterans' health care in FY 2012. Chairman Murray and Ranking Member Burr's letter asks VA for specific assurances that VA remains ready and able to provide the health care upon which more and more veterans depend.
The full text of the Senators' letter is below:


The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

In this time of economic uncertainty, with an increasing number of our servicemembers returning home, the demand for medical care at VA medical centers is certain to grow. This demand, coupled with the lower than expected Medical Care Collections Fund (MCCF) collection rate, and recent reports regarding staffing reductions and emergency budget cuts at certain medical centers, underscores the critical need to ensure resources are being maximized and Department appropriations requests are accurately projected.
We are therefore writing today to confirm that VHA appropriations and carry-over for FY 2012 are on-track to meet the needs of our nation's veterans, so that the care provided to our veterans remains the highest quality.
We understand from your July 21, 2011, sufficiency review of advance appropriations for FY 2012 medical care that the Department's appropriations request was based, in part, upon projected carryover funds and revenues from the MCCF. MCCF collections, along with operational improvements, and cost savings in acquisitions, fee care, and other programs, are key components of budget and operations planning and must be accurately projected.

We also understand that for the first quarter of FY 2011, VHA reported a 12.3 percent variance between its planned and actual collections, in the amount of nearly $100 million. As of second quarter FY 2011, MCCF collections were 8.5 percent below plan and 5.2 percent below the same period last year. Similarly, for third quarter FY 2011, collections remain 5.7 percent below plan. In your July report, you stated that "there remains an element of risk to the sufficiency of the FY 2012 budget" and quoted a June 14, 2011, GAO report:



If the estimated savings for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 do not materialize and VA receives appropriations in the amount requested by the President, VA may have to make difficult trade-offs to manage within the resources provided.



Such difficult trade-offs are evident throughout the VA health care system. We understand, for example, that the Indianapolis VAMC faced an $18 million budget shortfall at the start of FY 2011. Against this backdrop, and challenged by an unprecedented demand for services from veterans, the medical center reduced expenditures and slowed the hiring of additional and replacement staff. Similarly, the Tampa VAMC continues to take steps to address a budget deficit that is currently near $17 million and has been as high as $47.5 million this fiscal year. Such steps have included a reduction in staffing through attrition by 111 positions, and cuts from lab services, mental health programs and education funds. Each of these actions, while fiscally sound, could have an adverse impact on patient care quality.

As we enter into FY 2012, it is imperative that VHA remains ready and able to provide the quality medical care upon which our veterans depend. Accordingly, we ask that you detail for us your plan to increase MCCF collections, so that collections goals in FY 2012 are met. Additionally, please address whether there are budgetary shortfall risks at VISNs or medical centers for FY 2012. Are VHA appropriations and carryover on-track to meet VHA needs? Finally, do you anticipate that VISNs and medical centers will be able to meet budgetary obligations without having to significantly draw upon reserve funds?

Thank you for providing this information to us. Ours is a shared mission to safeguard the health and well-being of our nation's veterans and we look forward to working with you to this end.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
Chairman


Richard Burr
Ranking Member

###

Meghan Roh

Deputy Press Secretary

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

@SenMurrayPress

202-224-2834

Get Updates from Senator Murray

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shameful NPR

What a load of garbage Jackie Northam's "report" for All Things Considered (NPR) today. C.I. calls that garbage out in the snapshot and I want to echo that.

According to Jackie's report, Americans don't care about the wars anymore.

She lets the media off.

Do the American people program CNN? Or CBS? Or NPR?

People only know about what the news covers. You cannot expect them to know about what TV news doesn't cover when so many get their information from TV news.

PEW makes ridiculous statements that suggest the wars only deserve to be covered at the start because that's when the American people support them.

Really?

That is the guideline for war coverage?

You only report it when the country supports it?

How this garbage ever aired, I have no idea.

It was insulting and a case of the media refusing to take accountability for what they cover and what they ignore. Shameful


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, September 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri lashes out at Allawi, rumors fly that the US and Iraq have already signed an agreement, Kurdish lawmakers continue to demand the Erbil Agreement be honored, John Walsh reports on major and under-reported news, and more.
In her latest column, Phyllis Bennis (Register Citizen) observes:

No U.S. troops were killed in Iraq last month. So why aren't we celebrating? Because the war isn't over yet and it costs way too much -- in Iraqi lives and our money.
With so much attention and so many billions of our tax dollars shifting from Iraq to the devastating and ever more expensive war in Afghanistan, it's too easy to forget that there are still almost 50,000 U.S. troops occupying Iraq. We're still paying almost $50 billion just this year for the Iraq War. And while we don't hear about it very often, too many Iraqis are still being killed.
No, we don't hear about it very often.
And now that's supposed to be our fault and not the media's.
Today on All Things Considered (NPR), Jackie Northam reports on a supposed lack of interest on the part of Americans in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars using Pew's Andew Kohut and insisting that only 25% forllowing the Afghanistan War and approximately the same number following the Iraq War is due to lack of interest.
Really?
I have absolutely no interest in any number of items -- for example, who Sarah Palin slept with or didn't sleep with in the 80s is of no conern to me -- but I can't escape this crap that passes for "news" at news sites and on news channels.
But I can very easily escape coverage of Iraq because it so seldom exists. Look at NPR and tell me where's the Iraq coverage?
And don't point to running Associated Press stories at the NPR website. That's embarrassing and shameful. NPR shouldn't have to resort to AP to cover Iraq. According to the 2011 fiscal year budget, Iraq should have been covered a lot more. Want to explain where the budgeted money went cause it sure as hell didn't go to covering Iraq. And the decision to repeatedly send Kelly McEvers to Syria for that non-story was a waste of money which damn well better be not be coming out of the Iraq budget. Does it take a Congressional hearing (maybe it does) to find out how National "Public" Radio spends the funds from listeners and the funds from tax payers?
If only 25% of the people in this country are following the wars that goes to the media, not to the people. They do not control what, for example, NPR chooses to air and what it chooses to ignore. The report is an embarrassment made all the more embarrassing by NPR's own refusal to cover Iraq. The NPR report attempts to ape a much better report that Michael Calderone filed for The Huffington Post on Friday. His actual report noted the lack of coverage of the wars and how they'd fallen off the radar. It featured quotes from news people like Dan Rather stating, "It's really unconscionable to have the nation fighting two major wars, Iraq and Afghanistan, and have the dearth of coverage we now have." Martha Raddatz (ABC News) explaining that she's been to Iraq 20 times during the war to report on it but not one of those visits took place in 2011. She states, "That tells you something." It certainly says a great deal about what the networks (broadcast, cable, radio) elect to cover. From Calderone's article:
Jane Arraf, who covers Iraq for Al Jazeera English and the Christian Science Monitor and previously did so for CNN and NBC News, says the number of jouranlsits stationed in Baghdad is clearly dwindling. Araf should know, considering that several journalists who've had their passports stamped in Iraq many times describe her as the longest-serving foreign correspondent in the country. "It's a bit depressing," she said. "A lot of major networks don't keep correspondents there."
Please understand that it takes a lot of nerve for NPR to ignore Iraq to begin with but to then turn around and broadcast a report blaming Americnas for not following coverage -- coverage that's not provided -- takes even more nerve.
Iraq is yet again slammed with violence, not that NPR filed a report on it today. They didn't have time and apparently the Iraq money in the FY 2011 was spent on something else. Annie Gowen (Washington Post) notes the biggest cause of deaths today has been a car bombing in Babel Province outside a restaurant. Among the dead are 3 children. Reuters notes the death toll is currently 15 with thirty-six injured. Habib al-Zubaidi (Reuters) quotes restraunt worker Tahsin Mahmoud stating, "I was in the kitchen when suddenly I heard a blast. I heard loud screams, and the sound of people running. I left the kitchen and went outside to see people covered in blood, lying on the ground. It took a long time for Iraqi security forces to reach the scene." Lara Jakes (AP) adds, "Associated Press video of the scene showed charred, crumpled cars outside the eatery that was pained orange and purple. Small groups of men stood ankle-deep in the wreckage." Haroon Siddique (Guardian) notes another bombing, at a Habaniya army base, has resulted in the deaths of 15 Iraqi soldiers with twenty more left injured. Reuters reports 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed in the Habaniya bombing (ten injured), 4 people were shot dead outside Iskandariya, a Baghdad car bombing left three people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left one person injured and a man was injured in Kirkuk escaping from people who were trying to kidnap him. Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) adds that 3 corpses were discovered in Babil Province today, Shi'ites whose "hands were tired and they had multiple gunshot wounds". In an update, Ghazi notes that a Baghdad police checkpoint was attacked and 2 police officers were left dead while a third was injured. Ghazi notes Monday's assault on Shi'ite pilgrims. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports of that Monday assault in which 22 Shi'ite pilgrims were killed:


The gunmen ordered the 15 women and children aboard the bus to get off, then drove away with the men, reports indicate.
The men's bodies, including that of the Syrian driver, were found 140 miles away, about 40 miles from the town of Nukhaib.
Each had been shot in the back of the head, said an Iraqi security officials who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss the incident.


Dar Addustour notes the large reward being offered to find the culprits. And Nouri has sent the military in to find the killers. 22 deaths is very sad. But other non-Shia groups in Iraq can be forgiven for noting that attacks on their own communities never resulted in huge awards or Nouri's swift response. (And that topic popped up on Arab social media yesterday and continues to percolate.)
Dropping back to the September 8th snapshot:
Al Rafidayn reports on a doctor's funeral Monday in Kirkuk -- Dr. Yildirim Abbas Dmarja and his brother -- in a killing that is part of a wave of targeting doctors and other professionals in Iraq. This targeting also includes kidnappings. The Director General of Health in Kirkuk is leading a call for the government to provide protection for doctors. It is estimated that over a million and a half dollars (US equivalent) have been paid by families to kidnappers of doctors. Al Sabaah notes that Wednesday also saw a sit-in at a Kirkuk hospital as doctors and medical staff demanded protection from the ongoing violence. They also demanded that those responsible be brought to justice.
Today Al Mada reports on an Iraqi surgeon who, with his family, has fled to Malaysia who will not be returning to Iraq due to the continued violence and won't allow his named used in the article out of fear for his family's safety. Six years ago, he was dragged from his car in Baghdad, kidnapped and held for three weeks until a ransom fee was paid after which he was tossed on the side of a street. The article notes the "brain drain" that took place in waves in Iraq and how doctors are among the refugees who are the least likely to return to Iraq once they flee the country due to safety concerns.
Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) reports that negotiations continue between the Iraq and US governments over US troops remaining in Iraq beyond 2011 and Fifield does what few does, notes Nouri was given the authority by the political blocs to conduct negotiations. She also speaks with Iraq's Ambassador to the US, Samir Sumaida'ie who states that "there is a political process in Iraq and things take time. Our political circumstances are constraining and can only move at a certain pace."
Last month Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) interviewed the ambassador who declared, "The principle that there will be some military presence [in Iraq beyond 2011] to help train Iraqi military and police has been largely agreed upon. [. . .] You'll see it when you see it. Americans want everything now or yesterday. We don't do it like this. We do it in our own sweet time."
The big story in Iraqi newspapers today is on the US withdrawal or 'withdrawal.' Supposedly all US forces would leave Iraq at the end of December 2011. Al Rafidayn is one of the papers reporting that a meeting at the United Nations Mission in Baghdad a few days prior found the UN being informed by Iraqis and the US (James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Iraq, is said to have represented the American side) that the US would pull soldiers due to leave Iraq because their tour of duty was up but that was it and it was a "formality" because, in fact, the US and Iraq had entered an agreement allowing US forces to remain in Iraq. This alleged agreement is a temporary one that would allow the US and Iraq more time to negotiate the details of a US presence beyond 2011. It would last six months. Dar Addustour also reports on this alleged temporary agreement that's been made.

Staying on the topic of what may happen, Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with the Independent's Patrick Cockburn. We're going to ingnore the bulk of the interview here to instead zoom in on why Scott Horton hopes that Nouri al-Maliki is jerking the US around. al-Maliki may very well be. But on at least two other broadcasts dealing with Iraq, he's voiced that hope and in his discussion with Cockburn, he finally explained what he was referring to (bases in 2008). I disagree with his take and will note that after. But it's a big point to him so we'll jump in there.
Scott Horton: Okay, so in early 2008, you were the one who broke the story that the negotiations on -- for the Status Of Forces Agreement after the expiration of the UN mandate at the end of 2008, the American side began, their negotiating position was, 'We want 56 permanent bases and then throughout the rest of the year -- that I guess was in the spring, early spring of 2008 -- throughout the rest of the year, Maliki, the way I understand it, the way I remember it, Patrick, was Maliki said was, 'Okay, okay, I'm going to try to get you as many bases as I can,' and he basically pretended to try the whole time but always reluctantly reporting back that, 'I'm sorry, I just can't get the rest of the government to go along with it so you're going to end up having no permanent bases at all.' And I was wondering if you think it's possible that that's what's going on here now with the invitation for a few thousand or ten thousand troops to stay --
Patrick Cockburn: Sure.
Scott Horton: -- in Iraq. He's pretending, but he doesn't really need us anymore, does he?
So that's why Scott Horton hopes (hopes, not believes, he's made that very clear in repeated broadcasts) Nouri is currently jerking the US around.
Now we're going to look at what he said and I'm pulling out "after the expiration of the UN madate at the end of 2008" because I don't know what that's supposed to mean. Iraq had already notified the UN that they did not wish to renew the mandate. That is why England quickly negotiated their own treaty with Iraq and why the US began work on a treaty (the SOFA). As the SOFA presented a problem, Democrats in Congress did float, as late as August 2008, that Iraq might need to pursue another (one year) UN mandate. I don't know what he's getting at, so I'm stripping that out of Scott Horton's statement.
So we're left with:
Okay, so in early 2008, you were the one who broke the story that the negotiations on -- for the Status Of Forces Agreement [. . .], the American side began, their negotiating position was, 'We want 56 permanent bases and then throughout the rest of the year -- that I guess was in the spring, early spring of 2008 -- throughout the rest of the year, Maliki, the way I understand it, the way I remember it, Patrick, was Maliki said was, 'Okay, okay, I'm going to try to get you as many bases as I can,' and he basically pretended to try the whole time but always reluctantly reporting back that, 'I'm sorry, I just can't get the rest of the government to go along with it so you're going to end up having no permanent bases at all.'
Patrick was reporting in June of 2008 -- June 5th and 6th. Click here for the 6th article. So Scott Horton is crediting Nouri with the smarts to be deceptive but he thinks the Bush administration was too pure for duplicity? The US government does not go into negotiations with, "This is what we want. We hope you agree." They go in with a number of distractions. The Bush administration kept Nouri focused on the bases (and Nouri may have realized this) to distract from what they wanted with regards to the US Embassy in Baghdad. Long before Patrick Cockburn was reporting this, Democratic Congressional leaders had learned of a request on bases. Then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made clear that the opposition building against the SOFA (over the Bush administration's stated intent not to bring it before the Senate for approval) would explode if permanent bases were part of the deal. (Pelosi was already feeling the sting of criticism for her comments in the 8th District that "nothing lasts forever" and was very sensitive to this issue in terms of it being a personal liability to her.) They were told that the US was not seriously pursuing bases.
That was a bargaining tool that would be tossed by the wayside, its main purpose was to distract from the embassy -- whose size was becoming a very big issue in Iraq and in the US. I've never understood why Scott Horton had so much faith in Nouri's ability to one up the US government. He explained it and I do understand what he's basing it on -- and he may be right -- but that's not how I interpret the same events because I was repeatedly told in 2008, by various Congress members, about the objection leadership had lodged to permanent bases and what the reply was. And because the reply was in keeping with the empire nature of the US. Who has ever come out on top in a deal with the US? (China may yet.) Not the Native Americans. For a little while, it appeared Panama might have. When we (briefly) returned their canal.
In my interpretation of events, I'm willing to allow that Nouri may have known the bases request was a MacGuffin but pretended to have bargaining power with other Iraqis -- as in, "They want these bases and we'll stand up to them on that. So let's give them . . ." But, no, Nouri did not deprive the US government of permanent military bases in Iraq. That was not the goal from the US side.
Scott Horton may be right that Nouri is jerking the US around but I will strongly disagree with the notion that the bases request in 2008 was anything but a pawn quickly sacrificed by US negotiators to get their long term goals for the US embassy (the true military base in Iraq). And I'll even note that in 2008, a State Dept friend insisted the sprawling embassy had to be that way because the US government did not want another hostage situation (similar to the Iranian crisis). I didn't buy that as the excuse for the size of the embassy but I will note that justification was noted.
Scott Horton also has this hope for Moqtada al-Sadr sending the US packing. At one point in the interview, Patrick Cockburn (sounding very weary -- I don't know if that's from being under the weather or what) says, "Yeah" when Scott states that Moqtada's had the same position since 2003.
And I think at least some listening will say, "Yes, and he's never done anything." Dilip Hiro's done a strong job documenting Moqtada al-Sadr. Pages 279 and 280 of Hiro's Secrets and Lies are must reading to understanding Moqtada. Some of it is covered in the "What Makes Moqtada tick?" section of this Tom Paine article by Hiro in 2007. Again, Scott Horton could be 100% correct on both issues or partially correct on both or off the mark on one or both. I could certainly be wrong as well (and have been many times before) but that's where he stands and why.
While the issue of withdrawal remains up in the air, Tony Cappaccio (Bloomberg News) reports, "Iraq is 'very close' to signing a letter of intent to buy up to 36 Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-16 jets, said the senior U.S. Air Force general in that country." The Telegraph of London notes, "Any deal would be worth billions of dollars and take years to implement, as it would require the manufacture of the aircraft and the training of pilots."
Finally baby
The truth has come down now
Take a listen to your spirit
It's crying out loud.
-- "I Don't Want to Know," written by Stevie Nicks, first appears on Fleetwood Mac's Rumors
Monday Aswat al-Iraq reported, "An official in the former U.S. President's Administration, George Bush, has said [. . .] that one of the important strategic necessities for the presence of the U.S. forces in Iraq is 'the west's need for oil with suitable prices,' considering the number agreed upon for those forces is not enough and does not satisfy its motive'." The former official is Meghan O'Sullivan and her Washington Post column's entitled "Why U.S. troops should stay in Iraq." Her remarks on oil include:

Finally, and most compelling, there is the role that Iraq may play in averting a major global energy crisis in the coming years. The world economic recession eased pressure on global oil supplies and provided relief from the climbing energy prices of 2007 and 2008. But a quiet trend of 2010 was that growth in global oil consumption grew at the second-fastest rate ever, 2.8 percent, while growth in global crude oil production lagged behind at 2.5 percent. If demand continues to outgrow supply, it will be only a few short years before global spare capacity of oil -- one of the indicators most closely tied to prices -- gets dangerously low, and jittery markets push prices up and up. Assuming the world escapes another dip in economic growth, this outcome would probably materialize even without any additional geopolitical hiccups, such as political unrest in Saudi Arabia or a military confrontation with Iran.
Al Kamen (Washington Post) notes today:

Industry and international experts expect Iraqi oil production to nearly double in the next decade from 2.5 million barrels a day to almost 5 million barrels, she notes. So "if lessons from Iraq's experience help stabilize the region" and Iraq remains "willing to cooperate with the United States publicly and privately" and its oil "help[s] the world avoid another energy crisis," then "some may recalculate the strategic ledger on the U.S. intervention in Iraq."
So Operation Iraqi Freedom was really about the oil after all? Who knew?
Meanwhile Al Mada reports that a meeting of Kurdistan officials and law makers yesterday resulted in what's being called "one last chance" for Nouri's government. The "last chance" is a delegation that's being sent to meet in Baghdad and raise the issues of the proposed oil and gas law, Article 140 of the Constitution (which guaranteed a census and referendum on Kirkuk by the end of 2007, Nouri is now four years in violation of the Constitution)and other issues. If they do not feel Baghdad is taking these issues seriously and taking steps to address them, the partnership is supposed to be dissolved (Kurds withdraw confidence in the government). Further embarrassing Nouri are the public threats Turkey began making yesterday of launching a ground invasion in northern Iraq. Al Mada notes that Nouri has been forced to issue a statement proclaiming Iraq's sovereignty and claiming Iraq can (and will?) defend its borders. Lale Kemal (Todays Zaman) notes, "It is a pity that a process the Turkish government initiated in 2009 that includes talks with the PKK to find a political solution to the Kurdish question has been deadlocked and replaced by military methods." In addition, Al Mada reports that Iraq has just entered it's second consecutive month of inflation.

With all those problems going on it might seem as if Nouri would lay low and not invite further problems. But maybe he has huge faith in the I Love Nouri demonstration First Lady of Iraq Moqtada al-Sadr has planned for Friday? Al Rafidayn reports Nouri has staged a major tantrum and declared that Ayad Allawi is not fit to take part in the government.

Who?

March 7, 2010, Iraq held elections. Nouri's political slate (State of Law) came in second. Iraqyia -- headed by Ayad Allawi -- came in first. Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister. The White House backed him because he promised to keep US troops. Samantha Power was the fierce advocate to continue backing Nouri.

The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I and was hammered out by the US and various political blocs in Iraq. Nouri was allowed to stay on as prime minister, Ayad Allawi was promised he'd head a new, independent security council. Nouri took the prime minister post but trashed the rest of the agreement. (Kurds are demanding that the Erbil Agreement be followed and threatening to make it public in full.) He and Allawi are opponents, to put it mildly. He is most likely enraged (this time) by a just published interview. From yesterday's snapshot:

Asharq al-Awsat interviews Ayad Allawi (Iraiqya leader who's been meeting with the Kurdish leaders -- Iraqiya won the March 7, 2010 elections) and their first question for him is about his recent comments that there was a need for early elections and a need for a vote of no confidence on Nouri al-Maliki, has his opinion changed? He replies that nothing has changed and unless the Erbil Agreement is followed, as KRG President Barzani is insisting, then early elections need to be held. He states that they should be transparent and follow the election laws. (They put it is either/or. Allawi rejects that in his first answer and again near the end of the interview when he explains that first you do the vote of no-confidence in the current government and then you move to early elections.) Asked if he doesn't find it strange that 8 years after the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi decisions are still spoken of in light of what the US wants or what Iran wants, Allawi replies that it is clear the government (Nouri) was negotiating with Iran on how to form a government -- down to the smallest details. He states that when he met with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria [presumably in 2010], al-Assad stated he would be speaking with Iranian officials and what was the response to Adel Abdul al-Mahdi being prime minister. The point is to indicate that Iran was being catered to. (I'm sure the US was as well, however, Allawi focuses on Iran.) Adel Abdul al-Mahdi was, until recently, one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He's a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Big Oil supported him in 2006 for prime minister and they also wanted him in 2010. His announcement that he was resigning as vice president earlier this year may have been setting up another run for prime minister.
Allawi states that the Erbil Agreement needs to be implemented, that the meet-up in Erbil and the agreement itself took place in a spirit to work together for Iraq and build something sincere but now "the other party" [the unnamed is Nouri] repeatedly finds excuses not to implement. Asked if the problem is the agreement, Allawi clearly states that the problem is "the other party" and that the agreement is clear. He rejects the notion of one-party rule and specifically names Nouri when rejecting it, stating that this is a private scheme of "Maliki" and not something with wide support even within Dawa (Dawa is Nouri's political party, State of Law is the slate Nouri ran with).
In the US, John Walsh has an important story at Antiwar.com's Blog on Veterans for Peace voting to impeach Barack "for war crimes" at last month's convention in Portland, Oregon. From the article:
The VFP resolution is stark testimony that [David] Swanson is dead wrong and that the tide is turning against the war criminal Obama even among his most faithful followers. A call for impeachment, whatever the prospects for success, makes crystal clear that the antiwar community regards the President as a criminal -- whether that President is Bush or Obama. And it puts a stop to the nasty tactic of shutting up impeachment advocates by calling them racists.
The impeachment resolution is modeled on another that VFP passed some years ago calling for impeachment of Bush. The anti-Obama resolution merits reading in full here. It has telling additions to the one targeting Bush. It opens thus: "Whereas, President Obama, on 19 March 2011, committed a criminal act by ordering the U.S. military to war in Libya without first obtaining the consent of the U.S. Congress in a direct violation of the U.S. Constitution." Bush told lies to get us into war. Such is his arrogance that Obama, acting in the Democratic tradition of Harry S. Truman in the Korean war, did not even bother to lie. He simply went ahead and trampled on the Constitution without pretense.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Justin calls out Rachel

"Debunking Rachel Maddow" (Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com):

The Obama cult is going on the offensive, on the theory that the best defense is a good offense, the Obama cult is going on the attack – launching a special web site, and a twitter feed, attackwatch.com, which is devoted to refuting the “smears” being repeated by the counter-revolutinary wreckers who oppose the Will of the Dear Leader. “President Obama’s opponents have falsely suggested that the President has not been a strong ally to Israel,” the Obamaites whine. How dare anyone suggest that the US isn’t at Tel Aviv’s beck and call! Even the suggestion of something less than absolute fealty is considered a “smear.” If that doesn’t underscore what’s wrong with American foreign policy in the Middle East, then I don’t know what does.

On the boob tube, Rachel Maddow is leading the counter-attack, going after Republicans for “lying” about the Dear Leader’s wise policies. When Ron Paul said that the US embassy in Iraq is bigger than the Vatican and will cost $1 billion – and that we should be keeping that money at home – Rachel is had a cow on camera. No, she barked, the Vatican is 110 acres and the embassy is 108, and also the cost of the embassy is “several hundred million” under $1 billion.” She then crumpled a piece of paper, threw it at the camera, and bellowed “False!”

Rachel, you need to hire some new researchers: yes, Vatican City is 110 acres, but that’s not the same entity as The Vatican. Vatican City is a sovereign state, which includes the Holy See – the actual residence of the Pope and the organizational headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church – as well as the land around it.

I agree with Justin Raimondo but I doubt that Rachel will get it if she reads it. The woman is an idiot. Remember, I'm the one who knows. I'm the one who prompted the on air meltdown on Unfiltered where she and Lizz began attacking their listeners. All over a comment I left on their blog. Their blog that they were too stupid to know how to read. The names came at the end. They attacked some guy for what I wrote and then the blog got on them for that and then they were going after other names. I was there. I even typed at one point "Elaine. I wrote that comment that has upset you. My name is Elaine."

For those who don't know Rachel Maddow, she's nothing but a War Whore, I had the temerity to question the fact that they never had peace guests. They had plenty of vets . . . vets that like Rachel supported continuing the Iraq War (this was in 2005). They just wouldn't book veterans against the war. But every week they'd do "Ask a Vet" featuring War Hawks who, like Rachel, felt the US needed to continue the war.

Rachel Maddow's a fake.

A big baby as well. She had her father try to save her job.

What was the idiot, sixteen? Running to Daddy to try to save your job?

He embarrassed himself with his testimonials at the blog on air for Rachel.

I could continue with this all night. Maybe I'll continue it tomorrow.


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, September 13, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the Kurds threats move beyond publishing the Erbil Agreement, Turkey wants predator drones to attack northern Iraq with, Tim Arango's Camp Ashraf article is called out (and Tim Arango gets an apology from me), and more.
We're going to start in the US and with veterans issues, specifically what they've been promised. By way of introduction, we'll note Nicole Brodeur (Seattle Times) has an important column about how veterans and their issues are vanishing from the press while their numbers are inreasing. She notes:

Part of the problem is that veterans have fallen out of public focus, now centered on the economy. Foreclosures. Paychecks.
The New York Times used to publish a weekly list of the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. I haven't seen it in months.
She's correct. But a veterans issue that should have been news last week wasn't. Ava and I covered it Sunday at Third. Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defense, appeared on The Charlie Rose Show (PBS and Bloomberg) and was asked a specific question about veterans benefits and he responded. It should have been news. Here's the exchange:
Charlie Rose: So are you saying you draw the line at changing retirement benefits for members of the armed services?

Leon Panetta: You know, having been OMB director and Chairman of the Budget Committee in the Congress, uh, I have always approached, uh, these issues by saying, 'We've got to put everything on the table. We've got to look at everything.' I think that's the way to do it.

Charlie Rose: From retirement benefits to weapons systems, to weapons systems --

Leon Panetta: To weapon systems --

Charlie Rose: -- to making sure that your priority is having mine resistant vehicles, especially --

Leon Panetta: I --

Charlie Rose: -- something that service men --

Leon Panetta: I --

Charlie Rose: -- have been talking about for years.

Leon Panetta: You have to look -- you have to look -- you have to look at everything. You've got to be able to talk it through, you've got to look at those systems. You've got to decide what's important to keep, what's not, you know, important, what reforms can be made. Uh, you know, when you're facing a $400 billion reduction over 12 years, if you're going to do it right, you've got to look at every area.


As we note, he would then appear to backtrack on his comments above by making comments about promises made. He did not speak (above) briefly. He never took back what he said above. If the US Secretary of Defense goes on national televsion and declares that veterans retirement benefits are on the table, it should be news.
Moving over to today's lesson for pundits? You need to read, you need to read widely. So many of you are making one mistake after another and revealing yourself to be very limited in your reading. I can't imagine that you made it through college single-sourcing claims so I have no idea why you now think that's good enough when you're posing as experts on the world stage?
Micah Zenoko, you get credit for writing about Iraq repeatedly and not just when it's a momentary hot topic of the day. We don't even hold your opinions or the fact that you're with the Council on Foreign Relations against you. But we will hold the following against you:
Last month, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta was asked if the Iraqi government would request that U.S. troops stay in country beyond the mutually-agreed upon withdrawal date of December 31, 2011. Panetta replied: "My view is that they finally did say, 'Yes.' " Soon after, Ali al-Moussawi, adviser to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, corrected Panetta's statement and affirmed that there would be no discussion of extending U.S. troop presence in Iraq beyond year's end.
So we're all on the same page, August 19th snapshot:
Kevin Baron (Stars & Stripes) notes that the Iraqi response is that they have not agreed to trainers but US Secretary of Defense "Leon Panetta said Friday that Iraq has already said yet to extending noncombat U.S. forces there beyond 2011, and that the Pentagon is negotiating that presence [. . . that] there is unanimous consent among key Iraqi leaders to address U.S. demands. Those demands include that Iraqis begin negotiating internally what type of U.S. training force they would like, begin a process to select a defense minister, craft a new Status of Forces Agreement and increase operations against Iranian-backed militants." Reid J. Epstein (POLITICO) refers to a transcript and quotes Panetta stating, "My view is that they finally did say yes, which is that as a result of a meeting that Talabani had last week, that all of the, it was unanimous consent among the key leaders of the country to go ahead and request that we negotiate on some kind of training, what a training presence would look like, they did at least put in place a process to try and get a Minister of Defence decided and we think they're making some progress on that front."
When there was Iraqi objection to the claim, we opened with, noted it before the claim. But that story didn't end on the 19th. More importantly, that spokes person isn't Nouri's pre-approved spokesperson. Ali al-Dabbagh is and those who follow Iraq closely will remember when Nouri gave out a short list of who could and could not speak for the government earlier this year. Ali al-Dabbagh's name was on that list.
As we noted Saturday, Al Mada reports on Panetta's remarks and on Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh denying an agreement has already been made. But while denying it, Ali al-Dabbagh also stated that when "the polical blocs met, they approved the need to train security forces and the Iraqi military" which would be Panetta's point that it was now a done deal. So despite his denial, Ali al-Dabbagh's actual remarks back up what Panetta said. Dar Addustour also offers Ali al-Dabbagh's quote and, in addition, they report that the only perplexing issue in the negotiations is how many US troops remain. As we noted in Third's "Editorial: US will be in Iraq beyond 2011, Panetta and Iraqi government explain," Ali al-Dabbagh may claim he's refuting Panetta, but his remarks are backing up everything Panetta said Friday. Both agree that a deal's been agreed to in order to extend the US presence in Iraq beyond 2011 and both agree that the number of US service members that will remain in Iraq has yet to be determined.
Panetta and al-Dabbagh both agreed that the Iraqi government was in negotiations and that the only issue to be resolved was numbers.
Last week, we again learned about the ongoing neogitations. And Zenko quickly moves to that . . . without ever seeing a contradiction in the claim "that there would be no discussion of extending U.S. troop presence in Iraq beyond year's end." It's also not clear whether Zenko's aware that "Iraq" is Nouri. The decision was made that Nouri would be the negotiator (and he quickly accepted). Nor that Nouri has since decreed an agreement would not need to be signed off by Parliament. Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) has long covered and noted that. Al Mada most recently noted it on September 9th when they yet again explained Nouri's view that in the event of an agreement on trainers between the Iraqi government and the US, this agreement would be under the jurisdiction of the Council of Ministers [Cabinet], only the agreement on combat troops would require the House of Representatives's agreement.
Again, you're going to need more than single-sourced claims. You're going to need to do some actual reading. Whether I agree with him or not, Micah Zenko's usually done the work required. Not today. And there are, as we noted at Third Sunday, already too many pundits in need of dunce caps currently.
It's not a minor point. If Parliament has to vote, it takes much longer. The US Embassy and White House in 2008 spent over a month strong arming, bribing and persuading for the November 2008 vote. If it's just the Council, a Council Nouri wants to reduce and which he has two 'acting' ministers serving on (not approved by Parliament and subject to firing by Nouri at any moment), this can go through as quickly as Nouri's renewals of the UN mandates at the end of 2006 and 2007. (Yes, there was a reason we've repeatedly provided the remedial on those.)
Onto 'safe' and 'safer' Iraq. Today the US State Dept issued a warning:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq given the dangerous security situation. Civilian air and road travel within Iraq remains dangerous. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning dated April 12, 2011, to update information and to remind U.S. citizens of ongoing security concerns for U.S. citizens in Iraq, including kidnapping and terrorist violence.

[. . .]

Some regions within Iraq have experienced fewer violent incidents than others in recent years, in particular the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR). However, violence and threats against U.S. citizens persist and no region should be considered safe from dangerous conditions. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or "Green") Zone (IZ). Methods of attack have included magnetic bombs placed on vehicles; roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs); mortars and rockets; human- and vehicle-borne IEDs, including Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs); mines placed on or concealed near roads; suicide attacks; and shootings. Numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Although Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) operations against these groups continue, attacks against the ISF and U.S. forces persist in many areas of the country. U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at a high risk for kidnapping.

While sectarian and terrorist violence occurs at levels lower than in previous years, it occurs often, particularly in the provinces of Baghdad, Ninewa, Salah ad Din, Anbar, and Diyala.

The security situation in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR), which includes the provinces of Sulymaniya, Erbil, and Dohuk, has been more stable relative to the rest of Iraq in recent years, but threats remain. U.S. government personnel in northern Iraq are required to be accompanied by a protective security detail when traveling outside secure facilities. Although there have been significantly fewer terrorist attacks and lower levels of insurgent violence in the IKR than in other parts of Iraq, the security situation throughout the country remains dangerous. Increasingly, many U.S. and third country business people travel throughout much of Iraq; however, they do so under restricted movement conditions and almost always with security advisors and teams.

And staying with the topic of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) observes, "Border areas in Iraqi Kurdistan are being shelled almost daily. Turkish and Iranian forces also carry out other land and air offensives, as though Iraq were a country without sovereignty. As a result of these military operations, many villages adjacent to the Iranian and Turkish borders have been destroyed and their inhabitants forced to flee, leaving everything behind." Despite widespread protests in Iraq against the bombings of northern Iraq by the Turkish and Iranian armies (last week saw protests against the bombings in, among other places, the KRG, Baghdad and Falluja), Reuters reports the Turkish government feels what's needed is to 'beef up' the attack via ground attacks which are already in the planning stages. Today's Zaman adds, "Interior Minister ─░dris Naim ┼×ahin said in response to questions from reporters as to whether Turkey is pondering a ground operation in northern Iraq that talks with the Kurdish regional administration in northern Iraq are still under way and that a cross-border ground offensive could be launched at any time just like aerial strikes." Hurriyet quotes Turkish Minister of the Interior Idris Naim Sahin stating, "An evaluation [for a cross-border operation] is still in the works. But our operations continue to battle crime and criminals on land, as well as maintaining control. A cross-border incursion may be conducted depending on talks with the neighboring countries." August 17th, the Turkish military began the latest assault on northern Iraq. They like to claim a certain number of killed terrorists (they're referring to the PKK) while the PKK disputes that number. What is known is that the real victims of the Turkish warplanes are the farmers and shepherds who have been forced to flee their homes or killed by the bombings. The Turkish government is outraged by an attack over the weekend and are trying to p.r. the attack by referring to the dead as "people" -- it was an attack on Turkish forces (a PKK atack). Having faced condemnation from around the world for the way their bombings are effecting Iraq's civilian population, Turkey's now trying to present attacks on their forces as attacks on civilians. (Yes, security forces are people. The point is that in the past the Turkish government has repeatedly identified these forces as forces -- police officers, soldiers, etc. -- but they're now trying to manage public opinion and are using "people." You will see that in multiple reports because this is a wave of p.r. that they are just commencing.) Suzan Fraser (AP) reports the Turkish government is saying the dead include 3 civilians. Turkish media will have to resolve the latest change in the story. The PKK is a Kurdish group that fights for Kurdish independence. (Iran is targeting another Kurdish rebel group, PJAK.) Over the weekend, Craig Whitlock (Washington Post) reported that the Turkish government has requested "a fleet of Predator drones" from the White House, drones they would use on northern Iraq. If such a request is honored (and done so publicly), Barack may see a backlash from the US Kurdish population. The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) points out "Both Turkey and Iran are against the Kurdish project which proved to be successful in Iraq, where the Kurds set up their regional and federal entity inside the country. The success of the Iraqi Kurdish model has become an inspiration to the Kurds in other countries in the region. Kurds in Turkey and Iraq make up the second-largest ethnic group while they are the third-largest ethnic group in Iran."
Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports that the conflict between the Kurds and Nouri's State of Law is increasing. Already upset over the oil proposal Nouri and his Cabinet have made, attempts at meeting to discuss theproposed law have been brushed aside by Nouri. This conflict has already led the Kurds to threaten publishing the Erbil Agreement. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports, "Kurdistan leader Massoud Barazani and head of Al Iraqiya list Iyad Allawi, discussed in Arbil the situation in Iraq and obstacles hindering the political process, Kurdistan Presidency announced. Both parties called to resolve all pending issues in favor of Iraqis' interest, the presidency added." Citing an unnamed source, Aswat al-Iraq adds that the two "discussed the differences between Arbil and Baghdad, and the impacts of the Iranian and Turkish bombardment of the border areas in Kurdistan Region." In addition, Aswat al-Iraq notes yesterday there was a meet up of KRG President Masoud Barzani, KRG Premier Barham Saleh "and other Kurdish leaders" to address "the differences between Arbil and Baghdad, and the impacts of the Iranian and Turkish bombardment of the border areas in Kurdistan Region." Regional analyst Reibin Rasould tells the outlet that members of the Kurdish Alliance in Parliament feel they are being undercut on issues such as the oil and gas law and Article 140 (hold on to Article 140, we'll be coming back to that) and that they are conveying to leaders within the KRG the problems they are facing and KRG leaders are "seriously studying the calls of the political public to pple Malki's government and support Iyad Allawi in the coming era." Rasould states this is why Allawi has been present in the KRG and meeting with various leaders over the last days. The spokesman for the Kurdish Alliance, Mu'aid al-Tayib today declared that if the Erbil Agreement "is not implemented," "the Kurds will adopt another stance."
How serious are they? Asharq al-Awsat interviews Ayad Allawi (Iraiqya leader who's been meeting with the Kurdish leaders -- Iraqiya won the March 7, 2010 elections) and their first question for him is about his recent comments that there was a need for early elections and a need for a vote of no confidence on Nouri al-Maliki, has his opinion changed? He replies that nothing has changed and unless the Erbil Agreement is followed, as KRG President Barzani is insisting, then early elections need to be held. He states that they should be transparent and follow the election laws. (They put it is either/or. Allawi rejects that in his first answer and again near the end of the interview when he explains that first you do the vote of no-confidence in the current government and then you move to early elections.) Asked if he doesn't find it strange that 8 years after the end of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraqi decisions are still spoken of in light of what the US wants or what Iran wants, Allawi replies that it is clear the government (Nouri) was negotiating with Iran on how to form a government -- down to the smallest details. He states that when he met with Bashar al-Assad, president of Syria [presumably in 2010], al-Assad stated he would be speaking with Iranian officials and what was the response to Adel Abdul al-Mahdi being prime minister. The point is to indicate that Iran was being catered to. (I'm sure the US was as well, however, Allawi focuses on Iran.) Adel Abdul al-Mahdi was, until recently, one of Iraq's two vice presidents. He's a member of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Big Oil supported him in 2006 for prime minister and they also wanted him in 2010. His announcement that he was resigning as vice president earlier this year may have been setting up another run for prime minister.
Allawi states that the Erbil Agreement needs to be implemented, that the meet-up in Erbil and the agreement itself took place in a spirit to work together for Iraq and build something sincere but now "the other party" [the unnamed is Nouri] repeatedly finds excuses not to implement. Asked if the problem is the agreement, Allawi clearly states that the problem is "the other party" and that the agreement is clear. He rejects the notion of one-party rule and specifically names Nouri when rejecting it, stating that this is a private scheme of "Maliki" and not something with wide support even within Dawa (Dawa is Nouri's political party, State of Law is the slate Nouri ran with).
Let's return now to Article 140 of the Iraq Constitution. The Constitution was written and passed in 2005. And Nouri becomes prime minister (for his first term) in 2006. Article 140 revolves around the disputed and oil-rich region of Kirkuk. Will it be part of the KRG or part of the centeral government out of Baghdad? Article 140 mandates that a census and refendum be held on the issue by the end of 2007. Guess what never happened? Remember who was in charge (Nouri). As Political Stalemate I (the eight months-plus following the March 7, 2010 elections) was drawing to a close, one thing that helped him seal the deal was promising that the census would finally take place. At the end of 2010 it had two dates. It was supposed to have been held October 24, 2010 but Nouri kicked it back -- not "Iraq's government" as was falsely reported. Iraq's government was Nouri at that time, determined to hold onto the post of prime minsiter despite the fact that his term had long expired. (Again, the United Nations should have appointed a caretaker government.) But he needed support if he was going to continue as prime minister so he announced that the census would take place December 5th. After he was named prime minister-designate (unofficially November 11th, officially November 25th), he called off the December 5th census (November 31st is when he called it off). Nouri being Nouri, he most likely knew he wouldn't keep the bargain, the Erbil Agreement (November 10th). Knowing that and willing to do anything to hang on to the post of prime minister, could he have promised the KRG more than just a census and a referendum?
The Kurdish law makers appear to feel there's something he's hiding from the public that's in the Erbil Agreement. It can't be the issue of the indpedent security council that was supposed to be created (and then headed by Allawi) that was never created, can it? That was known back in November. Again, the Kurdish lawmakers are threatening to make the Erbil Agreement public. What is it in that agreement -- that most Iraqis probably feel they already know all about -- that they think will embarrass Nouri?
Nouri doesn't embarrass easily. For example, Yochi J. Dreazen (National Journal) reports today on all the (failed and forgotten) promises Nouri made about the Green Zone when the US handed control over it to Iraq, how it would have "new hotels, office towers and high-end apartment complexes" -- none of which has taken place 2 years and 9 months later -- and how it would be "open to the Iraqi public" but "Nearly three years later, ordinary Iraqis have less access to the Iraqi-controlled Green Zone than during the U.S. occupation, a troubling reminder of the vast gulf separating the Iraqi public from the rulers ostensibly elected to serve them."
In today's violence, Reuters notes a Ramadi house raid (by Iraqi soldiers) in which 1 man present was killed, a Mosul grenade attack left four people injured, a second Mosul grenade attack left two people injured, a third Mosul grenade attack left four people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and a Taji suicide bombing claimed the life of the bomber, 1 civilian, 1 Sahwa and left nine people injured.

Thursday journalists and activist Haid al-Mehdi was assassinated in the kitchen of his apartment. UNESCO issued the following yesterday:

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today condemned the killing of one of the most prominent and outspoken radio journalists in Iraq.

The body of Hadi al-Mahdi, the 44-year-old host of a popular talk show on Baghdad's Radio Demozy, was found on 8 September after he was shot dead in his home in the capital, according to a statement from the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Mr. al-Mahdi's show was renowned for being uninhibited for its discussions of many subjects, including corruption in Iraq, and the statement noted that, according to the non-governmental organization (NGO) Reporters without Borders, the journalist had received threats before his death.

"Hadi al-Mahdi and other fearless journalists and commentators are the very soul of democratic debate," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova as she called for an investigation into the killing.

"They practise the fundamental human right of freedom of expression for the benefit of us all. Those who kill journalists must be brought to justice, lest fear paralyze both the media and the ordinary people who rely on professional journalists for the news and analysis that inform their political choice."

Last week also saw the British inquiry into the torture and murder of Iraqi Baha Mousa at the hands of British forces issue a finding, a whitewash. Chris Marsden covers it for WSWS and observes, "The official inquiry into the death of hotel worker Baha Mousa continues efforts to minimise and apologise for abuses by UK troops in Iraq." Steven McLaughlin (Yorkshire Post) explains, "Baha Mousa wasn't a terrorist, an insurgent, an enemy or a troublemaker of any sort. He was a young, healthy, honest and hardworking family man with his whole life ahead of him. And we took it away from him for nothing. Shame on us." Robert Fisk (Independent via Gulf Today) rejects the 'few bad apples' whitewash the inquiry provided and notes the chain of command is facing no charges. He also notes specifically the way Baha was tortured to death:
Baha Mousa's nose was broken. There was blood above the corpse's mouth. The skin had been ripped off his wrists. According to his friend, Baha had been crying and pleading for his life from beneath his hood. "They gave us the names of footballers and cursed us with them as they attacked us," he said.
The Brits did the same in Northern Ireland, I remember. Catholics would often tell me they were given the names of footballers before the beatings began.
A bit systematic, perhaps? "They were kick-boxing us in the chest and between the legs and in the back..." Baha's friend said. "He kept asking them to take the bag off and said he was suffocating. But they laughed at him and kicked him more."


British Forces News reported today the police Col Daoud Mousa, Baha's father, would be holding "a press conference in London." Metro reports Col Mousa today declared he wanted murder charges brought against those who tortured his son to death stating, "I also want to see those responsible for these actions brought to justice." BBC News quotes the family's attorney Phil Shriner stating:
Justice for Baha Mousa and his family obviously requires that the large number of soldiers and others in command who are responsible for Baha Mousa's death are held criminally responsible. I am instructed to refer a number of individuals, including those in positions of command, to the Director of Public Prosecutions for the prosecution of various offences of war crimes and other domestic criminal law offences. I am also instructed to refer a number of individuals, including those in positions of command, to the Director of Service Prosecutions for various service offences including those of negligent performances of duties."
A large number of voices you'd expect to express outrage, especially over the whitewash, have been strangely silent. One voice that was not afraid to call it out, Simon Basketter (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) who noted:
Senior commanders were apparently ignorant of a ban imposed in 1972 on the use of five torture techniques, including hooding, stress positions and sleep deprivation.
While highly critical of the evidence of a number of soldiers, and of the lies told about the Iraqis' detention, Gage ruled that there was no cover-up of Baha's death.
After Baha's killing, the government claimed that hooding of prisoners had stopped, which it hadn't, and that it wasn't used for interrogations, which it was.
The report says that while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had provided inaccurate information, neither it, the civil service, nor ministers had intended to mislead. Instead the inquiry condemns the "corporate failure" of the MoD.
This included then armed forces minister Adam Ingram's claim that he was "not aware of any incidents in which UK interrogators are alleged to have used hooding as an interrogation technique".
But Ingram had been sent a memo explaining what had happened to Baha Mousa. Ingram claimed, "It certainly would not have been within my power to remember everything that I had been informed."
The report also notes the memory loss of then Labour defence secretary Geoff Hoon. It says, "His answers suggested that he had not perhaps fully grasped the respect in which his response turned out to have been inaccurate."
The report provides evidence that soldiers were trained in what are essentially torture techniques. This, combined with a culture of racism and violence, explains why torture was so commonplace.

Turning to the subject of Camp Ashraf, July 25th we called out an article on it:
The US press response has generally been bitchy. Tim Arango (New York Times) picked up the baton last week to continue that tradition with a one-sided look at the group, offering a selective history and apparently an exchange by the even bitchier Lawrence Butler that was supposed to recall the great cat fights between Krystal and Alexis in the eighties:

**Now they are unwelcome in Iraq but believe they should be given protection in the United States -- even though their group, known as the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, remains on the State Department's list of terrorist organizations.
"You probably have in mind Hawaii," said Ambassador Lawrence E. Butler, the American diplomat who has been negotiating with the group in recent sessions here.
"I suspect you don't want to go to Guantanamo," he added.**

Arango's not an expert on many things and that includes international law. Presumably British MP Tarsem King is aware of international law and he notes, "The U.S., which recognised the residents of Ashraf as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention in 2004, is morally and legally obligated to protect the residents. But, in the broader context, it should realise that abandoning Ashraf is tantamount to giving the Iranian regime an upper hand in Iraq."

I know Wesley Clark. That's never stopped me from calling him out if I thought it was warranted. I've also defended him when I thought he was treated unfairly. (And if you're looking for examples of either, you're more likely to find it in the TV pieces
Ava and I do for Third than here.) I have held off noting Arango's article because I still can't grasp how it made it into print. This includes Butler smearing Wesley with the statement, "How much was he paid" [to speak out on the behalf of Camp Ashraf residents]? And Butler adding, "He doesn't get out of bed for less than $25,000." Arango does speak to Clark who is quoted . . . for three words. Wesley's never been an expert in bitchy. If he were fluent in it, no doubt, Arango would have quoted him at length.

I do love the yellow journalism of the New York Times. Whenever you might forget just how biased they are, they always pop to remind you. (For any who wonder, I have never received a penny on anything related to Camp Ashraf. We covered it here due to the fact that the residents were being ridiculed by the press. I had no clue about them and called up a friend at the UN and said, "Walk me through who these people are." As bad as Arango's article is, three or four years ago, it would have been considered a valentine to Camp Ashraf. Reporters felt no need to even pretend to be objective and openly ridiculed the residents, their beliefs and anything else they could get their hands on. Had that not happened, we wouldn't have started covering Camp Ashraf.)
Tim Arango can do strong and solid reporting -- even exceptional reporting. That article was beneath him. Today the paper's public editor Arthur S. Brisbane weighs in on the controversy over the article. Tim Arango never identified himself as a reporter while speaking to the residents of Camp Ashraf. I'm going to offer my take on these issue. Not identifying himself to residents? No problem. My opinion. Camp Ashraf residents state that he was identified as a member of the State Dept. Arango states he never heard it and the State Dept denies it happened -- they would deny it, wouldn't they? He went in with the State Dept, he was not identified as a reporter and he wasn't wearing a military uniform. Whether the State Dept said "He's with us" or anything similar, the impression would be that Tim Arango was with the State Dept unless he was identified as something else. I don't think that necessarily matters in terms of meeting people as he goes through Camp Ashraf and speaking to them. I do think it matters when he sits in on negotiations between the State Dept and Camp Ashraf. The residents involved in negotiations had a right to know that they were speaking in front of a reporter who was there to do a report. They were not informed of that. That was not fair.
Arango and another employee decided they'd cut out the Ashraf half of the negotiations due to the fact that they hadn't informed them, cut it out of the story. No, that is not realistic. You should have known that the minute you've written a story and go back and cut out one side, you are no longer being fair. He embedded with the US government -- and broke Iraqi guidelines in the process (journalists aren't allowed in Camp Ashraf per Nouri) -- and he ended up with a one-sided 'report' that gave all the emphasis -- even in the attacks on American citizens such as Howard Dean and Wesley Clark -- to the US government representative. There's no excuse for that article and that flares didn't go up the minute the embed process was contemplated (flares such as: How can I convey to Camp Ashraf that the meeting is going to be reported on?) and that they didn't is very disturbing. (And I do believe Tim Arango that he didn't hear the State Dept present him as one of them. I do not believe the State Dept's claim that they didn't. In a meeting like that, it would be standard practice to explain who was present. Especially during ongoing negotiations when a new face suddenly pops in.) Brisbane's conclusions can be read here and he ends with:
However, given that the resulting story detailed the pointed perspective of Mr. Butler, it was incumbent on The Times to present a much more thorough version of the MEK's perspective. It could be argued that this would have been very hard to do in a story constructed like this one -- one in which the reader is treated to numerous quotes captured during a live negotiating session.
With the American presence in Iraq possibly close to ending, it would be ideal if The Times made another attempt soon to report on Camp Ashraf, this time taking pains to detail the MEK's point of view.
And on the subject of Tim Arango and my critiques of him, I try to be very clear in them as possible. Some have taken that to mean I fret over another e-mail from him. I don't really care (no offense to him, I'm sure he's a wonderful person but I'm sure he's got more important things to do than read this website). What I do care about is being fair. By my standards, I wasn't in April when I criticized him.
As readers of Third will know, when David Corn bailed on The Nation and went to Mother Jones, Chris Hayes was suddenly elevated (promoted) to a new position. We had criticized Chris before without any problems. But this was not a planned promotion and my feelings were (and this is all over Third), he's in a new position I don't want to criticize him. (This was before he was kind enough to write up IVAW's Winter Soldier hearing at The Nation. The only person who promised they would that indeed followed up on it. I have not forgotten that and I will always praise him for writing about it and for keeping his word on that. I can provide a long list of lefty writers who were supposed to cover it at lefty publications and did not. In the MSM, all that promised they would cover it did. By contrast in the so-called independent media they promised like crazy and, of course, all failed to keep their word except for Chris Hayes.) I did not realize when I wrote the April critique of Tim Arango that he was the Baghdad chief. That only came out months later while talking to a friend at the paper. Since becoming aware of that, I try to be very specific when criticizing Tim Arango because, by my standards, he didn't get a fair shake from me. If I'd known he was also the Baghdad chief and not just another reporter working under one, I would have cut him slack that I didn't. (That's before you get into the fact that he comes from something other than hard news.) He has many strong qualities. We'll continue to call out the bad ones when they pop up. But I will say here, "Tim Arango, you have my apology for my April criticism because had I know you were wearing two hats and new to the higher position, I would have cut you a great deal more slack."