Friday, February 06, 2009

Striking in France, John Pilger

"Millions in France on strike against Sarkozy" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):
“Nobody notices when there’s a strike anymore”, French president Nicolas Sarkozy declared last summer. On Thursday of last week he was made to eat his words.
Up to 2.5 million people took part in strikes and demonstrations across France that day to protest against Sarkozy’s handling of the economic crisis.
They are faced with attacks on pensions and public services, a 10 percent unemployment rate and wages that no longer keep pace with the cost of living.
The government has found 26 billion euros to bail out France’s banks while thousands of workers are being laid off. Postal, transport and media workers who face attacks on their services were joined by civil servants, hospital staff, teachers and students.
A number of private sector workers, including bank staff, car industry and shop workers, also took part in the action. In many towns groups of workers from small private firms were demonstrating for the first time.
Sarkozy knows that every right wing government in France in recent years has been knocked off course by powerful protest movements.
His own strategy has combined attacks on workers – some of them successful – with tactical retreats. In December he expressed concern that the riots sweeping Greece could create a new May 1968.
Faced with this prospect he shelved reforms of the secondary school curriculum along with plans to introduce laws on Sunday working.
Early in the new year some MPs were expressing concerns about a significant social movement developing in France. “People think public money is being given to bankers but nothing is being done for them,” said one. “They support those taking to the streets.”
The current mobilisations are the biggest in France since the huge movement against the CPE plans to casualise youth labour that brought millions onto the streets in 2006.
Those demonstrations were led by students, but last week’s protests were mostly made up of workers.
Over 200 demonstrations were organised across France. Some 60,000 marched in Bordeaux behind a banner that summed up the mood: “The crisis is them – the solution is us.”
At the moment the movement is broad-based but its demands are currently very general.
If the unions can maintain a united front and put forward specific demands to mobilise around, the momentum of last week’s demonstrations can act as a springboard for further action.
Jim Wolfreys
I could not miss the first general strike of my life – so although I don’t work in the public sector in France, I was determined to show solidarity and took strike action on Thursday of last week.
My local demonstration was in Dijon, and I could not believe the numbers marching in support of the strike – far more than I have ever witnessed in my home town of Sheffield, which is a far bigger city.
Anne James, Beaune, France
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Mike and I are both noting an article from Great Britain's Socialist Worker. France? I had no idea strikes were going on. Between Gaza and the non-stop coverage of the administration, it's very hard for anything else to break through in the news cycle. I do know what's going on in Iraq and that's in part because of C.I.'s amazing "Iraq snapshot"s.

But I thought it was an interesting article and one worth noting. It is really so easy to get caught up in what the US media says is news and forget the larger world outside our own borders. On a related note . . .

"The politics of bollocks" (John Pilger, New Statesman):
On 23 January, the Guardian's front page declared, "Obama shuts network of CIA 'ghost prisons'". The "wholesale deconstruction [sic] of George Bush's war on terror", said the report, had been ordered by the new president, who would be "shutting down the CIA's secret prison network, banning torture and rendition . . ."
The bollocks quotient on this was so high that it read like the press release it was, citing "officials briefing reporters at the White House yesterday". Obama's orders, according to a group of 16 retired generals and admirals who attended a presidential signing ceremony, "would restore America's moral standing in the world". What moral standing? It never ceases to astonish that experienced reporters can transmit PR stunts like this, bearing in mind the moving belt of lies from the same source under only nominally different management.
Far from "deconstructing the war on terror", Obama is clearly pursuing it with the same vigour, ideological backing and deception as the previous administration. George W Bush's first war, in Afghanistan, and last war, in Pakistan, are now Obama's wars - with thousands more US troops to be deployed, more bombing and more slaughter of civilians. Last month, on the day he described Afghanistan and Pakistan as "the central front in our enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism", 22 Afghan civilians died beneath Obama's bombs in a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds and which, by all accounts, had not laid eyes on the Taliban. Women and children were among the dead, which is normal.
Far from "shutting down the CIA's secret prison network", Obama's executive orders actually give the CIA authority to carry out renditions, abductions and transfers of prisoners in secret without threat of legal obstruction. As the Los Angeles Times disclosed, "current and former US intelligence officials said that the rendition programme might be poised to play an expanded role". A semantic sleight of hand is that "long-term prisons" are changed to "short-term prisons"; and while Americans are now banned from directly torturing people, foreigners working for the US are not. This means that America's numerous "covert actions" will operate as they did under previous presidents, with proxy regimes, such as Augusto Pinochet's in Chile, doing the dirtiest work.
Bush's open support for torture, and Donald Rumsfeld's extraordinary personal overseeing of certain torture techniques, upset many in America's "secret army" of subversive military and intelligence operators because it exposed how the system worked. Obama's newly confirmed director of national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, has said the Army Field Manual may include new forms of "harsh interrogation" which will be kept secret.
Obama has chosen not to stop any of this. Neither do his ballyhooed executive orders put an end to Bush's assault on constitutional and international law. He has retained Bush's "right" to imprison anyone, without trial or charge. No "ghost prisoners" are being released or are due to be tried before a civilian court. His nominee for attorney general, Eric Holder, has endorsed an extension of Bush's totalitarian USA Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to demand Americans' library and bookshop records. The man of "change" is changing little. That ought to be front-page news from Washington.

No complaints about John Pilger but it is sad that you have to read an publication from England to get that sort of honesty about a US president. We have how many journalists in this country? Yet we have to count on John Pilger. That is very telling about the state of journalism in the US.

On Wednesday, the theme post was magazines and, on that theme, Mike's "International Socialist Review," Rebecca's "interview," Betty's "Movieline, Premiere," Marcia's "off our backs," Ruth's "Dynamite," Stan's "Clamor," Elaine's "The Progressive" and Kat's "Lionel Richie, Billy Corgan, and more." Cedric's "Dick issues a threat" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! DICK THREATENS!" also went up Wednesday night.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 6, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barack moves back his "immediately" pledge on Iraq, Military Families Speak Up launch their DC action, US war resister Cliff Cornell has returned to the US from Canada, the (partial) election results are sifted through, and more.

Jon Allen (People's Weekly World News) reports on a teach-in entitled "War's Real Impact: Our Voices" that a number of groups staged in Chicago:

Eugene Cherry joined the army at the age of 19 in the hopes of getting money for college. Despite being a good student, he found his options in his impoverished south side neighborhood limited. "I thought the military would be my ticket out, but I found an organization based on racism, sexism and misogyny" he testified before the assembled audience. Later he spoke of "[a] culture of violence and racism" that the military promotes within its ranks. These pressures proved to be too much for Sherry. He deserted for 16 months after being refused mental health support by the army. "I found myself fighting and oppressing a group of people in the name of the war on terror" concluded his remarks to the gathering. The plight of women in the armed forces proved to be a recurring theme. Patricia McCann, a National Guardsman deployed in 2003, noted during her testimony that instances of sexual assault and sexual harassment within the armed forces have risen but court-martials for these crimes have declined. Another veteran (and current Chicago police officer), Lisa Zepeda, added that victims of assault have no outside authority they can report assaults to; a victim must go through her immediate superior within her unit.

Allen notes that US House Rep "Jan Schakowasky and several Chicago aldermen also took the floor and addressed the audeince. Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. and Illinois Senator Roland Burris also sent staff members to reaffirm their support of bringing the troops home."

Military Families Speak Out was among the organizations participating in the Chicago event and today they started a DC action that will run through Monday:
Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep
tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A
teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.
The teach-in takes place this afternoon. Actions continue through Monday. Meanwhile US war resister Andre Shepherd is seeking asylumn in Germany (we last noted Andre in
Wednesday's snapshot). Wednesday, he was making his case for asylum to Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Andy Eckardt (NBC News) offers a strong report on Andre who explains, "When I enlisted in 2004 and later was sent to Iraq, I believed I was doing the right thing. But then, like other comrades around me, I started questioning why we were there and what we were fighting for. . . . My job was harmless until I factored in the amount of death and destruction those helicopters caused to civilians every day. The government made us believe we would be welcomed as heroes in Iraq, but we saw nothing but hostility from the Iraqis that came to work for us, they wanted to kill us." Meanwhile James M. Brnaum's GI Rights explained yesterday:

U.S. war resister Cliff Cornell surrendered himself to U.S. border police on Wednesday after being ordered to leave Canada. He was promptly arrested for being AWOL from the U.S. Army, and is now being held at the Whatcom County Jail in Bellingham, Washington, twenty miles south of the U.S.-Canada border.
Cornell's attorney and supporters expressed outrage at the arrest.
"Clifford Cornell came back to the United States so that he could voluntarily return to his old unit at Fort Stewart," stated attorney James Branum. "He stated this intention to the Border Patrol, both verbally and in writing, by way of a letter I drafted on his behalf. I am disappointed that the Border Patrol chose to arrest my client and place him into a county jail with general population prisoners. This should not have happened."
Cornell, 28, fled to Canada four years ago after his Army artillery unit was ordered to Iraq. But despite a popular outcry to provide sanctuary to soldiers who refuse to fight in illegal wars, Canada's Conservative government is pressing ahead with deportations. Cornell, an Arkansas native, had come to call British Columbia home. But he now faces a possible court martial and imprisonment in the United States.
"Cliff Cornell should not be going to jail," said Gerry Condon, director of Project Safe Haven, a war resister advocacy group. "He had the guts to follow his conscience and obey international law," continued Condon. "President Obama should grant amnesty to Cliff Cornell and all war resisters."
Cornell is the second Iraq War resister to be held in the Whatcom County Jail. He follows Robin Long, who was deported from Canada in July. Long is now serving a 15-month prison sentence at Miramar Naval Consolidated Brig near San Diego.
"We want Bellingham to be a Sanctuary City for war resisters," said Gene Marx of Veterans For Peace, "not a way station for war resisters being sent to prison." Bellingham is known for being a progressive city, having passed two anti-war resolutions through its city council.
A public vigil in support of Cliff Cornell will be held outside of the County jail on Thursday from 10 am -- 1pm, organized by the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center.
A legal defense fund for Cliff Cornell is being established by Courage To Resist, a war resister support group, at
CONTACT: Marie Marchand, Executive Director, Whatcom Peace & Justice Center(360) 734-0217 (office); (434) 249-5957 (cell), WhatcomPJC(at)
Gene Marx, Bellingham Veterans For Peace, Chapter 111, 253-653-4423 (cell)
Gerry Condon, Project Safe Haven, 206-499-1220 (cell),projectsafehaven(at)

In an update,
AP reports that Cliff is being allowed to travel "by bus to Georgia" and will "turn himself in Tuesday at the Army base near Savannah." And, as Gerry Condon stated, Barack Obama should grant amnesty to all war resisters. But the reality is Barack's not even in a rush to end the illegal war.

Staying with the White House, US vice president Joe Biden is headed to Germany. Before he left the US today, he made some public remarks.
Edward Epstein (CQ) reports, "He listed the economic crisis and ongoing fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan as the most pressing issues. Biden used a football analogy to describe the situation in Iraq, saying the United States is 'on the 20-yard-line' and 'driving toward the goal'." Jared Allen (The Hill) states the Biden "admitted that any victory is far from certain, and he reiterated that a victory through military means alone is unattainable." AFP quotes him stating, "Our administration is going to have to be very deeply involved not only keeping the commitment that we've made drawing down our troops in an orderly fashion consistent with what we said."

McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef is convinced that Barack's decision to request a variety of options for 'withdrawal' from Iraq is "the first indication that the Obama administration may be willing to abandon a campaign promise of a 16-month withdrawal." Or it may be Barack wanting to see all options, wanting to check if opinions ever see withdrawal possible (would you listen to someone's opinion if they didn't think the US could pull out in 16, 19 or even 23 months?). Who knows. But withdrawal' is not withdrawl. It is "combat" troops only. The White House unofficially says the number left behind would be approximately 70,000. That's not withdrawal. Youssef reports, "Obama is likely to announce his strategy for Iraq by mid-March, a senior administration official told McClatchy." That would be an indication of a broken promise and Youssef misses that point. At Hopey Changey "Three Facts about Barack Obama and Iraq" which includes this 'fact:' "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq; successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased."

What did Barack promise? "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased." Mid-March? Mid-March is "immediately upon taking office"? Immediately upon taking office was when Barack was sworn in. That was last month. It's February. And a White House source is telling McClatchy it will be mid-March before anything's announced. Another case where "
Barack kicks the can" and here he's promised "immediately upon taking office". (I have no idea who Nancy Youssef spoke to and this morning I'm being told that is not correct and that Barack will be making an announcement "this month" on Iraq. He may or he may not. But Youssef didn't make up that source. Even if an announcement is made this month, as two insisted this morning, the fact that some White House insider would tell Youssef it wouldn't be until mid-March goes to how unimportant Iraq is in the Obama White House. And "this month" would not be "immediately upon taking office".)

"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's strong performance in Iraq's provincial elections was also a victory for American goals." No. al-Maliki wasn't a candidate. That's the lede to
Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londono's Washington Post article and it's incorrect and they are not the only reporters/outlet to get it so wrong.Nouri al-Maliki was not a candidate in provincial elections. These, as Londono himself has explained, are the equivalent of state legislature elections in the US. Did anyone assert that victory for Republicans in (pick one of fifty states) in (pick 2001 through 2007) was a victory for George W. Bush? wanted to get some press and wanted to make the elections about him. He estimated a minimum of 70% of registered Iraqis would turn out. (51% did.) He thought this was going to be his big moment on the international scene.For a reporter, it is very tempting to make it about al-Maliki for a number of reasons. For example, making provincial elections about the prime minister frees you of having to . . . cover the actual candidates. And there were 440 winners -- none of whom were named "Nouri al-Maliki." It's so much easier to stamp "al-Maliki Victory" and be done with it. This afternoon Alissa J. Rubin (at the International Herald Tirbune) focuses on Yusef Majid al-Habboubi who "managed to defeat not only the religious parties who controlled the province of Karbala but also Maliki's preferred candidates by a 2-1 margin in one of the bigger surprises in the provincial elections last week." In the preliminatry vote, Rubin explains, it appears al-Habboubi has 17% of the vote over twice what "the next two closest parties" appeared to have received.This morning, Rubin's "Prime Ministers Party Wins in Iraqi Vote but Will Need to Form Coalitions" (New York Times) did a little better than the Post. The headline writer captures it and Rubin does as well for most of her article; however, sentences like the following trip her up: "In Baghdad, where Mr. Maliki ran a strongly nationalist campaign, he appeared to have had some success in winning votes from Sunnis, but in the Sunni-majority provinces to the north, his party's slate barely made a showing." He ran a strong nationalist campaign? And how many votes did he receive? What did he say in his victory speech? When will he be sworn in?Here's reality, if you're going to wrongly make the provincial elections about Nouri al-Maliki, you're going to have to judge the success or failure of al-Maliki and the reality is "his party's slate barely made a showing" in the north. The reality is that Iraq has 18 provinces -- three of which have scheduled votes for this spring -- and to claim al-Maliki has 'won' a national campaign is not only premature, it doesn't even jibe with the actual (preliminary) results.Raghavan and Londono tell you that the Dawa Party (al-Maliki's party) "won in nine provinces" -- with "an outright plurality" (NOT a majority) in Baghdad and Basra while it was a narrow win for Dawa "in the other seven provinces." Or, as Rubin puts it, "the party fell short of being able to operate without coalition-building."That's a win? 14 provinces held elections last Saturday and Dawa didn't squeak out a majority win in any province, it only got "an outright plurality" in two provinces and, to govern, they need to coalition-build with other parties. That's not a win. Not for al-Maliki -- who was not a candidate -- and certainly not for Dawa.What is troubling - - and what no one's pointed out -- is that we don't expect, for example, Barack Obama to head over to Oregon when they're electing their state legislature. We don't expect him to campaign for them or butt in. That al-Maliki was allowed to hit the road (attempting to buy votes) goes to how problematic the election actually was. Rubin writes, "Some politicians have voiced concerns in recent months that too much power was being concentrated in Mr. Maliki's hands, and the election results suggested that Iraqis were not ready to rally around a single leader." It's a shame the press never bothered to question why a prime minister was attempting to repeatedly inject himself into provincial elections?Rubin writes, "Except in areas where Sunnis were voting for the first time, the large, prominent parties with nationally known leaders won the most seats, showing the power of incumbency and the difficulties facing the newer secular parties." Well if you're going to make that observation, you might also question why the country's prime minister is interfering in provincial elections? These are not the equivalent of US Congressional elections (that would be Iraq's Parliament). That issue was never raised. But, no, it is not normal for the highest office holder in the country to try to inject her or himself into local elections. And it's not normal -- when the press is lauding 'democracy' -- for no one to question that injection. Another question to ask: Did al-Maliki's injection depress voter turnout?In the final paragraphs of Rubin's article she notes Anbar and quotes various complaints from Tamouz ("a nongovernment organization monitoring the elections"). She tells us that the Iraqi Islamic Party is Sunni. She tells us nothing about the make up of Tamouz. Tamouz is making accusations. Readers have a right to know who they are and the use of "nongovernment" will translate to some as 'from outside Iraq.' That's not reality. But we don't get a lot of reality in this morning's election coverage. Back to the Washington Post's article, the following should never happen:The Obama administration appeared as pleased at what did not happen on election day as it was about the results. "Any election where [there is] fairness and generally aboveboard practices, where the people get a chance to vote and they're not rioting in the streets and throwing bombs . . . is a good result," a senior administration official said in Washington. "We should celebrate that. So far, so good." There is no reason to grant anonymity for the above. If the 'celebrator' can't be named, his or her comment doesn't need to be included. When you start granting anonymity for prattle, you're degrading journalism standards. James Kirkup (Telegraph of London) attempts to write up Moqtada al-Sadr's political death stating, "British officials see the political setback as the latest sign of Mr Sadr's diminished importance in southern Iraq." Diminished importantce? Rubin says al-Sadr "did surprisingly well, given that his movement decided to support them only two weeks before the elections." BBC notes, "Finals results are not expected to be known for weeks." What is known is that the violence continues with Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Abdulmajeed al Nuaimi, member of the incumbent provincial in Mosul" called the police about an unidentified object outside his home that turned out to be a roadside bomb.
In other reported violence today . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing at a liquor store that left "material damages to the store," a Baghdad grenade tossed at a supermarket leaving "material damages to the store".


Reuters reports, "U.S. and Iraqi security forces killed a civilian and arrested six suspected militants in raids on towns southwest of Kirkuk".

Nawal Al Samarrai is making news in Iraq.
Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite Network reports she has resigned as the Minister of Women's Affairs due to the fact that her job is for-show and contains no real power to improve anything. Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Katie Nguyen report Reuters exclusive interview with al-Samarai: Iraq's minister of women's affairs resigned on Thursday in protest at a lack of resources to cope with "an army of widows, unemployed, oppressed and detained women" after years of sectarian warfare.Nawal al-Samarai said her status as a secretary of state and not a full minister reflected the low emphasis given by the government to the plight of women in Iraq, once one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East for women's rights. "This ministry with its current title cannot cope with the needs of Iraqi women," said Samarai, who was appointed in July.The Times of India adds, "Samarrai, who took office in July 2008 and had recently chaired two committees on improving the conditions of women and another on the breast cancer, said she would seek a position where she could actually help women." wowOwow covers the story and notes, "She has not, however, heard back from the Prime Minister's office on whether they accept her resignation or will heed her calls and provide more social services for Iraq's women."

Barbara Starr and Mike Mount (CNN) report, "The Army said 24 soldiers are believed to have committed suicide in January alone -- six times as many as killed themselves in January 2008, according to statistics released Thursday." Stephanie Gaskell (New York Daily News) observes, "In a rare move, the Army released monthly suicide data Thursday to highlight the growing problem. Last week, Army officials said its suicide rates were at their highest in nearly 30 years. Last year, 128 soldiers committed suicide and another 15 suspected cases are pending. Last month, Army officials believe that 24 soldiers killed themselves - compared with just four in January 2008." Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) quotes Gen Peter Chiarelli stating, "Each of these losses is a personal tragedy that is felt throughout the Army family. The trend and trajectory seen in January further heightens the seriousness and urgency that all of us must have in preventing suicides." If you mean your words, do something. If not, stop boring us. The military's had more than enough time to notice the suicides and to do something about it. It's done nothing other than a few pamphlets and a 1-800 number. The change has to come from the top in the military because it is a top-down command. Chiarelli wants to change the culture? Great. Otherwise, it's just him using a tragedy to look sympathetic. And if that's harsh, it's harsh that so many suicides have repeatedly taken place and the military has ignored the problem. Or lied about it. It wasn't all that long ago CBS News was catching the VA lying about the number of suicides. CBS Evening News' Kimberly Dozier most recently reported on the suicides in December noting that 1st Sgt Jeff McKinney's family (rightly, my opinion) called him "a casualty of war" because he served, ended up wtih PTSD and did not receive the treatment he needed and he took his own life while serving.. His father, Charles, McKinney, told Dozier, "I think he felt like he couldn't send one more broken body home, one more person home."

Kimberly Dozier recently wrote about Iraq and Afhganistan for wowOwow.
Throwing out a link for friends,
Washington Unplugged is a new CBS News show. It airs each Friday afternoon. Haven't seen it? It airs online only. Face The Nation's Bob Schieffer is the anchor and I use anchor because it is news reports and, at the closing, Schieffer offers a commentary as he does on Face The Nation. This week his comment is on Tom Daschle. Before that, Kent Conrad appears to make a fool out of himself. Tom Daschle didn't report it to the IRS because he thought the driver and car were a "gift"? Kent, learn the tax code. Such a gift would have to be reported to the IRS. Washington Unplugged streams live online Friday afternoons and archives are available seven days a week. This week (tonight on most PBS stations) NOW on PBS offers:Is there a solution to the foreclosure mess that's destroying communities?Across the country, cities are in crisis because of the fallout from the mortgage mess -- property taxes are way down, and abandoned homes are bringing down property values, inviting crime, and draining government coffers. Neighborhoods are being destroyed. Yet the federal bailout money is not going directly to desperate communities and homeowners, but to local and national banks.This week, NOW investigates the innovative way some cities are fighting back. The city of Memphis, Tennessee is suing major national lenders and banks for deceptive and discriminatory lending practices in an effort to recoup the cost of the financial mess. Other cities suing lenders for their role in the mortgage mess include Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Birmingham.With desperation climbing alongside debt, can the strategy help these blighted parts of America?Washington Week also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations and joining Gwen this installment is Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Charles Babington (AP), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Jackie Calmes (New York Times). And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:Saving Flight 1549Hero pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his flight crew together reveal for the first time the sights, sounds and physical sensations they experienced as they pulled off an incredible water landing last month, saving the lives of all 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549. Katie Couric reports. (This is an extra-length story. Watch Video
ColdplayThe British rock group that has taken its place among the most popular bands in the world gives 60 Minutes a rare look inside its world that includes a candid interview with frontman Chris Martin. Steve Kroft reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update
Beckham Leaving The L.A. Galaxy?David Beckham wants to leave the Los Angeles Galaxy and stay with AC Milan after his loan to the Italian club is scheduled to end next month. The 33-year-old English midfielder announced his intentions Wednesday after playing in Milan's 2-2 exhibition tie at Glasgow Rangers. Beckham is about two years into a $32.5 million, five-year contract with Major League Soccer. In March 2008, CNN's Anderson Cooper profiled Beckham for 60 Minutes, discussing his widely publicized move to Los Angeles. Video

military families speak out
andre shepherdandy eckardt
jim branummcclatchy newspapersnancy a. youssefalsumariawaleed ibrahimmichael christiekatie nguyen
the washington posternesto londonothe new york timesalissa j. rubin

kimberly dozier
60 minutescbs newspbswashington weeknow on pbs

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Progressive

Tonight's theme post is magazines and we're supposed to write about a magazine that meant something to us. I am writing about The Progressive.

Why that one?

Because it proved to be such a huge disappointment.

The loss of Molly Ivins can not be minimized because she added so much to the magazine. For example, Barbara Ehrenreich lost the ability to write early this decade and her batty columns were like the ditherings of Thomas Friedman and Maureen Dowd's love child. You never believed any brain was at work. It was as though all her energy was utilized thinking up her bad 'jokes' and trying to be 'topical.' By the time actual contemplation was needed, Babs was all tuckered out.

Then you had Ruth Conniff who was thrilled to rave about Joe Klein or jaw bone with any minor celebrity. The final page of each issue was Molly Ivins and it's only in retrospect that I really grasp what a grace note she provided to each issue.

From 2001 to 2006, Matthew Rothschild appeared to have functioning brain. When all else failed, you could count on that and for some incredibly strong commentary by him. (Often unsigned commentary.)

But who knew he hated women? Let alone so strongly? His sexism was out in full force for 2008 which is why he found The Weekly Standard worth linking to (hey, it was the c-word! Matty loved that!).

He just went ape s**t nuts (a medical term) and I can't stand to read that garbage anymore.

Howard Zinn was worth reading. Until 2008. The man who knew electoral politics were not salvation and even made that point in 2008 turned around and hopped on board the Barack bandwagon. Howard Zinn endorsed a Corporatist War Hawk. People were outraged. Then he endorsed either Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney. He and Noam traded off on who to endorse. One grabbed Ralph, the other Cynthia. It was not very convincing.

The fall-out for Howard has been great. People really have not absorbed that yet. But they will.

If I was asked what one magazine needed to shut down, I'd say The Progressive. It has betrayed everything it was supposed to. It spent 2008 attacking Ralph Nader, ignoring Cynthia McKinney and promoting a War Hawk. They should be ashamed.

Too bad because it was once worth reading. In fact, before Matthew Rothschild took over, the entire magazine was worth reading.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
February 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a DC peace event looms, results from the provincial elections have still not been sorted out but that hasn't stopped thugs from making threats, what happens to your finger after the purple dye, and more?

Starting with an action that begins this week in the US.
Military Families Speak Out explains:

Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep
tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A
teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.

November 27th snapshot noted Iraq War veteran Andre Shepherd who self-checked out of the US military while in Germany and held a press conference to explain: "When I read and heard about people being ripped to shreds from machine guns or being blown to bits by the Hellfire missiles I began to feel ashamed about what I was doing. I could not in good conscience continue to serve. . . . Here in Germany it was established that everyone, even a soldier, must take responsibility for his or her actions, no matter how many superiors are giving orders." The December 2nd snapshot quoted the following from James Ewinger's Cleveland Plain Dealer article:
Shepherd said he grew up on East 94th Street in Cleveland, attended Lakewood High School and studied computer science at Kent State University until he ran out of money.
He enlisted in 2004 with the hope of flying the Apaches, but was urged to become a mechanic first.
Scharf said he doubts that Shepherd's expected order to return to Iraq would, by itself, constitute an unlawful order.
"His best argument would be that Apaches are used to kill civilians," Scharf said, but he still viewed it as a weak case.

Andre is seeking aslyum in Germany and has been working with the
Military Counseling Network and attorneys on that effort. Today AP's Patrick McGroarty reports that Andre is one of 71 US soldiers who has self-checked out from "European bases in 2008" (actually, he shouldn't be, he self-checked out in 2007) and his case was scheduled to take place before the Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees today where Andre would be stressing "a 2004 European Union directive that established basic guidelines for refugee status within the 27-nation bloc. Soldiers who face punishment for refusing to commit a war crime or serve in an unlawful conflict are to be granted that status, the directive says."
The Military Counseling Network blog notes Samantha Haque's January 28th report for the UK's Channel 4 News on Andre (both links have videos):

Andre Shepherd: When I speak to the other asylum seekers in the asylum camp and I explain to them my story, they completely understand it however this doesn't make me any better or any worse than anyone else that's there. We're all there because we can't go home.

Samantha Haque: As an asylum seeker he is currently in a camp in Germany with people from places like Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq. All in a similar position to him. The difference is that Andre Shepherd is a US citizen. And an Iraq War deserter. For security reasons, we were not allowed to film in the camp. Shepherd has a friend, a peace activist, who lives within the restricted boundary he's allowed to move in. He took us there.

Andre Shepherd: I was working on the Apache helicopter. Those Apaches won't fly unless we take care of them. The Apache helicopter is a deadly weapon a lot of people call it a flying tank. What started my doubts was when I saw the Iraqi people, when they would come and help us, the looks that they gave us weren't the looks of heroes or people that you know were bringing freedom. We looked like conquerors and oppressors. That really bothered me a lot. So I started to look into the reasons why we were actually there in Iraq. I thought that what we were doing was a great thing and a positive thing. That we were actually bringing freedom to people and making them happy but what I found out instead was that we completely destroyed an entire country on a pack of lies. It started to weigh very heavily to the point where my actions when I was a soldier were starting to deteriorate so as this was going on I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to back to Iraq.

Samantha Haque: None of the criteria that the US military offered for discharge were availble to Mr. Shepherd. To be a conscientious objector in the US means to be against all wars, something he was not. While in Germany, he was faced with a second mission to Iraq. On April 11, 2007 he went absent without leave. Unable to apply for German residency without official military discharge papers, he decided that applying for asylum was the only way forward.

MCN's Tim Huber: Andre contacted us about a year and a half ago and he asked about asylum He wasn't the first to ask about asylum but our answer was always the same, we don't know what would happen if you tried aslyum. We went over the pros and cons of trying it. We noted that we were quite pessimistic that it would actually work, but we said it's an option.

Samantha Haque: His lawyer on the other hand is confident that he will have his application accepted.

Reinhard Marx: It's a specific European law, the so-called directive on qualification of refugees and in this directive it is ruled that deserters of an army who refer to international reasons, refer that the war is conducted in a way which infringes the national law then he has a right to be accepted as a refugee.

Samantha Haque: His lawyer cites the case of Florian Pfaff, a German officer demoted after refusing to work on a computer program for the US Army in Iraq in 2005. A federal court overturned his demotion because the Iraq War contravened international law. But although Germany opposed the war in Iraq and said no to the US resolution backing it, it still allowed its territory to be used as a base for military operations in Iraq. Here in Heidelberg is the US Army's headquarters in Europe. There are currently around 51,000 US military service men in Germany If Mr. Shepherd's application for aslyum is accepted, there could be implications for US-German military relations.

Gas Bag: It would mean that any US soldier in Germany who disagrees with military operations being conducted can basically step out of the base and seek asylum in Germany and that would probably be a situation that would be unacceptable to the US military.

Samantha Haque: The US is already looking at shrinking its military presence in Germany and possibly moving bases to Europe.

Gas Bag: There is a 60-year tradition, there's many Germans who cherish having the Americans here. There's also an economic factor, the US bases, particularly in the German southwest provide a lot of jobs.

Samantha Haque: Shepherd is something of a darling for the anti-war movement. Here at the Miltary Counseling Network, an American center where conscientios objectors go for help, letters of support come in from all over the world.

Tim Huber: He joined for the American dream. He joined for life, liberty and the pursuit of justice. Suddenly he finds that his pursuit of life, liberty and, most importantly, justice causes him to take a 180 degree turn and walk away from the military.

Samantha Haque: Do you think that there's a danger that Andre's case trivializes the term asylum seeker?

Tim Huber: Not at all. I think, if anything, it's causing people to look at the term asylum and put it in a 21st century defenition

Samantha Haque: The US army said that it was aware of the case but that the matter was completely in German hands. As for Mr. Shepherd it will be some months before he finds out the results of next week's hearing and whether he faces jail in America or exile abroad.

Andre Shepherd: Not being able to go back? At this point, that's just something I have to live with if I can make my consc clear then fine that's just a sacrifice I have to make.

Russia Today notes the Pentagon claims 5,000 US Army soldiers "are missing from duty" presently and quotes Andre explaining, "When the CIA report came and they said that there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, that really made me angry. I wondered if there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the CIA obvioulsy the Bush administration knew about this, then why did we just destroy Fallujah, completely wiped out the entire city?"

Dahr Jamail (MidEast Dispatches) has returned to Iraq for the first time in four years and has heard the much hyped "security" hype:

I myself was lulled into a false sense of security upon my arrival a week ago. Indeed, security is "better," compared to my last trip here, when the number of attacks per month against the occupation forces and Iraqi collaborators used to be around 6,000. Today, we barely have one American soldier being killed every other day and only a score injured weekly. Casualties among Iraqi security forces are just ten times that number. But yes, one could say security is better if one is clear that it is better in comparison not to downtown Houston but to Fallujah 2004. Compared to days of multiple car bomb explosions, Baghdad today is better. Is it safer? Is it more secure? Difficult to say in a place when the capital city of the country is essentially in lock-down and prevailing conditions are indicative of a police state. We have a state in Iraq where the government is exercising rigid and repressive controls over social life (no unpermitted demonstrations, curfews, concrete walls around the capital city), economic (read - the 100 Bremer Orders that were passed under the Coalition Provisional Authority - all of the key laws over economic control still in place), and political life of the citizenry. By definition, a police state exhibits elements of totalitarianism and social control, and in today's Iraq, we have plenty examples of both.

Iraq held provincial elections in 14 of the 18 provinces last Saturday.
Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) announces he is waiting to weigh in: "The two key questions, he [an American official] said, were whether those who lost power would give it up and those who gained power would be able to execute it well. Why wait? Because, unlike my former colleagues in the newspaper racket, I can." While he waits, the battle of the spin continues with threats of violence mixed in. Alissa J. Rubin and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) quote one-time "Awakening" Council leader Sheik Hammid al-Hayes who is unhappy with the early (and unofficial) results thus far in Anbar, "If the results aren't acceptable, then we'll bring back the old days. We will use rifles again, and we will eliminate the Islamic Party." When the US military keeps you and your underlings on the US tax payer dime ($300 a month per "Awakening" member), you'd think the monthly stipend might require a few civics lessons. Now "Awakening" free, al-Hayes demonstrates yet again exactly the type of person the US was paying off . They scream, they yell, they threaten violence and . . . they get their way. Ned Parker, Caesar Ahmed and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha vowing, "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." If the Iraqi Islamic Party is declared the winner in Anbar, the "Awakenings" say they will begin a slaughter. And instead of being called out, they're getting catered to. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports, "A coalition of parties that competed against the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar submitted complaints that the commission considers grave, commission chief Faraj al-Haidari said, 'We will deal with it seriously because it might change the result of the election in this province,' he said."
Al Arabiya News Channel notes Anbar is "under curfew for a night". Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes how "quickly" the officials go into motion for the ones making threats in Anbar, "The Independent High Electoral Commission sent a committee from Baghdad Wednesday to recount ballot boxes from some polling stations in the province after tribal leaders accused the Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, which currently controls the provincial council, of rigging the vote. The accusations of vote rigging came from an especially important source, Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the province's Awakening Council, which is widely credited with bringing calm to Anbar." Oh, yes, that voice of peace Sheik Risha. And what did LAT quote him saying? "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." Andrew England and Ernesto Londono (Financial Times of London) note, "The IIP is one of the few Sunni Arab groups that took part in 2005 elections, which were boycotted by Sunni Arabs. It has been the community's main political force and had run the council in Anbar" and they quote the Iraqi Islamic Party's Omar Abdul Sattar stating that these threats of violence by people unhappy with the preliminary results are "unacceptable and totally rejected." UPI explains, "The Awakening Councils had looked to secure seats on the provincial councils as reparation for their role in routing al-Qaida militans from Anbar as part of the U.S.-led counterinsurgency strategy known as the surge." These are preliminary results -- unofficial ones. That needs to be remembered. And if al-Maliki wasn't attempting to spin the results and the press wasn't so eager to help him (we're ignoring the installment in today's news cycle on that), we'd follow Thomas E. Ricks' example (which, as noted Tuesday morning, was the plan). But since we can't, we'll note an obvious fact. "Awakening" Councils members were collaborators with the US in the occupation of Iraq. Anbar especially rejected the illegal war and occupation on and of Iraq. While "Awakenings" turned when a buck or two was popped in their g-strings, that doesn't mean the people did. If the results hold, you may see the people -- and we made this point when NYT did their ridiculous "Everything is beautiful in the province and the people are so happy" 2007 article -- really didn't want anything to do with US collaborators. If so, that's not surprising. When France was occupied, the French loudly rejected the collaborators. And continued to make known what they thought of them -- to this day. Those who go to work for the enemy -- and a foreign force occupying any country is that country's natural enemy -- are collaborators and, no, they are not popular with the home-grown population. And Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote the menacing Sheik Risha promsing, "There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."

"There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."

The same thugs the US paid off so they'd stop attacking US military personnel and equipment -- as US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus told Congress repeatedly last April -- scream and whine and moan about the potential results and everyone rushes to make the big babies feel better. They whine and make threats and that gets a reaction from the elections commission chair? The same pompous ass who declared Sunday, "
It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote"? Well apparently "lazy" is mitigated when you threaten violence so possibly all those who were not allowed to vote, who were repeatedly turned away at polling stations should start threatening to 'set it off' and maybe the elections commission chair would suddenly take an interest in their issues? Of the commission, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) points out, "Iraq's electoral commission insisted that it was pleased with the turnout on Saturday, with about 7.5 million Iraqis, or 51 per cent of those eligible to vote, casting a ballot. Mr al-Maliki had forecast participation of up to 80 per cent after to an improvement in security and a decision by Sunni Arabs to participate, after boycotting past ballots in protest at the occupation." In the meantime Trenton Daniel and Mahdi al Dulaymi (McClatchy Newspapers) observe, "Thousands of Iraqis, however, couldn't vote because their names were missing from registration lists; in Hawsa, just west of Baghdad, thousands demonstrated over their exclusion." No, don't demonstrate, threaten. It works so very well in Anbar. The response to demonstrations and massive voter suppression? "Election officials said that they have no plans to address the grievances, saying that displaced voters missed their opportunity to register."

In New York at the United Nations yesterday, Staffan de Mistura, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, spun like crazy trying to find the 'good' in an election process that, he admitted, saw five candidates assassinated "and the explosion of two mortar shells on Election Day" -- he side-stepped the other violence taking place Saturday. [Even US Army Lt Gen Lloyd J. Austin III admits to "11 attacks" on election day.] He offered a figure of 42% for Sunni participation (42% of registered voters) which, if it holds, will only further underscore how many people stayed home (Sunnis boycotted the vote in 2005's provincial elections).

Deborah Haynes (Times of London) notes an interesting bit of trivia regarding the election process:

Iraq commentators go misty-eyed when they talk of the symbolic purple finger brandished by Iraqis after casting a ballot. But no one ever mentions the smelly orange nail. Had such an abominable side-effect been better public knowledge, then I would never have enthusiastically jammed by right index finger into a pot of indelible ink at a polling station in Baghdad on election day.
[. . .]
"What the hell is happening to my nail?" I asked my interpreter. "Oh it turns orange," he said, casually. "It is because of all the chemicals in the ink."
Four days and hours of scrubbing later, the purple ink on my finger has almost gone but the Orange Nail from Hell is still there, as colourful as the moment it first appeared. The nail has also started to smell rather foul, as if something nasty is rotting on the end of my finger.

"The latest is that nothing much has changed," AP's
Kim Gamel explained yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, "al-Zaidi has been in custody since Iraqi guards wrestled him to the ground." Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw two shoes at George W. Bush December 14th and has been imprisoned since. Gamel said he remains in a jail cell in the Green Zone and his attorney has had only one visit with him (back in December). Asked about the alleged letter Nouri al-Maliki was touting linking the journalist to 'terrorists,' Gamel replied, "Maliki did say he received that letter and the family [of Muntadar] denied that" and she noted it's impossible to determine whether the claim is true or false at this point.

What a novel concept. A journalist noting what can and cannot be verified. That's certainly nothing
Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) worries himself over today as he rushes to turn a suspect into a convict. We addressed the topic in yesterday's snapshot. Yes, it was obvious yesterday. But Myers misses out as he rushes to tell you a criminal confessed! Let's go to Tina Susman ( Los Angeles Times):There was no way to independently verify the video's authenticity, but the use of female suicide bombers has soared in the last year. More than 30 women blew themselves up last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. U.S. and Iraqi officials say Sunni Arab insurgents have run short of male recruits and turned to women for the missions.Suspected suicide bombers were among those rounded up in the sweep conducted in the 72 hours leading up to Saturday's elections, said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad and the surrounding region. Hammond said attacks in the his area of command had dropped 80% since June 2007, part of a nationwide decrease in violence that was highlighted by the peaceful voting for new governing councils in 14 provinces.And that is what's known as reporting. Suspected. Video could not be independently verified. All points Steven Lee Myers can't be bothered with. What a social hit he would have been in Salem back in 1692. No doubt he would be partying at Gallows Hill. Steven Lee Myers, the Cotton Mather of 2009.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left two people wounded, a Baghdad sticking bombing aimed at an "Awakening" Council head that wounded the head and claimed the life of his son with three other people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing that left four people wounded and a Mosul car bombing left four people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that left two people injured and a Mosul grenade attack with no reports of wounded but the US military fired at the thrower.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one person shot in Kirkuk (wounded).


Reuters notes 8 corpses discovered in Baquba.

military families speak out
andre shepherdjames ewinger
dahr jamail
thomas e. ricks
the new york timesalissa j. rubinsteven lee myersthe los angeles timesned parkercaeser ahmedsaif hameedthe washington posternesto londonomcclatchy newspaperstrenton danielmahdi al dulaymi

patrick mcgroarty
nprall things considered
kim gamel
the los angeles timestina susman

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Daschle, Iraqi women

"Daschle Withdraws Nomination for Cabinet Health Post" (The NewsHour update/commercial):

President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Health and Human Services Agency, Tom Daschle, has withdrawn his name for consideration for the post Tuesday amid controversy over some $140,000 in unpaid taxes, news agencies report. Obama said he accepted the withdrawal "with sadness and regret," according to a statement. In other Cabinet moves Tuesday, Obama nominated Republican Sen. Judd Gregg to be Commerce secretary on Tuesday, adding another GOP lawmaker to his Cabinet line-up. And Nancy Killefer, who failed for a year and a half to pay employment taxes on household help, withdrew her candidacy to be the first chief performance officer for the federal government on Tuesday. Killefer is the third Obama administration official to run into tax problems. Tonight on the NewsHour: Reporters from the New York Times, Washington Post and Politico rexamine Daschle's drop out and other Cabinet news.

I did watch the segment tonight but it is not posted at The NewsHour yet. Ruth said she was going to catch CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (if you're not, you haven't read Ava and C.I.'s "TV: Fate laughs at 2006's handicappers" yet -- and I made the link, instead of to the main page of the site, a link to their story on this topic tonight). Be sure to check out Ruth's site tonight because she's covering the topic again and has a great deal to say on it. She wrote about it last night in "Flattery." I didn't realize we were both covering the topic. If I had, I probably would have grabbed something else because I'm not (nor is Ruth) a flood-the-zone kind of type.

So Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination. Too late. He should have done it some time ago. But I am stopping there because I know what Ruth's planning to write about and I will just urge you to check that out. She has some really strong points about the long-range damage this has done.

"Woman accused of recruiting female suicide bombers held in Iraq" (Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times):

There was no way to independently verify the video's authenticity, but the use of female suicide bombers has soared in the last year. More than 30 women blew themselves up last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. U.S. and Iraqi officials say Sunni Arab insurgents have run short of male recruits and turned to women for the missions.

Suspected suicide bombers were among those rounded up in the sweep conducted in the 72 hours leading up to Saturday's elections, said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad and the surrounding region.

Hammond said attacks in the his area of command had dropped 80% since June 2007, part of a nationwide decrease in violence that was highlighted by the peaceful voting for new governing councils in 14 provinces.

Saved by the telephone. I'd put in a call to C.I. (a mutual friend needed a favor) and she just returned it. While on the phone, I mentioned that I really loved the part in today's snapshot regarding the woman being held by Iraqis. C.I. said, "Tina Susman's article on it might interest you." It did.

So, it appears, the Iraqi woman wasn't even arrested by Iraqis but was rounded up by US forces. No one knows if the woman is guilty -- she is accused of being some sort of resource/recruiter for female bombers -- and no one knows if the confession is valid. Considering Iraq's 'justice' system, there is ample reason for journalists to be even more skeptical than they are normally supposed to be.

I really think C.I. has owned this topic because she's covered it in depth going back some time now. (I can remember C.I.'s entries on this in 2007.) But it certainly is interesting how every woman who fights back against the occupation is seen as "sick" and in need of "treatment." As though the problem was something to do with their mental balance when, in fact, their reactions are neither uncommon nor strange considering that they live in an occupied country where they and their families are regularly targeted for being Iraqis in Iraq. That is really all it has taken.

I'm not even referring to the round-ups. There are the insults that are the home invasions and those are not tidy, little searches. It is dump the contents on the floor, rip up the mattresses, dump over things. The entire house is destroyed. Or you are driving down the road and there's a convoy of US military or US mercenaries and they run you off the road. If you're lucky, they just run you off the road. As the Baghdad residents learned September 16, 2007 (learned before, were reminded on the 16th), the unlucky ones are killed.

You see that, you see your child or your neighbor's child killed or starving, you're not really thrilled with occupying forces or the puppet they installed.

As C.I.'s explained so very well, it's not only a natural response, it's one that civilization has always been aware of. You can go back to the ancient myths and find the response. But we want to act today like it's something strange?

Or as if women in that position, responding with a natural reaction, are somehow 'sick' and in need of 'treatment'? That's a bit like thinking someone suffering from TB just needs a dose of cough syrup for everything to be fine and dandy.

The sickness is not the women, it's the illegal occupation.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, February 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, peace actions are scheduled to take place in the US, the US rushes to release Iraqi prisoners, more stories emerge on the provincial elections, and more.

Starting with an action that begins this week in the US.
Military Families Speak Out explains:

Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep
tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washgton to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A
teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.

A.N.S.W.E.R. explains:

We are organizing a Mass March on the Pentagon on Saturday, March 21, and it is important that you and your family, friends, co-workers and fellow students put on your marching shoes that day. People are coming from all over the country. Simultaneous demonstrations are taking place in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Why are we still marching even after the war criminal George W. Bush has left office? Because the people must speak out for what is right. More than 1 million Iraqis have died and tens of thousands of U.S. troops have been wounded or killed.
The Iraq and Afghanistan war will drag on for years unless we act now. The cost in lives and resources is criminal regardless of whether the Democrats or Republicans are in charge of the government.
[. . .]
If Bush's war and occupation of Iraq was an illegal action of aggression -- and it was -- how can the new government say that it can only gradually end the war over a number of years? The Iraqis don't want foreign military forces running their country. No one would!
The Pentagon has employed 200,000 foreign contractors (mercenaries) and 150,000 U.S. troops to maintain the occupation of Iraq. They have no right to be there. A few thousand are being brought out of Iraq only to be redeployed to occupy Afghanistan, and the fools in the media proclaim "the war is winding down." That is not true.
President Obama decided to keep the Pentagon just as it was under Bush. He even selected Bush appointee Robert Gates to keep his position as chief of the Pentagon. Gates announced that the new administration would double the number of troops sent to Afghanistan. That is certainly not the "change" most people though was coming following the end of Bush's tenure.

Meanwhile United for Peace and Justice is reportedly planning something. Soon. Any day now. If not action, maybe a series of glossy pin-up photos of Barack suitable for framing in the best fan-worshipping, Tiger Beat manner. Remember, United for Peace and Justice may be sleeping on the job but they are dreaming -- very moist and wet dreams. Someone change the sheets already.
Cindy Sheehan (World Can't Wait) calls it like it is:
Many anti-war activists are concentrated on insuring that Obama fulfills his campaign promises to withdraw "combat" troops from Iraq without having the integrity to demand complete withdrawal of all troops and a return to total sovereignty of the country to the people of Iraq, and are not questioning Obama's determination to double troop strength to Afghanistan.I think the US MIC empire needs to be destroyed, but I would prefer that we incorporate a voluntary reduction of empire, before the weight of The Empire® collapses like a house of cards on us; or on the innocents of Afghanistan.

In Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki demonstrates a puppet can be taught a few tricks. Among them, how to seize control of the daily news cycle.
Sinan Salaheddin (AP) repeats what al-Maliki's government is saying -- repeats instead of reporting. Samira Ahmed Jassim has confessed! There's a video of the woman allegedly also known as Umm al-Mumineen ("the mother of all believers") stating she is the one who has recruited over "80 female suicide bombers". The first sentence tells you she "has been arrested." You have to wade through many paragraphs to discover she was arrested January 21st. So the video confession is all the more doubtful and may have been produced under torture. (And bruises hide so much better when you're wearing "an all-ecompassing black Islamic robe".) If al-Mumineen is the or a recruiter, it really makes little difference. She's not a hypnotist -- if she is, that's the only allegation AP's forgotten to present as fact. At best, she provided an avenue to those already prepared to seek violence. It goes to the gender stereotypes of women to believe that they had to be 'corrupted.' The violent response on the part of some Iraqi women is a perfectly natural response to what they are living under. ("Natural" is not the same as "legal." But we're not addressing that. We are continuing to address the pathologizing of one gender.) Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) manages to cover the same government issued spin but manages to lower the frentic tabloid nature. But it's only Deborah Haynes (Times of London) who can use the term "suspect" in the first sentence of a report? Why is it only Haynes can refer to the DVD played at the press conference as an "apparent confession"?

To be clear, Haynes has done her job as a journalist. In any country, it is not the job of the press to take a government's claims and present them as fact. In a country where justice is a joke, where human rights organizations and the United Nations have documented reports of tortured confessions -- including from female prisoners -- a press that simply repeats claims of the government as fact isn't offering news. They are offering tabloid-style entertainment. Haynes also notes, "At least 36 female suicide bombers attempted or successfully carried out 32 suicide attacks last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to US military data." As we've noted before, there are many, many more male 'suicide bombers' than female. But there's something about when it's a woman that tends to make the press minds go all mushy. Maybe it's a sexual response (akin to the way some are turned up by a woman holding a gun -- on screen, in photos or in real life) or maybe it's panic that a woman would think of death. Oh goodness, it's also troubling and frightening -- apparently.

It's not impossible that Samira Ahmed Jassim has recruited women to be bombers and it's not impossible that she hasn't. She stands accused, she's not been tried. And those with any short term memory at all will remember last month when Iraqi officials told the press someone had expressed regret and then his family finally got to see him and, turns out, he didn't say what the Iraqi officials were telling the press. Whether Samira Ahmed Jassim is a recruiter for female bombers or not, the bombings will continue. And while CNN may think acknowledging that women in Iraq have "always" been part of the resistance by "helping feed militants, hiding them in their homes and helping to sneak weapons around the country," the women have been far more active. And note how passive that last phrase is. Women didn't sneak weapons, according to CNN, they helped to.

If Nouri's smart, he'll continue to play the press via women since he has so many willing cohorts in the press. Willing cohorts in the press? File it under "Not since Frank Pitcairn so desperately attacked the Trotskyites out of his love for Stalin has a professional journalist so disgraced himself," Patrick Cockburn found himself a true love: Nouri.
At the Independent of London, Patrick writes the kind of garbage that his own father (writing under the psuedonym Frank Pitcaim) would hold his nose at. Patrick write a valentine to Nouri and Nouri's amazing powers and . . . Patrick leaves out the part that he was out of Iraq for most of last month as he covered the assault on Gaza. Patty's been playing pocket pool around Nouri for months now and let's hope he's racking up an impressive score with that because he's leaving his journalist reputation in tatters.

Patty's thrilled with Nouri's awesome election 'power.' In the real world,
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) noted that while driving through Sadr City on Saturday (the day provincial elections were held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces) appeared to have far fewer people on the streets "than other parts of the city" (Baghdad). The paper's Jafar Jani reports, "Um Ali, 56, took her grandsons to the polling station on Saturday so they could dip their fingers in ink, which shows that people had voted, even though they were too young to cast a ballot. . . . Um Ali said she wanted her grandsons to remember this moment and feel the joy of voting in a free election." McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi correspondents surveyed West Baghdad on election day where 25-year-old Mohammed Allawi stated, "What optimism?? We are an occupied country. I am voting only so that my vote will not be stolen by the corrupt people who are willing to do anything to remain firm on their seats. But it seems I am not even considered an Iraqi citizen -- I can't find my name anywhere -- and my family has been in Ameriyah nearly forty hears." Two women explain, "We couldn't vote! We couldn't find our names. We have been to two centres, and aim to go on looking until we find them or are too tired to go on." Over and over, voices from West Baghdad reveal that they had trouble voting. Hmm. Could the puppet have learned from Florida 2000? Could the puppet, knowing west Baghdad was always anti-Maliki, have pulled off purging voter rolls? Who knows? But with low voter turnout it's amazing that so many Iraqis -- throughout the country -- repeatedly tell that they had to visit more than one polling station over and over. What -- however it happens -- appears to be a very serious problem results in this 'response' from election commission chair Faraj al-Haidari, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." The voters are lazy. That's the problem. Voters who went from polling station to polling station -- mainly on foot. They're lazy. That's the problem. That's what the story's going to be?

Apparently so -- if
Sam Dagher and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) are going to continue to suffer from Patrick Cockburn Disease. The two attempt to hail Basra as a victory for Nouri -- who was not running in the elections. Despite the fact that Basra had an incredibly low turnout, they see the vote as an endorsement of Nouri. The non-participation rate reads like a rejection of the so-called government on every level. And if you lived in Basra when it was under assault (March 2008) maybe you'd take the attitude of "I'm not voting" as well? Your local government didn't protect you when al-Maliki and thugs rolled into town. One level of government assaulted you and the other stood by. Why bother to vote? Based on the preliminary turnout, what can be argued about Basra can be argued about the bulk of Iraq which is why turnout was so low. 26% more registered voters voted in 2005 than voted on Saturday. Dahger and Myers declare, "In choosing Mr. Maliki, many in the south seemed willing to sacrifice more local considerations like patronage." A) Basra was assaulted and the local government did nothing to protect it. Yes, you will find some people who support the assault -- and you can even quote him as the paper does -- but the bulk of the people did not approve (as was obvious at the time and is obvious in the voter turnout). That's why they stayed home. As for 'patronage,' al-Maliki went around the country promising everything or are we supposed to forget his multiple attempts at bribery via promises regarding local services all the way up to 'The US is leaving Iraq in less than 16 months! It is so, it is true! Because I, al-Maliki, say it!'? al-Maliki didn't play the patronage game? Worse for the two reporters, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) filed today: The prime minister has sought to boost his party, which favors a strong central government, over another Shiite faction, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, which supports a semiautonomous Shiite Muslim region in the south. Maliki has named Issawi to head a local tribal body funded by his office, and appointed one of the sheik's sons to a job in Baghdad. He has summoned Issawi to conferences in the capital city, where he has listened to his ideas for the nation's future. Observers say that if Maliki wins a large share of provincial council seats in the oil-rich southern provinces, it is in large part because of his diligent wooing of men like Issawi. al-Maliki attempted that in every province. Note the last observation "Observers say that if Maliki wins a large share of provincial council seats in the oil-rich southern provinces, it is in large part because of his diligent wooing of men like Issawi." Basra recently attempted to become it's own federation, like the KRG in the north. The effort failed. Let's note CNN's first sentence when reporting on that, "A drive to boost the political and economic power of Iraq's oil-rich southern province of Basra has failed, Iraqi election officials said Wednesday." Oil-rich? Check. Southern province? Check. Ned Parker one more time, "Observers say that if Maliki wins a large share of provincial council seats in the oil-rich southern provinces, it is in large part because of his diligent wooing of men like Issawi."

The results are still not final and already there's a concentrated effort to spin the elections results in non-candidate Nouri's favor. Reality, as
Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Voter turnout in Iraq's provincial elections Saturday was the lowest in the nation's short history as a new democracy despite a relative calm across the nation. Only about 7.5 million of more than 14 million registered voters went to the polls. Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout also is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little."

Meanwhile there is news on the Iraqi prisoner front.
AFP reports that 70 Iraqis imprisoned by the US military were released today and that the US military claims they will begin releasing approximately "50 a day." That would mean 1,500 a month and, at the end of October, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) noted the US had 17,000 Iraqis imprisoned. In December, John Catalinotto (Workers World) estimated the US had 50,000 Iraqi prisoners in custody? Regardless of the number, they were all supposed to be released or turned over to the Iraqis on January 1st per the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. That treaty went into effect January 1st. It is February 3rd when this rush measure suddenly takes place. At 1,500 a month -- whether the total is 17,000 or 50,000 -- it's going to take some time for the US to release the prisoners -- a task they were supposed to have completed no later than January 1, 2009. Remember that the next time someone starts insisting, "Well the SOFA says . . ."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baquba roadside bombings in a ten minute span that wounded five people, 1 bomber blew himself up in Kirkuk, a Mosul roadside bombing left four people inured, and, dropping back to last night, a Kirkuk mortar attack but the mortar proved to be inert and there were no reported injuried. Reuters notes six were wounded in the two Baquba roadside bombings and a Kirkuk roadside bombing that left two people injured.


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul. Iraq Body Count notes two corpses were discovered yesterday in Makhmour. [Note: Iraq Body Count has a slideshow presentation online here.]

Meanwhile the
Green Party has weighed in on the healthcare debate (this is a Green issue, they've weighed in many times already but this is the first since the presidential inauguration):

President Obama has a choice -- he can either work for universal health care or he can satisfy the demands of insurance industry lobbies for continued private profit, said Green Party leaders today.Greens, in demanding a Single-Payer national health care program (also called Medicare For All), said that there was no possibility of guaranteed quality health care for every American under a market-based system. Rep. John Conyers' (D-Mich.) bill for Single-Payer (HR 676, has strong Green Party support, although many Greens also hope to see complementary medicine brought under the Single-Payer umbrella."President Obama needs to follow his own campaign rhetoric and listen to the American people. In many of his own town hall meetings, the demand for Single-Payer has been so strong that [Secretary of Health and Human Services] Tom Daschle has asked to meet with Single-Payer groups. Single-Payer will make health care a human right -- one more important than the 'right' of insurance companies to make a profit off our need for health care," said said Mark Dunlea, New York Green, member of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, and author of "Can Incrementalism Be the Path to Universal Health Care?" ( Party leaders expressed special support for pro-Single-Payer organizations and coalitions that have shifted into high gear under the new presidential administration, including the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, Healthcare-NOW, California Nurses Association, and Physicians for a National Health Program."President Obama's plan to have all medical records computerized within five years has made Single-Payer even more urgent. The plan will create an enormous risk for patients' privacy and security, as private health insurers try to weaken privacy safeguards and gain access to records in an effort to exclude people from coverage, or make coverage more expensive for clients they consider high-risk. HMOs and insurance firms make their profits by cherry-picking patients who are less costly to insure and by limiting treatment for those with coverage, so they use medical records to determine who will be a financial risk. The only way to guarantee both protection from predatory corporations and access to health care for all Americans is to enact a Single-Payer program," said Jill Bussiere, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States.Greens have argued that enactment of a Single-Payer program would boost the ailing US economy and provide relief for businesses large and small, since it would cancel the high expense and administrative burden of employer-based health care benefits ( Single-Payer would lower the cost of health care for all middle- and low-income Americans, since the amount of taxes necessary to sustain Single-Payer would be far less than the cost of private coverage and medical fees. No American will go bankrupt because of a medical emergency in a Single-Payer system.President Obama, despite supporting Single-Payer earlier in his political career, now favors a health care plan that would maintain private insurance industry control over Americans' health care. Profit-making insurance, HMO, and pharmaceutical lobbies have a grip on most Democratic and Republican members of Congress because of campaign contributions and the influence of lobbyists.Montana Senator Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, wants the Single-Payer option "off the table" in the discussion on health care reform and, along with other Democrats, has proposed a market-based plan that would achieve universal coverage by requiring Americans who lack health coverage to purchase insurance from a private company."There will be no meaningful improvement in our nation's health care system or any chance of universal care until Single-Payer is enacted and profit-making insurance companies no longer decree who gets care and what kind of care," said Jody Grage, treasurer of the Green Party of the United States. "Any 'mandate' reform plan that leaves private insurers in charge will either result in inadequate care or in huge taxpayer-funded subsidies to cover the loss of profits for HMOs and insurance companies compelled to cover people these companies would otherwise exclude. Single-Payer will cover all Americans regardless of age, income, or prior medical condition, and by eliminating the need for private insurers and the high profit rate they demand.""Even state based Single-Payer initiatives are being undermined by the president's insurance-based proposal. Here in Pennsylvania we have a strong bill, with the funding included and a governor who has agreed to sign the legislation if passed ( Yet the Healthcare for All Now campaign, which supports the Obama plan, is trying to give the illusion of change, while maintaining the inefficient, exploitative insurance model. It amounts to a waste of tax dollars to provide more government money to insurance companies," said Carl Romanelli, 2006 Pennsyvlania Green candidate for the US Senate.Read "An International Perspective on Health Care Reform" by Connecticut Green Party member John R. Battista, MD (, published on the Green Party's web site as part of "The First 100 Days: What Would a Green Administration Look Like?" ( a comparison of mandate plans and Single-Payer , see "Talking Points: Why the mandate plans won't work, and why Single-Payer 'Medicare for All' is what we need" by Len Rodberg, PhD, published by Physicians for a National Health Program ( Party information page on Single-Payer:

Meanwhile, the Green Party's 2008 presidential nominee
Cynthia McKinney (World Can't Wait) explains why the Bush administration needs to be prosecuted and also notes:

One of the first underreported acts of President Obama was to sign an order continuing the drone airstrikes, resulting in at least 22 killed so far. For the dead children of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Gaza, it doesn't matter to their parents if the bomb was dropped by Bush or Obama or the client state they support. And President Obama has made it clear that the bombs will continue to drop; it is up to us--the people of the United States--to stop them. That's why it was on my birthday, in front of the Pentagon in 2007, that I declared my independence from every bomb dropped, every child killed, every veteran maimed in the name of U.S. wars. I said it, and I meant it, and I knew I was going to have to do something I'd never done before if I was ever going to have something I'd never had before. So I left the Democratic Party. I don't regret my decision one minute. I draw my strength from Dr. King, who in his own way, did the same thing when he refused to segregate his moral concerns. My neighborhood in Los Angeles, Watts and South Central, is already a police state. Tonight, 25 to 30 young black men, standing handcuffed, outside the barber shop. Every night, routine dehumanization is carried out in black and brown neighborhoods by LAPD. I see it. I never miss it. It's all around me. Oscar Grant murdered in cold blood by law enforcement. Robert Tolan, shot in cold blood by law enforcement, for driving his father's car, mistaken for stolen.
Filiberto Ojeda Rios assassinated by the U.S. government; I met his wife and heard the entire story of what happened as he was shot by the FBI and then bled to death. Innocent black and brown and poor white men on death row. How many Troy Davises and Mumia Abu Jamals will we allow to exist in our country?Native Americans trying to survive despite genocide and ethnic cleansing, struggle against drug and alcohol abuse and poverty, and try to keep their culture alive.And yet the likes of Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi, and now Barack Obama say nothing about the pain I see on the mean streets and reservations across our country, and the miscarriages of justice that are its regular feature, but they allow Bush and company to get away with the highest of crimes, involving millions of deaths.

cindy sheehan
jomana karadsheh
sinan salaheddin
deborah haynes
leila fadelmcclatchy newspapers
the new york timessam daghersteven lee myersthe los angeles timesned parker
gina chon
the wall street journal

patrick cockburn