Friday, October 14, 2011

He stabs everyone in the back

Because that's all Barack knows how to do.

Ted Kennedy disgraced himself for Barack. His thanks?

Alex Wayne and Drew Armstrong (Bloomberg News) report, "A long-term disability care program shepherded into the U.S. health overhaul by Senator Edward Kennedy before his death was canceled as financially unsustainable by health secretary Kathleen Sebelius."

That's the thanks Ted gets for destroying the family legacy to back Barack.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, October 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a member of the US press decides he's in Iraq to mock Iraqis, Political Stalemate II continues, a new political movement issues a statement, withdrawal and 'withdrawal' of US forces continues to be explored, Camp Ashraf residents remain under assault, and more.
Starting with small and tired. The Washington Post's Dan Zak Tweeted:
Dan Zak
MrDanZak Dan Zak
Fave complaint at small, tired Tahrir protest today: Group of high schoolers want Maliki to let them retake their exams bc they failed.
You know what's small and tired?
Journalists who think they're better than the beat than they're assigned to cover.
A reporter for the Style pages who is fortunate enough to get a break into real reporting needs to lose the snark and snide about the subjects they're covering.
The high schoolers may or my not have been amusing -- this wasn't their first appearence at the protests. They really aren't my concern. A "small tired" protest? Well aren't you just above the people protesting because their loved ones have disappeared into what passes for a legal justice system in Iraq? Aren't you above all those women crying in public for their sons, their husbands and their fathers that they haven't seen in months or years, that they don't even know if they're alive.
The Disappeared.
That's what they are but apparently journalists whose experience comes via the Style pages, lack not only reporting chops but any real sense of value or perspective or, if nothing else, the instinct to know what plays as a good story. The snark goes a long, long way towards explaining why Zak's coverage has been at, best, disappointing and, at worst, superficial to the point that actual attempts at news stories read like clip jobs.
Videos of the protest -- here, here and here -- show at least 52 adults. At least. And I'm not arguing that's all of the protesters. I'm saying there are at least 52 different adults on video and there's never an establishing wide shot of the crowd to demonstrate that that's all of those present or that there's a lot more present. Dar Addustour reports "hundreds" were participating.
Let's assume it was just 52. Other than WWD and possibly In Style 'magazine,' does Dan Zak read? Does he read the Washington Post? The Post was the only print outlet to nail down what was happening with the protests in real time. (The only broadcast outlet to get it right was NPR.) Intimidation, arrests, torture. Is Dan Zak familiar with what has happened to activists taking part in the Friday protests?
He doesn't seem to be. That's a large number in the midst of war zone with a new Saddam watching over and taking retribution against those who speak out. While Dan Zak was demonstrating just what a little bitch he can be, the Great Iraqi Revolution reported, "A number of brave Iraqi women attended Tahrir square demonstrations today wearing coffins to represent the government repression and to express their challenge to the government. " And they noted, "The government forces attacked the female activist -Shahrazad- in Tahrir square today, they have beaten her up , dragged her on the street after the demonstrations ended and stole her camera, 2 mobiles and money "
But what does violence against activists matter when Dan Zak's more concerned with announcing to the world that his parents raised a little bitch. What a wonderful moment for them, for the US and for journalism. And, in fairness to Zak, whomever was foolish enough to judge him ready for actual reporting should have stepped in a long time ago and told him, "You are blowing it and your career with it." The crap he's turned out is not sufficient for hard news reporting. He deserved to be told that so he could try to make adjustments. Instead, he's just been allowed to embarrass himself with no support and guidance.
Turning to the topic of withdrawal, Al Mada reports that, while in London, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaif told the BBC that the Parliament would not grant immunity to US soldiers in Iraq after the end of this year. The newspaper also notes that US officials are pressing Nouri to grant the immunity himself but Nouri continues to state immunity would have to be referred to Parliament. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reviews some of the options which might allow the US military to remain on the ground in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011: "The US government plans to maintain a sizable presence in Iraq, where it has its largest foreign embassy. This already has US military trainers attached to it, and uniformed military personnel could receive diplomatic protection. NATO, which has a training mission in Iraq that will stay through 2013, is providing expertise in logistics and policing. Iraqi lawmakers are also discussing an extension of the NATO mission, which would allow trainers in many cases to come under their own country's legal jurisdictions for certain crimes." Dar Addustour notes that US Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Iraqi shortly Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's first deputy Parliament Speaker, Qusay Al Suhail, expected on Thursday a surge in armed attacks as US forces are close to withdraw from the country. Suhail urged security forces to double efforts and carry out preventive operations to prevent gunmen from carrying on with their suspicious agendas." Jordan Michael Smith (Salon) weighs in on why pulling all US troops is the thing to do:
Just as withdrawing from Vietnam enabled the United States to concentrate on its only true foe in the Cold War, so leaving Iraq will permit us to focus on the anti-American terrorists that should always have been our only targets after the 9/11 attacks. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges argues in his new book, "The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda," that the terrorist organization is effectively decimated, its leadership destroyed and operational abilities devastated. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior military officials have made similar claims.
Even if they are too sanguine, withdrawal from Iraq will aid efforts against al-Qaida. Iraq has always been at best a distraction from campaigns to defeat those who attacked America on 9/11, and the war there continues to consume precious American resources, attention and, of course, human lives. Redirecting these against bin Laden's few remaining followers is the wisest course of action.
None of this is to say that leaving Iraq will be completely painless. Leaving Vietnam was not, either. Ultimately, however, keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops only delays the inevitable. Americans and Iraqis will be better off if the United States learns the most important lesson the Vietnam War teaches: Once you get into a losing venture, getting out as soon as possible is the only way to win.
Today, Aswat al-Iraq reports that a new political movement in Iraq has announced itself -- the National Rectification Movement -- which, supposedly, will "express the aspirations of the people and get rid of the accumlated mistakes." In the meantime Political Stalemate II continues in Iraq. The Kurdish officials (minus Goran) and Nouri have been at loggerheads over (a) the failure to implement the Constitution's Article 140, (b) the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement (agreement which allowed Nouri to have a second term as prime minister) and (c) Nouri's proposed oil and gas bill. Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) interviews Kurdish official Arif Tayfur about the recent trip to Baghdad:

Rudaw: Did your visit to Baghdad achieve anything?

Arif Tayfur: The Kurdish delegation was very pleased with the meeting with Shiite National Alliance. There was a great deal of understanding. The Kurdish delegation was representing all of the Kurdish parties and movements in Iraqi Kurdistan. It expressed its concerns to the Shiites about the current situation in Baghdad and the attitudes towards the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The Kurdish delegation will present the results of the meetings to Iraqi Kurdistan's President (Massoud Barzani) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in order to determine whether a KRG delegation will be sent to Baghdad or not.

Rudaw: Did Baghdad make any promises to the Kurdish delegation?

Arif Tayfur: The Kurds were satisfied with their meeting with the Shiite alliance, as they promised the Kurds that all matters will be dealt with via agreements and mutual understanding. The Kurdish delegation met separately with the Dawa Party and our delegation has conveyed all of their grievances in a straightforward manner. We also expressed our willingness to solve all the issues, but it appeared that the core issues are between KRG and the Iraqi federal government.

Al Mada reports Parliamentary attendance rarely reaches two-thirds. Meanwhile the Iraqi Justice and Reform movement, Alsumaria TV reports, is claiming Iraiqya has a secret deal with the Kurds on Article 140 of the Constitution (which outlines how the dispute over Kirkuk will be resolved). If it's not true (no proof is offered), it may be a response to the revelation that Nouri's attempted to enlist the League of Righteous into the Article 140 issue. (The League of Righteous is a merry band of thugs who have targeted and killed Sunnis, Americans and Brits throughout the Iraq War.) Aswat al-Iraq reported Thursday, "An al-Iraqiya MP announced today that his bloc currently has no intentions of withdrawing trust from the government, because it will create a state of 'chaos' in the country. MP Ahmed al-Jubori told Aswat al-Iraq that his bloc called on the government to solve all pending questions, particularly the security and services, as well achieving national partnership. Earlier, MP Ahmed al-Alwani said that there are alternatives to prevent the government to reach the status of one party and one leader by leaving the government to weaken the role of the prime minister." Yesterday Al Mada noted that some members of Iraqiya are launching an effort to convince political slate leader Ayad Allawi to rethink his decision to give up the post heading the (not yet created) security council. The Erbil Agreement allowed second placed Nouri al-Maliki (his State of Law came in second in the March 7, 2010 elections) to stay on as prime minister provided (among other things) an independent security council was created that would be headed by Allawi (whose political slate came in first).
Still on the political parties, Al Mada quotes State of Law MP Ehasn Yassin al-Awadi declaring that Iraqiya and State of Law are not speaking. He maintains that Iraqiya has been inflexible in their stand and that the two political slates had reached a brick wall. State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's political slate. Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi's political slate. Iraqiya came in first in the March 2010 elections. Also noting State of Law is the Great Iraqi Revolution: "The Ministry of Higher Education accepts the deputy of State of Law Coalition Abbas Al-Bayati for higher studies, though he failed the competitive evaluation tests , he's above the allowed age and he didn't get the required qualifications after graduation . This is not strange since the Secretary of Higher Education Ali Al-Adeeb belongs to the same party ( State of Law Coalition) !!" In other State of Law employment news, Al Mada reports that Nouri's made some new appointments. As they note, Allawi has long accused Nouri of waiting until Parliament goes on vacation to make replace people he wishes to be rid of (thereby bypassing Parliament). Iraqiya's calling attention to Nouri pulling State of Law members and replacing them with people he can presumably have more faith in. Iraqiya calls it yet another attempt by Nouri to "crack down on democracy."

On the topic of violence, Reuters notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul, 1 suspect was killed in Mosul by the Iraqi military, a Baquba roadside bombing left six people injured, and, dropping back to Thursday night, a clash in Hilla led to 1 person being killed and two more injured.
Over 3,000 Iranian dissidents, welcomed into Iraq prior to the start of the Iraq War, reside in Camp Ashraf. Mehran Bahramian (New Zealand's Scoop) explains, "Camp Ashraf was established 26 years ago in north of Baghdad by the members of the Iranian opposition movement, the People's Mujahidin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The PMOI is an Iranian democratic secular political force opposed to the theocracy of the mullahs of Iran. The PMOI renounced the use of force in 2001 and voluntarily gave up their arms to the American forces in 2003. In return the American and the Multi National Forces recognized the residents of the camp as protected persons under the 4th Geneva Convention." In yesterday's New York Times, former FBI director Louis J. Freeh had a column in which he wrote, "The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamel al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, has brazenly murdered members of the Mujahedeen Khalq. Mr. Maliki justifies his attacks by noting that the group is on the United States' official list of foreign terrorist organizations. In April, Iraqi forces entered Camp Ashraf and fatally shot or ran over 34 residents and wounded hundreds more. Mr. Maliki has now given the Mujahedeen Khalq until Dec. 31 to close the camp and disperse its residents throughout Iraq." Earlier this month, Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that the residents had "applied to the United Nations for refugee status." While that's decided, we'll note what the International Committee of the Red Cross stated (last spring) were the obligations to the residents:
The authorities have the obligation to respect the rights that Ashraf residents enjoy under national and international law. In particular, the authorities must preserve the residents' physical and mental well-being at all times, and must allow families to remain together as far as possible.
Furthermore, the ICRC has regularly reminded the authorities of their obligation to respect the principle of "non-refoulement," which is a principle of international law that prohibits a State from transferring people to another State or authority if there is a risk that they may be subjected to any kind of ill-treatment, or that they may face persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
We have also reminded the authorities of their obligation to ensure that civilians in Camp Ashraf -- as elsewhere in Iraq -- have access to such basic necessities as food, water and medical care.
September 13th, the United Nations High Commissionor for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a guide on the status of Camp Ashraf residents applying for asylum to various countries which led with:
Camp residents who have submitted requests are accordingly now formally asylum-seekers under international law whose claims require adjudication. International law requires that they must be able to benefit from basic protection of their security and well-being. This includes protection against any expulsion or return to the frontiers of territories where their lives or freedom would be threatened (the non-refoulement principle).
As Swiss News has noted, the immediate impact of the guide was for Switzerland which "is considering whether to take in refugees" from Camp Ashraf. Trend News Agency noted at the end of last month, "Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, announced today that she has appointed Jean De Ruyt to advise on the European Union's response to Camp Ashraf, EU website reported." AFP added, "A spokesman for Ashton said Monday that Jean De Ruyt, Belgium's former ambassador to the EU, will act in Brussels 'as an advisor on the European Union's response' to Camp Ashraf, located near the border with Iran and home to some 3,4000 Iranian dissidents."
Al Mada reports Speaker of Parliament Nujaifi has declared that Sunnis in Iraq believe they are treated as second-class citizens. Nujaifi is quoted stating that Iraq's house is for all but is in a trainstion currently as the people realize their rights. Sunnis are targeted in Iraq. Many groups of Iraqis are targeted. Al Rafidayn reports on Iraq's dwindling Jewish community which has fallen throughout the war from "tens of thousands" to seven in Baghdad. The article cites an AFP report on Jews who had left and quotes one stating, "We were reluctant to leave Iraq, it was the only home we knew." However, throughout the war, Jews have been targeted with kidnappings, threats, and murder. For example, in 2007, a Jewish man (the husband of a dentist) was kidnapped from his Baghdad home. A Jewish man shares that his Muslim neighbors treated him with "affection and love" but that it became harder to live there and harder to conceal his religion because it is noted on the national ID card that Iraqis must show when traveling through the many checkpoints. His family home was illegally seized and turned into a space for livestock despite the fact that they have the documents that go back to the 1920s proving they own the property.

All of Iraq's religious minorities have been targeted and live under the threat of violence. Compass Direct News reports on a family in Iraq that converted from Muslim to Christian:

"When our relatives come from Baghdad, we need to move everything that is Christian," Nuria's mother said. "In short, we are living two lives. It is very hard on children. We are adults, and it is hard for us to live double lives, but for children it is worse. Even their personality will be affected."
Nuria and her family, whose names must be withheld for their safety, are Iraqi Arabs who converted from Islam to Christianity. Whereas Assyrian Iraqis are accepted as Christians by ethnic identity, Iraqi Muslims believe Arabs have no business becoming Christians; it is not possible, according to society and the constitution.
Nuria's parents, like many converts in Iraq, struggle to raise their children as Christians in a society that will only accept them as Muslims. If the children say they believe in Jesus, they face beatings and scorn from their teachers. Because their identification cards say they are Muslims, they cannot enroll in Christian schools, and they must take Islamic religion classes. Likewise, because of their identity cards they later would only be able to marry another Muslim under Islamic rites.
Today Iraq War vetern Adam Kokesh's program Adam vs The Man returns. They're calling it AVTM 3.0 and the first episode, today's episode, is here. Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:
Service members who experience PTSD, TBI, MST, and combat stress have the right to exit the traumatic situation and receive immediate support, and compensation. Too often, service members are forced to redeploy back into dangerous combat, or train in situations that re-traumatize them. We say, individuals suffering from trauma have the right to remove themselves from the source of the trauma. Service members who are not physically or mentally healthy shall not be forced to deploy or continue service. Learn more about what Operation Recovery is fighting for here

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Toad

"Ex-SDS leader seeks to heard Wall Street Protest behind Barack" (Bill Van Auken, WSWS):
An op-ed column by Todd Gitlin, published in the New York Times Sunday is representative of this layer of ex-lefts, whose principal preoccupation is how to channel this movement behind the Democratic Party and the upcoming campaign to reelect President Barack Obama.

Gitlin, who was the president of the Students for a Democratic Society in 1963-64 and later an organizer of protests against the Vietnam War, has since secured a comfortable berth in academia as a tenured professor of journalism and communications at Columbia University in New York City.

Gitlin titled his Times column: “The Left Declares its Independence,” apparently in reference to the protests’ relation to the Obama administration in Washington. He argues that many of those now protesting “went door-to-door” for Obama in 2008 and quotes a fellow academic as writing that “This is the Obama generation declaring their independence from Obama.”

While Gitlin’s long-winded piece is full of professed sympathy for the demonstrations and celebration of its supposed “anarchist” and “New Left” sensibilities, the thrust of his argument is that, sooner rather than later, it will have to—and should—come under the wing of the Democrats.

He hails the efforts of the AFL-CIO bureaucracy to hijack the protest movement and turn it into a prop for the Obama reelection campaign in 2012. In this energetic movement from below, he writes, “Here, finally, is what labor and the activist left have been waiting for.”

As someone who knows Toad Gitlin, I just want to say that he didn't change. That's who he was. He was too old to be a part of the baby boom. He hates that reality but it's true.

He was also always about co-opting the work of others -- especially women.

His problem with Weather Underground stemmed mainly due to his dislike for Bernardine and that was because she was in a leadership role and she was a woman.

Toad's always been a disappointment, he will always be a disappointment.

I'm very glad Bill Van Auken called him out.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, October 12, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, US House Rep Jason Chaffetz declares, "When President Obama tells the American people that forces will be out of Iraq, I'm not sure the average American understands that the troops will be replaced with a private army of security contractors," State Dept testimony today may mean State Dept employees refuse to go to Iraq, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, Turkey thinks they have a say in disputed Kirkuk, and more.
"I'd like to begin this hearing by stating the Oversight Committee's mission statement," declared US House Rep Jason Chaffetz this morning. "We exist to secure two fundamental principles. 'First, Americans have the right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent. And second, Americans deserve an efficient and effective government that works for them. Our duty on the Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee is to respect these rights'." Chaffetz is the Chair of the
Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations which heard from the State Dept's Patrick F. Kennedy and DoD's Alexander Vershbow and Alan F. Estevez this morning on the topic of Iraq and the US presence beyond 2011.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: To fill the void left by the Defense Department, the State Department will hire thousands of private contractors to complete the mission. In all, the State Department's footprint will balloon to approximately 17,000 personnel. And, according to the Government Accountability Office, the GAO, nearly 14,000 will be private contractors. These contractors will perform a wide range of tasks including life support services and logistics. They will also recover downed aircraft and personnel, dispose of ordnance and tranport personnel. State Department will also hire a private army of nearly 7500 security contractors to do everything from guarding the walls and gates to guarding VIP convoys and flying UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles]. While they will have the abilities of sense and warn of incoming ordnance, they will not have the ability to shoot it down. I find this puzzling. I'd like to discuss this further. So as the Defense Department winds down, the State Department is ramping up in what may be more of a political shell game than a drawdown of forces. When President Obama tells the American people that forces will be out of Iraq, I'm not sure the average American understands that the troops will be replaced with a private army of security contractors.
That was some of Chaffetz' opening remarks regarding the State Dept and now will note some of his comments with regards to the Defense Dept.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: On a related manner, I'd appreciate it if the Defense Department would clear up some of the confusion surrounding it's drawdown. There have been numerous reports that President Obama may order thousands of combat troops to remain in Iraq at the Iraq government's request to conduct training of Iraqi military. While I understand negotiations are ongoing with the Iraqi government, I believe the American people have the right to additional clarity on how many troops will remain and what their mission and legal status will be?
John Tierney is the Ranking Member and a public embarrassment. Wally's covering Tierney's nonsense at Rebecca's site tonight. Wait. Kat's grabbing it at her sight. Wally's going to rank Chaffetz as a chair in his post at Rebecca's site. Opening (prepared remarks) by the witnesses aren't worth noting. And Kennedy's remarks sounded exactly like they did in February when he was appearing before the Senate. There were two key exchanges in the hearing. I'll note one and if Ava doesn't grab the other at Trina's tonight, I'll note it here tomorrow.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Mr. Ambassador, first of all, I'd like to start with you. McClatchy Newspapers in an article that came out yesterday [Sahar Issa's article] in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the headline is "US Military Trainers Can Stay, Leaders Say." But I'm troubled by what President [Jalal] Talabani said. "We have agreed to retain more than 5,000 trainers without giving them immunity. We have sent them our agreement to retain this number and are awaiting their response: Yes or no." I find it deeply troubling that there's the prospect of our troops being in Iraq without immunity. I think this is totally unacceptable Can you please give us an update on the situation?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'd be happy to, uh, to respond. Uh, indeed there's some important issues raised by that article. First of all, Iraq's political leadership has indicated that they are interested in a training relationship with the United States after 2011 and we very much want to have an enduring partnership with the Iraqi government and people and a relationship with the Iraqi security forces would be a very important part of that relationship. I think, as you know, we have long been planning to have the Office of Security Cooperation Iraq -- OSCI -- which would be under chief admission authority -- serve as the cornerstone of a chief security partnership and it would be the hub for a range of security assistance and security cooperation activities. So that, of course, is the baseline. We've been reviewing the official statement issued by Iraqi leaders on training assistance on October 4th and discussing with them how this fits into the principle of security cooperation under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement. Uh, I should add that we appreciate the democratic spirit represented by Iraqi leaders in debating this important subject and we will continue our discussions with our Iraqi counterparts in the days ahead. So these negotiations are ongoing and it's, uh, premature to discuss what any --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: What --
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: -- potential training relationship will look like --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Well will our troops have immunity, yes or no?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: Yeah, well I'll get to that issue, Mr. Chairman. As we work to define the parameters of what it will look like uh-uh the issues raised yet again in this article regarding status protections will of course be important issue. And again I don't want to get into the specifics of the negotiations but we will always ensure that our forces have the appropriate protections that they need when they're deployed overseas. There's a number of different --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: When you say appropriate protections is that -- is that immunity?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: [Long intake of breath] I think there's different terminology.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: That's why I'm seeking a little clarification here. I'm not feeling too comfortable at the moment. Will our troops have immunity?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: They will -- we-we --They will have status protection which has been defined under the Strategic Framework -- under the security agreement, excuse me, the Status Of Forces Agreement that now applies as indicating that our forces would be subject to US law rather than Iraqi law. So we'll be looking for something going forward that provides the comparable level of protection. Exactly how that will be achieved again is a subject of ongoing negotiations. Some of the personnel as I mentioned under the OSCI will be covered under chief admission authority. The question that's still being asked whether any additional personnel would be involved and how they would -- how they would be protected. We certainly take very seriously the concerns that you have expressed.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Let me move on. I think that this is the major, major point of concern. It's obviously a major point of difference. It's something that obviously must be resolved. And it's totally unacceptable to think that our troops would be there without immunity as they've enjoyed currently. Ambassdor Kennedy, let me go back to these loss functionalities. Last time we gathered together, we were referred to this July 12, 2010 Commission on Wartime Contracting special report. It talked about the loss functionalities. This is on page four of that report. There were fourteen specific security-related tasks now performed by Department of Defense that State must provide as the military draws down. I know there's been progress on at least seven of those but could you give me an update as to those fourteen specific ones, what are you not prepared to take care of? [Kennedy's speaking. Microphone's not on.] If you could hit that [button].
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: My apologies. Mr. Chairman, as we outline in my -- in my June 8th letter, to, uh, to the Committee, we believe that we have covered the functions that are absolutely essential to our operations there. We will have the abilitiy through the --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Would that be all fourteen of these?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I think -- I think you can say we will have the ability to do everything except, for example, the recovery of downed aircraft. Should an aircraft go down, we will be able to move to recover the personnel from those aircraft but but whether -- because we don't have quite the heavy lift as the Department of Defense, we might not be able to recover the airframe itself.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: So of the fourteen, that's the only one that you're concerned about?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I am concerned about everything possibly go wrong.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Right.
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I cannot -- I cannot --
Chair Jason Cahffetz: But functionality?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: But functionality, going if I could, Mr. Chairman, to your earlier, in your opening statement, you asked about counter-battery neutralization. We will have the-the ability thanks to my colleagues in the Pent -- the Defense Department with the system that is called GIRAFFE [Radar] which is an [air defense] early warning system that tracks incoming rockets or mortars, give us sufficient warning to deal with that, we'll be able to sound the alarm. And in the construction activities that we are undertaking and all the sites that our personnel will both work and live. We are constructing overhead cover that means should one of the, uh -- those missiles or mortars strike our facilities -- and this has happened in Baghdad and the construction techniques we've been using in Baghdad have proven very, very effective -- There is no penetration of the building itself. The, uh, the --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: But can we or will we fire back?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: We will not -- Sir, the State Dept has no howitzers and no counter-rocket fire. We will not fire back. That is not a diplomatic activity. We're not of a diplomatic mission in Iraq, not a military mission but -- if I might add -- we are partnered extensively with the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police who have been assisting us during the last few months. We have been without such a -- such a counter-battery fire ability and the Iraqi police and the Iraqi military have been great assistants of disrupting the attempts of uh, uh, forces to attack our, uh, our, uh, facilities via rockets and mortars.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Well God bless the men and women who are going to be there because if it's the policy of the United States not to fire back I have -- I have deep concerns.
Again, that was one of the two key exchanges. In addition to possibly noting another exchange here tomorrow (if Ava doesn't grab it -- she's welcome to it, by the way), I've also got to talk late tonight to a friend who attended the hearing and I'll check with him to see if something different stood out. If so, we'll note that.
As for Kennedy's testimony? I think a lot of people are going to feel what the Chair did and I wonder if it will be a repeat of the second Bush term when Condi Rice had trouble repeatedly as she attempted to fill diplomatic slots in Iraq? In addition, to Kennedy's testimony about GIRAFFE, unless it's changed, that's a bit like connecting to the internet via a mobile attenna -- it'll work but if you're planning to use the internet consistently and from the same spot, why not just get DSL as opposed to something that's really designed as a temporary measure? GIRAFFE gets its name from the fact that the radar equipment is on the end of this long arm that rises in the air when in use and folds down when you don't feel the need to use the radar system. So where I'm confused is, GIRAFFE is really designed for temporary use. Why is the State Dept staking lives on the use of a temporary device as opposed to monitoring equipment that would sense incoming rockets or mortars? A wealth of military equipment is being handed over to the Iraqi military -- that's fine, it's really not worth the financial cost to carry it back to the US and it will soon be out of date. This was known and factored in long ago. But was there not better equipment protecting US military bases in Iraq -- radar equipment -- that could have been handed over to State at a time when the US military -- as planned -- is discarding equipment like crazy in anticipation of the re-ordering of equipment which was always planned? Seems there should be something better than GIRAFFE especially when you consider how long the State Dept intends to stay in Iraq.
Again, Chair Jason Chaffetz' concerns are going to be concerns a lot of people will have though, granted, some may not have them unless something horribly wrong takes place and a State Dept worker is injured or killed under this new program.
Injured or killed? Baghdad was slammed with bombings today. Muhaimen Mohammed and CNN report, "A string of six explosions killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 70 in Baghdad on Wednesday, Iraq's interior ministry said." Other reports count five bombings. However, Reuters gives a detailed rundown of each Baghdad bombing today and they also count six. Rebecca Santana and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) noted this morning that officials state the death toll has risen to 25 and that's the number most outlets run with this afternoon; however, AGI noted the death toll this morning had risen to 28. Global Post states officials are saying eighty-three were injured. BBC News notes their correspondent Rami Ruhayem says "The resurgence of suicide attacks inside the capital is a worrying development even by Iraqi standards." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes that the dead and wounded include police officers and Iraqi soldiers. Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) adds, "Children at a school close to one of the police stations were injured by shattered glass." Reuters quotes police Lt Nadeer Adel stating, "A car approached... the driver smashed through the checkpoint and exploded the car when he hit a concrete barrier. Smoke was everywhere, we all took cover. Minutes later we found a crater and some of our police were dead."

Dan Zak and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) state, "It was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since Aug. 28, when a suicide bomber killed 28 and injured 30 at the city's largest Sunni mosque." KUNA explains, "An Iraqi police source told KUNA here that the explosions targeted police stations in the towns of Al-Watheq Square, at the entrance of the Ministry of Interior's building, Al-Hurriya, and Al-Baya'a ." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds, "Major General Adel Dahham, the spokesman of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told reporters that guards of the attacked police stations had opened fire on the suicide car bombers and managed to blow up the car bombs at the concrete barricades and prevented them from entering the buildings of the police stations." EuroNews (link is video) states, "The police are a vulnerable taget for militants because they lack the sophisticated weaponry that the Iraqi army has. " Salam Faraj and Ammar Karim (AFP) report of the Alwiay station bombings, "Human remains and shrapnel from the bomb were scattered for about 100 metres (yards), and security forces cordoned off the scene, an AFP correspondent said. Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi condemned the attacks in a statement released by his office." The Washington Post has compiled several photos for an essay here.
Besides bombings in Baghdad, Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured, a Kerbala drive-by claimed the life of Shiek Muhanned al-Meaamar and his driver (the Shiek was "a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani), an attack on a Mosul checkpoint which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers, an attack on a Mosul real estate office in which 2 people died, an attack on a Baghdad police checkpoint (shooting attack) that left two police officers injured, 1 Diwaniyya city employee shot outside his home, and, dropping back to Tuesday night for all that follows, 1 Iraqi military colonel shot dead in Baghdad and a Daquq roadside bombing injured two Iraqi soldiers.
On Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton speaks to David Enders who probably wishes most people weren't streaming it on a day when Iraq was slammed with violence. Brief excerpt.
David Enders: The situation In Iraq at the moment is that the Americans appear to be indeed withdrawing combat troops. I think that's a fact. It does not appear that there is anyway that the Iraqi government will approve a presence of combat troops following the end of the year. Obviously there will still be uh a military presence and a CIA presence. I mean the Americans are still very much involved in counter-terrorism on the ground here and that will probably continue to be the case. Uh we'll also be heavily involved in training uhm and supporting the Iraqi military which -- which is essentially, you know, become a client of the US. Uh the situation on the ground for the average Iraqi I think has changed very little. The government still remains essentially a dictatorship. Iraq still is a police state. I was arrested uh this afternoon or this morning rather for filming on the highway. I was actually filming a convoy of Americans sort of, you know, packing up to go. And I got arrested for filming on the highway. Uhm, I was detained for a few hours. Nothing-nothing serious. And let go. But that gives you an idea the amount of personal freedom one-one perhaps has in Iraq. Uh, electricity is still on 12 hours a day at best. Right now uh it's October. This is a -- This is a time where electricity demand is the lowest. It's before it gets cold and people turn on their heaters, it's after the, you know, super-hot summer months so people aren't running the ACs quite as much and I'm living a stone's throw from the presidential compound and this neighborhood has 12 hours of national power a day. Uh, so I think that gives an idea of-of how the quality of life has improved for the average Iraqi. Security is much better than it was. I-I haven't been here since 2009. Uhm, but that comes with-with a-a-a soldier-to-person ratio of -- that-that must be one of the highest in the world. I mean the-the number of check points, the number of -- Security presence on the streets is just kind of incredible. Uhm and that still does not mean that there's not violence. Uh but compared to 2007, 2008, it's considerably reduced. So that's the situation in Iraq.
Is it? It's certainly all the nonsense I can endure from David Enders who has to be the Baghdad correspondent we've noted least in all the time since 2004. (And noted him little for good reason. KPFA friends warned me off his reporting early in the war.)
"The situation In Iraq at the moment is that the Americans appear to be indeed withdrawing combat troops." Where does it seem that way? From the public baths?
US President Barack Obama claims combat troops were removed by August 31, 2010. September 1st, when the combat is over, according to Barack, the war is renamed "Operation New Dawn." Now the plan is for US soldiers to be called "trainers." Back before Thomas E. Ricks went nuts and became a counter-insurgency addict, he was fond of making the point that US soldiers are trained for combat. That is what they're trained for. Let's drop back to the March 10, 2009 snapshot to note Ricks and NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro on the day prior's Talk of the Nation (NPR).
Thomas E. Ricks: I think that Obama and the people around him are repeating the optimisim of the Bush administration. It's not a departure from Bush to say you want to get out of Iraq. George Bush didn't invade Iraq saying, "I have a great idea. Let's go get stuck in a quagmire for ten years." The original war plan had us down to 30,000 troops by September 2003. Well here we are seven years later. We have more than four times that number of troops and the new president is saying "I want to get us out of Iraq, out of fighting in Iraq by August of next year." Well just because you hang a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner doesn't mean the war ends, just because you say it's a non-combat mission doesn't mean the war ends. The war ends when American troops stop dying. And I was over at the White House the day of the president's speech [Feb. 27th] and I said, "Does this mean American troops will stop dying in August of 2010?" And a military official there said, "No, it does not mean that."
[. . .]
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: I'd just like to speak to something that Thomas Ricks just said. Um, it's kind of interesting, the war ends when no US soldiers are killed here. You know, it's -- through all of this, you tend to forget the Iraqi narrative. We're talking about the Obama administration, what they think, what they believe. Of course there is a sovereign, now, Iraqi government who also has a say in what happens here and what kinds of, you know, US forces remain here and what the war will look like for them. It's not only US soldiers who die but of course Iraqi civilians, Iraqi army, Iraqi police and that also has a -- that characterizes what will happen here in the coming years and months.
Thomas E. Ricks: That's a good point. I should have said "our war ends when US troops stop dying." I think the war goes on for decades.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: It's just -- possibly. And it's certainly a sobering thought for the Iraqis I speak to here. I do spend -- you know, when you're living in Baghdad and covering it -- I've been covering this since 2002 actually -- we have to deal with the US military and, of course, the Iraqis as well. And we -- you know, it's a balancing act. And our staff monitors six [Iraqi] papers a day, three Iraqi channels, and, of course, we go out. Now the security situation is better, I travel all over the country. Tomorrow I'm going into Anbar Province, up near Haditha. I've been pretty much everywhere now days in Iraq and that, of course, allows you to do reporting as you would in any other country, which means getting on the ground, talking to people and seeing exactly what's going on for yourself. Before we had to rely on the US military. They're the ones that had to take us places, we had to embed, we had to see things through their prism. Now that has changed dramatically and we can really go out in a way that we've never been able to since the early days of the war to see for ourselves exactly what's going on.
Neal Conan: And let me quickly follow up again on something Tom Ricks said, decades, Tom?
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah, I think there will be people fighting and dying in Iraq for decades.
Neal Conan: And Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, do you agree with that?
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Well, I think that may possibly be true. As I try and point out in many of my reports, I think the -- for many Americans, they believe that the war is over. I mean there's a lack of interest now that President Obama has said they will be withdrawing US forces in great numbers in the coming year -- not this year, but next year. I think people have sort of thought, 'Well, the war is over in Iraq.' But people die here every single day. There are many simmering conflicts. It might not look like the conflicts that we saw before during the sectarian violence but there are other things that are going on here that could presage many bad days to come. I don' t know, I'm not a prognosticator but certainly Iraq is not stable yet.
Thomas E. Ricks: I think it's a good point that the war has changed several times. It started as a blitzkrieg invasion, then it was a botched occupation, then it was a slow rising but durable insurgency, then it was an American counter-offensive. The war is changing again. It kind of feels like a lull right now. But just because it's changed doesn't mean it's ended and a lot of Americans have stopped paying attention because I think they wrongly think that it's over.
I would argue that David Enders comments also stripped Iraqis out of the equation. The war has not ended -- not for the Iraqis and not for the US. Just yesterday the most recent US soldier to die in combat in Iraq (Spc Adrian Mills) was buried. And for an Iraqi take on Enders claims regarding no more combat soldiers, let's go to the Great Iraqi Revolution commenting on an Al Jazeera article, "Extending the American occupation in Iraq under a new name i.e (NATO Trainers), and the "Trainers" have full immunidty despite all the untrue statements of the Green Zone Government!"
The Al Jazeera article (in Arabic) states Iraqi MPs are willing to consider allowing "trainers" to conduct their mission under NATO which would not only allow US soldiers to stay beyond 2011 but also provide "the legal protection Washington is seeking." Being under NATO, the article notes, would allow the US government to have jurisidiction over any crimes US soldiers committed in Iraq. State of Law (Nouri's political slate) pops up in the article via Sami al-Askari (State of Law MP) who says that option is being debated and that there is another one (getting trainers from other countries) but al-Askari says that it's better and more practical to rely on NATO due to the fact that there's already an agreement in place. That's what someone from Nouri's own political slate is stating publicly and on the record.
"I think that's a fact," Enders insists. Generally speaking, a fact is or isn't a fact. Opinion really doesn't have a lot to do with whether or not something's a fact. "It does not appear that there is anyway that the Iraqi government will approve a presence of combat troops following the end of the year." Really? Did you get the SOFA right? Was your analysis correct on that, David Enders? If he's too 'modest,' I'll answer for him: No, he was wrong on that. But we're supposed to believe his judgment now?
David Enders is not speaking to Nouri al-Maliki and, were he to do so tomorrow, he'd still be an American journalist and not anyone in Nouri's inner-circle. Nouri -- as with the UN mandate, as with the SOFA -- will make the decision on the Iraqi side. He may or may not toss any decision before Parliament. But he will be the one -- barring his being removed from the post -- who will make the decision.
Now maybe David Enders is sleeping with Nouri and privy to pillow talk? Were that the case then I would trust his unsourced and unreliable opinion a little more. Unless or until I learn that's the case, I'll continue to take him about as seriously as KPFA friends do. (In other words, not real much.)
"Obviously there will still be uh a military presence and a CIA presence." Special-Ops have never left Iraq and are not counted in the estimated 45,000 troops still in Iraq. (I believe that 47,000 is still tossed around by some outlets -- not all -- we're going with 45,000 because that's the number a friend at the State Dept was using when we spoke yesterday.) It would be interesting to know the plan for them. (It would be interesting for the press to explore what has legally allowed them to continue operating in Iraq since the end of 2008. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.)
"I mean the Americans are still very much involved in counter-terrorism on the ground here and that will probably continue to be the case." That may be Enders acknowledging Special-Ops. "I mean the Americans are still very much involved in counter-terrorism on the ground here and that will probably continue to be the case." Really? Americans on the ground in Iraq "very much involved in counter-terrorism" would sound to me like combat. I think it would strike many as combat. "Uh we'll also be heavily involved in training uhm and supporting the Iraqi military which -- which is essentially, you know, become a client of the US." Training and supporting the Iraqi military? Sounds again a lot like combat. We'll stop there to pick up from yesterday's snapshot. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) wrote, "The statement, which appeared in most Iraqi newspapers Tuesday, is the first by any American or Iraqi official to detail the size of the U.S. training contingent that the Iraqis have requested. It seemed to make clear that there were no further discussions likely on the thorny issue of immunity, something U.S. officials have always said was a non-negotiable condition of leaving American troops in Iraq."
For those who objected to Sahar being critiqued, first, if you missed it, that article was raised in today's Congressional hearing. It matters if it was reported incorrectly. Second, search the archives, she's never been critiqued before. Even if a co-writer on a story that got critiqued. I don't critique Laith Hammoudi or any of them. I applaud their work and all it takes is a call from a McClatchy friend to say, "___ has a story" that they wrote or co-wrote to get a link. If I disagree, I usually bite my tongue and have done that for how many years now? I have called out Leila Fadel (no longer with McClatchy), I've called out Roy Gutman and any number of others who were raised in the US and are Americans. I have walled off Issa, Hammoudi and the other Iraqi correspondents from criticism.
Yesterday was different. I'd already seen three of those articles on Jalal Talabani that morning -- over eight hours before I got the call about Sahar's piece -- and linked to one here. The articles I saw were in Arabic. There's probably some in Kurdish. I don't read Kurdish (nor do I speak it). A lot of people in the US can't read Arabic.
The Arabic article I linked to (like the other two I read) reviewed Jalal meeting with editorial boards and holding court -- holding court. Jalal's not only saying that it will be 5,000 US soldiers, he's declaring that the decision was arrived at after he, as High Commander of the Iraqi military, reviewed the situation and their capabilities and blah, blah, blah.
I don't like Nouri al-Maliki. He's a thug and he's a danger to the Iraqi people -- based upon his repeated use of secret prisons alone but it's so much more than that. And that is the opinion of the bulk of the Democrats in the Senate though they bite their tongues publicly now that a Democrats in the White House. It's also the opinion of several NGOs and if you've missed it, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has not been biting its tongue about Nouri this year.
But while I don't care for Nouri, I'm not going to lie about him. He's prime minister. I wish he wasn't. I think it slapped Iraqi people in the face after they turned out to vote in 2010 and, despite Nouri getting 'new votes' after the voting and despite his abuse of office during the elections, they voted for something other than Nouri. And yet their voices were ignored and the US government supported ignoring the voice of the Iraqi people. I think that decision did more than just harm for the next four years, I think it was a huge setback for Iraq's future.
Having said all of that, Nouri, as prime minister, is the commander of the military. Why would I deny that? Why I would pretend otherwise? And, as reported over and over in the Iraqi media (and we noted it in real time), the political blocs gave the negotiations over to Nouri (on US staying or going) and members of the Parliament repeatedly noted that they were waiting on Nouri's appraisal of the military which he was conducting as commander-in-chief. It is not Jalal Talabani's job or role. He has nothing to do beyond parade work and awards ceremonies. That's why I made a point to quote the Iraqi Constitution on the role of the president of Iraq with regards to the military, Chapter 2, Article 70, Section I, "Perform the duty of the Higher Command of the armed forces for ceremonial and honorary purposes."
So, as he entertained editorial boards, Jalal declared not only that 5,000 was the number but that, as the High Commander of the Iraqi military, he had conducted an extensive review of force strength and -- No, he hadn't. He was being a braggart yet again. Once again, he was inflating his role and purpose. Since he was doing that as he held court, that really made everything he said suspect including the 5,000 figure. Someone who feels the need to lie about their role to the press, someone who needs to paint themselves as having more power than they do, is generally someone who tends to inflate all their statements. Translation, everything he said while entertaining the press was worthy of skepticism.
Most US readers are not going to be able to read Iraqi media in Arabic. So when Sahar Issa reports that, in these reports, it 'seems' one way, yeah, I will slap it down. I'll do it again, I'll do it every day if necessary. Sahar Issa did not include Jalal's false claims about that military review he'd conducted (he conducted no review; Nouri al-Maliki conducted that review and did so due to his being the commander in chief of the Iraqi military). If that or any other fantastical claim Jalal had made had been included in Sahar Issa's report, I wouldn't have criticized it. But they didn't make the report. What made the report implied that Jalal Talabani was just talking and in the process -- No, he was bragging and on a mission to improve his own standing.
Also not in Sahar Issa's report -- though I don't believe any US outlet has covered it -- Jalal's facing strong criticism from Iraqis. That trip to the US last month cost the Iraqi government $2 million dollars. When The Great Iraqi Revolution got ahold of those documents and released them to the press, there was (and remains) real outrage. And since he returned, he's twice attempted to address the issue with the press and both times made it worse. So it's not at all surprising that someone prone to bragging in the best of circumstances would really go to town inflating their image at a time when they're under fire. We've noted that $2 million repeatedly (including in yesteray's snapshot) but let's turn to the Great Iraqi Revolution to get a take (not "the" take, a take) from Iraqis, "Now this is hilarious! Talabani confirms that he returned 500 thousand dollars of the cost of his trip to New York to Iraq budget, explaining that the plane fare to New York was one million dollars, while the delegation housing and transportation and gifts cost half a million dollars. Talabani added: The amount that was taken ONLY two million dollars. OMG! Is he serious? or does he think that we are naive? Or did Musailema the Liar i.e Maliki taught him this lie?" Is that really the same way Talabani was portrayed by Sahar Issa? No, not at all. Jalal's being publicly mocked for good reason and that's a detail that should have made the report. (And for an amusing illustration the Great Iraqi Revolution did of Nouri al-Maliki, click here. They don't have one of Allawi but they're not fond of him either.)
Moving on to Iraq and one of its neighbors, Aswat al-Iraq noted yesterday, "Turkish artillery resumed its bombing of Kurdish border areas in Seedkan, east Arbil, border control sources said today. [. . .] Kurdistan border areas are under periodical Turkish and Iranian shelling under the pretext of chasing PJAK and PKK parties member, which led to a number of killings and material damages."

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. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."

And if you doubt the presumptions Turkey believes it can make regarding the KRG, Dar Addustour reports Turkish officials met in Baghdad with US officials (meet-up took place at the Turkish Embassy) to declare that they would not allow -- they would not allow -- Kirkuk to become part of Kurdistan and that they are alarmed by talk of implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution (Article 140 outlines how the disputed area of Kirkuk will be resolved -- a census will be held, followed by a referendum, leaving the issue up to the inhabitants of Kirkuk). Trend News Agency reports Nouri announced yesterday that Iraq's forces should be used "in northern areas of Iraq." The Journal of Turkisk Weekly notes, "Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday that Turkey and Iran had extensive cooperation in combting terrorism." He is quoted stating of Nouri's announcement to send Iraqi troops to northern Iraq, "We have already demanded it. When Iraq preserves its own territories and borders, there is no need for Turkey to stage cross-border operation." AFP notes Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, is in Turkey today for discussions with Turkish officials. Today's Zaman adds, "Turkey and Iraq have agreed to open two new gates along their common border to boost trade and accommodate increasing traffic between the two neighbors, Today's Zaman has learned. The issue was discussed during a two-day visit by Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Ankara on Wednesday. According to the information obtained by Today's Zaman from Customs and Trade Ministry officials, the formal agreement for the opening of the first border gate will be signed towards the end of the year, and the gate is expected to be in operation by the end of 2012." Hurriyet adds that "Zebari held meetings with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu" and they note Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed "Abbawi said they would take extra measures against the alleged PKK presence at the Makhmour refugee camp, a United Nations-camp in northern Iraq that Ankara claims is a prime recruiting ground for the Kurdish militants."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Carter Country?

"Workers’ incomes plummet during the Obama 'recovery'" (Barry Grey, WSWS):
As the anti-Wall Street protests against social inequality and the tyranny of the financial oligarchy spread across the US, a new study released Monday documents the devastating decline in working class living standards over the past four years.
The study, authored by two former US Census Bureau officials, concludes that inflation-adjusted median household income plunged 9.8 percent from December 2007, the official start of the recession, to June of 2011. Moreover, household income fell more than twice as rapidly during the Obama “recovery,” which began in June of 2009, than during the 18 months of official recession.
According to authors Gordon W. Green Jr. and John F. Coder, median real household income fell 3.2 percent during the official recession, a dramatic decline, but one far surpassed by the additional 6.7 percent drop between June 2009 and June of this year.

He is a disaster. He is Jimmy Carter reduxe.

Since the Democratic leadership has decided there will be no challenge to him from within the party, I will be voting outside the party.

That might mean supporting Ron Paul's campaign. It might mean supporting a third party or independent candidate.

Were I the Green Party, I would be pushing up my convention to January of 2012 and getting the candidates for the party's nomination out there front and center right now.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Tuesday, October 11, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, John Glaser makes an election year prediction, Iraqi women continue to be rendered invisible by the press, 'withdrawal' issues continue to swirl, Jalal Talabani runs off at the mouth, and more.
John Glaser ( offers his take on how the upcoming 2012 election season will play out:
The Obama administration's so-called shift in war strategy -- from country-wide military occupation to targeted special operations and training missions -- is Orwellian claptrap for more of the same. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, in remarks in Washington in mid-September, said that by 2014 "the US remaining force will be basically an enduring presence force focused on counterterrorism." The technocratic pedantry obscures the reality that the war will continue.
Yet, watch and see in the upcoming 2012 campaign how much Obama will use this 2014 date as a stump speech to coddle gullible Obama voters into casting their ballots -- again -- for a reincarnation of their supposed nemesis, George W. Bush. See if Obama gets reelected on a promise that the war in Afghanistan has nearly ended (that is, if recession-conscious Americans can conceive of going to the ballot box with any intention other than voting themselves other peoples' money).
As a matter of fact, watch how much Obama's similarly broken promises vis-a-vis ending the Iraq war will be completely stricken from the presidential debates. The Obama administration has spent years badgering the Iraqis into accepting a large contingency of US troops and contractors to remain in Iraq beyond the December 2011 deadline for a full withdrawal. To push this through, Maliki circumvented the Iraqi Parliament to make the decision dictatorially. Now that Obama has succeeded in strong-arming the continuation of the US occupation of Iraq, they are demanding US soldiers maintain immunity from Iraqi law.
Sadly, John Glazer's prediction is sound, based on past actions and highly likely of coming true. Al Mada calls it the largest US occupation since the Marshall Plan, the US State Dept's intent to send 16,000 employees into Iraq. Approximately 80% of these 16,000, the paper notes, are not State Dept workers but instead are contractors. It's noted that the prospects of graft and corruption are high due to the size of the mission (which will include training Iraqis). Al Sabaah notes that Jalal Talabani met with a number of editorial boards to discuss various issues including the decision to approve 5,000 US troops to stay in Iraq beyond 2011 (that's last week's decision). Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The statement, which appeared in most Iraqi newspapers Tuesday, is the first by any American or Iraqi official to detail the size of the U.S. training contingent that the Iraqis have requested. It seemed to make clear that there were no further discussions likely on the thorny issue of immunity, something U.S. officials have always said was a non-negotiable condition of leaving American troops in Iraq."
Is that what it seemed?
Because eight hours before McClatchy found it, when I was commenting this morning, I was being nice and moving right along.
What did it seem?
It seemed like Jalal was shooting off his mouth again and trying to make himself look important. What am I referring to? His inflation of his duties as High Commander of the Iraqi military. It's a title, that's all it is. And if Jalal doesn't get that, he must be one of the many Iraqi politicians who's never read the country's Constitution.
Let's quote it. Chapter 2, Article 70, Section I, "Perform the duty of the Higher Command of the armed forces for ceremonial and honorary purposes."
That's the Constitution. If we're going to go off into the world of what-it-seems-like, then let's be realistic about what it seems like -- as opposed to using "seems" to cover for our own wishes and desires.
Jalal Talabani can't stop bragging about himself. That was key to his first term, it remains the hallmark of his second term. What stood out the most in his comments would be his inflating his non-existent powers into somehow the equivalent of the commander-in-chief powers that Nouri al-Maliki currently holds as prime minister.
If we accept that Jalal doesn't have the powers he said he has, that he was (as usual) stroking his own image, then anything else he says is filtered through that prism as well which would negate the so-called "seems" that McClatchy wants to exist.
Meanwhile Al Sabaah reports that Nouri is publicly floating the idea of obtaining military equipment from France or Russia and Nouri notes that negotiations with the US are ongoing. Walter Pincus wonders "So what's the goal of our being in Iraq again?" (Washington Post):

It's been more than eight years since Saddam was deposed, yet Iraq — and even Baghdad — remain a war zone for Americans. Along with those 5,000 private contractor guards needed on the ground, the State Department is now looking to hire a contractor to provide drones for aerial surveillance.
In addition, last Wednesday, the Swedish defense group Saab AB announced that it had received a $23.7 million order from State to buy its Giraffe multi-mission radar system and related services. Two units owned by the U.S. Army are now on loan to State to protect the U.S. Embassy and other buildings in Baghdad's Green Zone. State had to buy its own drones now because the units take 15 months to build. Then it will return the others to the Army.
The embassy area is "the target of rocket and mortar attacks on an almost daily basis," according to a State document justifying the purchase. The Giraffe system provides 360-degree coverage with a single unit, says the document, and the capability "to detect, sense and warn of prospective rocket, artillery and mortar attacks." State even believes it needs protection against "ordnance launched against U.S. personnel via unmanned aerial vehicles, an identified high-risk potential for future attacks," according to the document.

Sahfiq Qazzaz asks a similiar question, one that can be summed up as "What have the Kurds gotten out of this?" (Rudaw):

Amid all of this, the feeling of helplessness among American officials with regard to the situation in Iraq is coupled with their concerns about the dangerous conditions in a country that was expected to fare better.
A report by veteran politicians James Baker and Lee Hamilton in 2006 emphasized the need for a "strategic shift" in Iraq, asserting that Iraq can convince Kurds to lower the bar on their demands only through a strong centralized system, winning the public's loyalty and establishing a united national identity.
To put it in another way, the report's recommendations called for a government in Iraq that can save the country from falling off a cliff. This would have provided the opportunity or the Bush administration to have a speedier withdrawal less marked by defeat.
The events of the last few years showed that the report's strategy was not realized. Eight years after the liberation of Iraq, Professor Michael Gunter says, "Most Shias and Sunnis try to restore the situation to the past… and there are some in the Kurdistan Region who believe it's better for them to militarily confront Baghdad sooner rather than later lest in the future the balance of power would be less in Kurds' favor."

Dan Zak (Washington Post) reports
from Anbar Province and quotes the head of the Security and Defense Committee for the Province, Eifan al-Issawi, stating, "The Iraqi police and army forces are in dire need of aid from the U.S. [. . .] We need continuous support for our forces because al-Qaeda is not an easy enemy and should not be taken lightly."
BridgingDivide posted a video to YouTube last month entitled "Iraq - Interview with a Battered Woman."
ASUDA Women's Shelter
Suleimaniyah, north IRAQ
interview with a battered woman
code name
Since my childhood I have lived a miserable life. I grew up in a small village, coming from a poor family. My father's economic condition was very poor. When I was a child, I had so many dreams that never came true. I had hoped that marriage would mean a prosperous new life for me. But, on the wedding night, when people usually talk about where to spend a pleasant evening with family, instead my husband spoke about all the people whom he had robbed and murdered. So I regretted getting married to him from the first day. Even when I went home to my parent's house, three days after the wedding, everyone in our family, even the neighbors could see how clearly sad I was. They all asked if there was a big problem, like if I wasn't still a virgin. Or that maybe I had a physical disability or something. I was very depressed, and cried a lot. I knew that my life had been ruined. I knew that none of my dreams would come true. One of the reasons my life was ruined was my mother. One of my cousins wanted to marry me, but my mother did not agree because he was not very good-looking and not very well educated. She negotiated with him as if she were selling an animal and in the end . . . my mother and uncle did not agree on an amount of money and changed their minds. My cousin's family was willing to pay only 9,000 Iraqi Dinars, but my mother demanded 20,000. Neither side reached an agreement, so the relationship between our two families deteriorated. So, she decided that I should marry a husband in the traditional way, in an arranged marriage, the bride and the groom not knowing one another before the wedding day. On the day of the ceremony, the groom ran away. He was only brought back with the help of some elderly people who were there at the time, and finally, we were married against our will. When the Mullah had asked him if he agreed to marry me, at first he did not respond. Eventually, he responded "yes." My father and uncle then said that we were still young, and that we would get used to the situation. But after we got married, the situation got worse every day. Our new family never had a nice moment. I had always tried to be very good to my husband, but he always looked for an excuse to abuse me. He failed to find anything positive in my behavior. He would complain about the food or how I did my work. For example, when he felt that I was being too good to him, and he was unable to find any other excuse, he would complain about the way I washed his clothes, or did my other chores. He would start to argue with me, and kick me out of the house. When he would kick me out, I had to go back to my mother's house. My mother would get angry at me, saying that I was shameful for leaving my home, for leaving my husband. She told me that it is shameful for a woman to divorce her husband. While at my parents' house, I was unable to leave or go outside. It was like a prison. It was like when I am here [at the shelter], and I can't go out. It was the same at my parents' house. After a while, I had no choice but to return to my husband. Then in 2004, I had twin girls named Hana and Niga. My husband got very angry because I visited a doctor before delivery, and was told that I was pregnant with twin girls. When my husband found out about the two girls, he divorced me right in front of everyone, saying he no longer wanted me as his wife. Despite this, I kept living with him, as I was no longer welcome at my parents' house. I stayed with my ex-husband for about 9 months, until I delivered the twin girls without a real divorce. When the girls were 9 months-old, I got pregnant again. The baby was a boy. After reaching 5 or 6 months pregnant, my husband took me to a medical assistant paying him $730 to abort the baby. It was December 5th. I will never forget that day. He took me to the medical assistan, who then gave me a lethal injection for the fetus, which put me in a lot of pain. But the baby did not die the same day. It died the next morning between 10 or 11 AM, a Friday. I will never forget that day. At around 12, the baby was aborted from my body, and my disabled baby Niga was laying next to me. After a few moments, she also died. I lost two of my children in the same hour. I called my husband and asked him where he was. He told me that he was out somewhere, off to a public bath to take a shower. I told him that both Niga and the baby had died, but he wouldn't believe that both had died at the same moment. He told me not to tell anyone, not to cry, and that he would come home immediately. When he got back, he buried the aborted baby boy in a little ditch in our garden, and went to tell our neighbors that our girl Niga had just died. They already knew she was not well, as I had been taking her to the hospitals for the last four or five months. The neighbors came and took Niga to the cemetery for burial, while my husband stayed behind to finish burying the baby boy in the backyard. I lived in very difficult conditions during the three or four days of mourning for Niga, and had to be taken to the hospital a few times for internal bleeding. A doctor told me that it looked like my baby had not died normally, that it looked like a surgical operation. He asked me to tell him who had performed the abortion, so that legal action could be taken against the perpetrator. But I was afraid of my husband, and couldn't say anything. I didn't give them the name of the medical assistant who performed the abortion even though I knew him well -- his name is [. . .]. I even know where he lives. He had charged us $730 exactly, then asked for $50 more. When my husband found out that it was a baby boy, he argued with the assistant, and refused to pay the extra $50. He then threatened him, sending him messages that he would tell others that he was doing this kind of work. I am not aware of how this was resolved, as I was very ill. Afterwards, I continued living with my husband anyway, not letting anyone know about the abortion. For this reason, my parents stopped talking to me, and no one attended my daughter's funeral, because I was divorced from my husband. No one came to visit me, so he started telling me that if I had lost two children without any family membmers to pay condolences, he had to take more control over me. I had to say "yes" and agree to his every word, I had to tell him this, because I had nowhere else to go. I continued to live with him this way until March 2nd. At around 6PM my brother-in-law came to my house, asking me to have sex with him. I refused, so he shot at me with a gun. He called my husband to say that he had found me with a strange man in the house. My husband believed him, so I had to run to the neighbor's. He helped me to escape, taking me to a place far from my husband. I stayed the night there. The next morning he handed me over to the army, who brought me to Asuda. I have been living in shelters ever since, in a bad mental state. I have so far, during my three years living in shelters, received no support from the government, not even for the divorce procedures. I still haven't seen a judge, and don't know the legal status of my own divorce. I have seen no good from the legal system. I haven't seen my children in two and a half years.
Today Bushra Juhi (AP) reports on the increasingly bleak picture for Iraqi women as it becomes more and more evident that little will be done to restore their rights. Juhi notes that the World Health Organization estimates that one-fifth of Iraqi women have been abused. Prior to the Iraqi war, they had more rights than any women in the region. The US installed thugs who specialized in ignorance and thuggery and they repeatedly dismantled the rights of women. As MADRE notes, "Despite promises of 'democratizing' Iraq, the US supported Islamist political forces bent on dismantling women's legal rights." Under the US occupation, Islamist militias have waged a systematic campaign of violence against women in their bid to remake Iraq as an Islamist state. There has been a sharp rise in gender-based violence within families, including domestic battering and 'honor killing.' Newly adopted Shari'a laws, such as Article 41 of Iraq's Constitution, have degraded women's rights, making them more vulnerable to abuses." MADRE partners with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and, over the summer, Marcia G. Yerman (Women's Media Center) spoke with OWFI's Yanar Mohammed:
Yanar Mohammed cofounded OWFI during the U.S. invasion of her country in 2003. In two rooms inside a burned out bank, she put a sign on the door proclaiming Women's Freedom in Iraq. "One thing led to another," she said, but from day one, the profile of the group reflected the philosophy that "anything military would not lead to a solution for the women of Iraq."
In addition to setting up safe houses in 2004 to protect women from domestic abuse and honor killings, Mohammed fought sexual trafficking and advocated for women who were incarcerated. She runs a newspaper and a radio station under the banner name of Al Mousawat, which means "equality."
Beyond providing services, Mohammed demands parity for women with the men of Iraq and promotes secular and human rights, earning her the antagonism of Islamic fundamentalists -- who have threatened her life. She sees the power of these religious extremists as a direct result of the military occupation of Iraq. "The Americans did more harm than good," she said. "Under Saddam, women were educated." She pointed to how the occupation had left a vacuum for the rise of Islamists -- who wrote a new constitution taking away women's gains. She noted, "In a religious group, there is not moderation. You are not equal to men." Currently, Mohammed sees the popularity of the Shiite leadership waning. "You can't force democracy through a gun."
Mohammed talked about Iraqi mothers who come to Tahrir Square dressed in traditional garb, holding pictures of their missing sons. Beyond being poor, deprived, and desiring social change, they want to know where their children are. It is impossible to penetrate the many layers of security in Iraq, with detainees held in jail without due process as a result of "anti-terrorism" laws.
The International Committee of the Red Cross explains, "According to ICRC estimates, between one and two million households in Iraq today are headed by women. This figure includes women whose husbands are either dead, missing (some since as far back as1980) or detained. Divorced women are also taken into account. All these women were wives at one time, and today remain mothers to their childrens and daughters to their parents, and sometimes ultimately breadwinners and caregivers for all these people." Women for Women International notes:
Our programs in Iraq include direct financial aid, rights awareness clases, job-skills training and emotional support. The one-year program was developed for Iraq's special challenges and demands, and includes vocational training that helps women earn an income and support themselves, through:
Hair-dressing -- capitalizing on the demand for high-quality beauty services in Iraq
Screenprinting -- women learn to operate machines that produce quality designs on items such as mugs, plates, boxes, t-shirts and unifroms
Beauty shops, Aseel Kami (Reuters) explains today, are booming businesses in Baghdad. It's a shame Reuters spent so much time talking to men for this article on beauty parlors. Apparently, it was a struggle -- one they lost -- to find a woman operating a beauty salon in Baghdad. It really is amazing how Iraqi women are reduced, rendered invisible, even when the story should be about them. And am I the only one who recoils at statements from men like, "Iraqi women have suffered from perssures and suppression during the ecoonomi sanctions and even after the 2003 war. Now Iraqiw women are looking to the latest trends"? Seems to me that if Iraqi women are doing that or anything else, they can speak for themselves while doing it. And I really don't need to read paragraph after paragraph abuot how this man opened his story and he trained in Turkey and blah, blah, who gives a s**t? I'm sick of it. I'm sick of stories that should be about Iraqi women being constantly used to ignore the women of Iraq but still somehow manage to find yet another way to highlight the men of Iraq. Yes, boys, tell us about hair glaze and how women love to be pretty and how this and how that. It's bad enough that Iraqi men have been presented throughout the Iraq War as THE experts -- and the only experts -- on Iraq but now they're the go to for what Iraqi women think as well?
Does no one else have a problem with this nonsense?
And before someone at Reuters rushes to insist to me that women are noted in the article -- not women running beauty salons, not women doing hair. Women getting the hair done? Yes, one woman's noted. And a woman who does hair removal gets to speak briefly while a woman who manages a gym/beauty center does at the very end. Either of those women were far more interesting than the men who were made the focus of this article allegedly on women's beauty, grooming and fitness. Next up! Reuters covers breast feeding in wartime! And speaks to 7 men who explain what it's like!!!!
Let's stay with stupidity for a moment but hop over to the US.where Leslie Herod demonstrats that, no, people can't stop saying stupid things. "All American Soldiers Are Worthy of Our Respect" is the headline of her Huffington Post piece. She goes on to gush, "I've always celebrated and honored those who serve and have served this great nation. These men and women stand in harm's way to protect the very principles that make this country great. They will always be my heroes." In America, you can be as stupid as you want to be, as Leslie demonstrates. What principles was the US military protecting in Iraq? What principles? Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan was ever a threat to the US.
"All American soldiers are worthy of our respect" -- really? Steven D. Green? He served in Iraq, didn't he? And didn't he plot and take part in the gang-rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl? And didn't he kill her five-year-old sister, both of her parents and her? And he's worthy of respect? He -- and others like him -- are exactly why the government of Iraq does not want to grant immunity. Steven D. Green was found guilty, yes. However, he killed 4 Iraqis in their own home. Green was not tried in Iraq, he was tried in Kentucky. He was facing the death penalty but, as Abeer's family noted when the sentence was handed down, he wasn't sentenced to death. (I oppose the death penalty. This isn't about that, it's about why Iraqis feel that the US legal system has provided US troops with immunity for their actions in Iraq.) That's not the only war crime during the Iraq War.
Leslie's whole point in scribbling was to score some cheap shots at the GOP presidential contenders. As usual with Leslie, she's several days too late. But she does manage to insult US soldiers who have never taken part in War Crimes and to insult Iraqis who have suffered from the War Crimes of US soldiers. What's really sad is Leslie is nothing but a con artist for the Democratic Party. That's sad but that's what she is. However, she's also a dumb con artist for the Democratic Party. Her little column doesn't help the White House right now. It will anger Iraqis and harden opinions on the issue of granting immunity or not to US troops. If Leslie had stopped to think of that, she wouldn't have written the column because she is intensely Cult of St. Barack.
Stupidity, like the American empire, knows no boundaries. And it's why a foreign wire service (not AFP) is all a buzz over Hillary's "speech" and how she gave it in DC today and how it -- It's not a speech. It's a column she wrote for Foreign Policy (you can also read it at the State Dept's website) which includes:
With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward -- we cannot afford not to. From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work abroad holds the key to our prosperity and security at home. For more than six decades, the United States has resisted the gravitational pull of these "come home" debates and the implicit zero-sum logic of these arguments. We must do so again.
No, it's not about sticking your head in the sand, it's about taking your nose out of other people's cabinets and closets. It's about being a good neighbor and not a nosy Gladys Kravitz, always peering over the fence. Hillary's fighting for (among other things) a budget for the State Dept that would allow it to do what the White House wants it to do. But in a time of economic crisis, there should be cuts and this should be the time for the State Dept to return to its original mission as opposed to continuing down the path of becoming an Armed State Dept with its own military.
Turning to today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Shirqat roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left four more injured, 1 Sahwa was shot dead outside his Garma home and, dropping back to last night, a mayor was shot dead outside of Mosul.
Turning to economic issues, Rebecca Bundhun (The National) speaks with Bahaa Mayah, the adviser to the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, and reports Iraq is still struggling to obtain antiquities spirited out of the country throughout the long war. Mayah feels that if they were able to get the treasures returned that would increase tourism which would increase jobs. Michael S. Schmidt and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) also note jobs and at least 5,000 Iraqis who have held them with fraudulent qualifications. As they explain, Dr. Rahif al-Essawi, college dean, was threatened by Iraqi police who had claimed to have diplomas, when he said he wouldn't lie, they beat him up and arrested him. The ongoing war assisted in faking credentials because many records were lost or destroyed during the violence. Schmidt and al-Jawoshy note, "Education fraud has become so widespread that Parliament is considering legislation that would send people to prison for 6 to 12 years if convicted of lying about their education. They would also be forced to return all of the money they had earned while employed as a result of phony education documents. The proposal would also provide amnesty for lower-level government workers who voluntarily admitted that they had used false certificates or diplomas."

Staying on the topic of corruption, Fars News Agency reports that Parliament's Integrity Commission has declared that the are starting an investigation into corruption charges against the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. The source of investigation? The article notes a home remodel which cost $600,000 and has raised eyebrows and that al-Nujaifi's trips out of Iraq are also grounds for speculation. Charges and outrage refuse to melt away regarding Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's trip to the US to speak at the United Nations. As The Great Iraqi Revolution exposed last month, Talabani's trip was costing $2 million dollars. Dar Addustour reports that Talabani noted the anger over his trip but insists that one million was just for the plane, while a half million was just for gifts to various leaders. And, apparently, half a million was just walking around money.
In the US, Jane Fonda's finished up a promotion leg for her new best selling book Prime Time. In "Joni Mitchell & Bonnie Raitt," she shares details of her book tour, photos and more. Excerpt: "I managed to tweet out this photo of myself Bonnie and Joni, which people just loved! Afterwards, Joni, Bonnie and Richard [Perry] got down with music discussions such as the beauty of 'open G chord tuning.' I've known Bonnie for almost 40 years…as activist, friend, generous performer of benefit concerts -- but not really seen/heard her talk as musician. Imagine what it was like with these two brilliant women guitarists!" Again, Prime Time is the new book, it's not only a wonderful read, it's something you'll constnatly reach for long after you've read it because it's a rich resource.