Friday, July 10, 2009

Snapshot (C.I.)

C.I. here filling in for Elaine who is on vacation. I'll be filling in next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Elaine plans to be back Monday, July 20th. Mike is also on vacation and Ann (Cedric's wife) will be filling in for him until the 20th.

This is from Ramzy Baroud's "Forget The Headlines: Iraqi Freedom Deferred" (Countercurrents):

Iraq headlines will eventually fade away, making space for the new escalation in Afghanistan, also in the name of fighting terror, bringing democracy and all the rest.
The faces of the victims will be hidden so as not to harm our sensibilities, and causality figures will be manipulated, contested and at times blamed on the coward terrorists who hide among civilians. In other words, the US will take the spirit of its Iraq war to Afghanistan, remain in Iraq - as inconspicuous as possible - so as to hold onto its strategic military achievement, and, if necessary, blame both nations for their growing misfortunes.
However, before we take our eyes off Iraq, Americans must remember their own culpabilities in what transpired there. Antiwar activists and people of conscience must not forget that 130,000 US soldiers remain in the country; that the US has complete control over Iraqi airspace and territorial water; that there is not yet a reason to celebrate and move on. Even if one is trusting enough to believe the administration and army’s own account of its future in Iraq, one should recall comments made by Admiral Mike Mullen last February: “Mr. Obama plans to leave behind a ‘residual force’ of tens of thousands of troops to continue training Iraqi security forces, hunt down terrorist cells and guard American institutions.”

That was among the links I attempted to work in to today's snapshot but had no luck. That happens day after day and is nothing new. There are always more things that could go in but space or time prevents that.

Mike asked that I write about that because he said there are a lot of questions about the snapshot coming up in his e-mails.

1) There are always more things that could be linked to than are.

The snapshot's dictated by me to one of three friends. They type it up and e-mail it. Why e-mail? Blogger/Blogspot was scary to them when I started dictating the snapshots. (And other entries.) E-mail they were used to.

Once the e-mail was used, it was noted how easy it was to cross-post at other sites. That's something you just have to take my word on unless you use Blogger/Blogspot. If it's e-mailed, you don't have to go in and work on the spacing.

Most days, I grab the laptop when we're having lunch and go into the e-mail account used to put in links as I return calls from friends. Then I more or less dictate around the links. Some links get dropped because an e-mail can only be around 97K (we usually try to keep it 70) or it will not hit the site ("hit" meaning show up when e-mailed).

2) What happens when the press leaves Iraq completely?

Mike had that question from two of his readers. What happens is more opinion from me. There are many ways to go when that happens. If that happens. I do expect a reduction in reporting but hope that the pull outs we've seen are it for now.

3) What's up with the Congressional hearings?

Whenever that started (2006?) a friend's adult child had just gone to work as a Congressional staffer. The a.c. was bothered by something and asked that I call. I did and the point was that so much goes on in Congress and no one ever reports it. I was fully aware that the DC reporters were a dwindling species. Most papers that used to maintain a DC staff no longer do. The Washington Post has also 'trimmed' their overall staff (as have most papers). But the a.c. was just shocked by how much was not getting covered. (If the UN had been the work locale, that probably would have been even more shocking. Many papers have followed the Los Angeles Times' lead and axed their UN beat.)

So the deal was, tell me about a hearing and I'll work it in. If I mention a hearing in a paragraph or two, I'm going by what a.c. and other staffers are telling me (and sometimes what a friend with a news outlet passes on). If I'm at a hearing, it's much more in depth. I don't think, since early 2007 (maybe before that), we've covered one that I haven't been at. But that would be the tip-off.

We increased Congressional coverage due to cutbacks at other outlets. Ideally, we cover four hearings a month. Generally it's more like eight or nine. But four is the minimum. Remember that Kat usually covers any hearing at her site (covers any hearing in the snapshot). However, sometimes she's more interested in another hearing and goes to it (and covers it at her site).

Wednesday we covered two press conferences at the National Press Club. We were planning to attend US House Rep Patrick Murphy's already when a friend urged us to attend Adm Murphy's as well.

4) Another question from Mike's readers: Does it get boring?

No. It may be boring to read. But the snapshot is never boring due to the fact that I'm pressed for time and rushing and it's just a frantic period. When dictating it, I'm on one cell phone dictating and talking on another to a friend and Ava's got two people waiting on her two cells. Everyone who is calling or having their call returned during the snapshot thinks they're outlet has something that has to go in (sometimes, a friend's calling to promote something at another outlet, in fairness) and most of the time that's not the case. If you're calling me about refugees, for example, it's not making it 99% of the time. That's because when that topic's addressed, I really prefer that we focus in some depth on it. So if a friend pitches refugees, the answer is generally, "Not today, but we can pull it in ___'s snapshot later in the week."

The Congressional hearings are also another reason why it's not boring.

5) What can be covered there?

The focus should be on Iraq. I don't cover hearings on Afghanistan. In addition to Iraq, anything to do with veterans is eligible for the snapshot. There are some hearings I attend knowing nothing will go into the snapshot and some I attend and realize about half-way through that nothing will go in the snapshot.

6) Do I stand up and scream in protest?

No. Others can do what they want. I was a visitor in Congress early in life (as a child) and that wasn't behavior I would have been allowed to take part in then. I'm not interested in it for myself today. People line up to attend hearings and I can usually get around that due to various favors. I'm not going to then say "thank you" by creating a distrubance. (I'm speaking for me and my actions. Others can do what they want and I find many of that activity to be effective. Many, but not all.) I will call out Congressional members I know (and like) in the snapshots. I've called out Lindsey Graham (Republican) for example. I never agree with him on anything but I do know him and he is a nice person (shocking considering some of his views). He's been called out before. I honestly prefer to avoid him when possible because I could do entire snapshots of disagreeing with his points. Most of the Congressional members (not all) that I know are Dems and I do call them out. I did have a friend say recently that I had edited out my "attack" on __ (male senator) because I liked the senator but I did such a "poor job" that I forgot to grab all the sentences. No, that's not what happened. I had called out that senator (loudly). I do like that senator. But what happened was the e-mail size (in draft) was too long. When I'm dictated, it's saved repeatedly in draft because the worst thing ever was when I dictated an entire e-mail and the person I was dictating it too called back a minute after we were off the phone to say that it was lost. (I'm not blaming that person. It was my fault for not asking it to be saved as we went along.) So now, I'll usually say "save" periodically. Then I'll hear it's "__K" big. Which should be good enough but I've got calls on the juggling phones and someone always has a few things that have to go into the snapshot. So that causes a huge leap in the size. When that happens, it's "Okay, pull ___" and "Pull ___" Point. Things are edited out quickly.

What my friend was referring to wasn't an attempt to cover for ___ and I forgot that one sentence remained. I did forget that one sentence remained. But I had that section pulled because it ticked me off (the senator's line of questioning) but it wasn't as important as other aspects of the hearing.

I hope that makes sense and I hope that addresses the questions Mike keeps getting.

This is today's "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, July 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continues, war resister Robin Long is out of the brig, the New York Times backs Nouri so much they not only attack the Kurds but they also play dumb about a DC meet-up between Iraq and neighbors that the White House is attempting to set up for later this year, a House Armed Services subcommittee questions the budget numbers, and more.

Starting with war resistance.
Robin Long has no regrets. John Wilkens (San Diego Union-Tribune) quotes him declaring today, "I wouldn't do anything differently." Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) reports Robin Long was released from Miramar Marine Corps Air Station's brig yesterday "after serving 12 months of a 15-month sentence." Long is a war resister who self-checked out and went to Canada where he attempted to be granted asylum. Not only did that not happen, he was imprisoned and whisked across the border back to the US in violation of his rights and those of his child -- his child is a Canadian citizen.

Today Robin held a press conference and Wilkens covers it noting Robin stated he would continue speaking out and that "[. . .] I had to do what I felt was right."
The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. is the latest book by independent journalist Dahr Jamail. The US Socialist Worker provides an excerpt from the opening of the new book:

The environment in the United States today is not one that can support and sustain a GI resistance movement of significant proportions, giving it enough power to directly affect the foreign policy of the country, as it did so effectively in the Vietnam era. There is much in the military to prohibit a GI resistance movement from growing anywhere near the proportion that helped end the U.S. war in Vietnam. Military discipline is much more repressive than in the past, which makes organizing more difficult. There is less radicalization of the GI movement, as compared to that in the late 1960s and early 1970s; therefore, passive resistance against the command is more common than direct resistance. There is a much lower level of political awareness and analysis among soldiers as compared to that during Vietnam, when there were hundreds of underground newspapers that served to inform troops while criticizing the military apparatus. The all-volunteer military, rather than a draft, is also responsible for stifling broader dissent.
Despite these factors, dissent in the ranks is happening on a daily basis. While overall violence in Iraq has dropped, it is escalating dramatically in Afghanistan, as President Obama begins to "surge" 30,000 troops into that occupation. The overstretched military is in a state of disrepair, full of demoralized, bitter soldiers whose reasons for staying in are based on economics and loyalty to their friends rather than nationalism or patriotism.
These elements, accompanied by the continuing neglect that soldiers experience upon their return home, are driving larger numbers toward dissent.
This is a book about average soldiers and their brave acts of dissent against a system that is betraying them. I decided to focus on the rank-and-file members who actually served in Iraq, rather than those giving the orders from within safe compounds. I believe it is those who have followed the orders who have had to pay the highest price. My main objective in presenting this book is to highlight the reality that oppressed and oppressors alike suffer the dehumanizing effects of military action. For soldiers and war journalists like myself who have lived with this, struggled with PTSD, and reintegrated ourselves into society, a light at the seemingly endless dark tunnel of the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan is the possibility of the shifting of these individual acts of resistance into a broader, organized movement toward justice--both in the military and in U.S. foreign policy.

In his latest dispatch, Dahr breaks down the realities about Nouri al-Maliki and his attempts to become the new strong-man:

Let's be clear - Maliki has been supported by the US as the leader of Iraq since his installation. In January 2005, I was in Baghdad for the elections that formed an Iraqi Parliament, which then elected Iraq's first prime minister under US occupation - that man was Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Jaafari wasn't exactly toeing the US/UK line in Iraq, so it wasn't long until then-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her UK counterpart Jack Straw rushed to Baghdad to
set things straight. Just after their visit, Jaafari was out and Maliki was in. No democracy was involved in this process.
In a recent article titled "
Iraq's New Death Squad" for The Nation by independent journalist Shane Bauer, we are provided with an inside view of Maliki's iron fist, which has come in the form of the Iraq Special Operations Forces.
Bauer writes:
"The Iraq Special Operations Forces (ISOF) is probably the largest special forces outfit ever built by the United States, and it is free of many of the controls that most governments employ to rein in such lethal forces. The project started in the deserts of Jordan just after the Americans took Baghdad in April 2003. There, the US Army's Special Forces, or Green Berets, trained mostly 18-year-old Iraqis with no prior military experience. The resulting brigade was a Green Beret's dream come true: a deadly, elite, covert unit, fully fitted with American equipment, that would operate for years under US command and be unaccountable to Iraqi ministries and the normal political process. The ISOF is at least 4,564 operatives strong, making it approximately the size of the US Army's own Special Forces in Iraq. Congressional records indicate that there are plans to double the ISOF over the next 'several years'."
According to Bauer, control of the ISOF was slowly transferred by US Special Forces to the Iraqis in 2007, but it wasn't put under the command of the Defense or Interior Ministry. Rather, "the Americans pressured the Iraqi government to create a new minister-level office called the Counter-Terrorism Bureau," Bauer writes, "Established by a directive from Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, the CTB answers directly to him and commands the ISOF independently of the police and army. According to Maliki's directive, the Iraqi Parliament has no influence over the ISOF and knows little about its mission."
Untold numbers of politically motivated murders have followed as a result. Regular assassinations and detentions of al-Sahwa (US-created Sunni militia that Maliki had opposed from the beginning) members have been ongoing for years. Last August, the ISOF raided the provincial government compound in Diyala, while backed by US Apache helicopters, and arrested a member of Iraq's main Sunni Arab political party. In December, the ISOF arrested more than 30 Interior Ministry officials who were believed to be opponents of Maliki's Dawa Party. In March, the ISOF arrested a leader of the Sahwa.

As he attempts to become the new Saddam, he does so with the apparent approval and endorsement of the New York Times,
hence Sam Dagher's article today allegedly about the Kurish region and their events but told from a Nouri point of view. Well into the article, primarily an article carping about the KRG's proposed constitution, Dagher notes, "Iraq's federal Constitution allows the Kurds the right to their own constitution, referring any conflicts to Iraq's highest court." Though it bothers Nouri, and apparently the paper, the Kurds can do a new constitution, revamp their old one, do whatever they want and it is their right. The unresolved issue of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk is not presented as having anything to do with Nouri. This despite realities including Damien Cave's June 2007 reporting for the paper when he noted, "The future of oil-rich Kirkuk was left in limbo, with Kurds holding out for a referendum scheduled for the end of this year that they hope will grant them control." The issue of Kirkuk was Constitutionally mandated to be resolved by November 2007 (in the 2005 constitution). Not only that but Nouri agreed to the White House's 2007 benchmarks and those benchmarks included resolving the Kirkuk issue. Dahger ignores all of that but does find time to say the Kruds "defended" attempting "to add all of hotly contested and oil-rich Kirkuk Province, as well as other disputed areas in Nineveh and Diyala Provinces." Are they 'adding' Kirkuk if they've long claimed it? Or are they continuing to stake their claim on Kirkuk? Furthermore, the paper is accepting the boundaries set by the central government and those boundaries have always been in dispute, even in Saddam's time. The areas are disputed on both sides. It's not just the Kurds disputing the boundaries. If you're still not getting how one-sided Dagher's article is, please note that in the print edition of the paper, the article is entitled "Kurds Lay Claim To Land and Oil, Defying Baghdad"; however, Australia's The Age re-runs the article and gives it the more appropriate headline "Kurds' new constitution angers US, Iraq." And certainly Dagher's written reflecting something other than Kurdish goals or interests. Apparently those aren't topics to cover . . . even in an article apparently about the Kurdish region. Al Hurriyet notes that some are trying to state that the northern region of Iraq would be better off with Turkey -- please note that 'some' includes those Americans who lied/spun/cheerleaded the US into Vietnam, some of the same losers (including Katty-van-van's deadbeat father) who were part of the "American Friends of Vietnam" -- a front group which, starting in 1955, began openly advocating for US 'intervention' in Vietnam via lies, trickery and deceit.

The New York Times is so busy shining on al-Maliki, they forgot to tell you about his flare up with US Vice President Joe Biden.
Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) explains the paper only "alluded" and didn't explain but Biden issued a call for bringing the Ba'athist back into the political process. Nouri's response was to issue public statements such as this one through his spokesperson "the government will never talk to those whose hands were stained with blood". Publicly stated. Somehow the paper missed that. Somehow the paper forgot to tell readers that. The US ran, under Paul Bremer, the Ba'athists out of the political process in what is termed "de-Ba'ahtification." Part of the benchmarks established by the US White House in 2007 and signed off on by Nouri al-Maliki was to bring the Ba'athists back in -- a de-de-Ba'athification. That has never happened and when Biden pointed out the need for it to, al-Maliki made it clear it wasn't happening. That's a key moment and it's interesting that the paper of record elected not to cover it or that Biden proposed a DC meeting with segments of Iraq including the Ba'athists and Iraqi neighbors to sort out some issues. An Iraqi official states that the vice president "suggested that Arab countries that will participate in the proposed reconciliation meeting in Washington are ready to guarantee that the Baathists will abandon any kind of armed resistance if they are allowed to function as a legitimate political party." Again, huge news and the paper of record 'missed' it..

Today on NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, Steve Roberts filled in for Diane Rehm. The second hour (international) featured Andrei Sitov (Itar-Tass), Farah Stockman (Boston Globe) and Tom Gjelten (NPR). And we'll note this section on Iraq which covers some of the themes and topics emerging during the week.

Steve Roberts: [. . .] but, Farah, I want to deal with one more development, actually several developments in Iraq, including the more aggressiver assertion of territorial integrity and separateness on the part of the Kurds in northern Iraq. This is not a new story in some ways, it's been a semi-autonomous region for a long time, but some new developments.

Farah Stockman: Yeah. I think the Kurds are-are starting to get frustrated with Baghdad. A lot of the disagreements that have been simmering for years over oil, over the share of oil they should get, over whether the state controlled oil companies should make decisions or whether we should have production sharing agreements and the Kurds are -- and disputed territories. And these questions have been left unresolved for a long time and the Kurds are impatient and saying, 'We need to move forward and resolve some of these.' Whereas I think Maliki's government doesn't appreciate those moves by the Kurds and he's also starting to become an Arab -- kind of an Arab nationalist which is, I think, worrisome for the Kurds. Maliki is starting to position himself politically as an Arab nationalist against the Kurds. And, I think, this is worrisome because the Sunnis were always odd-man-out. It was always the Kurds-were-the-voice-of-reason and they were the ones arguing for the greater good of Iraq and even though they wanted their own -- their own semi-autonomous area, they were still speaking of things in terms of unity with the government and now we're seeing a shift. We're seeing the Shias and the Kurds draw farther apart. I think that's worrisome.

Steve Roberts: And of course the vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, was the author, co-author of a plan at one time that would provide for what was sometimes called a soft partition of Iraq.
Farah Stockman: Well -- right. Some people would say that Biden's plan was simply what was already enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution. It depends upon your interpretation of that document, I guess. I think -- I think the Obama administration had hoped to turn its attention to Afghanistan, get away from Iraq and last week they asked Biden to look more closely at Iraq. I think that's a sign that they see Iraq as continuing to be worrisome and that they can't -- they can't just shut it out.

Steve Roberts: In addition, Tom, to the problem of the Kurds, there's the problem of ongoing violence.

Tom Gjelten: That's what I was going to say. It's not just the Kurds. What we're seeing is real sectarian strife returning in Iraq. A lot of violence this week, most of it directed against Shites, and it's coming just as the United States has pulled its troops out of major cities. The big question in Iraq is whether the Iraqi security forces are going to be capable of handling security responsibilities in Iraq. Right now with these rising ethnic tensions, whether it's the Kurds in the north or the Sunni and the Shi'ite populations, I think there's some real concerns.

Farah Stockman: I -- also just to add --

Steve Roberts: Please.

Farah Stockman: I think there's a real danger here for Obama in that we could get stuck with one foot in Iraq and one foot in Afghanistan and not really have the freedom of movement to do any of those two very complicated countries justice.

Steve Roberts: Is there any sense that given the pull-back of American troops and the rise in violence that there's any rethinking about this strategy, Tom, or is the Americans completely devoted to this pull-back whatever instability results?

Tom Gjelten: Well, I think, Steve, one point to keep in mind is that there's less to this pullback than you might think. I mean, the Bush administration -- sorry, the Obama administration makes a big point of there not being after a certain point combat troops in Iraq but what we've seen with the nature of warfare in Iraq is basically everybody who is in Iraq is in the category of combat troops. And the numbers that we're seeing now, we're down to 130,000 but that's, remember, that's only the number that was there before the surge. We're going to see 130,000 or 120,000 throughout the rest of this year. So there's not a major pull-back here.

Michael Schwartz (Asia Times) words it a bit more bluntly:

Unfortunately, not just for the Iraqis, but for the American public, it's what's happening in "the dark" - beyond the glare of lights and TV cameras - that counts. While many critics of the Iraq War have been willing to cut the Obama administration some slack as its foreign policy team and the US military gear up for that definitive withdrawal, something else - something more unsettling - appears to be going on. And it wasn't just the president's hedging over withdrawing American "combat" troops from Iraq which, in any case, make up as few as one-third of the 130,000 US forces still in the country - now extended from 16 to 19 months. Nor was it the re-labeling of some of them as "advisors" so they could, in fact, stay in the vacated cities, or the redrawing of the boundary lines of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, to exclude a couple of key bases the Americans weren't about to give up.After all, there can be no question that the Obama administration's policy is indeed to reduce what the Pentagon might call the US military "footprint" in Iraq. To put it another way, Obama's key officials seem to be opting not for blunt-edged, former president George W Bush-style militarism, but for what might be thought of as an administrative push in Iraq, what Vice President Joe Biden has called "a much more aggressive program vis-a-vis the Iraqi government to push it to political reconciliation". An anonymous senior State Department official described this new "dark of night" policy to Christian Science Monitor reporter Jane Arraf in this way: "One of the challenges of that new relationship is how the US can continue to wield influence on key decisions without being seen to do so." Without being seen to do so. On this General Odierno and the unnamed official are in agreement. And so, it seems, is Washington. As a result, the crucial thing you can say about the Obama administration's military and civilian planning so far is this: ignore the headlines, the fireworks, and the briefly cheering crowds of Iraqis on your TV screen. Put all that talk of withdrawal aside for a moment and - if you take a closer look, letting your eyes adjust to the darkness - what is vaguely visible is the silhouette of a new American posture in Iraq. Think of it as the Obama Doctrine. And what it doesn't look like is the posture of an occupying power preparing to close up shop and head for home.

In some of today's reported violence (it's Friday, little gets reported) . . .


Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing late Thursday which claimed injured a police officer "and three of his family members".


Moahmmed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Sahwa member ("Awakening" "Sons of Iraq" are other names) shot dead in Baghdad with another injured. Reuters notes another Sahwa member was shot dead in Babil with another left injured. CNN notes two Sawha were killed in the Baghdad attack and they state 75 people have lost their lives in Iraq since Wednesday with two-hundred-and-two left injured.

Yesterday the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Joint Readiness, Air and Land Forces and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces met to take testimony from General James Amos with the Marines and General Peter Chiarelli with the Army. Amos' big news is that all the marines equipment will be out of Iraq at the end of 2010 but not all of the marines. The press has maintained otherwise. We will be out of Iraq, the marines will be," declared Amos, "with the exception of just a few, by this time next year, the equipment will be out of Iraq, being repaired and going to the home stations."

Repaired? With regards to Chiarelli and the army, the big news appeared to be that money was being wasted because military equipment being reset is not also being repaired. This was referred

Roscoe Bartlett: I want to follow up with a question asked by Mr. Forbes, the army's 2010 request for reset is about $11 billion which nearly 8 billion -- 7.9 billion is for operations and maintenance and 3.1 billion for procurement. Now from 2007 to 2010, the O and M portion has been pretty constant at about 8 billion but the procurement portion has dropped to less than fifty percent of what it was in '07. I know '07 was a bit higher than it might have been because we were short in '06. But at just the time when we need more money because of all this reset, now we have less money. And if we're going to justify this on the basis of this new rule that you can't upgrade when you're repairing the equipment than I have a problem with that because what an opportunity we have when it's in there for maintenance repair why can't we upgrade? It seems to me to be very short sighted and I'm wondering why the money wasn't there? Did the army ask for more than 11 billion and 11 billion was all you could get?

Peter Chiarelli: My understanding is no, sir, we did not. We understood with the new overseas contingency operations rules were going to be, that amount, that three-billion-plus in procurement can only be used for washouts or vehicles or aircraft that are destroyed. And for the most part -- although like all these rules, they change -- for the most part, the recap -- or adding on -- is not allowed in FY10 and that drove down the amount of money we needed for procurement.

Roscoe Bartlett: But sir, why not? Isn't it our goal to have a better and better military? To support our people? Why shouldn't we upgrade? And isn't this a very short sighted program?

Peter Chiarelli: Sir, you'd have to ask the folks who wrote the new rules. Uhm. I-I think that it makes a lot of sense to upgrade when we can. It's kind of like paving a road. Uh, you know, it's better to put the sewer system in before you pave the road. It's-it's not a good idea to, in fact, pave the road and then decide to dig it up to put the sewer system in. So when we have equipment in and are able to do that -- that was a plus and allowed us to recap equipment. But the new rules are that we cannot do that.

Roscoe Bartlett: Well I think Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says that the Congress makes the rules. And, Mr. Chairman [Ortez], I think we need to take a look at that. Thank you very much and I yield back.

Solomon Ortez: Chairman Abercrombie.

Neil Abercrombie: I want to follow up, General, on what Mr. Bartlett just was dealing with when he says the Congress makes the rules. I'm not clear from your answer to Mr. Bartlett. What-what part of what the Congress wants you to do is being thwarted by whomever is making these rules? Who made this rule?

Peter Chiarelli: Sir, my understanding is they come out of OMB

Neil Abercrombie: I'm sorry?

Peter Chiarelli: Sir, my understanding is they come out of OMB. They write --

Neil Abercrombie: So you -- this is very important to me -- you take orders from OMB and not from the Defense Bill?

Peter Chiarelli: I, um, I can only tell you what I know now right now, sir, is the rules -- and I don't question who makes rules --

Neil Abercrombie: Well maybe rules is the wrong way. I'm not trying to be argumentative here at all. But this is serious business because the questions I have have to do with inventory and our capacity to do an accurate inventory so that I can make from -- Mr. Bartlett and I, I should say, because we do this together -- make recommendations to our subcommittee members and the committee as a whole. We try to this in a way that reflects your needs and if you're telling me that -- or telling Mr. Bartlett -- that someone in the Office of Management and Budget is able to countermand, I guess, what we're doing, how on earth are we supposed to make an accurate assessment, let alone recommendation, to follow up on, uh, requests that you're making today, let alone what has been made in the past. I'm not quite sure about your answer. Are you saying that your present -- your present course of action, when you make decisions with regard to the context established by Mr. Bartlett, that you're not paying any attention to the Defense Bill?

Peter Chiarelli: I'm not saying that. I'm saying --

Neil Abercrombie: Then why -- I really need to know what it is that we're dealing with here.

Peter Chiarelli: I can only tell you what the people I trust to put together our request to Congress have indicated to us: In FY10, as a general rule, we are not allowed to recap equipment. And that has brought down the amount of money that we requested for procurement as part of reset.

Neil Abercrombie: So you don't need additional funds? Is that right?

Peter Chiarelli: I am telling you --

Neil Abercrombie: Because we could reallocate funds. Believe me, I've got requests, Mr. Bartlett has requests right now, if your answer is is that you don't need this money and that which was represented to us -- whether I was in the minority or the majority because we've been on this subcommittee for some period of time now -- so those estimates from before were inaccurate?

Peter Chiarelli: Let me be perfectly clear --

Neil Abercrombie: I hope so.

Peter Chiarelli: -- this --

Neil Abercrombie: Because believe me I'll make some recommendations for re-allocations. Absolutely, I will.

Peter Chiarelli: We are in fact able -- with the budget we have and what we've requested to you to do what you asked me to come here and talk about today and that is reset our equipment. That is bring our equipment up to 1020 standards and 1020 standards meaning that it is fully capable to do its mission with minor deficiencies at best. We do not bring it to a recap situation. We are able to reset our equipment exactly as defined with the money we've been given by Congress.

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, if that's the case then, what do -- what system is in place then, whether it's from the OMB or yourself, to accurately asses inventory. The reason that I ask this question, in following up on Mr. Bartlett's observations and inquiry, is that just in shipping containers alone, you read the GAO reports, shipping containers alone, we can't get, our subcommittee staff, is unable to get an accurate answer as to what we need even from containers for equipment because we can't get a handle on your inventory. What inventory process is in place right now? And do you have confidence in it?

Peter Chiarelli: I have confidence in our inventory. I have confidence not only that commanders down range like I was twice maintaining inventory of both their TO and E equipment that they bring over with them plus the troop provided equipment. Uh, we have had many looks at our equipment down range to make sure that accountability standards are high. Uh, and they are. Uh and we feel very, very good that we know what we've got down range and what we will in fact be bringing back and what is in troop provided -- theater provided equipment which they issue to units when they arrive in theater

Neil Abercrombie: So the GAO reports on the capacity for you to accurately assess inventory is incorrect.

Peter Chiarelli: I believe --

Neil Abercrombie: I'll send it to you.
Peter Chiarelli: Thank you, sir.

Neil Abercrombie: And I would appreciate your response. This is a serious question because, again, this involves numbers, including billions of dollars. Believe me, we are looking right now for billions of dollars possibly for reallocation because of other demands. So-so if you don't need this money and you're sure your inventory assessment is absolutely correct seems to me I'm going to have a hell of a lot more flexibility than I thought I had.

Peter Chiarelli: Uh, we too understand the tru-tremendous fiscal re - crisis that our country has gone though. The economic situation. And one of the reasons why there's no question as long as we can reset our equipment we understand because of fiscal requirements it may be in the best interest of our country as a whole to cut back on the amount of recap we're doing so it did not seem odd to me --

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, excuse me. In the fiscal interests, is that the basis? Are you in conversations with these folks at OMB?

Peter Chiarelli: I have not, sir.

Neil Abercrombie: Who would have had these conversations?

Peter Chiarelli: It would have taken place at the Office of Secretary of Defense, OSD.

Neil Abercrombie: So the Secretary of Defense is saying that you need -- at least from my calculations here -- approximately 2 billion dollars less than you said you needed previously with regard to reset on the basis of -- what was the phrase you used? Fiscal discipline or fiscal necessity?

Peter Chiarelli: We understand that we all have to be very, very careful with the dollars that we spend. And, uhm, people have made a decision that we will not recap equipment in FY10. That seems to me to be understandable.

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, it's understandable, yes. Do you think it's good policy?

Peter Chiarelli: If-if-if I had the ability to recap equipment, if we had the money to recap equipment I think it would make sense --

Neil Abercrombie: That's not the question I asked. Do you think you need the money to recap? In you professional judgment, that's what we're asking for today, not from a politician appointed in the OMB. I'm asking for your professional judgment today with regard: Do you need money to recap?

Peter Chiarelli: If I had the ability to recap, I would recap for all the reasons I have stated.

Neil Abercrombie: You think the policy then of not being able to do that which is reflected in your -- in the numbers that are given to us -- is not good policy?

Peter Chiarelli: I-I-I can't say that and I won't say that. And I won't say that because I understand that the people who make those rules, make those decisions, have to take many other things into consideration. And that is why --

Neil Abercrombie: Yes, they have to take into consideration what we say is in the Defense Bill because we're reflecting -- we are trying to reflect -- I'm trying to help you here. Because, believe me, if you give me this answer, I want to know, and right now what you're telling me is is that -- is that in your professional judgment the-the rules or the-the policy or the-the-the admonitions that you've been given or the directions that you're operating under reflects your professional judgment of what the necessities for the army are right now.

Peter Chiarelli: If I had the authority and the ability to recap, I would. I --

Neil Abercrombie: Okay, thank you. If Congress gives you the authority under the Defense Bill then that would reflect your professional opinion that you could use at least 13 billion dollars a year rather than 11 billion --

Peter Chiarelli: I can't -- I can't give you those numbers.

Neil Abercrombie: Well okay. You don't have to -- well, those are the numbers we have been given previously.

Peter Chiarelli: Previous years?

Neil Abercrombie: Yes.

Peter Chiarelli: I'd have to go back and ask the -- we just don't go --

Neil Abercrombie: I won't go further. Mr. Chairman, this is serious business. We're under the gun here in the Defense Bill to make accurate numbers and put them forward for everybody to consider and now we have to make a decision whether OMB does this because, what the hell, we don't need a committee here if-if-if somebody down in OMB, this is a political appointment. It's all political appointments and if we're going to do it on the basis of-of what somebody else decides in the executive is-is a budget number as opposed to what our obligation is which is to provide for you and the people who serve under you and under your command then we have a real dilemma here. I have a real dilemma because I can't accurately, I cannot in good conscience say to Chairman Ortiz or to the other members that we're giving a number that adequately responds to what you believe to be in your professional judgment a necessity. Understand my motivation here?

Peter Chiarelli: I hope you understand mine. I-I understand also that you have to take many other things into consideration when putting together our budget. That's all I'm saying to you.
That was pulled from yesterday's snapshot because there wasn't room.
Monday a bad article about women veterns and the large increase in the number who become homeless appeared, Bryan Bender's "More female veterans are winding up homeless" (Boston Globe) -- an article on how women veterans are falling through the cracks because their specific issues and problems are not known and/or addressed -- an article where all the 'experts' were men. No one apparently noticed that incongruity. Bender was not tackling a just-breaking story. From the June 3rd snapshot, when US House Rep Bob Finer chaired the House Committee on Veterans Affairs committee for the hearing entitled "A National Commitment to End Veterans' Homelessness:" The number of women veterans who are homeless is rising. [Vietnam Veterans of America's Marsha] Four observed, "There certainly is a question of course on the actual number of homeless veterans -- it's been flucuating dramatically in the last few years. When it was reported at 250,000 level, two percent were considered females. This was rougly about 5,000. Today, even if we use the very low number VA is supplying us with -- 131,000 -- the number, the percentage, of women in that population has risen up to four to five percent, and in some areas, it's larger. So that even a conservative method of determinng this has left the number as high as [6,550]. And the VA actually is reporting that they are seeing that this is as high as eleven percent for the new homeless women veterans. This is a very vulnerable population, high incidents of past sexual trauma, rape and domestic violence. They have been used, abused and raped. They trust no one. Some of these women have sold themselves for money, been sold for sex as children, they have given away their own children. And they are encased in this total humiliation and guilt the rest of their lives." About half of her testimony was reading and about half just speaking to the committee directly.\

Marsha Ford is only one of the experts on the issue Bender could have spoken to but didn't. Congress has found many women capable of speaking on the issue in the last two years. Since the press seems unable to (and
since the Feminist Wire Daily can't even notice that women aren't 'experts' in Bender's article) perhaps the press could pay attention on July 14th when the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds their hearing Women Veterans: Bridging the Gaps in Care? Or possibly July 16th when the House Armed Services Committee holds their hearing Eliminating the Gaps: Examing Women Veterans' Issues? Were they to do so, they might discover that, no surprise, there are many, many women who can speak to issues effecting women veterans and they might realize how insulting -- in a story about how women's own issues are ignored by the VA (including being a single, primary caregiver for a child) -- it is to pen an article on women veterans while bringing in 'expert' males to talk about their problems as if to say: No one can follow the issue when a woman speaks. It's the equivalent, in conversations, of a man interrupting a woman to tell her story 'for her' because he can do it so much better because, apparently, an addition groin weight somehow helps in 'translation.'

Turning to film,
The Hurt Locker opens today in San Francisco, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta, Austin, Oahu, Portland, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Minneapolis, Denver, Toronto and DC. The amazing film directed by Kathryn Bigelow is winning raves all over. Ann Hornaday's "'Locker' Serves as Iraq Tour De Force" (Washington Post):"War is a drug," writes Christopher Hedges in the epigraph that precedes "The Hurt Locker." Someone else described war as "interminable boredom punctuated by moments of stark terror." Director Kathryn Bigelow comprehends both those observations and conveys them in this captivating, completely immersive action thriller. "The Hurt Locker" just happens to be set in Iraq in 2004, but, like the best films, transcends time and place, and in the process attains something universal and enduring. "The Hurt Locker" is about Iraq in the same way that "Paths of Glory" was about World War I or "Full Metal Jacket" was about Vietnam -- which is to say, utterly and not at all. "The Hurt Locker" is a great movie, period. From Mick LaSalle's "'The Hurt Locker' shows Bigelow's skill" (San Francisco Chronicle):She uses handheld cameras in "The Hurt Locker" not to make viewers dizzy or to instill excitement that isn't there but to create a subtle sense of being alongside the characters. Her camera doesn't shake. It breathes. It pulses. The camera becomes the viewer's eyes, not those of a spastic cameraman. Through such intuitive means, Bigelow takes an audience from the opening credits into a state of fierce attention and total empathy within about 60 seconds. Notice how quickly Bigelow conveys the charm and humanity of Guy Pearce, a soldier called upon to neutralize a bomb in the movie's first scene. Notice also how the direction and Mark Boal's screenplay inject a workaday quality into this tense moment. Throughout "The Hurt Locker," the human element is central, so that whenever something happens, it feels personal.

Turning to TV, this week on

This week, NOW talks directly with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the international community's envoy to the region and an architect of the plan. We also speak with a former commander of the infamous Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin about his decision to stop using violent tactics, and to residents of Jenin about their daily struggles and their hopes for the future.To Blair, the Jenin experiment can be pivotal in finally bringing peace to the Middle East. He tells NOW, "This is the single most important issue for creating a more stable and secure world."This show is part of Enterprising Ideas, NOW's continuing spotlight on social entrepreneurs working to improve the world through self-sustaining innovation.Next week NOW on PBS reports from inside the Israeli Defense Force to get the Israeli perspective on peace in the Middle East.Next week NOW on PBS reports from inside the Israeli Defense Force to get the Israeli perspective on peace in the Middle East.That begins airing tonight on most PBS stations as does
Washington Week which finds Gwen sitting around the table with James Barnes (National Journal), Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal). Bonnie Erbe sits down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Kay James and Genevieve Wood on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all three PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Kill Bin Laden The officer who led the army's Delta Force mission to kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11 reveals what really happened in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, when the al-Qaeda leader narrowly escaped. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
Eyewitness Lesley Stahl reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson. (This is a double-length segment.) Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, July 12, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
farah stockman
the boston globe
dahr jamail
the new york timessam dagher
michael schwartz
kathryn bigelow
the washington postann hornadaymick lasalle60 minutescbs news
pbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

International Socialist Review

I used to love International Socialist Review. I loved reading it. I loved the fact that they wouldn't be co-opted. They were Socialists. What did it matter to them if it was crooked Dems or crooked Repubes in the White House?

In 2008, it suddenly mattered a great deal and they really whored themselves for Barack.

So I'm reading an editorial today and, I check, it's also online. It's entitled "OBAMA IN OFFICE: Is this the change we can believe in?"

The lies/fluff starts early with the claim that Barry had some sort of "sound and groundbreaking win"? By whose math? Not by the popular vote and I believe the benchmark for the electoral college remains the 1988 election. Then ISR wants to offer this nugget:

Fewer then six months into Obama’s administration, we are finding out just what kind of change Obama and the Democrats have in store. And, as usually happens in the corporate-controlled political system of the U.S., the atmospherics of change belie a reality in which there is a lot more continuity between administrations than the election rhetoric—and what people thought they were voting for—predicted.

Well goodness gracious me, why didn't you say that in real time? Instead of campaigning for Barry O. I mean Naomi Klein is of that ilk and she was all over the country promoting her book and campaigning for Barry. She liked to do these little 'jokes' about Sarah Palin during those get-out-the-vote efforts. Did Naomi vote in the US election? I would really be interested in knowing that. I would also be interested in knowing how if you left the military (self check out) and left the country and are, in fact, considered AWOL or deserted that you managed to vote for Barry. Because, believe it or not, a number of them did.

I especially like the ones who cry baby over that now. By the way, what if you renounce your citizenship? Should you have voted in the 2008 election if you renounced your citizenship? Again, Barry had voters who did that as well.

So ISR, Anthony Arnove's project. Howard Zinn's left foot. Anthony and Howard, of course, both refused to call out Barack. In fact, Howard publicly endorsed him.

That outraged many of us who had, for years, looked to Howard for wisdom. He realized he'd made a mistake, so he withdrew it (consider him the George McGovern of the Socialist set) and then endorsed Cynthia McKinney. But when interviewed by AlterNet early this year, Howard was saying he'd endorsed Barack.

So apparently, the Cynthia was just an attempt to trick those of us who believed what Howard Zinn claimed to stand for.

Now not only did that take place, but Howard and Anthony hosted an inaugural party.

Anthony does not like it when you point that out.

Anthony insists that they didn't do it.

They allowed their names to be used.

As C.I. points out, the man behind it is Anthony's friend from Bus Boys & Poets and if Anthony wanted his name off the inauguration, all he had to do was ask.

But he didn't want it off.

He just didn't want the heat.

Kind of like Howard apparently didn't really take back his Barack endorsement, he just didn't want the heat.

Heat, I'm guessing, is what separates the childish from the brave. The childish go along out of fear.

Which is what ISR did.

So it's a real laugh now to hear them claim otherwise.

It's also a laugh to watch how they still can't get their damn facts right all this time later:

Although Obama made a pitch for a genuine public option a main point of his health reform plan during the campaign, even he speaks less and less about it today. As a candidate in the Democratic primaries last year, Obama assailed Hillary Clinton for advocating a health plan that forced individuals to buy insurance. As president, Obama recently signaled his willingness to support just such a scheme, long desired by the health insurance industry.

They're not liars, they're DAMN LIARS. Barack stumbled across "universal health care" at his convention. He never promised it. As for mandates? Barack's plan had mandates and when he was attacking Hillary over mandates, she rightly pointed out that his plan required parents to purchase insurance and that was a mandate.

I don't know that they're lying about Vinnie Warren. That may not be a lie. I know three people in the White House told C.I. that Barack's impression was he and Vinnie Warren were on the same page but Vincent has taken to insisting (to the public) that's not the case. I also know I don't trust Vincent at all and if C.I.'s being told by ___ and ___ and ____ -- the three highest people except for Barack, I'd say C.I.'s being told the truth.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq sees at least 27 deaths reported and fifty wounded today, Adm Mike Mullen mentions Iraq and the press isn't interested, US House Rep Patrick Murphy leads the fight to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and more.

Today the Chair of the Joint chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, spoke at the National Press Club in DC.

Adm Mike Mullen: Clearly we're at a point now, in Iraq, where the violence level is down -- dramatically so. In fact, it's the lowest level of violence since 2003, 2004. And-and we are at a point -- we're on our plan to support the draw down which will start significantly really early in 2010, next year. And-and our ability to do all of this is, in great part, contributed to the 2.2 million men and women who-who served -- and so many so nobly, including those that uh paid the ultimate sacrifice and there isn't a day that goes by uh or uh very many issues that I'm dealing with where our young people uh in the best military I've ever seen aren't very much on my mind and I'm privileged to be with them. So as we move forward in Iraq -- and clearly that doesn't mean it's -- we still don't have our challenges. I think most of the challenges there right now are political challenges, economic challenges and that heavy focus in those areas is absolutely critical. And elections which come up next year, early next year, are vital and then after that my expectation is that we will draw down rapidly to get to about 35,000 to 50,000 troops in the August of 2010 and at that point certainly turn over -- we transition our combat forces totally uh to uh advisory and assistance forces. as you know the significant date last week was the 30 June date where we pulled out of the cities. The last two big areas were Mosul and Baghdad. That actually has gone very well. That doesn't mean that it isn't a vulnerable time -- uh times of transition al-always are -- but I'm confident right now that we've got the strategy right and the support of the Iraqi security forces.

Mullen is incorrect about the violence being low.
AFP observes today that June's official death total (from Iraqi ministries) was 437 -- "the highest toll since July 2008." But it wasn't just AFP who fact checked him, it was also events on the ground in Iraq today.

He noted stresses on family members and service members and noted the suicide rate has been increasing for the military and otherwise focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Kimberly Hefling (AP) reports on the increase in service members' children seeking mental health treatment in 2008, noting that the number has doubled since the start of the illegal war. Mullen did not note that and no one asked about it.

The press? They did ask questions. They didn't ask about Iraq. When do they ever? The Iraq War is over -- or that's what they pretend. An exception being the Raleigh News & Observer which editorializes on the four most recent deaths in Iraq (Roger Adams, Juan Baldeosingh, Robert Bittiker and Edward Kramer) in "
Four of the brave:"A war that is said to be "winding down" isn't winding down at all for those who remain in the middle of it. The N.C. Guard knows that well. It has lost 15 troops there since the Iraq war began in 2003. A strong military presence in North Carolina, with multiple bases, brings pride to the state, and in times of war, a keen and painful shared sense of what it takes to fight. (In 2004, the 30th was the first major National Guard unit in the country to be sent to Iraq. It lost five soldiers on that tour. And just this past May, three died because of a suicide bomber.) For the families of those in action, and all who know them and all who admire them, a war is not gauged merely by victory. It is about wives and children left behind, about all the good times shared, and all those that will never be shared.

As DC speeches go, Mullen's was a bust. Far better today, also at the National Press Club, was US House Rep Patrick Murphy who kicked off the Voices Of Honor campaign.

US House Rep Patrick Murphy: My name is Patrick Murphy, I'm a Democrat from the eighth district of Pennsylvania which is Bucks County and far north east Philadelphia. I am now a United States Congressman in my second term but prior to that I was in the military since 1993. I rose up to through the ranks to become a professor at West Point. And then when 9-11 happened, I served on two deployments. My first one with General [David] Petraeus and my second one as a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division in Baghdad from 2003 to 2004. That's why every day I wear the 82nd Airborne pin on my lapel, I don't wear the Congressional pin because 19 of my fellow paratroopers never made it home. I am proud to be the lead sponsor today of the Military Enhancement Readiness Act -- a bill that will finally repeal the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Our troops are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and are stretched dangerously thin. These men and women in our military understand what it takes to serve our country and the values that our military and our nation hold dear. They take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, yet the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy when it took effect in 1993 has discharged over 13,000 troops -- honorable men and women. That is the equivalent of three and a half combat brigades. They have been discharged not for any type of sexual misconduct but because of their sexual orientation. The policy is not working for armed services and it hurts national security. Attitudes on Don't Ask, Don't Tell have changed -- have changed in our military and have changed in the public at large. Up to 75% of Americans support repeal and the number is even higher in the age bracket of those we are recruiting from 18 years of age to 29. Former senior military leaders agree that it is time to re-evaluate and to repeal the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. Opponents of lifting the ban arguing that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will be detremental to unit cohesion and morale. As a former Army officers and West Point professor, that is an insult to me and to all the troops serving in uniform. In Iraq, my men did not care what race, color, creed or sexual orientation their fellow paratroopers were. They cared, whether they could get the job done. We cared about serving with honor and coming home alive. Over 20 nations, include our two strongest allies, Great Britain and Israel, allow gays and lesbians to serve openly without any determental impact on unit cohesion or morale. Believe me, our heroes serving in the US military are the best fighting forces in the entire world. We are second to none. And we are just as good as those who serve in Great Britain and Israel. Our president, President Barack Obama, has stated that if Congress will get a bill to his desk repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, he will sign it into law. It is now our job, and my job specifically, to quarterback this through the Congress of the United States to do just that. I cannot tell you today how long it is going to take. All I can tell you is that paratroopers don't quit and paratroopers get the job done. To remove honorable, talented and committed Americans from serving in our military is contrary to the values that our military life holds dear. My time in Iraq and at West Point teaching the next generation of military leaders taught me that our military deserves and expects the best and the brightest that are willing to serve. I stand here today with these honorable and noble veterans. Together we will continue the fight to make our nation and our military stronger.

Meanwhile Iraq wasn't an issue at Mullen's appearance before the National Press Club -- wasn't an issue to the press (Mullen addressed it as the first topic when he spoke, it's the press that didn't give a damn). Somewhere after weaponry program questions (yes, they had time for that in both costs -- FY2010 and beyond -- and wide-eyed dreaming of future wars), in the final minutes of Mullen's appearance (the second to last question), it was noted he had "called for an evolution in the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy" and he was asked if he could write the new policy, what it would be. "Well I'm not a policy guy," Mullen began indicating he would punt on the issue and avoid addressing it. "Uh, uh, I'm charged with carrying out the law I'm charged with carrying out policy and right now the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and law from 1993 is in effect." He then started mentioning Obama and US Secretary of Defense of Robert Gates. And, no, he never answered the question. So, yes, he could have stopped at "I'm not a policy guy." Yet still he continued, splitting sentences, serving up fragments, uh and uhm. He repeated that he just follows the law, for anyone who might have missed it, and "like the law that exists now, should the law change, certainly we would carry it out." In other words, how would he change it? He never said. But he went to great lengths to say he follows orders. For any who were confused by that point, Mullen follows orders.

And the press refused to care about anything other than the meal on their plates. And dessert. They cared about dessert. Your working press corps in their natural habitat, up close and scary.

At the Voices of Honor Campaign press conference, retired US Navy Captain Joan Darrah, of the Sevicemembers Legal Defense Network, expressed her confidence in Murphy's ability to lead in the House on this issue and get the needed 218 needed votes and shared her story.

Joan Darrah: When I first joined the Navy, I didn't realize I was gay. By the time I figured it out, I had about 10-plus years of service. Based on my promotion record and fitness reports it was clear to me that the Navy felt that I was making a difference so I opted to stay. Now that I am retired and out from under Don't Ask, Don't Tell I realize how incredibly stressful and frankfully just plain wrong it is to have to serve in silence. Each day I went to work wondering if that would be the day of my last service. Whenever the admiral would call me to his office 99.9% of me would be certain it was to discuss an operational issue but there was always a small part of me that feared the admiral was calling me into his office to tell me that I had been outed, that I was fired and that my career was over. On September 11th, I was at the Pentagon attending the weekly intelligence briefing when American flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, I was at the Pentagon bus stop. The office I had been in seven minutes earlier was completely destroyed and seven of my co-workers were killed. The reality is if I had been killed, my partner would have been the last to know because her name was nowhere in my records and I certainly hadn't dared to list her in my emergency contact information. It was the events of September 11th that made me realize that Don't Ask, Don't Tell was taking a much bigger toll than I had ever admitted. On 1 June, 2002, a year earlier than originally planned, I retired. I am incredibly proud of our military and our country. And I know that we will be stronger once Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed. More than 26 countries have already figured this out and now allow gay people to serve openly. What we need now is for Congress to act and they must act now. Every day the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell is delayed, more highly qualified, motivated, valuable service members are discharged simply for being gay. Our great country can do better than this.

Among the others speaking, Iraq War veteran
Eric Alva.

Eric Alva: Six years ago on March 21, 2003 I was part of a logistical convoy with 3rd Batallion 7th Marines. My unit was part of the first wave of ground troops that entered the country of Iraq from Kuwait to start the ground invasion of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I had been in Iraq no more than three hours when I stepped on a landmine near the city of Basra wuffering life threatening injuries. I had a broken left leg, a broken right arm with severe nerve damage and a badly injured right leg that doctors had to ampute it in order to save my life. I had become the first American injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was not until February 28, 2007 that I announced not only to the people of the United States but to the rest of the world that the first American injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom was a gay marine. I decided to be true to myself and my country by coming forward and announcing who I am. My coming forward was to tell the people of this country that as a patriotic American when I went to fight the war on terrorism it was for the rights and freedoms of every single person in this country not just selected individuals. That means every single individual regardless of who they are. I stand here today on two good legs again with my fellow service members and a courageous Congress member Patrick Murphy to show my support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act. It is time to let people be judged for their merit, professionalism and their leadership. This is a time when we should not be firing anyone from their job in the United States Armed Forces for being gay.

Rep Murphy's office has released a statement on the confrence today. Voices of Honor is a partnership between the Human Rights Campaign the Servicemembers United. Emily Sherman (CNN) reports, "A 'Voices of Honor' tour, sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, will travel across the country sharing stories of gay, lesbian and straight servicemen and -women in hopes of garnering support for the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would repeal the law that established the policy. The act would allow gay and lesbian Americans to serve in the military without concealing their sexuality." Sherman notes Colin Powell was the architect (Powell refused to go along with then President Bill Clinton's effort to allow gays and lesbians to serve in 1993 and made many threats about what would happen if the policy went forward -- it was the first step in the disrespect for the president among the military that Powell fostered and had he been punished for it, he might not have been able to lie to the UN in 2003). Sherman has a few mealy mouthed words from Powell today and he's only saying those because he realizes the shame that his actions and that policy carry. More pointing out Colin's role in Don't Ask, Don't Tell could force him to actually speak out in favor of allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military openly. He's desperate to (white)wash his image and he's trying so very hard to get himself back into the news cycle. Which is why, Sunday, Colin Powell made a fool of himself -- as is to be expected. On CNN's State of the Union today, Collie The Blot Powell, who lied to the United Nations in an attempt to make the case for illegal war, declared the mistake about the Iraq War was . . . not doing an escalation ("surge") sooner. He lied the nation into illegal war and he's never apologized for it. He did fret a bit over his blot for a little while. Now instead of hanging his head in shame, fueled by the Cult of St. Barack, he's attempting a comeback. Smart would be using his ambition against him to force him to take a stand.

In Iraq today the Islamic State of Iraq did not hold a press conference; however,
Aseel Kami, Missy Ryan and Elizabeth Fullerton (Reuters) report that the group did issue a statement in the form of an audiotape which declared, "Even if the Americans remain nowhere but a small spot in the Iraqi desert . . . so every Muslim should battle them until they are expelled." The statement might have garnered more attention were it not for the fact that car bombings rocked northern Iraq. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) explains they were in Ba'wiza and Gubba which are nearby neighborhoods of Mosul. Andrew Dobie (Reuters) adds the second bombing followed the first by approximately ten minutes. AP puts the death toll at 16 with over twenty-four wounded. AFP is able to confirm 12 dead and thirty injured via Dr. Ahmed Abdul Karim of Mosul's Medical City Hospital.

That was far from the only violence today and police officers continued to be targeted.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Mosul hand bomb aimed at a police patrol which left two police officers injured as well as five civilians, a Mosul car bombing which claimed the lives of 2 people ("inside the car"), a Mosul roadside bombing which injured one woman andd a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded one man. Reuters notes a Hilla roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 3 members of wedding party with eleven more left injured. AP notes that the wedding party bombing now has a death toll of 4 with sixteen injured and they note a bombing outside of Baghdad which claimed the lives of 2 people -- a father and his teenage son who had been working in their garden -- and left five people wounded.


Reuters notes "a member of the local infrastructure police" in Kirkuk was wounded in an attack, 1 person shot dead by Mosul police, one Mosul police officer wounded in a checkpoint shooting, one Iraqi soldier wounded in a Mosul shooting. AP reports the soldier died. Alsumaria reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul in front of his home.

Three big developments today may impact the immediate future in Iraq.
Alsumaria reports that despite claims that a vote on Kirkuk might be able to take place before the elections now scheduled for January, no suche elections will be happening. AP adds, "On Wednesday, Iraqi officials said the Kurdish-run north of the country could not vote this month on a draft constitution, a document perceived by Iraqi Arabs as an effort to expand Kurdish authority at the expense of the central government." That draft constitution was to be voted on this month because the KRG holds their elections this month. Now that's been stopped and it is part of the continued tug-of-war between the Arabs and the Kurds. Finally, Alsumaria notes that a prison abuse investigation has been completed and that MP Zaynab Karim al Kinani of the Sadr bloc is stating that the results of the investigation "are not feasible stressing the need to reopen investigations, bring people implicated in torturing prisoners to justice and add a parlimentary committe of polical parties' represenatives to special investigation committees."

Yesterday's snapshot covered the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing and Kat covered it at her site last night. The best witness was Retired Admiral John D. Hutson and we noted some of his remarks yesterday. His opening statement [PDF format warning] is now posted online by the committee and it can be found in HTML (what you're reading right now, normal webpage) at Franklin Pierce Law Center where is the Dean and President. He was the best witness. Huston is also a Retired Rear Admiral and a former Judge Advocat General of the Navy. The ACLU has released a silly statement where they praise David Kris for supposedly stating Due Process applies to military commissions. Kris stated that the Defense Department, not the Justice Department, should be prosecuting. A fact that the silly release leaves out. The press release does note:

In further hearings today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, American Civil Liberties Union attorney Denny LeBoeuf testified that the military commissions are inherently unconstitutional and cannot be fixed.

I didn't attend that hearing. But the remarks Denny LeBoeuf made, accurate remarks, were made at the full committee hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday. And they were made by John D. Hutson. That's who should have been noted in their press release. Not the laughable Kris who only appears mildly competent because he was sitting next to Jeh Johnson. As someone who attended that hearing and heard Kris' many offensive remarks, I find it shocking that the ACLU wants to cite him at all.

Independent journalist
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). At Against the Current, he discusses the book with Star Murray and Charles Williams:

ATC: Why don't we start with the title of the book? David Bacon: Well, I debated with the publisher a lot about it. I knew it was going to be kind of a controversial title, because I've been an immigrant rights activist for over 30 years and all that time we've been trying to get people to say "undocumented people" instead of "illegal aliens." And the reason for it is a very good one, which is that the word "illegal" is used to demonize people and to excuse denial of rights and second-class social status.So putting the word illegal in the title, especially saying "illegal people," I anticipated that people would say "Well, okay, you're doing what you have tried to get people not to do." The reason I did so is because writing the book made me really think more concretely about where illegality comes from, and there is a part of the book that traces out the development of the social category. It doesn't really have much to do with the law. It has to do with the creation of a social category for people who are denied equality with those who live in the community around them, and who don't have the same set of rights and don't have the same social and political and legal status. So the book traces this history all the way back to the origins of this country and the colonization of North America, and specifically to slavery. Slavery established the idea that the society that was created here was going to be divided, that people were going to be divided between those that had rights and those who had no rights. The purpose of this was economic really. The labor of slaves was what was desired by slave holders, and the whole system was built and developed in order to allow for the maximum extraction of that labor. And then that inequality got not only written into the Constitution and into law, but applied to other people too. There were simultaneous debates in the Americas about the status of indigenous people. What I'm trying to say is that illegality is real. It's a real status of people. And that it has an economic function, and this system creates illegality for very specific reasons. Today, in a globalized world, we have the use of neoliberal economic reforms, including free trade treaties, that in countries like Mexico displace people and send them into motion, and then those people are forced to come to the United States looking for work and survival and, at the same time, are forced into a social category, illegality, which already existed before they get here. Basically the book's argument in the end is that this is obviously a very brutal system, and if we don't like illegality we have to change the social reality. It's not enough to just say "Well, let's not demonize people by not calling them illegals and instead using the word undocumented." I believe very strongly that we should use the term "undocumented people," but we have to face the fact that undoing illegality requires a social movement and social struggle, and we have to be willing to do that.


the raleigh news and observer

state of the union

mcclatchy newspapers
sahar issa

aseel kami

david bacon

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

ACLU, McNamara, Trash TV

"Senate Holds Hearing On Continuation Of Fatally Flawed Military Commissions (7/7/2009)
Use Of 'Coerced Evidence' Makes Them Unconstitutional, Says ACLU
" (ACLU):

CONTACT: (202) 675-2312 or
WASHINGTON – The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing today on the proposed continuation of the controversial Guantánamo military commissions system. The chairman of the committee, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), has inserted language related to military commissions into the current Senate draft of the Defense Authorization bill and President Obama has recently declared his intention to revive the fatally flawed commissions after suspending them by executive order his first day in office.
In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union is scheduled to testify on military commissions at a separate hearing before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Wednesday morning.
“The military commissions are unconstitutional and were created not to enforce the law but to circumvent it,” said Christopher Anders, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel. “Bringing back the military commissions would signal to the rest of the world that the United States continues to flout the rule of law.”
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the first version of the Bush administration’s military commissions illegal. President Obama, as a candidate, took the position that the second and current version of the military commissions, as implemented through the Military Commissions Act, should be rejected, but he is now pushing Congress to help revive these proceedings with certain changes.
While both the president’s proposal and the new legislation passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee would bar evidence obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, they would still allow for the admission of other “coerced evidence.” That means that forced confessions and hearsay evidence that would be barred from every U.S. courtroom and court-martial would still be admissible. By contrast, the Constitution, the Federal Rules of Evidence used in federal criminal courts, and rules for military courts-martial prohibit all evidence obtained by coercion. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported last week that a recent undisclosed Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel opinion concluded that the use of coerced evidence in at least some military commission proceedings would be unconstitutional.
" The military commissions are fatally flawed and no amount of tinkering will fix them,” Anders added. “The system is set up to ensure convictions, not give defendants an impartial hearing. When the military commissions stack the deck against a fair trial, how can we trust their outcomes?”
In addition to being unconstitutional, the military commissions are unnecessary. Under our criminal justice system, the government already has sufficient tools at its disposal to prosecute terrorism suspects, including a wide array of criminal laws that even prohibit activities that are often only remotely related to terrorism. Civilian and military courts are perfectly capable of dealing with classified evidence and protecting national security while also providing fundamental rights. The United States has successfully prosecuted more than 200 defendants in international terrorism cases in federal courts for crimes committed both before and after 9/11. By comparison, only three terrorism suspects were successfully prosecuted in the military commissions system at Guantánamo.
“President Obama put an end to the use of torture and abuse because he knew that it was contrary to our most fundamental values. Yet the president and Congress are now considering allowing forced confessions – the fruit of some of those very same practices – to be used against defendants,” said Anders. “Under the new legislation, involuntary confessions forced out of witnesses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and other torture sites could be used to convict people. Due process cannot exist when we allow hearsay and coerced evidence in our courtrooms, and justice cannot exist without due process. The military commissions must be shut down for good if America is to repair its legacy as an international beacon of human rights and civil liberties.”

The hearing is covered by C.I. in the snapshot today. Be sure to read it. C.I. starts it after the day's violence in Iraq. The press release came out before the hearing. I was hoping they'd have something about the hearing itself because, reading C.I.'s report, it's worse than even the press release thought it would be.

"Vietnam War Architect Robert McNamara Dies at 93: A Look at His Legacy With Howard Zinn, Marilyn Young & Jonathan Schell" (Democracy Now!).
I'm providing the link. It's read, watch or listen. I'm going to talk a little bit about this segment. It was very disappointing.

Thank goodness for Young who had some perspective. Jonathan Schell is the biggest joke in the world. He's done 'blog posts' for Iraq. A few. A few times. He's an embarrassment. He was one of those idiots trying to scare up votes for John Kerry (I voted for John Kerry) by calling 2004 "the torture election." Jonathan and War Hawk Robert McNamara had a half-in-half at a nuclear freeze rally so instead of offering reality, Schell's singing "That's why I fell for [bomb, bomb] the leader of the pack. Leader of the pack, and now he's gone. Leader of the pack, and now he's gone." It was so embarrassing.

Young stayed firm.

Howard Zinn?

Better than I expected but is he really talking about the topic? No. He's spitting out generic statements and I'm really worried if he's able to follow the conversation. I'm not joking or being snide, I'm seriously worried because that was just really shocking.

Marilyn Young addressed McNamara's War Crimes (Zinn gave generic comments about War Crimes -- anyone's War Crimes) and Schell spent forever repeatedly attempting to justify and minimize McNamara's actions. It was disgusting.

Disgusting has been All Things Media Big and Small in the last two weeks (continuing today).

"TV: Trash TV" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
And while people pretend that Michael Jackson: Still Dead is news, it keeps real news off the radar. So it's especially disgusting when Pacifica's Free Speech Radio News and The (KPFA) Morning Show waste listeners time with this garbage. And flat out outrageous when Democracy Now! uses its radio and TV time to 'cover' bad gossip.
Michael Jackson wanted to be Diana Ross for years. Then he wanted to be a White woman. At last, in death, he is. He's Anna Nicole Smith for 2009. And all the ghouls and all the idiots -- who can't be bothered with following actual news -- rush to watch more and more infotainment and kid themselves that they're in any way informed or aware of what's going on in the world. Shame on anyone pretending to be a public affairs or news program that assists them in mistaking trash TV for news.

Amen. This is a wonderful commentary. It needed saying and, as usual, Ava and C.I. stepped up to the plate.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, July 7, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi police become the target of choice, the US Senate Armed Service Committee appears to have no grasp of the US legal system and no respect for it, a War Hawk dies, and more.

Gay Life After Saddam is a documentary the BBC commissioned which was set to air Sunday, July 5th on BBC Radio 5 Live; however, the Wimbledon Men's Final ran late Sunday and the program has been rescheduled to air Sunday July 12th from nine to ten p.m. (1:00 to 2:00 p.m. PST). Ashley Byrne did the investigative reporting for the documentary and, at the BBC, Byrne explains, "What is clear, and confirmed by separate evidence from various human rights groups, is that some gay men have been subjected to appalling violent abuse. . . . Gay men inside Iraq have been able to seek santuary in safe houses, thanks to the UK-based Iraqi Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group, which manages them from London. The documentary team were granted exclusive access to one of the homes on the outskirts of Baghdad". The people Byrne speaks to maintain it was easier to be a gay Iraqi when Saddam Hussein was in charge of Iraq. So much for 'liberation' and 'democracy.' Again, the specail has been rescheduled for this coming Sunday, July 12th.

Moving over to an Iraq War veteran in Canada, David Solnit, co-author with Aimee Allison of
Army Of None, notes the following action (taking place tomorrow):

Kimberly Rivera, mother of three, wife, and soldier of conscience is now living in Canada, but that could all change on July 8th. Join Courage to Resist at a support rally outside of the Canadian Consulate in San Francisco, July 8, 12 noon - 1pm 580 California Street at Kearny, San Francisco (4 blocks up Montgomery from Montgomery BART, left on Calif. St, right side of street just before Kearny) We will bring signed petitions to the Consulate General, urging the Canadian politicians to respect the will of the Canadian people, the Canadian parliament, whom have twice voted recommendations to allow war resisters to stay and the basic moral imperative that does not separate children from their loving mother.Kimberly has this to say: "I want to stay in Canada, with my family, because the Iraq War is immoral, illegal and I couldn't in good conscience go back. The amount of support I'm getting from Canadians is amazing. The parents of my kids' friends, MPs and even strangers on the street keep telling me that they can't believe the votes in Parliament aren't being respected." Kimberly Rivera is the first outspoken female Iraq War resister to publically and legally seek refuge in Canada. Kimberly, along with her partner Mario, son Christian (7 years old) and daughter Rebecca (4 years old), fled to Canada in January 2007 when Kimberly refused redeployment. In late November 2008 Kimberly gave birth to her Canadian daughter Katie (8 months old). She served in Iraq in 2006 and experienced, firsthand, the reality of this ongoing illegal war and occupation. On July 8th, Kimberly is going to Canadian federal court, to appeal the decision in her Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. If her appeal fails, she will be asked to leave Canada, or forcibly removed -- and delivered into the custody and jurisdiction of the United States Army where Kimberly will face charges that will carry, at the very least, a 4 year sentence in a military stockade. Four years or more away from her young children, away from her baby daughter, away from her husband -- she will be kept in an Army prison. She has served in Iraq, she has been to combat; now, because she has decided to exercise her conscience, she faces imprisonment, additional forced separation from her family and eviction from her new home. Act to help Kimberly on July 8th! Join Courage to Resist in protesting the Canadian governments attempts to violate a loving mother's human rights!Sign the letter online & for more info:

Over the weekend, US Vice President Joe Biden continued his trip to Iraq.
Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reported that his "mission to promote national reconciliation in Iraq was rebuffed Friday by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who told him that the issue was a domestic Iraqi affair and that U.S involvement wouldn't be welcome." US involvement wouldn't be welcome . . . but Nouri's happy to have the involvement of US forces on the ground in Iraq because otherwise he would be overthrown. That involvement he's all for. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy offers her take here. Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) added, "One official said the vice president made it clear that if Iraq returned to ethnic violence, the United States would be unlikely to remain engaged, 'because one, the American people would have no interest in doing that, and as he put it, neither would he or the president." Yesterday, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) explained that "the Americans helped most leading Iraqi politicians, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, come to power -- and stay there -- they can no longer expect the Iraqis to acknowledge the help, because being close to the Americans risks alienating average Iraqis." Which has never prevented the puppet from biting the hand that continues to feed him and why Alsumaria reports today, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki refused any foreign interference in Iraqi affairs; two days after the United States cautioned that it might disengage in Iraq if the country fails to reach national reconciliation. In a meeting with tribal sheikhs, security chiefs and local officials in Anbar, Al Maliki reiterated that he won't allow anyone to meddle in Iraqi affairs and oversee the political process and national reconciliation." Independent journalist Dahr Jamail (MidEast Dispatches) uses Biden's visit to provide the context on the non-departure and non-withdrawal:

On July 4 in Baghdad, Vice President Joe Biden, who campaigned with Barack Obama on a platform of ending the occupation of Iraq, found himself in one of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's lavish buildings, the Al-Faw Palace. While one of Saddam Hussein's thrones sat on the side of the room, Biden presided over a swearing-in ceremony for 237 soldiers, who were becoming US citizens. Speaking of the ceremony,
Biden said, "We did it in Saddam's palace, and I can think of nothing better. That S.O.B. is rolling over in his grave right now." Perhaps the irony of both the scene and his statement were lost to Biden. For if Saddam Hussein was rolling in his grave, the reason would have less to do with one of his palaces being used as a naturalization center for US soldiers, and more to do with the fact that the US government has no intention of withdrawing from Iraq anytime soon.
We have passed the June 30 deadline that, according to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari on November 17, 2008, was the date all US forces were to have been withdrawn from all of Iraq's cities. Today, however, there are at least 134,000 US soldiers in Iraq - a number barely lower than the number that were there in 2003. In addition,
US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates testified on June 9 that the United States would maintain an average of at least 100,000 troops in Iraq through fiscal year 2010.
The SOFA is a sieve, and the number of US military personnel in Iraq is remaining largely intact for now. Add to the 134,000 US soldiers almost the exact number of military contractors (132,610 and increasing), 36,061 of which, according to a recent Department of Defense report, are US citizens.

Dahr Jamail's latest book was just released this month and is
The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The weekend trend in Iraq was attacks on police officers resulting in the deaths of at least 6 police officers with eight more wounded. Though primarily in Mosul, the attacks also took place in Baghdad and Kirkuk.On
Saturday, 1 was killed and one wounded and a Mosul bombing targeting a police squad car resulted in one civilian being injured, Sunday's numbers were 3 killed with two wounded while a Mosul car bombing targeted the police but wounded three civilians, and Monday saw 2 killed and five wounded. (And use links in linked day's entries for wounded totals.)Meanwhile 'safe' Iraq still requires police training takes place . . . outside the country. Iraq's Foreign Ministry announced Sunday that their ambassador to Canberra, Ghanim Taha al-Shebly, attended graduation ceremonies for Iraqi police officers in . . . Australia: "Ambassador AL-Shebly delivered a speech on the occasion in which he expressed his thanks to the Federal Police and the Australian Government for their initiative in providing development programs to the elite members of the Iraqi National Police, which included training in management and leadership development, administrative and criminal evidence in order to strengthen the Iraqi Police Service." The Ministry also announced Sunday that Mustafa Musa Tawfik, Charge d'affairs in the Iraqi Embassy in Seoul, gave a speech at the "training course for the dvelopment of policies and programs human rights in filed in Iraq" in . . . (South) Korea.The need to continue training outside of Iraq is not surprising considering the ongoing violence; however, it needs to be noted that US government ended the training program which had been taking place in Jordan even though it was cost effective and, according to outsiders, effective period. The claim at the time was that training should take place in Iraq where it would be more cost efficient. And lucky for that cover story, reporters haven't been eager to point out that Iraqis continue to train in foreign countries. The only real difference now is that they are not training in Arab countries.

The targeting of police officers continued in Iraq today.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Iraqi "servicemen and one civilian" were injured in a shooting at a Baghdad checkpoint and 1 police officer was shot dead in Mosul while his father (also a police officer) was left wounded. In both incidents, silencers were used on the guns and McClatchy was noting (in their daily violence round-ups) over the weekend how common the use of silencers was becoming. Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead at a Mosul checkpoint with two other people left injured and they note 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul in a drive-by.

From violence to the thing everyone wants to get their hands on: Oil.
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quotes Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari saying, "We showed the world two things -- that the Iraqi oil industry is open for investment for the first time, and second, that the process was transparent." The statement comes on the heels of the first auction and as Iraq prepares for the second auction. Angel K. Yan (Red Net) notes, "China's three major oil companies are thinking of participating in Iraq's second auction of oil and gas fields later this year, in a move to get a better foothold in the country's oil industry." The first auction was at the end of last month and the big winners were British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Corporation who partnered up and won what Robin Pagnamenta (Times of London) described as "access to Iraq's biggest oilfield." At The Ecologist, Dan Box offers a historical view of England and Iraq. Vivian Wai-yin Kwok (Forbes) notes China Daily is reporting China National Petroleum Corporation and China Petrochemical Corporation plan to bid in the second auction. Jane Arraf observes that "factors including lingering security fears and concerns that Iraq's climate for foreign oil investment is still shifting" are weighing on some foreign companies.

"Good morning, everybody," declared US Senator Carl Levin bringing to order the Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing on Military Commission and the trial of Detainees for Violations of the Law of War. "In its 2006 decision in the Hamdan case, the Supreme Court held that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convetions prohibts the trial of detainees for violations of the law of war unless the trial is conducted 'by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.' The Court concluded that 'the regular military courts in our system are the courts-martial established by congressional statutes' but that a military commission can be regularly constituted by the standards of our military justice system 'if some practical need explains deviations from court-martial practice'.'' His opening remarks set up the hearing so we'll also note this section.

Senator Carl Levin: Of great importance, the provision in our bill would reverse the existing presumption in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that rules and procedures applicable to trials by courts martial would not apply. Our new language says, by contrast, that: "Except as otherwise provided, the procedures and rules of evidence applicable in trials by general courts-martial of the United States shall apply in trials by military commission under this chapter." The exceptions to this rule are, as suggested by the Supreme Court, carefully tailored to the unique circumstances of the conduct of military and intelligence operations during hostilities. Three years ago, when this Committee considered similar legislation on military commissions, I urged that we apply two tests. First, will we be able to live with the procedures that we establish if the tables are turned and our own troops are subject to similar procedures? Second, is the bill consistent with our American system of justice and will it stand up to scrutiny on judicial review? I believe that those remain the right questions to consider and that language we have included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 meets both tests. Over the last three years, we have seen the legal advisor to the Convening Authority for military commissions forced to step aside after a military judge found that he had compromised his objectivity by aligning himself with the prosecution. We have had prosecutors resign after making allegations of improper command influence and serious deficiencies in the military commission process. We have had the Chief Defense Counsel raise serious concerns about the adequacy of resources made available to defendants in military commissions cases, writing that: "Regardless of its other procedures, no trial system will be fair unless the serious deficiencies in the current system's approach to defense resources are rectified." So even if we are able to enact new legislation that successfully addresses the shortcomings in existing law, we will have a long way to go to restore public confidence in military commissions and the justice that they produce. However, we will not be able to restore confidence in military commissions at all unless we first substitute new procedures and language to address the problems with the existing statute.

The hearing was composed of two panels. The first panel was composed of the Dept of Defense's Jeh C. Johnson, Dept of Justice's David S. Kris and JAG's Vice Adm Bruce E. MacDonald. The second panel was composed of Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, Retired Maj Gen John Altenburg Jr. and the American University's Daniel Marcus.

Senator Carl Levin: Let me ask you first, Mr. Johnson, I quoted from the Hamdan case in my opening remarks, saying that the Court in Hamdan said: "The regular military courts in our system are the courts-martial established by congressional statutes." But they also said that a military commission can be regularly constituted if there's a practical need that explains the ndeviations from court-martial practice. We have attempted in our language to do exactly that. And my question first of you is, in your view, does our bill conform to the Hamdan standards?

Jeh C. Johnson: Senator, as you, as you noted, Hamdan uh-uh requires -- and of course Hamdan was at a time that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 did not exist, as I recall. The holding of Hamdan was that military commissions -- and I'm not going to get this exactly right -- but that military commission should depart from UCMJ courts only in situations of evident practical need. The proposed legislation, uh, in our view definitely brings us closer to the UCMJ model and the circumstances under which the military commissions, uhm, contemplated by this bill and UCMJ courts differ are, in our judgment, circumstances that are necessary, uhm, given -- given the needs here. Uh, for example, uh, there is no Miranda requirement imposed by-by this-by this legislation. Article 31 UCMJ is specifically excluded from application here. Article 31 is what uh calls for Miranda warnings in uh UCMJ circumstances. The legislation also takes what I believe is a very appropriate and practical approach to-to hearsay. As you noted in your opening remarks, Mr. Chariman, the-the-the burden is no longer on the opponent to demonstrate uh-uh that hearsay should be excluded. There is a notice requirement in the proposed legislation and if the proponent of the hearsay can demonstrate reliability and materiality and that the declarant is not available as a practical matter given the unqiue circumstances of military operations and intelligence operations, the hearsy could be admitted.

And people make fun of the way Sarah Palin speaks? The Dept of Defense sends that stammering uh-uh dofus into a hearing? He's the Dept's General Counsel?

First off, Article 31 is not the military's Miranda. UCMJ's Article 31 predates Miranda by 16 years. Don't confuse the two. Article 32 is not a copy of Miranda. Miranda can be seen as a civilian copy of Article 32. What an idiot. And, no, he has no knowledge of the law. Admitting hearsay goes against everything the US justice system stands for and that includes the US military justice system. The Senate should be ashamed of himself for authoring legislation that shreds the US justice system. Let's not let them off (and I don't) but let's be clear that Johnson's a stammering fool who came off like a drunk barely able to keep his head up at the bar (you really needed to see the way Johnson's head dipped and swung to this side and to that side). David Kris was just as much of an ass as Levin's being but he could speak. What he had to say was frightening. Terrorism, Kris said speaking for the Dept of Justice, should be prosecuted in military courts, not civilian ones and proscuted, pay attention to this, by the Defense Department. Slippery slope is apparently a concept foreign to the idiots Barack's appointed. Senator John McCain, the Ranking Member of the Committee, wanted to know if there was a difference in the proceedings based on whether the trials were held in the US or at Guantanamo? Johnson fretted that "due process" would apply if held in the US and "that the courts have not determined applies -- applies now" at Guantanamo. Johnson had a real problem being concise. Not because he was adding detail but because he was restating the same thing over and over. He did that with Levin in Levin's first round of questioning (leading the Chair to note that there was only six minutes in the round) and he tried that with McCain who cut him off.

Senator John McCain: So what you're saying is that you believe that there could be some differneces in procedure if the trials were held in Guantanamo or the United States of America?

Jeh Johnson: I'm not sure I would be prepared to say significant difference, Senator.

Senator John McCain: It would be important for this committee to know what your view is? It might have something to do with the way that we shape legislation. If they're going to have all kinds of additional rights if they're tried in the United States of America as opposed to Guantanamo, I think that the committee and the American people should know that.

Jeh Johnson: One of the things that I mentioned in my prepared statement, Senator, is that when it comes to the admissability of statements, the administration believes that a volunatriness standard should apply on account of the reality of military operations and we think that that is something that uh due process may require particularly if military commissions come to the United States, that the courts may impose a voluntariness standard.

Senator John McCain: Well I hope that you and Mr. Kris will provide for the record what you think the difference is and the process would be as to the location of uh those trials. I think it's very important. Certainly is to me.

Vice Adm Bruce E. MacDonald made clear to Senator Lindsey Graham that the US has more restrictive use on hearsay than, for example, an international tribunal in Rawanda. Boo-hoo. What Constitution did MacDonald swear to uphold and is not coherent enough to grasp what oath he took? And someone tell the idiot to comb his hair. That fallen lock wouldn't play on a guy half his age and for a man showing up before Congress in military dress it was flat out embarrassing. (His hair was comparable to Paul Wolfowitz for any needing a visual. Only worse.) Senator Mark Udall praised Lindsey Graham and had nothing to add. Disappointing. If any Senator did a half-way decent job and seemed to have an understanding of the law it was Senator Jack Reed who did speak up for at least some civilian courts, at least some of the trials needing to take place in civilian courts and he also noted that a number of criminals are being glorified by having their actions, their crimes, inflated into something more than that. It was a very sad hearing and the first panel lasted about one hour and seventeen minutes. The second panel moved more quickly. Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy and Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson made it very clear that he was opposed to the notion of allowing the Defense Dept to begin conducting trials. He spoke of the US system of justice and it would be wonderful if the senators present had either stood up and applauded or slapped their heads in I-didn't-not-know-that gestures. Instead, his words appeared to sail over their clueless heads. We're going to note his remarks at length:

Even greater than democracy itself, the greatest export of all from the United States is justice. Daniel Webster once said, "Justice, Sir, is the greatest interest of man on earth. It's the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together." But justice is fragile and easily disparaged. It must be nurtured and handled with great care. I was an early and ardent supporter of military commissions. Initially, I was drawn to their historical precedents and, more importantly, I was confident that the United States Armed Forces could and would conduct fair trails even of reprehensible defendants. My own experience gained during 28 years in the Navy and our long history of providing due process while trying our own military personnel in courts-marital gave me this confidence. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the commissions that were created did not live up to the traditions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Predictably, they became a significant distraction for the military. I hasten to add that this was in spite of the stalwart, honorable effort of many, many military personnel themselves. Indeed, that is one of the great tragedies of this saga, and largely makes one of the points that I wish to underline. The primary role of the military is to fight and win our nation's wars or, stated more precisely, to provide the time and space necessary for real solutions -- economic, cultural, social, religious -- to take place. Prosecution of miscreants is an occasionally necessary sidebar to that mission but shouldn't distract from it. We have the UCMJ and the military court-martial system to expedite the legitimate role of the military, not interfere with it. If a sailor on a ship is alleged to have committeed a crime, we must expeditiously and fairly resolve that problem. Otherwise it can fester and interfere with unit cohesion and impede an effective fighting force. The UCMJ and the Manual for Courts Martial serve that purpose alone. They solves problems for the armed forces; not create them. Our recent history with military commissions has been the opposite. I've come to realize that even a perfect commission regime would be a distraction for the military. It's simply not part of its mission. I am very concerned when the military is called upon to perform functions outside of its core mission even when I'm confident that it can do it well. Preserving and ensuring justice in the United States is the primary mission of the Department of Justice, not the Department of Defense. If there will be criticism of our prosecution of alleged terrorists -- and there will be -- the Department of Justice and the US Federal Court system are equipped to deal with that criticism. Indeed, it is part of their responsibility to face it, address it and resolve it.

Kat reviewed Regina Spektor's latest album. I should have noted that this morning but was in rush to get to the hearing (see, it's connected) and (still connected), Kat will share her thoughts on the hearing tonight so be sure to visit her site.

Turning to peace and justice news, infamous War Criminal and scourge of the globe
Robert McNamara is dead. In an online discussion at the Washington Post (conducted by Robert G. Kaiser), Promise and Power author Deborah Shapley provided this context:

Washington, D.C.: Hi Bob -- I wrote a biography of McNamara, "
Promise and Power," published in 1993. For the record, he told me he did not quit over the grim outlook in Vietnam because he wasn't that sure he was right, and because holding on could force Hanoi's hand politically, in his view. Therefore, the deaths of additional Americans at that time (1965 ff) were not in vain. My personal opinion is that his 1995 book "In Retrospect" gave the impression he thought the war was 'totally wrong' at the time -- which is not what his record shows -- at all! He went on telling the president they could bring off something-or-other, albeit in more pessimistic terms. Some people want to seem on the right side of history even when they were on what 'in retrospect' was the wrong side of history. Too bad for the servicemen that he misrepresented (or seemed to misrepresent) his own record.

In this decade, the War Criminal recast himself as a bra-less starlet followed around by professional gadfly Errol Morris for the mockumentary Fog Of War (aka The Bore Never Shuts Up). As with any Morris revisionary opus, the point of the mocumentary was that no one was really guilty.
Alexander Cockburn (CounterPunch) observes:

He faded comfortably away. The last time we saw him vividly was in 2004 as the star of Morris's wildly over-praised, documentary The Fog of War, talking comfortably about the millions of people he's helped to kill.
Time and again, McNamara got away with it in that film, cowering in the shadow of baroque monsters like LeMay or LBJ, choking up about his choice of Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington, sniffling at the memory of Johnson giving him the Medal of Freedom, spouting nonsense about how Kennedy would have pulled out of Vietnam, muffling himself in the ever- useful camouflage of the "fog of war."

Danny Schechter (News Dissector) explains, "McNamara returned to his Waterloo (Hanoi) some years back for a conference on the "lessons of the war" with General Giap, the winner, and several American Generals, the losers. He was challenged by the feisty Vietnamese American documentary director, Tiana [Thi Thanh Nga], who made 'From Hollywood to Hanoi' and other films for all the deaths he caused. There is precious footage of him freaking out and arrogantly lecturing her. The Vietnamese government was too diplomatic to express its rage." On Democracy Now! today, Marilyn Young, Howard Zinn and Johnny Apologist Schell appeared to discuss War Hawk McNamara. Historian Marilyn Young (author of many books and recently co-editor of Iraq and the Lessons of Vietnam) is worth noting. She explained of McNamara:

One of the legacies is that there is none, in a sense. The first clip that you ran, you could have run it now. About Iraq, several years ago, about Afghanistan today. It's as if it doesn't go anywhere. There is knowledge, and then it's erased in between McNamara should be kind of a morality tale. During his tenure as Secretary of Defense, he initially -- he was responsible really -- for the initial escalation. In 1964, he and Bundy gave -- '65, I'm sorry -- gave Johnson what's called "The Fork in the Road Memorandum," in which they said, "Now, we have really thought this over and we have two choices. We could increase military pressure or we could negotiate." And they strongly urged the increase of military pressure and Johnson went along with that. Not that he was, you know, I think he was a little unwilling, but that is another subject. Gradually, by later in 1965, by 1966, and certainly by 1967, he was completely disenchanted with the war. And he said it in public at the Senate hearings on bombing targets. And he said, "This bombing is just not going to work." The next thing he knew, he was out. And he said later he never knew whether he had quit or Johnson had fired him. And then, as Howard [Zinn] said, he was absolutely silent. You can imagine that the silence was expressed in onse sense by his opposition to nuclear weapons, which was very sincere and I'm sure Jonathan can talk about that. He and Bundy both focused on the dangers of nuclear war as if that attempt to prevent a future war was going to erase the war they had both just conducted. And then in 1995 he comes out with In Retrospect and everybody quotes, "We were wrong, terribly wrong." But if you read the full paragraph, what it says is: "We weren't wrong in our values and our intentions, we were wrong about our judgments and capabilities." And the book as a whole is an excuse. It's a struggle -- he almost comes to terms and then he runs away from coming to terms. And he does the same thing, I think, in Fog of War. And he did the same thing for the rest of his life -- and approach to what he had really been responsible for, and then a bouncing off it, too awful to face. And it happens over and over again. He says, for example, he lists all the terrible mistakes that he made -- that "they" made. He never says "I." He says "they." And he says, "We just didn't understand that Vietnam was about nationalism." He doesn't ask why they didn't understand that. There were internal critics. George Ball, Paul Capenburg, but also, he was surrounded, if you read the newspapers, by Lidman, by Morgenthau, by I.F. Stone, who was vigorously writing about the Vietnam war. By George Cain, a great historian of South East Asia. So, if he wanted to know what the upsurge, the insurgency in South Vietnam was about, he had lots of sources. He never comes close to explaining why he didn't pay attention to any of that. Instead he says, "Oh my God! We just didn't know they were nationalists." How come?

iraqashley byrnebbc news
aimeee allisondavid solnit
the new york timessheryl gay stolberg
alissa j. rubinliz slythe los angeles times
dahr jamail
mcclatchy newspapers
the washington postrobert g. kaiserdeborah shapley
danny schechter
democracy nowmarilyn youngjonathan schellhoward zinn
kats korner