Friday, September 18, 2009

Serious realities

"Community effort needed to heal war wounds" (Tom Philpott, Stars and Stripes):
Leslie Kammerdiener, mother of severely wounded Army Cpl. Kevin Kammerdiener, visibly moved attendees with her account of how the VA has failed to provide adequate support to her and her son on multiple occasions since Kevin was injured in Afghanistan in May 2008.
One of their worst experiences occurred Labor Day weekend last year when she and Kevin, who was severely burned and lost the left side of his brain to an explosion, arrived at the VA Polytrauma Center in Tampa, Fla., for follow-up treatment and no one knew he was coming.
"We had no medications for him. We had no bed for his burned body and we had no food for his feeding tube -- for 30 hours," Leslie said. "My son suffered for 30 hours because this system was not ready."
Just a week ago, she said, Kevin signaled that he wanted to take his own life by hanging. She called the VA hospital for help.
"Days went by and nobody called me." Finally, she confronted VA doctor at a social event "and said, ‘Look, you guys have to help us … I’m not trained. I’m not a nurse. I’m not a neurosurgeon. I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a therapist. I’m just a mom. And I don’t have any help with this.’"
Leslie told the forum, "It’s a very sad thing that this country -- your Army or your VA or whatever -- has let us down so incredibly. And I am asking you to step up to the plate and take care of somebody who went over there and did what you asked him to do."

The above isn't an uncommon story by any means. It should break your heart. You should be appalled and distressed by this. But that said, the story is incredibly common and it goes to all the failures in the current system.

I've been treating Iraq War veterans for nearly six years now. Every time I think I've heard the last health care horror story, another one emerges. (Before some skeptic e-mails, "They're trying to get out of their bills," I don't charge the veterans I treat.) At a certain point, I don't think you can be immune to these stories (nor do I believe you should), but I do think it gets to a level where you can no longer pretend that it's an isolated incident or a series of isloated incidents.

The VA isn't doing their job. Why is that?

It goes to the top and it goes to a disrespect of veterans at the top. We saw it under Bush and it continues under Barack. The problems are obvious and some of the biggest problems regularly appear before Congress, offering one false testimony after another.

Which brings in the issue of Congress?

At what point are they truly going to provide oversight?

How many times are the same officials from the VA going to be allowed to lie to Congress? At what point is the Congress going to call the repeat liars on their lies?

It doesn't happen. It never does. The only thing more frightening is grasping -- and maybe everyone doesn't, I know this from C.I. and a mutual friend in Congress -- that the VA is hiding a lot of information and doing that by contracting certain issues and studies out and then stonewalling requests for the information.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Biden's visit gets some press attention, Triple Canopy does as well, Chris Hill's testimony last week revealed prior knowledge of an assault (which the press has ignored) and more.

Diane Rehm returned Monday as host of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show and today on the second hour, Iraq was a topic for Diane and her panelists James Kitfield (National Journal), Elise Labott (CNN) and Farah Stockman (Boston Globe).

Diane Rehm: Alright, let's talke about Vice President Joe Biden's trip to Iraq which is presumably more under control but it sure doesn't look that way. He's in the Green Zone and the bombs are dropping all around him.

Elise Labott: Just a mile from where he was having lunch with Prime -- or Ramadan, kind of ending the fast, with Prime Minster al-Maliki. And there were rockets that kind of landed on the American Embassy compound. And that was over two days. It seems to be under control now. This was the third trip that Biden has made this year. He was just there as recently as July. And he's supposed to be the kind of point person in the administration to look over Iraq and we've heard a lot and we've talked a lot on the show about all the security problems that Iraq has been facing in the last few months and this renewed sectarian violence. This was really a political trip. This was a message by the administration to the Iraqi leadership of two things. First of all, they're moving from this military relationship to a more strategic relationship and they want the Iraqis to know that even though the troops are not leaving, the administration is still going to give it that Cabinet level support that it needs and it's also "You need to get your political house in order."

Diane Rehm: Well what about Biden's statement, "If you want us to leave earlier, we will abide by your wishes"?

James Kitfield: That's been the case for some time, you know, ever since 2006, we ceeded that-that authority to the Iraqis. They can tell us to get out anytime they want. What's worrying the Americans is Prime Minister Maliki running on his support for a referendum on maybe pushing our departure up a whole year so in other words instead of getting out in 2011, get out the end of next year. And we're very worried about that. We think that would be moving too fast the security situation is not stable enough and these-these rockets, even while Biden was meeting in the Green Zone with Maliki, kind of underscore our concern.
Diane Rehm: Farah?

Farah Stockman: Well I just also wanted to point out that a lot of violence in the north in Kirkuk and Mosul, and uh --

Diane Rehm: He talked to Kurdish leaders as well.

Farah Stockman: Right. I think the Kurds are also -- there's a lot of tension between Arabs and Kurds and this was not a story that we were hearing a couple of years ago. You know the Kurds have oil and they want to develop their oil fields by giving a higher percentage of uh profits to these oil companies that are coming in. They want to sweeten the deal and uh Maliki's people don't want to do that. So that when they give the Kurds money for their oil, they want the Kurds to take, uh, to take a hit basically to take a bigger cut out of their own money. There's a lot -- they still haven't passed the oil law and a big agenda on Biden's -- a big agenda item for Biden.
Elise Labott: One of the things also on his agenda was "Listen you need to incur more foreign investment. You need to sweeten these deals for the foreign investment that's coming in." And so he's saying there's going to be a big conference in Washington next month on kind of incurring foreign investment and so they really need to get that oil law in order and also there's some security problems in the north that's where as we we said a lot of these attacks are and the administration it seems are going to try to take a bigger role in trying to settle disputes between Arabs and Kurds which are really shaping up to be the dirtiest part of the politics in Iraq right now.

US Vice President Joe Biden has been in Iraq this week meeting with various leaders. Yesterday's news, unremarked upon in US outlets, would be the political jockeying of Ibrahim Al Jaafari and Nouri al-Maliki as both worked overtime to prove they could be the most insulting to a visiting foreign official. Both made pointed remarks to outlets about issues such as Iraq's elections being Iraq -- and only Iraq's -- business. For those late to the party, Jaafari was the prime minster before Nouri. He was also the first choice of Iraqi MPs to be prime minister in the spring of 2006 but the US nixed that and demanded Nouri. Jaafari is part of the new Shi'ite alliance (Iraqi National Alliance) and it's thought that Jaafari's presence was what had Nouri insisting he wouldn't join the alliance unless he was promised that they'd re-nominate him for prime minister following January's scheduled elections. They refused to meet that demand and Nouri has not joined the alliance so far.

KRG notes that Biden was in Erbil Thursday and met with various officials including KRG President Masoud Barzani, KRG Prime Minister Nechivan Barzani, KRG Prime Minister designate Barham Salih. Barzani and Biden held a joint-press conference and the KRG quotes Biden stating, "The United States understands that the Kurdish people, like so many other Iraqis, suffered terribly -- suffered terribly under the rule and the regime of Saddam Hussein. And the United States and the rest of the world will never forget that. The transformation and the economic development of this region since 2003 -- indeed, since the 1990s -- has been a truly remarkable transformation and a success story." Barzani is quoted stating, "We reiterate our commitment to the constitution of Iraq and to solving outstanding problems through dialogue and peaceful negotiations with Baghdad." In addition, the KRG adds, "The discussions focused on the Kurdistan Regional Government's relations with Baghdad, the unresolved status of Kirkuk and Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution. The pending hydrocarbons law, the governance system in Iraq and the commitment to the Constitution were also discussed." UPI adds, "Joe Biden's visit to Baghdad earlier this week -- his third this year -- came hot on the hells of a lightening visit by Russia's energy minister as the scramble for Iraq's oil riches heats up. Just as Sergei Shmatko sought favorable terms for Russian companies in an upcoming oil contract auction, Biden was hustling on behalf of the U.S. oil giants who have long dreamed of getting their hands on what may be the largest untapped oil reserves in the world." Bill Van Auken (World Socialist Web Site) also reports on the oil issues of the visit, "In his meetings with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who is Kurdish, and Masoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, Biden apparently pushed for a compromise with the Iraqi federal government in Baghdad on the issues of territorial borders and control of oil. [. . .] During the course of his visit, the US vice-president has made clear his concern that a bigger piece of this pie should go to the American oil companies, whose interests have played a prominent role in the prosecution of the Iraq war since well before the invasion of March 2003."

On Tuesday's
CNN's Situation Room, video here, transcript here, Wolf Blitzer informed that CNN's Chris Lawrence was "the only television correspondent traveling with the vice president". Lawrence explained that they got "on the plane and left out of Andrews Air Force Base, we didn't even know where exactly we were going or when we would get there. This is one of those secret trips -- not like going to London or Paris or visiting allies like that. So it was all kept very hush-hush." Chris Lawrence landed the only US television interview with Biden from Baghdad (click here for video). Ross Colvin, Tim Cocks, Missy Ryan and Jon Boyle (Reuters)report, "U.S. Vice President Joe Biden pressed leaders of semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan on Thursday to compromise on the potentially explosive issue of how to manage and share the country's vast oil wealth. Biden said he did not expect the long-running feud over land and oil between Iraq's minority Kurds and its Shi'ite Arab-led government in Baghdad, seen a main threat to its fragile stability, would be settled before national polls in January."

In Mahmoudiyah today, shoppers were surprised by a bombing.
Xinhua reports the bombing took place "at a crowded market". Iran's Press TV explains it was a car bombing and adds that the city is "south of Baghdad . . . located within the so-called 'Triangle of Death' where sectarian tensions hiked in 2006 and 2007". Khaled al-Ramahi, Tim Cocks and Sophie Hares (Reuters) report that the bombing claimed 7 lives with twenty-one more left injured and remind that Mahmudiya was last rocked by bombings September 10th. In addition, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) adds a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people.

Turning to the topic of reports and studies,
Nat Hentoff (Metro West Daily News) notes Physicians for Human Rights' August 2009 report "Aiding Torture: Health Professionals' Ethics and Human Rights Violations Demonstrated in the May 2004 inspector General's Report" and says, "This PHR report quotes from a February 2004 report by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on interrogations in Iraq, but as PHR has previously noted, "hooding was used both during transportation and during interrogation," not only in Iraq. And we can only guess what special forms of hooding were invented in the CIA's secret prisons." For the report [PDF format warning], click here.

According to the February 2004 report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on treatment of deatinees in Iraq:
Hooding [was] used to prevent people from seeing and to disorient them, and also to prevent them from breathing freely. One, or sometimes two bags, sometimes with an elastic blindfold over the eyes which when slipped down, futher impeded proper breathing. Hooding was sometimes used in conjunction with beatings thus increasing anxiety as to when blows would come. The practice of hooding also allowed the interrogators to remain anonymous and thus to act with impunity. Hooding could last for periods from a few hours to up to 2 to 4 consecutive days, during which hoods were lifted only for drinking eating or going to the toilets.

Still on the ICRC, as noted in
yesterday's snapshot, the US military closed their prison in Camp Bucca. The International Committee of the Red Cross has a photo essay of families visiting prisoners in Camp Bucca and notes, "For families who used to visit their relatives detained in Bucca, southern Iraq, the journey was always long, perilous and costly, but well worth it. Since October 2005, the ICRC had helped make the journey possible, not least by covering part of the costs. In Spetember 2009, with the closure of the American facility at Camp Bucca, the ICRC ended its family-visit programme. During the four years that the programme ran, almost 30,000 detained people received 146,000 visits from their relatives with ICRC support."

David Bedein (Philadelphia Bulletin) reports RAND Corporation's "Withdrawing from Iraq: Alternative Schedules, Associated Risks, and Mitigating Strategies" from July was submitted to Department of Defense this week. Bedein notes that the report found that the central government in Baghdad would not be able to 'eradicate' al Qaeda in Iraq.The report was released in July and (my summary) it argues that a draw down is fine but US troops cannot leave Iraq. Because of al Qaeda in Iraq? No, the report is primarily arguing that a full US departure would lead Turkey to invade. And, since July, it's been a rare week that the report's assertion hasn't been decried by some Turkish news outlet. For example, Sunday Hurriyet Daily News ran the editorial "From the Bosphorus: Straight - RAND report wreaks of arrogance:"
There was a time, a certain age of innocence really, when it was possible to despise the CIA and associated intelligence agencies for their apparent evil. But today, we must regard them with contempt for their stupidity. A case in point of international diplomacy at its arrogant worst is the new RAND Corporation report upon which Daily News Ankara bureau chief Serkan DemirtaƟ reported in the weekend newspaper. The "sponsored" research by RAND basically urges the U.S. Obama Administration to threaten Turkey with "negative consequences" to its European Union bid should any incursion into northern Iraq impede American withdrawal from that desperate and war-torn country. [. . .]So we take great offense that RAND believes Turkey should be muscled into continuing this policy as insurance against a military incursion by Turkey in the wake of an Iraqi civil war sparked by the American exit. Such a report, particularly if embraced by Obama as policy, is simply a guarantee that the legitimacy of the "Kurdish opening" will be challenged by many in Turkey and probably derailed. Essentially, RAND's warning risks a self-fulfilling prophecy. We take particular offense that RAND would suggest U.S. coordination with European allies to make sure Turkey "understands" that any move into Iraq will harm the country's EU bid. RAND should "understand" Turkish sentiment. It is clear this institution does not. And this is why we can only summon contempt for a report that reeks of arrogance. This has not been a minor issue in Turkey and Hurriyet is among the most recent to weigh in and
Sol's reporting on it today. It's surprising that a RAND report which has caused so much controversy hasn't been reported on by the networks or US daily papers. Or maybe not surprising.The authors of the report are Walt L. Perry, Stuart E. Johnson, Keith W. Crane, David C. Gompert, John Gordon, Robert E. Hunter, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Terrence K. Kelly, Eric Peltz and Howard Shatz. In their preface [PDF format warning, click here for report] they note:The analysis supporting this report was completed in May 2009, andthe illustrative schedules all assume implementation decisions having been made in time for implementation in May, if not earlier. To the extent that such decisions are made later, the schedules would likely be pushed back accordingly. We recognize that any drawdown schedule that calls for U.S. forces remaining in Iraq beyond the end of December 2011 would require renegotiating the Security Agreement between the United States and Iraq.

The SOFA might be renegotiated? The study was prepared at the request of US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Are you starting to get why US outlets haven't really explored the RAND study? No, the Iraq War has not ended and doesn't appear to be.
Steven Verburg (Wisconsin state Journal) reports, "About 200 Madison-based members of the Wisconsin Air National Guard are heading for Iraq in the next week."

Yesterday's snapshot noted the Istanbul meet-up of Ahmed Davutoglu (Turkey's Foreign Minister), Hoshyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister), Walid Mualem (Syria's Foreign Minister) Amr Moussa (Arab League Secretary General). Today's Zaman notes the meeting continued on Firday and that Turkey's Foreign Minister "Davutoglu also said the meeting in Istanbul would be preparation for the upcoming meeting of the High-Level Strategic Cooperation Council, which will be held in Baghdad, with Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki presiding over the meeting." He states, "This is such an important project that, when realized, peoples living side by side for centuries will reunite in a shared economic basin. Our capabillities and assets will be mobilized to create a very powerful economic region." Barcin Yinanc (Hurriyet Daily News) reports, "Turkey again tried to assume the role of 'troubleshooter' Thursday as it pressed Syria and Iraq to ease the tension stemming from Iraqi accusations that Syria is behind bomb attacks in Baghdad." That's how it's reported in Turkey -- a long, long way from assertions Hoshyar Zebari has made on Al Jazeera TV where he repeatedly insists that Turkey sees Iraq in the right and Syria in the wrong.

Meanwhile, on the topic of Iraqi refugees, a rebuke to Nouri and his strong-arm attempts on relief agencies and the United Nations.
Julian Isherwood (Politiken) reports Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi "has urged Denmark to reconsider the forced repatriation of Iraqis whose requests for asylum in Denmark have been refused." The Copenhagen Post adds that "Helle Lykke Nielsen, associate professor at the University of Souterhn Denmark's Centre for Middle East Studies, believes the message is a way of telling Denmark that its current method of forcing Iraqis back to their country needs to be changed." Nouri al-Maliki has been eager to force the returns. He's now joined by the dim bulb Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq. Testifying to Congress last week [see Thursday's snapshot here, Friday's here and Kat's post here], Hill insisted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the Iraqi refugees had to return for Iraq's own security. Yeah, the widow who saw her husband and oldest son shot dead before her and now lives in Syria? Without her, all of Iraq will crumble. Chris Hill was so very lucky that the press had little interest in his testimony. It was with the House Foreign Relations Committee, for example, under direct questioning from US House Rep Ted Poe that Hill had to admit the US had prior knowledge that the assault on Camp Ashraf and the Iranian refugees in the camp would take place. Hill was blabbering on about assurances that Nouri had given that the residents would be treated fairly and humanely and Poe interruped.

US House Rep Ted Poe: Excuse me, just to clairy the question -- or the answer -- was this before or after the security forces came into Camp Ashraf that we got this assurance?

Chris Hill: This uh, was before, because our -- The UN mandate for the -- for us to run -- to be responsible for uh this camp ended at the end of 2008 -- after 2008 -- that is, starting January 1, this year -- it is the sovereign and sole responsiblity of the Iraqi govenment and because of that, we sought from them written assurances that they would treat them humanely and that they would not forcibly repatriate them where they would be -- they could be -- tortured or persecuted based on their religious or political beliefs.

US House Rep Ted Poe: It doesn't appear that they have been treated humanely if eleven of them were murdered and thirty-six others were arrested.

Chris Hill: Well on July 28th, Iraqi forces went in to try to set up a uh police station. They regarded that as uh an exercise of their sovereignty because Ashraf is in Iraq.

US House Rep Ted Poe: Did we know about that before it happened?

Chris Hill: We -- I understand that -- They told us that -- Yes, they were going to do this.

So not only were their warnings from members of the British Parliament but Nouri -- according to Hill -- informed the US government that the 'action' was going to take place July 28th. For those who've forgotten, US troops were in the area when the assault took place and were ordered to stand down as they saw people bloodied. After his exchange with Poe, way after, US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee raised the issue and he fell back to "my previous answer" (to Poe) and declared that the US had "two committments that wev'e seen in -- what we've had in writing from the Iraqi government. One, that they will respect the human rights of the camp residents. And, two, that they will not engage in any forced repatriations to Iran." Yes, that was a ridiculous response. Nouri had already broken the early agreement with the assault on July 28th. As US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee observed, "Well I think that they're handling their business poorly and I would ask that, if there are human rights violations this blaring, we need to have answer and I appreciate if we'll have the opportunity to get them."

Answers would be good on contractors as well. (Sheila Jackson Lee pressed Hill on that issue but he tossed out a lot of words to say nothing.) Today
T. Christian Miller and Aram Roston (ProPublica) report that Triple Canopy -- sold as the 'better' choice when compared to Blackwater -- has a long history of its own scandals: "questionable weapons deals, government bungling and a criminal investigation that was utlimately closed without charges bieng filed, according to newly released files. Company employees told federal investigators that Triple Canopy swapped booze for weapons and supplies from the U.S. military. They said the company bought guns and other arms on the black market in Iraq. Some worried that the money was flowing into the hands of insurgents, records show."

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on most PBS stations and this week's topic is:Commercial surrogacy -- when women are paid to carry and deliver babies for people who cannot conceive them biologically -- is banned in almost every developed country in the world except the U.S., making it a land of opportunity for parents around the world.In June, celebrity parents Matthew Broderick and Sarah Jessica Parker announced publicly they had twins delivered via surrogate. But surrogacy services and their oversight vary from state to state, creating a strong potential for deceit and fraud.This week, NOW's Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa follows the surrogate pregnancy of a single mother over the course of several months. When she was 14 weeks pregnant, the surrogate agency that brokered the deal between her and the future parents vanished, leaving the woman stranded without health insurance and nowhere to turn.NOW investigates how shady surrogacy services and a lack of regulation in the U.S. may be defrauding hopeful couples and victimizing mothers trying to help them.Washington Week also begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and sitting around the table with Gwen tonight are Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), John Harwood (New York Times), Greg Ip (The Economist) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Remember that there is a web bonus each week that you can grab on podcast (video -- they also have audio podcast but it doesn't include the bonus) or wait for Monday morning when the bonus is available at the website. Also, a PBS friend asks that I note that they didn't just redesign their website at Washington Week, they added many new elements. One sidebar is on the right and it contains links to the latest writing by Washington Week regulars such as CBS and Slate's John Dickerson's article on health care at Slate. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Donna Edwards, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. Online, they address the announcement that Diane Sawyer will begin anchoring ABC's World News Tonight next year. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The DEKA Arm New technology is making it possible for amputees to pick up small, delicate objects they never thought they would master thanks to the biggest innovation in prosthetic arms since World War II. Scott Pelley reports. Watch Video
Anna Wintour The sunglasses come off the high-queen of haute couture in this rare and unprecedented interview, in which the Vogue editor reveals why she always wears them and much more to Morley Safer in her first long-length interview for U.S. television. Watch Video
Coach Carroll Byron Pitts profiles USC college football coach Pete Carroll, who, in addition to his success in making the Trojans a football dynasty, is making positive contributions toward decreasing gang violence in Los Angeles. Watch Video
60 Minutes Sunday, Sept. 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Editor's Note: Due to live programming at 8:00 p.m., ET, 60 Minutes will probably run a full hour only in Pacific and Mountain Time zones. Central and Eastern zones may have shorter versions of this broadcast. All three segments will be available on

nprthe diane rehm show
the boston globefarah stockman
elise labott
bill van auken
cnnwolf blitzerchris lawrence
laith hammoudimcclatchy newspapers
randhurriyet daily newsdavid beiden
ross colvintim cocksmissy ryanjon boyle
60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's not forgotten by me

C.I. covered a topic very well this morning.

I just want to add a few comments.

Jimmy Carter is, was and will forever be a joke. He used racism in every campaign he ever ran. He was DLC and every other sell out policy. He was the Democratic Party at its worst.

In fact, Red Amy Goodman, that's why Ted Kennedy ran against the then-incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980 for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination: Because Jimmy Carter was nothing but a sell-out.

He helped with the destruction of unions, he helped destroy the rights of women by making the chipping away at reproductive rights "bi-partisan."

As a president, his racism roamed the globe and, as C.I. notes, the Afghanistan people will tell their story some day and, when they do, it will not be pretty for Jimmy Carter, nor should it be.

Carter has a great deal to answer for. Therefore, it was shocking to watch so many radicals (Socialists, Communists, etc.) rush to get on board with Jimmy today.

As if his past is forgotten?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, September 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Joe Biden's second day in the Green Zone sees a second day of shelling, a shoe tosser is shot dead by US troops, Cindy Sheehan and Dahr Jamail confront realities, the KRG has a new Prime Minister nominee and Twitter and Facebook oh my.

Peace Mom
Cindy Sheehan hosts a weekly radio and online broadcast, Cindy's Soapbox. This week's guest is independent journalist Dahr Jamail whose latest book is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. We'll note a section of their discussion today and a section on the book later in the week (hopefully tomorrow).

Cindy Sheehan: So, you know, many people voted for Barack Obama. And I fully, fully believe that the Democratic base in this country is anti-war. They want the war in Iraq over, the war in Afghanistan over, they want the troops to start coming home. That actually, in reality, hasn't happened. And this week has been -- there's a lot of stuff coming out of Iraq. You know the people in the government in Iraq are afraid that [Nouri al-] Maliki is trying to turn into a quasi dictator. He's ousting some people from the Interior Ministry which has been very corrupt. People I know in Iraq tell me the Interior Ministry is awful. There were 25 Iraqis killed in northern Iraq near Mosul the other day. It seems like things are really heating up in the Kurdish areas. And yesterday, 44 Iraqis were killed and 61 wounded in another Kurdish village. And we had four US soldiers killed not yesterday but the day before. And there was a report that came out that said the US is going to be taking troops out but they're going to be replacing them with mercenaries -- more than 2 to 1, in a 2 to 1 ratio, mercenaries coming from Uganda or Kenya. Dahr, what do you -- I know you have a lot of good contacts there and I know that you've been there a lot -- what's your analysis of what's happening in Iraq?

Dahr Jamail: Well for starters, Maliki is not a quasi-dictator, I mean he already is. He's basically the new Shia Saddam. I mean, there's no question about it. This is a guy that the US put into power. They're maintaining him there and largely through the intelligence services and the Mukhabarat and the Ministry of Interior. I mean, that's how this guy is staying in power. Saddam knew that the glue of his power resided in the intelligence services and Mal -- the US has helped Maliki do the same thing. Let's, let's remember that this is a guy, there was no democratic process involved in him becoming prime minister. He was basically inserted to replace Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari because Condaleeza Rice wanted him there, you know at the beckoning of George W. Bush. So there's that. And we look at the overall situation. Violence is not slowing down. Last month was the single bloodiest month for Iraqi civilians in over a year's time. We are starting to see more and more attacks on US forces. We still have over 131,000 US military personnel there. That number is not decreasing but the generals in charge of the situation are saying that that number will actually -- we'll have well over 100,000 troops in Iraq till at least half-way through next year. So it's a dire situation and when I was there earlier this year, there was a car bomb in Baghdad just about every day I was there for the month that I was there. We're looking at a situation where the country overall has become extremely Balkanized, where literally going from one neighborhood to another is almost like going to a different country. You basically had to embed with a militia to get where ever you wanted to go. So it's a dire situation and it's far, far, far from over. And we're looking at a situation where, I think in the coming months, we should expect it to get worse unfortunately.

Cindy Sheehan: And unfortunately, when we say expect it to get worse, most Americans equate that with US deaths. So there's a -- there's one aspect that has been fortunate for US soldiers is those amounts of deaths have been going down so Iraq has practically disappeared off the radar screen of our media and of public consciousness. One of my friends was in Washington D.C. on March 19th for the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and he was passing out fliers and one woman told him, "Why are you doing this? The Iraq War is over. Obama's president."

Dahr Jamail: Right. And it's amazing Cindy -- as you know all too well, probably better than anyone -- that the single most challenging thing to those of us trying to wake people up and inform people about what's actually happening in Iraq and what is US policy, the single greatest obstacle at this point is a guy named Barack Obama, where so many people have drunk the Obama Kool-Aid and they wore their t-shirts in November and he was elected and they feel like, "Hey, that's it. It's all good now, right? He's pulling out of Iraq and it's going to take some time -- I'm sure it's a bit complicated -- but things are getting better there, right?" Or "We won" -- quote unquote, "right?" And it could not be further from the truth. I mean we're still loking at anywhere between a dozen and a hundred Iraqis being killed every day and attacks on US troops there continue, the infrastructure's far worse now than it was even a couple of years ago and that that's even possible seems pretty amazing. And it's extremely unstable politically. And I think it's probably just a matter of time before we have another huge explosion and, you know, unfortunately what it really takes for people to pay attention over there is when more and more US troops are being killed but unfortunately that's probably what's going to happen -- not even talking about Afghanistan.

Cindy Sheehan: Well talk about the surge that began in January of 2007, I believe.

Dahr Jamail: Yes.

Cindy Sheehan: And about how the Republicans and the neoconservatives who are still, of course, in Obama's administration, how they term that a "success." What was really the cost of that so-called "success" and why do they even think it's a success?

Dahr Jamail: Well you know it's amazing, it's been another amazing propaganda campaign and a successful one -- the whole so-called "surge" -- because the reality is that what really caused dramatic decrese in American deaths was the buying off of the resistance -- where basically the US instituted a program back in 2006 before they even started sending in these 30,000 additional troops, where they literally found corrupt tribal sheiks and paid them off to get fighters under their control to stop attacking occupation forces. And it was relatively successful so temporarily the US stood up this 100,000 strong Sunni militia comprised mostly of former resistance fighters, paying them $300 a month in US tax payer money and we saw a dramatic decline in US deaths. But now it's-it's really complicated the situation politically because now we have these armed milita men running around and they're not being encorporated into the government forces as was promised and so we're looking at a tinderbox politically where these guys want political power. What's going to happen in the upcoming January elections, which are not far off now, if these guys don't get the political power? Many of them are already talking about going back into the political resistance and we know what that means.

Cindy Sheehan: Right and also what you talked about earlier is the Balkanization of the country has basically -- and I have not been to Iraq myself but I've talked to Iraqis all over the world, I've been to Jordan meeting with them -- and they basically say that neighborhoods that were very diverse are now just the opposite. They're all, like you said, you have to -- you have to pass through checkpoints to get to each neighborhood which had a result of -- and let's just face it Dahr, over one million people are dead and four million people displaced so the country's been decimated in population.

Dahr Jamail: It has. And in addition to those figures, we can add another eight million in need of emergency assistance and who are also living in abject poverty on less than a dollar a day according to OXFAM International. I mean, the situation is not getting any better for the Iraqi people. It's really amazing how bad it got and how it's continued to worsen and yet, of course, so many people -- even so-called anti-war folks in this country -- think, "Oh well it's better." Or, "It's won." Actually, you can't tell that to people in Iraq just trying to survive on a daily basis.

Cindy Sheehan: And it's heartbreaking. And the tragedy is that many of the large anti-war movements were co-opted by the Democratic Party. And I just get so frustrated because, like you, I haven't stopped my activism, I haven't stopped working, war is wrong no matter who's president. But it's really frustrating because these same people who supported Obama even those his Iraq plan was unsatisfactory and even though he promised to send more troops to Afghanistan, he promised to do this cross-border bombing into the tribal regions of Pakistan, they supported him, they raised money for him, they worked for him and they voted for him, they had their followers vote for him and now they write a petition to him to stop it.

Dahr Jamail: Right and, as we know, it's going to take a lot more than signing your name on a petition or wearing a t-shirt or even at this point walking in a street on a weekend. It's really, you know, the only thing that this administration or any other administration is going to understand is when it becomes politically unviable for them to continue forward with the policies that they are engaged in. And it's up to us to show them, look, not only do we disagree with this but we will, we will be your political death if you continue on with this policy that you literally won't be able to stay in power and have any kind of a base whatsoever if you continue forward with this US empire policy. And so that's what it's going to take. It's going to take real mobilization and real sacrifice and, uh, really people throwing their bodies on the front lines to make this stop. Not just signing a petition, not just trying to ask Nancy Pelosi "please," but, you know, clearly these people will only listen to things when they're personal stake -- i.e. their own political power and their own political future -- is at stake. And, again, if we aren't making -- if we aren't pushing them up against that wall, then to think that anything's just going to change? We might as well go to Disneyland.

Cindy Sheehan: Well, you know, we're on a subject -- we' just have like a minute before we have to take a break -- what do you think about these people who support Obama and they don't make any demands on him or political demands? They say, "Well at least he's better than [John] McCain." What do you think about the -- the foreign policy choices Obama's made compared to what -- would McCain have done anything differently?

Dahr Jamail: Yeah, I think that that's a nice rationalization for political sloth for people to say, "Well you know Obama's -- at least he's better than, you know, insert, you know, name of idiot here" -- whether it be McCain or Sarah Palin or George Bush because the reality when we look at the hard facts which are the National Security Strategy of the United States and the Quadrennial Defense Review report these are the exact same reports running US policy now as we had under George Bush. These policies have literally not changed, they haven't been updated, nor were they supposed to be. And, in fact, of course we've maintained Bush's Secretary of Defense in Robert Gates and, as you noted, most of the leading hawks and advisers from [Bill] Clinton's time as well as some that were hung over from George W. Bush. So we've had literally no policy change whatsoever. Instead all we have is, you know, a charasmatic, articulate, intelligent person as president as opposed to a bumbling buffoon. But that's the only thing that's really changed. When we look at the hard policies on the ground we've seen just nothing more but a continuation of George Bush's administration. We are really in George Bush's third term if we're going to get down to the brass tacks.

US Vice President Joe Biden remained in Iraq today continuing meetings with various leaders.
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports that for the second day of his trip, the Green Zone was agains targeted and Biden and Nouri had "to remain inside the building because of the explosions." The building? Nouri's palace. Today is day two of the rocket or mortar attacks aimed at the area the vice president of the United States is in. Day two. Certainly, in the US, all newscasts Tuesday led with that news. Right?

First up, Vice President Joe Biden makes a surprise visit to Iraq. During the trip, he was scheduled to meet the country's leaders and with U.S. troops. But there was a distraction when the International Zone in Baghdad came under fire. A CNN reporter said the vice president wasn't injured, but it wasn't clear whether he was actually near where the attack took place because reporters aren't allowed to discuss the VP's location. That's for security reasons. Mr. Biden arrived in the Middle Eastern nation on Tuesday. He said he made the trip, in part, to show support for the Iraqi government as it takes full control of its country. All U.S. combat troops are scheduled to leave Iraq by next August.

Is that Katie Couric with The CBS Evening News? Is it Brian Williams with NBC Nightly News? Is it Charlie Gibson with ABC World News Tonight? Maybe it's Jim Lehr with PBS' The NewsHour?

It's Carl Azuz, the anchor of CNN Student News. It's Carl Azuz doing the newscast aimed at middle and high school students. What a proud moment for the broadcast networks -- commercial and allegedly non-commerical. What a telling moment. Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports that 3 suspects were arrested in yesterday's shelling which used "107-millimeter rockets" and not mortars, that 2 Iraqis died and five were injured and that, "Inside the embassy compound, a piercing 'duck and cover' alarm began moments after the American military commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, told reporters traveling with Mr. Biden that security remained at its lowest levels since the war began". The US military issued a statement praising the "quick reaction" of US and Iraqi forces who "recieved small arms fire from a house near the launch site. As elements from the joint patrol maneuvered against the small arms fire, a second element captured three Iraqi males and three rocket rails belevied to have been used in the attack." Tim Cocks and Jon Hemming (Reuters) report that the three suspects were released within hours of their arrest. But don't expect your evening news to tell you or show you that.

Nobody stopped to hear him
Though he played so sweet and high
They knew he had never
Been on their TV
So they passed his music by
-- "For Free," written by
Joni Mitchell, from her Ladies of the Canyon album

And the Queen of
Panhandle Media, Simply Red Amy Goodman? Not a damn bit interested. Not a damn bit. But, in varying degrees, they all had time for Crazy Ass Jimmy Carter, didn't they? (The White House has again distanced itself from Crazy Ass Jimmy.) You couldn't get Iraq on your TV but you could get nonsense. You could get crazed musing. Dan Simpson spent over 30 years in the US diplomatic service. He's on the editorial boards of both the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade. Today, while adults throw tantrums, he's stuck pretty much alone in the grown up role. In a new column, he argues that the US must leave Iraq regardless of whether violence increases or not and that they shouldn't leave Iraq to be sent to Afghanistan. From his "Leave Iraq to the Iraqis:"

The attitude that the U.S. government should maintain as Iraqis sort out who will rule Iraq after the United States leaves should be clear: The 29 million Iraqis have the right of self-determination, a principle to which Americans attach the utmost importance when it comes to our own country.
The fact that it will be messy in Iraq, reflecting the history of the country and the different peoples who comprise it, is none of our affair and no justification whatsoever for the U.S. delaying withdrawal or for re-intervention. Nor is the fact that the current structure of the new, post-Saddam Hussein Iraq is in no small part our doing since the invasion of 2003. U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will take place for our own reasons, just as our initial attack on the country did.
But it will be messy. The ethnic and religious make-up of Iraq will lie at the basis of the problems, becoming more intense as the time for full U.S. withdrawal ticks down. The population is approximately 60 percent Shiite Muslim, 20 percent Sunni Muslim and 20 percent Kurdish. Each group wants to rule the country, or at least part of it. And one prize that comes with political power is access to the lion's share of the country's oil revenues, big money.

It will be messy and it is messy. Today's reported violence includes . . .

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky car bombing wounded one person, a second one injured another and a third one "destroyed one civilian car," the Green Zone attacks today (with mortars or rockest) resulted in at least two people being injured and unknown assailants blew up the home of a Sahwa leader in Saqlawiyah.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person (former police officer) was shot dead in Mosul.

Yesterday's snapshot noted the release from a Baghdad prison of Iraq journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi (also spelled Muntadar al-Zaidi in some outlets) where he'd been sentenced for throwing two shoes at Bully Boy Bush on December 14th. Today, another shoe thrower apparently emerged. The Telegraph of London reports Ahmed Latif was shot dead today by the US military in Falljua after he hurled insults and a shote at them.

Turning to the issue of Camp Ashraf which is made up of Iranian dissidents belonging to the MEK who were given sanctuary by Saddam Hussein and have remained in Iraq for decades. Following the US invasion, the US military provided security for them and the US government labeled them "protected persons" under Geneva. Though Nouri 'promised' he wouldn't move against Camp Ashraf, but
July 28th he launched an assault. Over the weekend, Tim Cocks (Reuters) reported that "a six-week-old under strike" continues at Camp Ashraf as a result of the 36 residents who were hauled away and imprisoned by Nouri's forces. Gaelle Faure (Time magazine) observed, "Hunger strikers in Camp Ashraf -- along with those starving themselves in sympathy in Washington D.C., London, Berlin and Ottawa -- are demanding that the U.S. take back protective control of the camp. In the long term, they'd like permanent U.N. protection for the dissidents. Several lawmakers and lawyer groups in Britain are voicing their support. On Sept. 9, London-based law firm Finers Stephens Innocent released a legal opinion calling on Iraq to respect the Geneva Convention in protecting the camp dwellers -- and insisting the U.S. ensure their safety." Today, the Near East Human Rights Initiative (NEHRI) sends a press release to the public account which notes that Iraqi Parliamentarian Saleh Mutlak ("Secretary General of Iraq's National Dialogue Front") has stated, "On behalf of millions of Iraqis, I ask the United States and President Obama to uphold and follow through with US commitment for the safety and security of Ashraf residents in a proper manner. The people and political forces in Iraq an dArab countries are monitoring this situation vigilantly and for Iran to hold the upper hand in Iraq and to even be able to destroy Iranian refugees in Iraq would be a nightmare which we must present." The press release also notes that NEHRI intends "to send a humanitarian fact-finding mission to Camp Ashraf". John Hughes (Christian Science Monitors) terms the issue "a difficult foreign-policy and humanitarian challnge" for the White House:

One solution to the Iranian dissidents' problem would be for the US to give them asylum as political refugees. However, the US can hardly accept them as such while it continues to brand them members of a terrorist organization. Nor would that sit well with the Tehran regime, with which the US seeks engagement on Iran's suspected pursuit of nuclear weaponry. In view of the political implications, an asylum decision would need to take place at the highest official level, at least the secretary of State, if not the president.
The PMOI has raised the prospect of the United Nations dispatching a monitoring force to Camp Ashram. That is even less likely while such Iranian friends as Russia and China sit on the UN Security Council that would have to authorize it.
Clearly, the Ashraf dissidents should not be sent back to Iran against their will. That requires that the US exerts enough pressure on the Iraqi government to keep its word.

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports that Iraq's Shi'ite Vice president, Adel Abdul Mahdi is drawing a line between himself and the Shi'ite Nouri al-Maliki, "In an implicit criticism of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's reluctance to ask for help from the US following the June 30 pullback of combat troops, Dr. Abdul Mehdi called for a re-assesment of the role of US forces here that could result in more involvement for American troops sidelined by what he termed an over-optimistic view of security in Iraq." Abdul Mahdi belongs to the new Shi'ite alliance which Nouri refused to join after he was rebugged for his insistance that wins in January's provincial elections would result in his being named prime minister again. Abudl Mahdi tells Arraf, "Maliki will have his chance, others will have tehir chances, so joing the coalition with balanced rates would be the acceptable equation -- otherwise what is the point of having a coalition?" In a non-related development, Tehran Times states that Iranian pilgrims will not be going to Iraq this month for "the month of Mehr which starts from September 23 to October 23". In other political news, Sherko Raouf, Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie, Tim Cocks and Louise Ireland (Reuters) report that Barham Salih has been declared the prime minister of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) and quotes Barham Salih from his, yes, Twitter feed declaring, "Kurdistan Parliament just nominated me for Prime Minister of regional gov. President Barzani will officialy task formation of new KRG." Oops, they didn't include the quote in full: "Kurdistan Parliament just nominated me for Prime Minister of regional gov. Pres Barzani will officially task formation of new KRG after Eid". Salih was formerly Iraq's deptuy prime minister, but he announced his resignation after July provinical elections in three KRG provinces. He currently has 2,734 followers on his Twitter account. While he himself follows such lumanaries as Oprah Winfrey, Thomas Friedman, Ahnuld of California and Stephen Colbert. Getting all with the tech savy 'news,' let's check out US Gen Ray Odierno's Facebook page where he posts nine paragraphs of Becky Pallack's Arizona Daily Star article. Stay away from AP, Ray Odierno, they don't play.

Staying with legal news,
Jamie Leigh Jones worked for Halliburton's KBR and was sent to Iraq where, she's revealed, she was gang-raped by co-workers and Halliburton employees "addressed" this by locking her in a pod. Halliburton has attempted to repeatedly prevent Jones from having her day in court. In May of 2008, Maddy Sauer (ABC News) reported Jones latest victory which was that Jones would get her day in court and not be confined to arbitration -- which Halliburton insisted was the correct venue for her case. Sauer reported that District Judge Keith Ellison "wrote in his order Friday that Jones' claims of sexaul assault, battery, rape, false imprisonment and others fall beyond the scope of her employment." Anabelle Garay (AP) reported last night that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Ellison's finding yesterday and her case will be "tried in open court" and not arbitration.

cindy sheehan
dahr jamail
the wall street journalgina choncarl azuzcnn student newsthe new york timessteven lee myers
maddy sauer
abc news
tim cocksreuterstime magazinegaelle faure
the christian science monitorjane arraf

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Rape and other Iraq news

"US warns against forgetting Iraq" (BBC News):
"The endemic corruption within the Iraqi system - not only the security forces, but the system - is still probably the biggest problem facing Iraq.
"I think the ministry of defence and ministry of interior probably are taking more action than most other ministries right now, so I'm confident that they're on the right path."

Those quotes are from US General Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq. Joe Biden's visit to Iraq (unannounced ahead of time as usual) appears to have caught Odierno by surprise because the talking point today conflicted with the report he provided to the BBC.

In other Iraq news, David Stringer (AP) reports that Daniel Carey is representing an Iraqi man who asserts that he was raped by two British soldiers in 2003 at a base in Basra and that the investigation into the alleged sexaul assault of "a 14-year-old Iraqi boy at Camp Breadbasket base in Basra in May 2003" continues. Just when you think you're immune to the sickness of it all, having learned of so much already, another item surfaces.

"Kangaroo Justice at Bagram" (Kenneth J. Theisen, World Can't Wait):
Most Americans have heard about the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo. But few are aware of a similar prison in Afghanistan at the Bagram military base. Detainees there have been captured or kidnapped by the U.S. from all over the world. Shortly after he took office, Obama announced that he would close Guantanamo (he has not yet done so). But instead of closing Bagram, he asked Congress for more money to expand its capacity to hold prisoners of the U.S. war of terror. His Department of Justice even went to court to fight the right of Bagram prisoners to challenge their detentions in a U.S. court earlier this year.
On Monday the Department of Defense announced that some 600 prisoners held in Bagram would have the right to challenge their detention. Is this a step forward or merely smoke and mirrors to pretend that the prisoners are being given their basic legal rights, while really denying them these rights?
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters, “It's basically a review procedure that ensures people go in front of a panel periodically to give them the opportunity to contest their detention. It's something that we had used in Iraq to help us manage the detainee population and ultimately reduce the detainee population by ensuring that we are only holding those that are the most dangerous threats." According to Whitman the inmates would be “aided” by a uniformed "personal representative" who would "guide them through this administrative process, to help gather witness statements."
But these representatives would not be lawyers and they work for the military, not the prisoners. This is nothing more than a kangaroo procedure. In the early days of military commissions and tribunals at Gitmo a similar useless procedure was followed. Detainees were given the illusion of justice, while being held for years.

So we're going to have for-show 'change' to go with a helping of for-show 'justice'?

For those who are younger (I'm not being sarcastic) and wondering, no, Bush did not get a free pass like this in 2001. By August, he was facing huge criticism and loud criticism. 9-11 gave him a teflon coating that lasted for a bit with those of us on the left. It lasted forever with the media. But, no, this is not natural, this hero worship of Barack.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, September 15, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a journalist is released from prison and says he was tortured in a Baghdad press conference, Alice Fordham reports on Iraqi prison conditions, US Vice President Joe Biden makes a sneak visit to Iraq, Nouri goes "on a charm offensive," and more.

Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi (also spelled Muntadar al-Zaidi in some outlets) has been released from pison today in Baghdad.
December 14th, Bully Boy Bush (still occupying the White House at that time) held a press conference in Baghdad with Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and US-installed thug, where they lied and smiled and signed the treaties Bush pushed through (Strategic Framework Agreement and the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement.). Muntadhar was a journalist attending the press conference."This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog!" Muntadhar exclaimed hurling a shoe at Bush. And then, hurling a second shoe, "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Nouri's thugs pounced on Muntadhar and beat him up. He was then whisked away and, for weeks, denied all but one visitation with his family and attorney. In December, many in the press (including the New York Times) ran with a forced confession, presenting it as truth and asking no questions about it. He was sentenced to three years in prison but released today. ITV News (video clip) covers the release here. Alice Fordham and Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) explain, "The three-year jail term for assaulting a foreign head of state was reduced on appeal to one year, with a three-month remission for good conduct." Martin Chulov (Guardian) states the release "was met with muted celebration in Baghdad but rapturous applause in some corners of the Arab world, where the 30-year-old television journalist is feted as a David and Goliath figure for his act of defiance." BBC describes the scene at al Baghdadiya TV (where Muntadhar works): "Arriving at the al Baghdadiya compound, a trumpeter and two drummers sounded a welcome for Mr Zaidi - and in his honour, three sheep were slaughtered live on his own channel." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) adds a list of gifts being offered to the reporter such as, "The Emir of Qatar has offered a godlen statue of a horse."

BBC News reports Muntadhar stated today he was tortured: "Shortly after his release from nine months in a Baghdad prison, Muntadar al-Zaidi demanded an apology - and said he would name the officials later." Ned Parker and Mohammed Arrawi (Los Angeles Times) quote him stating today, ""Here I am free and the country is still a prisoner." Marc Santora (New York Times) adds, "He claimed that he was beaten with pipes, steel cables and electric shocks while in custody. He added that he believed there were many who would like to see him dead, including unnamed American intelligence agencies." Ahmeed Rasheed, Suadad al-Salhy, Khalid al-Ansary, Tim Cocks and Samia Nakhoul (Reuters) quote his bother Uday stating, "I wish Bush could see our happineess. When President Bush looks back and turns the pages of his life, he will see the shoes of Muntazer al-Zaidi on every page." Phillippe Naughton and Richard Kerbaj (Times of London) describe the reporter, "Sporting a thick beard and wearing a sash in the colours of the Iraqi national flag around his shoulders, Mr al-Zaidi was unrepentant after his release from jail after serving nine months of a one-year sentence." McClatchy Newspapers' Sahar Issa provides a full translation of Muntadhar's remarks and this is an excerpt:

Firstly, I give my thanks and my regards to everyone who stood beside me, whether inside my country, in the Islamic world, in the free world. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act. But, simply, I answer: What compelled me to confront is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.
And how it wanted to crush the skulls of (the homeland's) sons under its boots, whether sheikhs, women, children or men. And during the past few years, more than a million martyrs fell by the bullets of the occupation and the country is now filled with more than 5 million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. And many millions of homeless because of displacement inside and outside the country.
We used to be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread. And the Shiite would pray with the Sunni in one line. And the Muslim would celebrate with the Christian the birthday of Christ, may peace be upon him. And despite the fact that we shared hunger under sanctions for more than 10 years, for more than a decade.
Our patience and our solidarity did not make us forget the oppression. Until we were invaded by the illusion of liberation that some had. (The occupation) divided one brother from another, one neighbor from another, and the son from his uncle. It turned our homes into neverending funeral tents. And our graveyards spread into parks and roadsides. It is a plague. It is the occupation that is killing us, that is violating the houses of worship and the sanctity of our homes and that is throwing thousands daily into makeshift prisons.
I am not a hero, and I admit that. But I have a point of view and I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated. And to see my Baghdad burned. And my people being killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, and this weighs on me every day and pushes me toward the righteous path, the path of confrontation, the path of rejecting injustice, deceit and duplicity. It deprived me of a good night's sleep.
Dozens, no, hundreds, of images of massacres that would turn the hair of a newborn white used to bring tears to my eyes and wound me. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Fallujah, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. In the past years, I traveled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and hear with my own ears the screams of the bereaved and the orphans. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.

Again, that is an excerpt. A small one. He outlines many things in speech including the torture he says he experienced.
McClatchy's Hannah Allam notes he states "Iraqi guards tortured him with whippings and electric shocks during his nine-month detention. He was missing at least one front tooth. The focus of Zaidi's speech Tuesday wasn't on his own ordeal, however, but the death and destruction that Iraqis have experienced since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003." CNN reports (link has text and video) he's now heading to Greece, citing his brother Dhirgham al-Zaidi, "for medical treatment."

His claims of torture are not surprising and Iraq's prisons were the subject of
a report on Sunday by Alice Fordham (writing for the Christian Science Monitor):

In a room thick with heat and sweat, light from a small window falls on rows of squatting prisoners and plastic bags of belongings hung from nails on every inch of the wall. The guard explains that 74 men live in this room, which is roughly 10 by 20 feet. A further 85 are usually in the corridor, he adds, while 12 are kept next to the toilet.
This is Hibhib prison on the outskirts of Baquba, the dusty, volatile capital of Diyala Province roughly 40 miles from Baghdad.
It is just one of the prisons in the province where detainees and US forces allege overcrowding, lengthy pretrial detention, and torture used to extract confessions. While the conditions here may be more severe than elsewhere in the country, Iraq's national detention system as a whole has been harshly criticized by Western human rights organizations.
A December 2008 report by the New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) went as far as to assert a "disturbing continuity" with Saddam Hussein-era detention. A committee set up by the Iraqi government in June is investigating abuses. But a lack of accountability and political will, say human rights workers, are serious impediments to reversing the culture of abuse cultivated under Mr. Hussein.

US Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq. He landed there today on an unannounced visit.
Scott Wilson (Washington Post) reports of his landing, "As he emerged from his C-17 aircraft into a hot dusk about 4:50 p.m. local time, the vice president was greeted by Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq; U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill; and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. Biden's national security adviser, Tony Blinken, and deputy secretary of State Jim Steinberg followed him through the welcome line." Karen Travers (ABC News) reports he stated he believes a referendum on the Status Of Forces Agreement will take place at some point. Edwin Chen (Bloomberg News) quotes his use of "optimistic" to describe US military leaders on Iraqi security forces abilities to increase security functions in their country and notes the top military commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, used the term "stable" to describe security in Iraq. Really? Too bad the news cycle already had an Odierno injection today. He'd just spoken to BBC News before the visit and painted a far bleaker picture: "It's important to see this through. I concern myself that people don't forget about Iraq, and what we're trying to accomplish here [. . .]" BBC: "BBC correspondent Andrew North says that Gen Odierno was choosing his words with care. But he was giving a clear message, that with the situation still fragile here, the US cannot leave Iraq early."

Karen Travers ABC news report is text but it does have video of Biden speaking in Iraq to reporters including when he declares, "I've made -- this is my third trip since we've been elected. The second trip since we've been sworn in and I'll be back -- I'll be back again. And, uh, I'm coming back to speak with the Iraq leadership." Iraqi leadership? In last Tuesday's snapshot, The Economist editorial entitled "Iraq's freedoms under threat: Could a police state return" was noted:

In any event, Mr Maliki and his friends are trying to secure as much control as they can over the levers of power in the run-up to a general election in January, all the more feverishly since a rash of big bombings in Baghdad in the past two months has badly dented his reputation as a guarantor of public safety. His government is also seeking to tighten rules to regulate political parties and independent associations (including charities), causing still more alarm. "This is not how you build a democracy," says Maysoon al-Damluji, a liberal member of parliament.

Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) weighs in on the editorial and notes a 2008 piece he wrote:

The 2008 post goes on to detail just some of the vast amount of information, readily available in mainstream newspapers and magazines, about the American use of death squads and "paramilitaries" to carry out "extrajudicial killings" of people accused -- by someone, somewhere, for some reason or no reason at all -- of being "terrorists" or "insurgents," or "bad guys," to use the playground parlance so favored by our high priests and their media acolytes. These killings, these "dirty squads," have been part of the occupation of Iraq since the beginning, as has the systematic use of torture and the unlawful detention of innocent people. That al-Maliki is carrying on the practices and policies of those who put him into power should come as no surprise -- not even to the Economist.

Last Thursday,
Oliver August (Times of London) reported, "The Iraqi opposition accused Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, yesterday of purging the American-trained security apparatus so that he could attain quasi-dictatorial powers. Mr al-Maliki, who is facing a tough election battle, has dismissed three high-profile members of the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the fight against insurgent groups. He has also forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and replaced several police and army commanders in the last few weeks. The moves provoked outrage among political opponents, who worry about the rise of a new police state and accuse the Prime Minister of using the aftermath of last month's massive bomb attack in Baghdad to make a power grab." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports today that Nouri's "embarked on a charm offensive agmong Shiites in the south of the country, a crucial but fickle electorate, in his bid to hold on to power in Iraq's January parliamentary vote." The voters he is hoping to woo complain about public services including the water -- or lack of -- which lead Nouri to promise a multi-million dollar project that will provide Basra with potable water. Suddenly, that's an issue. It's funny how when Nouri hits the campaign trail he appears to 'discover' that not everyone lives in the lap of luxury he does.

On Al Jazeera's latest Inside Iraq (which began airing Friday night), the topic was the political situation in Iraq with an emphasis on what the death of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim may mean. Joining host Jassim Azzawi for the discussion were Iraqi Parliamentarians Kassim Daoud and Adnan Pachachi along with National Dialogue Front leader Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Jassim Azzawi: And now we are joined from Dubai by Kassim Daoud, the leader of the Solidarity Bloc, and from Baghdad Saleh al-Mutlaq, leader of the National Dialogue Front in Iraq and from London by Iraq's elder statesman Adnan Pachachi who is also a member of Iraq's Parliament. Gentlemen, welcome to Inside Iraq. Kassim, let me start with you. al-Maliki has refused to join the new bloc that has been created and you are a member of that bloc, the Iraqi National Alliance primarily because of the presence of Ibrahim al-Jaafari and perhaps because of Moqtada al-Sadr. Can Maliki win without your bloc?

Kassim Daoud: Well that's a very difficult question. I mean it's premature to answer the question like this to comment that the Alliance, actually, is still open to everybody. We announced it as a bloc which has to be the foundation for the national mandate or the national enterprise. We cannot say that Maliki didn't join us so far, the negotiation is still going on.

Jassim Azzawi: Kassim Daoud, it seems to me that his answer is final. He wanted to be the sole candidate to run for the premiership as well as he wanted a limitation on to Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Moqtada al-Sadr blocked. That has become amply clear.

Kassim Daoud: Well the problem before you is clear but for me since I'm an insider, actually, I'm not looking at the situation as it is. The guy having sort of a political mandate, he would like to pursue with his mandate. The Alliance would like to -- their own mandate so I cannot say the negotiation terminated. I think still we have room although the room is probably slim but I think that we cannot give such a sharp answer till we have to wait for probably too more weeks.

Jassim Azzawi: Slim indeed it is. Adnan Pachachi, as politicians with your finger on the pulse of the Iraqi body politics, how much distrust is there among the political parties?

Adnan Pachachi: Well we feel that the present government has not done its duty properly. We still have corruption, the security situation is still very fragile, incompetence in many departments of state is very clear and, of course, sectarianism still plays a very important role. And the security forces have been heavily infiltrated and they don't seem able to manage the affairs of security of the country. As you know, I personally, and many others -- from the very beginning -- of the invasion of Iraq, we were against sectarianism as a basis for political activity and that's why I joined the National Iraqis' list which has no sectarian color, which includes the people from various sects and nationalities and we feel that this is what the Iraqi people want. As it was very clear in the provincial elections some months ago.

Jassim Azzawi: Since you mentioned the Iraqi National List which is headed by the former Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, who if I am not mistaken, Saleh Mutlaq, you are right now in negotiations with him as well as a few other parties to create a balancing power against this Iraqi National Alliance. Can you tell us how far have you gone with this negotiation? Can we expect an announcement soon?

Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well with Dr. Allawi, we are very new to each other. We have been negotiating with each other for quite a long time and we don't see that big difference is between us actually so the possibility of having an alliance between us, which gather us, is quite high and it's probably going to be after the 8th that we're going to announce something. Anyway, we think, Mr. Jassim, there are about seventy percent of Iraqis who did not participate in the election before. Those are the people who are against the political process or they are not satisfied with this political process and they are against the existing government and the existing parties who are running the government now. We look forward to joining those people and to encourage them to participate in the election. The problem --

Jassim Azzawi: And they want leadership, Saleh Mutlaq? I understand that you are also negotiating with three, four other parties. What we have heard from the media right now, it is a question of the leadership: Who's going to head that list and whether it's going to be a collective leadership or not?

Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well I don't think we should disagree on the leadership. I think that the image that we are trying to put is that the competition is who is going to participate in saving the country? Not in leading the country at this time -- leading the country or being the prime minister or president without doing something to Iraq which is now in a very serious situation is not going to do much. What I heard from Dr. Allawi is that he's not interested in having the power if he cannot do the change in Iraq. And this is also my belief too -- that it is not a matter of having the pulse of this government, it is a matter of saving the country which is going to fall apart unless there is a group of elite people who can lead the country to a safe place. Otherwise, this country is going to be run again by the Islamists for another four years, by extremists, by sectarian people, then the country is going to face a very serious and difficult situation which is going to be even more difficult for the people to whom are going to come after those people who are going to correct the mistakes and damage which is gong to happen if the Islamists --

Jassim Azzawi: Indeed.

Saleh al-Mutlaq: -- are going to run the country for another four years.

Jassim Azzawi: Indeed, Saleh al-Mutlaq, it's gong to be a vicious circle. Since we talked about the Islamists and the leadership, let me go back to Kassim Daoud. Right now the new alliance that has been created, Ammar [C.i. note: wrong name dropped in between] al-Hakim is going to be the new leader of that alliance. He's a young man, he's the son of Abdel Aziz al-Hakim. Surely, he does have the experience in order to carry the mantle of his father?

Kassim Daoud: Well first of all let me just say some comments on Dr. Mutlaq's statement. Unfortunately he gave a figure that 70% of the Iraqis didn't participate in the elections. I'm really surprising from where he got this percent or this data.

Saleh al-Mutlaq: This is, this is the reality. Apart from the --

Kassim Daoud: Come on, come on --

Saleh al-Mutlaq: -- that has been published --

Kassim Daoud: -- Iraq announced their statistic and the United Nations [. . .] their statistics. Nothing like this at all. The participation was in the first election around 79% and in the provincial election 54% --

Jassim Azzawi: And yet you must agree, Kassim Daoud,

Kassim Daoud: -- these things.

Jassim Azzawi: -- there was a large segment, a big swarth of the Iraqis, they were disenfranchised simply because of what they have seen up to the election of 2005 and then they

Kassim Daoud: -- this is, this is a different issue.

Jassim Azzawi: -- decided to boycott the election.

Kassim Daoud: -- is a different issue. No, no, no. This is a different issue. But what did he say really --

Saleh al-Mutlaq: I'm talking about, Mr. Jassim, I am talking about the last election --

Jassim Azzawi: The provincial election.

Saleh al-Mutlaq: -- I was on the ground in many areas, the participation was 20 to 25% only and what was published --

Kassim Daoud: This is not true. The participation 54 [percent] and this is an official figure which was supported by the representative and the monitoring of the United Nations. Anyway.

Jassim Azzawi: The percentage aside, Kassim Doud, let's- let's go back to this Islamist tinge of the National Iraqi Alliance. I'm the first to recognize that there are some secular parties, very small one, in this new National Alliance and yet the Islamist tinge, so to speak, covers everybody inside it.

Kassim Daoud: Well again, Mr. Jassim, let me correct something. Regarding to Abdel Aziz al-Hakim's son, he's Ammar al-Hakim not [C.I. note: wrong name] al-Hakim, just to correct this information. Regarding to the alliance actually, yes indeed it includes many names, many secular blocs besides the Islamist and the aim of this alliance as I mentioned at the beginning that our vision, that we would want to create or establish the foundation of the bloc or National Alliance headed or leaded by a clear political mandate and this is what I wish to get over from the sectarian or sectarianims. Plus, as Dr. Pachachi said, that we are now lookng for many things. And the philosophy of the alliance, one of these alliances, that we are not anymore governed toward the -- we are governed toward the competence.

That's an excerpt of the discussion.
Richard Kerbaj (Times of London) notes that Joe Biden's trip into the Green Zone today took place as the Green Zone was shelled with mortars. CNN reports, "CNN's Cal Perry said he heard four loud 'booms.' Warning alarms were sounded, and security was stepped up". Reuters adds the Baghdad mortar attack resulted in 2 Iraqis being killed and five injured ("They fell shortly after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden flew into Iraq for talks with Iraqi leaders.").

In other reported violence today . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured two police officers and one civilian. Reuters notes a Falluja roadside bombing which left three people injured and, dropping back to Monday, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured one person.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person stabbed to death in Kirkuk.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer wounded in a machine gun attack outside his home. Reuters drops back to Monday to note 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in an attack on a Mosul checkpoint.

Today, David Finkel's
The Good Soldiers is released -- his book about embedding with the US military in Iraq. Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reports the book "provides a graphic, second-by-second description of the U.S. military's 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists" Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh in Baghdad July 12, 2007. She quotes the wire agency's attorney Thomas Kim, "We continue to have questions whether or not the actions taken by the soldiers in the area that led to the deaths of the two Reuters journalists were necessary and appropriate. My goal is to understand the basic on which the military concluded that the shooting was justified." As far back as July 16, 2007, Dean Yaters (Reuters) was reporting that the wire agency was asking for a full inquiry into the killings. At the time of their deaths, the US military was asserting that they had encountered 'insurgents' and gunfire was exchanged. Ann Scott Tyson reports Finkel's article backs up the claim that 'insurgents' were present and firefights had taken place. The cameras were apparently mistaken for weapons according to Finkel's account: The gunner tracked Noor-Eldeen as he fled into a pile of trash and fired three more bursts with the cannon, killing him as he could be seen trying to stand in a cloud of dust. Chmagh was wounded and began trying to push himself up on his knees and crawl away, but could move only a few inches. The crew saw that Chmagh was alive, but initially did not shoot him because he was unarmed. However, when a van drove up and two men tried to pick up Chmagh, the crew requested permission to fire and received it. The gunner opened fire, killing Chmagh and the two men, and injuring two children who were inside the van.

Staying with US reporters,
last Friday a Democracy Now! segment with Jeremy Scahill was finally aired. (It was a taped segment.) It was Iraq-related so it wasn't 'pressing'. Too bad. On that segment, Jeremy called out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his silence over the death by electrocution in Iraq of one of Reid's own constituents. Las Vegas' KTNV reports that yesterday Reid suddenly became interested in the death of Adam Hermanson and wants an investigation. We highlighted Jeremy's report in The Nation last week but if you're late to the story -- or confused because there have been so many deaths by electrocution in Iraq -- click here. Today Scahill reports at The Nation on Reid's call for an investigation and notes, "In interviews with The Nation, the Hermanson family alleged that Triple Canopy initially misled them about the circumstances surrounding Adam Hermanson's death. Patricia Hermanson, Adam's mother, says she was told her son was found collapsed by his bed, not in a shower. The family also says that they were told Adam had no marks on his body only to discover later that he had wounds up and down his left arm. The Hermansons also say that a Triple Canopy representative told them a few days after Adam's death the company stripped his living quarters and removed the plumbing, water heater, electrical wiring and other equipment. If true, this could make determining the circumstances of Hermanson's death--and what role, if any, faulty wiring may have played--more difficult. Triple Canopy says it will not comment while an investigation is still pending." Staying on the subject of contractors, we'll note the opening of Sherwood Ross' "2 GOP-APPOINTED JUDGES SHAME AMERICA" (Veterans Today):The federal Appeals Court decision to toss a lawsuit claiming contractors tortured detainees in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison is what you'd expect from a tyranny.The new ruling brushes off the charges by 212 Iraqis who said they or their late husbands were abused by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib. The suit charged private security firm CACI International Inc., of Arlington, Va., of crimes inside the Baghdad hellhole. But in a 2-1 ruling, the D.C. Court of Appeals said CACI "is protected by laws barring suits filed as the result of military activities during a time of war," the Associated Press reported. This opinion was written by Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee, and supported by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a Bush appointee. "During wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be pre-empted," Silberman wrote. If so, with about as many U.S.-led contract mercenaries as regular army involved in the Iraq conflict, this decision preposterously exempts some 150,000 fighters from legal action for any crimes they commit. It gives a shoot-to-kill pass to privateers such as Blackwater, whose operatives on one occasion are said to have gunned down 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians. "This abuse and torture of these prisoners detained during war time constituted war crimes and torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the Convention against Torture, and the U.S. Federal Anti-torture Statute---felonies, punishable by death if death results as a violation thereof," said Francis Boyle, an international law authority at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. "Judges Silberman and Kavanaugh have now become Accessories After the Fact to torture, war crimes and felonies in violation of United States federal law and international criminal law," Boyle asserted. (See if they are ever prosecuted!)

Finally, independent journalist
David Bacon explores the intersection of labor and immigration in "Photos: Labor Camps in Hollister, Calif." (Political Affairs):The Campo Quintero (Quintero Camp) is a labor camp for farmworkers, operated by labor contractor Hope Quintero. Most of the workers living in this camp are also Mixtec, Triqui or other indigenous migrants from southern Mexico, although workers from other parts of Mexico also live here. The signs at the camp entrance say: "Drunks and scandalous people will absolutely not be admitted. Those who disobey will be thrown out of the camp." and "It is strictly prohibited to rob or take things without permission." Ramon Valadez Tadeo, a migrant from Guadalajara, shares his room with four other men, as does Jesus Ramon from Tijuana.Labor camps are gradually disappearing in California. Up through the 1960s and 70s, growers maintained camps where migrant workers could live while they were employed at the ranch. In some labor camps, single workers without families lived year around. This was especially true for Filipinos, who came from the islands as single men, and who were forbidden by antimiscegenation laws from marrying women of other nationalities and starting families.When the United Farm Workers grew strong in the 1970s and early 1980s, growers began tearing down the camps, disclaiming any responsibility for housing for the farm workers they employed. As a result, today many California farm workers sleep in cars, crowded in motels or apartments, or even under the trees.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon is also on KFPA's The Morning Show today (each Wednesday) discussing labor and immigration issues.

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