Friday, December 18, 2009

Tom Hayden and other fools

"War bill survives poisonous vote" (David Rogers, Politico):
A $626 billion Pentagon budget narrowly advanced in the Senate Friday morning, but not before Washington’s political battles seemed to eclipse the real wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Senate scene, played out in a post-midnight session on a freezing night, dramatized how poisonous the atmosphere has become in the
health care fight.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates had to weigh in for fear the military would be left with only stop-gap funding while fighting
two wars overseas. And ailing 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) was wheeled in for the 1 a.m. vote while his old friend Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) deserted the bill under pressure from his own leadership to slow action.

Hey, remember when Democrats were going to cut off funding to the wars? Yeah, those days are long gone. These days? Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. The Who sang it. Won't get fooled again.

But some live to be fooled over and over.

What is Tom Hayden, after all, but a fool?

He always thinks his whoring will bring him something but it's brought him nothing.

Married to a famous women with money, he was able to buy a seat in the California state legislature (buy it in the most expensive state race up to that point). Without her? He can't even get elected Mayor of Los Angeles.

It ended for Tom when he showed his true colors. (Hint: Polling to find out if the woman you're married to -- the woman who pays ALL the bills -- is hurting your political ambitions is never a smart idea.)

But he still thinks that any day the Democratic Party will embrace him.

He can get a little, tiny bit of support from Congress members from California and that's about it.

He is laughed at, he is mocked.

He is the biggest joke among the gadflies of the political world.

He never catches on to that.

He continues to think that tomorrow he will be a "king maker." Tomorrow.

It never comes. His life's drawing to a close. He has nothing to show for it. Other than the 'property settlement' he got via extortion.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, December 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iran may have invaded Iraq and taken over an oil field, or it may not have, opinions continue to come in on the Iraq Inquiry, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, it's a bad week for Tom Hayden who finds little to clip and paste into his scrapbook, and more.

Today on NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show -- after the unplanned bluegrass moment (for approximatly five minutes of the show "Some Morning Soon" is playing over the guests during today's show) -- Iraq was noted by Diane and her guests Youchi J. Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Farah Stockman (Boston Globe)..

Diane Rehm: Youchi Dreazen of the Wall St. Journal and you're listening to
The Diane Rehm Show and, Youchi, tell us about this software breach involving US drones in Iraq.

Youchi Dreazen: Yeah, what it is is that that the video feeds from the drones that are used and, frankly, from other aircraft as well but particularly the drones, the video feeds are not encrypted. Which means that if you're an insurgent nearby and you have a laptop and you have -- one of the programs you can use is called
SkyGrabber which costs about $26 and you can download it off the web, you could then watch in real time and download and store the feeds of any Predator nearby which is significant for two reasons. One, the US often uses Predators over its own forces so that if there's a US operation, they have Predators overhead, so somebody who's watching that feed could be able to see our personnel. It's also significant because it shows somebody watching what we're looking for -- so Predators would be over a given highway, a given series of buildings, a lot of them are used along the Iraq-Iran border to try to cut down on weapon smuggling from Iran and this would show somebody watching those feeds theoretically what's being watched, when we're watching it, etc. What's somehow more surprising is that this has been known about for so long. It's been talked about in the Pentagon for so long and no one's done anything about it. This was an issue in Bosnia. And we reported today that in 2004 there was a concern about -- in 2004, it wasn't insurgents intercepting it, it was what if Russia and China basically use a James Cameron-style special effect so that somebody's watching a drone feed, they don't see anything and suddenly there's a tank? Or they do see something, but it's not actually there? So this has been known about, it's been discussed but no action's been taken --

Diane Rehm: Tom?

Youchi Dreazen: -- at least until now.

Tom Gjelten: Well, Diane, this is a really important story and we should point out that
Youchi and his Wall St. Journal colleagues [Sibohan Gorman and August Cole] broke this story this week so, you know, credit where it's due. I think one of the complicating factors here is that ground troops, soldiers and marines are increasingly make use of use from drones and other-other aircraft. Now a lot of the time the troops on the ground don't have as high technology available to them, you know, as the drone operators do. So you have more simplified technology on the ground trying to make use of these feeds and the feeds are providing extremely important information to them to help chart their ground operations but the technology has to be to oversimplify it, it has to be simplified for the ground troops to make use of it. They may not have the decryption technology that is necessary so you can't have really highly encrypted signals coming from above if the soldiers and marines on the ground don't have the technology to decode it. That's one of the issues that complicates the solution of this problem.

Diane Rehm: So somebody got hold of this. What use was made of the information?

Youchi Dreazen: That's the open question. I mean, the way that this was discovered was a sort of interesting, cloak and dagger kind of case where US troops arrested a Shi'ite militant, took his laptop and started going through it and on the laptop found video files. Then, in July, arrested other militants elsewhere in Iraq, actually from another group as it turned out, went through their laptops and found an even wider array of drone video files so this is kind of interesting sort of spy versus spy, this power was discovered.The military continues to insist that no missions were compromised, nobody was hurt. In fairness, it's a hard thing to prove, one way or another, but that has been -- the military has been adament from the beginning till now that, yes, these were intercepted, yes, they could be used but they didn't see any evidence so far that they had been used.

Diane Rehm: How embarrassing is this, Tom?

Tom Gjelten: Well it is embarrassing and it's all the more embarrassing because it's coming at a time when this administration is really proposing a much broader uh use of these drone aircraft, the Predators in particular. I mean, yesterday -- between yesterday and today, there were ten drone strikes in Pakistan. Now I think that's the most in any two day period in a long, long time. And this fits into the broader counter-terrorism strategy that this administration is proposing for Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, you know, to-to-to highlight the vulnerability of this approach at the very time when you're really proposing an expansion of this approach is, as you say, embarrassing.

Diane Rehm: Farah?

Farah Stockman: It also just shows that these insurgents are a lot more technology savy than anybody ever imagined they would be and I think that's the -- that's the new world we're living in.

NPR sidebar: Today on NPR's Fresh Air
Nellie McKay was a guest. Fresh Air is played on various NPR stations during the day and some NPR stations repeat that day's broadcast also at night and, in addition, the segment can be streamed online. Her new album is Normal As Blueberry Pie and this is a plug for Nellie because she stood up to all kinds of pressure in 2008 when she supported Ralph Nader. It took guts and, along with huge artistic talents, she has tremendous strength. Much more so than Ralph's 2000 'friends' who showed what cowards they really were. Excuse me, cowards and bullies since so many of them not only refused to stand with Ralph but actively tore down others who did. I voted for Ralph or Cynthia McKinney (I'm not saying which -- now or ever -- nor is Ava saying which she voted for). Either was a strong vote. This community endorsed Ralph. When Oklahoma members discovered they only had the choice of voting for War Hawk Barack or War Hawk John McCain, they went with with McCain because they knew there would be a strong push back on each of McCain's War Crimes as opposed to the limp response offerd by so much of the 'left' for Barack's. John R. MacArthur (Harper's magazine) notes the limp response from Frank Rich (a bad 'drama' 'critic' trying to masquerade as a 'thinker'), Hendrick Hertzberg, and others. We'll note his section on Tom-Tom Hayden:

Then there's Tom Hayden, the former radical and author of the Students for A Democratic Society's Port Huron Statement, who was a belligerent booster of Obama during last year's campaign. Hayden, too, is upset about Afghanistan, but not enough to cast aside his self-delusion about Obama. Claiming to speak for "the antiwar movement," he laments that the "costs in human lives and tax dollars are simply unsustainable" and, worse, that "Obama is squandering any hope for his progressive domestic agenda by this tragic escalation of the war."
Unsustainable? Tragic? There's no evidence that Obama and his chief of staff see any limit to their ability to print dollars, sell Treasury bonds and send working-class kids to die in distant lands. And what "progressive" agenda is Hayden talking about? So far, Obama's big domestic goals have been compulsory, government-subsidized insurance policies that will further enrich the private health-care business, huge increases in Pentagon spending and purely symbolic regulation of Wall Street.
While Obama was speaking to the unfortunate cadets, I couldn't help thinking of Richard Nixon and his "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, a plan that entailed a long and pointless continuation of the fighting. Most liberals would agree that Nixon was a terrible president. Yet, for all his vicious mendacity, I think the sage of San Clemente had a bad conscience about the harm he did, about all he caused to die and be crippled.
Instead of shoring up Obama's image of goodness, liberals really should be asking, "Does the president have a conscience?" Because if he does, he's really no better than Nixon.

I always knew Tom-Tom would spend his faded years as Tricky Dick's mistress. Also noting Tom-Tom, is
Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) who explains Tommy and Bill Fletcher's organization "Progressives For Barack" has -- like Blackwater -- became an embarrassment so -- like Blackwater -- Tommy and Billy are trying for a clean slate by changing the organization's name to "Progressives For America":

The left-wing Obamites were the nastiest of all. They viciously libeled anyone that advanced a Left critique of their hero, calling them enemies of a new "people's movement," when in fact it was they who were shutting the movement down in favor of a fan club and cheering section for Obama. Amiri Baraka spit poison at all who failed to pledge allegiance to the Great Obama, calling us infantile ultra-leftists and just plain "rascals." Bill Fletcher and Tom Hayden stuck with Obama like little sorcerer's apprentices as the president methodically savaged virtually every item on the progressive agenda. What else could they do? To break with Obama would amount to an admission that they were wrong about the progressive "potential" of their candidate; that he had always been a thoroughly corporate politician who would lurch to the Right as soon as he took office; and that, by failing to criticize Obama early in the campaign, they were guaranteeing that he would disrespect and ignore Blacks and progressives, once in office.
Tom Hayden now declares it's finally "time to strip the Obama sticker" off his car. Well, whoopee. Back in the day, Hayden would have been expected to engage in some serious self-criticism for misleading so many people about Obama. The same goes for Bill Fletcher, who appeared on a
Pacifica radio show last week sounding like he'd never been an Obama fan. Fletcher said it was inappropriate for the Nobel committee to award Obama the Peace Prize when the president had done nothing to cause a "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign policy. You can't influence a president of the United States to do the right thing, Fletcher said, by giving him awards in hopes that he will earn them. But that's exactly what Fletcher and his fellow Obama fanatics tried to pull off when they endorsed candidate Obama on a wish and a prayer when there was no reason to believe he would undertake any "fundamental shift" in U.S. foreign or domestic policy. As a result, the Left played no role whatsoever in the 2008 election. They just blew kisses at Obama, hoping he'd kiss them back after the inauguration.

Actually, it was worse than that. Throughout 2008, Barack repeatedly HIT the left and the response was to get starry-eyed and sing, "He hit me and it felt like a kiss." Especially true of Tom Hayden who was repeatedly used by Barack as a public punching bag (not limited to but including the sneer at "
Tom Hayden Democrats"). As we noted January 1, 2009: "That sort of behavior is a sickness. 2008 saw that sickness over and over as Barack repeatedly tossed population segments under the bus, repeatedly caved and sold out and was never, ever held accountable. But, hey!, he might have a liaison to the 'progressive' community! [. . .] Likewise, the Barack groupies will have to grow up at some point. Whether they do so in 2009 or after he's on his way out of office will determine whether the people force the change they need or spend the next years cheerleading blindly out of fear that they might hurt their Dream Lover. "

People need to get real. That includes grasping that a "draw-down" is what's promised in 2010, not a "withdrawal" from Iraq. Admiral Mike Mullens spoke of the "draw-down" today and yet notice all the sloppy so-called journalists calling it a "withdrawal." There is no talk of an Iraq withdrawal in 2010. The White House has been very clear that they plan a draw-down for 2010. Whether that will come to be, the world will have to wait and see. But a draw-down is not a withdrawal -- unless you're an ignorant fool.

A real demand for withdrawal -- not draw-down -- is in the news. Iraq's requesting that Iran withdraw.
Caroline Alexander and Margot Habiby (Bloomberg News) report, "Iraq's National Security Council said today that Iran violated their shared border and Iraq's 'territorial integrity' and called on the Islamic republic to withdraw its forces from the region." Timothy Williams and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) add, "The Iraqi government said Friday that Iranian troops had crossed the border and occupied a portion of an oil field situated on disputed land between the two countries, but Iranian officials immediately and vehemently disputed the account." Dow Jones Newswires states they were told that by a Missan Oil Compnay official that "Iranian forces took hold of an Iraqi well in a disputed section of the border after opening fire against Iraqi oil workers"; however, the official tells Dow Jones this action took place "two weeks ago." Suadad al-Salhy, Missy Ryan and Ralph Boulton (Reuters) quote Ahmed Ali al-Khafaji, Deputy Interior Minister, stating, "At 3:30 this afternoon, 11 Iranian [soldiers] infiltrated the Iran-Iraq border and took control of the oil well. They raised the Iranian flag, and they are still there until this moment." Gulf Daily News adds, "Officials have summoned Tehran's envoy in Iraq to discuss the matter, he said. Iraqi officials said the soldiers crossed into Iraqi territory yesterday and raised the Iranian flag at Fakka." Mosab Jasim (Al Jazeera) states, "The Iraqi president called for an emergency session to discuss what they describe as a violation from Iran, but nothing came out of the meeting and whatever actions they are going to take are still not clear." The President of Iraq is Jalal Talabani. However, the report indicates Jasim was referring to Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) offers this context, "Reports of the incident aggravated long-standing tensions between the countries, which fought a 1980-88 war that claimed as many as a million lives. Although Iraq's Shiite Muslim-led government and Shiite Iran have grown closer since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ousted Iraq's Sunni Muslim dictator, Saddam Hussein, border issues remain thorny, with sporadic posturing from both sides." If it's been seized, what's been seized? Alice Fordham (Times of London) explains, "The well is one of several in the Fakka oil field, which was part of a group offered to foreign investors in June, but no contract was awarded." She also notes that Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani went on state television to insist, "Iraq will not give up its oil wealth" today. Adam Arnold (Sky News) offers US military reaction: "A spokesman for the US military confirmed the soldiers had taken control of the oil well but added it was in 'disputed territory' near the border and happened fairly frequently. 'There has been no violence related to this incident and we trust this will be resolved through peaceful diplomacy between the governments of Iraq and Iran,' he said." While that source is unnamed US Col Peter Newell is on the record offering Arnold context. What really happened? Who knows? It will slowly emerge over the weekend, most likely. What is known is that the talk/rumors/incident had one result. Nick Godt (MarketWatch) reports that the rumors led to an initial rise in the price of oil per barrel today.

On the subject of oil, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding US interests. We'll leave out the partisans on the right (to avoid mocking anyone) and instead note that the same talking point
Jim Jubak (MoneyShow) which is boiled down to: The US is shut out of Iraq oil money. (A number of right-wingers are expanding and stating, "See the war wasn't about oil." Oil was part of it, oil wasn't the only thing.) Jubak laments America's lack of success in winning Iraq oil fields and points to "Royal Dutch Shell" and its success. Excuse me? What's that supposed to mean? "Royal Dutch Shell"? We think the Dutch are the only ones raking it in at Shell? Check their board of directors. 14 members of the board, 5 are British, 1 is American (Lawrence Ricciardi). 'Foreign company'? In this day and age are we that stupid? It's not "nationals," it's multi-nationals today. Jubank also notes Total's success. Total bills itself as "the fifth largest publicly-traded integrated international oil and gas company in the world" -- international. And we're not even looking at major shareholders in these companies. Again, these are "multi-nationals." That's the key word and this silly nonsense that some on the right are offering is nonsense. WQhat is British Petroleum (another winning bid)? Those not in the know would think, "State owned company in the United Kingdom." Uh, no, kids. BP was privatized sometime ago. And it absorged Standard Oil and Amoco. US companies. It's an international congolomerate, a multi-national at this point. George David sits on BP's board. George David is an American citizen. I'm not sure whether the right-wingers are that stupid or if they think we are but this idea that the US is shut out from the oil fields demonstrates (at best) a highly simplistic view of today's economic playing field and (at worst) a desire to knowingly deceive the public.

In Iraqi political news,
UPI reports that Ammar al-Hakim (head of the political party the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council) was in Damascus today meeting with Syrian President Bashar Asaad with al-Hakim expressin "his appreciation for Syria's support for Iraq as it emerges from years of war." The trip might be to make Ammar al-Hakim look more like a stately world player ahead of the elections and it may be to draw a line between himself and Nouri al-Maliki. It may be any number of things but it is hard not to read as al-Hakim thumbing his nose at Nouri since Nouri has repeatedly blamed Syria for the bi-monthly Baghdad bombings beginning in August. Iraqi elections may take place in March. US Staff Sgt Natalie Hedrick writes at the US Army website that, "With the Iraqi national elections approaching, U.S. Soldiers are preparing to support the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police while remaining in the background."

Turning to violence.
Tuesday two Christian churches were targeted with bombs in Mosul. Asia News reports that since then Zeid Majid Youssef has been murdered in a Mosul drive-by and that 1 of the men who murdered him "got out of the car to make sure he was dead". They note, "Speaking with AsiaNews Mgr Louis Sako, archbishop of Kirkuk, had slammed what was happening as the national government and the local governatorate proved unable to stop events, and the city's various ethnic groups, Arab, Kurdish and Turkmen, with possible foreign involvement, blamed each other." Alice Fordham (Times of London) also reports on the recent cases of Iraqi Christians again being targeted:

Last week 100 Christian leaders and politicians of all religions held an emergency meeting just before fresh violence broke out in the northern city of Mosul, with attacks on churches and Christian schools. On Tuesday a baby was killed and 40 people, including schoolchildren, were injured in three simultaneous bombings. Two days ago a Christian man was shot dead as he travelled to work.
"It is terrible," said Fadi, 26, an electricity worker from Mosul who asked that his real name not be used. "Most of the Christians are staying at home, or when they go out they watch their backs." In late 2008, killings of Christians in Mosul by insurgent groups left 40 dead and 12,000 fleeing their homes. Fadi reeled off a string of recent, smaller-scale attacks against Christians, fearful that the same level of violence would return.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) drops back to yesterday afternoon and night to report a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured, a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 2 lives and left ten people wounded and a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three police officers wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports water department employee Mohammed Abdullah was shot dead in Sulaimaniyah today.

In London yesterday, the
Iraq Inquiry concluded their public hearings for this year. They will resume public hearings next month. A number of commentators are weighing in on the Inquiry but before we get to that, we'll first note a section of yesterday's hearing. The committee, chaired by John Chilcot, heard from Jim Drummond, Martin Dinham and Stephen Pickford (link has video and transcript options).

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: I would like to turn to the question of funding and, of course, the United States was investing huge sums in the reconstruction of Iraq. The scale of the task as it appeared to you, it appeared to the UK, involved an attempt to drum up support from other donors, and this was led or went through the Madrid donors conference in October 2003. Can you explain to us -- both Mr Pickford and Mr Drummond really -- what were the obstacles to securing greater donor support for Iraq, and as a corollary to that, what impact did the then deteroiorating situation have on the attempt to obtain greater funds, greater support?

Jim Drummond: I think it had always been assumed that the World Bank and the UN would play a big role in the reconstruction of Iraq, and the UN and the World Bank did a joint needs assessment from July/August/September, so that a report was ready for the Madrid donors conference. It had a price tag on it of $55 billion, which is --

Stephen Pickford: I think the UN/World Bank one was 36 and then there was an extra 20 from the CPA, was my understanding.

Jim Drummond: All right. Anyway, a very large sum -- which they presented to the donors in Madrid. DFID and Hilary Benn in particular played a big role in trying to drum up support from the others. I think the fact that the World Bank and the UN had done this made it easier. This wasn't just a US/UK number coming up. It made it easier to get extra support. We were worried initially that we wouldn't be successful. In the end the pledges, I think, on the day added up to about $32 billion, and there were a few more that followed after that. So in terms of money put on the table, that was successful. The UK pledge was getting on for $1 billion, the US pledge was I think $18 billion. So that sort of gives you an idea of the scale of relative contribution. The security situation did play a very big part in how fast people could disperse. We ended up with relatively few donors with a presence in Iraq. As Stephen said, the World Bank and the UN -- the UN had local staff who were -- remained active, but the World Bank and the IMF essentially pulled out. There were relatively few donor experts from other countries and so the main contribution was -- in terms of expertise was certainly the US and the UK. That's quite a constraint actually, if you have got large numbers of countries pledging money but then not having any expertise on the ground to spend it. That was one of the reasons why we wanted to establish this trust fund mechanism managed by the World Bank and the UN. Just while I'm talking about that, I think yesterday you were told -- the day before -- by General Rollo that the UK contributed $300 million to a UN trust fund. The UN -- the UK contributed 30 million pounds to the UN trust fund and 40 million pounds to the World Bank trust fund.

Chair John Chilcot: Thank you for the correction.

So that's one section of the hearing yesterday. Reflecting on the Inquiry?
Peter Biles (BBC) feels, "This will be remembered as the week when the Iraq Inquiry went 'private' for the first time since the public hearings began in November." He's referring to this week when the decision was made to redact Jeremy Greenstock's testimony. He states, "The committee chairman, Sir John Chilcot, had taken advantage of the one minute delay on the broadcast to prevent some of Sir Jeremy's words being revealed. Three lines on page 68 of the Iraq Inquiry's official transcript were subsequently blacked out." (We covered that in Tuesday's snapshot, FYI.) Meanwhile, Chilcot's lengthy self-note (see yesterday's snapshot) is the focus for Chris Ames (Guardian):

inquiry's press chief doesn't want yesterday's statement by Chilcot, given at the end of the first batch of hearings, to be seen as a fightback against the very strong criticism it has endured. Fightbacks are seen as giving hostages to fortune and destined to backfire. But there has been a spin campaign this week, based on the line that the inquiry will be tougher when the big decision-makers appear in the second week of the New Year.
Chilcot made clear that Blair will appear in a public session, although he didn't rule out that the former prime minister would also have a secret session. But will the questioning be more rooted in documentary evidence, as Chilcot has promised? Can we expect, for example, to see Blair questioned about the
memo written by his foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning, which allegedly records that in January 2003 he and George Bush had made up their minds to invade Iraq whatever the intelligence and whatever happened at the UN?

Trina hit on similar points last night noting "that John Chilcot feels challenged, feels his integrity (as well as that of the committee's) is being questioned." The New Statesman has a folder here for all their Iraq Inquiry coverage. [And John Lennon fans and friends (who isn't one?) click here for an excerpt of a 1968 interview.] Michael Savage (Belfast Telegraph) offers this evaluation of the public hearings held thus far by the Inquiry:One theme has emerged above all others. "This time, in contrast to previous inquiries, where it becomes essential, they are prepared to leave Blair in the firing line," said Brian Jones, a former Ministry of Defence intelligence analyst. It is not just disgruntled civil servants or under-resourced military chiefs hitting back, either. Even former advisers have left the inquiry ensuring that Mr Blair has more awkward questions to answer. While the former head of MI6, Sir John Scarlett, told the committee that Mr Blair had been made aware of last-minute intelligence that Saddam Hussein's weapons had been dismantled, his personal adviser also weighed in this week. Sir John Sawers, foreign affairs adviser to the former Prime Minister, said he did not share Mr Blair's confidence that invading had been the right decision. "Frankly, had we known the scale of the violence, it might well have led to second thoughts about the entire project," he said. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who served as a special representative in Baghdad, added that Mr Blair had told him to make improving the media image of the situation in Iraq a priority, and accused him of giving him an unrealistic target for training Iraqi police.
Frances Gibb (Times of London) notes concerns that the lack of lawyers on the committee could prevent a truthful picture from emerging in the Inquiry and quotes Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve stating, "Having waited so long for an inquiry into Iraq, it is vital that we learn the whole truth. It is surprising that the inquiry is not benefiting from the probing questioning that an experienced lawyer would provide, particularly when it comes to taking evidence from the witnesses and experts involved"

Book notes.
Yesterday, I noted: "Last month, AK Press released The Battle of the Story of The Battle Of Seattle by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. We did a book discussion about it at Third. It's a strong book and an important one. A good holiday present if you're looking for ideas. With Aimee Allison, David Solnit authored the must read and community favorite Army Of None. His sister Rebecca Solnit is known for her own numerous writings as well as for her work with Courage to Resist." December 8th, Ann noted the book and I should have included that. My apologies to Ann (who will say it's no big deal but I think it is).

TV notes. Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings),
NOW on PBS asks: "Can a breakthrough health care innovation in Rwanda work in the U.S.?"In rural Rwanda, the simple and time-tested idea of medical house callsis not only improving the health of the community, but stimulating itseconomy as well. On Friday, December 18 at 8:30 pm (check locallistings), NOW travels to the village of Rwinkwavu to meet the Rwandandoctors, nurses and villagers who are teaming up with Boston-basedPartners in Health and the Rwandan government to deliver medicine andmedical counseling door-to-door. Would such an innovation work inAmerica? In the capital of Kigali, NOW's David Brancaccio sits down with RwandanPresident Paul Kagame to talk about international aid and Kagame'sultimate vision for a healthy, financially-independent Rwanda.
Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Charles Babington (AP), Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), John Dickerson (Slate) and Greg Ip (Economist). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Nicole Kurokawa, Patricia Sosa, Genevieve Wood and controversial stand-up comic Kim Gandy (new book: It's Okay To Fail Women -- And Liberating Too! -- They're Just Icky Girls With Cooties) to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Long RecessionScott Pelley returns to Wilmington, Ohio, to see how residents are coping a year after thousands of them lost their jobs when the town's largest employer shut down.
The PatriarchEcumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the 300 million-member Orthodox Christian Church, feels "crucified" living in Turkey under a government he says would like to see his nearly 2,000-year-old Patriarchate die out. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
Alec BaldwinMorley Safer profiles the versatile actor, who talks candidly about his career and his personal life - including his very public divorce and custody battle
60 Minutes, Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

We'll close with this from "
Elaine Brower to Army Recruiters: 'We Will be Your Worst Nightmare'" (World Can't Wait): I was sitting there in the back office, and then stated "I would like you to know that I am a member of a national organization called 'Military Families Speak Out' and it has about 4,000 members who all have loved ones who are serving or served in Iraq and Afghanistan. We oppose the wars vehemently and are doing everything in our power to stop them." I thought they would choke on their food at that point. Then I proceeded to say, "Since I work right here, I, along with hundreds of my activist friends, will be your worst nightmare!" As you could hear a pin drop and confusion spread all over their faces, I continued. "I am so against what you are doing. You strategically placed this recruiting center so that kids who are either coming out of high school with nowhere to go, or those who graduate college in lots of debt and no jobs because of the economy are enticed to join the military." "You are taking full advantage of the bad economy and sending more of our youth off to die and kill for illegal, immoral and illegitimate wars. You should be ashamed of yourselves and I don't know how you sleep at night." I stood up, took a button off my handbag that I received while protesting at West Point. I said, "This button is for you." I slammed it on the desk. "I got it when I was protesting at West Point when Obama was giving his "escalation speech." It demands all troops home now, you can keep it as a reminder."

nprthe diane rehm show
the wall st. journalsibohan gormanyochi j. dreazenaugust cole
john r. macarthur
glen fordblack agenda report
caroline alexanderbloomberg news
the new york timestimothy williamseric schmitt
mcclatchy newspapershannah allam
sahar issa
alice fordham
chris ames
the belfast telegraphmichael savagethe new statesmanthe times of londonfrances gibb
60 minutescbs newspbsnow on pbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
david solnitaimee allisoncourage to resist

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Iraq Inquiry

"Nailing the Iraq Lie" (Aijaz Zaka Syed, Khaleej Times):
In the countdown to the Iraq invasion and long since, Blair insisted ad nauseam that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Speaking in the world’s oldest parliament, a grim faced Blair solemnly warned the British public — and the world — that Saddam had the capability and the intent to launch a WMD attack against Britain “within 40 minutes.”
In fact, with his gift of the gab the man once known as Britain’s most successful politician played a crucial role in building the case for Iraq war, and gifting the much-needed legitimacy to with-us-or-against-us Bush and his cowboy coalition.
Without Britain’s support, it’s just inconceivable how Bush would have put together his Coalition of the Willing and gone to war against Iraq. As Ken Macdonald, one of Blair’s senior public servants and Britain’s former chief public prosecutor, wrote in the Times this week, the British leader used “alarming subterfuge with his partner George W Bush” to take the world to war.
A sham war that has totally destroyed Iraq, unleashing chaos that continue to rock the Arab country and the Middle East from one end to another!
Blair and Bush told us this war had been absolutely critical to the security and stability of the ‘civilized world.’ Just like the morally bankrupt politicians before them did, they told us the war was necessary for peace!
Even when the whole world stood up against the war, from Americas to Asia, the coalition stuck to its guns, insisting the war on Iraq—already on the brink after two major wars and years of devastating Western sanctions—was essential to rid the world of Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction!
And now Blair turns around to tell us WMD or no WMD, the Coalition of the Willing would have invaded Iraq anyway. Ironically though, in doing so, the man who has turned the old-fashioned deceit and lying into a refined art, may be telling the truth for a change!
In a now infamous interview with BBC’s Fern Britton that captured Blair at his smug best, he gloated: “I would still have thought it right to remove him (Saddam). I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat.”

The Iraq Inquiry appears to finally be getting a little more attention beyond England. It also was the topic of many e-mails Sunny relayed to me today.

1) I don't write about it because I don't have the time to go through transcripts and follow memos and this and that. C.I. doesn't have the time either but works hard to manage it and just reading about it in the snapshots can sometimes be "Woah" for me. There's a great deal to track.

2) Does my not covering it mean I don't think it's important? I think it's actually the biggest story on the world stage today. I'm surprised that the press has given it so little attention. I'm not surprised that US press tends to echo C.I.'s observations . . . one week after C.I.'s made them. I think for a lot of people, if you're going to follow it, you're following it through C.I. There's just so much and it's too much really.

3) The focus of the inquiry is too broad. So with that in mind, it's a great deal of work to cover the Inquiry. I think C.I.'s done an amazing job. I know on Fridays, when she's dictating the snapshot, she's totally stressed out on the Iraq Inquiry stuff. She's on the phone with attorneys and reporters in England and checking things and asking, "Is this important? It seems important to me?" She's not just reading the transcripts but reading the transcripts is time consuming enough. On Fridays, she's 'done' with the snapshot when she just can't take it anymore. She'll say, "Give me a second." Take a breath, and then dictate something to wrap it up and say, "Send it."

4) "It's the Chilcot Inquiry!" That may be what some call it but it's the "Iraq Inquiry." Google it, visit the webpage for the inquiry, you'll see it is the "Iraq Inquiry."

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 16, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, one of Iraq's two vice presidents informs that "the government hushed up the results of the investigation," the Iraq Inquiry continues in England with some notice given (by Chair John Chilcott) to the human cost of the Iraq War, some details emerge on the deal the US cut with the KRG, and more.

Starting with Iraqi elections. At the start of this year, Iraq's national elections were supposed to take place in December 2009. There were many reasons for this including (a) the fact that it takes weeks for Iraq to put together a government (the winners of the elections will then decide in Parliament who the prime minister will be) and (b) the fact that the terms expire at the end of January 2010. But Nouri just knew he was able to move mountains and the elections were pushed back to January 2010. But no one worked the issue (including the US -- the scramble is yet another indictment against the US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill). The press kept talking about January elections, kept saying they were taking place. Predicting instead of reporting. Not really understanding their role, their function or their obligation. After an election law suffered a veto from the country's Presidency Council, January went up in smoke. Currently, 'intended' elections may take place in March. That's a possibility due to frantic, last minute deals being made in the hours
before midnight on December 6th allowing the latest election measure to pass. What deals were made?

Fuad Hussein is the Chief of Staff for the KRG President Masoud Barzani and Falah Mustafa Bakir heads the KRG's Dept of Foreign Relations.. Both are in DC for the week with plans to also visit Detroit and the Iraqi community there.
Eli Lake (Washington Times) reports the Kurds got behind the election measure only after the US made a "historic" commitment to the KRG which Hussein states includes promises that the long postponed census would take place, the the issue of Kirkuk being resolved and more. With Lake's article, the Washington Times offers a video clip:

Fuad Hussein: Many people know that we were negotiating with Washington, with Baghdad. In Baghdad, we were negotiating with our group in Baghdad. We had two groups in Baghdad negotiating election law. We were negotiating with the American ambassador, we were negotiating with the other political leaders, Arab political leaders, in Baghdad. So we were about, for two weeks, the whole day and sometimes until one o'clock in the night, negotiating about this. So when we felt that there isn't any alternative as far as distrubtion of these seats but, to be honest, we find that it is not fair to give so little seats to the Kurdistan Region. We were thinking about a linkage and politics you have got that so we were thinking about a linkage between accepting this and getting also somewhere else or reaching somehwere else, another target so then the Americans were ready to discuss other matters with us which are our priorities and which are important and which has been riased and disccused many times at meetings with the American side and then it has been accepted and there was a green light to accept the election law.

Zvi Bar'el (Haaretz) speaks with Barzani and reports the KRG "is making due with an American commitment to preserve the region's autonomy as part of a federal Iraq, but his remarks have caused a shudder in both Iraq and Turkey because an American commitment implies support for Kurdish demands that the Iraqi government opposes." And among the current conflicts between the KRG and Baghdad is oil. UPI notes, "As it is, Baghdad is already at odds with Iraq's Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous enclave in the northeast. In the absence of an oil law, the Kurdish Regional Government is battling the centeral government over Kurdistan's energy resources. The KRG has signed contracts, far more lucrative than those secured by the central government, with some 20 foreign oil companies. The Kurds see this as the economic underpinning of an eventual independent state." (Mike noted and weighed in on Eli Lake's article last night.)

BBC News reports that Nouri's cabinet has a new 'brainstorm' on countering bombings? Offer rewards "for information that prevents bomb attacks." Of course, you need to grasp that if you tip off on a bomb attack, your name probably goes on a list that, in a later bombing, will lead you to be among the many suspects who are beaten into giving confessions and then have your confession aired on Iraqi TV -- it's Nouri's own little reality show, Who Wants To Be Forced To Confess To A Crime You Didn't Commit? And, of course, turning tipsters into later suspects means Nouri won't actually have to pay any reward money. Not that there would ever be any check on it to begin with because it's not as if the tipster will show up on TV announcing, "We were starving but now, thanks to Nouri and my bombing tip, we have a home!" Such an admission would most likely get you killed. In the real world, Hoda al-Jasim (Asharq Alawsat) interviewed Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, this week and he had a number of comments regarding what's being called Iraq's "security crisis."

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Your joy did not last long, as less than 36 hours later the Tuesday bombings took place. What is your explanation of the timing of these attacks? In your opinion, who is responsible for this security crisis? [Tariq al-Hashimi] I have a theory with regards to these operations, as there is more than one party being targeted. I am very saddened by what happened and I feel embarrassed as although I am in a high ranking [governmental] position I am unable to reduce the internal casualties. The problem is that the security file is in the hands of one party, and the Presidency Council is marginalized and excluded from any consultation or participation [in this]. We have not received any information on the Bloody Wednesday attacks [19 August 2009], or the Bloody Sunday attack [25 October 2009] and the Tuesday attack [8 December 2009; all [the information] that we have is the same information that reaches any Iraqi citizen through the media. The Presidency Council does not know what is happening, and we do not have the capabilities that will allow us to find out what is happening or whether the official in charge of the security file had learnt from previous lessons and saved Iraqi lives. I hope that Iraqi Prime Minister and commander-in-chief (Nouri al-Maliki), who is exclusively responsible for this security file, is fair and courageous and shoulders the responsibility and gives justice to all the lives lost and blood shed by saying that the security challenges are greater than his ability, and that he admits default and failure, and hands the security file to professional security experts. When he does this, I will stand strongly beside the Iraqi Prime Minister and support him, when he admits failure in managing the security file, and makes the decision to hand responsibility of this over to someone else.
[. . .]

I am very concerned that the government has kept silent about the outcome of the Bloody Wednesday and Bloody Sunday investigations, as what happened happened because the dark forces had the freedom to pick the time and location [of the attacks], which not only targeted the institutions of the state, but also innocent people. Therefore the time has come to admit defeat and hand over this file to those who possess [security] expertise and skill. We must admit failure and hand over this investigation to specialist committees, the security services should not conduct this investigation as they themselves stand accused, rather this investigation should be handed over to high level committees to study what happened and hold those involved accountable.

Hand over? al-Hashimi responds to a question as to whether or not (as rumored) the Presidency Council is against the execution of 'suspects' by noting that Nouri has kept the Presidency Council completely out of the loop in the investigation and they've seen no evidence of anything: "the government hushed up the results of the investigation." On the investigation into yesterday's Baghdad bombings,
Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report, "The [Iraqi] investigators were heard discussing how two people wearing officers uniforms had parked in the lot and walked away." Suadad al-Salhy, Ahmed Rasheed, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Jon Hemming (Reuters) add, "There is widespread suspicion in Iraq that the police and armed forces have been infiltrated by militants, take bribes to allow insurgents to mount attacks, or may be colluding with militants to undermine Maliki before a March 7 general election."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul in an attack on a military checkpoint and, dropping back to last night, 1 person shot dead in Mosul ("owner of a neighbourhood generator").


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Baghdad roadside bombing targeting Sahwa leader Shiekh Latif which claimed the life of the sheikh and left two other people injured, a Baghdad mini-bus bombing which claimed 2 lives and left five people wounded and, dropping back to last night for all that follows, a Baghdad sticky bombing left Col Abdulrazaq Mohammed injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded one police officer, a Baghdad grenade attack on a "grain storage building" which wounded two guards, a Baghdad car bombing which injured five people, and a Mosul bombing which left two people injured. On the Sahwa assassination, Wang Guanqun (Xinhua) adds the two with him were his bodyguards.

Sahwa is also known as the "Sons of Iraq" and the "Awakening" Councils.
Corey Flintoff (NPR, text only) reports today that Sahwa states "they've fallen on hard times" since the US turned control over (read: "payment for") to Nouri al-Maliki's Baghdad government. Flintoff explains how the US toe-hold in Baquba is thought by some to have only been achieved via the Sahwa but now tensions between Iraqi police forces and the Sahwa have them even more doubtful about their future in the country: "One Sahwa leader, who calls himself Haji Khalid, is taking no chances. Recently, he met with a group of reporters in a quiet street at the edge of the city, then drove with them to another house, where he agreed to be interviewed. Khalid says that if anyone from Sahwa shows his face in the city, he will very likely be detained the next day on false charges. He says the problem is partly political, as proved during the run-up to last year's provincial elections. Khalid says that Sahwa leaders who announced they were running for office were promptly arrested, and many remain in prison." He also notes that of the estimated 94,000 Sahwa (some -- including US Gen David Petraeus -- have given a higher estimate), only "about 21,000 have been recruited into the Iraqi security forces". Flintoff's correct about the small number and his text report should be on air if only to refute last week's 'expert' brought on All Things Considered and allowed to pontificate wildly (and wrongly) about Sahwa.

In refugee news,
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports on the visit to Camp Ashraf yesterday, "With loudspeakers mounted on pickup trucks and riot police offering backup, Iraqi troops on Tuesday ordered a group of Iranian dissidents here to vacate their sancturary, which has become an irritant in Iraq's relationship with Iran" and quotes Brig Gen Basel Hamad stating, "We will not allow any foreigners to establish their own laws on Iraqi soil." The residents are Iranian dissidents who have lived in Iraq for decades now. Following the US invasion, the US made them surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Last week, his plans to 'relocate' them was announced. Yesterday Iran's Press TV reported that the residents "defied the Iraqi government's orders to leave" and that, "According to a plan ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki the group should first be moved to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and later to a 1950s detention camp in southern Iraq." Today Press TV reports , "A resolution presented by Democratic lawmakers has called on President Barack Obama to stop the relocation". AFP reports that US House Rep Bob Filner is leading the effort and held a press conference yesterday where he declared, "We are here to call on whoever will listen, the Iraqi government, the US government, to halt the forcible relocation of the residents of Camp Ashraf." UPI adds, "The National Council of Reistance of Iran, a Paris-based umbrella organization representing Iranian dissident groups, said 2,172 mayor in France signed a declaration in opposition to a decision in Baghdad to expel members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran from their Camp Ashraf enclave."

In London, the
Iraq Inquiry continues hearing public testimony. BBC News reports Lt Gen Robert Fry has testified today that the US invasion into Iraq would have been a failure without the participation of British troops. Lt Gen Robert Fry is one witness giving testimony today. Also appearing before the committee is Nigel Sheinwald, John Sawers and Desmond Bowen (link goes to video and transcript options, unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from the transcripts). Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs today's hearing and also tweets them on Twitter. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) live blogged as well and noted this section:
2.02pm: Sir John Sawers starts with a clarification of something he said in last week. The Department for Interntional Development was not substantially involved in policy making in the run up to the war. It was not involved on the ground. But they were involved in some meetings.Sawers is tidying up something he said last week. Chris Ames at the Iraq Inquiry Digest has got more on this
here. Chris Ames writes:During last Thursday's hearing at the Inquiry, committee member Sir Roderick Lyne came close to calling Sir John Sawers a liar – in the nicest possible way. Sawers, former foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair and currently head of MI6, is back before the Inquiry this afternoon with a strong hint that he needs to set the record straight. But will we ever find out the truth of the matter?Lyne put it to Sawers, that Sir Suma Chakrabarti, previously the permanent secretary at the department for international development (DFID), had told the Inquiry that DFID were excluded from the Cabinet Office's 2001 review of Iraq policy, probably for political reasons. Sawers, who was responsible for the review from No 10's point of view, said that he hadn't excluded them. After a bit of waffle, Lyne said:"Given that Sir Suma has introduced this point into evidence here, you might just want to look back at some of the papers and take some advice on this and if there is anything further you want to say about it when we see you next week, I'm sure we would be happy to hear it."Chakrabarti hadn't actually said that No 10 was responsible – in fact he ducked the question. It's difficult to imagine Lyne giving Sawers such a stong hint if he didn't know there was something in the papers that could make him change his answer.

Staying with the afternoon hearing (Sheinwald, Sawers and Bowen), we'll note this section on 2004.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Just lasly on this period, a pretty awful month was Abu Ghraib. Did you have any anticipation of this as an issue, and how did you respond when the revelations came out?

Nigel Sheinwald: I didn't. John?

John Sawers: We knew of difficulties in the conditions for detainees dating back to the June/July of 2003. We knew that the Americans had taken a more direct -- more activist approach to ensuring the facilities were secure and met ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] standards, but we also understood that there were difficulties. The US army reviewed the detainee -- called for a review of the detainee arrangments in January of that year and it reported with a number of recommendations privately. I'm not aware that we saw a copy of that review. But the revelations at Abu Ghraib were definitely a shock to us, as they were to everybody on the American side as well as across the world. They came out -- they were way beyond anything that we had envisaged that might be going wrong. We thought the basic problems were about poor conditions and possibly unnecessary violence, but Abu Ghraib was an extra dimension. I would just say that that spring of 2004, March, April, May, was one of the low points in managing Iraq policy at the London end. We had, as Nigel says, the crises in Falluja first, in March, and then again at the end of April, the beginning of May. We had the crisis in Najaf, we had the Abu Ghraib facilities. I remember visiting Iraq. I used to go regularly; I went three times in 2004. I visited Iraq in early May and it was the gloomiest and most downbeat visit that I paid throughout my four years of working on Iraq policy. And I think it was then that we realised the scale of the task that was ahead of us and the need to really put our heads down and be in it for the longer term, because the insurgency and the violence was clearly not at a peak and it was clearly going to get worse at that stage. And the Abu Ghraib issues just added another nasty twist to the difficulties that we faced.

John Chilcot is the Chair of the Inquiry. He noted the failure "to foresee the situation" -- realities on the ground in Iraq which developed after the start of the war -- "and if we had forseen it, it would have been beyond our compass to deal with it."

John Sawers: I think you are right that we failed to foresee it. The planning for the post-war, as we all know, was inadequate. The level of violence that we faced was not forseen and we didn't have enough in the way of sheer military presence, either we or the Americans, to deal with the scale of the violence that we were facing. But I think we do need to recognise that the reason so many Iraqis lost their lives, the reason it took longer than we would have liked to put Iraq back on a reasonable footing, the reason why the reconstruction effort was so difficult was because of the scale and determination of the insurgents to destroy what we were doing.

Sawers repeatedly hit on the lack of planning.
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) quotes him stating, "Frankly, had we known the scale of violence, it might well have led to second thoughts about the entire project. It was not though through." Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger also emphasizes that quote from Sawers, dubs that among the "strong lines buried away today" -- and includes this as well, "Similarly, right at the end of evidence, when Lyne asked Sheinwald whether joining the US had been worth the high cost of lives lost and bodies mutilated. Even now, Sir Nigel said, that's very hard to answer. What has it done for our international reputation, Lyne went on. That's hard to answer too, he replied; it depends to whom you're talking and whether it is in public or private. Even in fluent Mandarinese this was troubling stuff." Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) ended his live blogging today noting what he saw as key moments including when Chair John Chilcott spoke of how "the committee itself is extremely . . . aware of the casualty list, the blood. Treasure you can rebuild. Blood you can't back. I don't know whether at this stage we shall come to the kind of final judgement that these last questions have raised. This may be the first draft of history. But we are conscious throughout of that cost that has been incurred by humankind. I think I'll close with that."
In addition to Sawers possible problems noted earlier by Sparrow and Ames, the
Belfast Telegraph states that another witness, also with M16 at one point (Sawers is the current head of M16) has problems: John Scarlett. They note his claim that the assertion of Iraq being able to attack England "within 45 minutes" was both "reliable and authoritative" is refuted by Brian Jones ("senior WMD analyst"): "Dr Jones, who was head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff in the run-up to the invasion, said that it was 'absolutely clear' the intelligence the Government relied upon was coming from untried sources. The 45-minute claim was one of the key assertions that convinced MPs to take Britian to war."

Turning to the US, last week the
Army again released their suicide data (no, other branches don't appear to have to dislcose) for the month of November which includes: "The Army released suicide data for the month of November today. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides, all of which are pending determination of the manner of death. For October, the Army reported 16 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, three have been confirmed as suicides, and 13 remain under investigation. There were 147 reported active duty Army suicides from January 2009 through November 2009. Of these, 102 have been confirmed, and 45 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 127 suicides among active-duty soldiers." On this topic, Mark Thompson (Time magazine) reports "Neither the U.S. military nor the American public would tolerate a conflict in which U.S. losses mounted for five straight years. Yet, that's what's happening in the Army's battle with suicides. The recently released figure for November show that 12 soldiers are suspected of taking their own lives, bringing to 147 the total suicides for 2009, the highest since the Army began keeping track in 1980. Last year the Army had 140 suicides. Although Army officials don't blame the spike on repeated deployments to war zones, evidence is mounting to the contrary." Meanwhile veterans face a variety of issues. Female veterans face many issues similar to the one male veterans face but they also face issues specific to gender (not surprising in a misogynist society). This week, AP has been exploring some of them. Kimeberly Hefling (AP) reported on some of those issues and also notes these basics, "More than 230,000 American women have fought in those recent wars and at least 120 have died doing so, yet the public still doesn't completely understand their contributions on the modern battlefield. For some, it's a lonely transition as they struggle to find their place. In another AP story, Hefling reported on the issue of homelessness among female veterans and notes that they tend to be "younger than homeless male veterans and more likely to bring children." Hefling also reports that in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the VA Medical Center "see almost twice as many women [as] it did before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Administrators opened a women's clinic and are trying to take female veterans into consideration when deciding everything from the color of the walls to the size of the prosthetics offered. Waiting areas soon will have kid-friendly tables. On-site day care for veterans with medical appointments is under review." These additions didn't just happen. Congress has had to join veterans in advocating for them. On the US House Veterans Affairs Committee, for example, US House Rep Stephanie Herseth Sandlin has introduced bills such as the Women Veterans Health Care Improvement Act (HR 1211) to address issues. In addition to that and other measures, the GAO studies have also illuminated problems as US House Rep Michael Michaud noted at the start of the July 16th Veterans Affairs Disability and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee and the Subcommittee On Health joint-hearing on Eliminating the Gaps: Examining Women Veterans' Issues:

While we have made some progress on the issues facing women veterans, it is clear that more needs to be done. Just earlier this week, there was an article in MSNBC about the VA inadequately serving women veterans. This article described the key findings of a GAO report which reveald that no VA hospital or outpatient clinic is complying fully with federal privacy requirements. In other words, many VA facilities had gynecological tables that faced the door, including one door that opened to a waiting room. Beyond these privacy concers, VA facilities were built to serve male veterans and, therefore, do not accomodate the presence of children. This means that some women veterans have had to resort to changing babies' diapers on the floors of VA hospitals due to the absence of changing tables in the women's bathrooms. In light of these challenges which continue to face women veterans, it is important that we do more to address these issues.

Others covering female veterans issues include
Hugh Lessig (Daily Press) who reported on a female veterans forum Senator Mark Waner held Monday in Alexandria, VA where he heard from veterans about the issues they face such as Grace After Fire's Kayla Williams who, when hanging with those she served with, is assumed to be a girlfriend or Genevieve Chase who is limited when choosing from those she served with to call about combat stress or other issues because her call might be seen by a wife or girlfriend as threatening. WTKR's Bob Matthews (link has text and video) reports on one of the meetings Warner held yesterday:Bob Matthews: Kayla Williams was a member of the 1st Airborne, she was a translator, she was shot at by the enemy. When she came home though, she said she was treated as if she was never there.Kayla Williams: I had people ask me if I was allowed to carry a gun because I'm just a girl? And I had other people ask me if I was in the infantry.Bob Matthews: It's why Senator Mark Warner came to Norfolk. He helped pass a bill that orders the VA to find out if it's giving female soldiers what they need to become civilians. More than 85,000 have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder since the war on terror began in 2002 but many, like Kayla Williams, don't feel the government gives them the care they need to go from the frontlines to the homefront. Kayla Williams: I have a friend who was told by a VA doctor that she couldn't have PTSD because women aren't in combat."I'd love to say that it's going to be fixed in a year from now but I don't think it's going to be fixed," Warner tells Matthews. "We've got to keep the pressure on and we've got to keep the pressure on."From Warner's Senate website:

Senator Warner hosted a round table discussion in Norfolk today with a group of military women to discuss the oftentimes difficult transition back to their normal lives after returning home from combat.
Last month, Senator Warner won passage of legislation directing the Veterans Administration to launch a study into the post traumatic stress disorders (PTSDs) that afflict thousands of military women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Kayla Williams, who served as a translator with the 101st Airborne Division and was part of the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003, said that friends of hers have been told by VA officials, "You can't have PTSD because you're a woman, and women don't see combat."
However in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "frontlines" of the war are no longer as clear as they used to be, and the stress of war can affect everyone.
Williams said women often return home and assume the caretaker role for spouses and children, and rarely ask, "Do I need care also?"
Senator Warner said the VA study has two goals: to make sure that women veterans are getting adequate treatment -- and that they receive the benefits they have earned.
The group said that treatment at different VA hospitals varies, and that some are better at treating female soldiers than others, especially for those who have post-traumatic stress disorder.
Senator Warner said he would push to make sure these issues are addressed by the VA: "I'd love to say its gonna be fixed in a year from now. I don't think its going to be fixed in a year from now, but we've got to keep the pressure on and we've got to keep the focus on and we've got to make sure that these women veterans who've served so well feel comfortable claiming their rights."

We'll wrap up by making like
Betty and Stan and noting Riverdaughter's "Matt Yglesias tells the rest of us to 'Grow up'" (The Confluence):Here's the thing, Matt: you can't tell people to spend their electoral and emotional capital on candidates who they like and then pull the rug out from under them without consequences. You can't insist on an empty suit for President and promise Change! and transformation and then not deliver for the electorate after you've made them abandon who they really want without some of those people giving up on you. And you can't tell a country that they have no choice and expect them to feel like they are still free. The Democratic party has engaged in a process of teaching their constituents learned helplessness. It has over and over again raised expectations and then dashed them. It has asked for our input as a formality and then ignored it. It has belittled and demeaned and made inconsequential the lives of average voters and their families. Now, those same voters, seeing no reason to expend any more energy on a pointless game they cannot participate in has decided to sit it out.Your buddies are in deep trouble now by their own doing. Don't blame the electorate for not caring whether you stay in power or not. They don't exist for your wish fulfillment. They've got more important things to do with their time, like figuring out how to make a living without your help. Your party, which *used* to be my party, has a leadership vacuum. You quashed the one leader you had and now, who among your ranks has the moral authority to lead us through this mess of a recession? There is no one. The electorate is just responding to the grim reality of the situation you and your childish enthusiasm have created for them.Grow up, Matt. You reap what you sow. In the US, we do not have 100% voting rate. Because we're not the USSR or something similar. In the United States, one of the freedoms we still have left is to vote for who we want or not to vote at all if that is our choice. Don't let anyone bully you into voting for someone or into voting. Your vote, you own it. Use it as you see fit, that's your right, guaranteed in a democracy.

iraqthe washington timeseli lakehaaretzzvi barel
asharq alawsathoda al-jasim
mcclatchy newspaperssahar issa
xinhuawang guanqun
the washington posternesto londono
nprcorey flintoff
time magazinemark thompsonkimberly hefling
hugh lessig
the los angeles timesned parkerraheem salman
bbc newsthe guardianandrew sparrowchris amesthe belfast telegraphchannel 4 news

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ACLU, Random Notes and more

Be sure to read Ruth's "Lila Garrett: Fool or tool?" if you haven't already. We both covered the Lila Garrett show last night.

"Note to Police: Cell Phones Really Are Hands-Free" (Mike Brickner, ACLU Blog of Rights):
Today, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision in the case State of Ohio v. Antwuan Smith (PDF) requiring law enforcement have a warrant in order to search the contents of someone’s cell phone. This marks the first time a state supreme court has ruled on this issue.
Perhaps what is most encouraging about the ruling is the Ohio Supreme Court’s recognition that cell phones are much different than previous items that courts have allowed law enforcement to search without a warrant. Indeed, today’s modern cell phone is not simply used to make and receive phone calls. For many of us, it may be where we access the internet, manage our finances, maintain personal contact information, or where we store private photos. As a result, people have a much higher expectation that this information will remain private. If police were able to have unfettered access to cell phones without a search warrant, unimaginable amounts of personal data would be subject to government scrutiny.
The Court did outline two narrow exceptions where police could conduct warrantless searches: if it was necessary to protect the safety of officers, and if they believed the individual may delete evidence. However, in the second circumstance, the Court said the officers may only seize a cell phone to prevent the destruction of evidence. They did not give officers permission to search the phone prior to receiving a search warrant.

To me, that's a very important article. But I can remember searches when I was in college and the lack of privacy, lack of respects and lack of rights. I think it's past time that the courts ruled on this issue (cell phones) and agree with the author of the post that it is so much more than just a 'phone' for people today.

It would be great to see this verdict be the first in a series of privacy rights issues that the courts would settle. I don't see any concern on the part of Congress and, certainly, there's no push from the White House on this issue.

"As Awful As It Is To Say This" (Susan, Random Notes):
As we have seen, more and more of the Obama supporters are becoming increasingly jaded by what they are seeing. Instead of moving this country forward, Obama is keeping this country stuck in a rut. More than a few of his policies, especially in the area of education, are hard right and NOT truly Democratic Party policies.

I have no problem with the Obama voters per se. Per se? If you got your information from the media, they are the problem not you. But I do have a huge problem with the gas bags who lied to pimp Barack. He was a piece of garbage. I've been telling you that for how many years now? I've shared the story of C.I. and I meeting him at the big money shin-dig. How we were so excited and we were going to write huge checks. Then we're there and waiting to speak to the anti-war candidate. He comes over and says we're in Iraq now so we can't leave. My mouth drops. C.I.'s never at a loss for words and quickly grills him. Barack supports the illegal war. He's running for the Senate and he supports the illegal war.

C.I. and I immediately leave and write no checks, not even a token gesture.

We knew he was trash when people were slobbering over him at the DNC convention in 2004.

The gas bags lied and I do not forgive them.

(Susan isn't a gas bag. She supported John Edwards originally and was for Hillary when it came down between Barry and Hillary. She was not a Kool-Aid drinker, just to be clear.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, March 15, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry gets censored, Jeremy Greenstock testifies to being a victim of some form of date-diplomacy while stationed in Iraq, Tony Blair's remarks (and Barack's prize) continue to garner criticism, Camp Ashraf residents state they're not leaving, and more.

In London today the Iraq Inquiry continued it's 'public' hearing.
Channel 4 News was the first to report the day's big development: "For the first time since it began sitting, the Childcot inquiry blacked out televised courage of evidence being given for intelligence security reasons. The dramatic intervention to project confidentiality came as Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former British Ambassador to Washington, was speaking. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) observes, "Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the Iraq inquiry, cut the live video of today's hearings, raising fears that he is suppressing evidence on grounds of embarrassment rather than any damage to national security." states the blackout lasted "for over a minute". Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger was in the press room:

But the
national security blackout -- triggered when the inquiry heard something that would endanger national security if reported (we were told) -- was undeniably an attention-grabber.
We've had a few blank screens before but only due to technical glitches. This was clearly of an altogether different order.
One inquiry official tried to seal us into the press room, which even the slower among us (ok, me) thought could possibly mean something was afoot.
Another told us that she couldn't tell us anything, but that she'd tell us later if she could, but asking us not to report that. An eminence grise purred in from the Cabinet Office to assess the damage.

What was said in the censored moments?
Richard Norton-Taylor recounts, "A member of the audience in the inquiry chamber said that after the feed was cut Greenstock went on to say that Colin Powell, who was then secretary of state, used British intelligence reports about the situation in Iraq because they were more accurate than the more optimistic dispatches that Bremer was sending to Washington. People aware of the piece of intelligence now deleted from the record dismissed it as insignificant. They made it clear that in their view the information was not at all sensitive from the point of view of national security." The witness, Greenstock, previously testified November 27th and Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) emphasized from that testimony Greenstock's statement of, "I regard our invasion of Iraq as legal but of questionably legitimacy, in that it didn't have the democratically observable backing of the great majority of members states or even, perhaps, of a majority of people inside the UK." Greenstock was the morning witness and Lt Gen William Rollo and Lt Gen John Cooper were the afternoon witnesses (link goes to video and transcript options, unless otherwise noted, all quotes are from transcripts). We're going to the transcript for the censored moment (censored in the transcript as well). We're starting with Greenstock on line 25 of page 67 and he's referring to Paul Bremmer who was not "Ambassador" despite Greenstock's use of the term. He was the US Presidential Envoy when he arrived and became the Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance and then became the US Administrator of Iraq -- all from his May 2003 arrival to June of 2003. He was also seen as the Governor of Iraq.

Jeremy Greenstock: Can I bring another point in here? Coming back to best case scenarios, Chairman, it was very clear to me, even before I got to Baghdad, that the United States had been working on and continued to work on the best case scenario: that they could administer Iraq and turn it back to Iraqis who could administer Iraq, with the lowest possible input of resources and troops and in the most direct way possible. And they didn't insure against things other than the best case scenario, with a higher number of troops or with alternative political plans. Ambassador Bremer was responding to the Pentagon in trying to run a best case scenario approach and that's why he didn't want alternative plans. But when I talked to other members of the American team, when I talked informally to the military, to the intelligence agencies, to other people who were operating, I found a very much more gloomy prognosis of what was going on than I felt or understood Ambassador Bremer was reporting back to the Pentagon. I reported these things back to London. [Redacted by the Inquiry.] My telegrams would describe what was going on, and I later discovered that [US] Secretary [of State Colin] Powell was reading the UK telegrams from Baghdad because he wasn't getting enough information from the Pentagon about what was really going on in Baghdad, as opposed to what Ambassador Bremer was reporting. So it was becoming quite a complex picture.

Chair John Chilcott: Can we stop the broadcast for a moment. We need to stay off sensitive areas. Can we just resume then without touching on those things? Thank you. We can deal with those in private.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: Just --
Chair John Chilcott: Resuming the broadcast.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: To move on, the intelligence report which was published in February this year, talks about [. . .]

Remember "talks about" above. In the transcript, the redacted testimony is on page 68, lines 20 through 23 -- indicating one long sentence or two or more short ones. Best guess would be one long one since Greenstock speaks in long sentences. In the video, the censored moment takes place starting at 118:04 (one hundred-and-eighteen minutess and four seconds) in the stream and continues through 119:17 at which point Prasher is shown saying "talks about" (it starts on those words). During the censored section, the screen shows "THE IRAQ INQUIRY Public hearing temporarily suspended" -- the same display they use when the Inquiry takes a break.

BBC News reports of today's testimony, "Sir Jeremy Greenstock told the Chilcot inquiry the UK wanted post-war Iraq to have a 'clear UN label' to ensure it was not regarded as an occupying power. The ex-UN ambassador said the US wanted a 'definite limit' on the UN's role." Paul Bromley (Sky News) observed, "I think we've just witnessed another moment which will go down in history. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the Iraq war, has just come up with a phrase which will become part of the language. He's told the Iraq war inquiry that the invasion was a 'catastrophic succes'.

Munir Akram was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations and, in 2003, was also the President of the Security Council of the UN. (His UN career ended in 2008.) Prior to testifying, Greenstock submitted a letter he and John D. Negroponte co-wrote to Akram. Negroponte was the US Ambassador to the UN when the letter was written (in 2004, he would become the US Ambassador to Iraq -- the first post-2003 invasion, US Ambassador to Iraq). The [PDF format warning]
May 8, 2003 letter is a piece of fiction. What Negroponte knew or didn't know is debatable but the British witnesses have already testified that by March 10, 2003, reports were noting Saddam Hussein did not have WMD -- British intelligence reports. Therefore, by May 8th of that year, the British Greenstock should have known there were no WMD. Yet the letter opens with the lie: "The United States, United Kingdom, and Coalition Partners continue to act together to ensure the complete disarmament of Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and means of delivery in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions." The entire letter's a piece of fiction and Greenstock should have been asked to explain it by the committee.

But no hard questions were asked of him and, if they had been, he would have pleaded he was a victim. Greenstock is, in his mind, never responsible for anything. He's a victim always. Those big bad Americans pushed little Jeremy around. (If true, why didn't Tony Blair stand up for his officials? As Bush's buddy, then-prime minister Blair should have had some US clout.) He told the Inquiry Bremer didn't want him to be his deputy and he didn't want to be the deputy either because he wanted to maintain his "independence" but no "independence" was apparent in his testimony.

"My first responsibility," he declared to the committee today, "and I said this to Ambassador Bremer when I first telephoned him on his own appointment, as sson as I knew that I would be coming -- was loyalty to him and support for him in getting our joint job done in Iraq." Wow.

A British citizen -- excuse me, a British subject (they have a monarchy) testified to an inquiry held in London that when the British government posted him to Iraq, his FIRST responsibility was not to the Crown but to a man from a foreign country? That's pretty sad and pretty strange and, in some countries, qualifies as treason. You might think the committee would pursue that but, no, they didn't. We'll note this exchange.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: But if you were talking about being able to exercise some sort of veto and not being the deputy to Bremer -- in some way that almost puts you in the position of being Ambassador to Iraq -- I mean, or in some way Bremer having an accountability to the British Government through you, but that certainly never happened?

Jeremy Greenstock: No, that's what I tried to establish, that Bremer had a direct responsibility to London. But in practice, he did not report to London; he relied on me to do that and to tell London what was going on. If London disagreed with something that the United States was doing or wanted something to be done that was not happening, London would talk to Washington.

Of course he wouldn't. Bremer's salary was paid for by the US tax payers. Bremer's a US citizen. He was put in that US government position by the US government. He's not reporting to the British government. What kind of an idiot is Jeremy Greenstock? A pretty weak one.

Jeremy Greenstock: The second or third day I was in Baghdad, Secretary Colin Powell came on a short visit and he, Bremer and I sat in Bremer's office to talk about the political process and the seven steps, and I was asked for my views by Secretary Powell and I suggested, as I had done to Bremer in Washington in July, that it would be wise to think of options, political options: what if things don't happen as we predict, as often does happen in an unusual situation.

Committee Member Usha Prashar: In other words, not sticking to the steps agreed, but --

Jeremy Greenstock: Well, we were behind the seven steps plan, but what if the Iraqis don't go along with that bit or that bit of it, are we thinking about alternative routes? And on both occassions in July and on this occassion in September, I was given a very direct and preremptory message from Bremer that I was to stick to the seven steps plan. This was what had been decided, this was the mission, this would be accomplished and I was to support it. So I turned to some other subject with Colin Powell and decided to see how things played out. But these --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So although you were not his deputy he was issuing instructions to you?

Jeremy Greenstock: Yes, and I was trying to suggest that there was a political discussion to be had. So in a situation like that, you take a step back, you consider what has happened and you decide how you exercise your influence on the next occassion or how you put in your thoughts about the political process and whatever I was concentrating on in the next round of conversation.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: But he was not receptive to your advice. You were there as a very senior person, outranking him actually in your own diplomatic career, and you were there to offer him advice. And when you offered him advice, he was telling you that you were to accep the order and that was it, not to raise points of this kind, even in a small conversation with himself and Colin Powell?

Jeremy Greenstock: That was the outward and immediate effect, yes, that he didn't want to hear suggestions about how to complete a satisfactory political process that were different from what the President had decided.

Apparently, England's biggest problem in post-invasion Iraq was that they posted too many delicate flowers to the region, delicate flowers like Jeremy Greenstock who wilted but, presumably, were good at picking up Bremer's dry cleaning and doing assorted other personal errands. Greenstock's so victimized, he's practically Binah in
The English Roses. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) live blogged Greenstock's testimony. One excerpt:12.04pm: Prashar asks about Bremer's policy of de-Baathification. Greenstock says this decree was issued before he arrived. It was an "understandable decision". The Shias were strongly opposed to bringing Baath party members into the government. But the decree was issued before Bremer had identified alternative people to run the government of Iraq.Bremer put Ahmed Chalabi, who was "deeply anti-Baathist", in charge of implementing the decree. Greenstock says he thought it was taken too far. He wanted more Baathists to be allowed to keep their jobs.

Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues blogging including at the Twitter account. The British military testified in the afternoon. As has been the case throughout the hearing, the British military takes responsibility for their choices and decisions, unlike the British officials who apparently break out in a heavy sweat at even the idea of telling a foreigner "no." That's not me stating the military witnesses are honest or 90% honest. That's only an observation that they own their actions -- good or bad -- which is something the British officials consistently refuse to do. I'm not seeing a lot in their testimony that's different from what's previously been stated by military witnesses. We'll note a few moments that did stand out.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Can I just come back on this? Why on earth were things like energy and economic development military matters four years after the conflict, a year after the [Nouri-al] Maliki government had come into power? Shouldn't this have been put into the hands of civilians? I mean, are you qualified to lead economic development strategies?

Lt Gen William Rollo: Of course I'm not.

Lt Gen John Cooper offered his assessment of the Iraq War and the British involvement:

Again, let's be honest. I think history will say of the British overall effort in southern Iraq, "Could have been better," but actually we produced the effect that we set out to do. 179 people died there and none of them died in vain, and what we left behind was certainly better than that which we found. Things didn't go entirely as we would have wished them. There were setbacks. But in the end we left a position in Iraq that was Iraqi, inside a broadly democratic, stable country. So I wouldn't necessarily disagree with the way you characterised it there.

Shortly after that, this was stated.

Lt Gen Williasm Rollo: John has spoken about our own losses. I would remember that 5,000-plus American dead and up to 30,000 seriously wounded and say that that was an army which, while taking those sort of casualties and doing 15-month tours several times, achieved that. So I have got tremendous admiration for them.

Rollo mispoke and meant "4,000-plus American dead." I include that not because of his mistake but because he noted the US service members who died and were wounded. The dead and the wounded -- foreign and Iraqi -- are rarely ever mentioned in the Inquiry.

On Iraqi deaths, Saturday an
Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reported at Inside Iraq:Iraqi secular parliament member Mithal Al Alusi said that the Iraqi prime minister told the Iraqi parliament on Thursday, in a secret parliament session after Tuesday's deadly bombings, that the Americans tipped-off the Iraqi government about the looming threat of car bombs attacks around 6 a.m. on Tuesday.On Tuesday Dec 8, five car bombs killed 127 Iraqis and injured more than 450 others in Baghdad as it targeted government offices around 10 a.m. On Saturday, Iraqi ministry of interior said it informed Baghdad military operations, the Iraqi special command formed by the prime minister to lead security operations within Baghdad, of the imminent attack, yet the attacks succeeded in reaching its target.

Today in Mosul, Iraqi Christians were again targeted with violence.
Al Jazeera notes one bombing was at the Syrian Catholic Church of the Annunciation and another exploded at "the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity and a nearby Christian school". Iran's Press TV counts four dead in one of the church bombings and forty injured which they identify the church as Virign Mary Church which AFP says is the Syrian Orthodox Church of Purity. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Catholic Church (which is billed as "Mariamana Church") was targeted with two bombings -- the first apparently to draw a crowd of which the 4 were then killed and the forty injured. The other church, Issa states, only suffered "material damages to the church" with no one reported dead or wounded. Mohammed Abbas and Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports among Teba Saad Jassim was among the dead ("a seven-day-old baby girl") and quotes a Mosul priest who did not want to be named stating, "We are peaceful people, but we come under attack sometimes. We are the victim of instability in this province."

In other reported violence . . .

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 Baghdad car bombings opposite government institutions (Iranian Embassy, Ministry of Immigration & Displaced and Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and where employees parked resulting in 4 deaths and fourteen people wounded, and an attempt by Iraqi security forces to detonate a bomb they discovered in Mosul resulted in one person being injured. Reuters drops back to yesterday to note a Kirkuk bombing which resulted in "an Iraqi army officer, his wife and another woman" being injured. Han Jingjing (Xinhua) reports a grenade attack on a police patrol also took place in Mosul today "damaging a police vehicle and killing three policemen aboard".


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Hussein Shamma ("senior municipality official in Sadr City") and his brother were wounded in a drive-by Baghdad shooting.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul (Abdulqadir al Aglat is his name).

Violence continues and the Iraq War continues under Barack Obama. It does not stop. Rumors to the contrary. Since 2007, we've noted the Iraqi air force, how it would not be ready for years and year, well after 2012 according to the US military and various Iraqi officials -- statements noting that have been made at joint US-Iraqi press briefings in Baghdad repeatedly since 2007. But some people want to insist that the SOFA (a contract) means the Iraq War ends in 2012 and all US troops leave.
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) explores the air force and reports:

But despite a US-Iraqi agreement for all US forces to withdraw by the end of 2011, neither Iraqi nor US officials envision that Iraq will be ready to protect its skies by then -- a worrying prospect for a country with five neighbors, including Iran.
"They are increasingly coming to understand that on Jan. 1, 2012, they will need American help on their airspace," says John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security in Washington, who expects any security agreement past 2011 to allow a significant US Air Force presence in Iraq.

Contracts can be broken. New contracts can then be drawn up. Contracts can run their term. New contracts can then be drawn up. The press -- with few exceptions -- has repeatedly gotten the SOFA wrong and were I one of the many news outlets who has 'reported' that the US leaves in ___ (that would actually be a prediction and once upon a time, reporters knew the difference), I think I'd be doing everything I could in terms of reporting and editorializing to ensure that happens.

Yesterday's snapshot included this in the opening: "a War Hawk re-enters stage center, faux 'peace' 'activist' Tom Hayden finds a new way to disgrace himself (and who would have thought that was possible)," -- and there's no Tom Hayden mention elsewhere in the snapshot. Yesterday's snapshot also included: "That's all we have time for. Ruth and Elaine are grabbing a bad radio program tonight so be sure to check them out. I agree with the points they outlined over the phone and would gladly weigh in but there's just not the space in this snapshot." The snapshots are dictated and they're rearranged as they're being dictated. A lengthy section was removed to include the news of Camp Ashraf instead -- this included the Tom Hayden part. Elaine's "Tom Hayden continues his long lying streak" addresses the topic of peace fraud Tom-Tom. He was on Lila Garrett's KPFK show yesterday and Ruth addresses the show in "Lila Garrett: Fool or tool?" where she notes Lila's firey monologues are not 'enhanced' by weak guests who exist to cheerlead for the Democratic Party, not to end wars.

Picking up on Camp Ashraf. Today was the day they were supposed to have been forcibly 'relocated'. The residents are Iranian dissidents who have lived in Iraq for decades now. Following the US invasion, the US made them surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them.
July 28th the world saw what Nouri's 'promises' were actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. Last week, his plans to 'relocate' them was announced. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the residents "vowed Tuesday not to abandon its besieged camp" when journalists were allowed to visit the cmap today ("the first time authorities have allowed media to visit since a dealy raid on the compound last July"). Hammoudi reports, "Iraqi Army Brig. Gen. Basil Hamad, the Iraqi government's spokesman on the media tour, said the government had warned the MEK that they were to begin emptying the camp Dec. 15. However, no one was removed from the premises Tuesday and Hamad didn't say how long the group had to evacuate." Iran's Press TV reports that the residents "defied the Iraqi government's orders to leave" and that, "According to a plan ordered by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki the group should first be moved to the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and later to a 1950s detention camp in southern Iraq." Sarah Cosgrove (Enfield Independent) reports that in the British town of Enfield, residents are protesting "to save their relatives from a feared massacre in Iraq" and "in a show of solidarity, protesters were joined by Parliamentarians outside the Foreign Office in Whitehall. Amid cries of 'shame on you' and 'displacement of Ashraf, crime against humanity', protesters spoke of their fear for their families and anger at the lack of action from the British Government."

Jack A. Smith (Monthly Review Magazine) says the US has lost the Iraq War (and the Afghanistan War) but that the US refuses to acknowledge that reality:

The mighty U.S., which invaded Iraq in March 2003, was fought to a standstill from the summer of 2003 to the end of 2006 by up to 25,000 mostly Sunni guerrilla resistance fighters belonging to various small groups, nationalist or mujahedeen. The resistance largely evaporated two years ago because of President Bush's "surge," but this had nothing to do with military defeat. The struggle was subverted mainly by three things:
(1) The Shi'ite refusal to take part in the opposition to the Bush Administration's unjust and illegal invasion and occupation, knowing that when the invaders left they would be in charge, and the Shia government's antagonism toward the Sunni combatants.
(2) The entry of al-Qaeda, which before the war was never allowed into Iraq, and its indiscriminate war against civilians that undercut the resistance and dismayed Sunni nationalist ranks.
(3) The "surge" that began in 2007, which was principally based on offering large sums of money to Sunni elders and tribal leaders, combined with paying salaries to thousands of jobless fighters, plus offering to protect the Sunnis from possible retaliation by the puppet Shi'ite government.
President George W. Bush's claimed objective was to eliminate weapons of mass destruction and to punish the Ba'athist government of President Saddam Hussein for conniving with al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. When these lies were exposed they were replaced by two new lies: bringing democracy to Iraq, and protecting the Iraqi people from al-Qaeda.

joining Rebecca in noting that Bonnie Erbe, host of PBS' To The Contrary, tackles the recent Nobel Peace Prize in "Norwegians Must Be Asking: Why Obama for Peace Prize?" (Politics Daily):
A little bit of background research might have alerted the Nobel Committee to Obama's annoying tendency toward expediency and away from commitment to principle. Instead, the Nobel Committee mimicked America's voters when they rushed to select Obama. Both votes, by the American public and the Nobel Committee, struck me as more appropriately viewed as a rebuke to former President Bush than as a rah-rah for Obama.
The Nobel Committee rushed into bed with Obama. When the alarm bell rang the next morning, six Norwegians found themselves sleeping next to someone quite apart from the person they had viewed through gin-altered glasses the night before. Hence his tepid public support from Norwegians Friday.The Nobel Committee nominated someone members saw as the Prince of Peace -- the same man whom a majority of American voters were wishfully hoping would pull them out of seemingly unending wars (and right the tanking economy, but that's fodder for another column). Instead, President Obama is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan and taking much longer than his anti-war base expected he would to pull American troops out of Iraq. Wish I had been watching through a secret webcam when the six Norwegians cried, "Oops!"
Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) also weighs in on the prize and he also weighs in on Tony Blair's weekend statements to the BBC such as: "I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat." We'll note Floyd on Blair:

Next month, Blair will go before the Chilcot Inquiry, a panel of UK Establishment worthies charged with investigating the origins of Britain's role in the invasion of Iraq. Although the worthies have been remarkably toothless in their questioning of the great and good so far – the smell of whitewash is definitely in the air – the inquiry has at least performed the useful function of bringing the forgotten subject of Iraq back into the public eye, while collating and confirming, with sworn testimony, much of what we have learned in dribs and drabs over the years about the rank, deliberate deceit behind this murderous catastrophe. One choice bit that has emerged from the inquiry is the revelation that the centerpiece of Blair's case for immediate war – the claim that Saddam Hussein could hit Europe with WMD-loaded missiles on just 45 minutes' notice – came from unconfirmed, third-hand gossip passed along by an Iraqi taxi driver. As Blair's turn on the well-padded Chilcot cushion draws near, he has launched frantic efforts to keep his testimony secret while at the same time trying to undercut the rationale for the whole war origins inquiry, which has focused on the professed justification for the invasion: disarming Iraq's (non-existent) WMD. So last week, Blair gave an interview to a friendly, timorous chat-show host in which he made the brazen admission – no, the proud boast – that he would have found a way to drive Britain into war with Iraq even if he had known for certain that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. (And of course, given the nature of the "'intelligence" that Blair used in his pre-war WMD claims it is certain that Blair was indeed certain that Saddam had no such weapons when the invasion was launched).Thus it is now Blair's contention that there is no charge to answer concerning the origins of the war; all this WMD guff is meaningless. He would have found "other arguments" to persuade Britons to follow George W. Bush into the war that American militarists had long been planning.Blair's admission has drawn a remarkable response from another Establishment mandarin, Sir Ken Macdonald, who served for five years as Director of Public Prosecutions under Blair's government – and now works in private practice at a major law firm…alongside Tony Blair's wife, Cherie.
The headline in The Times puts it plainly: "Intoxicated by power, Blair tricked us into war."

Brendan O'Neill (Christian Science Monitor) observes of Blair's recent statements, "This suggests Blair did not actually have the courage of his convictions. He may have considered it 'right' to remove Saddam -- yet instead of trying to win public support for war on that basis, he cynically searched for some legalistic fig-leaf with which he might doll up his invasion."

Walter Pincus (Washington Post) explores US State Dept spending -- specifically what's spent on diplomacy and what's spent on 'security' for diplomacy. He reports, "In 2008, according to the GAO, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security's direct-hire personnel totaled about 3,000. But 90 percent of State's security personnel are contractors, who in 2008 numbered 37,566, according to the GAO. Only 2,000 of these provide the publicized protective services for State officials and dignitaries in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Israel. The bulk are guards protecting not only U.S. embassies and missions but also the homes of some Foreign Service personnel."

Lastly, from
Oilwatch Southeast Asia:Southeast Asian Leaders - Go for Solution Not Delusion! A Joint Statement, Copenhagen, Denmark, December 14, 2009 Copenhagen - 14 December 2009: We, members of Oilwatch Southeast Asia[i] and Indonesian Civil Society Forum for Climate Justice (CSF) declare our common position and demands on the current climate negotiation in COP 15 UNFCCC Copenhagen. We have witnessed the lack of leadership among industrial countries to significantly cut carbon emission let alone show their responsibility to support developing countries to tackle the impacts of climate change. Southeast Asia is considered as one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to impacts of climate crisis. Most of the Southeast Asian countries are poor and majority of the population in the region live in deep poverty resulting to a very low capacity to adapt to climate change impacts. The location of the region poses high risk for disasters such as typhoons, droughts, earthquakes, and flooding. We are disappointed that the negotiations in COP15 UNFCCC do not take into account the reality in the ground that fossil fuel exploitation by industrial countries have been going from strength to strength. Oil and gas projects of transnational corporations are mushrooming and demand for coal is increasing[ii].. Big foreign and private corporations such as Royal Dutch Shell, BHP Biliton, CNUOC, Chevron Texaco, Amarada Hess, Conoco Phillips and Bumi Resources, are the same actors who plunder natural resources and pollute the environment[iii]. These big corporations control and exploit the rich natural resources of the region particularly fossil resources like oil, gas and coal. Also these entities with the support of international financial institutions like International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank, are the owners and suppliers of fossil-based technologies and products that the people of Southeast Asian are forced to be dependent with. Given the fact that burning and consumption of fossil fuels especially oil and coal is the leading cause of global carbon emission, we demand the national governments in Southeast Asia •· To agree on a common position to push for more than 40% carbon reduction from ANNEX I countries by 2020 from the level of 1990. •To demand from ANNEX I countries to compensate Third World countries from ecological debt and fund their mitigation and adaptation initiatives •To declare an immediate moratorium on new exploration and commercial operation of oil, gas and coal by big transnational companies in the region. •To define a concrete timeline and comprehensive plan on eventual phase out of fossil fuel extraction and usage in the region. In this regard there should be a significant investment on research and fast development of technologies that harness alternative and renewable resources of energy that are cheap, safe and clean. This is needed to make the economy and energy needs of Southeast Asia to veer away from relying on the production and consumption of fossil fuels. Majority of the income and revenues from the existing extraction of fossil fuel in the regions should be automatically appropriated for funding public services We oppose the false solutions being implemented and pushed for by ANNEX I countries and their transnational corporations such as carbon trading, clean development mechanism, the proposed REDD and 'clean' coal technologies. These market-based and profit-oriented solutions put the interest of private corporations and ruling elite above anything else. We push for the leaders of Southeast Asia countries to unite for truly address the issue of climate change and curb global warming. There should be a reversal of the orientation and framework of economic development and production in the region. In this regard, climate solutions should be based on human security, rectification of ecological debt, land rights, the change of production and consumption pattern, to realize social justice and people's sovereignty. These principles ensure in the heart of climate solutions are the welfare and interest of the people and the environment. The Oilwatch Southeast Asia, CSF, PACC, La'o Hamutuk and TCJ remain committed not only in pushing for genuine climate solutions but also in steadfastly fight along with grassroots communities against agreement, policies, program and projects that will further aggravate climate change and endanger our communities. Media contacts:Clemente Bautista, People's Action on Climate Change (PACC), email:; cell phone: +45.2639.2749 •Ines Martius, Timor-Leste Institute for Development Monitoring and Analysis, email:; cell phone: +45 5274 8769 · Siti Maemunah, CSF Indonesia, email:; cell phone +45 5049 9567 · Penchom Saetang, Thai Working Group for Climate Justice (TCJ), email:; cell phone: +45 2862 7267

iraqthe telegraph of londonthe guardianandrew sparrowsky newspaul bromleychannel 4 newsbbc newsmcclatchy newspaperssahar issalaith hammoudi
mohammed abbasmissy ryan
to the contrarybonnie erbe
chris floyd
the christian science monitorjane arraf
the washington postwalter pincus