Friday, June 26, 2009

What's around the corner

"Torture In Guantánamo: The Force-feeding Of Hunger Strikers" (Andy Worthington, ACLU's Blog of Rights):
In 1988, when Ronald Reagan signed the
U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT), and declared that it marked “a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment,” the commitment of the United States to eradicating the use of torture was made clear, as were the terms of reference regarding the meaning of torture.
As defined in Article 1 of CAT, torture means “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person,” whether to secure information or a confession, as punishment, or as intimidation or coercion of any kind. There are, moreover, no excuses for this absolute prohibition to be broken. As Article 2 states, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
After the 9/11 attacks, however, when senior officials in the Bush administration, led by Vice President
Dick Cheney, declared a “War on Terror,” they also decided that numerous national and international laws and treaties — including the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture — were an inconvenience that prevented them from seizing prisoners and interrogating them as they saw fit. As a result, prisoners in the “War on Terror” were held neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects to be put forward for trials, but as “enemy combatants” with no rights whatsoever.

It's a scary thought if you wrap your mind around a possibility: Ronald Reagan might be bothered by the embrace of torture. Who knows for sure? He was crooked as hell and used the I-remember-nothing excuse to keep his ass out of prison for Iran-Contra. But possibly Ronald Reagan would be against it.

It's not like we need a lot more scary thoughts. After all, we lived under a Republican administration for eighty years and many foolishly believed that installing a Democrat would change that.

Maybe a Democrat would have? I don't consider Barack a Democrat. Democrats don't worship at the ass of Ronald Reagan.

Barack has embraced torture. He needs to be voted out of office in 2012. It would be great if a third party candidate could be the one. But at this point, it may have to be a Republican. It may take humilation to get the Cult of St. Barack to wake the hell up.

I don't think it's impossible that a Republican could win the White House. The main reason I don't think that is that every other week I'm hearing the drum beats of the MSM saying, "Another Republican bites the dust."

I know how this works, I've seen enough elections. The ones being tossed on the fire are being burned to prove how 'impossible' it is so that when he or she emerges, the press can portray the person as amazing, astounding and heroic.

The press builds up just so it can tear down and, bit by bit, they are dismantling their Barry O. They created him. If you don't think the press turns on the pin-ups they create, just remember how they went after John McCain until 2008 when all the sudden "Straight Talk" wasn't their boy anymore.

It may happen. That's another reason we need to see some accountability for the lies from losers who promoted Barry. We need them to 'fess up to what they did because the main reason they don't is because it would be hard for them to be believed next time. It needs to be hard for them to be believed next time. It needs to be.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 26, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi oil garners attention, the pull-out becomes a ring around the roses, the Defense Department announces a death, Barack talks Iraq (briefly), and more.

Violence continues this morning in Iraq.
Alissa J. Rubin and Campbell Robertson (New York Times) explain a Baghdad motorcycle suicide bombing which has claimed multiple lives. Nizar Latif (The National) reports the bomb was "packed with nails and ball-bearings, designed to make the blast even more deadly". CNN counts the dead to be 15 with another forty-six injured. Abdul Rahman Dhaher, Missy Ryan, Michael Christie, Tim Cocks, Sophie Hares and Bill Trott (Reuters) add, "Shredded shoes and bits of bloody clothing were scattered around the twisted frames of motorbikes. The blast site was swiftly sealed off by Iraqi soldiers and police."
The motorcyle bombing was the second in Baghdad this week. The first was
Wednesday's which resulted in at least 78 deaths. That wasn't a suicide bombing, however, the bomber was said to have fled the motorcyle (used to pull explosives hidden beneath produce) before it exploded. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the third took place Friday night in Baghdad and resulted in the death of 1 man and left three more injured. In other violence . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and wounded two more. Reuters notes Thursday included a Mosul car bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldiers, a Baghdad overnight mortar attack which left four people injured and a Baghdad roaside bombing which injured two people.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Iraqi security forces in Mosul shot dead a suspected bomber. Reuters drops back to the Thursday to note: "Gunmen wearing military uniforms attacked a convoy carrying a senior criminal judge in Mosul on Thursday, wounding one of his bodyguards, police said. The judge was not hurt."

Today the
Defense Department announced a death (one MNF never reported): "Spc Casey L. Hills, 23 of Salem, Illinois died June 24 in Iraq of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. He was assiagned to the 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry Regiment, Pago Pago, American Samoa. The circumstnaces surrounding the incident are under investigation." The announcement brought the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4315.

Turning to the US, yesterday's
Free Speech Radio News featured a report on the latest Winter Soldier by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Click here for the segment.Manuel Rueda: At home Iraq Veterans Against the War, a grassroots organization of vets opposed to US wars, continues to organize Winter Soldier hearings across the country. It´s a venue where veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan can tell stories from their war days, in a venue where veterans can tell stories from their war days in an environment that's safe and supportive. Leo Paz reports from Los Angeles. Leo Paz: Ryan Endicott is a former Marine Corporal who did multiple tours in Iraq and returned to the US in 2006. He talked about what it's like for US marines to enforce martial law in a foreign country. Ryan Endicott: Young boys 18 to 22 are having martial law over a group of people. It's complete oppression and it actually borders on the line of terrorism. I mean you strap dead bodies to your Humvee and drive around a city with it, that's terrorism. That's scaring a group of people into your beliefs -- into your belief system and structure and that's exactly what we're doing, we're terrorizing them.Leo Paz: Corporal Endicott who was in Ar Ramadi Iraq says these were not isolated incidents but daily occurrences. Ryan Endicott: Every single day, every time you kick in a door and drag a man out of his bed in the middle of the night, that's terrorism. That's not -- we're not saving people that's not liberation. You don't liberate people by -- by kicking in their doors in and arresting people by mass numbers by shooting them that's not liberation, that's occupation. Leo Paz: Some of the soldiers recalled the harsh treatment of Iraqi civilians stopped at the numerous checkpoints installed by the US throughout the country. Former Marine Corporal Christopher Gallagher compared the checkpoints in Haditha and Falluja to herding cattle. Christopher Gallagher: If any Iraqis voiced their opinion for the way they were being treated the Iraqi police -- we had a checkpoint -- would handle the situation by harassing and assaulting them. Leo Paz: According to Gallagher when the US military went door to door in the middle of the night, raiding homes to eliminate any resistance to the occupation, Iraqis held massive protests. Gallagher described the typical US response to this protest. Christopher Gallagher: In 2004 the Iraqis would hold protests in the town of Haditha against the occupation typical response for this was to have fighter jets fly over the crowd and scare them away. Leo Paz: Corporal Endicott questioned the sanitized version of war portrayed in mainstream American media. Ryan Endicott: What should be on the media is the thousands of doors that are kicked in every day and the thousands of people that are terrorized by the US soldiers that are pumped up on adrenaline and just looking to kill people. I mean there's plenty of people that joined the military just to kill people. Leo Paz: Endicott is one of many vets who denounced the indiscriminate shooting of civilians by US military. Devon Read a former Marine infantry Sgt who took part in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 saw comrades anxious to fire at whatever came in their path. He told people at winter soldier about driving through Nazaria, speeding on the way to Baghdad, on the back of a Humvee and Marines in his unit shooting randomly at people in houses. Devon Read: You know, none of the grunts that wanted to shoot people really cared about that. If it was an opportunity to shoot someone, they'd be shooting. So there's two of us on my side of the vehicle and three guys on the other side of the vehicle and we're facing outboard and suddenly the guys on the other side of the vehicle start shooting and I'm curious what the heck they're shooting at but I can't really look because I'm paying attention to my side and the other guy that's with me decides to switch sides, switches over to the other side and starts shooting also. And I finally take a moment to look and I'm looking and they're all just shooting wildly. Leo Paz: Sgt. Reed was appalled by the random gunfire and wondered how many civilians had been shot by US troops that day. Devon Read: There's, you know, people in windows way off in the distance, who really knows? Plenty of civilians with their -- poking their heads out of the window but its just someone to shoot at and there's shooting going on so no one's going to ask any questions if they start pulling the trigger too. So everyone starts shooting randomly and I talk to everyone after and none of them had any idea what they were shooting at or why. Leo Paz: Many Vietnam war vets showed up to support the IVAW and the Iraq veterans in denouncing war and violence. Ed Garza an army gunner with the 173rd airborne Brigade still has nightmares forty years after the war. Ed Garza: I remember the dead bodies and I remember seeing them and I remember we used to kill the Vietnamese and we'd put our patch on them To remind the other Vietnamese in the area that uh that we were there, the 173rd airborne. So those are some of the things I remember. Leo Paz: According to a study conducted by Iraqi doctors, and published in a British medical journal, Iraqi dead are in the hundreds of thousands since the US invasion in 2003, Afghan civilians are estimated at more than 10,000 dead. Now into the 8th year of the war, more than 5,000 soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan according to the US military. Leo Paz, FSRN.

Staying with resistance to illegal wars,
Australia's The Guardian (The Worker's Weekly) carries an interview by Elsa Rassbach with war resister Andre Shepherd who is appealing for asylum in Germany after having served one tour of Iraq already.

Elsa Rassbach: Since the "war on terror" began, there have been many US soldiers who have spoken out and many who have refused to serve. But you are the first so far to apply for asylum in Germany. What are the grounds on which your application is based?

Andre Shepherd: Well, it's very simple: In the war of aggression against the Iraqi people, the United States violated not only domestic law, but international law as well. The US government has deceived not only the American public, but also the international community, the Iraqi community, as well as the military community. And the atrocities that have been committed there these past six years are great breaches of the Geneva Conventions. My applying for asylum is based on the grounds that international law has been broken and that I do not want to be forced to fight in an illegal war.

Elsa Rassbach: In your asylum application, you mention the Principles of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which were incorporated in the UN Charter. In Nuremberg, the chief US prosecutor, Robert H Jackson, stated: "To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole." In opening the trial on behalf of the United States, he stated that "while this law is first applied against German aggressors, this law includes and if it is to serve a useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment." What does Nuremberg mean to you?

Andre Shepherd: The Nuremberg statutes are the foundation of many US soldiers' refusal of the Iraq war and to some extent of the Afghanistan war. The United States with its allies after World War II crafted these laws stating that even though you've gotten orders to commit crimes against humanity, you don't have to follow them, because every person has their own conscience. That was more than 60 years ago. Today the US government seems to be under the impression that those rules do not apply to it. In invading Iraq, they did not wait for a UN mandate, they didn't let the inspectors do their job, and they made up stories about who's a real threat. This is totally violated everything stated in the Nuremberg statutes. The US Constitution states that the US is bound to our international treaties, for example with the UN. When we ignore the UN, we are violating the US Constitution, which every US soldier is sworn to uphold. And the US must also respect our own very strict laws against war crimes and torture. Since the Obama administration refuses to investigate and prosecute the previous administration, it's clear to me that the Obama administration is an accomplice to the previous administration's crimes. They're setting a very dangerous precedent for the future of the world, something I don't want to see. The German people are well aware of the history; it is here that the Nuremberg tenets were first set down. Now we have to find a way to restore those tenets, to actually respect the Nuremberg tenets as well as the Geneva Conventions. Germany needs to tell the US, "Look, you guys helped create these laws, and now you guys should abide by your own rules."

On Iraq, the second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show featured Michael Hersh of Newsweek, Elise Labot of CNN and Warren Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers and Iraq was addressed early on.

Diane Rehm: Michael Hirsh, there have been bomb attacks all across the country in Iraq this week. What's going on?

Michael Hirsh: Well you have what remains of the insurgency trying to forment sectarian violence and war to get them back to -- very close to the civil war in Iraq they were at in 2006 as the US prepares for this dramatic withdrawal from Iraqi cities which is really effectively the end of George W. Bush's surge. The surge was all about putting American troops on the front-line in the cities. It worked along with other aspects of change policy. So this is a -- this is a very, very critical moment, perhaps the most critical moment since the beginning of the insurgency in Iraq War.

Diane Rehm: But why this week is it an attempt to get the US to change it's mind? is it a protest, what is it, Warren?

Warren Strobel: I think it's an attempt to portray the US withdrawal as a retreat by the insurgents. We saw similar stuff happen in Gaza a few years ago when the Israelis withdrew and Hamas was trying to do this, so that's -- that's part of it. I totally agree with Michael. I think this at least the most critical moment in Iraq since the surge began -- if not since the insurgency began. I mean this is a really, really critical point and uh it's -- we're going to see whether the Iraqi security forces all the money and training we've thrown into them can handle this.

Diane Rehm: That's a huge question, Elise.

Elise Labott: And it's not just the American troops that are leaving. They're taking with them this whole infrastructure of support and logistics and intelligence that the Iraqis have come to rely on. I mean you have intelligence satellites, cameras, bomb-sniffing dogs, medical evacuations. All of these things that the Iraqis have kind of come to rely on that they're not going to have anymore. And I think on Warren and Michael's point, it's not just about trying to portray it as a retreat, I think it's also trying to show, um, that the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki is not suit -- able to handle this. And I think what we need to see right now is whether you're going to start to see the development of militias that we saw in 2005 when there was a lack of confidence in the government to be able to protect the people.

Michael Hirsh: There will continue to be a quiet presence of the US special forces and intelligence

Diane Rehm: Yes --

Michael Hirsh: In addition --

Diane Rehm: -- in what numbers?

Michael Hirsh: We don't know. As well as uh obviously surveillance from the skies And let's not forget either that uh, you know, Maliki has an air force, the US air force which is actually both his artillery and his air force and proved to be very effective when he first began cracking down on the militias as he did in Basra. So it's not a total withdrawal nor will it be, I believe, even when we supposedly fully pull out at the end of 2011. But it is a real, real test for Maliki's leadership and, as Warren said, the training of the Iraqi forces.

Diane Rehm: So what is the mood of the Iraqi people as the US prepares to withdraw, Elise?

Elise Labott: Well I think they're kind of ambivalent about it. On one hand they're ready to see the Americans go. I mean this is the last true symbolism of their sovereignty but at the same time, the reports that we hear from Iraq is that a lot of Iraqis aren't really looking for the United States to leave, they're worried as to whether the government can handle this and I think it is, it's going to be looking to the government to pick up the slack. They're not sure if Nouri al-Maliki is able to do it.

Warren Strobel: Well I think they wanted us to leave [laughing] until we actually started to leave. And now some at least Some people are having second thoughts.

Elise Labott: You don't know what you've got till it's gone.

Warren Strobel: Exactly. And there was this guy quoted in the paper from Sadr City, a huge Shi'ite neighborhood in Baghdad, expressing great concern about the pull-out of a specific, I guess it was a US security station maybe it was a joint-security station there, about what would happen next. I mean I agree with Michael that we're still going to have a lot of US assets there but the American ability to influence the situation has been steadily declining and it's going to decline a lot more in the coming months.

Elise Labott: I think you also started to see the US and the Iraqis working to implement of the US withdrawing from the cities but maybe trying to fudge the lines of what the city constitutes so that some forces could stay but at the same time technically they're outside of the cities. And the US acknowledges that it's very difficult because it's time for the Iraqis to stand up on their own. The longer the Americans are there, the Iraqis are going to become dependent on them they need to be seen as leaving for the Iraqis to step up.

Diane Rehm: What about rebuilding those cities? To what extent might that begin to take place? And do the Iraqis themselves have to go about doing that? Where do they get money, Michael?

Michael Hirsh: Well I mean obviously the oil, their oil industry is back on line to some degree. Accompanying this development of US withdrawal you finally have serious interest by US oil companies and wri-- agree to contracts that they have been unwilling to do up until now because of the violence. So they'll be getting additional revenues from that but this is -- this is also a very good test for Maliki. One is security, the other is rebuilding. You still have long periods of blackouts in Baghdad. You know, six years or more into this, you have very, very poor infrastructure and a lot of unhappiness among the Iraqis.

Diane Rehm: Michael Hersh of Newsweek, Elise Labot of CNN, Warren Strobel of McClatchy.

As for the pull-out from Iraqi cities,
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reveals, that instead of being in the cities, US forces will "encircle them," "put in place in the belts around those cities and in areas that are potential flashpoints of Kurdish-Arab tension. . . . The plan keeps US advisers within the cities, and in Mosul redeploys battalions that had been within the city to the surrounding areas." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that while "[t]housands of U.S. combat troops will remain at a handful of bases in Baghdad and on the outskirts of other restive cities, such as Mosul and Kirkuk, in nothern Iraq, past the June 30 deadline" and that this has US military officials worried that US service members as well as Iraqis will be put at risk in the new holding pattern Barack's created. Stop the holding pattern, just bring the troops home.

At the White House today, President Barack Obama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and he spoke about Iraq when NPR's Don Gonyea asked about Iraq's "upsurge in violence; a lot of bombings, a lot of deaths, does that give you any second thoughts on the coming deadline to pull the combat troops from the cities?"

Barack Obama: On Iraq, obviously any time there's a bombing in Iraq we are concerned. Any time there's loss of innocent life or the loss of military personnel, we grieve for their families and it makes us pay attention. I will tell you if you look at the overall trend, despite some of these high-profile bombings, Iraq's security situation has continued to dramatically improve. And when I speak to General [Ray] Odierno and Chris Hill, our ambassador in Iraq, they continue to be overall very positive about the trend lines in Iraq. I think there's still some work to do. I think the Maliki government is not only going to have to continue to strengthen its security forces, but it's also going to have to engage in the kind of political give and take leading up the national elections that we've been talking about for quite some time. And I haven't seen as much political progress in Iraq, negotiations between the Sunni, the Shia, and the Kurds, as I would like to see.
So there are always going to be -- let me not say "always" -- there will continue to be incidents of violence inside of Iraq for some time. They are at a much, much lower level than they were in the past. I think the biggest challenge right now is going to be less those attacks by remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq or other insurgent groups, and the bigger challenge is going to be, can the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds resolve some of these major political issues having to do with federalism, having to do with boundaries, having to do with how oil revenues are shared. If those issues get resolved, then I think you will see a further normalization of the security atmosphere inside of Iraq.

Later at the White House, spokesmodel Robert Gibbs was asked to clarify Barack's statement ("express some of the things the president is hoping for and what is he intending to do about that?") and he responded, "Well -- I mean -- Obviously, he's met continually with Ambassador Hill. Obviously, the stops -- or the meetings -- that we made during the stop in Baghdad on the -- I guess that was in late March, early April -- Obviously, without getting specific, there continues to be progress in terms of political reconciliation in terms of oil and hydrocarbons that, as move throughout a year -- a very important year -- of elections in Iraq, again, proving that it will take the steps necessary to govern its country." Interesting and telling that Gibbs would go straight to the theft-of-Iraqi-oil law.

Staying with oil, when
you're caught serving up US government propaganda at the start of the week, you'd think you'd keep your head low for the rest of the week. Not only do your talking points end up on the US government propaganda outlet Voice of America (and all its spin-offs with "Radio Free . . ." in the title), but you're rah-rah Nouri talking point is slapped down by Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) and public events slap down your 'Western companies aren't going to do oil business in Iraq!'. But apparently you woke up yesterday begging for a beating which is why Timothy Williams offers up "Warily Moving Ahead on Oil Contracts" in this morning's New York Times. In the real world, AP offers a list of the Big Oil countries rushing in to bid on Iraqi oil and we'll note their first eight countries on the list:UNITED STATES: Chevron, ConocoPhilips, Exxon Mobil, Hess Corp., Marathon International Petroleum Ltd., and Occidental Petroleum Corp. United Kingdom: BP Group PLC. Japan: Inpex Holdings Inc., Japex and Nippon Oil Corp. Australia: BHP Billiton Ltd. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. China: China's CNOOC Ltd., CNPC International Ltd., Sinochem International Co. Ltd., and Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical co. Ltd. Italy: Edison International SPA and Eni. Russia: JSC Lukoil and JSC Gazprom Neft. France: Total SA. Anthony DiPaola (Bloomberg News) explains that Exxon and Shell are foaming at the bit and they are only 8 "of the world's top 10 non-state oil producers" who are rushing to cash in on Iraq oil. Sinan Salaheddin's "Big Oil poised for return to Iraq" (AP) explains the basics. While Timothy Williams played the violins for Big Oil on Monday and begged for a greater theft of Iraqi oil, Ahmed M. Jiyad (UPI) details what the contracts actually allow and concludes, "Considering the above and their possible implications it seems these model related to the first bidding round do not and could not deliver the best interest for the Iraqi people, and probably this explains the growing opposition to them." Reuters explains, "Here are some facts about Iraq's oil industry" in this report which points out: "Iraq's oil has been coveted by foreign powers for decades." Also of interest, Christopher Helman's "Cashing In On Iraqi Oil" (Forbes). Earlier this month, IVAW's Aaron Hughes reported on his trip to Erbil for the International Labor Conference in Iraq at US Labor Against War at which a resolution was passed "against the draft oil and gas law" :The conference was set up to bring together the major labor constituencies from across Iraq to form a confederation based on worker rights. At the end of our second day, the eve of the conference, workers from fifteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces began to arrive. There were representatives from Iraq's oil and gas industry, its port union, the electrical generation and distribution industry, construction, public sector, transportation, communications, education, rail roads, service and health care industries, machinists and metal working sector, the petro-chemical industry, civil engineers, writers and journalists, food oil workers, tailors and students.The historical nature of the conference was clear. This opportunity for the international community and the workers across Iraq to show solidarity was long overdue. After the United States invaded Iraq and set up the provisional government, a new constitution was drafted that included worker rights. However, at the same time, Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, retained Saddam Hussein's labor laws.
[. . .]
Leading by exmaple is the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU) lead by its president Hassan Juma'a Awad, which exploded in size over the past four years to over 25,000 members. It is the strongest and most powerful union in Iraq and is also extremely militant in regards to workers rights. For example, the union has protested, gone on strike, and used direct non-violent tactics to force the British occupation forces to stand down and furthermore drove the US contractor KBR from the oil fields near Basra.

In their 2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (from February 25, 2009), the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor notes:"The constitution provides the right to form and join unions and professional associations, subject to regulating law. Labor Law 150 of 1987, enacted by the Saddam government, ...declared virtually all public sector workers to be government 'executives,' and therefore legally ineligible to form or to join unions, a move that, in effect, eliminated unions and the right of association from the public sector. In the private sector, the extant 1987 Trade Union Organization Law ...was also intended, in practice, to remove the right of association from a majority of private sector workers, because most private sector businesses employ fewer than 50 workers. Decree 8750 of 2005, which cancelled unions' leadership boards, froze their assets, and formed an inter-ministerial committee to administer unions' assets and assess their capacity to resume activity, also inhibited union activity. The laws and decree do not prohibit anti-union discrimination by employers or others. In addition to this oppressive legal and regulatory framework, violence and insecurity, high unemployment, and maladapted labor organizational structures inhibited the exercise of labor rights."Throughout the conference, in moments here and there, over sips of tea, in the hallway between talks, over a meal of lamb and rice, or in the marble floored lobby I had the opportunity to speak with the different labor leaders. Their stories were hopeful and humble. They were filled with courageous acts of resistance against the many odds stacked against them. Their government does not legally recognize unions and organizing in the public sector (seventy percent of the economy) is illegal. Union assets are frozen and confiscated. The US military has raided union leaders' homes and occupied factories and plants. The local militias target union leaders and female workers. Despite these odds, the unions are organizing, growing and winning.

Last week,
Andy Rowell (Oil Change) noted the Independent's report on the "public fury" in Iraq as "the country is handing over control of its fields to foreign companies." And you can also refer to an article by Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal). Rowell also notes a cartoon by Peter Brookes (Times of London) about the Iraq inquiry in England and concludes, "Whether the inquiry is in secret or public, one thing is certain an inquiry is unlikely to tell us whether Iraq was ever about oil." The Great Britain's Socialist Worker observes, "The row over the transparency, or otherwise, of the inquiry into the war on Iraq has exposed the continuing influence of Tony Blair on the Labour Party -- and the weakness of Gordon Brown. Blair put pressure on Brown to ensure that the inquiry into the war would be held in private." They conclude that testimony and evidence should be submitted by peace activists and they should "hold protests at MPs' surgeries to demand that the warmongers are brought to justice."

Not interested in the oil and despite foreign forces and foreign media leaving the country, Sister Maria Hanna has no intention of leaving.
She explains to Carmen Blanco (Catholic Spirit), "I am committed to staying in Iraq for those who remain: the poor, the vulnerable, the widows and their chilren." Blanco adds, "Sister Hanna, a member of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena in Mosul, Iraq, visited Washington in June to talk about her work and to give Catholic agencies and organizations an update on current conditions in the country. She has set goals to build schools and hospitals for those remaining in Iraq and to give hope to all Iraqis."

TV notes. Coming up on
NOW on PBS:American streets are littered with foreclosed houses, but one daring advocate says these homes shouldn't go to waste. He encourages and facilitates homeless squatting. It's an idea that addresses two issues at once - homelessness and foreclosed homes -- and it's also illegal.This week, NOW travels to Miami to meet with Max Rameau, an advocate for the homeless. Rameau's organization, Take Back the Land, identifies empty homes that are still livable, and tries to find responsible families willing to take the enormous legal risks of moving in.Rameau, who considers his mission an act of civil disobedience, says it's immoral to keep homes vacant while there are human beings living on the street. But while these squatters have morality in their hearts, they don't have the law on their side.With the faltering economy separating so many people from their homes, what's society's responsibility to those short on shelter?That and other PBS programming noted begin airing on many PBS stations tonight, check local listings. Only on PBS can you get crap like Gwen gas bagging with three men and one woman in 2009 and have that junk be considered 'appropriate' and 'diverse'. On Washington Week, Gloria Borger (US News & World Reports, CNN) is the lone woman. Pete Williams (NBC), David Sanger (NYT) and John Dickerson (Slate, CBS News) are the men. To actually see women address the week's issues, join Bonnie Erbe who sits down with Sam Bennett, Victoria Lipnic, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Cheaters 60 Mintes and The Washington Post reveal how online poker players suspecting cheating were forced to successfully ferret out the cheaters themselves. That's because managers of the mostly-unregulated $18 billion Internet gambling industry failed to respond to their complaints. Steve Kroft and The Washington Post's Gilbert Gaul report. Watch Video
Mind Reading Neuroscience has learned so much about how we think and the brain activity linked to certain thoughts that it is now possible - on a very basic scale - to read a person's mind. Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video
Gorongosa American Greg Carr is using his great wealth to try to help some of the poorest people in Africa by attracting more tourists to their neighborhood - the beautiful national park of Gorongosa in Mozambique. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

On this week's White House plant in the press conference,
please check out this video from Newsy. The Hurt Locker opens in Los Angeles and New York today and opens July 10th in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Oahu, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Minneapolis, Denver, Toronto and DC. Kenneth Turan gives it a rave review in "The Hurt Locker" (Los Angeles Times):

"The Hurt Locker" has the killer impact of the explosive devices that are the heart of its plot: It simply blows you apart and doesn't bother putting you back together again. Overwhelmingly tense, overflowing with crackling verisimilitude, it's both the film about the war in Iraq that we've been waiting for and the kind of unqualified triumph that's been long expected from director Kathryn Bigelow.

free speech radio newsleo paziraq veterans against the wardevon readchristopher gallagherryan endicott
the washington postanthony shadid
jane arraf
ernesto londono
us labor against the war
aaron hughes
gina chonthe wall street journal
ahmed m. jiyadanthony dipaolacarmen blanco
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbsnprthe diane rehm showpbs
the los angeles timeskenneth turankathryn bigelow

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

State of the left

Cedric's Big Mix
Barack caught in another lie
9 hours ago

The Daily Jot
9 hours ago

Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
DMZ: The Hidden War
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I started with that because I always forget. My contributions on theme post nights are minor but the least I can do is highlight the work everyone else puts in.

"People’s Summit discusses issues, action plan" (Betsey Piette, Workers World):
Under a canopied “tent city” in the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza across from the United Nations, more than 200 individuals and 35 organizations gathered for the People’s Economic Summit on May 31. The gathering was called by the Bail Out the People Movement to discuss the theme “Another World is Urgently Needed ... But We Must Fight for It!”
The conference had been scheduled to take place just before a June 1-3 U.N. Conference on the Economic Crisis, a forum for the concerns of the 192 member nations of the General Assembly. However, pressure from the powerful economic countries forced postponement of the U.N. conference.
The postponement gave added significance to the People’s Economic Summit. The event became a protest against the G20 governments, particularly the U.S. and European imperialist powers, which conspired for months to weaken and derail the U.N. economic summit.
Jamaican Ambassador Byron Blake, senior advisor to U.N. General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, addressed the gathering. He expressed his deep appreciation for the summit organizers and their objectives.
“The G20 countries have had three meetings at the highest level in 10 months to address the crisis, yet there wasn’t one where the entire global community could participate. Another consensus is needed; Washington’s consensus is not doing it,” Blake said. “It’s clear they are not prepared to discuss the issues most critical to the developing nations: food, energy, emergency housing and finance—major systemic shortcomings.
“The burden for this crisis is borne by poor and marginalized countries in the developing world which had no responsibility for creating it,” Blake noted. “Stimulus packages are being introduced in developing countries, with nothing for the rest who will be forced to take on additional debt. As in the U.S., most of the global resources are going to those responsible for causing the crisis and little goes to those who were innocent victims.
“If we agree it’s a global crisis then all nations have to be involved,” Blake said.
‘It’s all based on greed’
Ramsey Clark, winner of the 2008 Human Rights Award of the United Nations, received resounding applause when he said: “The global economic system we have does not work. We have to throw out the entire system. It’s broke and you can’t fix it!
“I’ve spent my entire life dealing with state violence—cops on the beat, armies invading someplace—but economic destruction is more deadly. How many starve to death? How many have illness, sicknesses? We’ve been exploiting our neighbors—the cause of colonial wars and also world wars where the big guys fight to see who will get the spoils. It’s all based on greed, but the greatest problem is the increasing concentration of wealth.”
Bernadette Ellorin, secretary-general of BAYAN, an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S., said: “Stimulus money is committed to the titans of finance. The G20 have pledged more money to the International Monetary Fund to build up this long discredited organization, but made no provisions for debt cancellation to benefit the people suffering from the debt crisis.”
Fred Goldstein, Marxist writer and author of “Low-Wage Capitalism,” explained: “The crisis circling the globe is not just an economic crisis, but a capitalist crisis, artificially created on the backs of workers worldwide by a system that knows only one thing: profit.
“Autoworkers all over the Midwest and South are being told, ‘Shut down 14 GM and eight Chrysler plants,’‘Shut down hundreds of dealerships,’ ‘Take wage and benefit cuts.’ Why? Because GM is in a crisis of profitability, and workers have to bear the burden of GM’s failure by giving up homes, benefits and jobs.
“The property rights of capital must come second, the rights of workers first! This was the message when workers at Republic Windows and Doors took over their plant in Chicago. Workers’ rights must come before the rights of the bosses,” Goldstein said.
The voice of First Voices Indigenous Radio Lakota Nation, Tiokasin Ghosthorse, spoke on the growing impact of the global crisis on the environment and on Indigenous peoples whose nations and languages are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Other speakers on the panel included co-chairs Berta Joubert-Ceci and Sara Flounders of the International Action Center, and Chris Silvera from Teamsters Local 808 and the Million Worker March. Silvera said: “All of the government forces are powerless when we rise up. History has shown us this time and time again.”
A second panel chaired by Larry Holmes of the Bail Out the People Movement and anti-war activist Alison Bodine addressed the fight-back strategies needed to counter the crisis.
“If there had been big marches of working and poor people in New York City against unemployment, foreclosures, utility cutoffs, it would have created a better environment for the U.N. summit,” Holmes said. “Imagine if there had been a general strike, sit-ins, or plant occupations.
“We should be in their faces demanding jobs. This country has to be about creating 10 million union paying jobs—a WPA [Works Progress Administration] program. Globally, 100 million jobs are needed.
“In four months we need to mobilize for the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh to demand money for jobs and human needs, not wars and greed,” Holmes concluded. “Also keep in mind October 3, which marks the one-year anniversary of when Congress passed TARP.”
Kali Akuno of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and International League of Peoples’ Struggle described the ongoing struggle of New Orleans residents displaced since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “Almost four years later, hundreds of thousands are still displaced. There is a standing order to remove 4,300 families from trailers in the Gulf Coast.
“The struggle in the Gulf Coast is a first wave, just the beginning of what everyone else is now experiencing. Capitalism is getting leaner and meaner. We have to step up to the plate and be broader and stronger.”
Monica Moorehead of Millions for Mumia and editor of “Marxism, Reparations and the Black Freedom Struggle” discussed the importance of exploring the relationship among political repression, racism, prisons and the capitalist economic crisis.
“Just as the U.S. military around the world or the Israeli army in Palestine serve to repress struggle, racism, daily harassment and police brutality serve as occupying forces in communities of color at home,” Moorehead said. “We need to elevate the issue of repression, cops and prisons at the G-20 summit. We need to raise the plight of Muslim prisoners targeted under the guise of the so-called fight against terrorism; the MOVE 9, jailed for opposing the poisoning of people and the environment; Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier and many more.”
Other speakers included LeiLani Dowell, who discussed the upcoming Detroit People’s Summit and Tent City; long-time cultural activist, Vinie Burrows; Dulphing Ogan, secretary-general of KALUMARAN, Alliance of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao; Brenda Stokely from the Million Worker March, who spoke on the need to build a broader movement for social justice; Curtis Doebbler, Nord-Sud XXI NGO based in Geneva, a human-rights lawyer who spoke on the Palestinian people’s struggle against Israeli occupation; and the Rev. Lucius Walker of IFCO Pastors for Peace.
Panels discuss specific struggles
Earlier in the day five breakout sessions involved conference participants in wide-ranging discussions. The sessions included a panel on “Workers’ Struggles in the U.S.” Participants discussed the fight for jobs, the Employee Free Choice Act, foreclosures and evictions, the fight for single-payer health care, and efforts to make unions more accountable to the rank and file.
At a breakout group on “Racism, Political Repression and the Prisons,” participants addressed how the lack of jobs has resulted in the U.S. having the largest prison population in the world with majority Black, Latino/a and Native prisoners, and growing repression against youth, immigrant workers, and Arab and Muslim people. Workshop participants included activist attorney Lynne Stewart and members of the New York Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition, Millions for Mumia, New York Committee to Free the Cuban Five, and New York Friends of the MOVE 9.
Members of several youth organizations including Anakbayan, FiRE, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Nodutdol, FIST, and the International League of Peoples Struggle gathered to discuss the impact of the capitalist crisis as well as the struggles against national, women’s and LGBT oppression, imperialism and more. LeiLani Dowell of FIST told Workers World that the youths were able to learn a lot from each other’s experience in organizing and education.
Another panel discussed “Struggles Against U.S. Corporate Power Around the World,” focusing on the impact of the capitalist crisis, militarism, environmental destruction and imperialist policies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, the Caribbean and Latin America. Participants included activists from BAYAN, Haiti Liberte, Nodutdol, Pakistan USA Freedom Forum, Union of African Workers-Senegalese, Cuba Solidarity-NY, Mobilization Against War and Occupation, Al-Awda and the International Action Center.
At a panel on “Defending Immigrant/Worker Rights,” Carlos Canales of the Workplace Project described the desperation of undocumented workers on Long Island, N.Y. “With no jobs due to the economy these workers have been asking me what they can do to get deported back to their homelands,” Canales reported.
Activists at the People’s Economic Summit agreed that there should be a global response to the next G-20 summit. Accordingly, activists and organizations across the world will be urged to endorse the call for protest against the G-20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh, and to organize globally coordinated protests during the summit in September.
Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011

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That's a long article, I know, but it's an important one and also two friends of mine are named in it.

I honestly don't have a lot of organizing nation wide. That's because we saw the so-called anti-war movement transform itself into a Barry O fan club. It accomplished nothing and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not only continue, we now have the undeclared war on Pakistan.

The people in the article above are doing real work and dedicated. I don't doubt their qualifications or their drive. But I know the coronation of Barry O destroyed pretty much all movements on the left in this country.

Even if things can be rebuilt, it's going to take a long time to rebuild. There are also trust issues and strong divide in the left because a number of us saw that every vote doesn't matter. It only mattered in Florida. Count all the votes was a 2000 slogan for some but it didn't really mean anything.

The appalling sexism on display also sent a strong message.

Most of us are still appalled and the fact that the cheater who stole the nomination and his gang of thugs can't even be gracious winners?

I don't know that the left can come together anytime soon.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, June 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Gordon Brown's made another U-turn, Baghdad rocked by violence, at a US Congressional hearing the VA yet again embarrasses itself, and that June 30th 'deadline'? Not so much.

Starting in England with the planned inquiry into the Iraq War. "As the prime minister said last week," Foreign Minister David Miliband declared in the House of the Commons today, tapping the table twelve times for emphasis, "it is not an inquiry that has been set up to establish civil or criminal liability. It is not a judicial inquiry. Everything beyond that is within it's remit. It can uh praise or blame whoever it likes. It is free to write its own report at every stage." [
BBC has a clip here currently.] The House of Commons debated many topics including the Iraq inquiry. BBC News live blogged it here. The Daily Mail dubs it the latest "U-turn" from Prime Minister Gordon Brown's cabinet: "It is the latest climbdown on the inquiry, which was only unveiled by the Prime Minister last week as he attempted to restore his authority." Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) also calls it a U-turn and observes, "After watching David Miliband open today's debate on the subject in the Commons this afternoon, I've counted at least five U-turns." Sparrow then reviews the five U-turns. U-turn was also the phrase shadow foreign secretary William Hague used (BBC has clip here): "A U-Turn executed in stages as painful to watch as a learner driver doing a six-point turn, having started off the wrong way down the motorway. And they have performed this U-turn by getting the chairman of the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, to announce changes we have all been demanding but to announce them himself so that no minister has had to come back to the House and admit that the government were in the wrong. Indeed Sir John is now -- I will give way in a moment -- indeed sir John is now busily engaged in the very process of consultation with opposition parties and other -- others -- that a prime minister doing his job properly would have carried out before hand."

In addition to the issue of apportioning blame,
Philippe Naugton (Times of London) highlights another issue about the inquiry that was raised during the debate, "Mr Miliband was also pressed by MPs from all sides on how the inquiry could take evidence on oath -- as Mr Brown had said he hoped it would -- if it was not established on a statutory footings. The Foreign Secretary eventually told them: 'I am reliably informed that you don't need a statutory power to administer an oath'." Ian Dunt and Alex Stevenson ( report that the debate followed a motion put forward by the Conservative Party that the inquiry be a public one. BBC reports the vote was 260 for a public inquiry and 299 against. Joe Murphy (Evening Standard) notes that Milband also "confirmed that Tony Blair will be questioned in public about his role" and that Hague promised if his party wins the upcoming elections (his party is the Conservative party) they will "beef up" the inquiry Brown's proposing if it has not finished its work (the report from the commission will not be released until after the election -- whether or not it will be finished with the investigation before the election has not been addressed).

A lengthy exchange can be
found here (YouTube) in an ITN video. Here are two excerpts:

William Hague: We said that the membership of the inquiry, while encompassing people we have no call to criticize seem to us to be too narrow and that in particular some experience of ministerial office was desirable. And the following Monday my right honorable friend, the leader of the opposition, also made the point that military experience was desirable. And we further pointed out that the inquiry as proposed by the government consisted of four nominees -- none of whom was a woman. The government went a small way to meeting a part of these objections by adding Baroness Prasha to the inquiry membership. And I hope the Foreign Secretary will also acknowledge that his statement on the Today program -- that these five people were approached and then the cabinet secretary went to talk to the opposition parties -- was also inaccurate. Because the fifth, Baroness Prasha, was only added when it was pointed out to ministers that they proposed an inquiry to narrow in its membership.

David Miliband: At various points there have been allegations, for example, that the inquiry would not be able to look at the run-up to the war or the decisions in Basra in 2006 to 2008. These concerns, Mr. Speaker, are not well founded. The Chilcot inquiry has the widest possible remit. The committee will be free not just to examine all the evidence as I will document below but also do what it considers to be the most important issues the scope is deliberately not limited. As the prime minister said last week no inquiry has looked at such a long period and no inquiry has the powers to look in so much breadth. Second, Mr. Speaker, independence. The prime minister wrote Sir John Chilcot on the 17th of June assuring him of the government's commitment to a thorough and independent inquiry Sir John confirms in his repo - reply of the 21st of June, "I welcome the fact that I and my colleagues are free to decide independently how to -- how best to fulfill our remit.

Socialist Party issued the following statement by Sean Figg:

There are many unanswered questions surrounding the invasion: the Blair government's rush to war, twisting and turning to justify an attack on Iraq, using the most spurious of arguments to get the invasion they had already decided upon. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed as a result, along with over 4,600 US, British and other coalition soldiers. Massive destruction and devastation has also been wrought on Iraq.
Brown has tried to pose the inquiry as part of a new 'openness' in politics following the MPs' expenses scandal. But given his initial stance that the inquiry should be behind closed doors, clearly Brown is still unsure exactly what 'openness' means!
There has since been an 'establishment rebellion' amongst MPs, civil servants, and top military brass over a secret inquiry. In response, Brown announced a partial retreat last week asking the inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, to consider opening a few sessions to the public - far from a complete climbdown.
The truth is that on Iraq, Brown is in up to his neck. He still has everything to lose from an 'open' inquiry. He voted for the invasion, was part of Blair's war cabinet and has been a consistent supporter of the occupation. Brown could point to the reduction of British troops in Iraq since he took over as prime minister to try and improve his image, if he wasn't for escalating the war in Afghanistan instead!
The news that Tony Blair had intervened in an attempt to keep any inquiry secret will anger people further.
But even if there is a fully open inquiry, its chairman Sir John Chilcot - chairman of the Police Federation and a member of the unelected, unaccountable Privy Council - is clearly part of the establishment. And when establishment figures are left to investigate other establishment figures, even if not directly involved in the events they are investigating, there are still many vested interests in ensuring not too much damage is done.
And while an inquiry may bury itself in details of government shenanigans, the real motives for the war - securing oil resources and geopolitical control of the region by western imperialism - will be conveniently ignored.

Meanwhile the Liberal Democrats leader
Nick Clegg has declared, "We need an independent process to decide exactly what evidence is heard in private. This decision should not be down to the whims of Prime Ministers past and present. The burden of proof must be on the Government to demonstrate a clear impact on national security of specific evidence before any session can be held in private." Anne McElvoy (This is London) observed this morning, "The PM has havered and obscured his own position on Iraq because he did not want to pick a fight with Mr Blair at the time or, more cynically, concluded as the UN resolution unravelled, that the fallout was more likely to precipitate his predecessor's time in office than extend it and so kept shtoom. It is, when you consider the breadth of Mr Brown's other international interests and emphasis on the the 'big picture', an odd thing not to have a position on -- even now. What do you remember the Prime Minister saying at all about Iraq since the war? Nope, me neither." The Stop the War Coalition has issued a call for a full inquiry:

Nothing less than a full public inquiry into Iraq war
Contact your MP: We need a full public inquiry. Write, phone, fax your MP. Download letter . . . The revelation that Tony Blair -- who led Britain into the illegal war in Iraq -- is behind Gordon Brown's decision to hold an inquiry in secret won't surprise the anti-war movement and will further fuel the anger of MPs, peers, military leaders, former civil servants and bereaved families appallbed by the plan to hear evidence in private. Read more. . . . No surprise either that a leaked memo proves that Tony Blair met with George Bush in January 2003 to hatch a plot to go to war, whatever the United Nations decided. Read more . . . . A full public inquiry would reveal the secrets and lies in Blair's rush to war. What chance of that with Brown's inquiry panel of four knights and a baroness, some of whom were pro war?

ITN News reports that a Baghdad bombing in Sadr City has claimed at least 52 lives and left one-hundred-and-four more people injured. The Telegraph of London adds, "The blast shook the predominantly Shia district of Sadr City, a slum that is home to supporters of the firebrand cleric Moqtada al-Sadr." They also state that the bomb was on "a motorcyle rickshaw which had been loaded with explosives hidden underneath its load of vegetables." BBC quotes their correspondent Jim Muir stating the neighborhood "has been struck often and provocatively in the past." CNN updates the death toll to 55 and the number injured to one-hundred-and-sixteen. Al Jazeera cites an unnamed official with the Interior Ministry stating the bomber fled his motorcycle before the bomb went off. When the death toll rose to 56, AP was calling it the third worst bombing of the year in Iraq (based on the death toll). AP counts the dead in Saturday's Kirkuk bombing at 72 (the highest of the year) and then falls back to April 24th's suicide bombings in Baghdad with 71 dead. Sattar Rahim (Reuters) is reporting the death toll has reached 72 which would put it at the second deadliest. The death toll may continue to rise. Alice Fordham (Times of London) reports, "Today's blast came after a spokesman for the US military in Iraq told reporters that after June 30, some US soldiers will remain at posts called Joint Security Stations to train and advise local security forces." The military spokesperson making that declaration was Brig Gen Steve Lanza.

The June 30th 'deadline' calls for US troops to be out of all Iraqi cities. And that's not happening. Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported that months ago -- explaining how, in Baghdad, the sprawling military bases would be overlooked and the 'deadline' fudged.
Nordland reports this morning on attempts to explore Anbar Province, supposedly newly safe, and notes that before the police commander Tarqi al-Youssef would allow a reporter to visit "only after the general ordered dozens of Provincial Security Force troops to clear the streets and rooftops first." That's Falluja. Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on Kirkuk:

The Iraqi army major, a Kurd, didn't know what hit him. Col. David Paschal, the 6'6" commander of the 10th Mountain Division based in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk last year, had taken off the diplomatic gloves. As tea and soft drinks were served by fawning subordinates, the major almost preened in his easy chair. The top-ranked American soldier in the area had come to visit HIM. After a few minutes of pleasantries--the Arabic translated by Paschal's female Lebanese interpreter--the officer from Chicago leaned forward in his seat. Rawboned hands as big as those of former Bulls defensive ace Jerry Sloan clasped themselves together, as if trying to avoid making fists. His usual command voice grew even louder. He demanded to know why 200 Sunni Arab inductees had been turned away the previous week by the major. The major started to explain about not enough trucks and lack of bunks and..."Bull! I know why," the colonel thundered. "Because they were Sunni! We can't have that here. We need every soldier we can get."

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports on the problems in Mosul where the US military insists that attacks "have been cut by more than half with far fewer of the devastating suicide bombs and car bombs that hav been the hallmark of Sunni insurgents. But smaller attacks -- three to four a day -- have become the backdrop of daily life here." And to bring that back to today's news from Brig Gen Steve Lanza that US forces will not all be leaving Mosul, Sunday Jane Arraf reported US forces might not leave Mosul and quoted Col Gary Volesky stating, "We're waiting for a final decision, and we're prepared to execute whater they tell us to execute."

In some of today's other reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left ten people injured, a Mosul bombing which wounded eight people, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left five people injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing left four people wounded and "Insurgent Yaseen Salam died Wednesday when an IED he was planting in Rashad neighborhood exploded while he was handling it."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 guard for the ministry of Labour and Social Affairs was injured by sniper fire. Reuters notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse (female, shot in "the head and chest) was discovered in Mosul.

This afternoon in DC, the House Veterans' Affairs Committee's DAMA Subcommittee held a hearing. Subcommittee Chair John Hall opened the hearing by allowing US House Rep Joe Donnelly to offer his statements -- as part of the first panel -- because he had another commitment.

US House Rep Deborah Halvorson spoke, as part of the first panel, on behalf of the legislation she is sponsoring (HR 2774, the Families of Veterans Financial Security Act" whic would allow veterans to receive Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) for two years. This takes place at present; however, it is set to expire shortly. Halvorson's legislation makes the two years permanent and in need of no additional legislation to renew it.

Subcommittee Chair John Hall: I would like to ask -- well it seems to make a lot of sense of course to permanently extend the coverage for SGLI for two years since service members who are disabled are going through a very difficult and trying time. Have you had any feedback from service members or their families who have benefitted from this coverage and what did they think?

US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: Well what I've heard -- and we're talking here about service related, totally disabled veterans and these are the veterans that often can't find any other commercially offered insurance -- and I have a veterans' advisory committee and this is one of the things that came to my attention as something that they find very, very important as they're making these informed decisions with their family.

The second panel was composed of
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors' Bonnie Carroll and Disabled American Veteran's Joe Wilson. Wilson noted DAV supported Donnley's bill and had no objections to Halvorson. Joe Donnelly's proposed legislation addresses out of date tables being used today, specifically a 1941 mortality chart used to set premiums -- a table that has continued to be used despite being out of date.

US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrik arrived as Wilson and Carroll were breifly speaking and, following the second panel being dismissed, Kirkpatrik proposed legislation is HR 20968 and she explained:

I introduced this bill with Republican Walter Jones of North Carolina to do just one thing: To make the group life insurance offered to veterans and service members both fairer and more consistent with commercial life insurance Under both veterans groups' life insurance and service members' group life insurance, when a veteran or a service member is terminally ill, they can elect to receive up to half of their coverage while they are still alive. They can use this accelerated benefits option to pay medical bills, improve their quality of life or in any way they see it. However, current regulations require VGLI and SGLI to decrease the pay-out these veterans and service members collect by a percentage based on the prevailing interest rates. In recent years, this has amounted to a decrease in as much as $6,000. By contrast, most commercial life insurance policies that allow ABO withdrawals do not decrease this pay-out to claimants. We can and must do better for our veterans. This simple, common sense, bipartisan bill removes this deduction so that we might better serve terminally ill veterans and service members at the most financially vulnerable time for them and their families. Removing this deduction can be accomplished using the life insurance premium veterans and service members currently pay. This means that we can accomplish this important change without any additional cost to veterans service members or tax payers and without pay-go implications.

The third panel's only witness was the VA's Thomas Lostowka. He insisted that VGLI is competative with private practice and that everyone raises their premiums every five years -- every one. VA's raising has to do with the mortality table, remember that? Subcommittee Chair Hall wanted to know why a 1941 mortality table was being used and Lostowka agreed that it was out of date but insisted there would be a "higher cost to government if you were to change the table at this time." So when could the table be changed? According to Lostowka, never.

The father of a veteran who had traveled to DC for the hearing stopped us (
Wally, Ava, Kat and myself) to ask why Lostowka knew so little? He shared that if someone was coming to offer opinions on proposed legislation -- as Lostowka was -- it seemed to him they should be able to answer basic questions. That is not a minor point and it's one that can be made whenever VA sends witnesses (I think we've made it here). His House Rep sits on the Veterans Affairs Committee but not the Subcommittee and he intended to raise that issue with his rep's staff. It's a question the White House and Congress should be raising with the VA. The embarrassingly poor performance of Lostowka's was all the worse when you grasp that he felt the need to "brag" (his word) on the VA and to pat himself on the back stating "so we're doing quite a good job." No, Lostowka, you're not and you might need to meet with the families of veterans if you don't grasp that.

In the US yesterday, Barry O gave another press conference. One that avoided covering the Iraq War or even mentioning it.
Helene Cooper and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) live blogged it. We'll note this:
A Brief Wrap 1:33 p.m. Helene Cooper: Well, Sheryl, he really ramped it up on Iran. We heard the president use the word "condemn" for the first time since the Iranian elections to describe the government's actions. It will be interesting to see what comes next from Tehran in response.Sheryl Stolberg: Yes, I was struck especially by his last answer to Suzanne Malveaux about the "heartbreaking" video. He showed more passion than earlier in the press conference. And speaking of passion, I was also struck by the way Mr. Obama seemed irritated with reporters at various times during this news conference. The cigarette question seemed to really get under his skin. He rarely loses his cool, but there were more flashes of anger here than in the past."Heartbreaking." Some in the US might think the people dying in Iraq are "heartbreaking" but apparently, without video, it's no big deal to Barack. While Barry O had time to market the next war, he had no time for Iraq:It's Over 1:31 p.m. Sheryl Stolberg: Mr. Obama leaves the room. "No questions about Iraq or Afghanistan?" a reporter cries out. The question hangs in the air. It does seem amazing, not a single question for the American president about the nation's two wars.He didn't have time for Iraq. But he had time for a planted question as
Dana Milbank (Washington Post) explains. Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box (Huff & Puff) was contacted by the White House. They invited Nico Pitney to the show:They told him the president was likely to call on him, with the understanding that he would ask a question about Iran that had been submitted online by an Iranian. "I know that there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet," Obama went on. "Do you have a question?"Pitney recognized his prompt. "That's right," he said, standing in the aisle and wearing a temporary White House press pass. "I wanted to use this opportunity to ask you a question directly from an Iranian." Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world -- Iran included -- that the American press isn't as free as advertised. But yesterday wasn't so much a news conference as it was a taping of a new daytime drama, "The Obama Show." Missed yesterday's show? Don't worry: On Wednesday, ABC News will be broadcasting "Good Morning America" from the South Lawn (guest stars: the president and first lady), "World News Tonight" from the Blue Room, and a prime-time feature with Obama from the East Room. Barry O wants to decry Iran . . . from his staged press conference?A sign of how pathetic Panhandle Media is, you won't find that as the lead item on any Pacifica programming, you won't find it decried at The Nation, et al this morning. Bill Clinton, whom Panhandle Media chose to demonize, got a similar approach during the 90s. He could have handled a push back and probably would have had stronger terms in office if there had been one. Instead it was kid's gloves. So realize, kiddies, this story you're being read aloud? It has the same ending. Eight years from now the same people who've been silent will be screaming their heads off about how Barack did this or did that but, in real time, when it mattered, they didn't say or do a damn thing. Excuse me. That's not true. They begged for money. Endlessly, they begged for money. Always they begged for you to send money. Anything to stop from having to work a real job. The same programs and magazines and websites that rightly called out staged events by Bully Boy Bush now fall strangely silent providing a text book example of "situational ethics."

Many of those same outlets have wasted our time with the nonsense from the PR group "Save Darfur" -- Amy Goodman would be the prime example there and she's refused to book
Keith Harmon Snow for over three years now but she's not interested in guests who call out the nonsense but she has repeatedly booked propagandists for the advertising 'activists'. Bruce Dixon (Black Agenda Report) continues the strong work he's done on his own (and with Glen Ford and Ford's done some on his own as well) exposing Save Darfur:

A hundred years ago, in the Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. DuBois observed that "...the country's appetite for facts on the Negro question has been spoiled by sweets." If he was around today, DuBois could say the same for America's appetite for facts on Darfur, Sudan, the rest of Africa, Iraq, and most of the world. Facts are messy things. Facts come with historical contexts and uncertain consequences. Eternal truths, like good vs. evil are sweet like candy, simple and comforting.
Since its founding in 2004, the Save Darfur Coalition has spent tens of millions on a state of the art advertising campaign to paint us a picture that is exactly that. Sweet and simple, easy to understand, and most of all, we get to be the good guys. Darfur is, to use Samantha Power's phrase, "a problem from hell," a piece of pure, unambiguous evil in which the global power of the US can be put to use constructively, because stopping a genocide calls for action, not for politics. Stopping genocide, we are told, is above politics. The lesson of genocide is that great powers must act, people of conscience and good will must intervene.
There are several problems with this, both as a general proposition, and specifically as it applies to Darfur. In the first place genocide is defined as the attempt to wipe out a nation or a people. There is so little evidence that mass killings on the scale necessary to be called genocide have occurred in Darfur that back in 2007, Save Darfur's UK operation was prohibited from using the figure of 400,000 dead that routinely appears in its advertisements in the US. Britain has a government truth-in-advertising agency called the Advertisement Standards Authority. They looked at Save Darfur's massive death toll. They took into account a 2006 US General Accounting Office report in which GAO assembled a number of death and casualty estimates, high and low for Darfur, and summoned a panel of experts to determine which were accurate.
GAO study [1] found the low estimates of 50 to 70 thousand dead from a variety of causes including disease and starvation due to desertification on all sides of the conflict to be more accurate than the high estimates of 200 to 400 thousand by direct armed violence on one side alone claimed by Save Darfur. The GAO report maintained that the peak death toll occurred in 2004 and early 2005 and had been trending downward since. This was compelling enough evidence for Britain to ban the inflammatory claims that Save Darfur still makes with impunity in the US, which has no truth in advertising laws.
African scholar
Mahmood Mamdani [2] has traveled extensively for many weeks in Sudan and Darfur as part of the African Union's Dialog for Darfur project, interviewing officials, activists and ordinary people on all sides of the conflict. In a talk at Howard University on March 20, 2009 [3] he reported that only days before, the general in charge of the African Union's peacekeeping forces in Darfur pegged the death toll for the entire year in and around the refugee camps at a mere 1,500. While the deaths of 50 to 70 thousand people several years ago on multiple sides of an armed conflict are a grievous matter, not to be minimized or brushed aside, they don't count as the ongoing genocide of helpless civilians.

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the times of londonalice fordham
rod nordlandmcclatchy newspapersmike tharpjane arraf
bruce dixon

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mark Evanier's Mad Art

Mad Art is a a collection of Mad Magazine and Mark Evanier is the editor. It's theme post Tuesday and we're going with comics.

I went with Mad Magazine because it really has had a huge impact on our culture. It made it okay for many sacred cows to be criticized including authority and that was a big deal when it first came along in in 1952.

This is more of a clip-fest than the usual Mad books which generally include full reproductions of comics. In this book, it's a panel here and a panel there.

So you get one panel from the 1954 parody "Lone Stranger Rides Again!" You get Orpah and Phil Donahue slugging it out in the boxing ring for one panel. You get a paenl of 1971's "Reality Street" (a Sesame Street parody).

It's that sort of thing.

Along the way you get to meet various of the artists the magazine has employed over the years.

(Mad is a magazine, not a comic. It was released in magazine size to avoid the hassles that were killing comics and had killed the comic company William Gaines had.)

I paired that up with a Son of Mad which promises it's a reproduction of the 1959 release of the same title.

This will give you a peak at the early days of Mad and I think you'll enjoy the parody of Marlon Brando's The Wild One. But what may stand out the most is the 33 pages the parody goes on. Though it was far less in the magazine, the movie parodies used to be very lengthy. I can remember when the parodies dropped down around 1978 and I thought that was bad; however, if you pick up the magazine today, you can come across some amazingly brief TV and movie parodies. I'm really not interested in reading things that short.

This is theme night so be sure to check out all the evening and night posters and tomorrow I will link to all the theme posts.

By the way, these are predominately black and white ink drawings (both books).

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, June 23, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Gordo Brown gets chatty, a woman from Duluth attempts to steer attention to the plight of Iraqi refugees, Stars and Stripes fights attempts by the US army to censor it, Germany's investigation into its involvement in the Iraq War is a whitewash, and more.

Starting in England where Prime Minister Gordon Brown remains desperate and eager to spin. Today he gave
a highly confusing interview to BBC Radio 4's World at One in which he meant to say that there would be a scope for people to provide testimony but he actually stated there was no scope for it and in which he appeared to hint that Mid-East countries surrounding Iraq would be harmed from a public inquiry because they had been working with England on the Iraq War.

Gordon Brown: The Iraq inquiry was always going to be difficult because we're looking at, uhm, eight years of -- of events. We're looking at the causes of the conflict, what happened during the conflict, we're looking at the reconstruction that's taking place after the conflict. And there are many, many views on this and it has been a very controversial issue for Britain over a period of -- a period of time. I want that review to able to take all the evidence that is -- that is necessary, including having before it the security information, the confidential information. We've got to be careful, of course, about our relationships with other countries and what is made public about our relationships for examples with countries in the region which have got to be strong after the inquiry as well. But I think we've got to position with Sir John Chilcot where he has written to me yesterday saying he sees some hearings that we could do in public consistent with national security. He has responded to my invitation that he take into account the needs of the family. He has also responded to my invitation that as chairman of the inquiry he looks at whether there's an oath or some kind of undertaking on giving evidence. And I think -- I think we're making progress on an inquiry that I hope for the public is not just to get to the truth of what's happened -- that's important. It's also to learn lessons and lessons I think the whole public wants to learn what happened during that period.

Shaun Ley: But it looks as though you have been forced into a change of position by the reaction. A week ago you told the House of Commons you wanted the evidence to be heard in private for the reasons you've just outlined. Then you get people like Lord Butler saying this will add to mistrust, John Major says people will perceive it as a whitewash, John Chilcot writes to you and you respond and say 'actually I accept your advice as much as possible should be held in public.'

Gordon Brown: Hold on. Hold on.

Shaun Ley: And they get --

Gordon Brown: Hold on. Hold on.

Shaun Ley: -- a sense then that --

Gordon Brown: Hold on. Hold on.

Shaun Ley: -- perhaps the public's mood on this kind of issue.

Gordon Brown: Hold on. You --you've got to put what happened in its proper, uh, context.

Shaun Ley: I'm trying to do that.

Gordon Brown: I, uh, I actually wrote to Sir John Chilcot my-myself. I asked him, as chairman of the inquiry, to consider a number of issues related to the conduct of the inquiry -- some of the issues that you've just raised.

Shaun Ley: But after you made your statement to the MPs.

Gordon Brown: Yes, but I said at the time that I was inviting Sir John Chilcot to talk to all the leaders of the parties and all the chairman of the select committees, and that we were going to have a process of consultation with them about the conduct of the inquiry. So Sir John Til--Chilcot looks at the thoughts I put to him -- including thoughts about how we deal with the vex question of how the families are properly consulted and do they want to -- to give evidence in private or public. and rightly Sir John Chilcot then replies to me. I'm trying to find a way to get an inquiry that can satisfy people that we're doing everything in our power to get to the truth while at the same time I think everybody understands because people were asking for a Franks-style inquiry and Franks meant

Shaun Ley: On the Falklands War.

Gordon Brown: Yes you've got to take into account national security considerations and that you've got serving military --

Shaun Ley: Indeed.

Gordon Brown: -- who want to give evidence want to give evidence sometimes in private.

Shaun Ley: At what point did you refer to this question of the giving evidence on oath? Will that in your view now happen? Does that have to happen? Does that need to happen?

Gordon Brown: Well Sir John Chilcot has written back to me -- I requested this -- he's written back to me. He is suggesting that he does think there's a way that people can give at least an undertaking that what they're saying is truthful and complete and full and I think that's --

Shaun Ley: So not a kind of hand on the Bible or hand on the Crown kind of thing?

Gordon Brown: You see, the -- the point of this inquiry --

Shaun Ley: An honorable statement saying I am giving truthful evidence.

Gordon Brown: Of course, yes. The point of this inquiry, this was an eight-year-long uh episode in -- in British history, our troops are just leaving Iraq, it is ripe to learn the lessons. Now I think the way we're doing it allows those people that have got something to say sometimes that is confidential or effects our relationships with other countries to be able to say it directly to Chilcot he then has the chance to look at all the papers the security papers as well as confidential and private papers but at the same time there is no scope for people to give evidence in public if that is -- if that is what he chooses.

Note that
the program is only available for the next seven days. Tom Whitehead (Telegraph of London) notes that Brown's backtracking (prior to the interview -- the interview was only more backtracking) was "further humilitation" and that Conservative Party members are saying the New Labour prime minister is doing a "U-turn in slow motion". At the US Socialist Worker, Mark Steel offers his thoughts on the inquiry:It's unlikely anything so interesting will come out of the inquiry into the Iraq war announced by Gordon Brown. Because it will be held entirely in secret, and is not allowed to "apportion blame," as this will prevent the inquiry being "clogged up by expensive lawyers."
Apparently, this will encourage those called to be "more candid" about their behavior. So why not change the whole legal system for similar reasons? Murderers would be so much more candid in a trial if they weren't weighed down by the thought of their comments being made public. "Between you and me I strangled the lot of them," they'd laugh, whereas once they're in that big room with lawyers and blame getting in the way they're bound to clam up. How much quicker the law could be resolved without all that paraphernalia of cross-examining and working out who was telling the truth and other money-wasting nonsense. Just ask someone whether they did it, and if they say "Not really," or "I had to kill them because I'd heard they had some destructive weapons," the judge could say, "Well, that's pretty much cleared it up--who's next?"

This Wednesday, the
Stop the War Coalition is rallying Wednesday. "Protest at parliament against holding Iraq enquiry in private" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports the demonstration will be "outside parliament at 2pm this Wednesday, demanding 'No Whitewash, No Cover Up', in the Iraq enquiry." Independent Catholic News notes that Justice and Peace groups have created a petition "to urge MPs to vote in favour of a public enquiry." Click here for the petition.

Meanwhile in Germany, a whitewash has concluded.
Deutsche Welle reports the nation's investigation into "whether former chancellor [Gerhard] Schroeder helped oust Saddam Hussein" -- an investigation that's taken three years, heard from 140 witnesses, produced a final report that numbers 2,500 pages -- was unable to "clear up key questions" and had only "meagre results." If that judgment seems harsh, it's not my judgment. It's Seigfried Kauder's judgment and Kauder was the committee chair of the investigation. Friday The Local reported that "the parliamentary investigation split along party lines over whether [Frank-Walter] Steinmeier had been truthful when he said that Germany's help to US forces consisted only of intelligence on how to avoid bombing civilian targets." The amount of pressure put on the British inquiry ahead of it commencing will determine how much of a whitewash it is or isn't.

Gordon Brown has additional troubles and they could end up being big problems for the US government. As
Rebecca explained last night, May 2007 saw five British citizens kidnapped and held hostage. Over two years ago. Two turned up over the weekend and they were dead. The families are outraged. As Rebecca points out:

had the british government tried anything (diplomacy or force) and it gone bad, you could say, 'well they tried.' you could be miserable over the results but you knew they were acting.instead, gordon brown took the attitude that he could just ignore the hostages. that's what he did and that's why he wanted the families to be silent. not to protect the hostages but to keep them nameless so england wouldn't be able to put a name to each 1 and demand their safe return.

He did nothing. Two are dead. The other three? No one knows at this point. What is known is that the US negotiated with terrorists. That does happen and it's not uncommon. But they did so for the five British citizens. In fact, they released two men, two brothers, thought to be the ringleaders in an assault on a US base in Iraq in which five US service members were killed. They released these two suspected ringleaders and the deal was supposed to be that the organization the brothers belonged to released the five British hostages. Thus far only two have been released and they were dead. Should all five prove to be dead, look for extreme outrage over an action the US government has been able to semi-quiet up to this point.

Staying with the topic of US clampdowns, Heath Druzin is an American journalist employed by Stars & Stripes. You might think he'd easily be able to embed with US troops in Iraq but that was not the case.
David Axe (Wired) reports the US army said no and did so "in part, because he 'refused to highlight' good news on previous stints with the military." Terry Leonard, the editorial director of Stars & Stripes, declares this is "censorship." (I agree with him.) Stars & Stripes is reporting on the refusal to allow Druzin to report:

Officials said Stripes reporter Heath Druzin, who covered operations of the division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team in February and March, would not be permitted to rejoin the unit for another reporting tour because, among other things, he wrote in a March 8 story that many Iraqi residents of Mosul would like the American soldiers to leave and hand over security tasks to Iraqi forces.
"Despite the opportunity to visit areas of the city where Iraqi Army leaders, soldiers, national police and Iraqi police displayed commitment to partnership, Mr. Druzin refused to highlight any of this news," Major Ramona Bellard, a public affairs officer, wrote in denying Druzin's embed request.
Bellard also alleged that Druzin used quotes out of context, "behaved unprofessionally" and persisted in asking Army officials for permission to use a computer to file a story during a communications-blackout period.
Additionally, Col. Gary Volesky, the 3rd Brigade's commander, asserted that Druzin "would not answer questions about stories he was writing."
Terry Leonard, editorial director of Stars and Stripes, said Druzin's reporting in Mosul had been consistently accurate and fair and he denied all of the Army's allegations. Leonard noted, for example, that reporters are not required to answer a commander's questions about their plans for future stories.
He said the newspaper had spent more than three weeks appealing Druzin's banishment to senior commanders in Iraq as well as public affairs officials at the Pentagon, but had been repeatedly rebuffed.

In other news,
Thameen Kheetan (Jordan Times via California Chronicle) reports on Iraqi refugees noting that Amman was where the the World Refugee Day 2009 Film Festival kicked off at the start of this week and two films on Iraqi refugees are part of the festival. Nada Doumani interviews four Iraqi refugees for Errant Home. Iraq has external (outside of the country) refugees and internal (displaced within Iraq) ones. Michelle Naar-Obed is an American citizen attempting to raise awareness for Iraq's internal renfugees. David Cowardin (Duluth News Tribune) reports Naar-Obed is in Iraq, in a refugee camp during the day and wants to be "granted permission from local authorities and the Foreign Affairs office". Naar-Obed is part of Christian Peacemaking Teams. Moving to Iraq's external refugees, Richard Hall (The Daily Star) reports that, in Lebanon, they are forced to either return to Iraq or be at risk of deportation for working without the necessary paperwork. UNHCR's Laure Chedrawi states, "The majority of refugees here cannot work legally, and there are many channels in Lebanon to work illegally. This causes many problems. SOme are not paid their salaries, some employers and landlords threaten to report them to the police and others are forced to work long hours without payment." Lebanon, Syria and Jordan have the bulk of Iraq's external refugees. Taylor Luck (Jordan Times) reports Jordan hots "half a million Iraqis" and that the "number of Iraqis returning home is not as high as analysts had predicted, something the representative attributed to a flux of refugees going back and forth between the Kingdom and its neighbor to the east." Sunday IRIN quoted Commission of Society Enterprises' Basil Abdul-Wahab al-Azawi stating, "On behalf of all Iraqi NGOs, we call upon the UN and all international organizations to offer protection and facilitate resettlement of all Iraqi refugees who are affected by violence and to help increase the number of those who are accepted in secure [third] countries. [. . .] As their country is still occupied and witnesses different disputes, protection should be offered to them [Iraqi refugees] . . . Any return against their will is not acceptable." The tiny number of Iraqi refugees who have been received in the United States struggle with a failing economy and stingy benefits that run out far too soon. Alex Dalenberg (Arizona Republic) examines life for Iraqi refugees in Arizona and finds stories like that of Nuha Hussian who "says that despite speaking English and having had successful careers in Iraq, she and her husband have struggled to pay rent and buy groceries for their two children since arriving in Glendale four months ago." Meanwhile Ria Misra (Politics Daily) reports Nouri al-Maliki has issued a plea to "the 350,000 Iraqis with university degrees currently living abrod: Please come back." They left because they were targeted or (those who left early on) feared they would be. The US backed Shi'ite zealots who were thugs and determined to turn Iraq from a secular nation-state into a fundamentalist one. Doctors, scientists and all educated women of any field were targeted because you can't return to the dark ages and still embrace modernity. And, no, it is not safe to return to Iraq.

Yesterday saw extreme violence.
Alice Fordham (Times of London) notes the "worrying escalation of violence" and it was worse than she or Marc Santora (New York Times) knew when filing their reports because Monday night would see further violence (we'll get to it in a moment). Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) counts 33 dead from violence yesterday. Santora does note a sucide bombing in Abu Ghraib and how 4 died and ten were wounded "including the three American soldiers, who had just arrrived to participate in the meeting." Richard Boudreaux (Chicago Tribune) observes that the death toll of the last three days finds "over 100" Iraqis killed. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes Mustafa Abdul Jaleel Reyadh who states, "We can't feel safe at all. I feel afraid when I walk in the streets because I expect an explosion any moment. The situation will not change even after the departure of the American forces, because one hand cannot clap. We must unite to defeat terror." Ernesto Londono and Nada Bakri (Washington Post) report, "Wael Abdel Latif, an independent Shiite Muslim lawmaker, said three factors are driving the recent violence: the imminent withdrawal of American soldiers from urban areas; growing tension between the parliament and Maliki's cabinet as the legislative body demands more oversight; and the regrouping of Sunni Muslim extremist groups who want to undermine the government." Meanwhile British General Dannatt has made remarks some Americans may seize on and echo (applied to the US) in a few years. Phillippe Naughton (Times of London) reports "General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said the failure of coalition forces" to secure Iraq and rushing quickly off to Afghanistan led them to blow the "window of consent" which supposedly existed following the initial invasion of Iraq. Already the Brookings Boys are sounding alarms and those alarms do not say that Iraq was dropped for Afghanistan -- at present they don't say that -- but that's where they will head (and falsely claim they issued warnings in real time) if conditions in Iraq continue down the current path or worsen.

Turning to today's reports of violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a a Muqdadiyah roadside bombing which claimed the life of Iraqi Lt Col Mohammed al Timimi and left four more Iraqi soldiers injured and a Tikrit cluster bombing which left "four young boys between eight and ten . . . seriously injured" and, dropping back to Monday night, a Baghdad roadside bombing (eight p.m.) which claimed 4 lives and left twenty people wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing (ten p.m.) which left two people injured and a Falluja bicycle bombing (nine p.m.) which left six people (including Dr. Ammar Mohammed Chyad) wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul yesterday.

Sunday we noted Father Tim Vakoc who passed away Saturday night from wounds received in a May 29, 2004 Iraq bombing. AP notes that Father Tim is "believed to be the first military chaplain wounded in Iraq". Zenit (via Indian Catholic) explains, "The priest traveled a long journey over the five years from explosion to his death. He was initially categorized by doctors as being in a 'vegetative state,' but was later upgraded to a 'minimally responsive state'." He is quoted telling his sister, "The safest place for me to be is in the center of God's will, and if that is in the line of fire, that's where I'll be." Earlier Chao Xiong (Minneapolis Star-Tribune) reported, "The blast cost him an eye and severely damaged his brain." The Columbian notes the "funeral is scheduled for Friday at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul."

From a US death to a British one,
Lee Ellis died February 28, 2006, at the age of 23, from an Al Amarah bombing while serving in Iraq. Amanda Cook (Manchester Evening News) reports that the family is seeking governmental compansation for Courtney Ellis, his eight-year-old daughter and quotes Anthony Ellis, Lee's father, stating, "Lee was a great dad. He was devoted to Courtney and she doesn't really remember him -- it is so sad. She has missed out the most losing her dad so young, so if she can get some compensation that would be great." The family is also lobbying the Ministry of Defence "to use more heavily-armoured vehicles" which might prevent deaths like Lee Ellis'.

And back to the US. Sunday the
Department of Defense issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Spc. Chancellor A. Keesling, 25, of Indianapolis, Ind., died June 19 in Baghdad, Iraq of a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 961st Engineer Company, Sharonville, Ohio. The circumstances surrounding this incident are under investigation. For more information media may contact the U.S. Army Reserve Command public affairs office at 404-464-8500 / 9471 / 9251." Richard Essex (Eyewitness News) reports on 25-year-old Chancy Keesling and interviews his parents Janett and Gregg Keesling who explain that their son enlisted at 19 and had already been stationed in Iraq once before. Gregg Keesling states, "There were e-mails and we knew he was troubled." Renee Jameson (The Indy Channel's 6News -- link is text and video) reports that the Keeslings expect the cause of death to be suicide. Janett Keesling states, "If parents here hear stress, move mountains, whatever you have to do" and Gregg Keesling notes he thinks about and wishes there had been "some way we could have reached out to the chaplain there and said 'go see my son'."

Plugging a friend, Kathryn Bigelow's amazing film
The Hurt Locker opens in Los Angeles and New York Friday and opens July 10th in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Oahu, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Minneapolis, Denver, Toronto and DC. Christy Lemire (AP) reviews the film today and observes, "'The Hurt Locker' is by far the most effective film yet on this subject - and what's ironic about that is, it doesn't even feel all that specific to the Iraq war. Its insights and reach extend far beyond what's happened there over the past several years." Mali Elfman (Screen Crave) interviews Bigelow about directing the movie:

[Elfman:] When I watched the film I definitely got pangs of the adrenaline junkie Point Breakish- kind of thing. How important was it to have that side of the character while at the same time focusing on the reality behind someone like him?
Bigelow: Well in a way it's kind of a coincidence, I do look at film, as being very the opportunity to be very experiential. If you really want to stretch the medium you can give a viewer an experience that they can't otherwise easily get -- let's say you want to sign up for a tour of duty. And so when he came back and he was talking about some of these individuals in kind of an idea for a character that he had that combined a few of them, where they had a tremendous amount of swagger and bravado, and almost verging on being reckless, but at the same time combining that with a really profound skill set. I thought, really, that was an interesting course of direction.
Then we looked at Chris Hedges' book "War is a Force that Gives us Meaning" and one of the elements that he drools down on is "wars dirty little secret, some men love it." So he really looks at it because he is a war voluntary that there is -- not to everybody and it is not a generalization, but there is a sort of allure and attractiveness that combat possesses. So like the war reporter, like the war photographer, you know some, who knows, bull rider, whatever, there are certain vocations that speak to that kind of psychological component -- is hungry for those peak experiences.
[Elfman:] We were talking to Jeremy [Renner] and he said that his first question to you was "how do you want the audience to feel at the end of the movie?" How did you want the audience to feel at the end of the movie?
Bigelow: Well I think it's a little bit of both, you know, to a certain extent his life -- the sergeant James character is truly a hero, I believe, but at the same time that heroism comes with a price, and I think that is what I said to Jeremy way back way, is that their is a price to his heroism and can he reintegrate -- is his home life really ruined is too strong of a word, but it definitely doesn't provide the purpose and meaning that being out in the field disarming a bomb does. And unfortunately nothing can replicate that for particular character and so it is a bit of both.
Jennie Yabroff profiles Kathryn for Newsweek:

In the desert all that reserve fell away. "I'm young and in shape, and I was exhausted," says Renner of the Hurt Locker shoot. "She's out there feeding camels apples and skipping like a schoolgirl." A schoolgirl who can beat a bunch of macho guys up a hill, that is. Not that she'd want to draw attention to that fact. At this point in her career, Bigelow is weary of the notion that being a woman affects how she works. Critics can't seem to get over the idea that a female director could devote herself to making adrenaline-charged films that owe more to Ridley Scott than Nora Ephron. They rhapsodize, in high academic prose, about the role of guns as phallic symbols in Blue Steel, a thriller about a female cop; or the homoeroticism of Point Break; or the androgynous female figures in Near Dark, a hybrid Western/vampire movie. At the same time, it's hard to believe that Bigelow would dedicate her oeuvre to genres that are typically made by, for and about men, and not have a few thoughts on the subject.
Listen to Bigelow for a while, though, and you suspect that the critics and film scholars are missing the point. She is far more interested in talking about the look of her movies: how many cameras she used on The Hurt Locker (four); the way she storyboarded each scene, translating the space from three dimensions to two in her mind; the effort she took to make sure the bomb explosions appeared authentic, and not like what she calls HMEs (industry-speak, she explains, for Hollywood movie explosions). "I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about what my aptitude is, and I really think it's to explore and push the medium," Bigelow says. "It's not about breaking gender roles or genre traditions." In The Hurt Locker, Renner's character, Sergeant James, evokes iconic images of American masculinity: in his heavily padded, helmeted bomb suit, he looks like an astronaut striding onto the moon. There's also more than a little of the cowboy about him. He's not just a soldier; he's a renegade, ignoring protocol to do things his way. Not only does he defuse bombs like he's unwrapping lollipops, he outdrinks, outfights and outshoots his squadmates. But Bigelow sees the character less as a commentary on popular images of masculinity and more as an exploration of the modern hero. While exemplary at his job, James can barely function in noncombat zones. "He's evocative of a kind of John Wayne type, but updated to accommodate the complexities of this character, who is almost attracted to the world's most dangerous job," she says. The fact that the Iraq War is being fought by a volunteer Army is one of the keys of that attraction, she believes, and one of the elements that makes The Hurt Locker different from other war films. "War's dirty little secret is that some men love it," she says. "I'm trying to unpack why, to look at what it means to be a hero in the context of 21st-century combat."

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