Friday, March 27, 2009


Rebecca: Last Friday, we did our fourth Iraq roundtable and were planning to get back to our regular postings this Friday. Something changed. Including a bad press conference staged by the Feminist Majority Foundation on Afghanistan -- a topic we also recently roundtabled on. We're going to move to Afghanistan quickly and then to Iraq but we'll start with something else first. Participating tonight are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava; me, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude, Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Marcia of SICKOFITRADLZ and Ruth of Ruth's Report. Betty and Cedric are joining us by phone. The rest of us are at Trina's and we need to do a thing from Trina first before we get to Afghanistan.

Trina: Thank you. Five different women e-mailed me and I was planning on addressing this tonight, Rebecca's letting me here. You've made some form of hamburger helper or some combination of noodles and have leftovers. Grab a small can of tomato sauce -- eight ounce and some cheese, mix it in together with the leftovers and then heat on the stovetop or in the microwave oven. If it won't go with tomatoes, add two tablespoons of sour cream and some cheese. Cheese is grated in both cases. It will add some zip to the leftovers. That's a question that came up in five e-mails and I have e-mailed the tip to the women but if they're asking, with this economy, a lot of other people are wondering as well. The ecoonomy is in crisis and the news today included some states were seeing double digit unemployment.

Rebecca: Glad you covered it and agree that if it's popping up in the e-mails a lot of people are asking. For those who don't Trina's site, she talks about Iraq, the economy and cooking. Okay, now we're moving to Afghanistan and Ava and C.I. can comment on the press conference by Feminist Majority Foundation. They can not, repeat NOT, comment on Barack's press conference this morning. Why? Jim's wants a piece on that at Third this weekend. Due to that, Ava and C.I. agreed to say nothing about Barack's 'same way to quagmirel' plan on Afghanistan -- and that's their phrase, by the way. Ava and C.I. are taking notes throughout and Trina's grabbing when one of them nods to her. So thank you to the three of them for that. Ava and C.I. will type this up and it will appear at the sites of all participating. So Betty, I'm going to let you set us up.

Betty: We did an Afghanistan roundtable a few weeks ago and did it when the administration was floating playing footsie with the Taliban. We called it out and stood firm. Today the very weak Feminist Majority Foundation held a very weak press conference featuring the very weak Eleanor Smeal and the very weak Dr. Sima Samar.

Elaine: I think Betty just did the perfect set-up and I'll argue that not only did the Feminist Majority Foundation need to be stronger, they were required to be as a result of being silent for so long. Where were they? Where were they when it mattered?

Marcia: No where to be found and showing up today with weakness.

Rebecca: Trina, you're going to grab the notes here? Okay, she's nodding. Ava and C.I., I'm bringing you too in now.

Ava: As Betty, Elaine and Marcia have pointed out, it was very weak. It was a very weak, weak-ass embarrassment. We heard about it as it was happening from enraged feminists who feel this is yet another example of how Eleanor Smeal is not fit to be a leader. For example, the Taliban? Never mentioned until the questions. Smeal and Samar both spoke at length, never mentioned the Taliban. Avoided the issue because heaven forbid the damn asshole Barack Obama be called out. It was pathetic, it was embarrassing and it was shameful. If we thought it was bad, and we did, when 'leaders' sold out women to cozy up to the homophobic and sexist Barack, it was even worse to see that press conference.

C.I.: As Ava just explained, the Taliban would have gone unmentioned if reporters hadn't raised the issue. That fact totally neutralizes the very bad, very shoddy press conference that was so bad that Eleanor couldn't even get tired phrases correct. Example, she meant to say women were the "canaries in the coal mine" and instead said they were the "canaries in the mine." There's a difference. And there's a difference between being prepared and standing in front of the press and babbling away like two idiots.

Ava: And there's a difference between covering your hair and not covering your hair. If the doctor wanted her hair covered, she should have dressed appropriately. Her non-stop grabbing her little bonnet and putting it back on her head was a distraction. And if "little bonnet" is offensive, f**k you, your press conference was offensive. We spoke to twelve Afghanistan women and the level of fury over Eleanor little stunt is off the charts. Eleanor being called a "whore" is one of the nicer things said. Afghan women got sold out today.

C.I.: Yeah, that was about the nicest thing anyone said about Eleanor Smeal today. Now some might argue, "Well, they were thrown because they scheduled the press conference today and then Barack had one at the same time." Too damn bad. They should have scheduled a press conference immediately. We're also fully aware that the two press conferences going on at the same time didn't just happen. Eleanor can play dumb all she wants, but it didn't just happen. And it didn't just happen that the 'neediest of the cases' Eleanor could bring up was a man. She spoke about an Afghanistan man for nearly a minute which was thirty seconds more than, for example, she gave to Afghan women who had acid thrown in their face.

Ava: It was the most telling moment. As my aunt said, "That's Eleanor and that's all that's wrong with the leadership." There she was sucking up to a man, on her knees, kissing his knob instead of helping women. One little Afghan man matters more than anything else. Boo f**king who, Eleanor Smeal.

C.I.: We're referring to the male reporter. And Eleanor couldn't stop babbling about him. The point was -- as her incoherent, unplanned babbling continued -- a man matters more than a woman or many women. That's what she did by making one man, imprisoned unfairly -- no question, more the focus than any Afghan woman. A woman can be nailed to a tree alive, she can have acid thrown in her face, she can be killed in front of children, you name it. But she is not as important as a man.

Ava: Because the male reporter was a man and it is apparently a sign of importance when a man actually thinks beyond himself. Now women, we're supposed to do that, but Eleanor is so blown away that some guy could be a big boy and actually leave his own isolated world for a second or two that she makes him a god, she dresses him up like a god and, as C.I. explained, through her emphasis and the amount of time she gives him, makes it all about him. He gets more time from Eleanor than any Afghan woman. He hasn't been tortured as far as anyone knows. He is just the victim of injust justice system and, word to Ellie, there are many Afghan women that are the victims of the 'legal' system.

Rebecca: Okay, Betty had a point and I want to bring her in on it. And then if there's a comment from anyone else, that's fine, but otherwise I'm going to toss back to Ava and C.I. who are going to transition us into Iraq. Not immediately, but they're going to take us from that bad press conference to Iraq. Betty?

Betty: I watched the press conference online this evening when I got a call inviting me to the roundtable. I found it offensive that a reporter wanted to say Laura Bush worked on the Afghan issue so what are Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton going to do? That was the question. Hillary is not a First Lady, she is the Secretary of State, she is a former, twice elected US Senator. And this was not pointed out by the hideous Ellie Smeal who did find time to brag about how 'as we all know' Michelle's a feminist. What? Michelle's gone out of her way to reject the feminist label verbablly, she's said she doesn't consider herself one and that's before we get to her actions that I'm tabling because I'm going to pitch it at Third.

Kat: Jim will love that, that we're all coming in prepared to pitch stuff for the edition. This may be all I say the entire edition but Feminist Wire Daily has a an item on it and they seem to forget that we live in an online world. By that I mean, they're telling you that CSPAN aired it live and CSPAN will repeat it. Excuse me, you can watch it online right now at CSPAN. Click on ""Feminist Majority Foundation Press Conference on Afghan Women and Girls (March 27, 2009)" and you can watch it when you want.

Rebecca: Thank you for that. Anyone who wants to watch the conference can via the link. We've got Stan, Wally and Cedric participating -- and we're thrilled to have them -- and I want to be sure that they know they can jump in anytime they want. I've got nods from Stan and Wally. Cedric, I can't see you.

Cedric: Yeah, I'll jump in when needed but I'm really enjoying this and eager to hear Ava and C.I. again. I'm on the phone so, just out of curiousity, how are they handing off to each other?

Rebecca: When one of them winds down speaking, as they're on the last sentence, they nod to each other. And on that, I'm tossing back to them. Ava?

Ava: The press conference was so offensive. Now the woman who should have been speaking wasn't the increasingly chubby Ellie Smeal. Why was she there? There was no reason for it and to hear her weak ass non-mea culpa just underscored that. Ellie Smeal got in bed with the Bush administration and helped bring the world the Afghanistan War.

C.I.: And yet, she couldn't get honest about that. She could just refer to meetings and how there were 'hopes.' Ellie, the hopes bit you in your fat ass. You're not supposed to be the leader of Hopey Town, you're supposed to live in the real world. In 2001, Ellie was smitten with George W. Bush, today's she's in love with Barack Obama. In both instances, women suffer. The press conference did not play like it was about helping Afghan women -- it played like it existed to promote the CIA's war that became a full blown one in 2001.

Ava: Exactly. The press conference existed to promote war and to provide cover. Just like Ellie Smeal did in 2001. Is trashy Ellie Smeal CIA? That was the question. Feminism is not about war. Feminism is about peace. If Ellie Smeal wants to go to war, she needs to enlist.

C.I.: Ellie's 'so glad,' she explained, that the foucs is back on Afghanistan where, in her opinion, it matters. And she's so very happy about the 60,000 US service members that will be stationed in Iraq. She's practically fingering herself with glee at the idea of a ramped up Afghanistan War.

Ava: And it's what matters, she explained. They matter, the Afghan women, and Iraq was a distraction, Ellie explained.

C.I.: Explained or spat into the face of Iraqi women? Iraqi women don't matter. They -- and the damage the US has done to their lives -- is a distraction. But Ellie's going to throw her big ole ass down and make sure we all pay attention to Afghan women and ingore Iraqi women.

Ava: Iraqi women don't matter because we have to 'save' Afghan women. We have to 'save' them and then, of course, we'll have to 'save' Iraqi women because we refuse to take seriously what has been done to their lives and what is being done to their lives.

C.I.: War is not a feminist value and Ellie Smeal has turned into a War Hawk. The Feminist Majority Foundation needed to call out the Afghanistan War but, just as they couldn't call out the cozying up to the Taliban talk, they couldn't call out that war that has accomplished nothing -- most wars don't -- unless the goal was to further destroy the lives of Afghanistan women. The thing to do was to argue for how improvements can be attempted for Afghanistan women and that wasn't possible.

Ava: Because doing so would have required repudiating the Afghanistan War. Would have called for demanding a timeline to end the Afghanistan War and made clear markers for what needed to be done prior to the withdrawal. Instead, Ellie Smeal used the Feminist Majority Foundation to put a happy smile on the administration. It was disgraceful.

C.I.: Both women disgraced themselves and the doctor was as bas as Smeal. They both worshiped Bush as 2001 wound down, today they worship Obama. It's a damn shame that old and old looking women can't act their age and learn the power in women as opposed to seeking to bask in the power of men.

Ava: Which brings us back to the emphasis Ellie placed on men. One Afghan man was worth more talk from Ellie than any Afghan women because, again, for Ellie it's not about women discovering their own power or using their own power. For Ellie, feminism is all about basking in the glow of a penis. She's a disgrace.

C.I.: And the Feminist Majority Foundation has done nothing to raise the awareness on Iraqi women. But they did spend the last few years promoting 'security' conferences with War Hawks. Females ones, you understand. NSA, CIA, those types. And they pretended that it was about 'security' and 'peace,' but all it was about was trying to whore feminism's good name out to promote more wars.

Wally: I'll jump in now because I was present for a group talk, where Ava and C.I. were talking to Afghanistan activists, women, this afternoon, and they were ticked. Ava and C.I. can't begin to explain how outraged the women are. There is huge, huge anger over that little stunt -- and I conisder it a stunt and agreed with the activist who said the press conference was fake and a put-on intended to promote Barack.

Rebecca: Okay. Kat, you were present and I was present too. Do you want to add anything to Wally said?Kat: He's right. I mean, there was just so much outrage, so much of a sense of betrayal -- that, yet again, Afghan women were being used by American women as pawns to push their own agendas. "Their own agendas" meaning American women's agendas. There was such huge outrage and let me note that the 'good' doctor is a War Hawk, she's been plugging war on the Sudan for some time.

Rebecca: That was the one point I was going to raise. You beat me to it. So the Feminist Majority Foundation made it clear that war is the answer -- thereby explaining why they refuse to demand an end to the Iraq War or to raise awareness on the plight of Iraqi women. Iraqi women suffer. In today's snapshot, an Iraqi woman who moved to Lebanon with her family after threats and the slaughter of her daughter, talks about what happened, how one day her daughter didn't come home from school, how she was kidnapped. How she was raped, tortured and murdered and then her body was dumped in the town to send a message. Any thoughts on that?

Stan: I watched that video and, first off, thanks to C.I. for the transcription in the snapshot and for linking to the video. I really everyone who can stream that video needs to do so. Those stories in the video . .. they'll tear you apart. For anyone who hasn't read the snapshot yet today, C.I.'s emphasizing the plight of Iraqi refugees. And I'm assuming one reason is because the disgusting Andrew White is trying to get back in the news on the backs of Iraq's religious minorities.

Marcia: I agree and want to add, I'm a racial minority. I don't know why anyone would be offended for being called a religious minority -- as Andrew White attempts to insist they are -- but I really don't care. I don't think it's true but I don't care regardless. Ruth, you're a religious minority. Is the phrase offensive to you?

Ruth: Not at all. I am Jewish, a religious minority. I have always known that. It is not a secret. I know the Jewish Iraqi population is now predominately refugees but I cannot imagine any of them being offended by being called a religious minority. We know we are, Jews know this. That is why it was so easy to round us up and target us during the Holocaust. And if I could go futher, Andrew White is responsible for one of Baghdad's many churches. It is the only Anglican church. He cannot speak for all of Iraq's religious minorities, he does not even know them. He is someone who truly needs to learn to stop issuing orders and start listening.

Cedric: For me, I have this entire host of issues regarding Andrew White including not being able to get over the fact that this War Cheerleader who was cheerleading in the leadup to the illegal war got money from the US government, from the Defense Dept, in 2008. Tax payer money. US tax payer money went to him. Are we going to find out tomorrow that our money in 2008 also went to pay Ahmed Chalabi?

Trina: Yeah. I, yeah. I agree completely, Cedric. What were they thinking? As C.I. points out, the Christian community in Iraq has more ties to the Catholic Church. That's what you've got in Baghad and Mosul and all over. Andrew White? He's responisble for what is the Church of England which only had one church in all of Iraq. Why the heck was US tax payer money going to him? He knows nothing about the situation, he doesn't leave the Green Zone -- expect when visiting his family in England for months at a time each year -- because his church is in the Green Zone. He's a huckster and no American tax payer dollars should have ever gone to him.

Rebecca: I want to toss out something C.I. floated in the snapshot today. Using Latin America as an example, the horrors inflicted on them by the US and the US proxies, C.I. talked about how they were able to lie, the US government and the media, and get away with it but today reality is widely known and one reason is due to the fact that the refugees surfaced around the world and told the truth.

Betty: I agree with that absolutely. C.I. was specifically talking about the world church community and I can remember being a young girl and we would have people from, El Salvador, for example, visit us and explain what had happened. I never really knew of the disinformation campaign by the government and the media until the 90s when I was reading a book. And, for any who don't know, I'm talking about a Black church, in Georgia. And we had many, many refugees come through to speak to us. And that is why I know about the death squads the US government backed, armed, trained and funded and the torture that was used and how CIA agents would be present for the torture but not do the actual torture because that could get them prosecuted. So they farmed it out but supervised the torture.

Marcia: I'm up north, African-American church, and we did and do get the survivors from regimes coming to share their stories. To be Black in America, my opinion, means to trace back to slaves so for our churches, it is about this adversity, it is about government cruelty and government abuses. That's what slavery was, that's what the death squads in El Salvador were. So when you have, for example, Christians from El Salvador speaking, it is going to register with our churches. And I do agree that it is the pipeline for the realities and will be the pipeline for the realities about what's really taken place in Iraq.

Mike: Let me jump in. I'm Catholic. Boston. And, we always have visitors come through and we do hear stories of abuses and horrors and I think it's that way across the country.

Kat: Catholic to Catholic, I'll jump in. California, Bay Area, my whole life, and, yes, and, yes, especially with Latin America which is a region with a large number of Catholics. We had a constant source of information -- even during the disinformation from Reagan and the media -- about what was taking place. Trina, would it be the same in Boston? Back during the eighties? I know Mike's talking about now. But back then?

Trina: Yes, completely. From the entire region, which the US was attempting to destabilize by backing groups like the contras. In terms of El Salvador, I can remember the first time, in Church, that we heard about Sister Ita Ford, Sister Maura Clark, Sister Dorothy Kazel and layworker Jean Donovan being murdered December 2, 1980. And we actually had a group speaking, two or three, to us when the news had hit that the murderers were being paroled. That was like 18 years later. There is very much a social network in America's churches -- of all religions. And that's as true on the right as it is on the left

Stan: There was another point floated and I liked it as well. Not all right-wing churches were for the war, in this country, for the Iraq War. But a number were and it's so great that they, as much as centrist churches and left churches, will be part of getting the truth out about what was done in Iraq. Bully Boy Bush installed fundamentalist thugs and in doing so created the slaughter of Christians in Iraq. He's never going to overcome that with most people as these stories are heard over the next years.

Cedric: Am I jumping in on anyone?

Rebecca: That was me, clearing my throat, go ahead, Cedric.

Cedric: I have to say I agree with Stan. This is the system that is going to get the word out for future generations. And the reason is, so few care about Iraq today. Look around the country, you'll see it's true. But Christians, American Christians, faced with tales of slaughter, Christian slaughter? That's going to be discussed and addressed and some churches will put it into a historical context and more end-of-times-types will see it as a sign and it's going to go across right and left and just really saturate the culture. George W. Bush, alleged Christian man, unleased a slaughter on Christians in Iraq. That's not forgotten and it will be the takedown on his legacy.

Wally: Because while the so-called 'alternative' media will rush to forget and hitchike to other causes, this will not go away within the American Christian community.

Rebecca: Mike and Elaine both spoke the least and Mike spoke more recently than Elaine so I'll toss to her for a close.

Elaine: I think the Jews have a legacy and they pass it on. I believe Muslims do the same. And I believe Christians do as well. When any of those groups are targeted -- and I'm sure this is true for other religious groups -- the targeting is taken personally worldwide and it becomes part of the religion's narrative. Iraqi Christians were targeted and this is now folded into the larger struggles that Christians have gone through at other times. The same for Iraqi Jews and Iraqi Muslims -- who, of course, were also targeted.

Rebecca: Alright. That's the end of the roundtable. This is a rush transcript.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, March 27, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the largest refugee crisis in the world continues, Odierno raises a concern regarding Kirkuk, KBR's back in hot water, and more.

War Hawk and Professional Liar
Andrew White shows up today at the Telegraph of London to remind that some collars are dirty -- extremely dirty. He tosses around various 'facts' but after getting caught out lying in a public hearing about the number of Jews in Iraq (he claimed they were all gone when he knew that was a lie -- what he didn't know was that reporters were present, he threw a fit when he learned out his 'testimony' was on the public record) we'll ignore any claims he make that don't have to do with his own self-serving and fat ass: "I am a minority here in saying that the war had to happen and Saddam had to be removed, but I was here in Iraq before the last war. I saw the fear and debauchery of the regime. I still do not denounce the war, but what happened afterwards was worse than terrible. It was awful for all but particularly for those groups who are small in number. I do not call them minorities because they themselves object to that term. It does not mater if they are Mandeans, Yazidees, Turkman, Fali Kurds or Christians -- they have all suffered, been marginalised and forgotten by the masses." You'd think that in so short a passage, White could be quoted without lying but that's underestimating him. He uses the term "minorities" all the time to describe them. He did so at speaking before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom in July of 2007. He did so throughout 2008 and did so promoting that bad book that the entire world avoided. (To read his blog post in full is to assume he spends every day in Iraq. That's not true. He has a wife and kids and stays with them regularly . . . in England.) It's really cute that he wants to claim the illegal war was worth it while noting explaining publicly how much it was worth . . . to him personally. Not just from his blood-money soaked books but the US Defense Department gave him their own version of Publisher's Clearing House Sweepstakes last year and he cashed it, he banked it. All that money -- all that US tax payer money -- funneled to his own personal Foundation for Relief and Reconciliation in the Middle East and where's the improvement? Where's the advance for Iraqi Christians? There is none.

Things are worse now for Iraqi Chrisitans than they were last year. Every year they get worse but Andrew White got a pay day and that's what really matters . . . to him. And anyone who knows even a little about the culture in Iraq would have grasped White wasn't just an outsider, he was an outsider who could never bridge the gap with larger Iraqi culture. It went far beyond him being a Christian. But despite all the anthropologists like Monty McFate the DoD puts on their payroll (or maybe because of those idiots) no one ever grasped that reality. Andrew White can't speak to Iraqis. And that includes but is not limited to the fact that he can't speak Arabic or Aramaic. He speaks English. And the US Defense Department decided to throw away tax payer money on him? That's insane. It's equally insane that as late as 2008, the government was giving money to someone who advocated for the Iraq War in the lead up and made predictions that never came to pass (easy, brief war). Andrew White is a menace to the planet and his vanity organization has never accomplished a damn thing. He tries to present himself as speaking for all of Iraq's Christian minorities and the reality is that he doesn't. The Catholic Church speaks for more of Iraqi Christian population and White can't speak for them either, he's Church of England -- created so Henry V could get a divorce. All of the Christian churches in Iraq (in 2003 and in today) and only one church (Baghdad's St. George's Church) was Anglican. No, White never represented or spoke for most Iraqi Christians or other religious minorities.
DPA reported last night, "In the second such killing in as many days, police on Thursday said they had found the body of another member of the minority Yezidi sect murdered near the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Police said the man had been shot in the head and in the chest, and that his body was found in the Bashiqa district east of Mosul". Again, no change, no improvement.

Sahar S. Gabriel is one of the Iraqis employed by the New York Times and she noted this week (at the paper's Baghdad Bureau Blog), in contrast to Andy White, "We didn't like him [Saddam] much but he protected the Christians in Iraq, though we did not know to what extent. We didn't know what kind of evils were waiting for us when he wasn't ruling. Not that I am saying in any way that we want him back or that he was our savior. Before 2003 we never really heard of the Islamist movements which became so powerful later. We weren't aware that there were people who would target Christians. I had never even heard of the Sadr family. I had never heard of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim, the Badr Brigades." This video by Beirut, Lebanon's Chaldean Church traces the attacks on Iraqi Christians and starts the timeline with a demand that the cross on St. John the Baptist Church in Baghdad and other demands as well as removals, followed by bombings. At some point, the US will have to answer for what happened. The US decided to push the Shi'ite thugs -- the ones Sahar S. Gabriel's explaining she had never heard of -- and promote them. Thugs were easier to pay off and wink-wink 'keep the peace'. What laws may prevent you from doing, thugs will gladly carry out. There were techoncrats, secularists, academics, etc. in Iraq. It was not the fundamentalist nation-state it's becoming. But the US backed the fundamentalists and you either left the country or you went along (at least publicly) with the thugs. That's the story of the illegal war and occupation and while a large number of people may think it can be denied the reality is it cannot. It cannot be buried or hidden because Christians around the world will not allow it to be. That's the fact that the Bully Boy Bush White House wasn't aware of, didn't grasp. Watch the video, see (yet again) the comparisons of what's happening to Iraqi Christians to what was done to Christians in earlier times. Grasp that this is a very personal issue and that demands for answers will come. Long after this falls out of the headlines, long after the illegal war is over, Iraqi Christians will still be entering other countries and they will be telling their stories. The US (under Carter -- yes, St. Jimmy -- and Reagan) thought they could get away with some of the worst human rights crimes in Latin America. And they might have. But the stories were and are told. And though the US media looked the other way or outright supported these assaults in real time, the realities are known today. And those stories reached the wider audience via the refugees and the church groups. Despite the fact that Bully Boy Bush courted and won some support from US Christians for his illegal war at the onset (there were vocal Chrisian leaders and churches in the US against the planned Iraq War), it is this same community, this same network that will spend the next decades getting the reality out on the slaughters the US invasion brought about.

video features (you can also click here if you have any problems with the first link) an Iraqi family telling their story. The mother worked for their church and the father ran a liquor store. Those were the family's 'crimes.' And for that, their daughter was raped, tortured and killed.

Viviane's mother: They used to go to school together [her two daughters]. On that day her sister was sick and returned at nine from school, but Viviane stayed there. She usually returns at one p.m. She didn't show up, so I started to worry. I said maybe she stopped at her friends who live nearby. So I went to them and asked why didn't Viviane come back home? They said "there was a black Opel, which blocked our way, as we were getting back from school, with four gunmen in it. Two of them stepped out and grabbed Viviane threatening us with their machine guns and ordering us to go directly home. Then they left with Viviane, kidnapped." I heard all that and started beating myself. I returned home and notified my parents and my father-in-law. We waited for a phone call to find out what they wanted. At seven p.m. they called and I asked them whether they wanted money or anything else. They answered, "No, we don't want money. We want to break your heart because we consider her father a traitor." And he hung up. My brother tried to dial back their number but they didn't answer. Five, six days passed by. On the seventh day at six a.m. some young men from the neighborhood came by screaming. They said, "There is a dead girl thrown in the square and we fear she might be your daughter." Everyone in the area knew that our daughter was kidnapped. We all went there running. We saw her. They had covered her with a bed sheet. Her chest was all burnt. Her face disfigured. She was disfigured, raped many times and tortured. She had been bleeding to death. We made the arrangements for the funeral and buried her in our village.

If you're able to stream, the video has captioning. You'll be able to watch the way discussing the brutal assault on Viviane still pains the family. Viviane's sister explains, "I want to study and become like all other children. Not like what I am doing now: go to work from early morning till late at night. And we see nothing but humilitation. This one shouts at you from here, another one from there . . . why? We have no hope in this life. We want nothing but go to school." Viviane's mother adds, "We are destroyed. We are destroyed. We are finished. One would describe this as a slow death. We came here to die slowly. Die a little bit each day." That's only one

Iraqi man: My brother-in-law was killed. He owned a liquor store. They caught him for 18 days and asked for a ransom of fifty-thousand dollars. His brother bargained with them to make it thirty. He went on April 6, the day of my wedding, to give them the money. At nine o'clock, they took the money and killed him. We thought they would release him. We waited 2, 3 days but after two weeks we found him killed, shot nine times. He was married and had seven children. I used to work with him in the liquor store. The Mahdi Army came every month to threaten me. I couldn't take it and I left after four month. They used to send me a message each month: a bullet in an envelope asking me to surrender and become Muslim otherwise they would kill me and my family

Genevieve Pollock (Zenit) interviews missionaries Diane and Hank McCormick who are in Northern Iraq. Hank explains, "Thousands of Catholics have arrived in Northern Iraq over the past three years. In a two-moth period, more than 10,000 families were displaced from Mosul alone, and resettled in the Dioceses of Alquoch. Catholics have experienced forced immigration twice in their lives. Early in the Saddam regime they were forcibly moved from their Kurdish villages and relocated to Baghdad and Mosul. Over the 30 years of the regime, those families made Baghdad or Mosul their home. With the collapse of the regime, and the civil violence that followed, Catholic families became victims of religious persecution and financial extortion. They were murdered, kidnapped, and threatened with their lives." The McCormicks intend to stay in Iraq for the near future:

Q: You are planning to live in Iraq for the next few years to help the Church. Why? Hank: The present population has survived decades of terror and violence under Saddam, a war with Iran, two Gulf wars, an international embargo, and the ensuing chaos that followed the fall of Saddam's regime. Today, amidst 28 million Muslim Iraqis there stand no more than 700,000 Iraqi Christians -- of whom almost 70% are Catholics. They have begun to rebuild their communities. They have begun to piece back together their lives in a new era of hope. We will be honored and blessed to contribute in any way possible to help the Catholics in Iraq preserve their traditions and their presence in their homeland. Iraq is a great place. There are great religious sites and archeological sites to visit, and there is much to do. Iraqis are friendly and welcoming. We would like to help promote economic opportunity, create bridges between the Eastern Churches and the Church in the West, and participate in Christian-Islamic dialogue. Q: How can the international Catholic community help the Church in Northern Iraq? What can motivate them to do this? Diane: Bishops and priests from the Catholic Church in the United States and other countries can travel to Northern Iraq to see the situation first hand, and then share that knowledge. Delegations from England and France have already visited, and Germany has made arrangements to go. Catholic businessmen, investors, and economic experts can tour the area, and make recommendations on development and economic opportunities. Parishes around the world can participate in the Adopt-a-Parish program. This program will connect Catholic parishes inside Iraq with Catholic parishes in the rest of the world.

AFP reports on Armenian Christians in Iraq and notes, "Their main church in Central Baghdad's Tehran Square holds documents as old as 1636. At least 45 Aermenians have been killed in the post-Saddam years of rampant inusrgency, sectarian warfare and often unbridled crime, while another 32 people have been kidnapped for ransom, two of whom are still missing." Armenian Christians in Iraq are estimated to number 12,000. In the US,
Dolores Fox Ciardelli (California's Danville Weekly) reports on Sister Diana Momeka, a Dominican nun from Baghdad, speaking to Catholics at Work, "Americans see stories of towns returning to normal, markets opening and people shopping for their daily groceries but the sense of everyday angst, uncertainty and fear are not seen in the stories." From Fox Ciardelli's article:

"In the late '90s to 2003 everyone said there would be war," she recalled. "Then on March 29, I was sleeping and the blast of bombing started." "We were happy that freedom would come," she said, "but we did not know the consequences." She was attending the University of Mosul and every day she would see bodies on the road. "They could not pick up the bodies or they'd get killed," she explained. Kidnapping also became prevalent. One of her brothers, a mechanic, was sitting in front of his shop and three men came and shot him with 30 bullets. "A neighbor said they shot him because he was a Christian. The men had tried to convert him to Islam," she said. "He left four teenagers and a wife, 39. The oldest was 15, and they started to work." She also lost four cousins, some killed by terrorists, others by U.S. soldiers. "One cousin was kidnapped for 40 days, and U.S. soldiers released him," she said. "They found him in the mud, half dead." She also fears because education, which was good before 2003 and cost nothing, has been interrupted. "It's very dangerous," she said. "If you don't have an education, you will be miserable." Sister Diana has been living in the United States for three years and relishes each day free from fear. "In Iraq, when people leave in the morning they don't know if they will come back," she said. "People see their children dying and they don't have medicine. You go to a hospital and there are no doctors." She told stories of a priest being kidnapped, a Christian woman raped in front of her husband and him being set free to tell the tale. She told about Islamic terrorists making Christians leave their homes. "They say, 'You have three choices. You can get killed, convert to Islam, or leave without anything,'" she said. "The people close to me left with nothing."

Last week, Germany accepted a small number (122) of Iraqi refugees from Syria.
This AP story has photos of their airport arrival. Der Spiegel estimates the 122 were 60% Christian, 15% Muslim and 15% Mandaen. (That only adds up to 90% -- address your questions to Der Spiegel.) Der Spiegel notes:

The refugees include people like Rita, who once owned a hair salon but had to give it up after receiving death threats. She lived a life of fear until, like many other Christians, she fled the country with her family. Now she has nothing to return to -- her house has been occupied and her neighborhood has been "ethnically cleansed."
Rita's father was kidnapped because he is a Christian. His wife searched for him for one month and then fled to Syria. Police freed him after eight weeks, but it took him nine months to find out where his family had gone.
Indeed, many of the Iraqi refugees survived horrible events and are traumatized. Sixteen-year-old Muhanad, for example, was kidnapped on his way to school at the age of 14. His kidnappers held him captive until his parents were able to raise $10,000 in ransom by selling jewellery and getting help from other family members. They took the money and dumped the boy in the street with two broken legs. "I cried for two weeks, but now everything is okay, " he says. Muhanad's family belongs to a Mandaean minority group, which like Christians and Yazidis, became the target of terrorism early on.
His family used to be well off -- they had two cars and his father, an engineer, sometimes worked for German companies. But the threat of terror grew. After US soldiers searched his family's house, masked men arrived and accused them of being informants. Fleeing the country was unavoidable. All the family now has as a momento of their past lives is an envelop full of family photographs.

Last month, Ann Jones offered "
Iraq's Invisible Refugees" (The Nation) about Iraq's refugee crisis which has resulted in over two million external refugees:

On May 6, 2007, two men in black visited the Baghdad house Imad shared with his parents and younger sister. It stood in a mixed neighborhood where, for as long as Imad can remember, Sunni and Shiite Muslim families lived side by side with Christian and Sabaean Mandaean families like his own. The visitors invited Imad's father to the neighborhood mosque to become a Muslim. If he failed to do so within three days, they said, he would be killed.
The family stayed indoors for five days, not knowing even if the visitors and the mosque were Sunni or Shiite. Such things had never mattered before. Then Imad's father, daring to carry on with life, went with his daughter to the market to buy food. Three masked men were waiting for him in a car. He told the girl to run. She heard the shots that killed her father. After the funeral, Imad left for Syria to find refuge. The family, including Imad's older brother, his wife and two young children, reunited in Damascus within days.

With over four million (some estimates are six million) internal and external refugees, Iraq is the global refugee crisis. At
Wednesday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the nomination of Chris Hill for Ambassador to Iraq, chair John Kerry listed six issues the next US Ambassador to Iraq would have to focus on. From that list, "Fifth, addressing refugees and internally displaced persons. Millions of Iraqis -- perhaps as many as one in six -- have been forced to flee. The unwillingness or inability of the vast majority to return to their homes is an indicator of Iraq's continuing instability and a potential source of future conflict. Iraqi's religious and ethnic minorities are particularly at risk. This is a problem that will only grow worse if it is not addressed." Despite Kerry raising that issue and despite Senator Bob Casey Jr. also raising it later in the hearing, it wasn't a deep concern on the part of Chris Hill as evidenced by his disinterest in discussing the issue.

Bob Casey noted that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a subcommittee hearing on Iraqi refugees this Tuesday and noted the "enormous numbers" and that it was "very important that we focus on" the refugee crisis. Hill tossed out a brief, mealy statement and had more to say about his son serving in Iraq (in Defense Intelligence). And then wanted to joke that he hoped he hadn't revealed anything top secret. In his prepared remarks (which he read word for word to the Committee despite being asked to summarize them), he mentions refugees once, in a subordinate clause of a sentence. [Once in five typed page --
click here for PDF version of letter.] This week Government Accountability Office's study entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight" which notes:

Despite security improvements, UNHCR has reported that conditions are not yet suitable for the safe return of Iraqi refugees, and most refugees that do return are settling in areas controlled by their particular sect. According to the Department of State (State), the United States has recognized the need to take the lead in mitigating the effects of this humanitarian crisis. As the administration further defines its plan for Iraq, it will need to consider how best to support the Iraqi government and the international community in addressing the needs of Iraqis displaced within Iraq, as well as those who have fled to neighboring countries.
[. . .]
The U.S. government and UNHCR face challenges offering lasting solutions for Iraqi refugees. According to UNHCR, voluntary repatriation is the preferred solution, but conditions in Iraq are not yet suitable for Iraqis to return. The Iraqi government has cited improvements in security and offered financial incentives to returning families, but there is no clear trend on the number of Iraqis returning to or leaveing Iraq. Difficulties renewing visas, lack of funds, and limited access to employment and public services affect Iraqis' decisions to stay in or return to Iraq. Another solution is resettlement in the host countries, though Jordan and Syria consider Iraqi refugees "guests" who should return to Iraq once the security situation improves. Resettlement to a third country is another option, according to State. The U.S. government has made progress resettling Iraqis under its U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. In 2007, the United States admitted 1,608 Iraqi refugees but did not achieve State's expectation of admitting 2,000 to 3,000 refugees; however, the U.S. government surpassed its fiscal year 2008 goal of 12,000 witht he admission of 13,823 Iraqi refugees. According to UNHCR, as of September 30, 2008, other countries resettled 5,852 Iraqi refugees in calendar years 2007 through 2008.
A related issue for Congress to consider is the plight of Palestinian Iraqis who have been living mostly uner very harsh conditions, in three refugee camps in Syria and Iraq for about 3 years. As of December 31, 2008, about 2,540 refugees remained in these camps. About 446 camp refugees were resettled in 2007 and 2008, mostly in Chile and Europe. According to UNHCR, during the fall of 2008, Australia, Canada, the United States, and several European countries expressed interest in resettling these refugees.

On the last category,
Nicholas Keung (Toronto Star) reports that Canada has set no refugee spots aside for the Iraqi Palestinians, "Canadian refugee advocates claim Ottawa has excluded Palestinian refugees in camps at the Syria-Iraq border from its government-assisted resettlement program for displaced asylum seekers." And we'll end the refugee discussion today by returning to Sahar S. Gabriel. The US accepts far too few Iraqi refugees and has yet to show any 'change' on that with the new administration. The target goals (reached only once by the previous administration) need to be raised and the process needs to be streamlined. Gabriel has been accepted and she writes at Baghdad Bureau of some of her hopes for what she'll find in the United States:

I have always wanted to study in an American university. Somewhere I don't have to beg and grovel to check a book out, or where you can't go to the library because it doesn't have electricity.
I want to go to a place where your university semantics instructor doesn't start telling you - as mine did in Baghdad - that Darwin must have been mad, and a blasphemer, for thinking that we were descended from apes.
We are Christians, we too have a verse in our Bible saying that God made us in his image. But as a scholar you have to have a place where you allow such doubts. This wasn't even her subject, but she had to have her two cents worth.
I remember I turned to my friend, because I had an exclamation mark all over my face. But she was nodding approval. I felt like an alien. I am definitely not in my place. My friend wasn't into religion so much that she would agree on religious grounds. Maybe she was agreeing because everyone else was. I wanted very much to say something, but I couldn't. I was the instructor's best student and I didn't want to lose that. Anyway I wouldn't voice such thoughts anywhere in Iraq, because you learn to keep quiet, to keep those things to yourself.

It's a Friday, not much violence gets reported on Fridays.
Reuters notes three events from Thursday which were only reported today: a Mosul grenade attack which injured a father and son, a Samarra bombing which injured four employees of the electricity ministry and that Abdul-Kareem Juma was shot dead in Jalawla and his son was injured in the shooting as well.

Yesterday's Baghdad car bombing has really exposed Iraqi anger in Baghdad. See Anthony Shadid's "After Bombing, Iraqi Police Face Local Ire" (Washington Post) where the police whine about the reaction of Iraqi citizens and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "The bombing rattled public confidence in government efforts to promote an atmosphere of business as usual, with three world leaders visiting Baghdad this week. The blast, which also wounded more than 45 people, called into question just how safe Baghdad is these days." Campbell Robertson (New York Times) notes the anger (and he was quoted on that in yesterday's snapshot) but also reports today that the provincial elections -- held January 31st in 14 of Iraqi's 18 provinces -- are finally ratified and that the provinces will get the results Sunday. On those elections, Larry Kaplow (Newsweek) offers an 'analysis' of Iraq's political situation currently -- we're back to provincial elections -- and he has some strong points and some incredibly weak ones. Weak? Nouri al-Maliki was not a candidate in provincial elections so therefore he was not a "winner." His party didn't do amazingly well, but he wasn't even a candidate. At some point, American writers are going to have to learn the names -- and how to spell them -- of politicians in other countries but that day's apparently not arrived yet. He notes tensions from "Kurdish leaders" and they do exist but he appears to draw some line from provincial elections to these tensions and that's not accurate. More to the point, the Kurdistan Regional Government DID NOT hold provincial elections January 31st. They're due to hold them in May. And, no, Nouri is not expected to be a 'winner' because he's not on the ticket but his party is also not expected to do well. Here's where Kaplow mixes insight and ignorance most generously:Though their numbers in the provincial councils are now lower, the Kurds, ISCI and the Iraqi Islamic Party are still formidable in the parliament (which is not up for election until January) and are supposedly discussing ways to curb Maliki's burgeoning power. One way would be to hold a no-confidence vote that could turn Maliki into a weakened, caretaker prime minister. But that could also backfire, allowing Maliki to blame his opponents for the government's failure to provide services, like electricity and water. The parliament could also try to invoke more of its powers to examine and investigate the prime minister's offices. It already cut his budget. Any of this could be alarming to American officials, since it could cause paralysis and friction as U.S. troops begin to pull out. To keep his momentum, Maliki has clearly been seeking to broaden his alliances. After using government forces last spring to pound into submission illegal militias led by renegade Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, he has been reaching out to Sadrist politicians in parliament, negotiating top ministry positions he could offer to their partisans. To keep his momentum? No. That is a complete misunderstanding of the Parliamentary system and the parties participating and appears to confuse provincial results with the Parliament. Provincial elections (in 14 of 18 provinces) were the equivalent of electing, in Colorado, people to the state Congress, your state legislature. Parliament is the equivalent of the US Congress. The two are not related. There is a similarity in that -- as with Parliament -- provincial councils will be ruled by coalitions. That's because it's a multi-party system and coalitions are necessary to claim a 'majority.' al-Maliki's had to have coalitions since the US installed him -- coalitions in Parliament.Kaplow wants to argue that deals can be made at the provincial council level that will result in Parliamentary support. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for December (though they may or may not take place then). No one but a political idiot of an incumbent in Parliament is going to go along with some deal crafted for the provincial council. It's like your own state legislature telling you that s/he will get your US senator to do something -- it's a promise that can be legitimately made. At any time. But especially not when Parliamentary elections are months away and (see earlier points above) the Iraqi people have been repeatedly told 'security' is here and it's not. They have the anger of the voters to deal with, they don't have time for horse-trading done at a local level with no real benefits to them. (And no member of a provincial council can promise that Parliament will agree not to move to a no-confidence vote on Nouri. S/he has no vote in Parliament. You can't promise a vote that's not your own.

Though public support for the Kurds continues in the US government, it has been noticed that the support is now most vocal from the Congress and not the administration -- surprising considering both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's statements regarding the Kurds role in Iraq ("crucial" role) when the two were serving in the US Senate. This week saw strong statements of support from US Senator Russ Feingold, among others.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) interviewed Gen Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq, "In an exclusive interview with NPR, Gen. Ray Odierno says a brewing dispute in the oil-rich north could lead to renewed instability if left unresolved." As noted in Wednesday and Thursday's snapshots, Chris Hill showed zero grasp of the Kirkuk situation.

Turning to England where this week it was announced that a public inquiry into the Iraq War will take place after July 31st. Only it might not be public. And no one's sure when after July 31st it would take place -- maybe August 1, 2025?
The Times of London -- the paper that published and covered the Downing St. Memos, the Guardian didn't, the New York Times didn't -- has drawn up a series of questions they feel should be posed in the inquiry. The questions include:

Was the Government of Tony Blair determined to go to war with Iraq alongside the United States irrespective of the intelligence evidence on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme? There is circumstantial evidence that by the midsummer of 2002 -- several months before the publication of the WMD dossier in September -- President Bush had the implicit support of Mr Blair for an invasion
Was the British Government locked in with the Americans to the idea of getting rid of Saddam? Was this the true goal of the invasion, supported by the UK? Jack Straw, as Foreign Secretary at the time, denied that regime change was the reason for the planned invasion. He said that provided the WMD were found and destroyed, there was no reason why Saddam could not continue as leader of Iraq. But there can be no doubt that Mr Bush would never have agreed, which was why US forces drove all the way to Baghdad
How genuinely convinced was the Blair Government that Saddam had a huge stockpile of WMD and that he would order his troops to fire chemical and biological weapons at the invading forces? Belief in the intelligence was sufficiently strong for Major-General Robin Brims, commander of 26,000 British combat troops, to warn his men that Saddam might turn to nonconventional warfare once they had passed a "red line" in southern Iraq

Also in the UK,
Shan Ross (The Scotsman) reports that the five British citizens held hostage in Iraq since being kidnapped in May 2007 may be freed shortly, stating that "a deal has been struck".

Meanwhile, in the United States,
Paul J. Weber (AP) reports that Sam Marcos commissioners are rethinking using KBR after two Iraq War veterans, Bryan Hannah and Gregory Foster, spoke out at a commissioner's court meeting against the war profiteer KBR which stands accused of intentionally exposing US troops in Iraq to carcinogenics and of doing such a poor job in their building of US facilities in Iraq that showering becomes a hazard for US service members. On the latter point, Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein (CNN) report on the deadly showers KBR constructed which have claimed the lives of at least 18 US service members since 2003 and they quote "master electrician and the top civilian expert in an Army safety survey," Jim Childs explaining of the work KBR did, "It was horrible -- some of the worst electrical work I've ever seen." January 2, 2008, Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth was killed as he showered in Iraq and his mother, Cheryl Harris, tells Robin Acton (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) that, "We're playing Russian roulette with their lives every time they step into a shower." Cheryl Harris also points out "that 65,000 facilities still need to be inspected. It's been 15 months and the CID (Army Criminal Investigation Division has not closed its investigation. All I want is accountability, so these guys have a safe place to shower." On the 65,000 facilities not inspected, AP quotes Senator Bob Casey stating, "Just imagine getting the news that they've done 25,000 facilities, but your son or daughter is in the 65,000 they haven't done."

Turning to public TV, tonight (on most PBS stations, check local listings),
NOW on PBS examines immigration. On Washington Week, Gwen sits down with NYT's Peter Baker, Slate's John Dickerson, Jeanne Cummings and Washington Post's Spencer Hsu. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Internet Is InfectedLesley Stahl reports on computer viruses that propagate on the Internet and infect PCs, which enable their creators – often called cyber gangs – to learn the information they need to electronically rob bank accounts. Watch Video
PoisonedThe African lion, already down as much as 85 percent in numbers from just 20 years ago, is now in danger of becoming extinct because people are poisoning them with a cheap American pesticide to protect their cattle herds. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
LeBronSteve Kroft profiles the Cleveland Cavalier's superstar, LeBron James, who at only 24, is already among an elite handful of athletes who command tens of millions a year in playing and marketing fees. Watch VideoADDED: Also on PBS (program begins airing tonight, check local listings for date and time in your area), The New Agenda's Amy Siskind appears on Bonnie Erbe's To The Contrary. After NOW's Kim Gandy embarrassed herself last week (as did Eleanor Holmes Norton, see "The Katrina goes to . . .") acting as a film critic (who didn't know the plot of the film she was critiquing) and pimping the concept that the only woman who should have a baby was a woman legally married to a man -- no, that's not feminism -- Amy Siskind's appearance should be a huge improvement.

iraqcnnabbie boudreauscott bronsteinrobin acton
60 minutescbs newsnow on pbspbsto the contrarybonnie erbeamy suskind
the washington postanthony shadidmcclatchy newspaperslaith hammoudi
nprall things consideredlourdes garcia-navarrolarry kaplowthe new york timescampbell robertson

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wallas Shawn's Our Last Night

Tonight's theme is books. We each selected a book two weeks ago to discuss. (Yes, we actually planned this one.) Last night (which was not planned) was the poetry night. We're all including links to those pieces and including Cedric and Wally's humor joint-post as well:

Cedric's Big Mix
Secrets of Arianna and Barack
20 hours ago

The Daily Jot
20 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
Wanda Coleman
20 hours ago

Mikey Likes It!
e.e. cummings, Iraq
20 hours ago

Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
julia alvarez, elizabeth schulte
20 hours ago

"Straight Talk" (Judith Moss)
20 hours ago

Ruth's Report
Gwendolyn Brooks
20 hours ago

Oh Boy It Never Ends
Melvin B. Tolson's "Napoleon Hannibal Speare"
20 hours ago

Like Maria Said Paz
Ramon Guthrie, force-feeding
20 hours ago

Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
LoVerne Wilson Brown
20 hours ago

So my book is Wallace Shawn's Our Late Night * A Thought In Three Parts. Those are two of his early plays. The latter is even more graphic than the first. Though that may be hard for some to believe.

The first one, Our Late Night, was what I decided to check out because C.I. and I saw that back in NYC in 1975 and I loathed it. I actively loathed this play.

In the late 90s (1999?) I was visiting C.I. in California and the man was I seeing at the time (sleeping with, I hate this 'seeing' and 'dating') was excited that a Wallace Shawn play was being performed. (He had severe New Yorker-itis.) So I ended up trapped for the evening with him and the play and it wasn't as bad as I remembered. I'd long intended to pick up a copy of the play and give it another look but never made the time.

Plays are not being read, the newspapers keep telling us, so this was the perfect time to revist Our Late Night.

Do you know Joni Mitchell's "People's Parties" (Court and Spark)? If you do, you know the type of party that Annette and Lewis have thrown. The guests are colorful like that but more determined to shock you.

I think that's what offended me the most about the play. I didn't relate to it and I felt certain things were done solely for shock value. For exampe, the sperm 'wine' can be seen as a forerunner of There's Something About Mary.

Not being surprised, I was able to focus on the play and I would like first to note, as someone who has seen it performed twice, Lewis has never had an actor to do him justice. There's a side on the paper that's never come across on the stage. (That's not to say he's been played badly, it's just noting that the performance have let out a good chunk of the character.)

I ended up enjoying it on paper and I'll provide the following sample. This is when the party's wound down. Lewis and Annette are speaking in the groggy, post-party moments:

LEWIS: Why don't you try to sleep?

ANNETTE: I'm listening --

LEWIS: Yes --

ANNETTE: To the street, see, there's cars down there, and big cans of stuff -- they're kicking them -- oo -- lots of boys on bicycles --

LEWIS (Staring at Annette): Who put you together? How come you're alive? How did I get you? Who gave you to me?

(He leaves the room.)

ANNETTE (After a little while): Hey! Come back here!

(He returns.)

LEWIS (Laughing): Oh! Christ! You've got me! (He kisses her) Oh yes oh yes. Am I a good toy? Do you actually like playing with me? (She doesn't answer) You know, we're all alone here. I could kill you now, if I wanted to. I could strangle you, or cut your throat, slip up your neck, like a mouse's neck. (Pause) Is that you down there? Hey -- who the fuck are you, some half-cooked piece of shit? (He screams) Hey -- get away from me -- you're urine! (He screams) You're shit! You're a piece of shit! (He grabs some food and starts to eat it) Give me that.

ANNETTE: Lewis, I want you on top of me. I want to be pressed down -- very far. I want to go down to the bottom. It's not so far -- it's pretty close. All the way down. (Pause) Press on me. Press. It's fast. Cold. (Silence) Well, do you feel like cheering up?

There's a sample of the play. If you enjoyed it, by all means pick it up or something else by Wallace Shawn. If you didn't enjoy it, pick up a play that you think you might and read it because we have supposedly stopped reading plays in the United States.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, March 25, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barack Obama's nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill had an embarrassing Senate debut today, England will have a public inquiry in August -- well, maybe not in August -- well, maybe not public, well . . .

This morning the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Christopher Hill to be US Ambassador to Iraq. Committee chair John Kerry spoke of what he termed a need to move the nomination through the process quickly and noted that Hill has stated he will immediately depart for Iraq "within a day of his Senate confirmation." In his opening remarks, Kerry explained:

Ambassador Hill, all of your considerable skills will be called upon in Iraq. And among the many challenges you will face there, I would like to focus on several which I believe will be critical to our success:
First, resolving the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. Arab - Kurdish tensions run high in Kirkuk, which remains a potential flashpoint for violence, and meaningful efforts to reach agreement on Kirkuk's final status cannot be put off indefinitely. In Mosul, a strong showing in recent provincial elections by an anti-Kurdish coalition illustrated rising tensions there, as did a tense military standoff in Diyala province last summer between the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga . If progress is not made in defusing Arab-Kurdish tensions while American forces remain in Iraq, the window for a peaceful resolution of Kirkuk and other disputed territories may close.
Second, passing the oil laws. Despite repeated assurances that an agreement was near, negotiations to finalize a series of laws regulating Iraq's oil resources appear to be no closer to completion now than they were two years ago. The fundamental issue is a disagreement between Baghdad and the Kurds on the Kurdish region's ability to enter into oil exploration and production contracts. Though the Iraqis, to their credit, have been sharing oil revenues, the country still lacks an overarching legal and political framework for its oil industry, the lifeblood of the country's economy. Again, time is of the essence because developments on the ground will only make a solution more difficult.
Third, involving Iraq's neighbors in stabilizing the country. I have long encouraged vigorous, sustained diplomacy to encourage Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, to play more constructive roles in Iraq. The Arabs have begun to cautiously engage with Iraq, and they should be encouraged to do more. I believe that as Ambassador to Iraq, you will have an important role to play in this process. Your predecessor, Ambassador Crocker, had three rounds of meetings with his Iranian colleague in 2007. I hope that the Administration will strongly consider restarting these talks.
Fourth, full integration of the Sunnis. Although some progress has been made in incorporating Sunni Arabs into Iraq's new political structure, December's parliamentary elections can play a key role in consolidating this process. Integrating the Sunni militias which played such a key role in turning the tide in Iraq remains a major concern: According to recent press reports, only five percent of the "Sons of Iraq" have been hired into the Iraqi security forces or otherwise given the government jobs they were promised, and the debaathification process remains stalled. If this situation is not addressed, it will significantly increase the possibility that Iraq's Sunni Arab population could again take up arms against the central government.
Fifth, addressing refugees and internally displaced persons. Millions of Iraqis - perhaps as many one in six - have been forced to flee. The unwillingness or inability of the vast majority to return to their homes is an indicator of Iraq's continuing instability and a potential source of future conflict. Iraqi's religious and ethnic minorities are particularly at risk. This is a problem that will only grow worse if it not addressed.
Finally, the importance of training Iraq's security forces cannot be overstated if they are to be fully capable of independent action once we leave. This highlights the importance of achieving a high degree of civil-military cooperation between our diplomats and soldiers in Iraq. I strongly believe that one of the principle reasons that General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker were able to accomplish so much is because they worked together so closely.

Sentor Richard Luger, ranking Republican offered a few thoughts (none worth quoting and all straying from agreed upon Iraq press reality to paint an even rosier picture). "We are awfully proud of him in Rhode Island," declared Senator Jack Reed who appeared before the committee (he doesn't sit on the committee) to vouch for Hill, "I first got to know Chris in 1985 when he was the Ambassador to Macedonia. . . . And Mr. Chairman and Mr. Luger, I can think of no one more qualified for this job."

A nice statement that could have been a strong introduction . . . if Hill had been ready to appear before the committee. First up, Kerry asked him to summarize his opening statement (noting the prepared statement would be put into the record). Don't read your prepared statement, summarize it. Hill stated he would; however, he then went on to read -- word for word -- from his statement including making a show of turning the page on "very real accomplishments". Word for word. Dramatic page turn after dramatic page turn. He also had hair sticking up all over the top of his head and even worse in the back.

So you don't comb your hair before your hearing and you say you'll do something and then ignore it. Turns the page and then goes on to 'resposibilities.' John Kerry was visibly bothered by the reading. (With Kerry, the clue is his spine gets very stiff and he gathers his mouth to the left while cutting his eyes. If you ever see that, know he's ticked. All present at today's hearing saw it though some might not have grasped what they were seeing. And we'll focus on that and let Fox and others run with Kerry's yawning as Hill read his prepared remarks.) Turn the page to talk about his privilages. Turn the page "I know that maintaining" Turn the page "for each of these . . ."

It was a bad opening and an early portent. He's very lucky that Democrats on the committee are pulling for him because he made a fool out of himself in his exchange with Senator Chris Dodd. He walked into a scheduled hearing knowing there was a controversy about his nomination and he didn't prep? Dodd asked about the "Awakening" Councils and that wasn't a curve ball question. It's been in the news. It was always going to be asked. Hill repeatedly referred to Anbar and, around the fourth or fifth time, it became obvious that he believes all "Awakenings" are in Anbar Province. That is troubling. Any diplomat, regardless of where they were stationed, should have had a better grasp of the issue just from casually following the press over the last years.

Dodd noted that "at some point we're going to have to stop funding these Awakening Councils . . . how much of a risk does that raise?" The question was how much of a risk was that? Hill never answered that question. He babbled on about how he thought the "Awakenings" were "very key and I think we wisely took on the task and make the payroll of this" -- at least he was correct about the payroll. That one time.

Hill then went on to declare that al-Maliki's government has been progressing and "doing so in terms of taking over the payments that these 'Sons of Iraq' receive. And I think, more importantly in the long run, incorporating them into the Iraqi forces." If your jaw dropped, hold on. He went on to reword himself, "I think the fact that they took over the financing of this and that it's going very well is a testament to them and I think it's been working."

al-Maliki has not, NOT, assumed all payments. The US made the payments at the start of the month to over 40,000 "Awakenings" (approximately 42,000 says M-NF). The US hopes -- HOPES -- al-Maliki will be making that payment at the start of next month. Hopes. It hasn't happened yet. And
Usama Redha and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times)
reported yesterday that the ones al-Maliki is supposed to be paying aren't being paid: "The latest hiccup has been the budget woes of the Iraqi government, with bureaucratic snafus resulting in a failure to pay many of the Sunni paramilitaries, called the Sons of Iraq, in Baghdad for just over a month." For over a month. Reported yesterday by the Los Angeles Times. And Hill has no idea. Hill comes to hearing and praises al-Maliki for paying the "Awakenings" and he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Senator Johnny Isakson gave Hill the opportunity to clarify those statments asking if he'd heard Hill correctly that al-Maliki had taken over all the payments of the "Awakenings"? Hill replied that was his understanding.

Hill also claimed al-Maliki was absorbing the "Awakenings" into the government.
Yesterday's snapshot noted Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin's New York Times article where the reporters explained, "After months of promises, only 5,000 Awakening members -- just over 5 percent -- have been given permanent jobs in the Iraqi security forces." Five percent. Chris Hill was slobbering over Nouri and praising him for things that have not happened. He was ill prepared throughout and even with the softballs lobbed by the Democratic majority committee, he wasn't able to answer the questions. He was prepped. Senator Edward Kaufman asked a question and Hill was bragging about his prep there. The question was about Kirkuk and Hill wanted the committee to know that, just days ago, he had a special briefing: "I had the briefing. It turns out it is a very complex issue."

"It turns out it is a very complex issue." That statement is frightening. It's all the more frightening that Hill needed the briefing because, as he stated, he couldn't understand what the hold up re: Kirkuk was. It was just a land dispute! (Kirkuk is oil-rich, the Kurdistan Regional Government says it belongs to them and that Saddam diluted Kurdish power and control. The central government wants it as well.) Kirkuk is a great deal more than a land dispute. It goes to history, it goes to long-standing grievances, it goes to resources and it goes to control. That Hill couldn't grasp that as a casual observer is frightening. His remarks on Kirkuk were all over the place throughout the hearing and, had he not informed he'd been briefed on Kirkuk, one would assume he'd never given the matter more than ten seconds thought.

It's not a pressing issue, he insisted. The hydrocarbons law is the pressing issue. Not Kirkuk. Even when he thought it was a mere land dispute, he should have grasped how important Kirkuk is. At times, his answers indicated the US would decide what to do (bad move -- Iraqis need to make that decision because it's their land; the US doesn't need to be involved) and at other times he seemed to think the United Nations. Never once did he seem aware that maybe an regarding Iraqi land should be decided by Iraqis (either just within the province or throughout the country). His grasp of the United Nations work was also troubling because he seems to believe they have this huge team of workers on the ground and that they've always been working on the issue of Kirkuk. Reality, the UN got invovled in the Kirkuk issue last year only because it threatened to derail the provincial elections (and almost did). Hill seems completely ignorant of those realities. He thinks the KRG is the equivalent of Bosnia and Kosovo. He would tell Senator Russ Feingold that the issue of Kirkuk was "just old fashioned land dispute." Told him that today after also claiming that's what he used to think before his briefing days ago. Hill appeared to have no short term memory at all and no record of what he'd said to one senator before answering the other.

We're talking mainly the facts -- the basic facts -- above. But the peace movement should be concerned by the bulk of his testimony. He places huge emphasis on the hydrocarbons law and that's really not his to be involved with. Yes, the US tried to push through several versions under the previous administration, but weren't we supposed to see a change? He is obsessed with the hydrocabrons law ("'This is a law about hydrocarbons the way Moby Dick is a story about a whale .. .. There's a lot more going on with that law.'") and that was evident not just by the fact that every other answer he gave worked itself around to that law but also by the fact that he named it as his most pressing issue he would face as the Ambassador to Iraq (if confirmed). That should worry the hell out of the peace movement. Why is an ambassador nominee stating his most pressing issue is a hydrocabrons law?

The peace movement should be troubled by a number of things. But first, congratulations to Senator Jim Webb. He reads. He actually does his own reading and he's smarter than all the reporters the New York Times has stationed in Iraq. That paper was one of the worst when it came to the Status Of Forces Agreement. (The Washington Post's reporting was the best, then the Los Angeles Times'. McClatchy's was actually worse than NYT's.) Unlike so many fools and idiots, Jim Webb read the Status Of Forces Agreement -- the treaty negotiated by the previous administration.

Wait. We need to clear up something. The snapshot's dictated. I've got one phone I'm dictating into and I'm rotating cells to the other ear. I'm being told little Spency Ackerman -- who wet dreams of Barack Obama nightly -- has distorted this exchange. No surprise. Spencer got his ass fired from The New Republic. How bad of a reporter do you have to be in order to have The New Republic fire you? It took three years for them to catch on to Stephen Glass (even with nonstop complaints and proof for two of those three years). Ackerman cheerleaded this illegal war and then, when public opinion began to change, did his mini mea culpa. (That wasn't genuine. That's become obvious.) This is the 'reporter' who covered the first day of Peteraeus and Crocker hearings -- with three presidential contenders questioning the two -- by ignoring Hillary Clinton. Had time for John McCain, had time for his Dream Lover Barack, but ignored Hillary. (Hillary's questioning was the hardest of anyone's that day and Petraeus has never gotten over that questioning and continues to carry a grudge. A real reporter would have covered it. Ackerman's not a real reporter.) So to be clear, Ackerman's written his usual fantasy garbage. Maybe he was microwaving himself a snack during the bulk of the exchange? Who knows, who cares, he's a hack and search out his garbage only to laugh at the little War Hawk punk.

In the real world, Jim Webb went over the basics. He noted he'd read both the SOFA and the Strategic Framework Agreement, "I read them last fall when I think they were wrongly categorized as restricted information -- when you had to go to a room to read the documents that were not classified because the previous administration was trying to keep them from public debate." Webb noted that he read the SOFA again "ten days ago." He then pointed out that Barack Obama's "administration is talking more of the drawing down of forces rather than the withdrawal and I think that's a pretty important distinction when you're looking at the agreement." He pointed out that Joe Biden [then chair of this committee, now the Vice President of the United States], Kerry and himself "were among the ones saying it should have had the approval of Congress -- it had the approval of the Iraqi Parliament. . . . This agreement was basically done through executive signatures, it wasn't brough before the Congress." So he wanted to discuss what that meant and what the terms meant. On what that meant, since the Congress never passed it, did that mean Barack's administration could just choose to ignore the SOFA? Spensy Ackerman's insisting Hill said this and that and blah blah. Reality, Webb was framing his questions and points and Hill didn't say much of anything. When he did speak, Hill said he thought, he thought, the administration . . . but he'd get back in writing. So for Spensy to insist Hill said US forces out in 2011 is the usual sort of b.s. that gets little Spensy's fired from their outlets. Fortunately, he's no longer at a real outlet so he'll probably remain employed.

This is a paraphrase of Webb on that first issue, "Well the agreement can now be made since the Congress was not part of the document . . . an executive branch could now say we're not going to be out by December 31, 2011' and listening to the discussion of residual forces I'm not really hearing clearly that it is the intent of the administration to have a full withdrawal of US forces by the end of 2011." Hill responds -- pay attention, Spency -- that he "would prefer to get back to" Webb about the administration's position.

Okay, so that's Webb's first concern. Is it binding to the administration -- particularly the part about all US forces out by 2011? And Hill doesn't know. But will get back to him. The second aspect (which Spensy ignores because it doesn't fit the LIE and PROPAGANDA Spensy wants to sale) is what the SOFA actually says. Webb went through this at length. He noted Articles 2, 24, 27 and 30 seemed to be in conflict "with the defintional phrases" and the claims being made about the SOFA and "there really seems to be quite loose language when we're talking about a full withdrawal by the end of 2011." He noted that "any member of the United States forces means any individual who is a member" according to the defintion of terms but this definition is less precise in Article 24. He notes the wording and how "must withdraw" was changed to "shall withdraw." Then he zooms in on Article 27 where "there are two fairly lenthy paragraphs but they basically talk about if there's any external or internal threats to Iraqi sovereignty or political independence that we will take appropriate measures." Hill -- the diplomat who can't grasp Kirkuk -- had no idea. And seemed forever on the verge of saying, "I wasn't aware I'd be tested on this."

Webb is correct about the secrecy the previous administration placed on the treaty masquerading as a SOFA. They refused to publish it until after the Iraqi Parliament passed it (
Thanksgiving Day) at which point they rushed to post it online -- and thanks to Barack, lots of luck finding it online at the White House website but here's the copy of it (non-PDF format). For more on some of the issues that Senator Webb was raising, you can see Luke Savage's "Iraq's Prolonged Occupation" (The Varsity):First, Article 27 of the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush Administration in 2008 gives the United States leave to "take appropriate measures, in the event of any external or internal threat or aggression against Iraq." The ambiguity of this rhetoric is worrisome. After all, Iraq's Shiite majority is likely to form closer ties with Iran, a nation hostile to U.S. interests in the region. The government of Nouri Al-Maliki could easily be replaced by a less pro-Western administration that would formalize these ties. What constitutes "aggression" may thus be a point of contention, and the text of the SOF Agreement is distinctly vague about the nature of any American response. It might, for example, take the same form as the "appropriate measures" carried out in 2003 to protect the American people from the "imminent threat" of Iraq's non-existent stockpile of destructive weapons.
Savage notes the issue of contractors and this came up during the hearing when Senator James Risch raised the issue. He was told by Hill that contractors would be used to protect diplomatic staff and the embassy's parameter. He mentioned none by name but alluded to Blackwater (now Xe) and stated there were others which could be uitilized. Risch is a Republican and the bulk of the Republicans on the committee were mainly concerned with whether or not the record indicated Hill was honest (qualified wasn't a Republican concern -- but when has it ever been?). Senator Richard Luger read the following into the record from Kirk Victor's March 23rd "
Brownback Promises Battle On Iraq Nominee" (National Journal):

President Obama's nomination of Christopher Hill to be ambassador to Iraq has prompted fierce criticism from a handful of senior Republican senators in what is likely a prelude to a bruising battle on the Senate floor. Critics including Sen. Sam Brownback charge that Hill, a career diplomat, misled Congress in testimony last year when he was handling the six-party talks dealing with North Korean nuclear disarmament.
Brownback charges that Hill failed to follow through on his promise to confront North Korea on its human rights record. The Kansas Republican, joined by four other GOP senators -- Christopher (Kit) Bond of Missouri, John Ensign of Nevada, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona -- recently urged the president to withdraw the nomination not only because of what they see as Hill's misleading testimony but also because of his inexperience in dealing with Iraq. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, last year's Republican presidential nominee, also opposes the nomination.
Obama and Senate Democratic leaders counter that as a seasoned diplomat, Hill is well-suited for this key post. Hill also has won a key endorsement from Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, who said that Hill had "demonstrated extraordinary diplomatic and managerial skills in dealing with an isolated and inscrutable North Korean regime." Lugar's panel is scheduled to hold a hearing on the nomination Wednesday.
Brownback adamantly disagrees with Lugar. Last year, the Kansan even held up President Bush's nominee to South Korea until Hill agreed to take steps to make North Korea's human rights record part of the negotiations. But the senator says that Hill went back on his word. In an interview with National Journal last week, Brownback discussed his determination to do everything he can to kill the nomination. Edited excerpts follow. NJ: What do you intend to do when Christopher Hill's nomination to be ambassador to Iraq reaches the Senate floor?
Brownback: We are going to fight hard against Chris. I met with him [on March 18] in my office and he did not allay any of my concerns. When he was conducting six-party talks, I asked him to involve the special envoy for human rights. He didn't want to do it. So I held up an ambassadorial nominee to South Korea. The State Department really wanted that ambassadorial nominee.
Finally [former Virginia GOP Senator] John Warner brokered a deal in the Armed Services Committee where Chris Hill was testifying and Warner had me ask questions. One of them was, "Will you invite the special envoy for human rights to the six-party talks?" He said yes, he would. That didn't happen. On his word of doing that, in front of open committee, I lifted my hold on the South Korea ambassador. So he misled me.

Hill's reply was basically that he told Senator Brownback (who doesn't sit on the committee) that things would happen but they were conditional, dependent upon other things. Hill noted Senator Brownback's July 31, 2008 press release ("
Brownback Lifts Hold On Stephens Nomination") and stated "we never got bi-later talks" so the promises he made to Brownback were never reached. Senator Roger Wicker would raise the issue as well. We'll note this exchange:

Senator Roger Wicker: This assurance [to Brownback] took place in public testimony is that correct?

Chris Hill: Yes, there's a record public record.

Senator Roger Wicker: Have you gone back and reviewed the transcript>

Chris Hill: Yes, I have.

Senator Roger Wicker: You're a career diplomat, professional career servant, words are very important. Did it occur to you that you needed to get back to Senator Brownback and clear it up when [the person was not brought in]?

Chris Hill: I said in the testimony when we get to the next phase [. . .] In retrospect, senator, you're right I probably should have briefed Senator Brownback.

This topic would come up repeatedly from various senators on the Republican side and be expanded to include others. Was it then-Secretary of State Condi Rice's fault? Truly that was a line of questioning and unless the Republicans intend to produce Condi (to say, "Yes, I did yell at him about talking to the North Koreans after the Chinese left the room!"), there was really no point to that entire, long-winded line of questioning. (Though it did get an article from The Weekly Standard introduced into the record and did allow Chris Hill to make a nasty little remark about a CNN reporter.)

There is more from the hearing (and more that should alarm the peace movement). We'll continue on that tomorrow (or the entire snapshot will be nothing but the hearing). ...

In England, e-mails were released by the government this month adding further proof to how the 'intelligence' was fixed to sell the march to illegal war. The e-mails were only the latest in a series of revelations. Recent polling found that the bulk of the British favor a public inquiry into the Iraq War. Today the Guardian runs some letters on the topic including this one:

Our sons were all killed in the Iraq war. Together with many other bereaved families we have campaigned for nearly five years for a full independent inquiry into the reasons why we went into Iraq. We believe our country was taken to war on the basis of lies and that our sons gave their lives to support a corrupt relationship between our prime minister and George Bush. There needs to be a proper accounting for this to cleanse our political system. Today there is a parliamentary debate calling for a real inquiry into the war. We will be in the chamber of the Commons to watch our democracy in action and we will be going to Downing Street to urge Gordon Brown to do the right thing. It is time.Rose Gentle Mother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle Reg Keys Father of Lance Corporal Thomas Keys Peter Brierley Father of Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley
Military Families Against the War

Also weighing was MP David Baker who quotes Jack Straw from the July 25, 2002 Downing Street Memo stating, "We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force." Today in the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary David Miliband was asked by MP Edward Leigh whether or not "he can give a committment today can he that we will set up this inquiry as soon as practical after the 31st of July? " and replied "Yes." (
Video here.) Gordon Brown has long played kick the can (for well over a year) stating that no inquiry could take place while British troops were on the ground in Iraq (because they'd be so outraged they'd walk off the battlefield?) and his whisperers have repeated that to the press in recent days but Miliban's "yes" was the first on the record, in public statement. The Scottish Herald notes that the announcement was made as Labour "fended off a Tory call for an imediate inquiry" and that Miliband's remarks do not seem to indicate the public inquiry but instead a private one. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) states Miliban hinted the inquiry would be in private. Andrew Porter (Telegraph of London) places the confirmation in context of the upcoming elections noting that tht Conservatives have long pushed for an inquiry and that Labour [the party in control since before the start of the illegal war -- under Tony Blair, now under Gordon Brown] is concerned about shoring up the "voters who turned away from the part after the 2003 invasion". Porter also notes the July 'withdrawal' of British forces will leave behind an additional 400. Ian Dunt (Politics) quotes an unnamed Labour MP who insists, "This is all about the Tories playing politics. They're somersaulting all over the place. It's something for nothing because anyone can argue for an Iraq inquiry, but that doesn't show you real position." The Tories are the conservative party and they released a statement today noting that Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said the inquiry should have taken place "long ago":

"It is alarming that by setting a date of 31st July, when Parliament will have adjourned for the summer, the Government is now dragging out the setting up of an inquiry until the autumn. This is unacceptable."
He called on the Government to "ensure that the inquiry is announced before the summer recess, that its remit is set out in a statement to Parliament and that without any further delay the Leader of the Opposition and Privy Councillors in Opposition parties are consulted about establishing the Inquiry."

The Scottish National Party issued
their own statement today following "this afternoon's vote on an inquiry into the Iraq War" which cites the party's Angus MacNeil:

The SNP have led demands for an inquiry into the Iraq war, and secured the first substantive debate in October 2006 -- at that time the vote was narrowly lost by just 25 votes -- with 12 Labour rebels. It was backed by all Tories and Liberal Democrats.
Mr MacNeil said:
"David Miliband's announcement of a timetable is farcical. It is a desperate attempt to play for time by a discredited government.
"An inquiry into the Iraq war is long overdue, and the process should begin right now, not be delayed for another day.
"Labour's plans for an inquiry to begin post July mean parliament will be in recess, by automn everyone will be looking at the economy and Pre-Budget Report, and then it will be buried under the General Election.
"This inquiry should have been held years ago, not held on ice by those politicians who dragged us into an illegal war on the basis of false information.
By every measurement this has been the biggest foreign policy disaster in modern times, and those responsible for it have never answered the most fundamental questions about why we were led into this mess.
"The claim that the war was about weapons of mass destruction was a blatant lie, a mere cover story unsupported by the facts, which has cost the lives of thousands of civilians and hundreds of our brave soldiers.
"The SNP have been pressing for years on this issue, and the UK Government to tell us the truth right now."

The Respect Pary issued a statement quoting their MP George Galloway who calls for an immediate inquiry:

No one has worked harder to force this inquiry than Rose Gentle, Reg Keyes, Peter Brierley and the Military Families Against the War network.
They deserve to know why their loved ones were sent to their deaths in Iraq. The British public deserves to know how and why the government fabricated a false case for a war that has now cost well over a million lives.
Everything the anti-war movement said has turned out to be right and everything claimed by the government has turned out to be either wrong, or a downright lie.
The question at issue is not whether it was right to go to war -- that has long been settled in the court of public opinion, so much so that you are hard pressed to find one of the majority of MPs who voted for it who will still defend doing so. The issue is instead precisely how government ministers and officials launched a war that they were told was unnecessary, unjustified and illegal.
This was a war of aggression that broke international law.
This inquiry must consider those questions and not be limited in scope to how the war was conducted and what happened afterwards. The public will simply not accept another establishement whitewash.
Nor, I predict, will people accept an inquiry that has no consequences. The war was based on a mountain of lies. But the only people to have lost their jobs over it are the former editor of the Mirror, the former director general of the BBC and one of its lead reporters.

As all the non-Labour parites speaking out make clear, no one has been held accountable. Tony Blair passed the governmental reigns onto Gordon Brown (who was his lackey in the lead up to the war and beyond). Jack Straw -- so eager to fix the intel in the lead up -- went from being the Foreign Secretary to becoming Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and the Secretary of State for Justice. Yes, that is laughable. And in his present post, Straw abuses his power, as the
BBC reported last month, to block Freedom of Information Act requests regarding the Iraq War. Most recently, Straw whimpered about "serious damage" being done "to cabinet government." That would be the cabinet he served in. Refusing the most recent request meant Straw was overruling the Information Tribunal. He's never been punished for his part in the illegal war but the Iraqis are punished daily for the 'error' of attempting to live.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 3 "little girls, injuring seven others," a Baghdad roadside bombing which left five Iraqis injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing which left four Iraqis injured (both roadside bombings were attacks on American convoys), a Diyala Province bombing attack on Azbar al Azawi ("civil society official") which wounded his brother and "several others" and Turkey began bombing northern Iraq (Dohuk) as did Iraq (Qindeel Mountain in the northwest).


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion that resulted in the death of 1 woman.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Bashiqa (a jerwler kidnapped over the weekend) and the corpse of a young man was also discovered.

Monday's snapshot noted Ivan Watson (CNN) reporting on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's offer that the US could use Turkey during the draw down. Today David Rising (AP) quotes US Army General Carter Ham stating, "I'm not aware that there are any plans from Central Command to move troops through Turkey but the fact that the (Turkish) prime minister said he would consider that is a positive sign." UPI observes that Walid al-Muallem, Syria's Foreign Minister, is in Baghdad today for a two day round of talks. And Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) notes that al-Muallem has declared that, "Syria is ready to offer whatever help is necessary" for a US departure from Iraq. This week Abudllah Gul became the first Turkish president to visit Iraq since 1976 (Fahri Koruturk was the president who visited in 1976) and he has wrapped up his visit. Today's Zaman declares: the visit a "landmark" and notes raised expectations over the PKK being addressed by Turkey and Iraq. The PKK is a Kurdish group that's labled a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, the UK, the European Union and Nouri al-Maliki. Turkey shells (as they did today) and bombs northern Iraq areas where they think/suspect the PKK is. They are a Kurdish group who seek an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey. With that in mind, Hurriyet reports:The Turkish president's denial of using the term "Kurdistan" while describing the administration in northern Iraq created confusion with all but one of the journalist traveling with Abdullah Gul insisting he used the term "Kurdistan." Gul paid a two-day landmark visit to Iraq on Monday, the first Turkish head of state to visit Iraq in 33 years, at a time of changing relations between Turkey and northern Iraq amid calls for increased efforts to eradicate the presence of the terror organization PKK. Turkish newspapers reported on Tuesday that Gul had become the first Turkish official to define the northern Iraqi administration as "Kurdistan" when he told reporters during the flight to the neighboring country that the "Kurdistan regional administration" in Iraq was the main actor in efforts to end terror activities against Turkish territory. Turkey does not recognize the semi-autonomous administration in northern Iraq by its official name due to concerns that doing so would eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Kurdish state involving Turkish territory.Seven Turkish journalists of the eight traveling with Gul say he used the term "Kurdistan," while Milliyet daily columnist Hasan Cemal defended a different version.

While the debate rages in Turkey,
Paul de Bendern (Reuters) notes, "Turkish President Abdullah Gul's recognition of the Kurdistan government in northern Iraq and his talks with the autonomous region's leader on fighting Kurdish guerrillas mark a breakthrough for regional stability. In just two days Gul has helped reduce tensions and break down barriers between the Turkish state and its ethnic Kurdish minority as well as with neighbouring Iraqi Kurds."

the new york timesrod nordlandalissa j. rubin
luke savage
usama redhathe los angeles timesned parker
hurriyetupidavid rising
mcclatchy newspapers
sahar issa
cnnivan watson