Friday, July 24, 2009

The UN and Kirkuk

"Headlines for Thursday, July 23, 2009" (Free Speech Radio News):
Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki visits US ahead of Kurdish elections
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is making the rounds in Washington, DC this week. Maliki met with President Obama to discuss the country’s oil laws and boundary disputes within Iraq. At a joint press conference Maliki renewed his call on the US to provide support in rebuilding Iraq. Speaking through a translator, he stressed economic growth.
“We are about to activate such a Strategic Framework Agreement. Efforts on both sides are there in order also to convene an investment conference in October of this year that will combine all foreign investors and all companies that would like and wish to work in Iraq.”
Iraq is currently held under a UN Resolution – called Chapter 7 – that requires the country to pay a portion of its oil revenues as reparations for first Gulf War. Obama said the US is committed to helping Iraq get out of Chapter 7 constraints. The President said Iraq should not be burdened by the sins of a deposed dictator.
“Now, in order to do that, we're going to have to obtain cooperation from various members of the United Nations. I think that there are going to have to be some specific disputes that are resolved between Iraq and some of its neighbors. We intend to be very constructive in that process.”
Elections in Iraq’s Kurdish region are scheduled for this weekend. Leaders from the Northern part of the country hope to lay claim to part of Iraq’s oil resources. The conflict over control of oil in the country is currently a major obstacle to national unity.

"Elaine," began an e-mail, "that post seemed a little ill thought out. I don't think your friend wanted you to write that." No, he didn't. He didn't want C.I. to either. That was his big concern (see Wednesday's post and you can scroll, no link). He wanted me to jump in and persaude C.I. not to talk about the UN. C.I. did. C.I. would. But C.I. did not say, "This is from the UN."

I did that here.

I did that because I have never liked it when someone calls me and asks me to stop a friend from doing something -- especially something that needs to be done.

C.I. wrote about it and, if you didn't read my post, you just think C.I.'s making observations on the news cycle. You may figure, since C.I. has some friends at the UN, that some of that may be involved. But that's really it.

I'm the one writing: The Kurds are about to get screwed.

That was done by accident. I knew what I was doing and I'd do it again.

A) Don't call me asking me to stop a friend from doing something.

B) Someone needs to say it.

The election's Saturday. Hopefully it will get some attention and hopefully the UN will grasp that people are watching how they interact with the KRG and people do expect fairness. They don't expect that the KRG gets this or that. But they do expect fairness.

In Iraq, the UN has spent too much time appeasing Nouri al-Maliki and too little time being fair.

That needs to change.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Nouri makes a public statement the press treats like his little secret, the KRG gears up for the vote, Angelina Jolie visits Iraq, 7 US soldiers wounded on July 12th and that news comes from a regional US paper and not M-NF or a big news outlet, and more.

Today the
US military announced: "BAGHDAD – A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died, July 24, of non-combat related injuries in eastern Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The names of the service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Website at . The announcements are made on the Website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. MND-B will not release any additional details prior to notification of next of kin and official release by the DoD. The incident is currently under investigation." The announcement brings to 4328 the number of US service members killed in the Iraq War.That number is not a complete count. Trejo Rivas just passed away and he was a veteran of the Afghanistan War and the Iraq War. It was in Iraq that a mortart attack October 12, 2006. As Sig Christenson (San Antonio-Express) explained Tuesday, "Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Raymond Trejo Rivas died Wednesday in San Antonio after battling to recover from head injuries suffered nearly three years ago. He was 53." Meanwhile John Hacker (Carthage Press) speaks with Isaac "Jerry" Conway who explains "his grandson, U.S. Army Spec. David Conway II, was injured in the Iraqi city of Sharqat when an improvised explosive device exploded near him while he was leaving a meeting with local officials. Also injured were six other American soldiers and two Iraqi civilians working with the soldiers." Conway says the incident took place July 12th. I'm not doubting Conway, but I am noting M-NF never noted it. They did have time, however, the day after, to issue a release about "Facebook, [and] other social media." Priorities. Yesterday Nouri al-Maliki announced US forces might stay in Iraq past 2011. And who noted it? Margaret Talev's "Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) may shock some readers since McClatchy is the only newspaper outlet covering it. It's not because it just emerged or emerged late. The comments are noted in yesterday's snapshot. It's not ignored because it's not newsworthy. Three outlets rushed to print articles yesterday morning on the topic . . . when they claimed all US troops would be out in 2011. (See yesterday's entry.) It's only not news when it doesn't agree with their outlets spin purposes.To recap, when you can pimp the lie that all US troops will be out of Iraq in 2011 (and, apparently, pimp yourself as a psychic who can tell the future), you run with it and call it news. When Nouri al-Maliki publicly, in front of a crowd, declares not-so-fast, you duck your head and pretend it didn't happen. Anne Gearan covers al-Maliki's remarks for AP.

Though most of the broadcast media ignores the Iraq War (and much of the print media), there are many news items related to and coming out of Iraq. It's Friday, so smart news consumers knew there was a good chance
The Diane Rehm Show would cover the Iraq War -- the only program to do so regularly. Diane's on vacation. Steve Roberts filled in for her today. The panelists for the second (international news) hour were: The Financial Times' Daniel Dombey, Washington Post's David Hoffman and CNN's Elise Labott.

Steve Roberts: Let's talk about a neighboring country, Iraq, and, David Hoffman, Prime Minister Maliki in Washington this week. Interestingly, not only in talks with President Obama but also talking a lot about the economy of Iraq -- an issue we don't hear a lot about, but trying to drum up interest among American investors and entrepreneurs. Give us your take on his visit.

David Hoffman: Well I actually thought the most interesting thing was the president pledged to help get rid of these UN sanctions. You know, Iraq still has to pay billions of dollars to Kuwait in reparations. If they get some of that money back, that will help them and, you know, I think when Mal-Maliki goes home from Washington, it's going to look grimmer on the ground there. There's a big election coming in Kurdistan, it's very important. The parties that have led Kurdistan are being challenged by an upstart party. I think Kurdistan is the real new frontline, the real flashpoint, in potential sectarian tensions in Iraq so Maliki's country's not all together yet.

Steve Roberts: Uh, well you mentioned, there are several issue here including, in his conversation with President Obama, the whole issue of the deadline of withdrawal of American troops. What did we learn?

David Hoffman: Well, I think, you know, we're committed to the deadline but what's going to happen is the deadline is going to be tested and it was just tested this morning. There's going be firefights and there are going to be military conflicts involving all these rules and deadlines and those things, you know, they're very, very sensitive and volatile.

Steve Roberts: Uh, talk Daniel, about this sense of national unity. David raises this issue of Kurdistan. Over weeks now, there's been increasing assertions of independence on the part of Kurdistan leaders, there's a huge fight over the status of Kirkuk, an oil-rich area. Is Iraq holding together? Is-is there a real threat to its national unity hear.

Daniel Dombey: I think both are true. Iraqi is holding-holding together to the moment but the Kirkuk is-is the biggest unsolved problem of-of Iraq -- not least because of the oil revenue but also because of Kurds who have come in and Turkmens who were there before. But I think just to look at Maliki's visit, I think that you need to bear two things in mind. This is a cold relationship rather like the relationship with [Hamid] Karzai and if you looked at some of President Obama's comments where he talked about wanting an Iraq where everyone could thrive -- Shia, Sunni and Kurds -- it didn't take a genius, it didn't take a Sherlock Holmes, to see that the US worries that Maliki could be a bit more of a narrow sectarian than it would like. There's that tension there. There's also a little bit of tension about how much freedom of maneuver the US military has following the June the 30th pull-out. And I wonder Iraq's economic situation is hard. There biggest thing is oil. They had a big auction to-to sell out rights to eight big oil fields uh in, near Basra. Only one of those went through that seems to be renegotiated -- it still -- the British are kind of less keen than they were. They're not getting the investors they need at a time that the oil price is going down. They need oil and money to grease the wheels to make Iraq a more coherent place.

Elise Labot: Part of the issue has been that there hasn't been enough national reconciliation in the country and the issue is part of the reason for the surge was not just -- in 2007 -- was not just to improve security but it was to give the political space for more reconciliation and that never happened. And the kind of grand constitutional bargain and the concessions that were necessary to make that were never completed. So what President Obama was saying to Maliki: "You need to do this, you need to not only include Sunnis into the political process but you need to, uhm, settle some of these issues with the Kurds." And Maliki said to him: "We need your help on doing this. We understand that there will be a military disengagement but it can't be a political disengagement because Iraq has a lot more challenges that not only are of sectarian nature but go to the whole future of the country. Is the power going to be in the central government? Is it going to be in the provinces? Who's going to be in control over the oil and the natural resources? I mean, these are major issues that the Iraqis are going to have to resolve and they are looking for the United States in many ways to help mediate these.

Steve Roberts: Well there were stories this week about this pact or protocol that was apparently signed with Sunnis in Turkey, what was that all about?

David Hoffman: It's not really clear. But there were two meetings between Americans and representatives of the Sunni insurgency that were held in Turkey. It's really -- the third meeting is the mystery. Why didn't it happen? It was scheduled. The Americans didn't come. There's some signs of some disenchantment maybe, that this wasn't really a very good channel or it wasn't working. But I do think it's at least an indicator that reconciliation's got to be the goal.

During listener feedback, a panelist completely blew it. He had no idea what he was speaking of.

Steve Roberts: Let me read some e-mails from some of our listeners. This is Randall in Cincinatti: "With the death toll rising in Afghanistan, I want to know where the anti-war groups that were protesting during the Bush administration -- the anti-war movement was seen and heard daily during the few years but they seem to have disappeared in mainstream media since Obama was elected. Could it be these were just anti-Bush groups posing as anti-war groups?" What do you think?

David Hoffman: Well I think, also, you know Obama did endorse deadlines, troops have pulled back, violence has gone down in Iraq, that may play a big part.

When we noted the Iraq portion of The Diane Rehm Show on Fridays, there are things said by panelists I disagree with. If it's not called out by another guest, the issue is, can the person's remarks be seen? Could someone look at the facts and conclude as the panelist did? If it's an opinion, it can go in. But if someone is just factually wrong, we need to call it out. So we will. David didn't know what the hell he was talking about. Obama endorsed deadlines? You mean the June 30th 'pull-out'? You mean the draw down? You mean the supposed 2011 departure? If that's what you mean, you mean Obama "endrosed" Bush's "deadlines" because those 'deadlines' are Bush's. Those are from the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement which replaced the UN mandate (that Bush didn't want to renew) and which required a full-on push from the US government to pass through Parliament (with a huge number of Iraqi MPs skipping the vote) on Thanksgivng day in 2008. What was being asked was a fair question. More than fair.
And the honest answer, which Randall wasn't given, was that a large number of the 'anti-war' groups were nothing but anti-Bush groups -- and, more importantly, anti-Bush groups who existed to put Democrats into office. They weren't about ending the Iraq War. Look at MoveOn, for example. These were not real peace groups -- which is why they preferred the title "anti-war." These were not groups concerned with ending the illegal war. Their answer, over and over, check those stupid MoveOn e-mails from that time period, were: Stop the Iraq War by voting Democrats into office! That was all they had to offer. That and a few pathetic 'candle light vigils.' Randall asked a fair question and he didn't get a fair answer.

Randall would have been better served if the panelists had said nothing except, "
Read Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy). He raises that issue:

That got me wondering: would those folks (say the mainstream Bob Woodward or Tom Ricks, let alone other people in the nuttier fringes of the Bush-bashing chorus) who established a cottage industry lambasting Bush Administration rhetoric as "happy talk" rise up and start calling a foul on President Obama? President Bush regularly caveated his statements of progress with reminders that there were "tough days ahead" and, if memory serves, Rumsfeld was the guy who coined "long, hard slog." In their coverage of Bush, sometimes the reporters would include mention of the caveats and qualify their lede accordingly; sometimes the reporters would include mention of the caveats and yet stick to a "happy talk" lede; and sometimes the reporters would simply omit any mention of the caveats, perhaps the better to advance the "happy talk" lede. Regardless of how many times President Bush presented carefully caveated assessments, the Bush-bashers could always rest their indictment on one or two off-the-cuff uncaveated remarks.

They could have also steered Randall to independent journalist
John Pilger who holds both administrations accountable and was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday delivering a speech media and empire and covering for Obama, "The Rise of Barack Obama and the Silencing of Much of the Left." For the record, Elise Labott stuck to Afghanistan and stuck to her opinion based on facts. (This isn't the Afghanistan snapshot so we're not excerpting.) Daniel Dombey stuck to Afghanistan. (And was grossly wrong -- protests continue in England against the Afghanistan War including last week and it's damn stupid to use the pre-Iraq War global protest, if that's what Dombey wants to argue, as a measure. That was the largest global protest. And it was against the impending Iraq War -- not the Afghanistan War.) Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." They also address the SOFA:

The current deterioration in Iraq has made advisors and pundits (many of whom supported the initial invasion) fearful of pulling out U.S. troops. The misleading terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) means U.S. troops are more involved than expected. The terms of the SOFA called for withdrawal of troops from the cities, for example, but the city limit lines were drawn within previous borders of the cities, allowing troops to be positioned in what was once considered part of the city.

David was completely wrong. It's a shame that a peace activist wasn't able to call in.

Well, it's shame that a peace activist with a brain wasn't able to call in and know what she was talking about.

Steve Roberts: And Ann in Washington, DC, welcome, you're on
The Diane Rehm Show. Ann?

Ann: Oh, yes. Uhm . . .

Steve Roberts: You're on the air, please go ahead.

Ann: Thank you. I'm a member and have worked for the A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition which is anti-war colation for the last seven years. It isn't a question of who is in the White House. I personally support President Obama except when it comes to Afghanistan and whatever support he still gives to Israeli initiatives, um. I think you will be seeing more anti-war, um, protests as time goes on because the money we're spending in Iraq and the money we give to Israel could be better spent at home for jobs and health care and education.

What a load of garbage. "I personally support President Obama"? If you support him on Iraq -- which you are saying you do -- then you support 2008 George W. Bush on Iraq because Barack -- pay attention -- isn't doing what he supposedly promised while campaigning, he's instead embraced and is following Bush's Iraq timetable and SOFA. The same SOFA, you grasp this, stupid idiot, that Barack was calling out while campaigning for the nomination and then the presidency. Yeah, Barack called it out, said it was wrong, said it shouldn't go through and he wouldn't let it. But what's he doing? He's doing just what Bush did. But you "personally support" him. If that's typical A.N.S.W.E.R. membership, the peace movement's in a lot more trouble than any of us realize. We're going to move right into an excerpt from from Debra Sweet's "
A Proposal for Actions Against (Obama's) War and Torture" (World Can't Wait) because the peace movement is in disarray:We've put out a proposal for actions in early October, including Monday October 5 in Washington DC for actions at the White House & Congress, and a national day of resisting the recruiters in high schools Tuesday, October 6. After networking and consulting with other organizations and leaders, the World Can't Wait Steering Committee will meet on August 1 to finalize fall plans. We want your input. Please take the survey here by July 31. Or write me about the questions below...or what is on your mind. 1. Do you feel the controversy over the Obama administration not prosecuting anyone involved in torture has changed the political climate in this country? If so, how so? If not, why not? 2. What do you think of Obama's expansion of the war in Afghanistan? Why? Do others you know agree or disagree? How much has that war been successfully re-branded as the "good war"? 3. In the past few months has your opinion of Obama changed? Favorably or unfavorably? Why? How about people you know? 4. After reading the October 5/6th proposal what do you think is possible for these days of resistance? What do you think is necessary? What is your vision of protest for those days? Your input is needed! Please complete this survey by July 31 to feed into our discussions on August 1. To make all this possible, send along a donation, or become a sustainer 4RealChange.

Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." Joe Piasecki (Pasadena Weekly) points out that Tuesday was "day 2,313 of the war in Iraq". While A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Ann isn't at all worried about the Iraq War, Angelina Jolie declared yesterday, "There are still three million people displaced, innocent families," she added. "We have still many young men and women from our country who are fighting every day, there are men and women from all countries who have lost their lives, and this is a time to try to make some positive change." Angelina is the UNHCR's Goodwill Ambassador and made her third trip to Iraq yesterday. The above statement by her appears in CNN's coverage. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes her stating, "There are some changes. There are returns of displaced people, not a big number, but there is progress. This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives."

As Angelina noted, the returnees are "not a big number." The displaced is composed of targeted populations. A large number of Iraq's external refugees are Iraqi Christians.
Deutsche Welle reports Baghdad's "Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman told Deutsche Welle that his country is slipping into a state of anarchy, and that the government has no control of the violence within its borders. In Germany he has spoken out against attacks on seven churches in Iraq, which killed four people and injured some 30 others." AINA reports Congressional Religous Minorities co-chairs, US House Reps Anna Eshoo and Frank Wolf have written the following letter to Nouri al-Maliki on the continued attacks on Iraq's Christian community:

It was with great sadness that we read recent accounts of targeted church bombings in Iraq. Reuters reported on July 12 that, "Bombs exploded outside five Christian churches in Baghdad on Sunday, in apparently coordinated attacks that killed four people and wounded more than 30." The New York Times reported that the bombings "appeared to be one of the largest single coordinated assaults against churches and Christians in Baghdad."
As co-chairs of the Congressional Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, we have long been concerned about the plight ofIraq's ethno-religious communities including the ancient Chaldo-Assyrian Christian community. We have written numerous letters to our own government urging that there be a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of these vulnerable minorities. U.S. Ambassador Chris Hill has indicated that the security ofthe Christian community is one of his paramount concerns, and we hope his attitude signals a willingness to develop a programmatic approach to dealing with this matter. When the new deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs assumes this post at the end ofthe month, we will meet to discuss solutions to the problems faced by ethno-religious minorities in Iraq.
Our ongoing commitment to alleviating this situation is shared by many of our colleagues in the United States Congress. Two weeks ago, the House of Representatives approved $20 million in funding dedicated toward religious minorities in Iraq. This funding is intended to support a range of programs such as security, economic development, health care enhancement and democratization programs primarily in the Nineveh Plain region. Bipartisan congressional support for these minority faith communities remains strong.
We understand that it is your desire to see Iraqi refugees return to the land of their birth. We share this hope. But news analysis following the bombings indicates that Christians who were contemplating returning will understandably reconsider given the fear gripping their community in the wake of the attacks.
As the U.S. presence in Iraq draws down, the burden for protecting these ancient faith communities rests increasingly with Iraqi forces. Increased security at Christian places of worship and an investigation into who is behind these most recent attacks will send a powerful signal that your government is committed to preserving and protecting Iraq's ethno-religious minorities.

For those late the July 12 bombings,
The Catholic Leader recaps and quotes Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni stating: "We cry: Why? Why? What is our fault? That we are Christians?" In June 2006, shortly after Nouri al-Maliki was installed by the US as prime minister, the Green Zone was almost breached and it was a frightening time for al-Maliki and American leadership. In the frenzy following that, al-Maliki was advocating (as were some lower in the US military brass) that trenches be dug around Baghdad, that the answer for Baghdad was "moats." Those late to the party can see Edward Wong's "Iraqis Plan to Ring Baghdad With Trenches" (New York Times, September 16, 2006). We bring that up for a reason. The waterless moats are back as a proposal. International Christian Concern advises that they have "learned that Iraqi Security forces are building trenches to protect Christians from further attacks following recent church bombings that killed four people and wounded several others. Iraqi officials are stepping up protective measures for Christians in the largely Christian towns of Tilkaif and Hamdaniya, in the northern province of Nineveh. The trenches come in the wake of a spate of bomb attacks against seven Iraqi churches on July 11 and 12 in the cities of Baghdad and Mosul." They quote Project Director of the Iraq Sustainable Democracy Project Michael Youash stating, "These trenches will require people to enter towns through 4 or 5 secure checkpoints making it far more difficult to smuggle in weapons and bombs. The construction of the trenches is a sad but necessary reminder of just how desperate the situation of the Assyrian/Chaldean/Syriac Christians is becoming." UPI quotes Abdul Raheem al-Shimari (the province's security head) stating that "the trenches are roughtly 1.5 feet deep and are intended to prevent potential car bombers from getting through without the necessary security checks." Hazem al-Aisawi (Azzaman) adds, "It is not clear when the moat will be completed and who will be financing the dig." IRIN notes, "According to some reports, it is estimated that as many as half the Christian population has left Iraq since 2003."

It is clear that Iraq's Kurdistn Regional Government is holding provincial and presidential elections. Early voting began Thursday. Voting ends tomorrow.
BBC News presents the viewpoints of five voters: Mateen Dooski, Alan Ali, Savina Dawood, Hassan Jalal and Ako Omer. Savina Rafaeel Dawood explains she's Assyrian, not Kurdish and states she's voting for "the 'Mesopotamia' list which will give me my rights." Hassan Jalal doesn't think the KRG will ever be able to increase their region due to resistance from the central government in Baghdad. Alan Ali is skeptical of the "Change" party ("we don't know where their change would take us") and states, "On Kirkuk - I think it should be part of Kurdistan. I'm not just being selfish because I am Kurdish and want the oil money - Kirkuk is connected to the region. Most of the people there are Kurdish, despite the Arabs brought in by previous governments. And Kirkuk is just one of many cities like this." And Mateen Dooski, who explains he's voting for incumbent President Massud Barzani, declares, "The biggest task facing the KRG is the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution (a referendum on whether Kurdish areas of Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah ad Din and Ninawa provinces should become part of Iraqi Kurdistan). This would bring the 60% of purely Kurdish areas not run by the KRG: Kirkuk, Mosul, Diyala, under its control." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on the elections with an emphasis on the "Change" party, "Though Change's leaders deny any conscious similarity to President Obama's campaign, it is evident in the slate's movement's official campaign slogan, 'Yes, We Can Change It.'" Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reports on the "Change" Party and also notes these basics, "The Kurdish parliament has 111 seats, 80 of which are held by the alliance of the KDP and the PUK. Eleven seats are reserved for minorities, such as Christians and Turkomen." Salman Ansari Javid (Tehran Times) observes that the political parties "Change, the KDP, and the PUK have the same goals for Kirkuk". Kirkuk is the oil rich disputed region which is claimed by both the KRG and the central government in Baghdad. Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports that the Turkmen in Kirkuk Province are threatening to boycott a census currently scheduled for October. That'll teach 'em, seems to be the concept. The census, which was Constitutionally mandated to have been conducted in 2007, will survey the contested region. Turkmen are claiming Kurds are beefing up their population with transplants. They are. They have been doing it for years. If you don't like it, you probably should have demanded a census long ago. The shipping in of Kurds? That was a concern in 2006. It's too late to whine about something long on reported on. In 2005, some groups (largely Sunni) felt they would be shut out of the electoral process. A decision was made to boycott the elections. Some stood by that decision after the elections, some felt it was a mistake. In the January 31st elections this year, the real story was that the ones who had boycotted last time turned out in large numbers (while the drop off came from the Shi'ites who had participated in 2005). Now an election (or all elections) you might or might not want to boycott. You can certainly say, "Don't blame me, I didn't vote." But this isn't an election. This is a census. And if you feel you are already going to be under-represented because of an influx of Kurds, then your decision not to participate in the census makes little sense. Unless you're attempting to stop the census, which may be the point.
In other news, the US has continued talks with Iraqi leaders living in exile.
Nada Bakri (Washington Post) reports on continued negotiations the US is having with former Ba'athists and other groups currently excluded from political life in Iraq. Bakri reports "two meetings this spring" held in Turkey and that the State Dept's P.J. Crowley would only say that they met to address "a wide range of Iraqi contacts with the purpose of promoting reconciliation and national unity." Sam Dagher (New York Times) adds that the central government in Baghdad states it is "demanding explanations" on the meeting and declares the meetings (known for weeks before they took place and covered in Arab media though the New York Times seems unaware of that fact) were "an interference in Iraq's internal political affairs". Dagher notes an Aljazeera interview aired on July 15th where Ali al-Juboouri (Political Council of the Iraqi Resistance) "revealed that his council, which represents Sunni insurgent groups, met in March with representatives of the American government in Istanbul. He said a protocol was signed then to govern future negotiations between the two sides. He said that a second meeting took place in May" but ended over differences including that the US agree to compensation and a public apology for the illegal war.

Maliki's out of the country and Iraq has no violence? No, it's just Friday, when reports trickle out slowly.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) does note a Baghdad car bombing which injured six people. Meanwhile Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports on the drought effecting Iraq as the Tigris and Euphrates run dry, "Tensions intensified earlier in the month when Turkey announced that it would resume work on its controversial plan to build a hydroelectric dam on the Tigris in its southeast." Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli explores the issue in "Water Crisis in Iraq: The Growing Danger of Desertification" (Middle East Media Research Institute). Turning to the US, July 12th, Topeka, Kansas was in the news as a veteran had a standoff with police at the Colmery-O'Neil VA Medical Center. India's Thaindian reported, "An unknown gunman stormed a Topeka, Kansas hospital on Sunday afternoon, officials told BNO News." Taylor Atkins and Ann Marie Bush (The Topeka Capital-Journal) explained:Jim Gleisberg, public affairs officer for the medical center, said no one was injured when a veteran, whose name and hometown won't be released, walked into the emergency room with a handgun at 12:10 p.m. and asked to talk to a VA police officer. "The veteran showed the officer he had a gun and threatened his own life," Gleisberg said. "The police officer acted very professionally. He got the veteran to leave the emergency room area, and other staff members on duty called the Topeka police."KTKA quoted the VA's Jim Gleisberg stating the man is an Iraq War and Afghanistan War veteran and, "Veterans are being stressed. The soldiers over there now that are in the conflict that are coming back with issues just because they've been deployed either once or twice at 12 or 15 months at a time it's a very stressful situation and so they are going to have issues." Michigan's WHMI reports "a suicidal veteran" -- Iraq War veteran -- holed up at the Homoetown Trailr Park and "held Howell Police at bay for more than nine hours". Jon Gunnells (Daily Press & Argus) reports that the "veteran is undergoing psychiatric treatment" and quotes police chief George Bassar stating, "He made statemens about suicide to his mother who calle dthe sister to check on him. He threatened his sister and she fled te home . . . He has some pretty good battle injuires and post traumatic stress syndrome. This apparently was something bubbling up." Steve Pardo (Detroit News) states the veteran is thirty-four-years-old and that after hours of attempted negotiations, "around 3:30 a.m., police threw tear gas into the house and the man was taken without further incident. He remains in St. Joseph Mercy Livingston hospital."

TV notes. This week on
NOW on PBS:The Obama Administration recently released its proposal for financial regulatory reform, but before change comes to Wall Street, a reform plan has to get through Congress with its teeth intact.This week, David Brancaccio sits with Zanny Minton Beddoes, economics editor for The Economist magazine, to review the proposal and its ramifications for America. Beddoes encourages streamlining the regulatory system, leaving fewer but more efficient overseers. But where powerful interests are at stake, nothing is a sure bet."There is some good stuff in [the reform plan]. But it's a relatively modest rearranging of the financial supervisory structure ... I think it's more interior design than a whole new foundation."

Bill Moyers Journal, health care is addressed with CJR's Trudy Lieberman (who has a strong article in the current CJR) and by Marcia Angell. My goodness, Bill found two women. Mark the calendars! As noted in Third's "Editorial: Taking sexism seriously," "In the first six months of this year Washington Week had 33 female guests and twice that number (66) of male guests while Bill Moyers featured 43 men and only 13 women." And, for the record, I'm only noting that segment. In another Bill floats his attacks on free speech. Free speech is something you support or you don't. Believing in it doesn't mean you can't decry statements, that you can't call them out, that you can't say they're offensive or that they crossed a line. But it does mean that you support free speech and grasp the difference between words and action and grasp that the Constitution supports free speech for an important reason.Now did we just note Washington Week? Usually four guests a week sit down with Gwen but as of the last week of June, she'd spent the year with 66 men and only 33 women on her program? How does it happen? By weeks like this one where she sits down with three men and one woman: New York Times' Peter Baker, Washington Post's Michael Fletcher, National Journal's Marilyn Werber Serafini and Wall St. Journal's David Wessel. Now how do you book that show and not notice that you have three men and only one woman? You know it. You know it and you do it on purpose. You don't accidentally end up with twice as many men as women. PBS' Editorial Standards & Policies states: "The goal of diversity also requires continuing efforts to assure that PBS content fully reflects the pluralism of our society, including, for example, appropriate representation of women and minorities. The diversity of public television producers and funders helps to assure that content distributed by PBS is not dominated by any single point of view." Repeating, "Appropriate representation of women and minorities." Why have a policy if PBS doesn't ensure that their programs follow it? There's no excuse for Bill or Gwen to get away with the crap that they continue to get away with. They are in direct violation of PBS' own Standards & Policies and they need to get their shows in order and PBS needs to provide the supervision to ensure that they do.Bonnie Erbe sits down with Eleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Kathleen Parker and Tara Setmayer on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all four PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Coming Up On 60 Minutes
Gun Rush Americans are snapping up guns and ammunition at an increasingly higher rate despite the economic downturn. But as Lesley Stahl reports, the economic downturn, as well as the election of Barack Obama, may be the reason for the run on guns. Watch Video
Poisoned The African lion, already down as much as 85 percent in numbers from just 20 years ago, is now in danger of becoming extinct because people are poisoning them with a cheap American pesticide to protect their cattle herds. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Steve Wynn The casino mogul most responsible for taking Las Vegas to new heights of gaming and glitter talks to Charlie Rose about his spectacular success and the eye disease that's slowly robbing him of his ability to see the fruits of his labor. Watch Video
60 Minutes Sunday, July 26, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

nprthe diane rehm show
peter feaver
margaret talevmcclatchy newspapersanne gearan
sig christensonthe washington postnada bakrithe new york times
edward wongsam daghertimothy williamsliz slythe los angeles timesdebra sweetworld cant wait
60 minutescbs news
pbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Plain spoken truths

"George W. Bush, Part III" (Cindy Sheehan, Cindy's Soapbox):
Okay, so the United States of America has had a new puppet regime for six months now. I was never so much into giving Obama a “chance” and I think it’s way past time to call Obama and his supporters out, like we called Bush and his supporters out. Our Presidents are merely puppets for the Robber Class and Obama is no exception.
I am observing very little “change” in actual policy, or even rhetoric from an Obama regime. Granted, his style and delivery are more polished than the last puppet, but especially in foreign policy, little has changed. Evidently we elect Presidents based on empty rhetoric and if we can find someone who can say as little as possible with using as many words as he can, that’s better. I knew a year ago when Obama and his ilk were blathering on about “change” that they didn’t mean positive “change” for us, but it’s a shame Obama’s voters didn’t ask him to be a little more specific or demand some good “change.”
Besides foreign policy where he is a complete disaster, it appears Obama’s jobs program is little more than adding tens of thousands of troops to an already bloated military, instead of bringing troops home from anywhere. Billions will go to the money trap of the Pentagon to invest in recruiting our innocent, young, jobless and hopeless youth, when the budgets of peace groups who do counter recruitment are tanking. This is the 3rd week in July and already it’s the deadliest month for US and coalition troops deaths in Af/Pak. Who would ever have thought when violence is surged that deaths would surge, also? I think I’ve seen this movie before.

Agreed. Which is why I was so happy to see in C.I.'s snapshot today news of the AP -GfK Roper poll where 15% less respondents now believe that Barack will end the Iraq War. Since January, that's 15% of the people who've woken up.

No, it's not 100%. No, it's not as high as it should be.

But people are waking up.

Despite the fact that the media continues to push the lie that Barack's either ending the illegal war or that he has ended it (on the latter, remember Thomas Friedman's embarrassing nonsense last week?).

The Iraq War is not over and despite the limited media coverage of it and the efforts by the media to spin reality, 15% of American have woken up in the last six months. They're not drinking the Kool-Aid and that's great news.

"Is the Obama Health Care Plan Really Better Than Nothing?" (Bruce A. Dixon, Black Agenda Report):
Like just about everything else, your take on the national health care debate depends on whether you're inside or outside the matrix.
Within the bubble of fake reality blown by corporate media and bipartisan political establishment, the health care news is that the
Obama Plan is at last making its way through Congress. It's being fought by greedy private insurance companies, by chambers of commerce, by Republican and some Democratic lawmakers.
Under the Obama plan, we're told, employers will have to insure their employees or pay into a fund that does it for them. Individuals will be required under penalty of law to buy private insurance policies and for those that can't afford it or prefer not to use a private insurer there will be something called a “public option.” This “public option, the story goes, is bitterly fought by the bad guys because it will make private insurers accountable by competing with them, forcing them to lower their costs. Both the president's backers and opponents agree that the whole thing will be fantastically expensive, and the president proposes to fund it with cuts in existing programs like Medicaid which pay for the care of the poorest Americans and a tax on those making more than $300,000, later raised to $1 million a year.
The “public option” has that magic word “public” in it, and that's reassuring to progressives and to most of the American people. Taxing the rich is a popular idea too. So if you rely on corporate media, the administration, or some of the so-called progressive blogs to identify the players and keep the score, it seems a pretty clear case of President Obama on the side of the angels, battling the greedy insurance companies, Republicans and blue dog Democrats to bring us universal, affordable health care.
That whole picture has about as much reality as the ones the same corporate media and most of the same politicians drew for us about Iraq, 9-11, weapons of mass destruction and some people over there who wanted us to free them. Iraq and the White House were and remain actual places, and there really is a problem called health care. But the places, problems and solutions are very different from the bubble of fake reality blown around them.
What sustains this fake reality is the diligent suppression from public space of any viewpoints, observations or proposals to Obama's left. As long as the illusion that nobody has a better idea, that the only choice we have is Obama's way or the Republicans' way can be maintained, the crooked game can go on.

That is how they sell it. Whether it's the continuation of the Iraq War or Barry's bad non-health care, non-plan: Shut out the voices to the left of Barry and make it all about Republicans.

It's that knee jerk instinct many of us have where if Republicans attack something, we automatically think we have to defend it. But sometimes, Republicans can attack bad policy. Sometimes, they might even attack it for the right reasons. Regardless, as C.I. said recently, it's not my dance. It really isn't. There is nothing in Barack's plans (there's more than one being proposed by Congress) that will help in the least. I'm a health care provider and a long advocate (here and in real life) of Medicare for all. That is how you insure all. But Barack doesn't want to do that. So, let's be honest, he is not concerned about the uninusured.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 22, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Barry O calls it 'progress,' 15% less Americans believe Barack's going to bring US troops home from Iraq, during a House VA Subcommittee hearing US House Rep John Adler tells a witness, " I'm thinking you're in a dream world right now," and more.

We'll start in the US for VA news. Brachytherapy is one treatment for prostate cancer.
Walt Bogdanich (New York Times) explained the treatment last month as: "a doctor implants dozens of radioactive seeds to attack the disease." But at the VA Medical Center in Pennsylvania, Bogdanich reported, Dr. Gary D. Kao's treatment resulted in nearly all of the forty seeds ending up "in the patient's healthy bladder, not the prosate." Instead of addressing it or Dr. Kao's other problems, regulators who are supposed to oversea the VA allowed creative records to be kept and Kao was allowed to rewrite what happened, to hide his errors. The paper's investigation discovered "92 implant errors resulted from a systemwide failure in which none of the safeguards that were supposed to protect veterans from poor medical work worked". Josh Goldstein (Philadelphia Inquirer) reported last month, "It took officials more than six years to catch the mistakes, investigators said. When they were discovered last year, all brachytherapy treatments at the hospital were halted and remain so." That's some of the backstory. Today the House Veterans' Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired by US House Rep Harry Mitchell, held a hearing entitled Enforcement of US Department of Veterans Affair Bracytherapy Safety Standards. In his opening remarks, Chair Mitchell observed:

Brachytherapy is a form of radio therapy, often used to treat prostate cancer, in which radioactive seeds are placed inside or next to a patient's malignancy. Failure to accurately place the radioactive seeds can cause serious harm. To say that it is disturbing to learn that veterans received bungled procedures and that safety protocols failed to safeguard against such mistreatment would be an understatement. As a result, we are hear today to examine system-wide safety standards for these procedures to ensure that our veterans are receiving the best and safest care available.

Mitchell explained that there were four VA brachytherapy programs which were suspended (Cincinatti, Washington and Jackson, Mississippi) and that "we know that Philadelphia was by far the worst." The hearing was composed of three panels and the first panel had the witness of greatest interest, Dr. Gary Kao who no longer works for the VA after his repeated errors. In his opening statement, he decried "some very serious false allegations that have appeared in the media about me" (in his written statement he decries the reports on himself "in recent publications, most notably the New York Times"). He sneared at the term "92 botched cases" -- insisting this was a mischaracterization and that reported incidents to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the VA's radiation safety program, did not mean "botched cases" or even that anything was wrong. Apparently, Dr. Kao believes, it's just a little candy heart that says "BE MY VALENTINE" on it. Kao apparently slid one over to the Ranking Member, US House Rep Phil Roe (Republican), who decried the New York Times efforts to "sensationalize" the issue. Roe apparently doesn't read, we've cited two papers above, those were not the only ones reporting on the problems.

The first panel was Kao, Dr. Steven M Hahn, Dr. Michael R. Bieda -- all of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine. Kao is offended that the "botched" incidents are associated with him because he has never, ever had a medical malpractice law suit against him. Damn lucky. Most doctors plant a treatment in a liver by mistake (and botch the follow up procedure as well), they'd be sued. When his colleague, Hahn, was offering his opening remarks and got to wanting "to express my deppest regret that prostate cancer patients receiving brachytherapy at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center," Kao nearly dropped the pitcher he was holding to pour himself a glass of water.
For any wondering, Kao expressed no such regret in his opening statements which were all about (a) how great he was and (b) how wronged he'd been by the press. He expressed no sadness or regret for any of the veterans harmed by the 'treatment' they received (eighty of the 92 botched cases were his, according to statements made in the hearing by subcommittee members).

Chair Harry Mitchell: First can you please explain the quality of care provided at the VA compared to the quality of care at other facilities you've worked at?

Dr. Gary Kao: The-the brachytherapy procedure that we adopted at the VA was, um, identical to the system that was used at uh-uh other -- at the University of Pennsylvania and also, um, one of its satellites. Um, and in my training, in fact, um, I went to observe, uh, brachytherapy procedures performed in, um, our satellite in, um, in Trenton, New Jersey. And, uh, as a resident, I-I was trained, um, in brachytherapy by senior physicians at, uh, the University of Pennsylvania

Chair Harry Mitchell: Uh, what quality of care matrix do other facilites follow?

Dr. Gary Kao: My-my understanding is that, um, the quality [long pause] control -- the quality assurance procedures are similar in that a CT is performed after the procedure and, uh, the symetry calculated, uh, from that CT.

Chair Harry Mitchell: And the last one I have, what markers are red flags when conducting the brachytherapy procedures indicated a problem?

Dr. Gary Kao: I-I now understand that, uh, [long pause] one-one of my regrets is that, um, I could have been, um, much more assertive in engaging the NRC in what it defines as a reportable medical event. Um, at -- as a result of their investigation in 2003 and 2005, we-we were, uh, under the understanding that the definition of a reportable medical event was based on the number of seeds laying outside the prostate. Um, subsequently, I-I-I, I wuh -- I was, um, I found out that that, uh, was not the case, that the NRC, um, uh, apparently is now relying on a D90 metric and that is something that, um, to my regret, I-I could have been much more, uh, much more [long pause] focused on using that metric.

It would take repeated questioning and intense pressing of the issue for Kao to express any regret at all for the patients he was supposed to be caring for. We'll note US House the questioning from US House Rep John Adler (New Jersey).

US House Rep John Adler: I guess my first question is for Dr. Kao. We've heard about, um, the closure of this program in June of 2008. We've heard about possibly 92 cases out of 116 with some concern. Some of us use the word "botched," you don't like that word. We've heard that the National Health Physics program reported to the NRC at least 35 medical events later in 2008. We heard Dr. Hahn just now acknowledge on behalf of U Penn that not every -- not in every instance did every patient get the best possible care. This program is still closed. You were running this program. You were the principle operative of this program at the VA in Philadelphia. How do you reconicle your view in your own testimony here today that patients received appropriate medical care with the VA's view that it made mistakes during this period of years, with U Penn's recognition that not every patient got the best possible care, um, with NHP and NRC saying there are medical events even in a context where we probably don't define medical event suffientilly to trigger reporting to the extent that we would want reporting? So let's assume there's some under-reporting going on. Even with under-reporting, we've got at least 35 instances from 2008, um, reported about, over a period of time, a program you ran. I'm thinking you're in a dream world right now. I'm thinking everybody else, all the other experts, are looking at this and saying, he didn't go well enough, that whether the number is 92 or less than 92, we want the number to be zero botched cases. How do you reconcile your view that every patient received appropriate medical care with the view of every other expert, of every potential supervisor, every contracting body, every regulatory body. Um, I kind of want to hear you acknowledge you did things less well than you would have wanted to have done.

Dr. Gary Kao: Sir, I, um, I don't disagree with, um, many of the other comments that-that were made. Uh, um, medicine is both an art and a science and the art of it is that, uh, even though the treatment may be effective it may be made to be even more optirmal essential, uh, theme here is [long pause] uh, what -- what is defined as a reportable medical event. An even -- a case that is a reportable medical event does not mean that the patient was harmed or did not receive effective treatment. Um, when the program was closed in 2008, we did not have any confirmed cases of tumor recurrence. Um, the NRC itself recognizes that a reportable medical event does not mean, uh, that -- does not address the ethicacy of the treatment. So-so, uh, in summary, there are -- I recognize there are many things -- several things that I could have done better, uh, but I still believe that the patients received the standard of care that was, um, in place at the time.

US House Rep John Adler: I'm just seeing it differently than you are, I guess. I understand from some news reports that it was at least a period of a year where you were not getting, um, post-implant dosimetry information to guage whether the patients had the seeds placed properly and that the seeds had stayed where you'd want them to be. Is it true that there was a year where you did not have that post-implant dosimetry information?

Dr. Gary Kao: It-it is true that [short pause] for a period of about 14 months there was a computer interface problem, uh, at the VA that, um, although the CTs that could be performed after the brachytherapy but that data could not be transmitted to the VariSeed work station used to calculate the doses. During that time, I followed the chain of command. I complained to radiation safety, to the chair of the department, uh, and, uh, other members of the program did the same but this problem was never fixed. I was then faced with the very difficult choice of either stopping the program -- but if I had done so, then the patients would not have received any care. As I mentioned earlier, many of the patients who came to us, uh, did not have re- surgery or other forms of radiation as a choice. So given the choice between delivering no care and having their cancers progress or to p -- go ahead and perform the procedure, I made that decision. I could still see from the CT that the seeds were in the prostate and I could judge that the seeds were concentrated around, uh, part of the prostate where the cancer was located. So the -- these gave me a measure of confidence that the patients were-were being appropriately treated but it is -- you're correct, sir, that is one of my regrets that I should have broken the chain of command, I should have been more assertive, I should have stopped the program at that point.

US House Rep John Adler: What number would you say was the number of patients who didn't get adequate care? The total you did was 116. Of that number what would you say? I've heard numbers 57, 35 and 92. What number would you say was the number?

Dr. Gary Kao: Sir, since 2008, I have not had access to the patient records but I believe based on the calculations that our team performed before it was shut down that the cases were far fewer, uh, and, um, probably closer to, uh, 20 or uh-uh cases that were reported -- that were [short pause] defined as medical-medical events. But-but-but again, what a case that is defined as a medical event does not mean that the treatment was not effective, sir.

Throughout the hearing, Kao repeatedly shot daggers at Hahn who, sincere or not, stated what Kao refused to. Such as following the above when Hahn interjected, "And let me just say that even if it were just one human being who did not receive the best possible care, Congressman Adler, that would be unacceptable." US House Rep Timothy Walz found Hahn sincere and noted that in his remarks.

The second panel was composed of Dr. Paul Schyve of The Joint Commission, Dr. Robert Lee (American Society for Radiation Oncology) and Steven A. Reynolds (Nuclear Regulatory Commission). From that panel, we'll note NRC's Steven Reynolds on the issue of medical event. Kao wanted to repeatedly argue what the meaning was. The NRC is the one defining. Reynolds explained that the term "misadministration" had been in use prior to 2002 and was then replaced with "medical event." What does that mean? He defined it as meaning "that the radioactive material or the radiation from the material, was not delivered as directed by the physician." That definition easily translates as "botched." When something is "not delivered as directed by the physicians," it was botched.

The third panel was composed of Joseph Williams Jr. (VA), Dr. Michael Hagan (VA), E. Lynn McGuire (VA), Michael Moreland (VA), Richard Whittington (VA) and Kent Wallner (VA). We're not noting titles. Reading off the non-medical titles of one panelist, Chair Mitchell asked, "Can they put that all in a name tag? Woo." Mr. Williams would lament that the Philadelphia VA "did not deliver the intended dose".

Petyon M. Craighill (ABC News) reports on a new ABC News-Washington Post poll in which sixty-one percent of respondents "say the United States is making significant progress restoring civil order in Iraq". 'Progress' was Barack's key word at an afternnon press conference, but we'll get to it. In the real world the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports, "The Cleveland, Tenn.-based 252nd Military Police Company of the Tennessee National Guard is scheduled to depart on the first leg of an upcoming Iraq deployment on Wednesday, July 29." A new AP-GfK Roper poll finds a decrease in the number of respondents who believe Barack will remove troops from Iraq -- 15% lower than the last poll. [PDF format warning, click here for the data breakdown.] 62% of respondents ranked "The Situation in Iraq" as either "Extremely important" or "Very important." The poll found an increase of five percent on the number of respondents who disapprove of Barack's handling of the Iraq War. Is this increase a result of angry right-wingers upset over Barack's so-called plan? Maybe. But the respondents were asked if they believed Barack would "remove most troops from Iraq?" In January, 83% of respondents said it was likely and 15% said it was unlikely. The 83% who thought it was coming has fallen to 68%. The number who believe it is not happening has risen to 26%.

Bama said there'd be days like this, Bama said, Bama said? Today puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki met with US celebrity in chief Barack Obama at the White House today and the two took a few questions at the Rose Garden. Barack declared the transition was going well for Iraqi control of their own country -- "substantial progress" was his talking point. He also said the resistance to the US occupation was winding down:

Violence continues to be down, and Iraqis are taking responsibility for their future. This progress has been made possible by the resilence of the Iraqi people and security forces and also because of the extraordinary service of American troops and civilians in Iraq. Now we're in the midst of a full transition to Iraqi responsibility and to a comprehensive partnership between the United States and Iraq based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Yeah, we've heard it all before. One thing we hadn't was Nouri saying "sons and daughers." In Iraq, he just says "sons." (Which is why the Sons Of Iraq program is so well known as opposed to the Daughters Of Iraq.) In the US, desperate for more money and security, Nouri remembered Iraqi women. For a moment.

Violence is not trending down in Iraq. Barack didn't know what the hell he was talking about or he deliberatly lied. Starting in February, there was an increase in violence and that has continued. Now you can lie like the brass in the US military and point to the first two weeks of June -- and only those two weeks -- and say, "See, June's down." Two weeks is not a month but CNN and assorted other news outlets forgot that and let the claim be made repeatedly. In Februrary the increase begins and it has continued to increase. That's reality. And when Iraq's Alsumaria has the guts to report it, it's a real shame that US outlets -- supposedly publishing in a democracy with a free press that puts all others to shame -- can't reveal that reality.
Al Jazeera notes today, "An estimated 437 Iraqis were killed in June, the highest death toll in 11 months, and the near daily attacks have continued in July."

No things are not smooth or progressing. (Barry wants the hydrocarbon law -- no surprise, he's the third term of Bully Boy Bush.) In some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left nine people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left six people injured and a Baquba roadside bombing which wounded a truck driver and claimed the life of "his assistant."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 5 pilgrims shot dead in Diyala Province with thirty-seven more wounded.

Wait. Pilgrims shot dead? Let's drop back to Seinfeld, the episode entitled "The Alternate Side."

Jerry: I don't understand, I made a reservation. Do you have my reservation?

Clerk: Yes, we do. Unfortunately, we ran out of cars.

Jerry: But the reservation keeps the car here. That's why you have the reservation.

Clerk: I know why we have reservations.

Jerry: I don't think you do. If you did, I'd have a car. See, you know how to take the reservation, you just don't know how to hold the reservation and that's really the most important part of the reservation: the holding. Anybody can just take them.

The pilgrimage wasn't over and there were more holy sites to visit. And going further, a pilgrimage is what? Well, let's see. We leave our homes to travel to a holy site. Do we then live at the holy site? No. That would make us movers, not pilgrims. We return to our homes. So, therefore, those in the press who were splashing in the waves of Operation Happy Talk on Saturday and (falsely) claiming no one had died and it was a huge success -- the pilgrimage wasn't over. Do they get that now? Do you think they get it? With the shame facial of egg dripping down their brows, do you think they get it? Really? Like Jerry, I don't think they do. I really don't think that Mike Tharp or Timothy Williams gets it. They were so eager to cry success.

In the real world,
Ali Sheikholeslami (Bloomberg News) reports it was six pilgrims shot dead -- "five women and a man". CNN reports, "Gunmen using machine guns, ambushed a convoy with three buses carrying Iranian pilgrims in the Diayal prvoince".

Dropping back to yesterday, the US miltiary has announced an American convoy was attacked and the the US military killed the attackers (two) as well as one civilian.
Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reports, "An Iraqi police official gave a conflicting account, however, saying four civilians -- a boy and three bus drivers -- were killed when U.S. forces opened fire on the attackers near a bus station. He requested anonymity because he was not allowed to speak to the media."

Realities neither Nouri nor Barack dealt with at today's Rose Garden happening.
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) observes of Nouri, "Mostly unknown in Iraq, he returned after the U.S. invasion." Yes, the cowardly exile, part of the group pushing for the US to go to war with Iraq, was installed by the US. He does not represent Iraqis and none of the leaders do. Even the ambassador to Washington is one of those cowardly exiles who wouldn't fight for their own country but were happy to do anything (including lying) to force the Iraq War. Chon notes:When he returns to Baghdad, Mr. Maliki will face some of the biggest challenges in his premiership. After months of relative calm, Iraq suffered high-profile attacks as U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraqi cities in June; on Tuesday, attacks in Baghdad and elsewhere killed at least 18 people. Sharply lower oil prices, meanwhile, have imperiled Iraq's ability to fund its security services and rebuilding efforts.Even some traditional allies are skeptical. Sheik Jalal al-Din al-Sagheer, a senior member of the Shiite alliance that includes Mr. Maliki's party, says the prime minister has improved security but hasn't attracted needed investment."There's a man for each era," says Mr. Sagheer. "For the next chapter, the focus needs to be on economic development. And I think we need a different man for this job."The BBC cites their correspondent Gabriel Gatehouse who "says that, behind the optimistic talk about withdrawal, reduced violence and the increased capabilities of Iraqi security forces, lie two facts - there are still around 130,000 American troops inside Iraq, and fatal attacks remain an everyday occurrence. He says the question is how to get American forces out of Iraq by the end of 2011 without the security situation getting any worse. Our correspondent says Iraqi reconciliation is key." Barack claims he and Nouri discussed the issue of territorial boundaries today. The biggest dispute there is oil-rich Kirkuk which is claimed both by the KRG and by the central government in Baghdad. Saturday the Kurdistan Regional Government holds their provincial and presidential elections. In the backdrop is increased tensions between the KRG and the central government in Baghdad over issues such as oil and disputed territories. Andrew Lee Butters explores "Why Kurds vs. Arabs Could Be Iraq's Next Civil War" (Time magazine):With a projected capacity of about 40,000 barrels a day, the new oil refinery inaugurated Saturday by the Kurdish regional government of northern Iraq on Saturday is modest even by the standards of Iraq's dilapidated oil industry. But its significance shouldn't be underestimated: In Kurdish minds, the region's ability to refine the oil it pumps is a vital step towards deepening its autonomy from the Arab-majority remainder of Iraq. (Read "The Reasons Behind Big Oil Declining Iraq's Riches.")
Until recently, Iraqi Kurdistan had no refineries of its own, and though the area is sitting on a huge pool of oil, it had to rely on gasoline supplies from elsewhere in Iraq, Turkey or Iran. Fearful of giving Iraq's ethnic Kurdish minority any control over the country's most precious resource, Saddam Hussein had not only declined to build refineries in the region; he made sure Iraq's oil pipelines bypassed Kurdish areas, and his army forcibly removed much of the Kurdish population of from Kirkuk -- the most important oil producing area in the north -- and repopulated the city with Arabs moved from the south. (Watch a video about the gas shortage in Iraq.)
Since Saddam's demise, however, the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is steadily developing an independent oil industry in northern Iraq. It has discovered and begun to develop new oil fields inside its boundaries, and entered production-sharing deals with foreign oil companies made without the consent of the federal government in Baghdad. Those deals have raised suspicions among Iraq's Arab-dominated government that KRG is not simply taking on more of the prerogatives of sovereign statehood, but is actually laying the economic infrastructure for independence.

Meghan L. O'Sullivan, of the Bush administration, offers an angry rant against US Vice President Joe Biden at the Washington Post. O'Sullivan grasps little of what she's writing on but, then again, she worked in the Bush administration. (Biden's not pushing federalism in Iraq at present. It is not the White House policy. If it becomes it, he will gladly push it. Biden noted publicly that the Senate did not support his plan. At which point, he dropped it. That was before he dropped out of the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. But facts is hard and it's so much easier to distort. Meghan learned all about that working for Bully Boy Bush.) Dan Senor also worked for the Bush administration. He's Campbell Brown's husband. They met in Baghdad. I'll join Elaine in noting this from his column at the Wall St. Journal:Providing the Kurds with a protected region made perfect moral and geopolitical sense. Saddam had repeatedly attempted genocidal campaigns against them: the Anfal depopulation campaign in 1987-88, in which the Baathist regime killed or expelled hundreds of thousands of Kurds; the expulsion of thousands of Fayli (Shiite) Kurds from northern Iraq into Iran; and the 1988 slaughter of 5,000 Kurds with chemical weapons in Halabja. In April 2003, the peshmerga helped the U.S. fight Saddam -- not just in the Kurdish area but also south of the Green Line. When it came to Kirkuk, however, the Kurds moved in during the war and never left. With Saddam gone, the Kurds quickly set up Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) offices in the city and began to establish facts on the ground. From the Kurdish point of view, all this was natural and just. Before Saddam's brutal expulsions during his Arabization campaign, Kirkuk had a Kurdish majority.Iraq's post-Saddam interim constitution -- which we in the Coalition Provisional Authority helped the Iraqis draft -- recognized Kurdish authority only over the territories that the Kurds controlled before the fall of the regime. The permanent Iraqi Constitution went a step further in requiring a referendum to determine the future status of Kirkuk. While both articles clearly left Kirkuk outside the jurisdiction of the KRG in the near term, the language also conceded that Kirkuk and other nearby areas were "disputed territories." In the eyes of the Kurds, this ambiguity left the door open. Please note that neither former Bush devotee found time to address the previous administration's refusal to address the issue which is why it is now even worse than it was before.

The sprawling US Embassy in Iraq is in the news today.
Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the US State Dept's inspector general has found the embassy to be overstaffed. Chris Hill is the US Ambassador to Iraq. (And in DC this afternoon, the subject of a parody version of Rickie Lee Jones' "Chuck E.'s in Love" -- "Well is he here?") Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) interview Hill:

The Times asked how , in light of the withdrawal of American forces from cities, the U.S. Embassy would be able to promote reconciliation with the Sunni Awakening movement and armed groups that had stopped fighting the Iraqi government and the U.S. military since 2007.
Hill: I think the role of the United States is very much respected in this country. That doesn't mean it is universally liked, but it is very much respected. Having been an American diplomat for 32 years, I have tended to or usually found a willingness on the part of political groups to listen to what I or my colleagues have to offer. I don't think you have to be in the U.S. military to have people listen to you, because I think they correctly understand that we are also representing the United States. You ask what I assume to be an almost logistical question. Are we out there, are we in touch with people? The U.S. civilian authorities here . . . have something called provincial reconstruction teams [PRTs] which are located throughout the country. We have some 28 PRTs. Obviously we will be looking at how we configure PRTs in light of the eventual drawdown of U.S. troops, even outside of the cities and to determine how that will affect PRT operations. But certainly in the meantime, we have an unprecedented number of U.S. diplomats who are out among the people throughout the country. I don't think we'll have a problem reaching people. I think the issue will be whether some of these rejectionist groups, who probably consider us part of the problem in the first place, whether they will listen to a plea to join in the political process.
The Times asked whether the ambassador thinks U.S. officials in Iraq will be listened to by the Iraqi government on issues of freedom of speech, human rights and power-sharing in government, now that the United States has begun to withdraw troops from Iraq.
Hill: I don't think you need to have necessarily 130,000 troops in a country to remind a politician of the need to observe human rights and respect the rule of law. . . . A country like Iraq that wants to join the international community and reverse several decades of recent history understands that the price of admission into that international community is quite often respect for international norms of human rights. I don't think it's necessarily for American diplomats to sell some kind of American form of human rights, but rather to be helpful to the government, in this case in Iraq, to be helpful in seeing if they can implement some international norms that will make them an equal member of the international community. What you need there is not so much troops as experience and a certain amount of patience, and certainly an understanding of how these issues need to be addressed in the world.
Monday, US Secretary Robert Gates was running from reality as well. He held a press conference with Adm Mike Mullen to announce the expansion of the US Army and to refute Ernesto Londono report "
U.S. Troops in Iraq Find Little Leeway" (Washington Post) from earlier in the morning. Not only was Londono's report correct, other reporters are covering the issue -- more press conferences needed, Gates! Oliver August (Times of London) addresses the issue:When American troops pulled out of Iraqi cities this month they did not realise quite how final their departure would be. The Iraqi military has since barred them from re-entering areas they previously controlled and all but locked them out of towns and cities. US convoys can no longer pass through checkpoints in Baghdad without prior approval and an Iraqi escort. American night-time raids in pursuit of insurgents have also been curtailed by Iraqi officials who gained the right to veto all such missions on July 1. In several cases, the Iraqis took action themselves; in others the suspected insurgents slipped away.

In legal news,
Gina Cavallaro (Army Times) reports that US Sgt Joseph Bozeicevich did not enter a plea at his Fort Smith arraignment yesterday: "Bozicevich, 39, is accused of killing his squad leader, Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, and his fellow team leader Sgt. Wesley Durbin on a patrol base sout of Baghdad on Sept. 14." Russ Bynum (AP) notes that a trial date was set, March 29th.

Military propaganda makes it on air in the US and is disguised as news. At least two Wisconsin TV stations have aired military propaganda with one putting their own reporter over it (Jeff Alexander) to read the military's copy. Madison Wisconsin's
WKOWTV offers a pure propangada look (video report) at the US run Iraqi prision Camp Cropper. It tells you that terrorists and criminals are in the prison. It forgets to tell you that no one's been tried. It forgets to tell you that at least six prisoners have died or that the Red Cross has documented abuses at the prison. But it does run it as is. Meaning the report ends with the announcer of the footage declaring, "Army Sgt. Frank Morello, Joint Area Support Group, Public Affairs." An ABC affiliate wanted to air the propaganda but they wanted to present it as a news report created within the station. What to do, what to do? Oh, I know! Let's take Morello's exact words and let's have our own Jeff Alexander read them. Let's have him step before the camera in the studio and then go to the military's footage while Jeff narrates, then we'll cut to him at the end and he'll do a wrap up and we'll let viewers think that Jeff actually reported this. As opposed to letting them know that the footage and every word spoken was from the US military. Which is how Green Bay's WBAY promotes the propagndad insisting, as they toss to Jeff, that this is "a rare behind the scenes look at their mission is our top story on Action Two News at Four." Their top story is one they didn't even film? Their top story is one they didn't even write? How pathetic is WBAY and where do they get off lying to viewers?They've put Jeff Alexander's voice over on top of Morello's and presented this as their own report. That's outrageous. That's shameful and it violates every rule of journalism. Jeff Alexander, as the on air, should be fired as should every one responsible for that segment making it on air and an on-air apology should be made to viewers.These aren't the only two stations airing this. You should look for it if you're in Wisconsin, this 'inside look' at Camp Cropper. Fox 11 at least had the good sense to state before airing the footage that it was produced by the US military, "Tuesday the military released video of the Camp Cropper, along with interviews from some Wisconsin soldiers working there." They should have noted, however, that their own Becky DeVries was reading the copy that the US military wrote with just a few variations.

Lastly, from
Media Channel:

On Monday morning, I was pleased to be
a guest on Democracy Now talking about Walter Cronkite's support for and playing clips of his criticism of the demise of journalism. It was great that Amy Goodman plugged MediaChannel and showed the website. Unfortunately, if you have been trying to visit the site since then, you have found that our server is down. We have, in effect, vanished. It appears that a hacker was able to get into our database and temporarily shut us down. We are in the process of restoring our sites, upgrading security and server software, but at a cost we cannot afford. Will you help us offset some of these costs by making a tax deductible donation to keep MediaChannel going and growing, and help us improve our technical capabilities to fight off hostile hackers - before we are permanently shut down!
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