Saturday, September 15, 2012

The attack

What do I think the biggest issue of the week was?  Sunny asked me that this afternoon while we were having lunch and explained there were several e-mails wondering that.

I don't think there was only one issue but one of the big ones was the attack on the US Embassy in Libya.

Tony Cartalucci has an interesting report entitled "Murdered US Ambassador exposes Libya 'progress' propaganda -- provides a warning against US meddling in Syria" (Global Research):

- “I have met with these brave fighters, and they are not Al-Qaeda. To the contrary: They are Libyan patriots who want to liberate their nation. We should help them do it.” – Senator John McCain in Benghazi, Libya April 22, 2011.
McCain’s “Libyan patriots” have now murdered US Ambassador John Christopher Stevens in the very city McCain spoke these words. An assault on the American consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, the epicenter of not only last year’s violent subversion and destruction of sovereign Libya, but a decade’s old epicenter of global terrorism, left Ambassador Stevens dead along with two of his aides.
The violence, Western media claims, stems from an anti-Islamic film produced in the US. In reality, the coordinated nature of the attacks on both the US Embassy in Libya, as well as its embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, are most likely using the Neo-Conservative Clarion Fund-esque propaganda film as a false pretense for violence long-planned. The Clarion Fund regularly produces anti-Muslim propaganda, like “Iranium,” specifically to maintain a strategy of tension using fear and anger to drive a wedge between Western civilization and Islam to promote perpetual global wars of profit.

I do not believe the US government did what was needed to protect that embassy.  Am I wrong?  I don't see how I can be.  Marines are supposed to be protecting our embassies.  There were warning signs that were ignored.  I feel like four Americans were sleighted by their own government and that's why what happened ended up happening.

I think C.I.'s done a great job of covering this, sort of folding it in, like you would an ingredient in a cake mixture.  Here are two entries I hope you caught:

Again, I think she's done a great job.  She's been fair and so few have even bothered to try that.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, September 14, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue against the US in the Middle East, rumors abound about Tareq al-Hashemi, Senator Patty Murray weighs in on sequestration, and much more.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:  We are closely watching what is happening in Yemen and elsewhere, and we certainly hope and expect that there will be steps taken to avoid violence and prevent the escalation of protests into violence.
I also want to take a moment to address the video circulating on the Internet that has led to these protests in a number of countries. Let me state very clearly -- and I hope it is obvious -- that the United States Government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. And as you know, we are home to people of all religions, many of whom came to this country seeking the right to exercise their own religion, including, of course, millions of Muslims. And we have the greatest respect for people of faith.
To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage. But as I said yesterday, there is no justification, none at all, for responding to this video with violence. We condemn the violence that has resulted in the strongest terms, and we greatly appreciate that many Muslims in the United States and around the world have spoken out on this issue.
Violence, we believe, has no place in religion and is no way to honor religion. Islam, like other religions, respects the fundamental dignity of human beings, and it is a violation of that fundamental dignity to wage attacks on innocents. As long as there are those who are willing to shed blood and take innocent life in the name of religion, the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace. It is especially wrong for violence to be directed against diplomatic missions. These are places whose very purpose is peaceful: to promote better understanding across countries and cultures. All governments have a responsibility to protect those spaces and people, because to attack an embassy is to attack the idea that we can work together to build understanding and a better future.
Now, I know it is hard for some people to understand why the United States cannot or does not just prevent these kinds of reprehensible videos from ever seeing the light of day. Now, I would note that in today's world with today's technologies, that is impossible. But even if it were possible, our country does have a long tradition of free expression which is enshrined in our Constitution and our law, and we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.
There are, of course, different views around the world about the outer limits of free speech and free expression, but there should be no debate about the simple proposition that violence in response to speech is not acceptable. We all -- whether we are leaders in government, leaders in civil society or religious leaders -- must draw the line at violence. And any responsible leader should be standing up now and drawing that line.
Protests have taken place around the region all week including today.  Reem Abdellatif, Ned Parker, Laura King, Hashmat Baktash, Alex Rodriguez, Emily Alpert and staff in Beirut and Khartoum (Los Angeles Times) report, "Infuriated protesters in Tunisia stormed the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Tunis, and tore down the American flag, state media reported.  Security forces fired warning shots and tear gas to try to scatter the crowd, the official Tunisian News Agency reported.  Black smoke was seen rising around the embassy compound amid reports that an American school nearby had been set on fire. In Sudan, hundreds of riot police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used batons to prevent a wall of hundreds of protesters reaching the U.S. Embassy in the capital, Khartoum, but a grop managed to break through, breach the wall of the embassy and raise a black Islamic flag."
Protests took place in Iraq today as well.  All Iraq News reports a protest was held today in Samarra following morning prayers and that protests also took place today in Wasit, Najaf, Missan and Basra.  All Iraq News notes that the Najaf protest saw the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (Ammar al-Hakim's political group) read out a statement denouncing the video and insisting it did serious harm to Muhammed.  AFP reports:
In Karbala, Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalai, the representative in the city of top Iraqi Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said during his Friday sermon that "these repeated abuses could threaten peaceful life, especially among (religiously) mixed peoples."
He also condemned violence in response to the film, which portrays the Prophet Mohammed and Islam in a negative light, and sparked deadly fury in Libya, where four Americans including the ambassador were killed on Tuesday in a mob attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.
In Sunni-majority Ramadi, west of Baghdad, hundreds of people demonstrated against the film.
Hamid al-Fahdawi, one of the protest organisers, told AFP that demonstrators want the Iraqi government to dismiss the US ambassador and cut economic ties with the US.
When compiling a list of demands, it's probably a good idea to leave unicorns and other myths off the list.  There is no US Ambassador to Iraq currently.  The most recent, James Jeffrey, left Iraq months ago. 
Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) quotes Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee speaking about the possibility that Barack's latest nominee might be placed on hold after his confirmation hearing:

Make no mistake: Our embassy in Baghdad is one of our most important and what happens there is key to our bilateral relationship and our work in the Middle East. By all accounts, Steve Beecroft is a highly capable career Foreign Service officer who has ambassadorial experience, and it is in America's best interest to get him on the ground as quickly as possible.

If the concern is over the empty post of US Ambassador to Iraq, well the administration should have done a better job vetting and never nominated Brett McGurk.  Married and sleeping with another married person in Iraq while working for the US government in Iraq?  It doesn't matter that he married Gina Chon eventually (after both their divorces -- it does matter that she allowed him to vet her copy, which is why her paper fired her), it matters that he had a reputation for disrespecting marriage in Iraq which meant that any Iraqi woman visiting the US embassy was going to be suspect which really matters in a country that practices so-called 'honor' killings.  They never should have nominated him.  His prior behavior in Iraq would have made his appointment an insult to the host country.

There should be an ambassador to Iraq.  But no one forced the White House to nominate the insulting Brett McGurk and no one forced the White House to wait so long to name a new nominee after McGurk's name was withdrawn.  I remember the Attorney General nominations of 1993.  That was rough and Republicans were determined to defeat the nominees.  Plural. Bill Clinton nominated Zoe Baird for the post.  Her nomination was derailed and she withdrew her name January 22, 1993.  Clinton goes on to announce a new nominee: Kimba Wood.  Kimba Wood withdraws her name February 5, 1993.  Clinton then nominated Janet Reno who was confirmed March 11, 1993 on a 98 to zero vote in the Senate.  January 20, 1993, Bill Clinton was sworn in as President of the United States.  March 11th, Reno -- his third nominee -- was confirmed as Attorney General. That's moving quickly.

By contrast?  June 18th McGurk's name is withdrawnLate  September 10th word leaks out that Beecroft is Barack's new nominee and it's made official with an announcement September 11th.  In less than two months, President Bill Clinton names 3 different nominees for Attorney General and gets one confirmed.  Eight days shy of three months after McGurk's name is withdrawn, President Barack Obama is finally able to find someone to nominate for the post (Beecroft, the person who's been doing the work all that time).  If Senate Dems want to whine that Paul's creating a delay on that nomination, Barack's the one who created the delay and dragged his feet.

The average time between confirmation hearings and a vote is said to be ten days.  That would be September 28th and that's awfully close to when senators facing re-election battles have tor return home.  That was also foot dragging by the administration which should have planned it much better.
You'd assume the demands would have been hammered out in advance since today wasn't the first day of protests over the video or movie.  Dropping back to  yesterday's snapshot:

Al Mada notes that a group of Iraqi scientists led by Khalid al-Mulla stated that the US needed to use all means necessary to stop the film and others like it.  The group lumps the US into abuse by "Zionists" globally -- while wanting tolerance for their own religious beliefs.  All Iraq News notes the Iraqi Parliament is calling for the US Congress to stop the film.  Freedom of speech has obviously not been explained well.   Alsumaria reports hundreds turned out in Kut today to protest the film.  All Iraq News notes Sadrists in Karbala launched a protest as well.  For the record, there were no protests reported objecting to the murders of four Americans.  For the record, the scientists and the Parliament was not reported to have made any comments condemning the four deaths.  AGI reports, " Hundreds of people took to the streets in Baghdad, in the suburb district of Sadr City, burning US flags. Protests jointly staged by Sunni and Shia Muslims were also reported in Iraq's southern city of Basra."  You can briefly see the Baghdad protest in Danielle Nottingham's CBS report (link is video).

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN -- link is text and video) reports on yesterday's Baghdad protest:

Angry protesters in the Sadr City district of northeast Baghdad carried banners, Iraqi flags and images of radical Shiite and anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as they railed against what they see as an insult to their faith.
"America is the enemy of the people," the demonstrators shouted Thursday morning. They also yelled out, "Yes, yes to Islam. Yes, yes to Iraq. Yes, yes to Quran" -- the latter referring to the Muslim holy book.
Chris Stevens and Sean Smith were killed in the attack on the Benghazi Tuesday and we noted Hillary's remarks on the two in Wednesday's snapshotYesterday, she identified the other two Americans who were killed:
The attack on our diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday claimed the lives of four Americans. Yesterday, I spoke about two: Ambassador Chris Stevens and Information Management Officer Sean Smith. Today, we also recognize the two security personnel who died helping protect their colleagues. Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were both decorated military veterans who served our country with honor and distinction. Our thoughts, prayers, and deepest gratitude are with their families and friends. Our embassies could not carry on our critical work around the world without the service and sacrifice of brave people like Tyrone and Glen.
Tyrone's friends and colleagues called him "Rone," and they relied on his courage and skill, honed over two decades as a Navy SEAL. In uniform, he served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since 2010, he protected American diplomatic personnel in dangerous posts from Central America to the Middle East. He had the hands of a healer as well as the arm of a warrior, earning distinction as a registered nurse and certified paramedic. All our hearts go out to Tyrone's wife Dorothy and his three sons, Tyrone Jr., Hunter, and Kai, who was born just a few months ago.
We also grieve for Glen Doherty, called Bub, and his family: his father Bernard, his mother Barbara, his brother Gregory, and his sister Kathleen. Glen was also a former Navy SEAL and an experienced paramedic. And he put his life on the line many times, protecting Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots. In the end, he died the way he lived – with selfless honor and unstinting valor.
We condemn the attack that took the lives of these heroes in the strongest terms, and we are taking additional steps to safeguard American embassies, consulates, and citizens around the world. This violence should shock the conscience of people of all faiths and traditions. We appreciate the statements of support that have poured in from across the region and beyond. People of conscience and goodwill everywhere must stand together in these difficult days against violence, hate, and division.
I am enormously proud of the men and women who risk their lives every day in the service of our country and our values. They help make the United States the greatest force for peace, progress, and human dignity that the world has ever known. We honor the memory of our fallen colleagues by continuing their work and carrying on the best traditions of a bold and generous nation.
In Iraq, as the second week of the month comes to a close, Iraq Body Count counts 175 killed in violence through yesterday.  Today, Alsumaria reports a Samarra car bombing has left fifteen people injured outside a police station, that a corpse was pulled out of the Tigris River and a Sharqat home was bombed (no one was in the house at the time, it belonged to a Sahwa member).  Mass arrests continue with 11 people arrested for 'terrorism' in Babil and the Imam of a mosque was also arrested in Babil for 'terrorism.'
In addition, Seyhmus Cakan (Retuers) reports, "Turkish armed forces have killed 75 Kurdish militants near the border with Iran and Iraq over the past week, a provincial governor said on Friday, as a major offensive involving air strikes and several thousand ground troops intensifies."  AFP adds, "The operation has been concentrated in the Semdinli district and has included nearly 5,000 ground troops backed by air power, according to the army." The Jerusalem Post notes rumors (treats it as fact) that the PKK has entered into a partnership with President Bashar al-Assad's Syrian's government and "Whatever the precise truth regarding casualty figures, the last period has been the bloodiest seen in this conflict since PKK founder and terrorist leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in 1999.  Amidst the ongoing violence and the flurry of claims and counter claims between the Turks and the PKK, a fascinating question remains: why is the PKK choosing to escalate hostilities at the present time? For the Turkish authorities, the reason is very clear: Ankara claims that the Assad regime has in recent months re-kindled its long defunct alliance with the organization. Ankara also alleges the existence of a renewed agreement between the PKK and Iran, and claims that the Iranians are actively aiding the Kurds in the latest round of attacks."  The PKK is a Kurdish group that fights for a Kurdish homeland.   Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK 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."
Turkey is where Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has sought refuge after Nouri al-Maliki ordered him arrested for 'terrorism' in what was seen as an attack on Iraqiya (the political slate that bested Nouri's State of Law in March 2010).   Sunday, Ramadan al-Fatash (DPA) explained "that a Baghdad court sentenced in absentia Iraq's vice president, Tareq al-Hashemi, to death on terrorism charges. Al-Hashemi, Iraq's most senior Sunni Muslim official, has called the charges a political ploy by the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."   Lara Jakes (AP) reported, "The Baghdad courtroom was silent Sunday as the presiding judge read out the verdict convicting al-Hashemi and his son-in-law of organizing the murders of a Shiite security official and a lawyer who had refused to help the vice president's allies in terror cases. The court sentenced both men in absentia to death by hanging. They have 30 days to appeal the verdict."   Sam Dagher and Ali A. Nabhan (Wall Street Journal) observed, "Many saw the verdict against Tariq al-Hashemi -- a prominent Sunni politician who has professed his innocence and has been sheltered by the Sunni Islamist-led government in Turkey since April -- coupled with Sunday's attacks as emboldening those among Iraq's Sunni minority who see violent confrontation rather than politics as the only way to regain powers lost to the Shiite majority after the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime more than nine years ago."  Omar al-Jawoshy and Michael Schwirtz (New York Times) quoted Talabani stating on Monday, "It was regrettable to issue, at this particular time, a judicial decision against him while he still officially holds office."  Today, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Alsumaria notes, has declared that the death sentence for Tareq al-Hashemi could negatively effect any chances of resolving the political crisis.  Kholoud Ramzi (Niqash) reports a new rumor circulating regarding Iraqya:
However, pundits believe that something else every different is going on behind the scenes. They believe that the Iraqiya party has actually long since abandoned al-Hashimi. 
Because of the wide variety of backgrounds of the various constituent parties, the Iraqiya bloc has been close to fracturing during its time in opposition. And, seeing al-Hashimi as a lost cause, they have decided instead to back Saleh al-Mutlaq, currently one of two Deputy Prime Ministers of Iraq.
Rather than having two of their members lose some of the most senior political jobs in the country, they have decided to back al-Mutlaq. 
Al-Mutlaq, one of three deputy prime ministers, has been away from politics since the beginning of the year when he criticized al-Maliki, calling him a dictator. Al-Maliki sacked al-Mutlaq and he, in turn, boycotted Parliament. But he recently returned to work after what was described as a "historic meeting" between himself and al-Maliki.
 And it is for this reason, that Iraqiya is supporting al-Hashimi with words rather than deeds.
Khawaja Umer Farooq writes the Jakarta Post to share thoughts on the verdict:
According to media news, an Iraqi court has issued a death sentence to Sunni Iraqi Vice President Tariq  Hashemi and his aides. Tariq Hashemi is in Turkey these days and has said the court's decision was politically motivated.
Now, the gulf is widening between the Malaki ruling party and the Sunni national alliance, which is harming the country's interests. The recent decision by the Iraqi court will further fuel sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq. After the departure of international forces, Iraq is facing worse sectarian and ethnic violence.
Talabani said that he continues to hold direct talks in the hope of arranging a comprehensive national meeting, which aims to resolve differences and to reach mutually acceptable solutions to various problems, including the issue of Al Hashemi.
Also, Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan region, feels that Al Hashemi's sentencing to death in absentia will only exacerbate the crisis that has plagued Iraq, possibly even create a bitter sectarian conflict. He called on all parties to find a wise solution to the problem and avoid the temptation of settling scores.
Al Mada reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declared yesterday that the court's verdict was evidence of the politicalization of the judiciary.  Meanwhile Jason Ditz ( reports, "In a move seen as relation for refusing to extradite Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi Trade Ministry has halted the licenses of all Turkish companies active in Iraq, as well as refusing all new applications."  Taha Ozhan (Hurriyet Daily News) sees the conviction of al-Hashemi as politically motivated and offers:
Today we are at a point where the Baathist spirit is flowing freely. The al-Maliki government, particularly in the past year, has employed the most ordinary Baathist strategies. The proclivities of the current regime to spread the use of pressure and violence are becoming more apparent. The human rights organizations voice their dismay about the scarcity of information relating to the identities and alleged crimes of those executed by the al-Maliki government. Iraq's Ministry of Justice has announced that in the first eight months of 2012, 96 people were executed and that an additional 196 people will be executed before the year ends. Many Iraqis claim that the numbers are actually much higher than those given in the official statements.
Calling al-Maliki's totalitarian regime sectarian names would be just as wrong as al-Maliki's governing strategies. In fact, the
Sunni Arabs, the Shiites, Kurds and Turkmens are all equally voicing their discontent with the al-Maliki government. The al-Maliki forces come close to violently attacking Tariq al-Hashemi one day, and turn from the edge of a violent clash with the Sadr groups the next day. We can infer only one thing from all this: that the Baathist spirit is once again flowing freely within the al-Maliki regime.
That's not widely off the mark from the opinion the editorial board of London's Guardian, shared earlier this week in "Iraq: back to the future:"

Is Nouri al-Maliki becoming Iraq's next dictator and, if he is, does anyone in Washington care? The second half of the question is easy to answer. The Pentagon wanted to keep 8,000 troops in Iraq after withdrawal. But Maliki made it clear there would be no US troops after the agreement expired on 31 December 2011. The state department also planned for an embassy up to 16,000 strong, and a CIA station 700 strong, but the Iraqi strongman made short shrift of a sizeable US civilian presence, by insisting that his office take direct responsibility for approving every US diplomatic visa. Washington could use the soft power of military supply contracts, but is unwilling to do that. Maliki is allowing Iranian overflights to resupply Assad's embattled regime in Syria. Washington still does not want to know.
In the United States, it's a presidential election year.  Candidates include Barack Obama who is running for re-election as President of the US on the Democratic Party ticket, Mitt Romney who is running on the GOP ticket and Jill Stein who is running on the Green Party's presidential ticket.  A real election requires real debates and real debates require inclusion.  Jill Stein's campaign notes:
Spread the word far and wide! This morning, dozens of community leaders, artists, and academics -- including Tom Morello, Leah Bolger, Richard Wolff and Medea Benjamin -- and thousands more joined together to launch Occupy the CPD. Please join them at
The presidential debates are the first opportunity for millions of voters to see the presidential contenders themselves, not just their advertising campaigns. These debates are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) - a supposedly "nonpartisan" corporation which is a puppet of the national Democratic and Republican parties, and the big corporations that fund both of them. The CPD's criteria to be included in these debates are designed to exclude independent contenders who promote ideas that challenge those in power.
Click here to read and join the sign-on statement:
Barack and Mitt Romney have been traveling and very busy -- raising billions requires a lot of time.  Jill Stein's been busy too but she's been busy standing with the people.  Most recently, she was in Chicago where teachers are marching to their beliefs as they conduct the first strike in 25 years.  Jill's campaign noted yesterday:
Earlier today, Jill Stein joined the picket lines at Amundsen and Lane Tech, two Chicago high schools. On her way from Ohio, she cancelled her morning appearances in Minnesota in order to visit Chicago teachers, parents, and students who have been engaged in a citywide strike since Monday.
The battle the teachers of the Chicago Public Schools are fighting is not one of their choosing. It is one which has been foisted on them by politicians who have been bankrolled by, and who therefore represent the interests of, the 1%.
Rahm Emanuel's war against the Chicago Teachers Union is not about wages or benefits. It is about the future of quality public education in Chicago and beyond. President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, with their "Race to the Top" initiative, are seeking to destroy the influence of the teachers unions, to reroute public dollars to corporate interests, and to undermine the core fabric of public education in America.
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is a staunch defender of public sector workers and for quality public education from pre-school through college. "Obama and Romney have made it  clear that they think our kids don't need a quality education," says Stein. "They expect middle class people to bear the tax burden, and are not willing to make the wealthy pay a fair share, in order to fund our schools. The situation in Chicago is about whether the superrich pay their share, or whether we have underfunded schools."
Stein, a Harvard-trained physician who once ran against Mitt Romney for Governor of Massachusetts, is proposing a Green New Deal for America - a four part policy strategy for moving America quickly out of crisis into a secure, sustainable future. Inspired by the New Deal programs that helped the U.S. out of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Green New Deal proposes to provide similar relief and create an economy that makes communities sustainable, healthy and just.
Stein grew up in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.
Lastly, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Today her office released the following on sequestration ($1.2 billion in cuts that are supposed to kick in on the budget automatically since the Congress has been unable to make the cuts thus far  -- veterans treatment and care is not supposed to be effected in the cuts per Secretary of Defense Leon Panette and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki):
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) released the following statement after the Office of Management and Budget released their report on the impact of sequestration across both defense as well as non-defense spending. Murray worked with Senator McCain and others to pass the legislation calling for this report.
"This report makes it even clearer that we need to replace sequestration in a balanced
way that works for middle class families and includes both responsible spending cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest Americans.
"These bipartisan automatic cuts were put in place to give both sides a strong incentive to make a deal, and they are not going to go away simply because nobody wants them to be enacted. They are going to have to be replaced, and that replacement is going to have to be balanced.
"What Republicans aren't saying when they are yelling and screaming about these cuts is that they helped pass them into law and that they can just as easily help make them go away. But thus far they have been unwilling to face up to the reality that it will take a balanced approach to make that happen.
"I am pleased to see that true to President Obama's commitment to our nation's heroes, this report exempts veterans and military personnel accounts from cuts. After all these
men and women and their families have been asked to do for our safety and security, they should be the last to be asked to make additional sacrifices.
"Democrats are willing to compromise to get a bipartisan deal to avoid these cuts, and if Republicans are serious about avoiding sequestration, then they will stop fighting to protect the rich from paying a penny more in taxes and work with us on a balanced and
fair replacement."
Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Terry's fluff and nonsense

You may know Harry Shearer as the comedian or the actor -- he is both and very good.  But you may also know him as the director of the documentary The Big Uneasy. 

He went on NPR's Talk of the Nation to talk about the film..

But . . .

After appearing on that, he learned he wouldn't be on the other NPR show because of a dibs list.

I was reminded of that while listening to the garbage that is Fresh Air.

On Tuesday, I had to suffer through Michael Lewis on Morning Edition as he talked about how 'groovy' it was to hang with Barack and how Barack's just like real people and blah blah blah.

Then today we got stuck with 50 minutes of his nonsense. 

He played b-ball with Barack.  Barack was yelling at him because he's so into the game!  Barack's so cool!

Uh, maybe his yelling at other players when they messed up was a sign that Barack can't stand to lose and that he's not a good sport?

Perish the thought, right?

The idiot went on and on about this and that and always things portrayed Barack in the most flattering light.

Here's a little tip for Terry Gross to keep in mind before she books another idiot like Lewis: We don't need to hear you sloshing things around in your mouth. 

It does not make for good radio.

I still can't believe the nonsense from either show.

Michael Lewis spent private time with Barack to write a story and he has nothing critical to offer -- nothing negative and nothing that required actual thought.

But we got to hear about Barack's red and white sneakers!

As well as many other things that don't mean a damn thing or put food on your table.

Terry never once asked about whistle blowers or anything of value.  The closest she got to honesty?

GROSS: By, you know, just by being there all the time, you know, dealing with the press secretary and all that. Do you fear you were a little seduced?
LEWIS: The honest answer is no because this wasn't - for me I began with a kind of mild curiosity and I wasn't going to be making my living off this. In fact, it was kind of an expensive project for me to do. So I wasn't - it was some part of me that if he had said I can't do this anymore, I'd have been relieved because it was a pain in the neck to do this piece of journalism. I just thought it was a useful piece of journalism to do.
And I don't have any political ambitions. And when I was with - the truth is, when I was with him, you kind of forgot he was president. He was just a guy who was in this job. So I didn't feel seduced. I felt sometimes irritated I had to get on a plane to go chase after him. So it didn't - no. I didn't worry about that.
Some part of me, to the extent I was worried about my role vis-a-vis this man in power, it was that I was going to become so kind of loose that I'd find some way to bring down the country without knowing it.
LEWIS: Because I was naive. You know, that I was kind of oblivious to the implications of what I was doing.

Could you have been seduced, Gross asks, and then accepts his nonsense that he has no political amibtions and blah blah blah blah.  Of course he was seduced.  The idiot's too stupid to stop giving the details of the seduction.  How he ever managed to become a journalist is beyond me.  This is the sort of star-crossed crush you expect from someone writing for a high school newspaper. 

It's cute and telling how when he wants to talk about worry it was the he, Michael Lewis, might bring the whole world down.

Inflated opinion of yourself there, Michael?

Be sure to read Ann's "NPR's biased to which party?."  She gets right to the heart of the matter.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, September 12, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the diplomatic corps experiences some deaths, illiteracy remains a concern in Iraq, Congress ponders what lessons were learned from Iraq,  the Defense Dept has over 7,000 contractors in Iraq, and more.
It has not been a smooth time for members of the diplomatic corps.  All Iraq News notes Taha shukr Mahmoud Ismail has died of a heart attack.   That's all the article notes except to say he was born in 1940.  I'm told he was born in 1947 (and that he died Saturday).  What follows is the other information I was told.   He had been Iraq's Ambassador to Chile.  He was born in Mosul in 1947, spoke three languages (Arabic, English and German) earned his degree at the University of Baghdad, first joined the diplomatic corps in 1975 and previously served as Ambassadors to Nigeria and Venezuela.  Taha shuker Mahmoud Alabass is survived by his wife and their five children.  
Four Americans were killed in Libya yesterday when the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi was attacked.  US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted (link is text and video) in a speech today,   Excerpt:
Heavily armed militants assaulted the compound and set fire to our buildings. American and Libyan security personnel battled the attackers together. Four Americans were killed. They included Sean Smith, a Foreign Service information management officer, and our Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. We are still making next of kin notifications for the other two individuals.
This is an attack that should shock the conscience of people of all faiths around the world. We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence, and we send our prayers to the families, friends, and colleagues of those we've lost.
All over the world, every day, America's diplomats and development experts risk their lives in the service of our country and our values, because they believe that the United States must be a force for peace and progress in the world, that these aspirations are worth striving and sacrificing for. Alongside our men and women in uniform, they represent the best traditions of a bold and generous nation.
In the lobby of this building, the State Department, the names of those who have fallen in the line of duty are inscribed in marble. Our hearts break over each one. And now, because of this tragedy, we have new heroes to honor and more friends to mourn.
Chris Stevens fell in love with the Middle East as a young Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in Morocco. He joined the Foreign Service, learned languages, won friends for America in distant places, and made other people's hopes his own.
In the early days of the Libyan revolution, I asked Chris to be our envoy to the rebel opposition. He arrived on a cargo ship in the port of Benghazi and began building our relationships with Libya's revolutionaries. He risked his life to stop a tyrant, then gave his life trying to help build a better Libya. The world needs more Chris Stevenses. I spoke with his sister, Ann, this morning, and told her that he will be remembered as a hero by many nations.
Sean Smith was an Air Force veteran. He spent 10 years as an information management officer in the State Department, he was posted at The Hague, and was in Libya on a brief temporary assignment. He was a husband to his wife Heather, with whom I spoke this morning. He was a father to two young children, Samantha and Nathan. They will grow up being proud of the service their father gave to our country, service that took him from Pretoria to Baghdad, and finally to Benghazi.
The mission that drew Chris and Sean and their colleagues to Libya is both noble and necessary, and we and the people of Libya honor their memory by carrying it forward. This is not easy. Today, many Americans are asking – indeed, I asked myself – how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be.
But we must be clear-eyed, even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group – not the people or Government of Libya. Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners. And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Libyans carried Chris' body to the hospital, and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety. And last night, when I spoke with the President of Libya, he strongly condemned the violence and pledged every effort to protect our people and pursue those responsible.
The speech is worth reading or viewing in full.  We don't have room because we also have to cover a Congressional hearing today.  One part of it we do need to emphasize:
Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear – there is no justification for this, none. Violence like this is no way to honor religion or faith. And as long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.
As Mike noted last night, Hillary made a strong statement yesterday.  Today was not, for her, grab the mop and try to clean up her mess.  That's not true of everyone.  Some felt that elements of the US government were apologizing.  Cedric and Wally noted this morning that some elements appeared to be taking US Vice President Joe Biden's speech at the DNC last Thursday and changing, "If you attack innocent Americans we will follow you to the end of the earth" and changing it to, "If you attack innocent Americans we will follow you to the end of the earth to grovel, apologize and beg you to forgive us."  This impression is in part due to a statement that was issued but shouldn't have been and the failure of the White House to address the attacks yesterday -- verbally address them to the nation.  The failure to do so allowed Barack Obama's Republican challenger in the presidential race, Mitt Romney, to dominate the news cycle last night when he issued the following statement:
I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi.  
It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.
The attacks were also noted this morning by US House Rep Buck McKeon who is also the Chair of the House Armed Services Committee.  At the start of this morning's hearing, Chair McKeon observed, "This morning, we're reminded once more of what a dangerous world we live in and the risk many Americans take to serve our country abroad.  My thoughts and prayers together with those of the members of the Committee are with the families of the loved ones of those that we've lost in Libya."
With that noted, McKeon then moved on to the point of the hearing: Is anyone learning?
The short answer is: No, no one is.
The hearing was about the financial costs of war and the oversight needed to ensure that
the money is spent appropriately and as intended.  The Defense Dept has largely washed its hand of Iraq and the State Dept now is the department spending billions of US tax dollars on Iraq.  This has thrown Congress which appears unsure of exactly how to examine the work done in Iraq -- instead of a turf war, it's more of a hot potato with no one wanting to touch it.  But the Defense Dept continues to spend huge sums in Afghanistan and it is thought and hoped that somehow the Iraq War and the ten years already in Afghanistan at least provided some lessons in how to improve the financial aspects of warfare.  We're talking contracting, as DoD's Assistant Secretary on Logistics and Material Readiness Alan F. Estevez made clear in his remarks. 
It's good that there was some clarity somewhere in his remarks.  Pacific Command and the Japanese tsunami?  No one is really interested when you're supposed to be talking about money spent on warfare.  In fact, not only are they not interested but the Committee appeared to collectively eye roll as they pondered whether or not the tsunami was brought up because that's the only thing DoD can point to with pride when it comes to spending?
Estevez and Brig Gen Craig Crenshaw turned in a joint-written statement.  They delivered individual statements orally to the Committee.  Crenshaw stated that they had addressed past mistakes in their joint-statement.  It would be good if they had done that.  The Congressional Research Service's Moshe Schwartz would testify that experts were stating, "DoD must change the way it thinks about contracting."  But there was nothing that indicated it had or that it was trying to.
And at the root of that is the refusal to learn from past mistakes.  You can't learn from them if you can't admit them.  The refusal to acknowledge the past mistakes may be sadder than Estevez desperation for a 'win' that led to his highlighting Pacific Command's response to Japan's tsunami.  A statement that on its first page of text (the actual first page was a cover sheet) quickly states, "Without dwelling on the past . . ."?  That's a joint-statement that's not going to be admitting to much of anything. 
So no, in the joint-written statement, Estevez and Crenshaw do not "acknowledge our past weakneesses."  And this failure to do so -- this repeated failure -- may go a long way towards explaining why money continues to be wasted -- why large sums of money continue to be wasted.
Large sums of money?
Schwartz's testimony also included,  "According to DoD data, from Fiscal Year 2008 to Fiscal Year 2011, contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan represented 52% of the total force -- averaging 190,000 contractors to 175,000 uniformed personnel.  Over the last five fiscal years, DoD obligations for contracts performed just in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas of operation ($132 billion) exceeded total contract obligations of any other US federal agency.
The Congressional Research Service had three recommendations:
1) Senior leadership must focus on articulating the importance of contract support in a sustained and consistent manner.
2) The Professional Military Education curriculum must incorporate courses on operational contract support throughout its various efforts.
3) Training exercises must incorporate contractors playing the role that they would play on the battlefield.
Those are good suggestions but let's explain why they're needed before we evaluate them.  They're needed because oversight of contractors is not valued (that's the culture) and what happens is, once in the war zone, someone gets appointed to do oversight.  This person hasn't been trained in oversight of contractors.  These observations were made in this morning's hearing.
These observations have been made in repeated Congressional hearings, before the Commission on Wartime Contracting and elsewhere.  They are not new.  If you've attended even one hearing on contracting in war zones, you've heard the three suggestions in some form already.
This stuck in the same worn groove aspect was slightly touched on in the hearing when the Government Accountability Office's Tim DiNapoli noted that it was June 2010 when the GAO "called for a cultural change -- one that emphasized an awareness of contractor support throughout the department.  Consistent with this message, in January 2011, the Secretary of Defense identified the need to institutionalize changes to bring about such a change." 
But nothing changes.  And getting answers is like pulling teeth.  For example, grasp that US House Rep Susan Davis is asking basic questions and watch the witness run from these basic issues.
US House Rep Susan Davis: As you've gone through a number of these areas, I think some of it falls into a category that we might call common sense.  I mean, obviously you need to plan, you need to have data, you need to have oversight.  And yet I guess to someone just listening in on that, they'd say, "Well yeah."  I mean what gets in the way of those good practices?  And I wonder if you could talk more about the different kinds of contracting then and where that becomes a greater problem because if it's related to the war fighter and contingency operations, I would think in many cases that's a difficulty, as I think you've expressed, of planning.  You don't necessarily know what your situation is going to be until you're in the middle of it.  And on the other hand, if you're talking about operational, it would seem to me that that's -- there's enough standardization in that -- that you shouldn't have to go back to the drawing board every time. So can you help?  What gets in the way of those different areas that we're not able to, I guess, accomplish what we really want to do?
Moshe Schwartz There are a number of issues that you raised and I think it's an excellent question.  One of the challenges that has occured in Afghanistan is that there's a frequent rotation among personnel -- uniform personnel as well as contractors, as well as civilian personnel -- and so often someone who gets to theater who has never engaged in a counter-insurgency operation --  which Afghanistan has the policy now being pursued there -- it takes them a learning curve and they say, "Oh, I get it.  I see what's going on.  And now I'm three months from going home."  And then someone else comes in who may not have had that learning curve.  That definitely has an impact  of the ability for continuity in some of these common sense issues.  For example, contracting in war time is fundamentally different than contracting in peace time so someone who has done contracting for years and years here to build a road is thinking: Cost, schedule, performance.  When they get to Afghanistan, perhaps cost, schedule and performance and perhaps, "Wait, stealing the goods. We can't take them to court.  What effect is this having on the local village?"  And when they start getting up to speed, as I mentioned, they start rotating back.  That's one problem.  A second problem is sometimes you hae personnel who, because of the rotation policy, don't have the experience in that area.  When I was in Afghanistan last summer, a former helo pilot was working on contracting strategy.  He had never done that before.  Incredibly talented individual but it took him also some time to get up to speed.  So I think that is one factor that  makes a difference.  I think the other factor sometimes is simply exposure to the magnitude of what one might be dealing with.  For example --
US House Rep Susan Davis:  I guess, so where -- Are there, because you talk about gaps in data and in that collection process, how do you mitigate these issues which are, again, they're obvious.  There's a certain level of uncertainty that you can't necessarily plan for.  How do -- What's the best way of getting around that, if that's the issue.  The other thing, and I just wanted to see if you had some thoughts on or a sesne of what is the cost of unpreparedness and the lack of planning?  Has anybody tried to quantify that? And particularly to the extent that we obviously need to do better planning and there is a cost to that as well.  So where is that balance and what do we think that is?  I mean is that 10% of the budget?  Is that 3% of the budget?  So the first one, how do you get around those issues that you mentioned that are obviously difficult to plan for?
Moshe Schwartz:  Let me address just the data.  Would you like me to respond to that one?
US House Rep Susan Davis:  Yeah.
Moshe Schwartz:  So there a couple of strategies that have been suggested that could assist.  One is that what's happened often in Afghanistan is that you have somebody collecting data but they don't know how to get it into the system because, for example, the Sidney System, the system that is being used in Afghanistan, they're not familiar with it.  The user interface hasn't been done in a way so that someone who isn't experienced in programming is necessarly capable of using effectively.  In that area, training and education can make a substantial difference as well as [. . .]
And on and on he yammered.  Want numbers?  Don't ask the witnesses because despite the fact that they should have an answer to these questions, should arrive for the hearing with answers to these questions, they never provide them.  Davis went over her time in the excerpt above.  When Schwartz was finally done yammering, she would quickly ask if -- by hand in the air -- could anyone indicate that they had a rough idea of the cost that was being talked about?  No one could.
Another point to note, we said DoD does less.  DoD is not gone from Iraq.  And this was briefly noted in the hearing.
US House Rep Mike Coffman:  I think my first question would be how many contractors -- or is anybody aware of how many contractors we have in Iraq today
Alan Estevez:  Iraq today, end of third-quarter number is about 7,300.  DoD contractors.
US House Rep Mike Coffman:  7,300.  And what kind of missions are they performing at this time?
Alan Estevez:  They're still doing some base support, delivery of food and fuel, some private security, some security missions.
Those are not State Dept contractors, those are DoD contractors.
Let's not Estevez's title again: Assistant Secretary of Defense Logistics and Material Readiness.  He is qualified to answer that question.  He did answer that question. 
Quickly, if US House Rep Dennis Kucinich wanted to contribute anything before he leaves Congress (he lost his primary and has no election to run in), he could chair or co-chair a hearing on what we learn from the Iraq War that deals with realities and not just dollars and cents.  US House Rep Lynne Woolsey, who decided not to seek re-election, would make a good chair for such a hearing.
Turning to Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning,  Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December.  At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial.  Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it.  The court-martial was supposed to begin this month has been postponed until after the election . 
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week on approximately 40 other stations, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) topics addressed included Bradley Manning.
Michael Ratner:  Last week saw a possible ray of hope on access to the documents and perhaps the transcript in the court-martial of Bradley Manning.  As I'm sure you all know, the court-martial proceedings have been continuing at Fort Meade on a monthly basis.  The trial date or the court-martial date is now set toward the end of February.  Prior to that there's been a series of motions, two or three days on everything from classification to did the documents released through WikiLeaks cause harm, to what happened as a result of the torture of Bradley Manning in prison, etc.  That is still continuing. During this period, I along with a number of other lawyers as well as a few journalists have been trying to cover the trial or at least go down there and see what's going on.  It's been difficult for us because unlike in a regular trial, for some reason,  even documents that are not secret are not being given to anyone outside of the lawyers who are actually on the case.  So I don't get to see the documents, the Center for Constitutional Rights doesn't get to see the documents, the journalists don't get to see the documents.  In other words, a lot of the documents aren't secret.
Heidi Boghosian:  Michael, what has the Center done to try to get ahold of these documents?
Michael Ratner:  Well a couple of months ago, Heidi, we filed -- more than a couple of months ago, probably three or four months ago -- we filed a lawsuit, first with the judge -- Judge [Denise] Lind who is hearing the Bradley Manning case.  The case is called Center for Constitutional Rights vs. United States of America  & Col Denise Lind, military judge. Our plantiffs include the Center, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, The Nation, Glenn Greenwald, Kevin Gosztola, Chase Madar, people we've had on this show.  A number of the journalists with independent papers who've been the only ones covering this.  But all journalists are frustrated by the fact that they can't get the papers.  Well we lost before the judge.  We lost before the appeals court.  Finally, in the United State Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which is the highest military court,  we're getting a little bit of action.  The court did order the government to respond and ask the judge to explain why she's not showing us any of the documents, what's going on here?  And then finally we got something we've been trying to get happen for a long time is the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press filed an amicus brief in the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces saying that there's a First Amendment right for access to these documents and they filed for themselves as well as for 31 news media organizations.  Those news media organizations included the Washington Post,  the New York Times, Gannet, AP, Hearst Corporation,  etc.  In other words, all the big news media organizations.  So hopefully that amicus brief will finally push the court to say the most important espiionage -- or the most important military court-martial in 50 years that's going on should be open to the public and the documents that are public should actually be public.
Heidi Boghosian:  It's true, isn't it, that the US Supreme Court has absolutely no jurisdiction over this sort of parallel miltiary court system?
Michael Ratner: It's a tricky issue.  We're going through the entire military court system.  If we lose in the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces -- which I don't really expect to because it's such an outrageous proceeding that's going on, but you never know with the military -- if we lose there, we do have a possibility of applying to the Supreme Court for certiorari -- which is really saying the discretion of the court to take the case and possibly review it.  Or we could conceivably start another action in a federal district court.  But let's just hope that by the time that trial really rolls around in February that the public is given access to "public documents."
Heidi Boghosian:  I wanted to add also you mentioned the Press Freedom Association.  Did you know that the US press freedom rating dropped 27 places to number 47 this past year?  I think in part we saw the police response to the Occupy movement influencing that significant drop in rating -- I mean that went down 20 places. But I would wonder if the Bradley Manning case and these related issues also impacts that drop in rating?
Michael Ratner:  You know, I think, Heidi, you're part about the Occupy Wall Street issue is really a good one.  As you can tell us, the number of attacks on journalists covering Occupy Wall Street -- and I don't just mean attacks on the media, I mean  --
Heidi Boghosian:  Physical attacks.
Michael Ratner:  Physical.  Destroying their cameras, pushing them around, arresting them,
Heidi Boghosian:  Keeping them off the scene.
Michael Ratner:  Right.  New York City had to put in a whole new set of regulations and even after that, what happened?
Heidi Boghosian:  The police kept doing it.
Michael Ratner:  Exactly.  So I think that's probably, as you said, the most significant reason.
Reporters Without Borders released the [PDF format warning] "2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index" earlier this year. As Heidi noted, twenty slots is a significant drop.  The report states:
The crackdown on protests movements and the accompanying excesses took their toll on journalsits.  In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation.
We'll come back to the report later in the snapshot.  Sunday, the Milford Mercury reported,  "Six weeks have been set aside for the trial of the 24- year-old soldier, due to start on February 4th --  nearly three years after he was first charged."  He's not been tried.  He's been held all this time and now they're saying that in Feburary 2013, they'll try him.  He should have been released a long time ago -- guilty or innocent.  He is no threat to anyone and his detention -- before you factor in the torture and humiliation -- has been punative, it's been to punish him, to punish someone who, all this time later, has still not been found guilty.  Over 500 days behind bars and never found guilty.
When they do that in other countries, the term we use is "political prisoner."  It's an accurate term.  Turning to another Iraq War veteran, Kimberly Rivera.  Kim is from Mesquite, Texas.  And I don't know if she's aware of this, but there were three high school girls at Town East Mall, Kim's hometown mall, over the weekend passing out material on her, asking people to support her before they were asked to leave by mall security.  They were there handing out information for two hours on Saturday before they were asked to leave.  (I've interviewed one for Friday's gina & krista round-robin, FYI and Gina and Krista have invited all three to participate in this week's roundtable.)  Kim and her family went to Canada in 2007 when she could no longer continue to fight in the illegal war.  Todd Aalgaard (Torontoist) has a strong profile of the mother of four war resister who is being told to leave Canada by September 20th:
"When I was there," Rivera told Torontoist, "I had seen some things. I worked at the front gate as a guard, a gate guard, so every Saturday we had this day called 'claim day.' Each Saturday was becoming increasingly difficult to perform my duty, the way I felt like I should, and it was mainly because I was seeing traumatized children, parents, and older women looking for their sons and husbands. Meanwhile, I'm letting the soldiers out of our gate on patrols and they're raiding peoples' houses. Are they getting blown up?"
Before long, these questions would become broader in scope, and profoundly more troubling. "Really, what am I doing here?" she recalls wondering. "I'm either killing an American or I'm killing or hurting an Iraqi. And/or, I'm waiting to die myself. I didn't feel like we had a mission, we didn't have anything we were accomplishing for the better, so I ultimately lost faith and heart in what I was doing. That's how I came to the conclusion that it's not right." It was a period of soul-searching and prayer that concluded, ultimately, with the realization that what she was being asked to do contravened everything from her morals to her faith. She also decided that the United States military was being careless about preventing civilian casualties.
When Rivera's leave came up in Feburary, 2007, a little over a year after she had enlisted, she finally had an opportunity to oppose the war. Her superiors, Rivera said, were well aware of her extreme personal conflicts over the occupation. "I had all these conflicts with my heart on that decision that I made originally, that I thought was pro-war," Rivera told us, "[and] they told me my only choice was Iraq or jail, and I kind of refused that." According to the Star, warnings from her superiors also included death as a punishment for desertion.
Ottawa (12 Sept. 2012) - The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) has added its voice to the growing number of individuals and organizations calling for Jason Kenney, federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, to stop the deportation proceedings against Iraq war resister Kimberly Rivera.
In a letter (full text below) to Kenney, National President James Clancy notes that "Canada has a proud history of providing refuge to conscientious objectors to war. Our country has been a refuge for many whose religious or political beliefs could not allow them to participate in war."
Clancy goes on to urge Kenney to "show compassion, and to respect the wishes of the majority of Canadians who want Canada to allow Iraq war resisters to stay."
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1L1
Dear Minister Kenney,
I am writing on behalf of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) to add our voice in support of Kimberly Rivera, the former United States soldier who has been living in Canada since 2007.
I was dismayed to learn that Ms. Rivera's application to remain in Canada has been denied and that she is to leave Canada by September 20. I urge you to allow Ms. Rivera, her husband, and their four children (two of whom were born in Canada) to remain in Canada.
Canada has a proud history of providing refuge to conscientious objectors to war. Our country has been a refuge for many whose religious or political beliefs could not allow them to participate in war. These conscientious objectors include the Doukhobors, Mennonites and the more than 50,000 Americans who came to Canada during the Vietnam War. Many of these people went on to make invaluable contributions to Canadian political and social life.
Similarly to Ms. Rivera, many Vietnam-era war resisters originally had volunteered for the military. However, they came to understand the reality of what was an unjust war and decided that they could not in good conscience continue to participate. Canada accepted them then as it should accept Ms. Rivera now.
Ms. Rivera faces court martial, a felony conviction and military prison in the United States. In my opinion, a mother of four should not face prison for her refusal to participate in an immoral war. It would further add an injustice to an unjust war.
I urge you to show compassion, and to respect the wishes of the majority of Canadians who want Canada to allow Iraq War resisters to stay. Please allow Ms. Rivera and her family to remain in Canada by granting their application to stay on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
James Clancy
National President
More information:
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE
Labor Day saw many turn out -- including Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- to show their support for Kim.  Courage to Resist notes 3 ways you can show support for Kim:
Iraq War veteran turned resister facing five years in US military brig if deported
1. Hold a vigil at a Canadian consulate near you next Tuesday, September 18th, to ask the Canadian government to "Let Kimberly and all war resisters stay in Canada!". Here's a list of Canadian Government Offices in the US.
In San Francisco, join supporters at the Canadian consulate on Tuesday, September 18th from Noon to 2pm, at 580 California Street.
2. Check the War Resisters Support Campaign (Canada) for breaking news:
Since we noted Reporters Without Borders' [PDF format warning] "2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index" earlier in the snapshot, it might be worth once again noting their findings for Iraq which also fell several places down the list:
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 jouranlists.  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.
Journalist is a targeted classification in Iraq.  So is "woman" and ethnic and religious minorities.  Natalia Antelava, Peter Murtaugh, Bill McKenna and Daniel Nasaw have done an investigative report for the BBC on the continued persecution of LGBTs in Iraq. (link is video -- transcript in yesterday's snapshot).   The BBC continues their coverage with a text report which includes this  background:

The US-led invasion of 2003 brought to power the Islamic Dawa party, which was established in Iran in the 1980s and backed Iran in its war with Iraq.
The fact that Dawa's core beliefs were inspired by Iranian Shia clerics did not stop the US and UK from supporting the party after Saddam Hussein's fall.
In the years after the invasion, the security situation deteriorated for everyone in the country. But for sexual minorities, Iraq became hell on earth.
By 2007, political and religious groups backed by militiamen launched what we believe was an organised, co-ordinated campaign to hunt, arrest, torture and kill everyone they perceived as gay.
These radical groups deny sexual minorities the right to life. They target everyone who does not conform to their religious description of family. 

 As part of the coverage, Natalia Antelava interviews Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh (link is video):

Natalia Antelava:  What's Iraq doing to protect minority groups?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  I think that here in Iraq we do provide all the legal and the constitutional clauses to protect the minorities compared with the region which definitely they insult and they crush all the minorities

Natalia Antelava:  One minority that the UN for example is very worried about are homosexuals.

Ali al-Dabbagh:  We should take also that the culture and the habits and the customs of the country.  You can't impose, you can't copy what you believe in the West on countries that have a different culture.  But there is no right for anyone to insult or to kill or to harm any such groups. But we might find that some individuals in the security forces, as they did -- as they violate the human rights with the others, they do also violate the instruction of the government and the government definitaely wants to keep silent on the people that violate that right. 

Natalia Antelava:  So your position is that there is no additional threat in the Iraqi society today to an Iraqi who happens to be homosexual?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  I -- Again, I could say that we don't have that.  It is not a phenomenon, homosexual is not a phenomenon like what it is in the West or in other countries.  I don't know how many homosexuals in Iraq.  They could declare themselves as a homosexual.  We should change the whole Constitution in order to allow them to practice their homosexuality?  Publicly? You can't make  -- you can't -- You can't think that Iraq can change -- Neither Iraq nor --

Natalia Antelava:  This is not about practicing homosexuality.  This is about living their lives.

Ali al-Dabbagh:  They could live their lives in a normal way as long as they don't perform their homosexuality in public.

Natalia Antelava:  Are you saying that those gays who have run into trouble in the streets of Baghdad --

Ali al-Dabbagh:  Definitely they --

Natalia Antelava:   -- have brought it on themselves?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  Definitately they-they misbehave in a way in which they attract the attention of the others.

Natalia Antelava:  It is a right of Iraqi people not to have gay people walking in the streets?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  I didn't say this.  You are saying it.  I'm saying that the gays should respect the behavior and moral values of others in order to be respected.

Natalia Antelava:  This is a bit like telling a Black person not to be Black.

Ali al-Dabbagh:  Nah, that is nature -- by nature is a Black.

Natalia Antelava:  But you said this is by nature, so what's homosexuality?

Ali al-Dabbagh:  It's not by nature.  It's a behavior.  It's a behavior.  It is not being Black.  You born as a Black.  But this behavior -- Let him be a homosexual in the house, in everywhere, in a protected region but also let him respect the public.

Natalia Antelava:  But if you say that they are protected, why hasn't a single politician stood up and said killing of gays and harassment of gays should not be --

Ali al-Dabbagh:  We could ask the politicians.  Ask the politicians. You need to ask them, you could do that. Values of the society is much more important than the values of a person.  I don't know what we should be concerned about the values of a few people, leaving the other communities and the other minorities rights?
More BBC coverage of Iraq's LGBT community:
We'll look more at the LGBT community in Iraq tomorrow, we're limited for space.
Violence continues in Iraq. and, through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 155 dead from violence in Iraq since the start of the month.  Today?   All Iraq News reports a Mosul roadside bombing targeted an official with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Iraq President Jalal Talabani's political party) and the official survived,  a Haswa roadside bombing left four Iraqi soldiers injured2 Babylon bombings left three people (including a candidate for the Sadr bloc) injured, and a Babylon car bombing targeting a funeral has left 2 people dead and six more injuredAlsumaria adds an armed clash in Baghdad has left two people dead (police say the two were al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia). Al Rafidayn notes 1 cleric leaving a Qadiriya mosque was shot dead by a group of assailants in a passing car and a Kut home invasion left 1 man dead.

Nouri hasn't been able to stop the violence -- not in the six years he's been prime minister -- but he's decided to try and tackle illiteracy.  All Iraq News notes Nouri has announced the start of a campaign to wipe illiteracy and quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh declaring that Nouri announced the program in a Cabinet meeting earlier this month and al-Dabbagh stated that the Minister of Finance has worked with the Minister of Education to ensure that the program is properly funded.  Last week, the Iraqi press was noting an official survey which estimated that 1/5 of Iraqis are illiterate.  That is especially surprising when the median age is below 21-years-old.  It's not at all surprising when you grasp that, following years of devastating sanctions, public institutions have struggled under the continued war.  Aswat al-Iraq notes that today was Illiteracy Day and that Middle Alliance MP Mohammed Iqbal noted with regret "the presence of 6 million illiterates, despite its civilizational heritage in comparison to other countries."  Iraq is land where education -- literacy, math skills, etc. -- developed early on allowing it to invent concepts that the rest of the world would later embrace (such as the concept of zero).  In the last century, Iraq was known for its literay salons, its vibrant art scene, its universities and its book stores and vendors.  Iraq held the record in the region for book sales, in fact, during the 20th century.
We should note again that the figure is an estimate.  There's no real survey.  Just like there's no census.  We didn't take the UN estimate seriously -- on literacy -- but to use it now as a comparison, it had 3/4 of Iraqis being literate.  The new incomplete survey has a number of 4/5.  That's actually an improvement.  If we put it in percent(check my math, always), the UN would have been stating for the last five or so years that 75% of Iraqis were literate and the latest 'survey' (not by the UN) states that the number is 80% -- that's an increase of five percent.