Friday, January 15, 2010

Iraq, women, TV

"Rarely used flying bomb strikes new targets in Iraq" (Hannah Allem, McClatchy Newspapers):
U.S. troops stationed at an outpost in southern Iraq heard a chilling whistle, and then a 60-pound airborne bomb punched through a concrete blast wall and sent shrapnel flying, wounding three Americans.
Explosions are commonplace in Iraq, but this was no ordinary attack. The U.S. military said Friday that militants who launched the Jan. 12 attack on a joint U.S.-Iraqi compound used an unusual weapon called an IRAM, for Improvised Rocket-Assisted Munition. Sometimes called "flying IEDs," IRAMs are a potentially deadlier incarnation of the garden-variety Improvised Explosive Devices in Iraq and Afghanistan -- they're short-range projectiles that catapult toward unsuspecting targets.

The Iraq War continues. I know most Americans prefer to pretend it doesn't, but it does. For some, they prefer to pretend it's over because Barack said it would be, right? Also he got that nifty Nobel Peace Prize . . . for following the Bush plan (SOFA) on Iraq, so it's over, right?

The Iraq War continues. More and more, it ending at the end of 2011 seems doubtful. It's really amazing when you think of the Leslie Cagans who were screaming "Out of Iraq Now!" all through the Bush years but are silent today.

I was screaming then but I'm still screaming today. The US needs to leave Iraq NOW. Not tomorrow, not next month, not next year, not the year after, right now.

It really is something to grasp how little concern there is about Iraq from those who profitted from it. Norman Solomon last wrote about the Iraq War when? Amy Goodman last did a segment on it when?

They lined their cages with war bucks and now they can't be bothered.

You realize, don't you, that Barack's done holding George W. Bush 'accountable', right? He's using Bush and Bill Clinton as part of the Haiti relief. It's going to be really hard for him to continue to badmouth Bush (Bush is a War Criminal) after asking for his help, after putting him forward as a diplomatic envoy.

Barack is so full of crap.

So is Amy Goodman. I noticed her little friend Scott Ritter didn't get mentioned on her show today. Third bust for being a sexual predator. Hmm. Lila Garrett loved her some Scott Ritter too.

Credit to C.I. and Ruth who have called Scott Ritter out publicly for years.

"I Hate The War" (C.I., The Common Ills):
You better believe prostate cancer's being covered. A disease that no woman will have. But that's not a side issue. That's not a minor issue. That's considered something in need of health coverage. Anything to do with men's health is. Male needs are considered factory standard, it's women needs that are optionals.
This is not a new development. It's at the root of 'the other.' We fear 'the other.' We fear the unknown. It's why Bruce (the shark) in Jaws is offscreen for so much of the film. Women are repeatedly robbed of accomplishments and achievements and reduced to cyphers who, if noted, are noted for who they slept with or didn't sleep with. What we achieved and why and how we achieved it is tossed aside. We can be the mysterious, half-smile on the Mona Lisa, we just can't have our stories told for fear that we might be understood and related to and, in the process, the society would be turned upside down (or, as Ruth Rosen would put it, The World Split Open). Keeping us 'the other' benefits the current system. The same way that it's no surprise the US is so successful at starting wars all over the world. We are the country that is taught the least about the world around us and encouraged by our news media not to care too deeply (or too long) about the world around us. A populace that only knows (the male half of) their own citizens and (the male half of) their own history is one that can be repeatedly sold on going to war with other countries.

Oh, my, goodness gracious. Is there anyone else in the world like C.I.? She is brilliant. She's always been brilliant. I can see her delivering the above as a speech.

One of the things about our student days speaking out is that whenever I read C.I., I hear her in my voice speaking. That is how she usually writes at TCI, by the way. She writes as if she's speaking. (She also dictates the snapshots so she is using conversational technique in those as well.) I've seen her stand up to deliver a speech on X only to have a new issue about the same topic develop during the day (or right before she spoke) and watched in awe as she got up and tossed out a variety of seemingly non-connected topics and managed to string them together and do it completely off the top of her head. People applauding never knew. They thought she was delivering a speech she'd memorized. But she can wing a speech like nobody's business. She'd always say, "Give me the facts you want included and I'll give you the speech."

I love her so much. She's so amazing. So is my other college day roommate Rebecca who's attempting to decide whether or not to go to London for a few weeks to help out a friend who's working with the Labour Party on the elections. She says she hasn't decided but I think she has and I think she's going. We shall see.

"TV: Gary Unwatchable" (Ava and C.I., The Third Estate Sunday Review):
In the first season, Mohr managed something resembling a strut, these days it's a waddle. Not only due to the added pounds but also due to the fact that a tight, funny show went the other way. What could have been CBS' new Newhart was retooled into, yes, The Jeff Foxworthy Show and you'd think one stint on that hideous show would have been enough for Mohr. The show has been so dumbed down that it makes The War At Home look like an MTM production.
When the creative team walked after the first season, no one knew from comedy. Comedy became "make the women bitches, nagging bitches." And they beefed up the role of Gary's fat ass brother which took the show into an ugly territory (terrorizing little children is not funny). After all these changes, they were amazed to find audiences cooling to the show.
They thought they had ratings gold and that season two would be about increasing the ratings. Instead season two's found the show coasting on the lead in from The New Adventures of Old Christine and focus groups weighing in on season two showed that the lead character was no longer "likeable." Which is why CBS' will bench Gary in a bit to try Jenna Eflman's Accidentally On Purpose in the slot. See Gary was supposed to be, quoting a CBS exec, "A grower, not a shower." Yes, they really do talk like that and, yes, everything has to do with the male genetalia at CBS. But Gary Unmarried (especially after the fixes) proved unable to grow or, if you prefer, extend. Now the network's singing "Is That All There Is?"

I am really not familiar with the show (Gary Unmarried) but I did find the review hilarious. I mention that because I'm tired and not sure what to blog about tonight but can let you in on a little gossip: Ava and C.I. don't know what to review right now.

They're in a panic and going through various shows to figure out what they could cover. They'll have something on Sunday, they always do, but they really do not know most weekends until the last minute. During the week, they're focused on Iraq.

I'll add one more thing, Sunday is the 5 year anniversary for Third. Five years. Congratulations to them. (I started long after Third. I'm in my fourth year I believe.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, January 15, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, a witness testifying before the Iraq Inquiry reveals either extreme ignorance or a wilful desire to lie, tensions continue to flare over the efforts to ban Sunnis from running for office, and more.

Starting with the second hour of NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show when Iraq was addressed by Diane and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), a little bit by James Kitfield and who the hell knows what David Wood was smoking, but he's not just stupid, he's ass stupid. Let's check in.

Diane Rehm: And Iraq also, large portions of Baghdad, shut down earlier this week. Why David?

David Wood: Well there was an incredible plot that was uncovered this week -- uhm -- i-in-in which there were going to be bombings of Iraqi government ministry buildings and then followed by a wave of political assassinations which clearly would have ignited a huge violent uhm situation. The Iraqi police intercepted the bombers on the way to the government -- to bomb the government buildings -- and to sort of stop the plot cold but clearly it's a real tinderbox in Iraq with the uh elections coming up in March and uh we saw just this week even more political struggle as the official government elections commission uh struck about 500 people off the elections list because of ties -- alleged ties to Ba'athist organizations.

Diane Rehm: So what is that going to do to those kinds of sectarian tensions?

David Wood: I-I can't imagine that they wouldn't inflame them.

Diane Rehm: Well exactly.

David Wood: Already you have people, where there have been protests -- and people uh really getting pretty angry. Saw one Iraqi quoted as saying "The Iraqi street is boiling" which I think is a very good summation. [C.I. note: That quote is
from Nada Bakri's report last week for the New York Times.]

James Kitfield: It's very bad news when you start -- the whole idea of this election -- it's only the second major election -- general election -- since the invasion -- 2003. The first one was boycotted by the Sunnis. It just sort of totally disenfranchised a major element of Iraq. The hope for the Americans was this would sort of -- that the Sunnis were going to take part and uhm so this electoral commission decision is very unhelpful. There's three days to appeal. I still have hope that we'll have some kind of influence to get an appeal of this so not so many parties and so many candidates are uhm are excluded. I also noted this week there was suicide bombings in Najaf very close to the Iman ali shrine which is sort of the most revered shrine in the Shia religion. That's kind of scary. Najaf has been very quiet for about three years. It reminds me of the Golden Dome attack. Once they took a very serious Shi'ite mosque and holy place they really almost ignited that civil war a couple of years ago so it's clear that this Sunni-Ba'athist, you know, irreconcilables are still out there and the question is who has the upper hand and they have so far not been able to ignite the kinds of sectarian violence we saw in 2006 and 2007. But they're still trying.

Diane Rehm: But US troops are withdrawing from Anbar [Province] at the end of this month. Isn't that correct?

Karen DeYoung: That's right. This is part of the gradual withdrawal. They're supposed to have all what they call "combat forces" out by August leaving about 50,000 troops. I think it's a little disingenuis to distinguish between combat forces and other forces. There will still be 50,000 US troops after August until the end of next year in Iraq. But I think this -- the next several days will be fairly critical in seeing whether this ban on about 500 senior politicians is lifted. I mean, it includes the head of the National Dialogue Front which is the biggest Sunni alliance and it basically means that-that if it's allowed to stand the Sunnis have really no chance of capturing a significant portion of power there and kind of opens the door to the continuation of sectarian strife and obviously there are certain elements, presumably in the Sunni community, that-that are interested in promoting this kind of backlash on both sides.

Diane Rehm: And one other point, David Wood, on Thursday a Baghdad court sentenced 11 Iraqis to death. Why was that case so important?

David Wood: Well because, again, it's-it's -- you know -- Iraq is such a tinderbox and there's so -- such a struggle going on for power between the various sects that anything like that is a -- is a major excuse uh to take revenge.

Most of the time, I either know the guest or know of the guest on Diane's show. So when a friend with the show called to note Iraq was covered, I asked, "Who the hell is David Wood?" He writes for Politics Daily and, no, they don't have an Iraq correspondent. They don't cover Iraq. Everything the IDIOT said was never covered at the website. (It was never covered period because it's not factual.) Sweet Baby Dumb Ass writes 'pithy' little articles like "Taliban Cause Most Civilian Deaths, but U.S. Gets the Blame." Can we get that Debbie Downer sound in here?

Let's go through his nonsense:

Well there was an incredible plot that was uncovered this week -- uhm -- i-in-in which there were going to be bombings of Iraqi government ministry buildings and then followed by a wave of political assassinations which clearly would have ignited a huge violent uhm situation. The Iraqi police intercepted the bombers on the way to the government -- to bomb the government buildings -- and to sort of stop the plot cold but clearly it's a real tinderbox in Iraq with the uh elections coming up in March and uh we saw just this week even more political struggle as the official government elections commission uh struck about 500 people off the elections list because of ties -- alleged ties to Ba'athist organizations.

There is no proof of a plot. And there was no "interception." What supposedly happened is a tip -- and most reporters in the region believe the tip came in as a result of the fact that Nouri's now paying for tips -- and the tip may have been accurate, may not have been. Supposedly 25 would be criminals were arrested.

From the January 12th snapshot:

But the big news will probably be the ongoing crackdown in Iraq's capital.
Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report Baghdad is under curfew with at least 25 people arrested. What's known? Damn little. So you know the New York Times is all over it, pressed up against it, breathless and heavy panting. Today's groper is Timothy Williams. It's always cute when the paper goes weak knee-ed over claims instead of stating outright, "The following are claims by an installed government desperate to remain in office and we cannot verify any of what follows." So Nouri's image took a beating and now he claims he has stopped at least 4 -- count 'em, 4 -- suicide bombings today. You know what? The moon didn't crash into the earth today either. Maybe Nouri should claim credit for that as well. I'm sure the New York Times would breathlessly repeat it. The same Timmy that gushes today of how "the plot discovered by the Iraqi government on Tuesday would have been devastating if carried out." Much more devastating, of course, if it were a real plot. But Timmy can't verify that and why do reporting when there are so many fewer rules in 'reporting.' Besides, it's fun too! Watch: Timothy Williams denies rumors that he is pregnant with Nouri al-Maliki's child insisting that thus far, they've just done a half-and-half (mutual jackoff), government sources say. See! Fun!

An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers explains that the curfew lasted for two hours and that rumors flew like crazy:

["]The rumors today reminded me with those during Saddam regime when Saddam's followers used to spread rumors to control Iraqis and they strongly succeeded . Rumors are the most powerful weapons in Iraq an unfortunately, my people are very easy victims for this weapon.["]

Poor Timmy, from headline to text,
Chip Cummins (Wall St. Journal) does a much better job establishing what's known and what's claimed. Xinhua adds, "A police source told Xinhua that the Iraqi forces mainly focused their search operations on eastern Baghdad neighborhoods, including the Shiite bastion of Sadr City, which has long been the stronghold of Mahdi Army militia, loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr."

And let's note
Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report:
Whether the alleged plot has been fully thwarted is open to question, however.The quantities of explosives uncovered would barely equal that of one of the recent bombs. The government did not specify whether the security forces had found the bombs purported to be circulating.
Get it? David Wood doesn't. What an idiot. James gets a lucky break because I don't have the time to dissect him. (However, non-Iraq related, he got off a howler and we'll address that at Third.) We will know that only Karen DeYoung appears to grasp what an allegation is while the men were happy to fling very serious allegations -- none of which they can prove -- at Sunnis.
Let's turn the continuing story of the banning of Sunni politicians (made all the easier when 'journalists' bandy about charges as if they're facts).
Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) notes:

The story, of course, is the Committee's surprising decision to disqualify some 500 politicians, including the Sunni leader Saleh al-Mutlak and the
current Minister of Defense Abdul-Qadir Jassem al-Obeidi, from contesting the upcoming Parliamentary elections on the grounds of alleged Baathist ties. The Higher Election Commission disappointed many observers by accepting the recommendation; the issue now goes to appeal. Mutlak's list -- which includes such figures as former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and current Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi -- is talking about boycotting the election, which many fear could have a major negative impact on the elections and on longer-term prospects for Iraqi political accommodation. Not bad work for a zombie!
I say that it's the work of a "zombie" because the Accountability and Justice Committee, a relic of the Bremer era rooted in the conceptually flawed and badly politicized De-Baathification Commission, should be dead. It is
basically continuing to operate because the early 2008 legislation establishing its replacement never got off the ground, so the old team just stayed in place. It's most unfortunate that such a relic has thrown more fuel onto the fire of mistrust and institutional dysfunction... but hardly a surprise in the thinly institutionalized and still deeply polarized and hotly politicized Iraqi scene.

In a piece entitled "
Iraq's witch hunt continues" (Al Jazeera), Hoda Hamid notes the bulk of those targeted with bannings are "surprise, surprise" Sunnis and that Saleh al-Mutlaq's National Dialogue Front is "broad based, non sectarian party . . . unheard of in the new democratic Iraq" and that Sunnis are being prevented from participating due to a witch hunt. Dale McFeatters (Scripps Howard News Service) offers, "In any case, the chance of a Baath renaissance is increasingly remote. The threat of renewed sectarian violence is not. There is still time for the commission to reverse its ban and al-Maliki, the U.S. and United Nations should persuade them to do so." Al-Ahram explains, "It is widely believed that it is this alliance with Allawi that has prompted the present ban. Shia groups that control both the parliament and the government fear that even a moderate success of the "Iraqi List" formed by Al-Mutlaq and Allawi last November could bring the Shia-controlled government down." Martin Chulov (Guardian) quotes Sunni politician Osama al-Najafi stating, "There has been a drastic change in the political situation in Iraq. There will be a severe public backlash to this, reconciliation will end, and the election will fail. Any results will clearly be seen as illegitimate." Anthony Shadid (New York Times) offers, "Western officials and some Iraqi politicians have questioned whether the decisions by the Accountability and Justice Commission are even binding, and critics have acused its director, Ali Faisal al-Lami, of carrying out agendas of various Iraqi politicians and of Iran. A former chairman of the De-Baathifcation Comission, now disbanded, Mr. Lami spent a year in American detention on suspicion of aiding Iran." Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) notes Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council member Mohammad al-Haidari claims, "The Baath party is worse than the Nazi pary." NPR's Quil Lawrence reported on the situation for All Things Considered today and noted that al-Mutlaq has his supporters including a man who "draws a distinction between al-Mutlaq -- who never left Iraq -- and exiles -- many of them Shi'ites -- who returned with the American invasion." He also has his detractors including an adviser to Nouri al-Maliki who sees al-Mutlaq as a Ba'athist and part of an effort to return to power.

Turning to London where the
Iraq Inquiry heard from Maj Gen Graham Binns and Lt Gen John Reith -- link goes to video and transcript option -- sort of. Reith demanded to testify in private and his wish was granted -- they did publish a transcript of Reith's testimony.

Chair John Chilcot: There are, as you see, no members of the public in the hearing room for this session and it is not being recorded for broadcast. However, after the session, we will be publishing a transcript of the evidence you give, so that, at that stage, your appearance before us will become publicly known. Before the New Year, we heard from a number of military officers involved at senior levels in the planning of operations against Iraq, including the Chief of Defence Staff at the time, Lordy Boyce, and one of your deputies, General Fry. So this session will cover 2002 up to and beyond the invasion, covering the period of your tenure as Chief of Joint Operations. I remind every witness that he will later be asked to sign a transcript of evidence to the effect that the evidence they have given is truthful, fair and accurate. With that, I will hand over to Sir Lawrence Freedman. Sir Lawrence?

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Sir, I think the easiest way to start is perhaps if you could just take us through how you became aware of the potential need for planning in -- for military action in Iraq, and your awareness of the American plans. It would probably be best if you just take us through from the start.

Gen John Reith: May I just start by giving you sort of mood music at the time and our situation with the Americans at the time, so you get a better understanding, if that would be helpful?

So he gets to demand that he testify off-camera and he gets to decide how he'll start his testimony? Some call the Iraq Inquiry "the Chilcot Inquiry" -- apparently it should also be called "the Reith Inquiry."

He prattled on and on about his special relationship with US Gen Tommy Franks ("So I forged quite a good relationship with him, and, in fact, he jokingly used to call me his deputy commander, and I was very much seen by the Americans as the UK's global combatant commander.")

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can I just pull you back a bit on that? Because there is a meeting at Chequers, I think just before the Prime Minister goes to Crawford, where Alastair Campbell, in fact, reports in his diaries about Tommy Franks' view from "our military man based in Tampa", which I think was Cedric.

Gen John Reith: It would have been Cedric at the time, yes.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: And CDS was there and I think Tony Pigott as well. So what were they reporting on?

Gen John Reith: Cedric never gave me anything relating to Iraq. I presume that Cedric, again, had credibility with Tommy Franks, [redacted] and he may have given an opion, but it would have been a personal opinion, but he never actually raised it at as an issue with me.

The redacted portion is 36 spaces. For all the world knows, he was describing a deep, soul kiss with Tommy Franks. He was obsessed with Tommy Franks.

Gen John Reith: I tended to be very candid with Tommy Franks and I made it clear that there was no commitment from the UK. He used to rib me regularly that he was having to produce two plans, one with and one without the UK, but that he couldn't conceive that America's closest ally wouldn't go with them into Iraq if they went. That was his perspective. So, as we were developing plans --

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: How did you respond to that?

Gen John Reith: I responded to it. I mean it was all done in a very jocular way, but I responded to it that nothing in this life is certain.

And, yes, that is accurate portrayal of the entire hearing. He did not know about the Crawford, Texas meeting between Bully Boy Bush and then Prime Minister Tony Blair "until somebody mentioned it to me yesterday."

The jaw should drop at that one. Now some may rush to Gen Reith and say, "Well of course he knew his prime minister was in the US at that time. He just means that, until yesterday, he had no idea it was at this meeting that Blair told Bush England would give whatever needed to the Iraq War" (one with no UN approval at that point and that would never get UN approval). You can say that. It's not very likely, but you can say that.

Reality: The Crawford meeting has been big news, BIG NEWS, in England throughout the Inquiry. Don't say, "Oh, yes, yes, with Alastair Campbell this week." No. Not just this week.

The committee members and witnesses have raised it repeatedly. David Manning testified November 30th (see
that day's snapshot). In his testimony, he noted:

The first evening, the President and the Prime Minister dined on their own, and when we had a more formal meeting on Saturday morning, which I think was the 6th, it was in the President's study at the ranch. There were, as I recall -- and I may be wrong about this -- three a side. I think it was the President, his Chief of Staff, Andy Card, and Dr [Condi] Rice and on our side, as I recall, it was the Prime Minister, his Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, and myself. We convened about half past nine, after breakfast, and began with the President giving a brief account of the discussion that he and the Prime Minister had had on their own the previous evening over dinner. He said that they had discussed Iraq over dinner. He told us that there was no war plan for Iraq, but he had set up a small cell in Central Command in Florida and he had asked Central Command to do some planning and to think through the various options. When they had done that, he would examine these options. The Prime Minister added that he had been saying to the President it was important to go back to the United Nations and to present going back to the United Nations as an opportunity for Saddam to cooperate.

That was the take-away from Manning's testimony and the press (the British press) were covering it like crazy. You can refer to
Ruth Barnett (Sky News -- link has text and video), Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror), Kevin Schofield (Daily Record), Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian), David Brown (Times of London), Gordon Rayner (Telegraph of London) and Jonathan Steele (Guardian) just to start with. And this wasn't the first time it dominated the news cycle for the Inquiry. That was the week before when Christopher Meyer testified about Blair and Bush's agreement "signed in blood" (it really wasn't signed in blood, he was using that expression) and that got a huge amount of attention from the press.

Where has Reith been throughout all of this? If he's not even able to follow the headlines in the last weeks, how on the ball is he? It's just as likely -- some might say more likely -- that he's being dishonest. I don't know but it doesn't make sense and those who feel he may have been less than honest can refer to his exchanges with Committee Member Roderic Lyne where even the most basic questions (Lyne lays his questions out very clearly) were met with evasions and stumbles. Lyne would have to repeatedly clarify after a respone (usually in this form, "But . . . ") and the question he'd just asked was completely clear.

Maj Gen Graham Binns was much more straighforward and forthcoming with his answers. We'll note this passage on Basra.

Maj Gen Graham Binns: The security situation was difficult for us. Every move outside our bases required detailed planning and was high-risk. I thought that we were having limited effect on improving the security situation in Basra. 90 per cent of the violence was directed against us, politically there was no contact between us and the local provincial government, and coaltion-sponsored reconstruction had almost ceased.

That was how things were when he arrived but he credited his predecessor with putting in place a plan that allowed for some improvements. How much of an improvement? Asked how things were when he left, he replied, "So -- but I think it is fair to say that the security situation was such that we spent a lot of our time protecting ourselves."

Turning to US politics and the decade ended. A friend asked that we note Katha Pollitt -- a friend at The Nation -- from part one of her two part piece.
From Part one:

Sonia Sotomayor joined the Supreme Court. Before that, Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin showed how far we've come--and how far we haven't. Between them they normalized forever the idea of a woman running for president and withstood a ridiculous amount of sexist garbage, from nasty cracks (from both sexes) about Clinton's legs, clothes, voice and laugh to tinfoil-hat accusations that Palin's baby was actually her daughter's.

Good for Katha for decrying the sexism aimed at Palin -- a first for The Nation -- and for bringing up the nasty and disgusting rumors about Trig. Better if she'd named the pig who glommed on them in the fall of 2008 and continues to repeat them to this day -- at The Atlantic. What she won't scrawl across the women's room stall, we will: ANDREW SULLIVAN. That's the pig. For many years Anne Kornblut worked for the New York Times, she's now at the Washington Post. She has a new book out
Notes from the Cracked Ceiling: Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin and What It Will Take for a Woman to Win and she weighs in on the campaigns at wowOwow:

Covering the 2008 campaign day-to-day, it rarely felt as if Clinton or Palin was having a harder time of it than the male candidates Рwho were also under constant scrutiny. I was as skeptical as anyone of Clinton's claim, after one of the Democratic debates, that all the male candidates were engaging in the "politics of pile-on." Really? She was a woman under siege? She had been the frontrunner for nearly a year, raising record-breaking amounts of money. Later on, I was among the reporters who challenged the McCain campaign's complaint that Obama was referring to Palin when he talked about putting "lipstick on a pig." Really? Wasn't he using a common clich̩ to describe a policy proposal?
When I went back after the campaign was over, however, and read through all the transcripts, columns and stump speeches, interviewing dozens of campaign
aides who advised the candidates and prominent women who watched the race from the sidelines, there was just too much evidence pointing to the influence gender had on the race to pretend that it had been otherwise. Clinton was often reluctant to talk about being a woman, and worked so hard to compensate for the perceived shortcoming of being female that she came off looking, to many, too tough. "She didn't get there on her own," was a refrain I heard repeatedly, which although factually true failed to take into account the fact that she had, just a decade earlier, been criticized for not being enough of a housewife. Here she was taking heat for being too much of one.
Palin failed to prepare for the extra layer of questions that women get – as mothers, as wives, as candidates who are sometimes perceived as being less qualified – and was shell-shocked after her daughter's pregnancy was revealed, and when critics called her inexperienced despite her tenure as governor. She shouldn't have been so surprised; female candidates across the country had been through similar ordeals. But Palin and the McCain team learned the hard way that crying "it's not fair" is not a winning political strategy.

No offense to Anne but what women cried sexism -- or men for that matter -- with either campaign? While the campaigns were going on? Give me some names. Because as I recall it, sexism was fine and dandy and no one objected. Bill Moyers, for example, willfully and happily engaged in sexism on the tax payer dime and PBS airwaves (which, thankfully, he's now leaving). As I recall the same Bill Moyers couldn't stop screaming "racism!" One ism was to be called out, the other to be ignored or (in Moyers' case) added to. I appreciate what Anne's saying and I think her book's a strong read that many will enjoy but the above excerpt does not fully capture the landscape (which is difficult to capture in so short a space) and this goes to what we value and what we don't (
see last night's entry) and how a pedophile can be busted twice and still be treated as a 'good guy' and trusted voice. His third bust? Strange, Amy Goodman couldn't stop bringing the pedophile on her show but she hasn't found time in her headlines to note he Pig Ritter just got busted a third time. Or take FAIR -- allegedly Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting -- allegedly a media watchdog. One that didn't bark at sexism in 2008. Every week, the hosts of FAIR's radio show (Counterspin) noted real and imagined racism in the press that was harming St. Barack. Every damn week. Let's go to May 25th when Ava and I noted Counterspin's finally noting sexism against Hillary Clinton:

Last week, we noted that FAIR's radio program CounterSpin is happy to ignore sexism and, at the top of Friday's show, they appeared bound and determined to prove us wrong.Peter Hart: One of the most disturbing features of the media coverage of the Democratic presidential race is the way racism and sexism have been expressed. CNN viewers were treated to one pundit explanation that people might call Hillary Clinton a bitch because well isn't that just what some women are. Not everyone's so out in the open. MSNBC host Chris Matthews opened his May 18th show wondering how Barack Obama would connect with regular Democrats? Obviously code for working class Whites. This would seem to make the millions of Obama voters so far irregular. But then consider the May 14th op-ed by Washington Post Writers Group Kathleen Parker. She wrote about 'full bloodness' and the patriot divide between Obama and John McCain offering that there is "different sense of America among those who trace their bloodlines through generations of sacrifice." This makes Obama less American than his likely Republican rival and his success part of a larger threat "There is a very real sense that once upon a time America is getting lost in the dash to diversity." Well thanks to The Washington Post, Parker's rant appeared in newspapers around the country including the Baltimore Sun and Chicago Tribune. We're not sure what those papers used for a headline but one blogger suggest [nonsense] would do. Parker's attack wasn't even new. Before in the pages of The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan wondered if Obama had ever gotten misty thinking about his country's rich heritage. John McCain by contrast "carries it in his bones." There's an appetite in corporate media for such repellent ideas as Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell recalled, Noonan's column was praised by NBC's anchor Brian Williams as Pulitzer worthy.

And that was it. 25 words. Counterspin's ENTIRE 'coverage' of the sexism aimed at Hillary during her lengthy campaign for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Even when they finally noted sexism (one example of it), notice that (a) they didn't tell you who made the remark, (b) they didn't tell you what program it was made on and (c) when they finally give (limited) time to sexism, they offer 25 words while providing -- in the same news item -- over 230 words on racism. But you do that and you note who said it and where when it's something that actually matters to you. When it doesn't really matter to you, you just toss out 25 words and pretend like you did a damn thing worthy of note. To provide some more context, if Keith Olbermann had said someone needs to take Barack into a room and only one of them comes out alive, FAIR would have screamed their heads off, but when he said about Hillary? Not a peep. Not a protest. That's how it went. Over and over throughout 2008. The sexism never ended, many of the 'left' took part in it and media watchdogs repeatedly looked the other way. Repeatedly? Maybe, like Barack, I should say "periodically"? Barack: "
I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she's feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal." Or when he said "the claws come out"? One of the strong women (there were a few) in 2008 was Marie Cocco and we'll make the time now to note how she wasn't silent. Marie Cocco "Misogny I Won't Miss" (May 15, 2008, Washington Post).

"I won't miss reading another treatise by a man or woman, of the left or right, who says that sexism has had not even a teeny-weeny bit of influence on the course of the Democratic campaign."

Marie Cocco's "
Obama's Abortion Stance When 'Feeling Blue'" (Washington Post Writers Group July 8, 2008).

Obama says that these women should not be able to obtain a late-term abortion, because just "feeling blue" isn't the same as suffering "serious clinical mental health diseases." True enough. And totally infuriating. During the recent Obama pander tour -- the one in which he spent about a week trying to win over conservative religious voters -- the presumptive Democratic nominee unnecessarily endorsed President Bush's faith-based initiative, a sort of patronage program that rewards religious activists for their political support with public grants. Then in a St. Louis speech, Obama declared that "I let Jesus Christ into my life." That's fine, but we already have a president who believes this was a qualification for the Oval Office, and look where that's gotten us.Obama's verbal meanderings on the issue of late-term abortion go further. He has muddied his position. Whether this is a mistake or deliberate triangulation, only Obama knows for sure. One thing is certain: Obama has backhandedly given credibility to the right-wing narrative that women who have abortions -- even those who go through the physically and mentally wrenching experience of a late-term abortion -- are frivolous and selfish creatures who might perhaps undergo this ordeal because they are "feeling blue."

And when the sexism was aimed at Palin, Cocco didn't play dumb or didn't go silent.
Marie Cocco, "
Sexism Again" (September 16, 2008, Washington Post Writers Group):

This has a lot to do with a graphic image of Palin I just saw in which she is dressed in a black bustier, adorned with long, black gloves and wielding a whip. The image appeared in the Internet magazine Salon to illustrate a column titled: "The dominatrix," by Gary Kamiya. Kamiya calls Palin a "pinup queen," and says she not only tantalized the Republican National Convention with political red meat, but that her "babalicious" presence hypercharged the place with sexual energy, and naughty energy at that. "You could practically feel the crowd getting a collective woody as Palin bent Obama and the Democrats over, shoved a leather gag in their mouths and flogged them as un-American wimps, appeasers and losers." That's some sexual mother lode. Dare I point out that I have never -- ever -- in three decades of covering politics seen a male politician's style, even one with an earthy demeanor, described this way? Salon editor Joan Walsh says she agrees the "dominatrix" piece had a "provocative cover,'' and that her columnists enjoy great freedom. "One day Gary (Kamiya) called Palin a dominatrix, the next day Camille Paglia called her a feminist." The magazine exists, Walsh says, to "push the envelope."No sooner did Walsh give me this explanation than another Salon contributor, Cintra Wilson, pushed that envelope again. Wilson described Palin as follows: an "f---able ... Christian Stepford wife in a 'sexy librarian' costume" who is, for ideological Republicans, a "hardcore pornographic centerfold spread." That is, when Palin is not coming across as one of those "cutthroat Texas cheerleader stage moms." What is it about a woman candidate that sends the media into weird Freudian frenzies?

Related, at
Women's eNew, Lisa Nuss calls out the bad makeover that turned high powered attorney and board member Michelle Obama into June Cleaver:

During Barbara Walters' interview with Michelle Obama last month, I never heard Walters say why she chose the first lady as the most fascinating person of the year.
I dug up the transcript, watched the video and confirmed that Walters never said why.
Michelle Obama did a lot that was fascinating before 2009.
After bootstrapping her way to an elite college and law school where she was outspoken about racism, she left corporate law for high-profile policy work in politics and health care and won a powerful corporate board position.
All the while she battled her husband to pick up his slack on the parenting and insisted on her own demanding career after his election to the U.S. Senate. She told Vogue in 2007, "The days I stay home with my kids without going out, I start to get ill." She said she loved her work challenges "that have nothing to do with my husband and children."
Am I the only one who misses that formidable woman?

Ava and I observed of Barbara Walters' special, "Michelle Obama was the person of the year. Now that had us wondering because, outside of Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin, we were having trouble grasping what the women did in 2009 that made them fascinating? Gosselin is apparently fascinating because her marriage ended. The wife of a governor was termed fascinating by Barbara Walters because . . . her husband cheated on her? And she lived through it? (Was she supposed to commit suicide? After the special was broadcast, the woman announced she was divorcing the governor.) Silly us, we would have thought a person (male or female) actually had to do something in order to qualify as 'fascinating'."

TV notes and humor!
NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations tonight (check local listings) and this week's program explores . . . Let's let them tell it:Is good journalism going extinct? Fractured audiences and tight budgets have downsized or sunk many of the fourth estate's major battleships, including this very program.This week, NOW's David Brancaccio talks to professor Bob McChesney and journalist John Nichols about the perils of a shrinking news media landscape, and their bold proposal to save journalism with government subsidies. Their new book is "The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again."John Nichols? He's an ethical voice? The idiot who said Wesley Clark was only running for the 2004 Democratic Party presidential election because he wanted Bush to win? (That's noted in the 2008 year-in-review with the title of the segment but we're not linking to trash so Google if you want it.) Remember when Barack got exposed for reassuring Stephen Harper's conservative government in Canada that although he was saying he'd do away with NAFTA he wouldn't. Johnny 5 Cents insisted that was a lie! And Barack would do away with NAFTA! And Hillary Clinton was the one behind this nasty rumor! And the one who was really talking to Canada! And he had the proof! And would be writing the expose! Of course, he never wrote s**t because he was lying through his teeth (egged on by Amy Goodman before the show aired -- though the crazy 2004 talk took place on air with Amy in December 2003 and he didn't need egging for that). John Nichols is a liar and an idiot. This is the man who -- when Samantha Power stepped down (she was not fired) from Barack's campaign for telling the BBC that his promise on ending the war in Iraq wasn't a promise -- published fan fiction as fact. One lie after another. (And he avoided the issue of Iraq.) He insisted that Samantha and Hillary were best friends! For years! They'd met once and only once. A fact Samantha herself had already revealed weeks prior on The Charlie Rose Show. But facts be damned, John Nichols had purple prose to produce.We've covered all the above in real time. We've even covered who he aimed all his anger and rage out for Congress' vote to approve the 2002 Iraq resolution. (Which member of Congress got trashed? Oh, not a member of Congress. It was Barbra Streisand's fault to hear crazy ass John Nichols tell it at The Nation.) [Her 'crime' was in donating her money how she wanted to and not getting permission first from John Nichols.]NOW ponders, "Should journalism get the next government bailout?" If John Nichols is your example of the heart and soul of journalism, not only should they not receive a bailout but they should also be shut down.Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Dan Balz (Washington Post), Helene Cooper (New York Times), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melinda Henneberger, Irene Natividad and Genevieve Wood 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:
HaitiNews from the earthquake decimated country.
Football Island60 Minutes goes to American Samoa to find out how a territory with a population less than the capacity of a pro-football stadium sends more players to the NFL than any similarly populated place in America. Scott Pelley reports.
Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 17, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Thank you to
Trina and Mike and all the people in their Iraq study group for listening to me on the Iraq Inquiry and then helping me decide which points to hit in the snapshot. Thank you.

nprthe diane rehm show
sky newsruth barnett
richard norton-taylorthe guardian
martin chulov
60 minutescbs newspbsnow on pbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
washington week
anthony shadidthe new york times
the los angeles timesliz sly
anne e. kornblut
nada bakri
quil lawrence
al jazeera
marie cocco

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett II

Sunny read an e-mail to me at the office that had us both laughing. I was supposed to be shamed by the e-mail. My reply: Get a life.

The e-mailer is just appalled that I didn't applaud Lila Garrett's ringing endorsement of the help she received at the hospital when she returned Monday to Connect the Dots with Lila Garrett. I advise the e-mailer to buy a product that removes ear wax and then listen again.

Lila's remarks were embarrassing and appalling. It's the sort of crap you'd hear from Rush Limbaugh.

Or didn't you notice who got thanked and who didn't?

A few doctors who darted in and out get thanked. The nurses -- even the surgical team nurses -- didn't get a mention.

Lila came off like Joan Crawford hospitalized to avoid filming Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte and flirting wildly with every doctor who entered her room.

Here's reality: The surgical team saves your life during surgery. Not the doctor, the surgery team.

But Lila needed a patriarchal God head and so she had to praise a man (men actually -- and don't forget the way she was slobbering over the five fire fighters -- all male). Well Lila was never a feminist.

I covered the first segment yesterday. The second segment answered the question of whether Lila actually gave a damn about people or just existed to pimp 'Progressive' Democrats of America. It's the latter.

PDA board member Lila Garrett is certainly a boom to that bad, bad organization. If she wasn't willing to use her air time (that's actually "our time") to do non-stop infomercials for PDA on KPFK.

Dennis Kucinich, despite all of his grandstanding for single-payer, ended up caving when it mattered. If you thought Lila was going to press him on that, you were wrong.

The answer, Lila tells us repeatedly, is more "PDAs" -- like Dennis! -- and the reality is Dennis isn't like the Dennis that Lila portrays.

As C.I. always says, "Dennis takes care of Dennis." Doubt it?

"Beware the Progressive Democrat" (Helen Redmond, Old Elm Tree):
And what of the amendments supported by members of the Progressive Democratic Caucus, the supporters of single-payer (SP): John Conyers, Anthony Weiner, Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders and Jan Schakowsky?
At every critical moment these politicians with vertebrae composed of Jello compromised, backed down and conceded. Their allegiance to the Democratic Party and to President Obama trumped everything. There was nothing they were not willing to compromise away, no constituency that couldn't be thrown under the bus for the sake of passing a bill; most appallingly women and abortion rights. With the exception of Dennis Kucinich and Eric Massa, they all voted for the house bill that contained the Stupak Amendment. At a small protest in front of Jan Schakowsky's home after the vote, she came out and told protesters she voted in favor of the Stupak Amendment because she knew it would be taken out of the Senate bill. She promised us it would be. As Schak strolled back into her opulent residence she protested, "I didn't throw women under the bus."

The progressive Democrats sold out on single-payer early on when they backed the public option. This created enormous confusion: How could they advocate for both single-payer and the public option when the two are diametrically opposed? It didn't take long before they all shilled almost exclusively for the public option. Schakowsky spoke at numerous HCAN meetings and rallies, never at single-payer events. Weiner was regularly interviewed by the press and focused the discussion on the public option, not single-payer.

John Conyers, the lead sponsor of the single-payer bill H.R. 676, immediately endorsed the principles of Health Care for America Now (HCAN), an organization opposed to single-payer. When confronted by single-payer supporters at a Health Care Now! national conference, Conyers couldn't explain the contradiction. Joel Segal, one of his staffers, became enraged and attempted to shut down the discussion. Soon after, Mr. Conyers became irrelevant to the movement for single-payer and a colossal embarrassment to it. It's tragic, really. Conyers completely abandoned his magnificent legislation, H.R. 676: the only legislation that could transform health care from a commodity to an entitlement for all and solve the crisis. Instead of fighting for that legislation, he was holding briefings with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee to discuss "Why the public option must be included to have true health reform."

It was easy to champion single-payer when the Republicans were in power and health care reform wasn't on the national agenda, but the minute it was, with the Democrats in control of Congress and the Whitehouse, Conyers collapsed like a house of cards. Every now and again he howled about something. In one article he declared, "I'm tired of saving Obama's can" but it never occurred to the doddering old fool to stop.

The Weiner Amendment was sheer duplicity. Single-payer supporters worked overtime and got arrested holding Nancy Pelosi to her promise of a vote on the amendment. The vote was scheduled but the day before, Conyers and Kucinich called off support for the vote and Weiner withdrew the amendment. But that was okay with the always-waffling Weiner. He explained: "I have decided not to offer a single payer alternative to the health reform bill at this time. Given how fluid the negotiations are on the final push to get comprehensive health care reform that covers millions of Americans and contains costs through a public option, I became concerned that my amendment might undermine that important goal." Now we know: The most important goal for Weiner was securing a political future in the Democratic Party.

Conyers and Kucinich tried to spin their skullduggery this way: "Many progressives in Congress, ourselves included, feel that calling for a vote tomorrow for single-payer would be tantamount to driving the movement over a cliff... We are now asking you to join us in suggesting to congressional leaders that this is not the right time to call the roll on a stand-alone single payer bill. That time will come." Their assertions were preposterous and false - our movement wouldn't go "over a cliff" if there was a vote, just the opposite. They claimed there wasn't enough national support for SP, but that wasn't true, either. Poll after poll show a majority support a government-run health care system, doctors do, too! Moreover, there would have been more grassroots activism and protest if Conyers and Kucinich had clearly, consistently and unapologetically led a political fight to get SP "on the table." They did nothing to make H.R. 676 a central part of the health care debate and instead, spent their political capital working for the doomed public option. The time was never better to have a vote on single-payer - we had nothing to lose but the vote. For progressive Democrats there will never be a "right time" to have a vote on single-payer in the United States.

The Kucinich Amendment for state single-payer never even made it into the final House bill.

That's what happened. Not that Lila bothered to tell her listeners or even put Dennis a tiny bit on the hot seat.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, January 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry hears some hearsay as well as some actual testimony, Barack wants more war money, demands are made in England for Gordon Brown to testify, while another prime minister (in the Netherlands) admits that the Iraq War did not have legal backing, and more.

Starting in London with the
Iraq Inquiry. For any who missed yesterday's hearing and to give credit to an outlet for covering the events, we'll note this from yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (broadcast on KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59):'s

John Hamilton: Prime Minister Tony Blair told then-president George W. Bush in 2002 that Britain would back military action if diplomatic efforts to disarm Iraq's Saddam Hussein failed. That's according to testimony today by Blair's former communications chief as he appeared before a public inquiry into the Iraq War in London. Alastair Campbell said there never was a precipitant rush to war despite the close ties between Blair and Bush; however, Campbell said that Blair wrote personally to Bush to offer his support for military action if Saddam did not accede to the United Nations demands on disarmament before the March 2003 invasion. Here he describes the content of secret letters from Blair to the former president pledging British support for an invasion as early as 2002.Alastair Campbell: We share the analysis. We share the concern. We're absolutely with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is -- face up to his obligations and Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically, it has to be done mila-militarily. Britain will be there. That will definitely be the tenor of his communications to the president.John Hamilton: Campbell is a former journalist who was one of Blair's closest advisers from 1994 to 2003. He insisted today that Blair tried all along to disarm Saddam by diplomatic means. His testimony conflicted with widespread reports that a British intelligence dossier on Iraq's pre-war capabilities to produce Weapons of Mass Destruction was "sexed up" on Campbell's orders to make Saddam Hussein appear to be more of a threat to national security. Those reports were reinforced this week when the British Guardian newspaper reported that those who drafted the dossier were immediately asked to compare British claims against a 2002 speech to the United Nations by then-president George W. Bush. In that speech, the former president claimed Iraq would be able to produce a nuclear weapon within a year. The next day, the [British] dossier's timeline was halved to claimed Iraq could get the bomb within a year. Campbell today dismissed such reports.Alastair Campbell: But at no point did anybody from the prime minister down say to anybody within intelligence services, 'Look, you've got to sort of tailor it to fit this argument.' I defend every single word of the dossier I defend every single part of the process.John Hamilton: The five-person Iraq Inquiry also known as the Chilcot Inquiry was called by current Prime Minister Gordon Brown to examine the run up to the 2003 invasion. Critics point out that witness are not sworn to testify under oath. And others have criticized the panel's members for their lack of prosecutorial skills.

Jason Beattie (Daily Mirror) observes of Capmbell's testimony, "The Godfather of Spin bobbed and weaved his way through a five-hour long grilling without once displaying a hint of humility or a glimmer of self-doubt." Tom Newton Dunn (The Sun) zooms in on this detail, "Mr Campbell revealed Gordon Brown was in Tony Blair's 'inner circle' when the decision was made to go to war. The revelation is an embarrassment to the then-Chancellor who has long tried to distance himself." Before we get to today's hearing, we're going to stay with Gordon Brown and today's news. Brown came under pressure today regarding the Iraq Inquiry. Andrew Porter (Telegraph of London) reports, "Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, used Prime Minister's Questions to demand that the Prime Minister face questions from Sir John Chilcot's inquiry team in the coming weeks." Porter quotes Clegg stating, "Given everything that has come to light in the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War, will you now do the decent thing and volunteer to give evidence to the inquiry before people decide how to vote? When the decisions were taken to launch this illegal war, you weren't only in the room - you were the one who signed the cheques. People are entitled to know, before they decide how to vote in a general election, what your role was in this Government's most disastrous decision. What have you got to hide?" The Guardian of England has a web poll on the issue currently and, as this is dictated, the non-scientific results are 15% say that Brown shouldn't testify before the election and 85% say, "Yes. Voters hvae a right to know his responsibility." Tim Castle (Reuters) reports that Gordon Brown danced around the issue today declaring, "I have nothing to hide on this matter, I am happy to give eivdence." But that's not saying, "Fine, I'll do it." Helene Mulhooland (Guardian) adds, "Brown was also asked if he had any regrets regarding the war, and said he had already put on the record that he felt that the reconstruction of the country had been mismanaged. But he said he stood by all the decisions he was involved in during the run-up to the invasion in 2003."

The Liberal Democrats issued the following:

Following today's Prime Minister's Questions, Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg is writing to Gordon Brown, urging him to indicate to the Chilcot Inquiry that he would prefer to appear before it ahead of the election.
The text of the letter is as follows: Dear Gordon,
I am writing to urge you to indicate immediately to Sir John Chilcot that it is your
strong preference to go before the Iraq Inquiry ahead of the General Election.

Follwoing developments yesterday at Alastair Campbell's hearing, your personal
role in decisions that led to the war in Iraq has now come under the spotlight. The
notion that you hearing should take place after the election in order that the Inquiry
remains outside of party politics therefore no longer holds. On the contrary, the
sense that you have been granted special treatment because of your position as
Prime Minister will only serve to undermine the perceived independence of the

As I said to you across the floor of the Commons today, people have a right
to know the truth about the part you played in this war before they cast their
verdict on your Government's record. I urge you to confirm publicly that should Sir
John Chilcot invite you to give evidence to the Inquiry ahead of the election you
will agree to do so.

Nick Clegg

Along with Brown's testimony, there is great interest around Tony Blair's testimony (Blair is scheduled to testify later this month).
Catherine Mayer (Time magazine) notes:Blair's star turn is expected to be so heavily subscribed that the inquiry has launched a public ballot for seats. A key question will be at what point the British government gave pledges to Washington about taking part in military action. The inquiry panel's questions to Campbell revealed for the first time the existence of private letters in 2002 from Blair to U.S. President George W. Bush. The "tenor" of these letters, said Campbell, was "We are going to be with you making sure that Saddam Hussein faces up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed. If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there."

Daily Mirror offers, "A little humility might have been appropriate when considering the dire situation Iraq is now in but perhaps we're expecting too much." Campbell has no humility. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger notes that Campbell insists he ignored the morning papers in which case he might wish to know that BBC News offers a press roundup of coverage (with links). Meanwhile Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) notes Campbell's taken to blog to toss out the Bible to hide behind. The Guardian's Nicholas Watt also caught Campbell's self-dramatizing posts:

So, once again, we are treated to some
"unadulterated, bilious shite" on Alastair Campbell's blog today.
OK, that language is a bit over the top. But those are the exact words Campbell once used in public to dismiss a Guardian piece I had written.
Tony Blair's former communications director is denouncing the media in general for its coverage of his appearance before the Iraq inquiry yesterday. He has taken exception to the way the press highlighted a series of notes Blair wrote to George Bush in the run-up to the war in 2003.

Campbell's post is rather amazing for its inability to grasp reality and for little tidbits that say so much. An example of the latter, Campbell spent last night seeing The Misanthrope. But possibly Campbell's really not familiar with Moliere and missed those points. (In his post, he's obssessed with Keira Knightley and Damian Lewis.)

Today the Inquiry heard from
Nemat Shafik and Andrew Turnbull (link goes to video and transcript options). Turnbull was Tony Blair's Cabinet Secretary (September 2002 to 2005).

Chair John Chilcot: I think we are coming to the end of this session. We have learned from this session a number of lessons and you may have others to suggest and certainly some last reflections.

Andrew Turnbull: Well, I have got one in particular. That is -- the perception in the British public is, we said he had weapons of mass destruction and we went to war in order to find them and disarm them, and we didn't find them. Thererfore, the 179 people [British troops] who died, many more injured, their sacrfice is in vain. That's a very kind of popular view. What I find extraordinary is that -- how little knowledge there is of what the answer to this story is, and I hope that this Inquiry will devote some time to explaining what we now know about what actually happened, the two main sources being the Iraq Survey Group and the debriefing of Saddam Hussein. If I said to people, "Who is George Piro?", I don't think one in 60 million would know -- do you know who George Piro is? George Piro is the FBI agent who debriefed Saddam Hussein over a perid of five months. So there is a sense that we do know the answer, and --

We stop there. We're not interested in garbage and it's a damn shame the Inquiry let him yammer on. Saddam Hussein was crossed or felt crossed by the George H.W. Bush administration (when H.W. Bush was president). He's captured by US forces after the illegal war has started. You think he's going to tell the truth? He's got a good guess he's going to be dying (he was executed). You think he's not going to taunt his interrogators?

While the Inquiry does not swear anyone in (or make them affirm to tell the truth), witnesses need to offer testimony on what they observed. Turnbull was not present for the interrogation. He's referring to an American FBI agent's observations. Bring that FBI agent forward if you want to hear what the FBI heard from Saddam. But don't let witnesses continue this crap. There was a passage last week, of testimony, that was so tempting to use because it would be perfect for the snapshot and back up several assertions we've long made. It never made it in the snapshot because the witness 'testifying' wasn't present for what he was describing. The committee doesn't need to be composed of attorneys to grasp that you don't rely on hearsay evidence.

They need to put their foot down on this because it's happening more and more as the Inquiry goes on and you better believe those who are coming in know it. Turnbull knew it. He knew he could go on (and on and on -- from where we cut him off he speaks for another page and six more lines before being interrupted). He offered nothing of value. What he didn't witness, he didn't witness. Early in his testimony, he told Chilcot, "I thought Alastair Campbell's description of Clare Short as untrustworthy was very poor. I didn't agree with that." Fine. That's his observation. He's making that call based on what he saw. He did not see Saddam Hussein interrogated and he doesn't need to be pinning his hopes that the illegal war was 'good' onto testimony he can't back up because he didn't witness it.

Andrew Turnbull: I think there were two problems. One was the US. The other is we made -- along with that -- when we allocated, we made some incorrect assumptions. There was a belief that we would succeed in persuading -- since we had persuaded the US to go the UN route on the confrontation of Saddam Hussein, they would buy into the UN route for the post-crisis. I think Bush -- when Bush said the UN will have a vital role (inaudible), he was fobbing us off, and he meant the UN agencies would have a vital role, but he was absolutely resistant. So we took false comfort from that. We took false comfort from the fact that there are papers which say, "This is a well-educated socity" and there were words around in the papers which say "with a functioning, public -- relatively functioning public sector". It turned out that it partly collapsed of its own accord and then Bremer destroyed what was left. We had underestimated the discord that would arise. In a sense, we were preparing, but we didn't -- there were lots of things we didn't forsee and it was getting the -- an arrangment with US apparatus that was the thing that was realy difficult. [. . .] No, what we did not get were large numbers of internal displaced people and we did not get hunger, and I have come to the view that the UN, when they said they were feeding 60 per cent of the population, they were boasting. Valerie Amos went to Basra in June/early Jule and reported that the markets were simply flowing with produce. So I don't think we were looking at a much, much worse scenario on those two fronts. What we did not anticipate was the collapse of civil order, and you could say this comes back to the fact that the one assumption that was absolutely correct in this whol thing was that Saddam Hussein could be toppled very quickly with a surprisingly small number of people, but the number of people required to topple him in three weeks was far les than the number required to occupy what was left. That was a major strategic miscalculation, not principally of our doing.

Turnbull stated that if they'd gone with another war option, the British could have utilized "warships and airships" but far less boots on the ground.

Andrew Turnbull: Whether people really understood that significance, I don't know. Maybe they did, but they understimated just how difficult it was going to be, and one of the reasons we underestimated it was, in my view, that the emigre groups had the ear of the people that mattered in the Pentago who said, once you have decapitated the Saddam regime, it will not be difficult to create a functioning Iraqi society. We were overconfident in that and didn't forsee -- this whole idea -- we didn't forsee that we would be in the midst of an extreme security problem. We didn't foresee that the Iranians would meddle as much as they meddled. It goes back almost to that point, but I think we seriously failed to see what was the real problem. The real problem was security and we probably spent too much time on humanitarian -- the movement of people, refugee camps, safe havens and the food supply issues, and we didn't catch this other issue that, if we didn't establish security, nothing else counted for anything.

This is in contrast to Shafik's earlier testimony and Chilcot pointed that out to Turnbull before noting that Shafik wasn't there (and Turnbull was) so obviously on some level John Chilcott does grasp that people need to be testifying to what they witnessed. I was not impressed with Shafik's testimony and we're not emphasizing it.
Iraq Inquiry Blogger weighs in on Turnbull's testimony:

In the event it was a fascinating session. He attacked Alastair Campbell for describing Clare Short as untrustworthy ("very poor"), criticised Blair for allowing the 'culture of challenge' to ebb from Cabinet life and introduced the new (to me) phrase "granny's footsteps" to describe the troubling way the September dossier was pieced together by No 10 and the spooks.
How was Middle East security ever going to be improved, he asked, by taking out Saddam Hussein and leaving Iran with a neighbour newly run by 15 million Shia?
Perhaps most moving were his remarks about the late Robin Cook. A number of commentators have said the former Foreign Secretary wasn't always the easiest of people to get on with; I interviewed him once and was left with the distinct impression that mine were by some considerable degree by far the stupidest questions he'd ever been asked (then again maybe they were).
But Turnbull's description of the "quite remarkable" man was highly affectionate. Alone in a Cabinet that had bought the case for war, Cook was the only person who wasn't convinced about WMD or the failure of containment "and I'm sorry he isn't around to take the credit for that".

Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) focuses on the legal opinion given the Cabinet before the start of the illegal war:

Lord Turnbull, the cabinet secretary at the time, who gave the inquiry unprecedented insights into how the Blair government took the country to war in 2003, said there were significant differences between the final legal opinion Lord Goldsmith presented to the cabinet, and an earlier version he gave privately to
Tony Blair.
"It was not, in my view, a summary of what had been produced 10 days earlier. It was materially different in some respects because of the passage of time. Certain things had changed," he said.
Blair has argued that the short statement Goldsmith subsequently gave the cabinet on the eve of the invasion was a "fair summary" of the attorney general's latest legal advice. However, it is now known that the only official legal opinion Goldsmith drew up was the one dated 7 March, which contained serious caveats about the lawfulness of an invasion.

David Brown (Times of London) adds, "Lord Turnbull said that the final legal opinion presented to the Cabinet 'was not, in my view, a summary of what had been produced ten days earlier. It was materially different in some respects because of the passage of time. Certain things had changed'." For Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry) the most telling moment of the hearing was that Turnbull became yet another who had faith in Blair early on but now didn't know what to make (he told the Inquiry he was confused by Tony Blair's recent claims that he would have invaded Iraq whether or not he thought it had WMD) and, "The trouble for Blair is that if the cabinet secretary didn't know what the true aim of his policy was, the evidence of all of the officials further away from him who have sworn that the objective of the policy was disarmament becomes worthless."

Back to yesterday's Pacifica Evening News (broadcast on
KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59) for other governmental bodies and the Iraq War:

John Hamilton: Also today an official Dutch investigation into the Iraq War concluded that the Hague government supported the war without legal backing, it did not fully inform Parliament about its plans. The committee's scathing report -- whose release was broadcast live on state television -- said the US led invasion probably targeted regime change in Iraq but military intervention for this reason was not supported by international law and the Dutch government was aware of that case.

And Tony Blair may be involved with this one as well. First,
Dutch News reports a bitter split/argument "between the Labour party and the prime minister" with Parliament demanding Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkeneede issue some sort of a statement on the new findings. Afua Hirsch (Guardian) pronounces them to be "damning findings" and explains the inquiry had a mysterious document that is being kept secret: "The document – allegedly a letter from Tony Blair asking for the support of the Dutch prime minister, Jan Peter Balkenende – was handed over in a breach of diplomatic protocol and on the basis that it was for Balkenende's eyes only, an inquiry official told the Guardian." Andrew Porter (Telegraph of London) adds of the report:It stated: "The United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq from the 1990s did not give a mandate to the US-British military intervention in 2003."Mr Balkenende joined the "coalition of the willing" because he said Saddam Hussein had repeatedly flouted UN resolutions. Dutch MPs opposed the move.The report said the Dutch government did not adequately inform parliament in 2002 and 2003 about a US request for support for the invasion.Willibrord Davids, the committee chairman, said: "It could have been much more complete. Information from intelligence and security services was handed out selectively."
Radio Netherlands reports the Dutch Prime Minister has written a letter to Parliament in which he "admitted that a better mandate in international law was required to begin a war against Iraq in 2003."
In Iraq, Nouri's up to something but who knows what? On yesterday's crackdown, we'll again turn to Pacifica Evening News (broacast on
KPFA and KPFK -- as well as other stations -- KPFA archives for 14 days, KPFK for 59).Mark Mericle: Iraq's military seized a large cache of explosives and arrested suspected insurgents allegedly planning to target government ministries today in a crackdown across the capital that brought parts of the city to a standstill. The security measures demonstrated the ever present fear that insurgents will carry out more bombings like the ones against government buildings in past months that killed hundreds ahead of the March elections. The government's announcement that it had arrested 25 suspects and seized 400 kilograms of military grade explosives also set off bitter accusations from some Sunni politicians that the government had exaggerated the incident to burnish its security credentials. The deputy head of Parliament Security and Defense Committee said the insurgnents were explanning to target goverment ministries although he did not have details on which ones. There was now to independently verify the reports.On the crackdown and claims, Liz Sly and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report that Iraqi state TV immediately began announcing there was no military coup taking place in an attempt to calm the residents and that state TV then began broadcasting claims of an allegedly foiled plot. They report:Whether the alleged plot has been fully thwarted is open to question, however.The quantities of explosives uncovered would barely equal that of one of the recent bombs. The government did not specify whether the security forces had found the bombs purported to be circulating.But the panic showed how jittery the city is as the elections approach. Though most roads were reopened by midmorning, schools were closed and some neighborhoods were sealed off into the evening. By nightfall, streets that would normally be bustling with traffic were almost deserted."People are feeling very nervous about the security situation and also about the political situation, which is getting more complicated every day," said Nabil Salim, a political scientist at Baghdad University.

Real violence continues in Iraq.


Xinhua reports "a roadside bomb went off near a U.S. military patrol near the city of Khalis". Press TV adds a bomber in Saqlawiya (Anbar Province) took his/her own life not far from a police station and killed 7 other people as well. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Anbar bombing left six people wounded and that a Baghdad roadside bombing injured 2 people. Mohammed Hussein and Timothy Williams (New York Times) report that the bomber used a vehicle ("water truck") and that it "was allowed to enter the compound because it was believed to be part of rebuilding efforts there, the authorities said."


Xinhua reports 1 person has been shot dead (a second wounded) in Baquba today while an Iraqi soldier was wounded in a Sa'diyah shooting. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an attack on a Kirkuk Sahwa checkpoint in which 1 Sahwa was injured.

Alsumaria TV reported that 1 Iraqi Christian -- 50-year-old Hikamt Elias -- was shot dead in Mosul yesterday. Tom McGregor (Dallas Blog) puts the latest assault on Iraqi Christians into persepctive noting the other assaults in the region (he gives the murdered the age of 75 and notes the name is Hikmat Sleiman):.

At the
New York Times' At War Blog, two Iraqi correspondents for the paper share their thoughts on the region. In Anbar, the correspondent sees violence returning but hopes for improvements this year and has hopes for the elections scheduled for March. In Tikrit, the correspondent sees continued corruption, lack of basic services "and chaos" and a split between the people with some missing "the past under the rule of Saddam Hussein". On the subject of the intended elections, Reidar Visser (Iraq and Gulf Analsyis) weighs in on the efforts to ban a number of politicians (including the popular Salih al-Mutlak) and political parties:

Much of the lack of clarity relates to the essentially transitional character of the Iraqi de-Baathification process. The old de-Baathification committee, created on the basis of ideas from Paul Bremer and headed since 2004 by Ali Faysal al-Lami -- a Shiite political operator with particularly close ties to Iran -- is supposed to be replaced by a new "justice and accountability board" pursuant to the "justice and accountability act" passed in early 2008. However, Iraqi parliamentarians have been wrangling about who should sit on the new board, with a government proposal for a Maliki ally (Walid al-Hilli) to take over its leadership so far having been rejected in parliament, partly due to internal Shiite opposition. In the meanwhile, Lami, apparently in dialogue with the "justice and accountability committee" of the Iraqi parliament, continues to wield considerable influence in issues relating to de-Baathification.
It is Lami and the committee that appear to be the driving force behind the latest proposal to exclude Mutlak. It may be useful, therefore, to have a brief look at the political affiliations of these individuals. Lami has ties to Ahmad Chalabi, the Sadrist breakaway faction Asaib Ahl al-Haqq (involved in the Qays al-Khazaali case and the abductions and murder of British hostages), and Iran. As for the parliamentary committee, it is headed by a Sadrist, with a Badr member as number two. The other members are from the PUK, Daawa and yet another Sadrist who together form the majority (hence, the "Watani" alliance is stronger on the committee than Daawa as far as the Shiites are concerned). Additionally, there is a minority of two secularists on the committee, plus Rashid al-Azzawi who represents Tawafuq (and who on some issues may well find common ground with the Shiite Islamists rather than with the secularists).
The main problem with the proposal to exclude Mutlak is of course its abrupt, ad hoc nature, and the fact that it emerges in the middle of a period of transition for the de-Baathification bureaucracy. Firstly, why has not this been dealt with earlier? The fact is that Mutlak and his party have been an important part of Iraqi democracy for four years, and that they have played a key role on numerous occasions in furthering the democratic process -- for example when they along with other opposition parties demanded a timeline for local elections when the provincial powers law was adopted in February 2008. Mutlak has also been crucial in keeping the issue of Kirkuk on the agenda as a question of national concern, and was talking about "putting Iraq first" when this kind of approach was very unfashionable back in 2006 (of course, in a very predictable way, the Western mainstream media is still today obsessed with him as a "Sunni"). Thus, the very sudden singling out of him as a potential neo-Baathist (ostensibly on the basis of "new documents" that, of course, have not been made public) smacks of a highly politicised decision that can only weaken the public trust in the democratic process. With the exception of some Sadrists (especially locally in Amara), it took more than two weeks before the other Shiite Islamists began reacting in an audible fashion to the
Iranian occupation of al-Fakka, and one cannot help wonder whether this latest move may reflect a certain panic over the way this issue has played into the hands of nationalists like Mutlak. Conversely, Mutlak's bloc, Iraqiyya, has once more highlighted its non-sectarian, Iraqi nationalist orientation by promptly and strongly rejecting slander by Saudi clerics against the (Shiite) Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

In the United States,
Josh Rogin (Foreign Policy) notes another broken promise from President Barack Obama:
The administration came in promising not only to curb the drastic rise in military spending since 2001 but also to account for war spending transparently and on budget. Shortly after taking office, the White House requested $537 billion for the Pentagon as well as $128 billion for the wars in 2010, but stated in its budget documents that war funding is expected to go down to $50 billion for each year afterwards.
Well, so much for that. In addition to another $33 billion the administration will ask for in 2010 money to pay for the Afghanistan surge, the White House is seeking $159 billion for war operations in the 2011 budget request, according to
this AP story. So the Obama team was only off by about $110 billion.What's more, the total $708 billion Pentagon request for 2011 would give about $549 billion for regular military operations, the largest total in history. Although to be fair, that's only about a 2 percent increase, which roughly matches the rate of inflation.

Also in the US, Tavis Smiley has cancelled his long running, yearly State Of The Black Union conference.
Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report) weighs in on that decision:

Tavis can't stack the panels to exclude or silence the critics. How can he tell Cornel West, for example to stay home or stay quiet? He knows his panelists, he knows his audience, and he knows his politics. Even if no panelist dropped more than one of these points, the effect on Democrats and on the White House of any two or three of them, of public black criticism aired on TV in front of millions of African Americans would be catastrophic. The solid black support the Obama administration enjoys depends on excluding, marginalizing, and hiding any viewpoints to the left of corporate mainstream Democrats. As long as the only opponents of the president allowed access to the mic are Republicans, Obamites can demand that African Americans continue to circle the wagons around the president no matter how much he ignores the actual wishes of what is supposedly his core constituency.
A 2010 State of the Black Union would be an uncontrollable source of public, highly visible leftward pressure aligned with longstanding and deeply held political stands in the black America upon the Obama administration, something corporate media are intent on preventing. And nobody personifies corporate media more than the C-SPAN, the public voice of the cable TV industry, whose biggest player, Comcast is now poised to merge with NBC.
Tavis mumbles every now and then about speaking truth to power. But the last time he expressed even a mild disagreement with Barack Obama he was hounded off the Tom Joyner Morning show as a "hater" and forced to apologize. Speaking truth to power has its costs, and Tavis may be reluctant to pony up. It's like Tavis said. Ten years ago, when he started SOBU, we didn't have a black president.

I know
Tavis and I like him. But I'm adding what I'm adding because the above isn't quite true. He wasn't just "hounded" for his remarks. He was targeted by Barack Obama's self-appointed Ambassador to Youth who had earlier worked successful astroturf campaigns to get James Carville and Ugh (I hate Paul) removed from CNN (accusing them of being Hillary supporters -- no one worried about Donna Brazile -- but no one ever has, she's led a very pathetic and lonely life) and worked the successful attack campaign on Gloria Steinem which included the professor penning columns that ran under student bylines. We don't praise Lie Face here and we never will. When students began ratting her out, it was over for Lie Face. She not only led the astroturf campaign against Tavis, she got to go on PBS and bring up the campaign against Tavis while not only not revealing her hidden part in it but also 'forgetting' to note that she wrote "Who died and made Tavis King?" -- the only real online post attacking Tavis. The Dixie Chicks were targeted by an astroturf campaign that got them forced off the air. The same sort of campaign was worked from the 'left' to go after Tavis. Other than that, Bruce Dixon's opinions are fine but I will not be silent while Missy Harris Lacewell thinks she can escape the blame for what she did. All that whoring and it really didn't get her anything other than the 'power' of posting online at The Nation. There's a term for a whore who can't even make a living wage but that's for another day.

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