Friday, October 21, 2011

What about the Air Force?

Barack's little stunt today, what about the Air Force?

The Iraqi military has partial air space -- which some have wrongly pretended is full. They have to a certain level and then the US takes over.

The planes coming in -- that are not in yet and will not be in any time soon -- will require training.

So who is doing that?

Barack didn't address that, did he?

The press didn't ask either, did they?

At what point does the press stop creating photo ops and start doing their job?

My guess is, not any time soon.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, October 21, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Barack holds a press conference, few reporters listen to what he actually says, they then miss another press conference, the Iraq War continues, the Iraqi refugee problem continues, and more.
This afternoon Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweeted:
janearraf Obama: "After nearly nine years, America's war in #Iraq will be over" raising the question 'What about Iraq's war?' Goodbye and good luck.
Today in DC, US President Barack Obama held a press conference to announce . . .
Well, let's look at how it's being reported. The best reporting? How about Mark Landler's "U.S. Troops to Leave Iraq by Year's End, Obama Says" (New York Times)? The journalists didn't write the headlines. We're not holding them responsiblve for them. We will, however, hold them reponsible for their content. Mark Landler didn't sleep through the press conference and it shows. Not among the worst but probably somewhere above the middle is Yochi J. Dreazen's piece for National Journal which opens: "President Obama's speech formally declaring that the last 43,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year was designed to mask an unpleasant truth: the troops aren't being withdrawn because the U.S. wants them out. They're leaving because the Iraqi government refused to let them stay."
The biggest flaw for that? Remember the ones that will remain with the embassies in Iraq (under the State Dept) for a moment? Yochi didn't and didn't realize that in addition to those, there will be others. CNN notes that approximately 150 "will remain to assist in arms sales." Julian E. Barnes, Carol Lee and Siobhan Hughes (Wall St. Journal) remembered the ones assigned to the State Dept and also report on the ones who will remain for "arms sales." It's a toss up between the Los Angeles Times and AP on who has the worst report. Both are pretty ridiculous. But Reuters was probably the worst report until Ben Feller (Christian Science Monitor) elected to file. Normally, we don't link to Wired but a friend called in a favor so we'll note Spencer Ackerman (Wired) observes, "But the fact is America's military efforts in Iraq aren't coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas." Ackerman also notes there will be a CIA presence. It's a strong report. Eli Lake (Daily Beast) notes:
But the end of the war does not mean the end of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Indeed, speaking after the president's brief announcement, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough acknowledged that the United States would continue to train Iraq's military in the new weaponry that Obama has agreed to sell the government that emerged after U.S. troops toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Just this year, the Pentagon approved a sale of F-16s to Iraq's air force.
Also remaining in Iraq will be military contractors who currently protect American diplomatic missions in Iraq, such as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the consulate in Irbil.
I spoke to many people today. The news media sure is compliant -- not the ones praised above or below. I was told by friends at State that we were correct about negotiations and bluffing (see earlier this week). (That's their term, I call it the power of no and note you can't bluff the power of no. You have to be prepared to walk away if you don't get what you need.) From the Vice President's office, no, it's not time (in reply to whether I should announce here that the site would be going dark shortly -- and please note, this from a friend who is not only unhappy with the way Barack comes off here but also that I critique Joe when I feel it's needed). So I'm really not understanding why there's so much hoopla. Between what was said especially. As a friend at State pointed out, Barack specifically spoke of discussions being ongoing for "trainers" and the White House has never considered "trainers" to be soldiers. My friend at the Pentagon suggested I think of a scene we both quote to one another from Black Widow.(starring Debra Winger as Alex and Theresa Russell as Catherine) written by Ronald Bass, directed by Bob Rafelson)
Catherine: The truth is, I'm sorry it's over.
Alex: The truth is, it's not over yet.
So what does that all mean. For starters, is a withdrawal really a withdrawal if you move from Iraq to Kuwait? October 12th the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations held a hearing. As Ava noted in her coverage, State's Patrick F. Kennedy provided testimony about how State will have "employees" in Kuwait that will be flown in as needed via airplanes ("long wing") and helicopters. Who'll ask that question?
Probably few. But credit to Brian Montopoli (CBS News -- link has text and video) who gets it right from the opening sentence: "President Obama announced Friday that the United States will withdraw nearly all troops from Iraq by the end of the year, effectively bringing the long and polarizing war in Iraq to an end." And Brian Montopoli also grasps what many others didn't hear -- he quotes Barack stating at the press conference, "As I told Prime Minister Maliki, we will continue discussions on how we might help Iraq train and equip its forces, again just as we offer training and assistance to countries around the world." Mark Landler also notes that statement and points out, "Mr. Obama appeared to leave open the possibility of further negotiations on the question of military trainers".
New York Times' Tim Arango Tweeted, (if only he'd been drunk):
tarangoNYT props to @larajakesAP and @ruskygal. they nailed this iraq news last week
"If only he'd been drunk"? It would excuse his not grasping what Mark Landler -- who works for the New York Times as well -- had reported. It's nice of Tim to credit Lara Jakes and Rebecca Santana of AP but it's not really over yet and he might need to read his own paper to discover that. In addition, the sources that spoke to AP for that article were incorrect. Listen to the press conference by Barack and then the one that followed. (We'll get to the one that followed in a moment.)
What Barack announced was not anything to cheer. There is the continued negotiations (I'm told Joe Biden will still be going to Iraq shortly to press on "trainers") for post-2011. David Swanson points out that what Barack announced today and what he promised on the campaign trail were two different things. There's also the issue of the remaining soldiers -- for 'arms sales' and for the US Embassy staff -- and there's the issue of contractors. Iraq Veterans Against the War posted a stupid, stupid statement which opened with: "IVAW is excited to hear President Obama's announcement this afternoon about a total troop withdrawal from Iraq by the end of 2011. We are happy to know troops will be home with their families soon. However, there will be many issues to resolve in the aftermath of this disastrous war and occupation." When a lot of us were supporting to IVAW, the people in charge were aware of issues like 'security' contractors. But it doesn't seem to matter at all to IVAW today.
But that's IVAW. They've repeatedly embarrassed themselves over Barack Obama and it goes to the split that has led some to leave the organization. For whatever reasons, certain elements of IVAW got behind in 2007 and they've really whored for him and turned the organization into, as one former member likes to put it, "a bunch of __s" (p-word for vagina). And that's how they're seen now because in 2008 they went partisan and they never got their intelligence back. The same former member likes to point out that he can't take one of the faces of IVAW seriously because (quoted with permission) he's an "extreme 9-11 Truther, extreme, heavy, and he's also a member of that whole Cult of [St.] Barack you talk about. In other words, George W. Bush, all by himself, planned 9-11 and Barack is peaches and cream and puppy dog tails -- or maybe puppy god tales, I have no idea. But it's one foolish extreme or the other, where someone's the supreme goodness or else the supreme badness." And in each 'belief' there is naivete.
Then again, as another former IVAW points out, maybe it wasn't a good idea to make someone executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War when the person never served in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's a puzzler.
Now they're gearing up to talk "reparations." The US doesn't owe the puppet government reparations. Those exiles lobbied the US government to invade Iraq. If anything, they should be paying the US. The Iraqi people, I believe, deserve reparations. But I don't believe you turn that over to the Iraqi government. Not when so many Iraqis continue to live in poverty while the Iraqi government officials not only steal freely (and proudly) but also waste money like crazy. Dar Addustour reports the Iraqi government is spending $150 million to buy three deluxe planes -- one of which will be for the Iraqi president, another for the prime minister. $150 million. While people struggle in poverty. And someone thinks it's a good idea to give the government of Iraq more money?
If IVAW had anything to offer, they would have issued a statement today noting that Barack stressed negotations were still ongoing. They would have called out the contracters as well as the US soldiers who are going to be remaining on the ground in Iraq not to mention those who will be stationed in Kuwait. But that would have required leadership and IVAW turned themselves into a get-out-the-vote organization. For those who've forgotten, IVAW got punked big time at the Democratic Party's convention in Colorado. We were there, Ava and myself, reporting on it for Third and IVAW had the Democratic officials running scared. They were making demands, they were going to have a protest. People in the press that we knew were asking Ava and I about it and the excitement was building and IVAW was geared to get more publicity than they'd ever had in their lives. Then they got stage managed right out of their press moment. They were all happy and thrilled and Barack was going to meet with them and blah, blah, blah. The clock had already been running out. They got punked. The party shut down their protest and shut them up and then ignored them.
The big split in IVAW, that it's never recovered from, was not, as some want to reduce it, about whether or not a political statement was being made with a US flag or whether the flag was being disrespected. That was the eruption point and it was issues like the refusal to be the independent organization that was going to hold all politicians accountable. IVAW was not a Democratic Party organization but that's what it became in 2008 and they have made clear today that they have chosen to remain that. That's a priority but being a veteran of the Iraq War or even the Afghanistan War, not so much. Despite being named Iraq Veterans Against the War.
If that hurts, I really don't give a damn today. We don't link to Wired and I dislike Spencer Ackerman. While a favor called in got Wired it's link, I didn't have to give kind words to Ackerman. I did it because he did a good job reporting on what's really going down. I don't care for David Swanson and usually see him as the most extreme Barack apologist but he didn't try to spin it or lie today and he got a link. He earned his link, good job, David Swanson.
By the same token, I didn't intend to write about IVAW today. Except for a few passing sentences about the shameful 2008 behavior, I've not criticized the organization. But this snapshot was ready an hour ago when Kat tugged on my shoulder and whispered (as I was finishing dictating in my cell phone), "You have to take this call." And I said "Hold the snapshot, I'm going to have to change something I know" and took the other cell phone and it was two former members of IVAW telling me about the IVAW statement -- which I hadn't even read yet -- and expressing their extreme anger.
I don't blame them. The fact that they're not IVAW now doesn't matter -- and doesn't matter to them. They worked to build up that organization and IVAW had core beliefs about the Iraq War. Those beliefs got shoved aside to promote Barack today. They're outraged and I think they're right to be. If it was just their opinion and I didn't agree with it, I'd present as "two former IVAW's feel . . ." and leave it alone. But they are right and IVAW really needs to take a look what they believe in what they started and the mutant child they've become.
Today was interesting. It wasn't what much of the press portrays but it was interesting. Like this statement, after Barack's press conference, by Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough, "You know, Matt, I think it's important to point out that we have a capacity to maintain trainers. In fact, the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq will have a capacity to train Iraqis on the new kinds of weapons and weapons systems that the Iraqis are going to buy, including, importantly, like the F-16s that they just purchased just about a month ago. So we will have a training capacity there. We'll have the kind of normal training relationship that we have with countries all over the world. You'll see, for example, Central Command looking for opportunities to have increased naval cooperation. You'll see opportunities in naval exercises; opportunities to have increased air force training and exercise opportunities. So we're going to have the kind of robust security cooperation with the Iraqis that we have with important allies all around the world. So the suggestion of your question that somehow there is not going to be training is just not accurate."
Did those doing their shine-on-the-glory write-ups bother to pay attention to that press conference? Apparently not. We'll probably go into that one on Monday (including the admission that ups the numbers -- probably by about 45, I'm guessing -- of US troops that will remain in Iraq).
AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted some thoughts on Iraq:
Prashant Rao
prashantrao Politics in #Iraq remain deadlocked to a large degree - after elections in March 2010, still no permanent minister of defence or interior
Prashant Rao
prashantrao Violence remains high in #Iraq by international standards - 185 people died as a result of violence in September. #US
Violence does remain high. It also remains unreported. There are minimal foreign reporters in Iraq so when something happens (like Turkey's attacks), it sucks up the oxygen for any other story. And violence didn't end this week, bombings didn't stop, it's just the outlets had no time for coverage. Aswat al-Iraq -- an Iraqi news agency -- has continued all week long to cover the violence while more established, well known, bigger budgeted foreign news outlets couldn't be bothered. (I'm not picking Prahsant despite him being above. I'm especially knocking Reuters, however.) Aswat al-Iraq notes a woman was killed in Mosul home invasion, two Mosul bombings left three police officers injured, and 3 Baghdad bombings claimed 1 life and left eleven people injured.
The Turkish military continues to assault northern Iraq. Roy Gutman, Ipek Yezdani and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report that while various Kurdistan Regional Government officials have condemned PKK attacks, they have not joined in the assault on the PKK. That's not at all surprising. The PKK assaults, as the press portrays the story, leads to the Turkish military response. That's not true. Not only is not where the story begins -- the starting point is the continued disenfranchisement of Kurds in Turkey -- there is no logical relationship between 'I condemn the PKK attack on a checkpoint' and 'I support the carpet bombing of the northern Iraq mountains.' The press has created a false narrative (I'm not referring to McClatchy who -- in this story and in Sahar Issa's report earlier this week) have pretty mcuh played it by the facts). They'e turned it into a high speed chase, tossing in everything but a white Bronco, when nothing could be more false. There was no high speech chase -- though yesterday afternoon the New York Times was pimping that hard in an early draft -- but pretending that there was allows people to pretend that the only one who might die are the evil doers that we can see up ahead and have had our eye on all along. Again, that's a lie.

From the article:

"We have no intention of sending any reinforcements to the site of the conflict on the border," said Jabbar Yawar, spokesman for the Kurdish peshmerga defense force, adding that this was "because force is not the answer."

AP reports that Turkey and Iran are stating they will work together on the issue of Kurdish rebels. Iran recently worked out some form of an understanding with PJAK, the Kurdish rebels that attack Iranian security targets. So whether this is a real partnership or just an effort to strengthen its relationship with Turkey by offering public statements of support remains to be seen. In related news, Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's Ahrar bloc affiliated to Sadrist Movement criticized, on Tuesday, head of White Iraqiya Party Hassan Al Alawi's statements which called to unify the two main Kurdish parties in Kurdistan 'in preparation to declare the independent Kurdish state.' These statements reflect the failure of Alawi's overstated ambitions, Al Ahrar argued confirming that Kurds are an integral component of Iraq's community."

This morning, the Iraqi press was reporting on the ongoing negotiations regarding a US military presence in Iraq beyond 2011. Al Mada notes Nouri's statements to the press that the number of trainers will be no more than one thousand. In a separate report, Al Mada notes that US Vice President Joe Biden is due in Iraq shortly to discuss the issue of 'trainers' and immunity and that Biden will be citing US laws and the US Constitution as the need for immunity. In addition to meeting with Nouri, he will also meet with Massoud Barzani, KRG President and with Amar al-Hakim (Supreme Islamic Council of Iraq leader).

In other news, the Iraqi press has been full of articles this week (such as this one at Al Rafidayn) about calls for certain professors to lose their jobs or be demoted on charges that they are Ba'athists. Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi Minister of Higher Education Ali Al Adib accused on Wednesday his predecessor Abd Diab Al Ujaili of having run the ministry upon Baathist Party's directions. The 140 staff members that were sent away from the University of Tikrit were subject to the Justice and Accountability Law, Adib pointed up. The University's president reported their names to the ministry, he added." Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Deputy Premier Saleh al-Mutlaq rejected what he called 'demotion' of a number of professors from Mosul and Tikrit universities, pointing out that these procedures are 'disappointing and depressive' to the coming political stability and uprising of scientific and economic situations. In a field visit done by Mutlaq to Salah al-Din province, he met the governor, university teachers and tribal sheikhs." Presumably crying "Ba'athist" every five seconds allows many to refuse to focus on real issues such as Dar Addustour's report on new data which finds that the number of Iraqi widows and orphans continues to rise.

Al Mada offers a lengthy report on the state of press freedoms in Iraq and notes the crackdown on journalists when "government agents" started arresting those who dared to cover the Friday protests, how their cameras and laptops were confiscated, how security teams beat demonstrators, used tear gas, water cannons and bullets on the protesters, how journalists were arrested, etc. Hadi al-Mahdi, the Iraqi journalist and activist, was arrested February 25th, the article notes, after covering the protest. He and two other journalists were eating lunch when Iraqi forces rushed up and began beating them with sticks and the butts of the rifles. The paper notes the assassination of Hadi al-Mahdi and how friends believe the murder was part of the government crackdown. That's just the first part of the article.

Now we turn to targets and refugees. Starting with Iraqi Christians. Last week The NewsHour (PBS) examined Christianity in the Middle East and we'll note the question and answer section on Iraq:

How did the Christians benefit from Saddam Hussein?

"There was a kind of a social contract in Iraq," between minorities and Hussein, says Adeed Dawisha, a professor at the University of Miami in Ohio. "Under Saddam, it was understood that if you don't interfere in politics, then you are provided with a good life."
"If the Christians supported Saddam, not because they loved what he was doing, it was the fear of the alternative," Dawisha says. As a result of turning their focus elsewhere, Christians prospered economically. They were businessmen, doctors, lawyers, and engineers. A select few were part of the political elite, like Tariq Aziz who served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister under Hussein. According to Katulis, that created a "network of protection that existed through some of the leaders [in] Saddam's inner circle ... trickled on down through community."
What did Hussein get out of it?

Hussein, by being intolerant of all sectarian violence, ensured that his minority-rule regime was safe from uprisings. The regime was equally intolerant of any sectarian-led violence, says Dawisha. However, Christans were not a "favored community" under Hussein's rule, Dawisha explains, "they were simply left alone." As a result, these minorities did not rebel against him.
What happened after Hussein left?

Nothing good. Once the regime fell, animosity between all religious communities exploded. The smallest minorities suffered the most. Before 2003, there were about 800,000 Christians in Iraq. Currently, Dawisha says, there is less than half that number.

Sister Rosemarie Milazzo (Maryknoll Sisters) is in Iraq and writes today of an Iraqi Civil Socieity Soldiarity Initiative conference in Erbil last weekend, "The Iraqis I met there are on fire with passion for justice and peace and have been demonstrating, marching, etc. They came from all over Iraq for this meeting. Presentations from trade unions, women empowerment groups, environmental groups, etc. I met lots of courageous young activists. One was a young woman who shared her story of torture and beatings in Baghdad recently." Phil Lawler (Catholic Culture) wonders, "How is it that after more than two decades of US involvement in Iraq, Christians there face a steadily deteriorating situation?" Because, among other reasons, the US government wasn't interested in the Iraqi people, they were interested in thugs who could terrorize and distract the Iraqi people while various US government desires were imposed. Thugs, generally speaking, don't have a high regard for any anyone but fellow thugs. Which is how you get the waves of attacks on Iraqi Christians and on Iraq's LGBT community, on Iraq's religious minorities (which include more than just Christians) and ethnic minorities, attacks on Iraqi women, etc. The Witchita Eagle's editorial board notes, "More than half of Iraqi Christians have fled the country since the U.S. invasion, according to a State Department report last year. And the persecution and attacks on Christians have increased in recent years." Alex Murashko (Christian Post) reported yesterday, "Ongoing violence against Christians in Iraq has produced an accelerated exodus of believers recently and numbering in the hundreds of thousands over the last 10 years, said Open Doors USA officials." Dennis Sadowski (Catholic News Service) reported earlier this month on Bishop Gerlad Kicanas (Tucson) and Bishop George Murry (Youngstown) visiting Iraq (October 2nd through 5th) where they saw that security was still an issue that needed to be addressed and quotes Bishop Kicanas on a church scarred by a machine gun attack (the physical structure still scarred and the congregation still scared), "You still see vivid remains of the attack. This was a defining moment for Christians relizing they weren't safe in their own homes or their own churches." Sadowski notes, "The number of Christians in Iraq has declined from about 1.5 million in 2000 to less than 500,000 in 2010, according to Iraqi Christians in Need, a British charity established to address the exodus of Christians from the country. The agency cited long-imposed economic sanctions, continuing violence and the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 as reasons for the mass migration of Christians from the country."
Last week Vatican Radio (link is text and audio) noted a lower estimate of the remaining Christians in Iraq (150,000) and noted that while safety issues continue to force many to flee "their homes and even the country," Ankawa in the Kurdistan Regional Government has seen an increase in a little over two decades from 8,000 Christians to 25,000 due to Christians moving there in an attempt to find safety. It was nearly a year ago, October 31st, that Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked. Church goers were held hostage, over 50 people were killed, many more injured. A woman in the church explained to Jim Muir (BBC News -- link is text and video), "Gunmen entered the church and started to beat people. Some of the people were released but others were wounded and some died and one of the priests was killed." Police officer Hussain Nahidh told John Leland (New York Times), "It's a horrible scene. More than 58 people were killed. The suicide vests were filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible. You can see human flesh everywhere. Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall. Many people went to hospitals without legs and hands." John Pontifex (Scottish Catholic Observer) reported earlier this month on the increase in Ankawa's Christian population noting that "1500 have arrived within the last year alone" and that "Christians arriving in Ankawa have fled not only from the Iraqi capital but from all across the country -- Mosul in the north, Kirkuk in the north-east, and even Basra, hundreds of miles away in the extreme south." Rob Kerby (Belief Net) notes that the Kurdistan Regional Government is offering Iraqi Christians "plots of land as well as $10,000 per family to settle in the village of Se Ganian, whose population was murdered by poison gas during Saddam's campaign against the Kurds." Joni B. Hannigan (Florida Baptist Witness via Asia News) adds, "The Grace Baptist Cultural Center in Dohuk [Province, in the Kurdistan Regional Government] -- a partnership between Iraqi, Jordan, Brazilian, American and Lebanese Baptists -- is being built with the blessing of Iraqi Kurdistan's Regional Government, who donated the $2 million properly. The land is in the same village, Simele, where in 1933 an estimated 6,000 Assyrians and Chaldeans were slaughtered by the Iraqi government following the withdrawal of British troops from the region after a treaty granting Iraq's independence in 1930."
Sister Mary Brigid Clingman (GateHouse News Service) explains what the Dominican sisters in Iraq share:
Throughout the last 10 years, these sisters kept us in a different loop of information as their country fell futher into chaos. One comment we heard was "order under a dictatorship was better than anarchy," which followed the collapse of the government.
The religious tolernace that had existed had disappeared. The Christian Church existing in Iraq since the days of the Apostles ironically is disappearing as Christians from the West despoil their country.
[. . .]
What might the world be like if instead of weapons we had invaded Iraq and Afghanistan with bread and roses, medicine and education, electricity and roads? What if we had acknowledged our responsibilities for the anguish and anxiety of these people existent decades before 9/11?
The Iraq War created the largest refugee crisis in the MidEast since 1948. Steve Beaven (Oregonian) reports on Baher Butti who left in 2006 and who is part of Jim Lommasson's photo exhibit at the Launch Pad Gallery through Saturday, October 29th entitled "What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization" which features photographs and also the paintings of Iraqis Farooq Hassan and Samir Khurshid, both of whom "now live in Portland." Beaven notes that Baher Butti and his wife (Balsam) and "their daughter and two sons [. . .] live in a house in Cedar Hills. Butti is a case manager and counselor for refugees at Lutheran Community Services in Southeast Portland. Balsam hopes to get her medical license here, their daughter goes to Sunset High School, and their sons are Portland State University students." The Launch Pad Gallery describes the exhibit:
What We Carried: Fragments from the Cradle of Civilization is about leaving one's homeland. Portland Photographer/Writer Jim Lommasson is currently photographing and interviewing Iraqi refugees and immigrants who have fled to the U.S. since 1990. This project dovetails with Lommasson's visual and oral history of returning American soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars called Exit Wounds. Lommasson feels that there is another side of the story that needs to be told, about those who have left their homeland and are now resettling around the world. Lommasson is photographing those few important personal items that have survived the long journey from Iraq to the U.S. The journey may take months, sometime even years, and includes refugee camps, piles of documents and possibly a few bribes. After photographing the objects, Lommasson asks the participants to write about the significance of their objects on the finished photographs.
Trudy Rubin (Philadelphia Inquirer via the Modesto Bee) remembers Barack stating in 2007, "One tragic outcome of this war is that the Iraqis who stood with America -- the interpreters, embassy workers, and subcontractors -- are being targeted for assassination. . . . And yet our doors are shut. That is not how we treat our friends. That is not who we are as Americans." He felt that way before he got in the White House. Trudy notes, "I've received dozens of e-mails from desperate Iraqi interpreters (some with glowing recommendations from senior U.S. military officers) who have all received death threats. Some interpreters are getting kicked off U.S. bases where they've lived for safety's sake, because those bases are closing." Pacific News Center notes that Guam-Senator Judi Guthertz has proposed that Guam be used as a asylum location for Iraqi refugees. The refugees include many groupings. Iraq's gay and lesbian community has been targeted repeatedly. Paul Canning (Care2Care) reports:
Iraqi gay refugees may be almost forgotten, but one man has photographic proof that they exist. Back in June, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at NYU School of Law published the report 'A Decade Lost: Locating Gender in U.S. Counter-Terrorism,' the first account of how U.S. counter-terrorism efforts have undermined the rights of women and sexual minorities.
The report includes the 'collateral damage' from the Iraq war, the hundreds of LGBT people hunted down and killed in Iraq, including some by state actors, and the probably thousands (no one knows) who have fled. The group Iraqi LGBT has been almost solely responsible for documenting the murders.
Another report [PDF], released by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in September says that attacks on LGBT in Iraq continued in 2010.
Neither report got much play, but a new show of photographs by Bradley Secker puts a name to the gay refugee.
We noted Bradley Secker's exhibit in the August 31st snapshot:
Switching to the UK, London's First Out Cafe is hosting Bradley Secker's photo exhibit of LGBT Iraqis in Syria: "His primary aim was to create a photo essay with writtne, first hand testimonies. Accompanying the images, a short documetary film has been made to further highlight the issue in another medium. Through photos and interviews, the individual accounts are posing questions as to how, and why, such acts of violence and brutality can be overlooked in a new 'free' Iraq." August 22nd, Bradley Secker posted a photo from the exhibit to his blog and explained:
After being left for dead by militia men in Iraq for photographing a story about the treatment of gay men, Nasser fled to Damascus, Syria, barely alive. 18 months later he is robbed in Damascus, everything he had stolen by a boyfriend. He was feeling betrayed and impatient, and tired of waiting to hear of news of resettlement to another country through the United Nations.
Nasser wanted to go to Bulgaria, smuggling himself into the European Union illegally.
Instead he went back to Iraq to get new documents, risking his life doing so.
Arriving back in Iraq Nasser was kidnapped and has dissapeared. His whereabouts, his survival; unknown.
I just had a phone call from someone in Iraq telling me that Nasser had been taken away, and that his friends are worried he might have been killed for real this time.
In the search to make a new start, Nasser; a very brave, quiet and confident man may have lost his life and become another number added to the countless others killed because of their sexuality in Iraq. Sexual genocide continues.
He may be alive, held somewhere.
If he's alive, his courage will allow him to break out, escape, and start the new life he has been wishing for.
I never got to note Adam Kokesh this week. Please visit his site (Adam is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a truth teller) because he's doing his program again and you can stream an episode there. Joan Wile is the founder of Grandmothers Against the War and has written the book Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace. She is taking part in the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and this is her latest report on that:

by Joan Wile, author,
"Grandmothers Against the War; Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace" (Citadel Press)
Culture seekers streaming through Lincoln Center Tuesday evening, Oct. 18, were undoubtedly surprised to see a tableau not usually seen at the arts complex. Approximately 100 members of the Granny Peace Brigade and their followers formed a semi-circle around the fountain located in the midst of the plaza surrounded by the Koch Theatre (home of the New York City Ballet); the Metropolitan Opera House, and Avery Fisher Hall.
The mostly elderly women, interspersed with a few men, stood silently from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. wearing placards with messages such as "AGAINST WARS, INVASIONS, OCCUPATIONS" and "AGAINST U.S. MILITARFY BASES ABROAD." The main purpose of the action was to challenge the rules forbidding private public spaces being used to advance political agendas, in essence preventing freedom of speech. And, as always, the grannies meant to convey their anti-war, anti-militarization message. They chose the date to celebrate the six years since 18 of them were arrested and jailed on Oct. 18, 2005, when they tried to enlist to replace America's grandchildren in harm's way in an illegal and immoral war in Iraq.
The grannies believe that because of the national and international crises currently prevailing, which sorely demand resolution, it is essential that there be opportunities to rally, to vigil, to demonstrate on behalf of peace and social justice wherever people congregate.
After about 20 minutes, an official from Lincoln Center came over to the group and said that they would have to disperse, and, if not, the police would be called. The peace people stood their ground. No police came, though they were at a nearby location ready to pounce. More time passed, and again the woman from Lincoln Center warned the grannies to leave the premises or the police would be called. The grannies continued standing silently, and again there was a notable absence of the men in blue to carry out the threat.
Promptly at 8 p.m., the grannies broke ranks and, as cameras flashed and the watching crowd burst into applause, spoke happily about their feelings of having accomplished their mission. They had, after all, held their vigil without interference.
One wondered why the police backed off from removing and presumably arresting the vigilers. Was it because they retain vestiges of their childhood respect and fear of their elders -- they were psychologically unable to clamp handcuffs on old women like their grannies?
Or was it because they've been getting a bad rap lately as stories have circulated about young women being pepper sprayed while peacefully marching with the Occupy Wall Street people, and for randomly brutally mistreating OWS persons on Brooklyn Bridge, in Citibank? If so, it was a wise decision. YouTube videos circulating throughout the world showing cops dragging white-haired old ladies into paddy wagons would not exactly enhance the reputation of New York's Finest!
So, have the grandmothers created a new precedent paving the way for future vigils and rallies to take place in public private spaces (or is it private public spaces)? Was this a unique event resulting from intimidated police confronted with their elders? Or if it's a younger assemblage next time, will the police revert to their old aggressive tactics?
Time will tell. One hopes, however, that a new chapter is beginning, allowing for more freedom to peaceably assemble in order to alert the public to the perilous circumstances confronting us all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

They can't die soon enough

"A Movement Too Big To Fail" (Chris Hedges, Information Clearing House):

The liberal class functions in a traditional, capitalist democracy as a safety valve. It lets off enough steam to keep the system intact. It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible. This is what happened during the Great Depression and the New Deal. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s greatest achievement was that he saved capitalism. Liberals in a functioning capitalist democracy are at the same time tasked with discrediting radicals, whether it is King, especially after he denounced the war in Vietnam, or later Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader.

The stupidity of the corporate state is that it thought it could dispense with the liberal class. It thought it could shut off that safety valve in order to loot and pillage with no impediments. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And the reduction of the liberal class to silly courtiers, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, meant that the growing discontent found other mechanisms and outlets. Liberals were reduced to stick figures, part of an elaborate pantomime, as they acted in preordained roles to give legitimacy to meaningless and useless political theater. But that game is over.

Human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are brutally discarded. The liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state, has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as the engines of corporate power pollute and poison the ecosystem and propel us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded by both the corporate state and radical dissidents. The best it can do is attach itself meekly to the new political configuration rising up to replace it.

An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope of a correction or a reversal through the formal mechanisms of power. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression now in these protests that lie outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. By emasculating the liberal class, which once ensured that restive citizens could institute moderate reforms, the corporate state has created a closed system defined by polarization, gridlock and political charades. It has removed the veneer of virtue and goodness that the liberal class offered to the power elite.

When you read the above, what does it make you think of?

When I read it, it makes me think of all the blow-hards from 2005 and 2006 that we once trusted who have tossed aside ethics and calls for needed change because a Democrat is in the White House.

It reminds me of The Nation, The Progressive, Democracy Now and all the rest that once decried torture and the PATRIOT Act and the wars and so much more. Today, when the issues are mentioned, they work overtime to blame the Pentagon or the State Department or anyone and anything except the president.

So they waste all of our time with one story/rumor about Republicans after another.

They then want to pretend that they've done something but they've done nothing but provide distractions for the continued destruction of the poor and the working class. They are the reason the country is going under.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, October 18, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Turkish forces enter Iraq, the press plays the blame game, the US Defense Dept identifies the fallen, Nouri thinks Iraq needs to educate other countries about how to run elections, and more.
We'll start with Youchi because I'm never fond of reporters who blame a people. Blame the press -- a very powerful organ -- or blame a country's government, no problem. But to blanket blame a people? Youchi J. Dreaen (National Journal via The Atlantic) reads his Israeli press (we will come back to that) and wants to huff:
In the years since their capture in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie have been largely forgotten by both Washington and the American public. There have been no protests demanding the government make whatever concessions necessary to win their release. Most Americans don't even know their names. The situation in Israel, one of America's closest allies, could not be more different. The Jewish state held a national celebration on Tuesday following the safe return of Gilad Shalit, a young soldier freed in exchange for the release of more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Shalit had become a household name in Israel, where pop stars composed songs honoring Shalit and hundreds of thousands of Israelis regularly demonstrated to pressure the government to strike a deal with his captors.

We don't cover the Afghanistan War. So that takes away Bowe Bergdahl who, hopefully for his family, is safe and will make it home soon. We do cover the Iraq War. There are numerous reasons Ahmed Altaie is not known widely in the US. For example, the press doesn't care about the issue. I checked with three friends at the White House, Barack Obama -- sworn in nearly three years ago -- has never once been asked about Ahmed Altaie. Has his name came in any White House press briefings since Barack was sworn in (January 2009)? I was told "no" to that as well. "No" on both, not "rarely" as Yochi writes (which probably means he did a search on his own, didn't find anything but decided to use "rarely" just in case he missed a mention in his research.)
Maybe Yochi might want to learn to point the first finger at his professionf and not at the American people? Second of all, Altaie was not captured in battle. (A) He elected to marry an Iraqi woman (he was born in Iraq and the family moved -- first to England -- when he was still a child) after the Iraq War started -- which would be a no-no for him. Some try to say, the marriage took place in February of 2005 -- no supporting documents have yet been provided to the media or public for that claim. And some insist that's fine and dandy because he didn't arrive in Iraq until November 2005. He already his orders by February and the war started in 2003. And the military code of conduct is clear on this. It's among the reasons he doesn't garner a great deal of sympathy from those in the ranks. (B) Once serving in Iraq, while men and women were without their spouses or loved ones, he was sneaking off base without telling his commanders and rushing off to his wife and her family in Baghdad. Again, a no-no. (C) While sneaking off on a visit in October of 2006 (and out of uniform, of course) he was apparently abducted. (As explained by his brother-in-law who was apparently kidnapped with him and the brother-in-law was let go for some unknown reason.) This was news for a day or so and then the media lost interest as it was learned that the possibly kidnapped soldier was sneaking off to see his wife. None of that makes him a 'bad' person. But it goes a long way towards explaining why many Americans who are aware of the case aren't that interested. (We've noted him twice this year alone.)
And you can be sure that if Gilad Shalit had been an Israeli soldier who married a Palestinian woman and was captured or kidnapped while sneaking off to visit her, he wouldn't be receiving the hero's welcome that he did.
Yochi wants to blame America while comparing an egg to an orange and pretending they are the same thing. Yochi wants to also pretend he cares about Staff Sgt Ahmed Altaie. But what we just went over, how he married an Iraqi woman living in Baghdad, how he snuck away to visit her while stationed in Baghdad, how he may have been kidnapped while he was attempting to sneak off and visit her yet again, it's really not acknowledged in the story by Yochi reducing it to a single sentence: "Altaie was married to an Iraqi woman and may have broken military policies by leaving his post to visit her shortly before his abduction." Shortly before. That's where he was enroute he was abducted, per his own brother-in-law. If Youchi truly cares about this missing US soldier, one would assume, he'd make the time to truly explain how he disappeared. Of course doing so might interfere with his ability to tsk-tsk at Americans because there are readers who would think, "He didn't disappear in the line of duty, he snuck off, to see a wife he shouldn't have had per the military code and he changed into Baghdad-garb (out of his US soldier uniform) to blend in and didn't tell his supervisors what he was doing and while everyone in his unit was serving in a war zone, he was visiting his wife and eating with his in-laws." And a lot of those people are not going to be sympathetic to the story as a result. (Yochi does discover the press in the equation when it comes to another POW/MIA, Keith Maupin, who was discovered dead four years after he was captured in 2004, for PFC Maupin, Yochi does acknowledge that there was "only minimal press coverage.")
Yochi wants to insist, "In the U.S., most Americans have no firsthand connection to the all-volunteer military, whose bases are located outside major cities and whose troops are largely invisible to the general public." We do the Iraq snapshot, not the Afghanistan one so, again, we'll leave Berdahl to some other site. But, no, that's not the issue. After the Iraq War started, a US soldier (originally from Iraq) elected to marry an Iraqi woman (that he had supposedly not seen since childhood if then). He did not disclose that to his command despite the fact that he had orders to go to Iraq before he entered that marriage, he did not disclose his marriage to his command despite the fact that he was stationed in Baghdad where his wife and her family lived. While serving, he made regular trips (according to his in-laws) to visit his wife and her family, eating with them often. It was so regular that the brother-in-law grew alarmed that some militants/resistance might target him for kidnapping. That's all in the public record. And, pointing it out one more time, when you marry the side that your country is presumably fighting, you lose a lot in the sympathy factor. Right or wrong, that's how it works. A US GI marrying a German woman in Berlin in the midst of WWII would not have received a great deal of sympathy if he'd become a POW. Also worthy of note, when a government releases 1,000 prisoners to have 1 prisoner returned, you better believe the media in the country knows to play up the one returned as a major event.
Moving along . . .
Turkey continues attacking northern Iraq and, for years now, Turkish war planes have been bombing northern Iraq. The latest wave of attacks started August 17th. This morning Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Kurdish Workers Party announced today that the Turkish forces continued their military concentration on the northern Iraqi borders with Turkey. The source told Aswat al-Iraq that the Turkish forces have been gathering ranks since yesterday." Daniel Dombey and Funja Guler (Financial Times of London) notes, "Turkey has vowed to wreak 'great revenge' on Kurdish militants for the deaths of 26 policemen and soldiers on Wednesday as tension increases in both the south-east of the country and neighbouring northern Iraq." Citing Turkish military sources, Reuters reported that Turkish planes are bombing nothern Iraq and that Turkish helicopters are depositing "Turkish commandos" in Iraq. PRI's The World offers footage of Turkish forces entering Iraq. Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) adds, "NTV, a private television network, said 600 Turkish ground troops chasing the attackers pushed 2.5 miles into northern Iraq".
Marc Champion (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Some 200 PKK fighters attacked military posts in Hakkari province, near the Turkish borders with Iraq and Iran, said a PKK spokesman, contacted by phone in northern Iraq. The attacks began at 1 a.m. and ended around 5 a.m. after fierce gun battles, some of which were captured on video by Turkey's Dogan News Agency." Sahar Issa and Ipek Yezdani (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Iraqi government officials raised no immediate objection to the Turkish incursion, and Turkish officials promised tougher action aimed at the Kurdish Worker's party (PKK) rebels." Seyhmus Cakan (Reuters) offers, "Yet as winter snows approach, many doubt the second-biggest military in NATO can rout some 4,000 PKK fighters dug in at camps in Iraq, not least while Iraqi Kurds' own seasoned foreign guerrilla forces retain their ambivalance between solidarity with ethnic kin and building trade with a powerful neighbor." Kelly McEvers is back in Iraq and files a report for NPR's All Things Considered. (I'm sure it's wonderful, I haven't listened to it yet. An NPR friend asked for the link. Good to know Kelly' McEvers is back in Baghdad. Hopefully NPR can provide her with air time. I'll most lilkely note the report in tomorrow's snapshot in some manner.)
BBC News quotes Tukey's President Abdullah Gul swearing, "No-one should forget that those who make us suffer this pain will be made to suffer even stronger. They will see that the vengeance for these attacks will be great." I think the Kurds of Turkey are very familiar with what the government's vengeance looks like -- having lived under it for years. Dan Zak (Washington Post) quotes PKK leader Duzdan Hammo stating, "Turkish forces have provoked our fighters to conduct attacks. There is still a lot of heavy shelling on the border." Zak also notes KRG President Massoud Barzani issued a statement -- we'll quote that in full:
At a time when efforts are being made to find peaceful solutions to the Kurdish question in Turkey, it's very unfortunate that today 24 members of the Turkish forces were killed by an armed group in the Hakari area. We strongly condemn this criminal act and publicly state that this action is first and foremost against the interests of the people of Kurdistan. We call for an immediate end to these attacks and we reiterate our position that violence and conflict are not a solution.
That was one of many statements issued on the matter. Today's Zaman notes, "Ria Oomen-Ruijten, European Parliament's rapporteur on Turkey, has said every country had a right to defend itself and its citizens as she commented on Turkey's incursion in northern Iraq following the latest attack by the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that killed 24 troops and injured 18 others." Deutsche Welle adds, "Support for Turkey has poured in from the international community" and notes, among others, Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and US President Barack Obama. France's Foreign Affairs Ministry issued the following:
France condemns, with the utmost severity, the attacks made by the PKK terrorist movement on military posts in South East Turkey.These caused the death of 26 Turkish soldiers, with at least further 18 wounded. This was in addition to the attacks in Bitlis the previous day, with 8 dead. France expresses her fullest soldiarity with the Turkish authorities and her deepest sympathy for the families of the victims in this time of grief. The terrorist attacks of the last few days only strengthen the determination of France to stand alongside Turkey in fighting against terrorism -- and in supporting its efforts to achieve a political solution to the Kurdish question. France reiterates her appeal to the elected representatives of the Turkish populations of Kurdish origin, to clearly establish their distance from PKK terrorist violence.
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent attacks by the PKK in Turkey's Hakkari province. I join President Obama in offering our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed and injured in this tragedy. We will continue our strong cooperation with Turkey as we work to combat violent extremism in all its forms and safeguard the security of peace-loving people everywhere.
If you're thinking that and other outpourings of sympathy meant a damn thing to the Turkish government, think again. Deutsche Welle reports that the government responded to the statements by blaming Europe (yet again, as DW notes) and declaring "true friendship cannot be measured solely by sincerity, and now we expect more than ever from our friends. EU member states can no longer accept the PKK's terror without doing anything about it." It's everyone's fault, proclaims the Turkish government -- the same government that refuses to acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.
1.5 million Armenians killed because they were Armenian, targeted solely for that reason, and the Turkish government denies it to this day. Back in March of 2009, Sabrina Tavernise (New York Times) reported: "According to a long-hidden document that belonged to the interior minister of the Ottoman Empire, 972,000 Ottoman Armenians disappeared from official population records from 1915 through 1916. In Turkey, any discussion of what happened to the Ottoman Armenians can bring a storm of public outrage. But since its publication in a book in January, the number -- and its Ottoman source -- has gone virtually unmentioned. Newspapers hardly wrote about it. Television shows have not discussed it." And although that was back in WWI, never forget how the current government responds to the genocide. Not just by denial but with modern day threats. BBC News reported last year that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was threatening to throw 100,000 Amenians out of Turkey and making insulting comments leading the Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian to declare, "These kinds of political statements do not help to improve relations between our two states. When the Turkish prime minister allows himself to make such statements it immediately for us brings up memories of the events of 1915." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) quoted Armenian MP Hrayr Karapetyan declaring, "The statement once again proves that there is an Armenian genocide threat in present Turkey, thus world community should pressurise Ankara to recognise [the] genocide." Possibly if Erdogan and the current government could stop living in denial and threatening other governments over a very real genocide nearly 100 years ago, they could also learn to reach out to other communities the Turkish government has persecuted through the years? That might be the only thing that would ensure peace for the country. If you doubt that the attitude is part of the problem, refer to this analysis by Deutsche Welle of how a 2009 peace quickly fell apart. From an academic standpoint, the PKK has nothing and therefore no reason to cease and desist. The Kurds -- which is more than PKK members -- are the largest minority without a homeland. The persecution by the Turkish government created the PKK and the recent decision that Kurds in Turkey could have the 'right' to speak Kurdish (in some areas and public places) and that they could have a TV station that broadcasts in Kurdish is less than scraps. In addition, promising other things and then going back on them (such as refusing to seat elected members of Parliament) only further fuels the sense of being persecuted. The Turkish government has and has always had the power to recognize and treat fairly the Kurds. They've refused to do so. They are alarmed now by the number of Kurds in Turkey.
While too many in the press cluck, Seyhmus Cakan (Reuters) goes in search of the story and speaks to a number of people in Turkey including a Kurd named Hulya Yildiz:
The use of Kurdish, the mother tongue for up 15 million Kurds in Turkey, is banned at her children's school. Scores of Kurdish activists and mayors have been arrested in recent security crackdowns. Army operations and Kurdish guerrilla attacks make even a family picnic in the woods too dangerous.
"I would like to live in a city where we could take our kids to picnics on weekends. We don't have that freedom because we don't know if a bomb will explode or if there will be clashes," said Yildiz, a civil servant in the Kurdish city of Tunceli.
She was speaking days before Turkey launched air and ground assaults on Kurdish militants in Iraq in retaliation for the killing on Wednesday of 24 Turkish soldiers in one of the deadliest Kurdish attacks in decades.
"If a family is afraid to take their kids to picnics you can'tt talk about democracy," she said. "The prime minister (Tayyip Erdogan) has travelled to all problematic countries during this year, but he should come here and listen to his people's demands. Why can't we have a 'spring' like the Arabs?"
Instead of grand standing on 'terrorism,' Barack, Hillary and the rest of the US government should be explaining that this is how governments are toppled and that if Turkey wants to have a future, it will work to bring the Kurds into the process fully. The alternative is endless war and for proof of that look no further than Israel which is now a teetering nation-state as a result of its refusal to come to terms with what was a minority population but is now a fastly growing one. It's a real shame that people who could be weighing in on this issue would rather gas bag. I'm thinking specifically of Theda Skocpol whose "France, Russia, China: A Structural Analysis of Social Revolutions" (Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol 18, 1976, Cambridge Press) and "Revolutions and the World-Historical Developmen of Capitalism" (co-written with Ellen Kay Trimberger, Berkeley Journal of Sociology, vol 22,, 1978) are pertinent to the what's taking place. But instead of providing insight on that, Theda can be found nearly each day offering trite and banal gas baggery about the Democratic Party for POLITICO's Arena forum. Talk about bastardizing your craft.
In Iraq, the Kurds remain at odds with Nouri. Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's spokesperson states that a Kurdish delegation will arrive October 24th in Baghdad to speak with Nouri and the Kurdish bloc states they will be insisting that the Erbil Agreement be implemented.
The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I after over eight months of deadlock following the March 7, 2010 elections in which Nouri al-Maliki's slate came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya. Per the Constitution, Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate and given first right to form a coalition. Nouri refused to allow that to happen.
The political blocs and the US hammered out an agreement in Erbil back in November. It would allow Nouri to continue as Prime Minister and, for that concession, the other political blocs would get various things in return. What the Iraqi people wanted -- as evidenced by their votes -- was of no interest to the US government.

Nouri agreed to the Erbil Agreement. And because of it, he was named prime minister-designate and then prime minister. And he tossed aside the agreement the minute he got what he wanted thereby creating Political Stalemate II.
Al Mada adds that KRG President Massoud Barzani states that the Erbil Agreement is not the problem, that all the participants agreed upon the agreement. It is the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement that is the problem and that goes to the inability of the government to work as a real partnership. Al Mada notes that the National Alliance is calling for the creation of a committee to amend the Constitution. Al Rafidayn reports Nouri is insisting that there are certain foreign areas that need instruction from Iraq on how to build a country. He really is deluded. In related news, Aswat al-Iraq notes that Nouri has pledged one million dollars to Tunisia to help with elections. Iraq has something to teach other countries about elections? You mean: How Not To Do Them?
After the 2005 Parliamentary elections, it took four months to name a prime minister-designate (this is supposed to be done in a matter of weeks, not months). Five years later, they hold Parliamentary elections again and it takes twice as long. Despite the fact that nothing really changed in the end. Talabani remained President (as he wanted), Nouri remained Prime Minister and they had the same two vice presidents (until the Shi'ite one elected to resign). None of the major offices changed and it took them over eight months. They think they have something to teach other countries?
On the issue of education in Iraq, Dar Addustour reports there's an effort underway to replace Mohammad Tamim as Minister of Education due to a large number of complaints. Among other education issues in the last three months, there is the fact that illiteracy is increasing (not surprising in a war zone) which Parliament responded to by passing a law (basically declaring war on illiteracy -- in an LBJ type way). More recently test scores have been a repeated issues -- Al Rafidayn has especially covered that issue in recent months. And he probably won't be helped by Al Rafidayn's report that a group of Iraqi elementary school children were frightened by poisonous snakes -- no one was hurt. Al Mada notes a new issue in Mosul schools -- one causing a problem for Christian families -- females -- teachers and students -- are being forced to wear hijabs (veils). Aswat al-Iraq notes that the Minister of Electricity is facing demands from the Ahrar bloc to prepare a report of "the problems that hinder the developments of electricity production"

Political Stalemate II also includes the inability of Nouri to appoint a full Cabinet. Per the Constitution, he should not have moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister for that reason (per the Constitution, a new prime minister-designate) should have been named. Dar Addustour reports that the Federal Supreme Court rejected yesterday a lawsuit filed against Nouri and the Parliament for the failure to name heads of the security ministries (Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and Minister of National Security). [Nouri has filled two of the posts with 'acting' ministers -- acting ministers are not ministers -- there's nothing in the Constitution that allows for them. Not having gone before Parliament for approval, they can be fired on Nouri's whim and have no protection or independent power. The puppet has two puppets of his own.] Al Mada notes that the League of Righteous has declared they have no problem with American trainers being in Iraq next year. AFP reports that Moqtada al-Sadr states that's fine as well provided "compensation" is paid by the United States -- "without giving details of what he meant by compensation," AFP adds.
Aswat al-Iraq notes a Ramadi car bombing claimed 1 life and left four people injured. In addition, they note, "Sheikh Abbas al-Muhamadawi announced today that a source at Baghdad Operations Command informed him that an assassination attempt was to be made against him. Muhamadawi is the secretary general of a political bloc."
Yesterday the Dept of Defense released the following statement: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Staff Sgt. James R. Leep Jr., 44, of Richmond, Va., died Oct. 17 in Babil province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, 116th Brigade Combat Team, Portsmouth, Va. For more information the media may contact the Virginia National Guard public affairs office at 804-539-1451 or by e-mail at" The Richmond Times-Dispatch notes, "He is survived by his wife, two adult children and a sister. He was from Davenport, Va." WAVY - 10 notes that Leep joined the military in 1986 and features of photo of Leep. Lauren King (Virginian Pilot) adds, "His previous deployments include Bosnia from September 2001 to April 2002, Iraq from December 2003 to March 2005, the southwest U.S. border security mission from June to August 2006, and Afghanistan from November 2008 to January 2010." Jim Talbert (SWVA Today) notes that Staff Sgt Greg Newberry and Sgt Timothy Bayless held a press conference today to discuss Leep with Newberry declaring, "I remember him riding that big Harley-Davidson to work from the time it started getting warm in the spring until it got cold. That, (ride his motorcyle), and hunt was what he liked to do when he wasn't serving his country or working."

Last week, I attended part of a hearing that I keep trying to include but we haven't had the space. I'll try again tomorrow. Other things that have been on hold due to space? Adam Kokesh and Iraqi Christians.