Friday, February 03, 2012

Ron Paul

"Can Ron Paul Be Tamed?" (Justin Raimondo,

What they especially don’t like are his foreign policy views, which are routinely described in the lame-stream media as "isolationist" – as if minding our own damned business and not trying to dominate the world would be an isolating act. And of course none of these geniuses ever described, say, Eugene McCarthy, or George McGovern as an "isolationist" – they were "antiwar" candidates because they were on the left, and because no one on the right can ever be against wars of aggression for moral reasons. Yet the 76-year-old country doctor and presidential candidate defies those stereotypes – and, in the process, delegitimizes them as standards of the American political lexicon. He has succeeded in creating a movement that truly transcends the tired old categories of "left" and "right." 
This false left-right dichotomy, which does nothing to accurately map the landscape of 21st century American politics, is one of the main weapons in the War Party’s well-stocked arsenal. Because whatever liberals and conservatives disagree about, when it comes time to unleash the dogs of war both the "left" and the "right" have been equal in their bloodthirstiness. To keep up the illusion of conflict, these two wings of the War Party alternate their warmongering schedules: during the Vietnam war era, it was the right that wanted to obliterate the Soviets militarily and the "left" that took up the anti-interventionist banner – although liberal support for the war made the occupation of Vietnam possible, at least initially. In the1930s, their positions were reversed, with conservatives making the case for "isolationism" (i.e. opposition to empire-building): the warmongering was left to the liberals and the extreme left, notably the American Communist Party
In both cases, the War Party was able to take advantage of the left-right split. In the Thirties, it was the Eastern seaboard Republicans, the Wendell Wilkie group, that absconded with the GOP presidential nomination and sold out the anti-interventionist cause on the campaign trail, never pushing the issue of FDR’s ill-disguised enthusiasm for getting us into the European war. After the election, Wilkie went over to the enemy completely, becoming one of FDR’s biggest supporters, and a tireless advocate of "internationalism," i.e. an American empire on which the sun never sets. His book, One World, is a veritable manifesto of left-sounding globaloney. Behind Wilkie were the big investment banks, the Anglophile elite whose cultural loyalties – and investments in the bonds of European governments – naturally led them into the pro-war camp.

That really does get to the heart of why the media loathes Ron Paul, he's antiwar.

They especially can't stand that he's antiwar when their hand picked person (Barack) really isn't.  So they offer all these attacks against him.

As Raimondo points out, it's not just that Paul is antiwar, though, it's also that he reveals the corruption and the sameness of the War Party.

I'm hoping he does well in Nevada.  (They caucus Saturday.)
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 3, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the attorneys representing the American soldier in the Haditha massacre find their computer systems hacked by Anonymous, the political crisis continues in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani delves into the issue, State of Law reportedly has entered into a secret deal with some aspects of the National Alliance, Turkish war planes again bomb northern Iraq and more.
The online group/collective Anonymous is in the news cycle today as various sites -- including law enforcement -- are thought to have been hacked. Elizabeth Flock (Washington Post) reports on one non-confirmed hack: Anonymous states it has hacked the computer systems of the law firm Puckett Faraj who represented Staff Sgt Frank Wuterich in the Haditha case recently (In 2005, 24 Iraqi civilians were killed by a number of US service members.  Wuterich entered a guilty plea last month.) The group claims they will be releasing confidential communications regarding the case ("a massive archive of e-mails" as well as transcripts and faxes). Elinor Mills (CNet) notes they left a message on the law firm's website which included:

As part of our ongoing efforts to expose the corruption of the court systems and the brutality of US imperialism, we want to bring attenttion to USMC S Sgt Frank Wuterich who along with his squad murdered dozens of unarmed civilians during the Iraqi Occupation.  Can you believe this scumbag had his charges reduced to involuntary manslaughter and got away with only a pay cut? Meanwhile, Bradley Manning who was brave enough to risk his life and freedom to expose the truth about government corruption is threatened with imprisonment. When justice cannot be found within the confines of their crooked court systems, we must seek revenge on the streets and on the internet -- and dealing out swift retaliation is something we are particularly good at.  Worry not comrades, it's time to deliver some epic ownage.

Jaikumar Vijayan (Computerworld) adds, "According to Anonymous, the emails contain 'detailed records, transcripts, testimony, trial evidence, and legal defense donation records pertaining to not only Frank Wuterich, but also many other marines they have represented'." Adam Martin (The Atlantic) offers this evaluation, "Most of the emails from the Puckett and Faraj firm have nothing to do with Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, whose conviction without prison time sparked Anonymous's interest in his lawyers.   We found some messages discussing unrelated evidence, some about the planning of office presentations, and some involving a car purchase.  But nothing on Wuterich so far."
The political crisis continues in Iraq.  The National Newspaper observes, "The political stand-off that began in Iraq last month is likely to escalate into a sectarian conflict that threatens the future of the entire political process and could throw the country once again into the furnace of sectarian violence that has reaped tens of thousands of innocent lives on all sides so far."  How bad is it getting?  Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that in a Karbala sermon today, Ahmed al-Safi, believed to be speaking on behalf of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, declared, "Politicians must work fast and make concessions to solve the crisis." Ahlul Bayt News Agency notes, "Ayatollah Sistani normally exerts his considerable influence through sermons and statements made by his aides."  Hayder al-Khoei (Foreign Affairs) offers his take on the crisis which includes:
As for Maliki and Allawi themselves, they have as much as to worry about within their own coalitions as they do outside them. Both their respective blocs -- the National Alliance and Iraqiya -- were formed on shaky grounds and contentious issues such as the Hashemi warrant have exposed these cracks. In this fractious game of politics, Maliki is doing extremely well: not only has he managed to chip away at Allawi's support but he is also keeping his own allies at bay. In the government formation process that took up much of last year, Maliki managed to drive a wedge between two powerful movements in southern Iraq: the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, led by Ammar al-Hakim, and its former military wing, the Badr Organization, led by Hadi al-Amiri. Both ISCI and Badr are part of the Shiite-dominated National Alliance. By enticing Amiri with a position as minister of transport last November, he frustrated Hakim and created confusion within ISCI and Badr -- a move that strengthened Maliki because he brought Badr to the table while ISCI remained reluctant in backing Maliki.
Now, Maliki is using a similar intra-sectarian ploy against another rival power base: the Sadrists. Under the pretext of national reconciliation, he is bringing the League of the Righteous (Asa'ib Ahlil Haq) into the political process. The League leader, Kais al-Khazali, was a former spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr but the two split in 2006, when Khazali decided to work independently of the Sadrists and instead coordinate directly with Iran. Perhaps one of the most well known of the Iranian-backed Special Groups, the League has reemerged in Najaf, under the auspices of Maliki, and is now engaged in war of words with the Sadrists. The two groups have skirmished in the past, and it possible that violence could break out again.
In both these cases, the factions that Maliki is bringing toward him are thought to have close ties to Iran, leading many analysts to conclude that with the United States out of Iraq, Tehran is increasing its influence over Baghdad. This may be true, but it is by design: Maliki recognizes these fissures and is playing on them as a means to survive. The Sadrists initially reacted against the arrest warrant on Hashemi, and their parliamentary bloc leader even talked about dissolving the parliament. Now, however, Maliki's moves have paid off, as the Sadrist rhetoric is more in line with the prime minister's own tone. The Sadrists now say that Hashemi should be put on trial in Baghdad and that his case should not be politicized.
Nouri al-Maliki has been on a power-grab since his first term. It continues. Over a year after he assumed his second term as prime minister, he's still refused to name heads to the security ministries (Defense, Interior and National Security). By refusing to name heads (nominate them, have Parliament vote on them), he controls the portfolios. He continues to target his political rivals (Iraqiya -- which beat him in the March 2010 elections). His political slate was State of Law. His political party is Dawa. Al Mada reports that Dawa is (loudly) insisting that they don't know why Ayad Allawi met with Iran's Ambassador to Iraq for three hours this week. Dawa's Walid al-Hilli went on TV to declare that Dawa has no idea why the meeting took place. In upcoming news, Dawa announces on TV that they have no idea whether Oswald acted alone.  The Tehran Times notes, "The Iraqi news agency Al Nakheel has recently reported that Ayad Allawi, the leader of the al-Iraqiya List, will take a trip to Iran in the near future."

Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is among the Iraqiya members Nouri is targeting. Aswat al-Iraq reports that alleged legal 'expert' Hatif al-Mussawi is stating the charges of terrorism Nouri has brought against al-Hashemi cannot be transferred to an international body. That's incorrect. There is nothing barring that in the Iraqi Constitution. That's the supreme law of the land (or is supposed to be) and trumps some provincial law (if al-Mussawi even has that on his side -- like most faux 'experts,' he's unable to cite a passage that backs him up). It's becoming an international incident. They could easily transfer it to an international body. That could be the UN. Equally true, the 'expert' might want to check out the written arrangement the government of Iraq signed with NATO. (For the Nouri apologists, Tareq al-Hashemi is actually very lucky. Nouri is charging terrorism from several years back. When Iraq was legally recognized as occupied. That occupied status has bearing on who can and cannot hear charges. It's a bit more complicated than supposed 'experts' would have you believe.) You might also want to check the numerous international pacts Iraq has signed off on, look at the huge rate of people being executed by the state of Iraq and grasp that what al-Hashemi is charged with can result in the death penalty if convicted. It's not as simple as the 'expert' would like it to be. al-Hashemi told AFP this week that it was "my right to go to the international judiciary."  Roshan Kasem (The Majalla) has an extensive interview with al-Hashemi.  Excerpt.
Q: It is said that you are to be referred, as an absentee, to the Criminal Court, according to the amended Article 121 of the Code of Criminal Procedure law of 1971. What is the worst you expect to happen during the investigation procedures and how intense would the measures to be taken against you be?
I am optimistic and have full trust is that a fair court will vindicate me. Thus, I have appealed for the proceedings to be transferred from Baghdad to Kirkuk.
Q: Do you have any suspicions that certain trade-offs would be made in regards to your case towards achieving political interests -- given the complicity of the political situation in Iraq?
I ought to be expectant of such incidents, especially when my case is solely, and extremely, political and not criminal in nature.
Q: To what extent does the Iraqi leadership in other respective parties support your appeal for a trial subject to Arab and international supervision?
The issue concerns me personally. The fact that the Judiciary is being politicized and its independence jeopardized leads me to seek necessary Arab and international involvement. I was obliged to make this decision. If an impartial investigation and a fair trial were an option, I would have preferred to have my case contained internally.

Another prominent Iraqiya member being targeted is Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq whom Nouri is demanding be stripped of his post.

Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's State of Law has made a deal with some elements in the National Alliance (a Shi'ite alliance that State of Law became part of after the elections but that Nouri refused to run with ahead of and during the elections) which agrees that they will not allow Saleh al-Mutlaq to return to his post (which he retains -- Parliament has not voted to strip him of it -- unless and until they do, al-Mutlaq remains Deputy Prime Minister). Not only will they not allow him to return, the deal supposedly is that they will not replace him with anyone and that they will also not replace Tareq al-Hashemi with anyone. That would leave only one vice president -- a Shi'ite. Iraq is supposed to have two vice presidents per the Constitution. Following the end of Political Stalemate I, Iraq ended up with three vice presidents. One resigned leaving two. (Adel Abdul Mehdi and Tareq al-Hashemi were Iraq's vice president during Nouri's first term. Both were renamed to the posts in the second term -- by President Jalal Talabani. Adel Abudl Mehdi quit the government over the corruption and dysfunction. He was a political rival of Nouri's and hoped/hopes to be prime minister himself. Khudayer al-Khuzaie is the third vice president and he's from Dawa). If State of Law has its way, there will only be one vice president.
Jim Loney (Reuters) observes/warns, "The political crisis and a Kurdish oil exploration deal with oil giant Exxon Mobil could push disputes between Baghdad and the Kurds to new heights, increasing anxiety in Iraq's disputed territories, already a potential faultline for conflict without U.S. troops to act as a buffer."  On this issue of oil & gas, Jeffrey Blackwell (Democrat and Chroncile) reports that gas prices are increasing in Rochester, New York which means an increase in "everything from groceries to airline tickes." Robert Gibbons (Reuters) reports that "crude prices rose to a near three-month peak on Friday" and that "exports from Iraq's southern hub Basra were halved by bad weather."  Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Rzzouk (Blomberg News) round out the topic noting, "Iraq's proposed energy law, intended to spur foreign investment in the world's fifth-largest holder of oil depostis, will be delayed for the rest of this year due to political division, the prime minister's top adviser said."
There is no oil & gas law passed but the Parliament did decide to pass a no smoking law regarding government buildings and purlbic plasces, Al Mada reports. Considering all the chemicals the US and British military used in Iraq -- chemicals now in the soil and water -- which have resulted in the high rate of birth defects post-invasion, you might think there were a few more important things the government could take up besides the dangers of second hand smoke in a toxic ward. Maybe it's just another sign that the political crisis continues? Alsumaria TV (which has a new visual look) reports additional details including that the law forbids the promotion of smoking (directly or indirectly) by the media and cultural institutions and bans the importing of tobacco products. Of course, even movement on this minor issue (Iraq is a toxic dump thanks to other countries, the cigarette smoke is a minor issue) isn't resolved. Dar Addustour reports State of Law is insisting the law has elements that are unconstitutional and that they're taking the issue to the courts.

On the issue of oil and gas

Al Mada notes State of Law not only continues to attack the Turkish government (and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan by name) but attempts to tie Turkey around Ayad Allawi's neck stating that Turkey is interfering in Iraq's affairs and that Allawi is perfect okay with that. That's a highly charged statement, especially on a day when Alsumaria TV is reporting that Turkish war planes have again bombed northern Iraq. Today's Zaman adds, "Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement on Friday that Turkish fighter jets bombed three PKK targets in Zap." AFP notes the claims that the planes were targeting the PKK and quotes PKK spokesperson Bakhtiar Dogan stating, "Turkish aircraft have since yesterday (Thursday) bombed the Zap and Abshin areas from time to time."  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."  Those bombings, don't forget, are okayed by Nouri and State of Law might want to remember that before painting others are too close to Turkey.

Al Mada notes the Parliament Commission on Human Rights has echoed the recent Human Rights Report and states that human rights and freedoms are declining in Iraq.

Last month, the corpse of a 26-year-old woman was discovered hanging in a Hilla school. That was in the middle of the month. No one has been charged with the crime and there's been no real investigation indicating yet again the lack of respect the Iraqi government has for women. In Nouri's first term, women continued to lose out.  In his second term, there wasn't even a pretense made that Iraqi women would be treated with the equality promised in the Constitution.  From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:

Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).
Dropping back to last Friday's snapshot:
Now let's turn to the issue of women and former Minister of Women's Affairs Nawal al-Samarraie who publicly stood out and decired the discrimination within the government during Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister. February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio). Excerpt:
COREY FLINTOFF: Nawal al-Samarraie had served as Iraq's minister for women's affairs for less than six months when she created a stir by turning in her resignation. She complained she had never received support from the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and that her budget for projects had been slashed from about $7,500 a month to around 1,500.
Ms. NAWAL AL-SAMARRAIE (Former Minister for Women's Affairs, Iraq): I think it is wrong to stay as a minister without doing anything for my people, especially in this time and in this situation of Iraqi women, that an army of widows, violated women, detainees, illiteracy. Many, many problems we have. I had to resign.
FLINTOFF: Iraqi women's advocates have coined the phrase an army of widows to refer to the women who lost their breadwinners in the conflicts reaching back to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Samarraie says there are more than three million such women, most of them with children, who have no social safety net.

There are between one and two million Iraqi war widows.  Reuters notes Halima Dakhil who pays $210 for rent for her and her children. And that Iraqi widows receive $85 a month from the government and $13 a month for each child.  This is ridiculous and shameful as Nouri spends billons on toys for warfare.  Gender-traitor Ibtihal al-Zaidi shows up in the story to insist, "I agree it is little.  But there is a real plan to increase these benefits."  Let's hope all the widows and children living in poverty can afford to wait for al-Zaidi to get around to addressing the "real plan."
Who is this woman who goes along making excuses?  Now in his second term as prime minister, Nouri appointed his stooge, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. . She's gotten herself in trouble in the last weeks in Iraq. She's declared that she doesn't believe in equality, that Iraqi women need their husband's permission before doing anything (presumably their son's or father's permission if they're widowed, divorced or unmarried) and has come up with a little dress code for Iraqi women employed by the government. Al Mada reports today that MP Safia al-Suhail is calling the gender traitor out and asking that al-Zaidi appear before Parliament to explain this dress code (which bans certain skirts, t-shirts and sneakers among other items -- but only for women) and al-Suhail points out that al-Zaidi's remarks are troubling and run contrary to the oath the Minister of Women's Affairs took when assuming her office.
Meanwhile Online International News notes that there is a worldwide rise in cases of measles after years of decline and that Iraq had 30,328 cases in 2011. That's over one person in every thousand of Iraq's population.  In other health news, as last month came to a close, the World Health Organization held a handover ceremony in Sulimaniya Province where they and the United Nations Development Program "handed over the first specialised Tuberculosis (TB) hospital to the Government of Iraq at a cermoney.''
In violence, Reuters reports a Baghdad sticky bombing injured one person and, dropping back to Thursday night for the rest, a Muqdadiya shooting that killed 1 man and a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured.
MS. NULAND: Please. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yes. The drone controversy, the drone controversy in Iraq?
MS. NULAND: Was there a question there, Said?
QUESTION: Yes. I -- about the drone controversy, that's my question. The fiery cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is saying that this is a breach of Iraqi sovereignty, that the U.S. Embassy is, by doing this spy drone thing, is breaching Iraqi sovereignty, and he's calling on Iraqis to resist and he's calling on the Iraqi Government to stop the U.S. Embassy from doing that, and in fact given you -- gave you a timetable, a deadline timetable. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. NULAND: I don't have any comment on that, no.
Please, Dima.
QUESTION: Do you know -- actually, do you know -- has the Iraqi Government actually complained about this to you?
MS. NULAND: I -- given the fact that we are continuing discussion about a whole host of issues having to do with how we manage our very large Embassy presence in Iraq, including aspects of security, I don't think it's so much a matter of complaint, as you would say, as an ongoing dialogue about what's appropriate going forward.
QUESTION: No, but the -- when this was first reported on Monday or Tuesday, or sometime earlier this week --
QUESTION: -- or maybe it was last week, I don't even remember now, but it had been presented that the Iraqis were furious -- the Iraqi Government, not a cleric here or there, but that the actual Iraqi Government was upset, was angry and demanding that this not happen. You're not aware that that's actually the case though, correct?
MS. NULAND: I am not. But let me take the question. Okay?
Earlier this week, Al Mada reported Iraqi government sources stated US drones are not the only US aircraft occupying the Iraqi skies currently. In addition there are the US helicopters (such as the one that went down in Baghdad recently) and F-16 aircraft. Al Mannarah adds that while the US claims to respect the sovereignity of all countries even as it sends drones across borders. Felicity Arbuthnot weighs in with "War Or No War In Iraq? Drones Over Iraq: When is a Pullout not a Pullout?" (Centre for Research on Globalalization):

First the world was sold imaginary weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, General Colin Powell, at the United Nations in February 2003, asserting: "My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."
Now it seems the world is sold a withdrawal from Iraq which was not quite what it seemed, as presented by the Panetta-Obama-fest in the Baghdad, Fort Bragg speeches of just six weeks ago. At Fort Bragg: "The war in Iraq will soon belong to history …" said the President.
Well, not quite.
In an interesting sleight of hand, the State Department, rather than the Pentagon, is operating a fleet of surveillance drones over Iraq.
In: " … the latest example of the State Department's efforts to take over the functions in Iraq that the military used to perform."(i)
Further, the near Vatican City sized US Embassy in Baghdad is protected by five thousand mercenaries and has a further staff of eleven thousand, a large number, seemingly in a "military advice" capacity, training Iraqi forces -- a nation that, ironically, nine years ago the US and UK cited as having a military capability not alone a threat "to the entire region", but to the West.

The issue really received attention when US President Barack Obama spoke about it in an online townhall.  Nicole Goebel (Deutsche Welle) quotes Barack insisting Monday, "It is important for everybody to understand that this is kept on a very tight leash." But as Patt Morrison noted on her self-titled program (KPCC) yesterday, more than 200 strikes in Pakistan alone since 2009, "it's the CIA that runs the drone program not the air force [. . .] and the drone question has never really come up before Congress in all the years of its use." The broadcast was a debate on the issues between the Heritage Foundation's James Jay Carafano and the University of Notre Dame's law professor Mary Ellen O'Connell. Excerpt.

Mary Ellen O'Connell: Patt, I've got very serious concerns. It is true that if a drone is used on the battlefield -- and today the United States is involved in armed conflict hostilities in one place only, that is Afghanistan, that is the only place where we can use the current generation of drones lawfully because those drones fire missiles and drop bombs. If we want to do covert operations today, the United States moved to the point before 9/11 where we were not having the CIA involved in lethal operations. After the 1980s, the dirty wars in Central America, we got the CIA out of killing. That also followed, of course, the tragic years of Vietnam in which the CIA was doing a large amount of killing and we didn't think the way that Vietnam turned out was right for our country or right for the world. And then after the compounded problems of the CIA involved in lethal, covert operations, the Congress stopped it. Now what we're seeing today is not only a replay of that failure -- moral and legal -- to have the CIA involved in those kinds of operations but it is exacerbated by the this type of weaponry kills so many people in addition to the target.

O'Connell stated that a conservative estimate for the number of people killed in US drone attacks so far would be 2200 people. Robert Wright (The Atlantic) notes the skill with which Barack navigated, controlled and circumvented the topic:

At one point in his Google Plus conversation, Obama did a masterful job of describing the function of the drone strikes in a way that did allude to their battlefield function, but still appealed to "war on terror" psychology. The people targeted by the drones, he said, "are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on." When you're at war, is it really "terrorism" for the enemy to kill your soldiers? If so, why isn't it terrorism for your soldiers to kill the enemy (especially when you sometimes, as with drone strikes, kill civilians)? But of course, the virtue of the word "terrorism" is that it makes us think of al Qaeda, whether or not al Qaeda is in fact involved.
If drone strikes are indeed increasing America's vulnerability to terrorism in the long run--and if in the short term they're a price paid for Obama's 2008 political calculation--then it's no wonder the president is using these sorts of verbal smokescreens.

Again, thus far, no armed drones are being used by the US State Dept in Iraq -- as far as we know. However, the US is in talks with Turkey to provide them with armed drones to patrol northern Iraq. (That should be a done deal since Turkey's already given over land for a CIA base on the border.) But the CIA is operating within Iraq. Whether or not they're using armed drones? I would imagine they were. Considering that they an US Special Ops continue to operate in Iraq, it's very likely that the CIA is operating armed drones in Iraq. (And possibly using the State Dept's unarmed drones as a cover.) RT notes, "Aside from the fleet of drones flying overhead, the tally of American-aligned personnel in Iraq totals close to 15,000. The US Embassy in Baghdad is the largest of its kind, and holds around 11,000 staffers. Military contractors on assignment to protect the embassy account for around another 4,000. If that presence on the ground wasn't enough, now the US is putting its planes overhead." M. Dennis Paul ( observes, "Obama went on to lie directly to the Nation in stating no Americans remained in combat in Iraq and that a favor had been done to that nation and the world. This writer happens to know several Americans who are still in Iraq and are still fighting there. It is doubtful they represent a small number as there are literally hundreds of thousands of hired guns who have replaced the uniformed GI in Iraq. They protect embassies, government officials, corporate big wigs, and every manner of $$ making operation in that nation that so benefited from our incursions it looks like a scene from one of so many futuristic films about global war and destruction. Ask any Iraqi on the street if he appreciates the American invasion. A constant and sad refrain is that Iraq was better off before... not after. Death, displacement, destruction of over 80% of infrastructure, toxic air, land and water, deformed children, hundreds of thousands of innocents struggling to obtain care for themselves and their families.. many struggling just to find their families, constant sniper fire, bombings, threats, crime of all sorts... Yes, Obama can sell it like his predecessors."

Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Theme posts:

Betty offered "Lenore Kandel and others," Trina offered "Cornelius Eady," Ann offered "5 men," Rebecca discussed "a trip uptown," Ruth offered "Nancy Boutilier," Kat provided a critique via "8 Major Young Poets?," Marcia suffered through "take hold!" (bland poetry, if you haven't read her post yet), Stan attempted to give "Damon Runyon" a fair break, Elaine sampled "Baby Toes" while Mike explored poetry in verse and in song with "Robert Duncan, Graffiti6" while Wally & Cedric continued the theme by offering the Florida primary results in poetic verse "THIS JUST IN! RHYME AND REASON!" & "The poetic primary."

I had fun reading them and I hope you did as well.

Sunny compiled a list of questions in e-mails.

Did I ignore the canon completely?

I went to college.  You couldn't escape the canon.  But while I gladly read The Little Prince, Peter Pan, etc. as a child, I wasn't interested in the canon in college.  For good reason too, the bulk of that canon has fallen by the way side.

Marcia's post on the book of Pulitzer Prize winning poems?  A lot of the canon was clever word play that meant very little.

So C.I. was into the canon?

Oh, no.


C.I. would laugh at that. C.I. brought women into the classroom.  The same way she quotes women songwriters in her online writing, she'd do that with women poets, novelists, etc.  She carved out the place for women in so many courses -- including western political thought.

To do that, she had to be familiar with not only what she was bringing in but also how it applied to the canon authors so she learned that way but she was never fed by the canon and would be the first to say so.

A very good friend of her's was on a soap opera and having the worst time with bad scripts.  So she was attempting to ad lib.  Sometimes it was working, sometimes it wasn't.  In one of the genius moments she had that year (the friend was with the soap for several years -- I think three), she built a throw away scene around a Carl Sandburg poem.  That was C.I.'s suggestion.  C.I. recited the one CS poem she knows by heart and talked her though it. The woman ended up using it very well immediately but, for filming, took it even further and it was a big moment for her on the soap that garnered her a great deal of (deserved) critical attention.

C.I. reads poetry regularly but her favorite is the prose poem.

Was I surprised by Rebecca's choice?

No.  When I read her post, I could immediately see her copy of A Trip Uptown in my head.  That book had some great illustrations and some great poems -- including one about an orgy if I'm remembering correctly.  Rebecca brought that book to college and it was often a coffee table book at our place.  (Rebecca, C.I. and I had a place together in college.)

Did I ever want to be a poet?

Never.  I also didn't write poetry other than what was assigned (and since I've only written it on pieces I've worked on Third with).  I don't have the talent, never thought I did.

Rebecca can write verse.  She can do with any meter.  She's very good at it and can write some of the most tragic love poems.  I'm not joking.  She just always had a gift for it.

If C.I. has to write poetry, she starts with a melody, I'm not joking. She would  turn it into a song writing assignment.  They would stand out.

It could be very intimidating living with those two but also very educational.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 1, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, Iraq executes 17 people, the VA plays Abbot & Costello while testifying to -- or babbling before -- Congress, and more.

"Time and time again," declared Michael Michaud this morning, "VA comes up here and testifies that it has wonderful policies in place. Unfortunately no one ever seems to follow these policies and procedures and they seem to be no consequences for the failure to follow these procedures."

He was speaking at a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing which Chair Jeff Miller explained in his opening remarks, "I want to thank everybody for coming to hearing today entitled 'Examining VA's Pharmaceutical Prime Vendor Contract.' We started investigating PPVs and the contract well before the story on this hit the press and we found enough that questions were raised to warrant the hearing that we're going to hold today and possibly subsequent hearings in the future. Now a PPV contract, when written and executed correctly, is intended to ensure VA receive the needed medical pharmaceuticals at a competitive price and in a timely fashion. Medical facilities throughout the nation rely on this system to ensure that the patients get the best care. That the veterans get the best care that they need. they deserve and they've earned. The Committee's investigation began when discrepancies appeared in how VA ordering officials had been handling open market purchases of items not available on the PPV contract. These purchases go back much further than just the last year or two. In fact, they span multiple administrations showing many within VA chose to ignore whether than fix a problem they knew about."

Appearing before the Committee on the first panel was the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs W. Scott Gould (accompanied by the VA's John R. Gingrich, Glenn D. Haggstrom, Jan R. Frye, Philip Matkovsky, Steven A. Thomas and Michael Valentino), on the second panel the Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Audits and Evaluations Office of Inspector General's Linda Halliday (with Mark Myer sand Michael Grivnovics) and on the third panel McKesson Corporations' Vice President on Health Systems' Sharon Longwell.

This was a hearing where first panel witnesses tossed around terms and words that were unfamiliar -- US House Rep and Dr. Phil Roe would stop a witness at one point and tell him no one understood what he was saying. And the issues could get complicated. So what you need to remember on this is that there are guidelines the VA must follow on ordering. Those guidelines exist for many reasons. The three primary reasons are (1) safety of the veterans, (2) ensuring that the government gets the best price possible, and (3) ensuring that cronyism or kickbacks are not taking place as the VA invents its own rules (or disregards those in place).
US House Rep Bob Filner is the Ranking Member of this Committee. He was not present at the hearing and Michaud served as the Ranking Member. He declared in his opening statements, "The VA admits that it did not follow all applicable laws and regulations for approximately 1.2 billion dollars in what was called Open Market Drug Purchases since 2004. VA assures us that changes have been implemented to fix deficiencies at hand. Frankly, Mr. Chairman, we've heard this before."
There was a lot of justifying and minimizing by the VA and, as Michaud noted, the claim that Congress need not worry, that the VA had already fixed everything on its own. Gould insisted that what took place "was not criminal and at no time were our veterans at risk." Miller asked him, "Is this a violation of the law?" Gould replied, "Yes."

Chair Jeff Miller: [. . .] When did senior leadership first learn of the unlawful purchasing? And I'd like to ask each individual at the table independently to let me know when you first heard about it and what you specifically did when you heard about it?

W. Scott Gould: Sir, to be responsive on that question, then each of us you will answer that. What you will see is a range of dates as the problem escalated through the system. To answer personally for the senior management team, I first knew about this issue in September of last year, September of 2011.

Chair Jeff Miller: And we'll start down here, Mr. Valentino?

Michael Valentino: I became aware of the issue with Open Market Purchases in December of 2010 when the clause was removed from the draft solicitation.

Philip Matkovsky: I became aware in September of 2011.

John Gingrich: I became aware in September of 2011.

Glenn D. Haggstrom: With respect to the improper use of the Open Market Clause, I became aware of it in March 2011.

Chair Jeff Miller: When did you hear about the illegal use?

Glenn D. Haggstrom: March of 2011.

Jan R. Frye: I became aware in March 2011, March 29th, to be exact.

Steven A. Thomas: And I became aware in January of '09 when a Logistics Manager from the CMA* identified this as an issue. At that point, I worked with general counsel, acquisition review, IG, other at the NAC [National Acquisition Center], VHA including PBM and the CMA to try to correct the issue for the CMA which we became responsible for at the National Acquisition Center in December of '08. I tried to add items to the federal supply schedule as much as possible to cover that gap. I tried to have additional things put on requirements, types of contracts, that we had limited success on. But the main thing I did was, I corrected the issue for the CMA. So the CMA follows appropriate procedures at that point. And that was the area of responsibility that I had.
W. Scott Gould: So, Mr. Chairman, today you've gone down the list to see what people knew, when they knew. The people at the table today collectively identified the problem, took action and we are collectively responsible for-for that fact.

Chair Jeff Miller: Mr. Thomas, you took great pains a second ago to talk about all the things that you tried to do. Can you explain why you were unable to do some of the things you wanted to do? Could you turn your mic on too, please?

Steven A. Thomas: Apologize. Yes, sir. I think what we have in this case is a changing industry to a certain degree. There are -- as you probably are aware, there's a lot of drug shortages that are currently going on right now. Uhm, there's the Trade Agreements Act that we have to be responsible for to make sure that products are coming from responsible countries and a lot of the manufacturing for drug -- for drugs right now are going overseas to India and China and those two countries are not trade agreement countries. So there's a number of issues going through there when we put our requirements contracts out for some of the generic products, we are able to award about a third of them as they came through. It didn't stop our efforts in that but it made us try to figure out how we could get more products on contract.

Thomas never shuts up. [*And I have no idea if he was saying CMA or what. He pronounced the term various ways throughout the hearing. I don't know it.] He offers a lot of blather about what he did for someone who broke the law. Miller wanted to know "how much was spent illegally after the 8th of November" 2011. Gould gave a response about how they didn't want the veterans to suffer. So Gould is arguing not only that the law was broken but that it was knowingly broken by the leadership composing the first panel. He went on for over two minutes and then swapped to Matkovsky and neither ever answered Miller's question as to how much was spent from November 8, 2011 through the end of the year?

Chair Jeff Miller: I apologize Mr. Secretary if I didn't hear you, but did you give me a number for what money was spent?

Philip Matkovsky: Two numbers. The first number for the month of December which we are still analyzing is roughly 1.4 million [dollars]. The total number of transactions which we are reviewing for ratification is 5,733 transactions.

Miller pointed out that this wasn't just about drugs, the spending. Gould admitted this was true.

Michaud asked if they had waivers for "the 1.2 billion in open market purchases dollars dating back to 2004" which led Gould to insist he needed to consult with the witnesses at the table followed by Frye stating, "Sir, I'm not familiar with your question. Waiver for what again?" Michaud attempted to jog their memories, "Waiver request for Open Market Purchases, that's required under the handbook." Still the panel was baffled by what he was talking about. Michaud then had to cite the rule specifically ("That's 7408.1") at which point it was immediately agreed that Michaud knew what he was talking about. But the waivers? Haggstron stated, "I'm not aware of any waivers."

The dummy up and pass the issue around was used repeatedly. So much that you might think they were trying to run out the clock on Michaud's questioning time.

US House Rep Phil Roe would ask a basic question, one that the witnesses should have known the answer to before they arrived at the hearing, "My second question is are there any penalties -- I know this is civil, not criminal -- but are there any penalties for the people who knowingly broke this law?"

The witnesses were unable to answer the second question and an attorney for the VA stood up and declared that "there are no penalties attached or sanctions attached." Had the VA fixed the problem -- as they claim -- and had they addressed it, then surely these seven VA leaders would have discussed whether or not criminal charges needed to be brought. The fact that they didn't know the answer indicates they never asked that question which would lead many to believe that they were only focused on damage control and not addressin the issues involved.

They played idiots very well. At one point, Chair Miller would ask them if they were aware, as they offered some interesting statements, that the Committee would have the documents in their possession and that a subpoena had been issued?

That would seem a rather basic question. But Gould especially (though not only) wanted to insist that there was no subpoena. He said there were Freedom of Information requests but no subpoena and wanted to argue this with the Chair.

Even after the Chair stated that US House Rep Darrell Issa issued the subpoena on January 19th (his Committee,on Oversight and Reform), they wanted to insist there was no subpoena. Then they wanted to add, maybe there was one, but it had not yet been received. After this ridiculous scene seemed in danger of never ending, "Counsel appears to be nodding to us that a subpoena has been issued." So, yes, there was a subpoena and that, yes, it had been received.

Again, the seven leaders at the table should have known that. Appearing before Congress to testify about records that the Congress is subpoenaing should be known. This group of leaders appeared completely disinterested in the topic being explored and not at all concerned about meeting oversight obligations.
"We need to fix this," Thomas said was the response in 2009 when the issue was first known (at least first known among the witnesses). "And we didn't fix it until recently?" Chair Miller asked. He received nothing resembling an answer.
Gould insisted that the 7 at the table (including himself) had identified the problem and "we addressed it in six weeks."

Chair Jeff Miller: Is it your testimony that the time frame between January of '09 and today is six weeks?

W. Scott Gould: No, Mr. Chairman, as I said a moment ago when you went down the list of folks here, when did senior management know? And I have testified that I knew in September. And by November 8th, the problem was solved.

Chair Jeff Miller: Does it bother you that you have somebody sitting at the table that knew of the issue in January '09 and you -- or somebody at that table -- did not know?

W. Scott Gould:Sir, of course it does and as I have testified that is a problem for which we are collectively responsible and accountable. I am very unhappy with this risk up the chain of command. All I'm saying is, that it did not happen and when it did it was absolutely solved by this team. We got together and resolved the issues and came up with a clear course of action to fix the problem.

But as Miller pointed out, the problem was known by at least Thomas in 2009. So, no, the issue was not dealt with in six weeks. As for taking accountability, a resignation or two would indicate that accountability was being taken. Instead, they want to pretend that the violation of the law doesn't matter because it's not criminal. And they want to pretend that taking nearly three years to address the situation after leadership first learned of the problem can be passed off as six weeks. There's no accountability, there's not even any honesty.

In Iraq, the political crisis continues and this crisis was created by the White House when they overruled the will of the Iraqi people who voiced their preference in the March 2010 elections. The Constitution was quite clear on what happened next. But the White House was equally clear and much louder on the fact that they wanted Nouri -- whose political slate came in second to Iraqiya -- to remain prime minister. With the White House backing, Nouri was able to bring the government to a standstill for 8 months (Political Stalemate I). Without White House support, the Constitution would have been followed and Nouri would not be prime minister. In November 2010, the White House had polical parties meet in the KRG and hammer out an agreement that put into writing a great deal of the White House's promises. They'd long asked Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) to step aside and allow Nouri to be prime minister. They promised him that, in doing what was 'best' for Iraq, Iraqiya would also head a newly created and independent national security council. The Kurds were also promised many things. The main thing for Nouri was he got to remain prime minister. All parties signed off on this agreement. The next day, Parliament met and President Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister (unofficially -- he'd name him prime minister 'officially' later in the month to give him over 30 days to form a Cabinet -- the Constitution requires you do it in 30 days or the president names a new prime minister-designate). Nouri loved the Erbil Agreement. Loved it. Until he was named prime minister-designate. Then he was no longer interested in it.

He blew it off. This is the current Political Stalemate II. The crisis begins in the dying days of summer when the Kurds have had enough and begin demanding that the Erbil Agreement be followed. Their patience exhausted, they begin floating various scenarios. Among other things, the Kurds want the issue of Kirkuk resolved. That's not an unreasonable request. Not only were they promised in the Erbil Agreement that it would be resolved, but when the Constitution was written in 2005, Article 140 demanded that the prime minister hold a referendum to resolve the issue of Kirkuk by the end of 2007. The first prime minister after the Constitution was written was Nouri al-Maliki. He became prime minister in April 2006. He refused to follow the Constitution. He forever had an excuse and it wasn't the right time or it will be addressed in the near future. He's now been prime minister since 2006, the Constitution compells him to resolve the issue of Kirkuk (and states how, take a census, take a vote) and to do so by 2007. He has repeatedly refused. He is forever in violation of the Constitution.

And yet every time the White House backs Thug Nouri who runs torture chambers and secret prisons, whose forces physically attack journalists and demonstrators, this is who the White House -- under Bush before, under Barack now -- has backed.

The Brookings Institution's Kenneth M. Pollack provides an analysis at The Atlantic which includes:

It is important to understand what actually happened this week. Iraqiya ended its parliamentary boycott but not its boycott of meetings of the Council of Ministers. The parliament is due to consider Iraq's annual budget, and the Iraqi leadership felt it would be disastrous for their party and the communities they represent if they were not present to ensure that they received their fair share of Iraq's governmental pie. Iraqiya has not ended its ministerial boycott of Council of Ministers meetings, with the result that its ministers are still under suspension by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and it has threatened to withdraw from the parliament again if the prime minister does not end his attacks on them.
It was Maliki who provoked the current crisis with his assault on Iraqiya, in several instances employing unsavory and even unconstitutional acts to do so. If he is willing to make some concessions to Iraqiya, it might be possible not just to defuse the current crisis but also to begin a larger process of compromise and national reconciliation that could start addressing the problems in Iraqi politics that gave rise to this crisis.
Unfortunately, the prime minister appears to see Iraqiya's decision as a victory--he outlasted them, broke them, forced them rejoin the government without getting anything that they wanted. Indeed, Maliki has shown no sign of relenting, although he and his allies did tone down their rhetoric in recent weeks. But the prime minister has continued to fire and arrest senior Iraqiya leaders, insist that the Kurds hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi for trial--despite charges that the warrant for his arrest was based on confessions induced by torture--and steadfastly refused to agree to a national conference to resolve the current impasse as proposed by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and accepted by the Iraqiya leadership. Although the Kurds have their own differences with Iraqiya and the Sunnis (and their own reasons for wanting to reconcile with Maliki), they see the prime minister's actions as "final proof" that he is determined to make himself a new dictator, and so they have refused to hand over Hashimi.
What's truly stunning is that multiple reports have surfaced to indicate that the United States has decided that the real long-term problem is Iraqiya and that Washington's solution is to try to split the party and convince the part they see as more "progressive"--along with the Kurdish parties--to join Maliki in a new, majoritarian government that would be somewhat smaller and nimbler than the ridiculously unwieldy national-unity government that the administration foolishly insisted on back in 2010.

There is more to his analysis including running various potential outcomes of the crisis. It does not include any thoughts on influence from other countries (other than the US). But
Hossam Accomok (Al Mada) notes Iraqiya leader Ayada allawi reportedly met with Iran's Ambassador to Iraq (Hassan Danaii) and was accompanied by Ahmed Chalabi. Iraqiya is saying nothing at present about the alleged three hour meeting which may also have included Saleh al-Mutlaq and others. The meeting reportedly covered issues that have resulted in the political crisis. If the meeting did take place, the US government better be paying attention. They've strung Ayad Allawi for so long, promising him that they would mediate and not offered any real mediation, begged him to set aside his claim to prime minister for the good of the country, etc. Iraqiya has spent most of last week and this week denying that there would be any meet-up with Iran (mainly that Allawi was headed to or already in Tehran) but if they are entering into a dialogue, good for them. Maybe they'll get something from Tehran or it will wake up the White House to the fact that they can't string everyone along forever in their rush to protect Nouri.

In another report, Al Mada notes unnamed officials are stating that there is strong polarization in the leadership of Iraiqya -- Allawi, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. These rumors have floated for some time but have, thus far, not resulted in any huge split. In fact, there were angry words exchanged in November 2010 between Allawi and al-Nuajaifi -- when Iraqiya walked out of the Parliament over Nouri's refusal to address the security council and the clearing of the names of Iraqiya members -- over al-Nujaifi's decision to continue the session. That was put aside after its airing. If anyone gets ditched quickly, my guess would be that it would be Saleh al-Mutlaq who could find himself out of a position and would then be quickly whisked out of the country. (If he loses his position, he loses his immunity and Nouri would sue him.) Tareq al-Hashemi might be the more obvious choice were it not for the fact that he has Kurdish support. In fact, Talabani is al-Hashemi's weakest support in that the protection Talabani's offered has come as a result of the demands of other Kurdish officials. Al Rafidayn has a report asserting al-Mutlaq met with Dawa leaders (highest ranking thus far, Dawa's Secretary-General Hashim al-Musawi) about resolving the issues between himself and Nouri. Pollack, in his analysis, feels that Iraqiya's leaders are unlikely to be divided against one another.

Dar Addustour reports that Aiham Alsammarae, former Minister of Electricity and Constitutional expert, is calling for Nouri to step down as prime minister. Alsammarae served as Minister of Electricity from 2003 to 2005 and was the only Minister of Electricity to manage to increase the output of electricity to Iraqis. After he resigned, the output fell and has still not reached the levels of production under his leadership. Dar Addustour doesn't state whether he made the call from Iraq or not. (His family was living in Chicago. I thought they still were -- including him.) Al Mada notes KRG President Massoud Barzani has called the current political crisis the biggest one Iraq has faced since the 2003 invasion. He is calling for the partnership to be honored and stated that the Kurds had attempted to play mediator with no success due to a lack of commitment from other players.

Nouri's actions are said to be harming Iraq's chances on the national stage. In a lenghty examination of Iraq's oil industry, Ben Van Heuvelen (Foreign Policy) offers:

Production has rebounded from just over 1 million barrels per day after the invasion to nearly 3 million today. Baghdad's 11 international oil contracts promise to deliver a total of more than 13 million barrels per day within seven years -- a figure that would make Iraq the largest oil producer, ever.
There are good reasons to doubt these projections. For one thing, the current political crisis has underscored Iraq's failure to build the kinds of institutions -- a credible judiciary, non-politicized security forces -- that support a stable, functioning, democratic state. Even if Iraq weren't plagued by daily bombings and political dysfunction, it would be hard-pressed to achieve what would be the most rapid oil expansion in world history.

Steve Hargreaves (CNNMoney) sees similar problems as well:

For some, it's the increasingly dire political situation that's more problematic than the violence.
"The government is slowly fracturing," said Andreas Carleton-Smith, managing director of Middle East operations for Control Risks, a consultancy. "The political risks are far more serious than the security risks."
Of course, political risk could lead to serious security risks, especially in a worst-case civil war-type scenario.
But political risk can also manifest itself in a crushing bureaucracy, or simply the inability to get something done because the government office that's supposed to approve something no longer exists. This type of situation has also become more common in Iraq.
"It's becoming more difficult to work here," said Carleton-Smith.

Still on the issue of oil, Grant Smith (Bloomberg News) reports, "Iraq's legislation doesn't prevent oil companies from signing deals with the central government and with semi-autonomous authorities in the North, as in the case of Exxon Mobil Corp., said Adnan al-Janabi, chairman of the nation's Oil and Energy Committee." Back in October, ExxonMobil signed a deal with the KRG and you may remember Nouri's outrage and his Deputy Prime Minister for Energy's outrage (that's Hussein al-Shahristani) as they insisted that Iraq would consider sanctions, that the contract was illegal and more. And the Minister of Oil Abdul-Kareem Luaibi was insisting that they had demanded a response (repeatedly) from ExxonMobil which had refused to respond. It's not at all surprising that all the bluster, the deal goes through. A puppet like Nouri is installed for a reason, after all.

In other news, Manila's Sun Star reports, "Crisis alert level 3 has been raised Wednesday in Iraq due to 'higher-than-expected' surge in terrorist and sectarian violence in the Western Asia nation, foreign affairs officials said. Under alert level 3, which covers all regions of Iraq except the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, Filipinos who wish to leave Iraq are offered voluntary repatriation at government expense." Gulf News adds, "All of Iraq, except Kurdistan, an autonomous region in the north, near Turkey, was assessed under a high alert level of disorder, said Manila's foreign ministry statement." Despite massive unemployment in Iraq, the country continues to bring in foreign workers for jobs that Iraqi could easily be doing. These are not security contract jobs. They're construction jobs and hospitality industry jobs largely. GMA News notes the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs Sectrary Albert del Rosario:

While nearly 4,000 Filipinos were secured by the US military, the US troop pullout has significantly reduced the number of Filipinos in Iraq and has also resulted in a diminution of their security, the DFA noted.

"In addition, we further believe that there may be undocumented Filipinos working as household service workers and we are, therefore, fully committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all our countrymen in Iraq," Del Rosario said.

On the topic of violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which left six people injured, MP Qais al-Shathir was targeted with a roadside bombing which injured five people (including two of his bodyguards), 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Muqdadiya and, last night, 1 grocer was shot in Buhriz. Reuters tells you that the Iraqi ministries state 350 people were killed last month. They provide no figure to check it with, just parrot what the ministries say. We covered this in yesterday's snapshot and noted nearly 500 were killed in the month of January. Iraq Body Count's total for January is 458. As we noted yesterday, January 2012's count is significantly higher than January 2011's count.

In other news, AFP notes that the Minister of Justice declared Iraq executed 17 people yesterday bringing the total number executed in Iraq this year to 51. 51 so far this year. In a country with a population of less than 28 million.

Last night, there was a community theme: Poetry. Betty offered "Lenore Kandel and others," Trina offered "Cornelius Eady," Ann offered "5 men," Rebecca discussed "a trip uptown," Ruth offered "Nancy Boutilier," Kat provided a critique via "8 Major Young Poets?," Marcia suffered through "take hold!" (bland poetry, if you haven't read her post yet), Stan attempted to give "Damon Runyon" a fair break, Elaine sampled "Baby Toes" while Mike explored poetry in verse and in song with "Robert Duncan, Graffiti6" while Wally & Cedric continued the theme by offering the Florida primary results in poetic verse "THIS JUST IN! RHYME AND REASON!" & "The poetic primary."

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Baby Toes

Poetry.  I grew up on children's poetry.  But outside of that?  I missed most of the so-called masters.  No real loss because most weren't all that great.  I came up after women had revolutionized poetry so women like Anne Sexton captured my imagination -- and she still does.  She's probably the best American poet of the 20th century.

It was liberating to read her and others (men and women) who tackled the world around them and didn't just turn a phrase.  War and struggle was all over the world and all around us.  Poets on clouds didn't really nourish me or speak to me.

So I've never regretted missing the so-called masters.

But when the theme post came up, I thought I'd check out an older poet.  I ran into the bookstore and ended up grabbing a volume entitled Selected Poems of Carl Sandburg.  I grabbed it for two reasons.  First, it was edited by Rebecca West.  Second, there's one about the fog that C.I.'s quoted over the years.

So it was a discovery to read through the volume.  Some I enjoyed, some I was lukewarm to.  A great many, I felt, would make a wonderful children's book.

Baby Toes
THERE is a blue star, Janet,
Fifteen years' ride from us,
If we ride a hundred miles an hour...

There is a white star, Janet,
Forty years' ride from us,
If we ride a hundred miles an hour.

Shall we ride
To the blue star
Or the white star?

That's one of the poems I think would make a great addition to a children's book of poems, especially with a solid illustrator.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, January 31, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, close to 500 people died in Iraq's January violence, a Palestinian is tortured to death by Thug Nouri al-Maliki's forces, Iraq drops significantly on Reporters Without Borders Press Index, Nouri wants to sue the Guardian yet again, the documentary This Is Where We Take Our Stand debuts in NYC tomorrow and DC on Wednesday, and more.
The Iraq War destroyed the lives of many in Iraq, women, Christians, Jews and Palestinians among them.  In 2006, Ken Ellingwood (Los Angeles Times) observed, "The civil war convulsing the country has raised worries about the fate of the approximately 20,000 Palestinians in Iraq, who are targeted by kidnappers and Shiite Muslim death squads because of what many Iraqis see as the group's favored status under former President Saddam Hussein."   Ali Kareem (ICR) offered this background on Iraq's Palestinian population in 2009:
Many Palestinian families have roots in this country dating to the creation of Israel in 1948 and its subsequent wars with its Arab neighbours. Others came more recently. Following his defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein encouraged the migration of thousands of Palestinians to Iraq, promising jobs and preferential treatment in an effort to portray himself as a champion of oppressed Arabs.
According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, Baghdad was home to some 30,000 Palestinians at the time of the US-led invasion in 2003. Less than half remain in the city now.
Last fall, Saed Bannoura (International Middle East Media Center) explained that from a high of 35,000, the population had declined to approximately 7,000.  A huge drop like that happens only because a population is living in fear and feeling that the government will not protect them.  That has been the case for Palestinians in Iraq.  The current prime minister is Nouri al-Maliki who has been prime minister since April 2006 and has done nothing to protect the Palestinian population.  In fact, from 2006 to 2010 refugee camp Al Tanf housed hundreds of Palestinians who were caught in the desert, unable to move forward to Syria (Saddam Hussein did not consider them residents in or citizens of Iraq, they were "bretheren" and, as such had no legal documents that the Syrian government would recognize at the border) and unable to go back to their homes.  They were left there by Nouri with no efforts made to assist them.  The United Nations would set up temporary tents for the refugees.  But Nouri did nothing.  Offered no aid. Offered no verbal comfort.  Just didn't give a damn.  And when the Palestinians are attacked, the killers and kidnappers are never brought to justice.  Nouri makes no public statements decrying the targeting.  The message to Iraq's thug population has been, "Attack them. You will not face punishment." 
And that thug population includes the security forces Nouri al-Maliki commands.  30-year-old Palestinian Emad Abdulsalam died last week. Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports the man was arrested in Doura three days ago and was tortured non-stop by Iraqi forces which notes the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq "said that Palestinians have been the target of 'Death squads and militias' over the past six years under the very eyes of the government." The International Middle East Media Center gives his name as Imad Abdul-Salaam Abu Rabee and notes that Iraqi police grabbed him after he left work and was heading home. Imad's family sought out a forensic center in Baghdad which determined "that their son was killed under interrogation." The International Middle East Media Center notes:

It is worth mentioning that Abu Rabee' is married and a father of two children. His brother was killed by insurgents in Baghdad last year. He was born and raised in Iraq; his family is from the Al Boreij refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip.
Sa'ad voiced an appeal to the Palestinian Authority to act on resolving the plight of the Palestinian refugees in Iraq as soon as possible as they are being attacked and murdered by the Iraqi Police and by several militias in the country.
Ma'an News adds, "[The Society for Palestinian-Iraqi Brotherhood Imad Abdul Salam] Khalil said Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been targeted for sectarian reasons. International rights group Amnesty International says Iraqi forces use arbitrary detentions and torture to quell dissent."  Nouri's forces have tortured another person to death.  And it comes right as Nouri was hoping the news cycle would be dominated by the 16 "confessions" against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi which state-TV Iraqiya has been in a frenzy over.  [Aswat al-Iraq: "Noteworthy is that the semi-official al-Iraqiya TV Satellite Channel had carried out an urgent report on Sunday, reporting that 16 members of Tariq Hashimy's bodyguards were charged with having been involved in terrorist acts, a report that was condemned, because it did not represent anything new in the series of charges against Hashimy and his bodyguards and office elements."]
Imad Abdul-Salaam Abu Rabee's death is part of the violence in today's news cycles. Reuters notes a Muqdadiya clash in which one police officer and one "civilian" were left injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two Sahwa injured, 2 Mosul roadside bombings left one police officer and his son injured, a Mosul sticky bombing injured a police officer, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured a military officer and a Shirqat sticky bombing injured a police officer.  So that's 1 death and nine injured for today.
Let's go over the monthy totals -- the number wounded are in parentheses.   January 1st, 9 were reported dead (21).  January 2nd, 0 were reported dead (3). January 3rd, 3 were reported dead (13).  January 4th, 9 were reported dead (17).  January 5th, 75 were reported dead (80).  January 6th, 3 were reported dead (20).  January 7th, 7 were reported dead (25).  January 8th, 3 were reported dead (20).  January 9th,  20 were reported dead (59).  January 10th, 12 were reported dead (3).  January 11th, 6 were reported dead (14).  January 12th, 6 were reported dead (25).  January 13th, 6 were reported dead (32).  January 14th, 53 were reported dead (157).  January 15th, 21 were reported dead (0).  January 16th, 0 were reported dead (0). January 17th, 10 were reported dead (5).  January 18th, 6 were reported dead (5).  January 19th, 4 were reported dead (8).  January 20th, 6 were reported dead (5).  January 21st, 7 were reported dead (1).  January 22nd, 7 were reported dead (6).  January 23rd, 2 were reported dead (5).  January 24th, 20 were reported dead (86).  January 25th, 1 was reported dead (1).  January 26th, 14 were reported dead (8).  January 27th, 37 were reported dead (0), January 28th, 7 reported dead (10).  January 29th, 7 were reported dead (20).  January 30th, 10 reported dead (11). January 31st, 1 reported dead (9).
Check my math (always), that's at least 371 reported dead and 669 reported injured.  Many deaths aren't reported in Iraq.  Iraq Body Count currently lists "450 civilians killed" as of Monday for the month of January and that's about seventy more than they had for January 2011.  (Go with their number, it's not covering every death but it's more comprehensive than our snapshots.)  So comparing January in the two years, violence is not dropping, it has in fact increased.
During that entire year, please note, Iraq has had no Minister of Defense, no Minister of Interior and no Minister of National Security.  Nouri al-Maliki has refused to nominate anyone and have Parliament vote.  From the December 21, 2010 snapshot:
Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report point out the Cabinet is missing "the key ministries responsible for security and military affairs for now, because lawmakers haven't agreed on who should fill them. There's still no deal, either, on creating a yet-to-be named strategic council -- a U.S.-backed initiative aimed at curbing al-Maliki's powers -- which lawmarkers said could be weeks away." Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) explain, "Maliki appointed himself acting minister of interior, defense and national security and said the three powerful positions would be filled with permanent appointees once suitable candidates have been agreed on."
A Minister of a Cabinet is someone nominated by Nouri and approved by Parliament.  Without the approval of Parliament, they are not a minister.  Why does that matter?  Nouri can't fire a member of his Cabinet without Parliament's approval. But 'acting' ministers (named by Nouri) are not approved by Parliament, are not real ministers and serve at the whim of Nouri.  It's a power grab on Nouri's part as is his failure to name a "national strategic councill."
That is part of the Erbil Agreement.  The US-brokered that agreement with Iraqi political blocs to end the political stalemate that had desceneded on Iraq and lasted eight months.  Nouri signed off on that agreement.  It's that agreement that allowed him to become prime minister.  He created the stalemate after his State of Law came in second to Iraqiya and Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister.  The White House backed Nouri and that's the only reason Nouri remains prime minister.  The White House talked Iraqiya and its leader into accepting the post of heading the "national strategic council."  And yet, the day after the Erbil Agreement was reached, when Parliament held its first real (and full) session of Parliament, Nouri's State of Law announced they couldn't create it right away but it would come.  A large number of Iraqiya's 91 MPs walked out at that point.  They should have stuck to that walk out but they returned.  And waited and waited.  Nouri now says that the council can't be created.  He claims the Erbil Agreement -- the thing that allows him to be prime minister right now -- is unconstitutional.  The current political crisis is fueled by Nouri's refusal to follow the Erbil Agreement.  Alsumaria TV reports today, "President of Kurdistan Region Masoud Al Barzani assured, on Monday, that Kurds may no longer play the mediator role in solving Iraq's issues. Barazani added that bases upon which the current government was formed are not being respected. The current government was formed to reinforce true partnership, comply with Iraqi Constitution, and fix disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, Barzani revealed."
He is prime minister because the White House chose to back him.  And they knew he was a thug.  The whole world did by that point.  In fact, when the Cabinet was (partially) named at the end of December 2010, Liz Sly (Washington Post) was noting:
That Maliki has an authoritarian streak has been amply demonstrated over the past 4 1/2 years, critics say.  Maliki, originally selected in 2006 as a compromise candidate assumed to be weak and malleable, has proved to be a tough and ruthless political operator who cannily subverted parliament to cement his authority over many of the new democracy's fledgling institutions.
In his role as commander in chief of the armed forces, he replaced divisional army commanders with his appointees, brought provincial command centers under his control and moved to dominate the intelligence agencies. 
The widely feared Baghdad Brigade, which answers directly to Maliki's office, has frequently been used to move against his political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused him of operating secret prisons in which Sunni suspects have been tortured.

And thug Nouri had the support of the Bush administration before he had the support of the Barack administration.  The "compromise" candidate Sly refers to?  Iraqis didn't select him.  They wanted Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  The US told the Iraqi Parliament no in 2006.  The Bush White House approved of Nouri.  In 2010, the Barack White House made clear that there would be no new prime minister -- despite the will of the Iraqi voters and the Iraqi Constitution -- the Barack White House made clear that Nouri would remain as prime minister.  They knew he was a thug.  Democracy in Iraq and the Iraqi people mattered less to them than their oil puppet.
As the death toll mounts and does so under yet another US-installed puppet. William Fisher (The Public Record) notes:

Human Rights Watch is charging that, despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy, the reality is that it left behind a "budding police state" -- cracking down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating, and detaining activists, demonstrators, and journalists.
The organization's Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson, warns that "Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism as its security forces abuse protesters, harass journalists, and torture detainees."
Last week,  the Associated Press quoted Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson stating, 'Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism. Despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy (in Iraq), the reality is that it left behind a budding police state'." She was referring to what Human Rights Watch found and documented in their [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012.
Thug Nouri and his climate of thuggery leads to attacks on minorities, attacks on demonstrators, attacks on the press, you name it.  How does Nouri respond to the press?  It depends if they're Iraqi (violence) or foreigners (law suits).  That becomes clear yet again today. Iraq Streets reports:
according to a Sumeria news web site the editor of an Iraqi newspaper has threaten to start a law suit against Baghdad sceuirty operations ,after a group of Iraqi forces beats a news papers seller in his stand in the street in the 28th of Jan 2012 , because he was selling a news paper that had used a cartoon drawing of Baghdad Operations  spokesman's Qassim Atta after he was promoted to a general and transferred from his position as a spokesman , the forces thought the cartoon was disrespectful and beats the papers man who was admitted later to hospital ,general Atta has no comment of knowledge of what happened,but according to sumaria many iraqi journalists thought this is a new deterioration of the bad treatment to journalism and freedom of speech in Iraq…
So that's his treatment of the press in his own country.  Foreign press?  He yet again wants to sue England's Guardian newspaper.  Yesterday, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh Tweeted on his latest threat:
jomana karadsheh @JomanaCNN
#iraq PM Maliki's office in a statement threaten legal action against the @guardian for a Dec editorial & deny pm quote.
jomana karadsheh @JomanaCNN
The editorial "retreat from Baghdad" quoted Maliki saying he was 1st Shiaa 2 Iraqi 3 Arab 4 Dawa member. Office denies this. #iraq
The editorial was actually calling out Barack's notion that the Iraq War was over ("The war was over, Barack Obama repeatedly declared") and ran December 14th.  This is the section Nouri wants to sue over:
Even with an election campaign in full flow, the chasm that opened up between words in Fort Bragg and one day in the life of Iraq was unbridgeable. Wednesday December 14 was relatively quiet: two car bombs in Tal Afar, killing three and wounding 35; bombings and shootings in Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad. A war that is over? Or take the decision on Monday of Diyala provincial council to declare itself independent from central government. Or take the answer that the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki gave last week when asked to describe who he thought he was -- first a Shia, second an Iraqi, third an arab, and fourth a member of the Dawa party. What chance for a nation state, if its prime minister places his confessional identity above his national one? Can any of the above be deemed solid, stable or representative?
A Shia first, for those not grasping, sends a message of sectarianism -- continued sectarianism and sect warfare in Iraq.  And a foe of the free press forever.  Last week, Reporters Without Borders published their latest Press Freedom Index:
After rising in the index for several years in a row, Iraq fell 22 places this year, from 130th to 152nd (almost to the position it held in 2008, when it was 158th). There were various reasons. The first was an increase in murders of journalists. Hadi Al-Mahdi's murder on 8 September marked a clear turning point. Another reason was the fact that journalists are very often the target of violence by the security forces, whether at demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, or in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that had for many years offered a refuge for journalists.
That's what the US White House is backing.  And hopefully tomorrow we'll talk about the money the US is wasting in Iraq.  For now we'll note this from Ahlul Bayt News Agency:
An Iraqi political analyst says the US is still going ahead with a plan to "disintegrate" Iraq by escalating the current political crisis in the Arab country.
"The US is still pursuing the plan of disintegration of Iraq and therefore is against reaching a solution by political groups for resolving the political crisis of Iraq," said Qahtan al-Khafaji on Friday.
Khafaji, a professor of political sciences at Baghdad University, said that the US is trying to blame Iraqis for the current situation in the country but "the Americans are the main cause of the crisis in political process of Iraq."

The political crisis continues in Iraq.  Jane Arraf speaks with Marco Werman (PRI's The World) about it today noting that it was "the biggest political crisis since Saddam Hussein was toppled."  (We'll note it tomorrow, as I dictate this snapshot into one cell phone and juggle two others, I'm also listening to NPR's live coverage of the Florida primary because Ava and I are covering it Sunday at Third. And those wanting a preview?  Besides the co-anchor, we've only heard from one woman an hour and 23 minutes in.versus over 11 men. In addition, we're about to speak to a group.  So The World will wait until tomorrow.)  As Jane Arraf observed earlier this week in a Tweet, "National conference seems still long way off."

Al Mada reports
'recovering' President Jalal Talabani and Nouri met yesterday and agree on a national conference now. Unlike weeks ago, when Nouri had demands (including that it not be called a "national conference" and that the guest list be restricted.)  Oh, Nouri still has demands, it turns out, and he's making them, but Jalal's office insists that the two are agreeing.
Following various photo ops with US President Barack Obama in mid-December, Nouri returned to Iraq and began targeting his political rivals more than ever.  Tareq al-Hashemi is one of Iraq's two vice presidents. (They have a third vice president slot vacant.) He is in the KRG and a guest of Talabani's while Nouri demands he be arrested on charges of terrorism. Aswat al-Iraq reports al-Hashemi has issued a statement:

A statement, issued on Tuesday by the Temporary Media Office of Hashimy, stressed that "at a time when we condemn the cheap practices by the Prime Minister, which he carries out in a feverish means against his political opponent, through theexpansion of the accusation circle and the chasing of innocent members of Hashimy's bodyguards and office employees, we call on President Jalal Talabani for immediate interference to put an end to the Prime Minister's acts and violations of the Constitution and the laws".
"His continued violations against human rights, have caused dishonor for Iraq and forced Amnesty International to issue its statement from 2 days ago regarding the 2 female employees in Hashimy's office, Rasha and Bassima," the statement added.

AP reports that Iraqiya rejoined the Parliament today but the boycott of attending Cabinet meetings continues. Dar Addutour reports that a meeting to determine Iraqiya returning to Cabinet meetings has been postponed and that one of Iraqiya's terms is that Saleh al-Mutlaq be part of the return. Nouri demanded in December that Deputy Minister al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.

Meanwhile AFP reports on US President Barack Obama's YouTube fest yesterday and his assertion that there was nothing wrong with the drones flying over Iraq. He is quoted declaring, "The truth of the matter is we're not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside of Iraq. There's some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected." That's dishonest. It's going beyond the embassy compound, for one thing. For another, Iraq's objecting to the helicopters and other US air traffic taking place. Yesterday's snapshot noted State Dept's spokesperson Victoria Nuland's remarks about drones. She was asked about if Iran or another country had a non-weaponized drone flying through Central Park what would happen and she stated no country had ever made such a request. Clearly, the US made no such request to Iraq. However, let's get to what would happen, I checked with a friend at the Justice Dept. Whatever foreigner was flying a drone in Central Park would be arrested, facing questions and facing terrorism charges. It would be incumbent upon him or her to prove that this was not a rehearsal for an armed drone which may or may not be used for a biological attack. In the current climate, it is thought that anyone arrested for such a thing would plead out to the lowest charge possible because he or she could never make a strong case -- even if they were innocent -- in court that would prove their innocence.

In the US, Joanna Molloy (New York Daily News) reports on an Intersections International event where veterans, last Friday, discussed their experiences in Iraq:
"No matter what culture you're raised in, you're taught 'Thou shalt not kill,' " said Brian Iglesias, a Marine platoon commander turned filmmaker. "Then you go to war, and it's different."
Former Marine Byll Potts, who said he had lived out of his car for two years after getting laid off from his job in 2008, read a line from his poetry book, "I'm Just Saying."
"Back in our towns, half smiles behind frowns, no job or a place with lock and key . . . Do you really see me?" he read.
And a film is about to get its NYC debut.  David Zeiger directed the award winning documentary Sir! No Sir! about resistance within the ranks during Vietnam. His new documentary is This Is Where We Take Our Stand about the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. Iraq Veterans Against the Wars notes a benefit screening ($15 a ticket) in NYC on February 1st, 7:00 pm, at the IFC Center and:
The film will also air on PBS around the country, thanks to generous support from the National Educational Television Association. Due to the controversial nature of the film, many local PBS stations will relegate 'This is Where We Take Our Stand' to their smaller and less widely available affiliates. We urge you to contact your local PBS station and encourage them to air the film on their major channel.
Premiere screening of This Is Where We Take Our Stand: The Iraq Veterans Against the War who risked everything to tell their story.
Thursday February 2, 2012 from 6pm to 8pm.
Bus boys & Poets (14th & V NW)
The long awaited full length movie about Winter Soldier 2008, This Is Where We Take Our Stand: The Iraq Veterans Against the War who risked everything to tell their story will premier in DC at Busboys & Poets.
Following the film director David Zeiger (Sir No Sir) & one of the main characters, Geoff Millard, will answer questions.