Friday, June 04, 2010
The Gulf Disaster
It charts all the time Barack spent avoiding the Gulf Disaster. That includes flying to Buffalo, NY for hot wings, going to North Carolina for date weekend, going on vacation, golfing, chatting with Bono, etc.
At the end, this message comes up: Plug the damn hole.
I think that's a powerful video that underscores how Barck's provided no leadership at all.
A few weeks ago, I noted oceanographer Sylvia Earle who was on Charlie Rose's program. Today she was on NPR and I'll note a section of it.
"Oil Spill: Can Science Clean Up This Mess?" (Talk of the Nation, NPR):
Dr. EARLE: I would. In fact, it's baffling that actions hadn't been taken before this time right away to track and really come up with straight answers to straight questions.
I don't regard this as a mitigation kind of action. It's more an unmitigated disaster to add so much of this dispersant material. The idea is to do exactly what the name suggests, to break the oil up in small pieces. Well, it would seem more logical to try to keep the oil in a place where you could gather it up and get it out of harm's way, get it out where it's not going to cause harm.
So there are various techniques for gathering the oil - application of straw and other things that will collect it - but there's this perverse other approach to try to break it up into little pieces and make it less easy, more difficult to capture. In fact, it becomes, then, a part of the food chain, a part of the water column. And to actually be able to understand the size of it, the scope of it and the fate of it would seem to be a high priority, before putting even one gallon, let alone a million gallons - even if it weren't toxic, which it is, the dispersants that have so far been used, primarily this Corexit that doesn't correct anything, it seems to me. I can understand, and I would endorse almost a surgical application of dispersants if you see oil coming, and no other means seems to be working to protect a critical marsh or a wetland or a bird rookery, but to just put it at the source of where the oil is coming out and to sprinkle it widespread over the surface of the ocean would seem to be compounding, not reducing, the problem.
FLATOW: Would it be better not to do anything at all with the dispersants and let the bacteria and the natural degradation of the oil occur?
Dr. EARLE: Oil is toxic, has toxic components, but it is a naturally occurring substance, and there are organisms that will break it down. The dispersants are - include elements that are not found in nature, and what happens to them ultimately, we should know. We should want to know.
We shouldn't be so ready to just make the Gulf of Mexico a big experiment and then afterwards say, well, I wonder how that - what the effect was?
I wish she'd be on every program. She always makes solid points, she always points to where we should be focused. I actually wish she was serving on a board -- or chairing it -- in charge of addressing the Gulf Disaster.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, June 4, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, there are four vying for the role of prime minister in Iraq, Iran in northern Iraq?, and more.
Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show, Susan Page filled in for Diane and the second hour's guests were MBC TV's Nadia Bilbassy, Christian Science Monitor Howard LaFranchi and PoliticsDaily.com's David Wood.
Susan Page: Well Iraq's high court ratified the results of the national elections that were held on March 7th, Howard, who won?
Howard LaFranchi: Well according to the uh the Supreme Court ruling bascially what they did was uh verify that the uh bloc led by uh Ayad Allawi uh who is a uh a secular Shi'ite that his bloc won the most seats. Uh the problem is that they didn't win uh anything near a majority. Coming in second, just uh a few seats behind was the bloc of the current prime minister Maliki. And uh so now uh although it sounds great that okay finally there's a ruling and uh the results have been certified but now the-the jockeying and the-the power struggle shifts to Parliament because someone is going to have to come up with a uh coalition that will be a majority -- to be able to form the government. Uhm. Last -- or recently anyway [C.I. note, May 4th] -- Maliki sort of envisioning this formed a coalition with the forces of uh . . . [pause] the Islamic Sh'ite Movement of uh of uh Sadr uh a name that I think many Americans will be familiar with.
We got to break in, there's too much wrong there. What the hell is he saying? He doesn't know what he's saying. He's got some names he almost knows and tosses them out but does so wrongly. Nouri's State of Law formed a power-sharing coalition on May 4th with the Iraqi National Alliance slate. Ammar al-Hakim and his Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq or Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council are part of that alliance along with 17 other components/parties as well some independent politicians. Moqtada al-Sadr is also a member of the Iraqi National Alliance with his Sadr bloc. His bloc won the most seats of any component/party in the Iraqi National Alliance (40, followed by ISCI and Bard Organization with 18 seats. The INA, chaired by Ibrahim al-Jaafari, holds 70 seats in the new Parliament. Ayad Allawi heads Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament. Nouri al-Malki heads State Of Law which won 89 seats in the Parliament. State Of Law's power-sharing coalition with the Iraqi National Alliance gives them 159 seats currently (after Parliament is seated, the candidates are MPs and cannot be removed by their party and replaced with another candidate on their party's list -- once seated, some members of some blocs may decide to cut their own deals). 163 seats are needed for the government (prime minister and council) to be formed.
Howard LaFranchi (Con't): Uhm but the question will be the-the right to try to form a government will go first to uh uh --
Nadia Bilbassy: Allawi.
Howard LaFranchi: Allawi and the question will be if he will be able to succeed.
Susan Page: And, Nadia, is this taking longer than we expected.
Nadia Bilbassy: I think every time I come on The Diane Rehm Show I ask the same question.When they going to from the government and, I think, I don't have an answer. Probably September. I mean it's a good thing the highest judicial body in Iraq has certified the results because that means that they're no disputed anymore. And we heard from Prime Minister Maliki who said, 'No, we won, we have to recount it by hand. We have to do this, we have to do that.' So now it's over except for two seats that were disputed -- ultimately, it's not going to effect the results. As it stands now, 91 and 89 for Allawi [she has the totals backward, Allawi's slate has the 91]. The problem now it is jockeying for power. Who is going to form the government and, funny enough, it reminds me of Israel because, if you remember, Kadima won the election but they couldn't form the government and therefore it lost so it doesn't mean the winning party who got the popular vote will ultimately form the government. What we have seen now is actually Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki trying to go and coordination with the second larg -- third largest bloc which is the Iraqi National Alliance which includes Sadr and Hakim and others. The problem is people already see it as a Shi'ite domination and it's not just Shi'ite domination but Shi'ite religious domination and that will alienate the secular and the Sunnis. So the problem now is where do you go now? The President Jalal Talabani has 15 days to ask the Parliament to convene and after they nominate the Speaker and the Deputy Speakers they will go forward to ask the winning party -- which is Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya Party -- to form the government.
Susan Page: Now, Nadia, says that the government may not be formed until September. We have an August deadline for the reduction of US troops in Iraq --
Nadia Bilbassy: I mean, I hope it's [government formed] before.
Susan Page: Yeah, we hope it's before. But it's obviously taking quite a bit of time and no end yet quite in sight. Could this imperil the timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, David?
David Wood: I don't think so, Susan. We're going to have General Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq, briefing at the Pentagon in about an hour so we'll get an answer from him. But he met with President Obama this week and what he said was that the withdrawal of US combat troops was on track and they will all be gone by August 31st. About 50,000 US military personnel [troops] will be left in Iraq, but let me stress they are not organized in fighting units. [Apparently, they're instead organized in sewing circles. Quilting bees?] And they are largely technicians and administrators so that if violence does break out and the US is needed they will have to come back in from the outside.
They are combat troops. That's what the US military trains the troops for. When Barack first presented this laughable idea of "noncombat" troops being left in Iraq, Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) rightly -- and repeatedly -- expressed bewilderment over how Barack could 'create' this category. Since then Thomas E. Ricks has called it out repeatedly and many others as well. Ricks has, in fact, been the most elequent on this topic. On The Diane Rehm Show, for example, March 4th, Ricks observed, "I hate the phrase 'combat troops.' There is no pacifisit wing of the Marine Corps or the 101st Airborne. And I think it's effectively a lie to the American people. When they hear 'I'll get combat troops out,' what they hear is 'No more American troops will die' -- and that is blatantly untrue. And I think the sooner the president addresses that, the better for him." Exactly. We'll include David Wood's uninformed comments. I went back and forth on it but the reality is we'll return to them months from now in order to hang him with his own words. Joost R. Hiltermann examines the current situation in "Iraq's Summer of Uncertainty" (New York Review of Books):The outlook is ominous. As the politicians dither, governmental institutions -- never particularly effective -- could become paralyzed, as senior officials fear for their careers if they make decisions that would anger Iraq's future rulers. Uncertainty over the country's prospects could spread through society and the economy. In a political vacuum, outside regional powers would almost certainly gain greater influence and be tempted to meddle more than they already do. The United States, which has been so eager to depart that it failed to craft an exit strategy, would then have trouble being heard over the din. Lacking strong support in Baghdad, parties and politicians would have little choice but to seek succour in neighbouring capitals, insinuating these states' countervailing interests into what is already a combustible mix. And Iraq's insurgencies could get a second wind, again making violence the primary mode of politics.
Alsumaria TV states Iraqi National Alliance's Bahaa Al Araij is stating that an announcement will be forthcoming and that while State Of Law is going with Nouri, the Iraqi National Alliance will nominate their chair Ibrahim Al Jaafari and Adel Abdul-Mehdi. Ibrahim al-Jaafari was Iraq's second post-invasion prime minister. He was also the first choice, following the December 2005 elections, to be (remain) prime minister; however, the US government objected to him and Nouri al-Maliki was then chosen as a compromise candidate. In the 2005 elections, he had the support of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers. That allowed him to defeat Adel Abudl-Mahdi by a single vote in those elections. Adel Abdul-Mahdi currently serves as Iraq's Shi'ite vice president (Iraq has two vice presidents) he belongs to al-Hakim's political party. al-Jaafari spent his exile time in Iran and England while Abdul-Mahdi spent his exile time in France. Nouri spent his exile time predominantly in Syria and Iran while Allawi spent significant time in England. All potential prime ministers (thus far) are former exiles.
Nouri wants to continue in the post. There is opposition to that within the Iraqi National Alliance. Tossing out their two most popular figues from the last election appears to indicate that they do not see the power-sharing coalition as a rubber stamp for Nouri's continued reign.
Nouri's close ties with Iran have not resulted in Iraq's territorial sovereignty being respected. Tuesday some reports maintained the Iranian military had entered northern Iraq while other reports insisted no entry had taken place:
Sherko Raouf, Shamil Aqrawi and Matt Robinson (Reuters) report that there are rumors (denied by Kurdish officials) that Iran has entered northern Iraq but that over 100 Iraqi families have fled the area in the last seven days. Sunday Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN)reported the Iranian shelling claimed the life of 1 teenage Iraqi girl in nothern Iraq. Xinhua (link has text and audio) identified the 14-year-old as Basouz Jabbar Agha. As with the Turkish military, Iranian military claims their target is the PKK -- a group identified by many countries (including the US) and the European Union as a terrorist organization and one that has established a base in nothern Iraq (among other places). [They would actually claim their target is PJAK and we're not drawing a line between the PKK and PJAK here -- they have the same leader, the same goals and are 'mingled' in the northern Iraq bases.] The PKK seeks an official Kurdish homeland (usually within Turkey) and points to decades of persecution. One of their leaders is Abudllah Ocalan who has been in a Turkish prison since 1999. The BBC reported over the weekend that he was rumored to have announced "he was abandoning efforts for dialogue with the Turkish government." Hurriyet Daily News reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a terrorism summit on Wednesday (Turkey labels the PKK a terrorist organization). Meanwhile AFP quotes an unnamed "security official" stating that Iranian troops have moved "three kilometers" into northern Iraq. Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) quote KRG spokesperson Kawa Mahmoud stating, "These reports about an Iranian incursion into Krudistan are totally false. There may be Iranian activity near the border, but there is no incursion." The reality? At this point unknown. Iran's most recent invasion of Iran (December 2009) was greeted with denials from some Iraqi government officials and from some Iranian government officials. But the violation of sovereignty did take place.
This afternoon, Leila Fadel and Dlovan Barawri (Washington Post) report that Nouri's officials deny the Iranian military has entered northern Iraq; however, "Incensed by the intensity of the attacks and what they say is a brazen ground movement nearly two miles into Iraqi territory, Kurdish officials have reached out to the central government to stop the Iranian incursion and continued shelling, said Jabar al-Yawar, the spokesman for the peshmerga, the Kurdish regional force." Meanwhile the PKK in northern Iraq announced the end of their ceasefire with Turkey's military. This announcement came as KRG President Masoud Barzani was in the midst of a five-day visit to Turkey -- his first in approximately five years. Mehmet Ali Birand (Hurriyet Daily News) opines, "We shouldn't expect Barzani to grab a weapon and fight for Turkey up in the mountain or fight against the PKK. No matter how much he dislikes this terrorist organization and is against the interests of Iraqi Kurds, this means a war between Kurds. That's why we shouldn't expect Barzani to fight for Turkey against the PKK. But on the other hand, we expect him to take measures and stop the PKK strolling around freely. We can do this only by acting together." Today's Zaman reports, "While expressing support for the Turkish government's efforts to engage its Kurdish population with the aim of ending decades of fighting with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has killed tens of thousands of people, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani on Thursday also voiced regret over the deaths of young people in the conflict between Turkish security forces, no matter if they are Kurdish or Turkish."
Today's violence, Reuters notes, included a 2 Mosul roadside bombings which claimed 2 lives and left six people wounded and a Mosul car bombing which injured three people.
Earlier this week, we noted BP wants to get their unskilled hands on more Iraqi oil. Ben Lando (Time magazine) reports on this topic and it appears the US government is using US officials -- military and civilians -- as whores for BP: Major General Vincent Brooks, commander of U.S. forces in southern Iraq, towered over dozens of fellow visitors on a recent dusty morning in the Rumaila oil field in Iraq's oil capital Basra province. With U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill nearby, Brooks chatted up the president of Iraq operations for BP. In November BP signed a contract along with Chinese partners to develop the field. Rumaila was first drilled by BP a half century ago, but the company, along with other foreign oil companies, was kicked out in the 1970s when Iraq nationalized its oil sector.A US commander and the US ambassador do not need to whore their positions by accompanying BP around. That's disgraceful and oh, so telling. So as Iraq continues to struggle, remember that Chris Hill, when not on a crying jag from his manic depression, could be found showing the fellows of BP a good time out in the oil field.
At the Pentagon today, Gen Ray Odierno gave a briefing that was song and dance and someone break it to him that he lacks rhythm. He spun like crazy and as you heard that significant markers showed improvement and this one and that one was arrested, you may have been reminded of "WORLD CUP TO BE ATTACKED BY AL-QAEDA!" How'd that work out? Apparently, it was spin. But it sure did eat up airtime on CNN and take us far, from reality. Today was nonsense. We'll note this section of Odierno's remarks:
There will still be bad days in Iraq. There are still violent elements that operate inside Iraq. There violence is less than it was before but it's still violence. And we will continue to work with the Iraqi security forces to improve their capacity and capability to deal with the violence to continue to increase stability inside of Iraq and to continue to increase the capability of the government as we move forward.
We've seen Odierno testify to Congress, we've seen him manipulate the media (giving them a non-answer they mistake for an answer). In all that time, for any paying attention, one thing is obvious, when Odierno lies, he closes his eyes. To see him at the podium today was to really see that personal tic play out.
F16s are something the press is running with. Butt Ass Stupid apparently being an easy way to. They tend to ignore the most important remark in that exchange: "This will be an evolving process over the next few years." What will be? Determining and turning over F16s to Iraq. Iraq's Air Force is not ready. A sale of F16s would help them somewhat but would not make them ready. This has not changed and that was a key point from the briefing to those paying attention. Odierno misdirected and controlled the press conference but that tends to happen over and over and the press never pays attention, never learns and still can't identify even one of his uncomfortable tics let alone his lie tic. Again, when he's lying, he closes his eyes while speaking. Jim Wolf (Reuters) is one of the few paying attention and he's the one who asked about the F16s. He also did a follow up.
Jim Wolf: But they wanted something to be there by the time US combat troops completed their withdrawal at the end of next year. Are you saying that if this is going to take years the US won't be able to meet that request?
Gen Ray Odierno: Well I think what they'll have is they'll have some Air Force capability, they'll continue to build some capability, not fighter aircraft. The fighter aircraft will come some time after 2011. Like we do in many other countries as we sell them aircraft.
Jim Wolf reports on the briefing here.
Yesterday's snapshot addressed Don't Ask, Don't Tell at length. Today To The Contrary (PBS) has a discussion on the policy and how it effects women and minorities. The weekly program broadcasts on PBS and each week it also offers an exclusive online segment which, this week, is on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Bonnie Erbe is the program's host and producer and her panelists this week (from the right) are Linda Chavez and Karen Czarnecki and (from the left) Melinda Henneberger and US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton:
Bonnie Erbe: All of this comes just as a recent survey finds minorities and women are disproportionately effected by the ban. In 2008, 45% of troops discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell were minorities yet minorities made up 30% of the military that year. And while female troops made up 14% of the military, they accounted for 34% of discharges. So what's going on here? Why -- Why, first of all, are minorities and women disproportionately discharged like this?
Linda Chavez: I don't think we know the answer based on this one survey. I actually was a bit skeptical about, certainly, the figures on minorities. It didn't make sense to me. The women made a little more sense to me. I think it is more likely -- and probably going to get myself into trouble here -- but I think it's more likely that a lesbian would be comfortable in a very masculine role in the military. So the fact that there might be more lesbians in the military than there are gay men --
Bonnie Erbe: Actually, let me throw a, you know, mine your way as well. I called the head of the Service Persons United and more often the threat of -- of falsely outing a woman is used to get her to succomb to sexaul advances than a lesbian, an actual lesbian. So some of this is happening at least because a guy hits on a woman, she tells him to go take a hike and he runs to their commander and says, "She's a lesbian."
Melinda Henneberger: Well it would have to be that, right?
US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton: Well no, it isn't that. And this is why this law is so cockeyed: It's Don't Ask, Don't Tell. So the fact that she's a lesbian and somebody thinks she's a lesbian should have nothing to do with this. You have to out yourself. Now this is subject to great abuse because what is outing yourself -- saying, "I am a lesbian" -- mean? Does it mean that someone's tricked you into saying what you are? I hope that this study [Pentagon review] that is going to be out before this goes into effect also looks at this. This is contra-indicated. I also agree with you [Linda Chavez] for one thing, in the minority community, there is enough homophobia so that people would tend to surpress it, leave aside Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And for women, one does wonder if that is real abuse of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell process which lends itself to that anyway.
Karen Czarnecki: I always thought Don't Ask, Don't Tell was supposed to be a compromise. Keep it to yourself, we don't want to hear about it. And so at least it could keep the peace in the military. The fact of the repeal? I don't know how it's going to effect anybody. They couldn't study anything because of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell so I think, similar to what you're [Linda Chavez] saying, we don't know enough about how this will effect. It will make some people happy, it will make other people angry. It's going to be a whole mix of emotions as this evolves.
Bonnie Erbe: Melinda, John McCain says he's going to fight it in the -- fight lifting the law in the Senate because to allow gays to serve openly would effect morale. Agree? Disagree?
Melinda Henneberger: I strongly disagree and I think that based on what I've heard from PoliticsDaily's war correspondent, he says he has yet to meet the soldier in the field who has time to worry about such a thing or who has voiced that in a very, very long time. So, no, I think that is a minority view that -- John McCain is in a tough political primary right now
Linda Chavez: Well I also think it's a generational thing, Melinda, because I think if you check people in John McCain's generation or even in my generation, they're going to be much more dubious about this. But if you talk to young people -- who are the people serving in the military now -- I think we've become much more accepting of gays in all walks of life and so I think they're going to be less uncomfortable.
Melinda Henneberger: I agree with what [pointing to Karen Czarnecki] --
US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton: Fortunately we have the Army and the Air Armed Forces has big experience in this. If you want to talk about effecting morale, I'll tell you this without fear of contradiction, 1948, straight-away, Blacks and Whites must be in the same unit. If you think that White Americans -- this is before the '54 decision [Brown v. Board of Education], before any law of any kind had been passed, were ready for that, I can tell you that what made them ready was that they were in a command structure. And if that command structure does its work, I'm not even a little bit worried.
Bonnie Erbe: Alright. Thanks for watching TTC Extra. Whether your views are in agreement or To The Contrary, please join us next time.
TV notes. Of course, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. On PBS' Washington Week, Peter Baker (NYT), Michael Duffy (Time) and Doyle McManus join Gwen around the roundtable or at least in the NO WOMEN ALLOWED Club House. Seriously, Gwen, where the hell do you get off booking three men? Do you know how many times Gwen books an all female roundtable. As Maya Rudolph's character Jodi would say on Bronx Beat, "0.00." Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's bonus is a discussion on whether female soldiers suffer more under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The SwindlerTo understand how Bernard Madoff could have done what he did, listen to so-called "mini-Madoff" Ponzi schemer Marc Dreier tell Steve Kroft in his first television interview how he scammed $400 million. Watch Video
The Case Against Nada ProutyFormer FBI and CIA terrorism fighter Nada Prouty was herself accused of aiding terrorism, but in her first interview, she denies she was anything other than a patriot. Scott Pelley investigates her case. Watch Video
The SharkmanAnderson Cooper dives unprotected with great white sharks and the South African who's spent more time up close with the ocean's most feared predator than anyone else. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, June 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
We'll close with this from Andy Worthington's "Torture and the 'Black Prison', or What Obama is Doing at Bagram (Part One)" (World Can't Wait):For eight and a half years, the US prison at Bagram airbase has been the site of a disturbing number of experiments in detention and interrogation, where murders have taken place, the Geneva Conventions have been shredded and the encroachment of the US courts -- unlike at Guantanamo -- has been thoroughly resisted. In the last few months, there have been a few improvements -- hearings, releases, even the promise of imminent trials -- but behind this veneer of respectability, the US government's unilateral reworking of the Geneva Conventions continues unabated, and evidence has recently surfaced of a secret prison within Bagram, where a torture program that could have been lifted straight from the Bush administration's rule book is still underway.
nprthe diane rehm show
the washington postleila fadel
delovan barwarialsumaria tv
hurriyet daily news
time magazineben landothe new york review of booksjoost r. hiltermann
60 minutescbs newsto the contrarybonnie erbe
the world cant waitandy worthington
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
Vitter said that while Louisianans are "mad as hell at BP," opinion is also turning against a federal government they believe is failing them again five years after Hurricane Katrina.
The Republicans are coming off like heroes and concerned. Bitchy remarks in speeches about them are not going to take that away. The only thing that does is real action.
Bill Clinton used to talk about this and it's a damn shame that (the heavily stage managed and criminal) Ronald Reagan was Barack's hero and that he didn't care for Bill because he repeatedly talked about how voters want politicians to take action.
But Barack's never been about action. He's been about posing and speechifying. He's a Chatty Cathy and that's not usually a trait we admire in a president.
The Republicans are going to go into these midterms looking like people of action while Barack's indecision and inaction is going to bury the Democratic Party.
The only thing that makes Barack look a tiny bit better is that professional joke Dennis Kucinich keeps issuing idiotic statements from whatever mother ship he's now orbiting Mars in. What a loon. What a disgusting loon.
James Carville is someone I've loudly applauded for doing the right thing. This is his home, this is where he grew up, that's being destroyed and he's not mincing words.
"Carville unrepentant on W.H. criticism" (Glenn Thursh, Politico):
Carville walked out of the restaurant unrepentant. “I don’t think they particularly care for me, and I don’t blame ‘em. I’ve been around long enough to know there’s consequences,” explained Carville, a former adviser to both Bill and Hillary Clinton.
“I’m doing what I have to do,” said Carville, who has called the administration’s initial response to the spill “lackadaisical” and lacking urgency. “I tried to get their attention for some time. I am a Democrat. I like almost all of their policies. But I’m trying to everything in my power to help my state — short of just going after them. But I did and I will again.”If only we could all set aside blind loyalties and knee-jerk reactions to do what's needed which is speak up for and stand up for our planet. This is an ecosystem. The system has to remain in balance. If it gets too far out balance, that's it. There's no more life when that happens. I prefer ecosystem to environment for a number of reasons including the fact that we can usually grasp that in a system everything influences everything else.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the cost of the illegal war continues to rise, Ayad Allawi outlines his strategy, Obama and Odierno meet up, and more.
We'll start with some of the financial costs of the Iraq War for the US. The Institute for Public Accuracy issued the following today:
JO COMERFORDComerford is executive director of the National Priorities Project, which analyzes budget choices. She said today: "Over the weekend, the National Priorities Project Cost of War counter -- designed to count the total money appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- passed the $1 trillion mark. "Taxpayers in Natick, Massachusetts have paid $206.9 million for total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For that amount, instead of implementing a proposed 4 percent cut for Natick's libraries in 2011, the town could double its total current library budget, and pay for it for 56 years. "To date $747.3 billion has been appropriated for the U.S. war in Iraq and $299 billion for the war in Afghanistan. The pending supplemental making its way through Congress will add an estimated $37 billion to the current $136.8 billion total spending for the current fiscal year, ending September 30." See NPP's Cost of War counters. For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy: Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020 or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. To form the next government, the magic number is 163. No political party or slate reached that number. The leading slate was Iraqiya which won 91 seats. They were followed by State Of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's slate) with 89 seats, the Iraqi National Alliance with 70 seats and the Kurdistan Alliance with 43 seats, minorities have 8 seats, Gorran has 8 seats, Iraiq Accord Front has 6 seats, Unity Alliance of Iraq has 4 seats, Kurdistan Islamic Union has 4 seats and the Islamic Group of Kurdistan has 2 seats. Speaking on BBC's HARDtalk today, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi outlined a strategy though talk of and focus on the violence may have prevented some from absorbing that.
Ayad Allawi: This is what we are seeing now. There is, again, a new trend of sectarianism emerging in the country which can be -- which can be very bad and this is causing a lot of violence already.
HARDtalk: Do you understand those Shi'ites though who say, "Look we were ruled by Sunni regime, we were ruled by Saddam Hussein. We know that your party is backed heavily by Sunnis and we just don't want to go down that road again. We're not willing to take that risk."
Ayad Allawi: No -- Well, uh, you know, it's uh, the-the Iraqiya is Sunni and Shia, it's not --
HARDtalk: No, but you were heavily backed of course by Sunnis.
Ayad Allawi: Because they wanted to see change. As the Shi'ites voted for us, the Sunnis voted for us. The Sunnis want to see change and of course they don't want to align themselves with Shi'ite groups so they found a secular group which is us and they voted for us. And I think they should be encouraged. And people want to see change in the country ultimately. They don't want to be -- to have the country stagnate on sectarian issues and bases.
HARDtalk: You've warned that unless there is a deal, the country is in danger, and I quote you, "of descending into a new sectarian war." That's very strong language. What are you saying there?
Ayad Allawi: I am saying that if sectarianism comes to Iraq again, depending upon, of course, the drawdown of the American forces and withdrawal, this would lead the country into severe violence unfortunately as we have witnessed in 2005, '06 and '07.
HARDtalk: Are you worried -- you sound as if you're worried in particular about the reactions of the Sunnis who backed your party. That if they feel that they're being sidelined and left out of any government deal by Nouri al-Maliki and other Shi'ites that they will do something.
Ayad Allawi: It's not a matter of them doing something. It's a matter of getting Iraq back into the sectarian beginning when things went very bad -- because sectarianism is associated with extremism. And if this visits Iraq again and the landscape is reversed now back to sectarianism then of course Sunnis and Shi'ites will clash.
HARDtalk: I suppose the ultimate conclusion to that is that it still could lead to this very real worry that people have had for many years of the breakup of Iraq.
Ayad Allawi: Unfortunately. I hope this is not going to happen. I think Iraq is still holding itself very tight. Definitely sectarianism will cause a lot of trouble to the country.
HARDtalk: Aren't you fueling all of these splits though by talking about sectarianism. I was talking to an Iraqi friend of mine and she said very clearly, "Look, I'm secular too -- lilke Allawi. But he's destroying the country. He needs to accept that he's not won this election. He can't become prime minister. He needs to either do a deal with Nouri al-Maliki or just leave the political stage and let someone else get on with trying to form a government.
Ayad Allawi: No, we are -- Of course, we are ready to make a deal but we have won the elections definitely. The seats we have --
HARDtalk: But you're sixty or seventy seats short of an overall majority. That's --
Ayad Allawi: Fine. Everybody is short. Not only us. But we don't want to merge with a sectarian outlook -- whether it's Sunni or Shi'ite. That's why we think and believe our natural allies are the Kurds and will be the Kurds. And we are looking into the smaller groups that have formed the new Parliament -- are forming the new Parliament. And I think this will give us the edge again. But here we are not talking about this. We are talking about two separate issues. One is the spearheading the formation of the government and the second issue is the vote of confidence by the Parliament. It is not necessarily that we are going to get the vote of confidence. Of course, then people like Maliki and others will try their luck. But definitely as far as we are concerned, we should spearhead the formation of the government.
HARDtalk: This would seem on the face of it a very dangerous moment for Iraq.
Ayad Allawi: It is. It is very critical. And that's why everybody has said this is an important milestone for the country.
Key points (in terms of freshness) from the interview: "That's why we think and believe our natural allies are the Kurds and will be the Kurds. And we are looking into the smaller groups that have formed the new Parliament -- are forming the new Parliament. And I think this will give us the edge again." Is it possible? Assuming that the current power-sharing coalition between State Of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance holds and assuming he meant only the Kurdistan Alliance, that's 43 plus 91 for 134. 29 seats would still be needed. Gorran might come on board (might not) to give an additional 8 seats. for example. But if the SOL and INA power-sharing coalition held, that would mean Iraqiya would need -- plus the Kurdistan Alliance -- all the groups (Gorran, Unity Alliance, Iraqi Accord Front, Kurdistan Islamic Union, Islamic Group of Krudistan and the minorities) to not only reach the magic number but to ensure that SOL and INA didn't reach it. At 159, the coalition is only 4 seats away from the magic number.
And with the above, you have a little bit of information. Not all. Waleed Ibrahim, Ahmed Rasheed, Suadad al-Salhy, Jim Loney, Mark Heinrich and Eric Beech (Reuters) report that the Supreme Court ratification of the vote yesterday was "final" and that Chief Judge Midhat al-Mahmoud declared the new parliament will need to be called "into session within 15 days." Leila Fadel (Washington Post) adds, "The court decided that the largest bloc on the day the 325-member parliament convenes will be the first contender to appoint the prime minister and cabinet. It is unclear whether the ruling is binding, but the tentative merger of Maliki's coalition with its Shiite rival, the Iraqi National Alliance, could mean that Allawi's bloc, most popular among Sunni Arabs and secular Iraqis, won't get to form the government." When Parliament is seated (sworn in) what else can happen? Bloc voting can fall aside. Once your sworn in, you are an MP. You can't be replaced by your political party. Right now you can be. And the two candidates that weren't signed off on (one from Iraqiya, the other from the Iraqi National Alliance) are being replaced by their respective political parties. Once you're an MP you may or may not stay in a bloc vote. You may cut a deal. You may loathe Allawi or al-Maliki so much that you cut a deal. Any number of factors could figure into this. Should that happen, Nouri and Ayad will not only need to make deals with individuals in attempts to woo, they'd also need to make sure those already showing support remained firm.
Persecution.org notes that the 325 MP seats include 5 for Christians: "In total, 14 seats out of the 325-seat legislature are held by non-Msulims, five of which are Christians. In comparison, Christians held two seats last term." In other Iraqi Christian news, John Pontifex (Catholic Herald) reports on the continued violence aimed at Christians and notes, "It is not clear whether the objective is primarily political - to force Christians out of Mosul into the neighbouring Nineveh plains - or is purely an act motivated by religious bigotry. What is beyond dispute, however, is that Church leaders see a strong government as a pre-requisite for reducing the security risk." Evan Williams (England's Channel 4 News) is embedded with the United States Third Infantry Division explored Mosul for last Friday's broadcast of Unreported World. Williams blogged:
On February 27 this year, he said, three Arab gunmen entered their family home shouting that they had to leave. When Father Marzan's father and two brothers tried pushing the them out of the house, the gunmen opened fire killing all three men instantly.
Father Marzan wouldn't allow us to film his mother, but as he started to describe in detail how her husband and sons were brutally gunned down in their own home, I had the horrible sudden realisation that I should have asked the old lady to leave the room. The look of pain and shock on her face was almost unbearable, as if someone were going to walk in at any moment and tell her it was ok and they were all still alive.
Father Marzan is priest in the Chaldean Church, one of the world's oldest Christian communities, founded 2000 years ago among the Assyrian people of northern Iraq, who have been here for millennia.
They have suffered pogroms and attacks in the past, of course, from the Persians, Arabs and Turks. But a new level of violence is now driving many out of the country for good. When the Americans invaded in 2003, there were about one million Christians in Iraq. Now, Church leaders told us, half have already fled the country and more are trying to leave.
The US military is training police forces in the area and they (Iraqi security forces) tell Williams their guess for what happens when the US departs is "civil war." Aamer Madhani (USA Today) reports from the area (Hamdniyah) and notes threatening calls to nuns and a bombing of the Immaculate Virgin convent, the flood of refugees the violence is creating and, "The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a government panel tasked with monitoring religious freedoms around the world for the State Department, recently recommended that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton designate Iraq as a 'country of particular concern' because of the violence against Christians and other religious minorities." AINA notes, "In a recent BBC radio interview, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams lamented that the 'level of ignorance about Middle-Eastern Christianity in the West is very, very high.' According to Williams, many even well informed Westerners think Middle East Christians are primarily 'converts or missionaries,' rather than indigenous communities that predate Islam. Of Tony Blair and George W. Bush, the archbishop surmised their Christianity was 'on the whole, a very, very Western thing,' and, 'I don't sense that either of them had very much sense of the indigenous Christian life and history that there is in the region'."
Meanwhile, the always embarrassing Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) makes the usual idiot of himself today with a whine that could be entitled, "Iraqi Christians Have It Easier!" Based on what, he never can say. He can whine about more of them being in the US (on the first page, burying on the second page the UN point that they make up a huge precentage of Iraq's external refugees) and he can hiss and boo. It's really embarrassing. Elizabeth Campbell of Refugees International might want to think twice before speaking to him again. Her comments are taken out of context and reassembled by Peter to push the story he wants. (Read her comments carefully, she's not backing up the thesis Peter is proposing -- her conditionals undercut his thesis.) The Monitor itself might want to ask why Peter (or as I always think of him: DICK) is pushing something as news when it's not news, it's his opinion. This isn't a column, it's passed off as reporting. He has no proof, the UN does not release the figures he would need, Campbell gives him conditional quotes, and there's no independent backing, just DICK PETER writing about his hunch as if it were fact. For the record, that press pulling that sort of crap? That's exactly what led Mary Baker Eddy to start the Christian Science Monitor. DICK PETER is not only an embarrassment, he's a disgrace to the news outlet.
Yesterday, assertions were made and denied that the Iran had entered Iraq. Xinhua reports, "The Iranian troops entered the Iraqi semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan on Tuesday, Dubai-based Arabiyah Pan Arab news television reported. The Iranian troops have entered 5 km inside the Iraqi territories, the channel said without giving further details about where exactly the incursion took place." Aysor Armenian News adds, "Iranian troops were operating three kilometers inside Iraqi territory following a series of clashes in recent days between Iranian forces and rebels of Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK), an Iraqi official said, requesting anonymity." The Kuwait Times runs an AFP report making the same assertion; however, Iran's Fars News Agency quotes KRG Minister of State for Peshmerga Affairs Jafar Mustafa stating, "Infiltration of the Iranian forces into the soil of Iraq's Kurdistan region is a baseless and false claim. We have not witnessed anything like this."
Meanwhile Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports, "But the Green Zone now is American no longer. On Tuesday, Iraq took full control of the 4-square-mile enclave in the heart of Baghdad that, to many Iraqis, symbolized so much of what went wrong with the U.S. military presence in Iraq. At a brief ceremony held beside a bomb-damaged palace, the battalion of U.S. military police that had been advising Iraqis at Green Zone checkpoints cased their colors and prepared to redeploy to a base near the Baghdad airport, and is to depart this summer." Let's translate, having conquered (killed off the natives and run off those they couldn't kill) the West, the fort was turned over to sympathizers who will continue to run it as an outpost. In Sly's report, is all of world's history for any paying attention, repeating yet again and, as always, sold as a breakthrough, an advance, and done so via silencing the dissenting voices. The Green Zone belongs to Nouri now and all that might have had other claims will be shut out. Those against the US occupation will not be heard from. Those suffering under the government the US military propped up will not be asked for an opinion. Today Obama met with General Cust -- General Ray Odierno. This afternoon, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton declared on Air Force One:
To start, I've got a readout for you on the President's meeting with General Odierno, which he made -- which he had before we left. The President met today with General Odierno to review security and political progress in Iraq. General Odierno provided a positive assessment of the current security conditions and the ongoing transition of responsibilities to Iraqi security forces ahead of the change of mission of U.S. forces at the end of August. The President and General Odierno also discussed the encouraging step taken by Iraq's federal supreme court to certify election results, as well as U.S. support for an inclusive government formation process. The President thanked General Odierno for his service to the nation.
Margaret Warner (NewsHour, PBS) interviewed Ahmet Davutoglu yesterday. He is the Turkish Foreign Minister. If you click here, you get an extended interview. And it's not real 'extended' if that should translate into "in depth." Why did PBS interview an official from another country? If it was to illuminate or inform viewers, they failed at that task. If it was just to fill out air time and to offer their chance to chase after the same damn topic every other outlet is obsessing over, they achieved their goal. Yesterday, we were noting that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, would be holding a terrorism summit today and addressing the issue of the PKK. Guess PBS didn't think that was important. Guess PBS didn't feel that Americans might benefit from any discussion of that -- or any information on it. AFP reports KRG President Minister Massud Barzani is in Turkey today, "making his first visit to Ankara as regional president". AFP also reports:A soldier and two outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, members died in the latest clash in Turkey's Southeast near the Iraqi border, local officials said Wednesday. The clash erupted late Tuesday near the Cukurca town in Hakkari province, when a group of PKK members fired on a group of soldiers on patrol duty, the provincial Governor's Office said in a statement. Seems like Margaret Warner should have asked about the PKK, doesn't it? Seems like the American people would have benefited from a dialogue on this issue. But they didn't get it. Israel's the 'hot' topic but, for the Turkish government, the PKK is the most pressing internal and external issue. And has been for some time. Some people may support the PKK, some people may not. But no one will never know where they stand or might stand when issues are not addressed. Warner spoke at length to Turkey's Foreign Minister. The day before Turkey holds a terrorism summit to address the PKK. When Barzani is in the country and represents northern Iraq where the PKK has set up another base. And the violence continues. But there wasn't time to address any of that on The NewsHour? No, there was time for it, it just wasn't judged 'hot.' When PBS chases after the 'hot' topic, we're all in trouble. This visit that The NewsHour ignored? Ayla Jean Yackley (Reuters) states it's being hailed as "a breakthrough for regional stability." Hurriyet Daily News reports that "Barzani is one of the most criticized regional leaders in Turkey as he has been seen as the protector of the PKK in northern Iraq." The Turkish Press reports that he will meet tomorrow with Ahmet Davutoglu, the Foreign Minister of Turkey.
Ahmet Davutoglu. Hmm. That name is so familiar. Why is that name so familiar? Oh, that's right, that's who Margaret Warner was speaking to Tuesday night on The NewsHour. Again, she didn't ask about Barzani, she didn't ask about the PKK, she didn't ask about the terrorism sumit. Apparently referring to Barzani's visit -- and having noted the violence, US State Dept Assistant Secretary Philip Crowley stated yesterday that "iraq and Turkey are involved in high-level discussions about" the PKK.
Harold W. Geisel is the Deputy Inspector General of the US State Dept. Charley Keyes (CNN) reports on new findings from that office: the US Embassy in Baghdad cannot do inventory and has apparently lost or had stolen from it "vehicles and millions of dollars of other equipment, from cell phones to medical supplies" -- the medical supplies include oxycodone and morphine. Matthew Lee (AP) explains the findings cover July 2009 through November 2009 and quotes the report stating, "Embassy Baghdad has had difficulty controlling and accurately accounting for its U.S. government property."
Liu (Xinhua) reports that a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured, another injured two people and "In northern Iraq, the body of an Iraqi soldier who was kidnapped late Tuesday night in eastern Mosul, some 400 km north of Baghdad, was found by the Iraqi police on Wednesday, a local police source said."
Turning to business news, yesterday in Shanghai, Iraq took part in the Shanghai World Expo. Xinhua quotes Iraqi diplomat Rahman L. Muhsin stating, "Iraq has overcome many difficulties in participating in the Shanghai World Expo and opening the pavilion at last." Rebecca Santanna (AP) quoted Iraq's Minister of Oil Hussain al-Shahristani declaring of the price of oil per barrel, "On the one hand it is sufficiently high to encourage investment, to develop marginal fields, mostly outside of OPEC countries. [. . .] On the other hand it is not too high to adversely affect the recovery of the world economy. I think we are at the right balancing point." The price of oil per barrel as this is being written is a little over US$72. Carl Mortished (Times of London) reports:
A clutch of big oil multinationals has entered into service contracts with the country to develop several huge oilfields, including Rumaila, a monster that already delivers 1.1 million barrels per day, almost half of Iraq's current output.
BP is charged with raising the bar at Rumaila and by 2016 it expects output to reach a plateau of 2.8 million bpd, a level greater than the present output of every Opec state except Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Oh, yes, the lovely and responsible BP. Cameron Scott (San Francisco Chronicle) has a photo essay on BP and it's 'care' of the Gulf, this is from his intro to the photos:
One cleanup worker took a New York Daily News reporter on a tour of alleged forbidden areas after watching pelicans trying to get oil off of themselves -- "They keep trying to clean themselves. They try and they try, but they can't do it" -- and discovering a dolphin carcass with oil "just pouring out of it."
AP photographers have gotten a few snaps, too, but relative to the number of journalists trying to get stories out of the area, the number of photographs is pretty low. If only BP's spill cleanup efforts (about which, detailed post tomorrow) were as successful as its press containment efforts appear to be.
xinhuaaysor armenian newsthe kuwait timesfars news agency
the christian science monitortom a. peter
the washington postleila fadel
the los angeles timesliz slythe associated pressrebecca santanathe san francisco chronicle
pbsthe newshourmargaret warner
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
The never ending Gulf Disaster
So we learn on Sunday, when you know who is avoiding reporters, that the Gulf Disaster may continue through August. This is the spill that began April 20th. The White House announces Sunday it may go through August. How the hell is that considered even remotely acceptable?
Who is in charge? Yeah, I know, I saw Thursday's press conference. Didn't believe a word of it, did you? According to that conference, Mr. Vanity is in charge. So how is he demonstrating that? What have you seen since Thursday that indicates BO is in charge? Anything?
He took another vacation, didn't he?
Remember when Bush would do that and we found it outrageous?
Those days are apparently long gone. Despite the fact that he's considerably younger than Bush we seem to believe BO is tuckered out and deserves extra vacation time.
Or someone does.
Tough talk out of the White House Tuesday about a criminal probe of the oil spill in the Gulf likely conjured up for many Americans the image of high-ranking corporate executives being led off in handcuffs.
Not likely, say former prosecutors and other experts on environmental law.
Instead, if Attorney General Eric Holder and his team of prosecutors find criminal wrongdoing in the BP oil spill, it likely will result in a much different outcome – a fine.Fines. Fines? That's what Holder's big press conference was about today? Really? I'm sick of this tired dog & pony show. This is a disaster. Where is the leadership?'
Monday, June 1, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iran may have entered Iraq's borders, a US (Republican operative) goes on Al Jazeera and says the MidEast is occupied by "barbarians," Iraq's Supreme Court certifies election results . . . almost 100%, and more.
The northern region of Iraq is the Kurdistan Regional Government and, throughout the Iraq War, the northern region has been bombed by the Turkish military. These days, Iran's shelling is becoming a concern. (Iran and Turkey share a border above Iraq.) Sherko Raouf, Shamil Aqrawi and Matt Robinson (Reuters) report that there are rumors (denied by Kurdish officials) that Iran has entered northern Iraq but that over 100 Iraqi families have fled the area in the last seven days. Sunday Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN)reported the Iranian shelling claimed the life of 1 teenage Iraqi girl in nothern Iraq. Xinhua (link has text and audio) identified the 14-year-old as Basouz Jabbar Agha. As with the Turkish military, Iranian military claims their target is the PKK -- a group identified by many countries (including the US) and the European Union as a terrorist organization and one that has established a base in nothern Iraq (among other places). [They would actually claim their target is PJAK and we're not drawing a line between the PKK and PJAK here -- they have the same leader, the same goals and are 'mingled' in the northern Iraq bases.] The PKK seeks an official Kurdish homeland (usually within Turkey) and points to decades of persecution. One of their leaders is Abudllah Ocalan who has been in a Turkish prison since 1999. The BBC reported over the weekend that he was rumored to have announced "he was abandoning efforts for dialogue with the Turkish government." Hurriyet Daily News reports that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will hold a terrorism summit on Wednesday (Turkey labels the PKK a terrorist organization).
Meanwhile AFP quotes an unnamed "security official" stating that Iranian troops have moved "three kilometers" into northern Iraq. Caroline Alexander and Kadhim Ajrash (Bloomberg News) quote KRG spokesperson Kawa Mahmoud stating, "These reports about an Iranian incursion into Krudistan are totally false. There may be Iranian activity near the border, but there is no incursion." The reality? At this point unknown. Iran's most recent invasion of Iran (December 2009) was greeted with denials from some Iraqi government officials and from some Iranian government officials. But the violation of sovereignty did take place. From the December 18th snapshot:
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.
Today Alsumaria TV reports, "Central Quality Control revealed that local mineral water bottles in Iraq are more polluted than imported water bottles." Look for Nouri al-Maliki to attempt to spin that as yet another reason why he should continue as prime minister despite four failed years in the post already. Alsumaria TV reported Monday that Nouri was in the Kurdistan Region trying to drum up support there. Nouri continues his stay in the Kurdistan region as he continues attempting to woo the Kurdistan bloc. Alsumaria TV reports that he'll talk today with Jalal Talabani. Talabani is the current president and would like to remain as such -- the two will no doubt attempt to cut a deal on that; however, Jalal's not very popular in the KRG these days and, deal or no deal, his support may end up a negative and not a blessing.March 7th, Iraq completed Parliamentary elections. Since then, Nouri has done everything legal and illegal to attempt to remain prime minister despite his political slate's second place win. Saturday Khaled Farhan (Reuters) reported, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday his party would not compromise on its choice of government leader, resisting pressure from potential coalition partners for him to step aside." Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) added the "comments revealed an unwillingness to budge in negotiations." Mshari al-Zaydi (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reported Saturday that the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani has stated he is favoring no one and quotes Iraqiya's Raif al-Issawi stating, "Al Sistani expressed no explicit support for anyone." One meeting that has not taken place is between Nouri and Ayad Allawi. Sunday Rahmat al-Salaam (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reported, "An informed sources who spoke to Ashraq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity revealed that the reason that Iraqi Prime Minister and leader of the State of Law coalition Nuri al-Maliki backed out of a meeting with the leader of the Iraqiya bloc Iyad Allawi, was a visit undertaken by a senior official from one of the neighboring countries. The source said that 'the official's visit which took place two days prior to the meeting that was scheduled to take place between Allawi and al-Maliki was to put pressure to prevent this meeting from taking place, and that is what happened'."
Who should form the government? In Alsumaria TV's ongoing poll, 58.59% currently say Ayad Allawi. Of course it's a nonscientific poll but then so was the one Quil Lawrence and others pimped the day after the election -- the one that had Nouri's State Of Law sweeping the elections with a clear majority. No doubt due to time and space limitations, Quil and the others were unable to explain that Nouri's spokespeople provided them with the poll or that State Of Law paid for the poll. You had to go to the European media to find those facts out. Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) reports that the election results have been certified by Iraq's Supreme Court . . . But it's never that easy. 323 people have been certified as winners. But there were 325 races. The two not certified yet are Iraqiya's Omar al-Karbouly and the Iraqi National Alliance's Furat Muhssein Saeed. Jim Muir (BBC News) points out that this development should not be read as the coalition government is on the verge of being formed and, "The ruling meant that all Mr Maliki's relentless efforts to whittle away at Mr Allawi's narrow lead by lodging complaints and demanding a manual recount in Baghdad were in vain. The court referred the cases of two of the elected MPs for further examination, but only one belonged to the Iraqiyya bloc, and both could be replaced from within their own lists, so this would not make any difference." Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) explains what, according to the Constitution, is supposed to happen next, "Within 15 days, President Jalal Talabani is supposed to summon the new parliament for its first session, at which the 325 legislators are to choose a speaker and two deputies. Within 30 days of that first meeting, the parliament is to elect a new president, who will be empowered to ask the leader of the biggest bloc to name a prime minister and form a government." Andrew England (Financial Times of London) notes, "Diplomats hope the parties will form an inclusive government that represents all groups in a nation blighted by sectarian and ethnic divisions. But the concern is that Iraq will have a Shia-dominated administration, similar to the one that took office in 2005. If so, Arab Sunnis, who turned out in force to vote for Iraqiya, may feel excluded from the political process." US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued the following statement today:
I welcome today's action by the Iraqi Federal Supreme Court certifying the results of the national election. Voter turnout in the March 7th vote was strong across Iraq's 18 provinces. Iraq's electoral commission and security forces successfully organized and carried out a credible and competitive election. Since then, the electoral commission has worked in a careful, professional way to bring the process to this concluding point. This experience demonstrates that Iraqis want to use the political process to choose their leaders and settle differences.
With the election results officially certified, we call on Iraq's political leaders to move forward without delay to form an inclusive and representative government that will work on behalf of the Iraqi people.
In the coming months, we will work together as our partnership continues its transition with the goal of building a robust and long-lasting relationship between our two nations -- a partnership that will contribute to growing peace and prosperity in Iraq and stability in the Middle East.
Meanwhile Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that Iraqi exiles with ties to the Ba'ath Party, apparently former leaders, have held meetings in Istanbul and Damascus:
The groups could find receptive audiences in Iraq if the next government is widely seen as having insufficient Sunni representation. Many Sunnis accuse the Shiite-led Iraqi government of being sectarian, pointing to factors such as the disproportionate number of Sunni detainees and efforts to weed out Sunnis from government jobs. Sunnis made a strong showing in the March 7 parliamentary elections, propelling the largely secular Iraqiya bloc to a first-place finish. The bloc did not win enough seats to secure the majority needed to form a government, however, making it likelier that an alliance of two Shiite groups will appoint the new prime minister.
Hannah Allam (McClatchy's Miami Herald) observes, "The nearly three-month delay is frustrating for ordinary Iraqis, who risked their lives to vote, and for American officials, who need to coordinate the full withdrawal of U.S. forces with the next government. The Obama administration hopes to have just 50,000 service members remaining in Iraq by the end of August, but many political observers are skeptical that the incoming Iraqi government will be seated by then." Adam Levine and Paul Steinhauser (CNN) report on a new CNN - Opinion Research Corp poll which found that if an Iraqi government is formed by August, US respondents support the drawdown by 64% but that public approval slips to 51% if there's not a government in place. The term "stable" is used, that's a qualifier and it's meaningless. Go over the polling data and the judgment being made by respondents is whether or not a government is in place. The slip still keeps those favoring the drawdown at above 50%; however, go over the polling data and you see weakening factors. In other words, should a bloodbath take place in Iraq, that over 50% could drop further.
"For seven long years, experts kept telling us Iraq stands at crossroads," Jasim noted on the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera began airing Friday) before beginning a discussion with journalist Robert Fisk, political analyst Anas Altikriti and and noted 'scholarship' provider Jack Burkman.
Jasim Azawi: . . . Robert Fisk, the domino effect that was predicted by Condalezza Rice as well as Bush that once that Iraq becomes a democracy, the rest of the Middle East -- We will wake up and we will find democracy. That was seven years ago. Has that happened?
Robert Fisk: Well flowers grow very well in graveyards and I think that first of all we never planned. We never planned what was going to happen after overthrowing Saddam. And then our own morality -- which has been outrageous -- has always been based on the fact that whatever we do in Iraq is okay because it's always going to be better than Saddam was. The fact that we constantly bring up Saddam as being a kind of linchpin of awfulness against which our actions must always be better -- well they would be, wouldn't they? That applies to Hitler too.
Jack Burkman: (Interrupting and cross talk) What have we done wrong? I'm just curious.
Robert Fisk: Well a million dead. 100,00 dead --
Jack Burkman: You said American morality is terrible, what have we done wrong?Robert Fisk: I didn't. I actually said "we," Jack. I associated you and I together at that point as "the West." America is not the only Western nation. The point --
Jack Burkman: How is Western morality bad? What have we done wrong? Tell me what we've done wrong. You said morality's bad. How is it bad?
Robert Fisk: Well I can tell you straight away. We have more troops per head of population, more Western soldiers in the Muslim world than we did at the time of the Crusades. That's not very good, is it? That's not about --
Jack Burkman: So!
Robert Fisk: -- democracy. That's about --
Jack Burkman: So!
Robert Fisk: -- military domination. That's not about democracy. That's the problem. These people in this region -- including Iraq, which you say you love so much, or you appear to. They would love doctors, they would love our academics, they would love our engineering, everything. But it seems to me, given the situation, they don't want our soldiers. And this is something that America will not realize.
Jasim Azawi: Before Jack responds, let me ask Anas a very simple question posed by Jack: What wrong have we done? Go ahead.
Anas Altikriti: Well I assume from Jack's introduction that he hasn't recently visited Iraq nor has he walked the streets of Iraq, nor has he visited any towns and cities up and down Iraq. Most of which most of us here couldn't even name let alone locate on a map. Anyone who would, anyone who had the experience of doing so would find a totally different story to the one reflected by Jack or at least within the perception of what Jack introduced and that is that this has been a success. I-I-I would like to assume that when he says that this is a success story he's talking about America and American insterests -- which, by the way, even then we could argue that America has been served very badly by this escapade; however, if he also meant to say that this success extends to the Iraqi people then that is not only ludicrous, it is preposterous. And it's extremely offensive to the Iraqi people, as Bob said, 100,000s of whom cannot even be with us today to testify to the fact of whether they like it or not simply because they have perished as a result of this particular escapade.
Like many a woman not paid by Jack, I don't feel the need to feign interest in his babbles. So we'll skip ahead to pick up when he begins getting really offensive and please remember he was speaking on Al Jazeera.
Jack Burkman: You know, I mean, think about it. Your George Bush. It's the aftermath of 9-11. You look at this region. You've got a bunch of, uh, oh, I hate to say it, but you've got a bunch of barbarians in the desert. What do you do with this region? You have to take a step to improve the region. You can't just drift on --
Jasim Azawi: Who are you calling "barbarians in the desert," Jack Burkman?
Jack Burkman: Oh, I mean let's face it, let's face --
Jasim Azawi: No, who are you referring to? I would like you to point that out.
Jack Burkman: I'm referring -- I am referring to the entire MidEast. The world is doing well, the world --
Jasim Azawi: Barbarians? Barbarians?
Jack Burkman: This world -- Sure they are! You've got people living in the sixth century, for God's sake. I mean, most of the Islamic world, Islam has become this crazy ideology where people are living in the sixth century. I mean -- and they want to blame -- they want to blame the colonialism. They want to blame the British and the Americans --
Jasim Azawi: Jack Burkman, if there was ever any sympathy before this show started with you, you lost it when you called "barbarian in the desert."
Jack Burkman: You have to understand something. If you look at, I mean -- George W. Bush -- look at what kind of countries you had. You had Saddam there. The fact that Saddam was taken out -- Bush had to make, uh -- Bush had to do something to improve the region --
Anas Altikriti: Why? Can I ask you why -- why did he have to do something? Was it out of the kindness of his heart? Was it to rescue these "barbarians," as you put it, from their own selves and their own "crazed ideologies," as you put it? I mean, why on earth do you think George W. Bush -- I mean, who's the barbarian here, Jack? You have sent your sons and daughters to bombard peoples' homes, to burn their homes, to obliterate their livings and they have done nothing to you. Yet they are the "barbarians" in this case? I'm sorry. I beg to differ. I beg to differ.
Yesterday was Memorial Day in the US. Terry Gross notes Memorial Day by offering a repeat of a March interview with Military Times' Kelly Kennedy (Fresh Air, NPR), Law & Disorder explores ongoing wars, Korea and military tribunals (in all news segments from Michael Ratner, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian), Amy Goodman uses the hour of Democracy Now! to offer Noam Chomsky explaining inequities and the last two can be listened to at the WBAI archives in addition to the show links. For All Things Considered (NPR -- link has text and audio), Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported from Iraq:LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: At 9 a.m. at Forward Operating Base Union in Baghdad's Green Zone, a few dozen soldiers came together to mark Memorial Day. The flag was raised and then lowered to half-mast in honor of America's fallen. Everyone observed a moment of silence. Iraq has faded from the headlines. The U.S. mission is winding down. By summer's end, if all goes according to plan, the U.S. force will be cut in half. But for many here, including Major General Michael Barbero, who has spent a total of 36 months serving in Iraq, the memories of those who have died here live on.
Major General MICHAEL BARBERO (Commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command): Stories of sacrifice are often highlighted in our society for only a short period of time. Over time, the power of their example fades. The strength of their sacrifice diminishes and the nobility of their service is forgotten. And this is why Memorial Day is so important, for on Memorial Day, as a nation, we pause to honor and celebrate our veterans and to remember.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Thirty-seven-year-old Major Leticia Bryant(ph) was also in attendance. This is her first tour. She says she wants her friends and family back home to remember what this day is really about.
Major LETICIA BRYANT: I posted on my Facebook account. I was like, you know, before you guys head off for your long weekend or fire up those grills, you know, just take a moment to think about those families that won't be with their loved ones because, you know, they've laid down their lives for you to have these, you know, these freedoms. And so you got to remember that. So I posted that on my site.
Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reports from Camp Victory, "They thought about their families waiting for them to come home. They thought about the fallen comrades lost in the past seven years of occupation and war. They thought about what would come next. "Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) also reports from Camp Victory in Iraq on Memorial Day reflections of service members and notes, "Speeches at the ceremony never mentioned American contractors, who've assumed increased responsibilities with the drawdown of U.S. forces. The Obama administration plans to have just 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq by the end of summer, though the lack of a stable Iraqi government threatens to delay that goal." Meanwhile CBS News' David Martin (link has text and video) used Memorial Day to highlight Iraq and Afghanistan service members who have lost limbs:
David Martin: May was a cruel month. The number of service men and women who have lost an arm or a leg since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began went over 1,000, many of them more than one. They come here to the physical therapy room at Walter Reed. And you lost both legs?
Sgt Maj Raymond Mackey: I lost both legs, yes, sir.
David Martin: Above the knee?
Sgt Maj Raymond Mackey: Both are above the knee, yes, sir.
David Martin: So that makes it tough.
Sgt Maj Raymond Mackey: It does -- but, you know, you gotta' -- you gotta' keep going.
David Martin: Marine Sgt. Maj Raymond Mackey stepped on a mine in Afghanistan last December 23rd. His goal is to be walking again by next December 23rd.
Sgt Maj Raymond Mackey: I have just got my legs, my C-legs, my computer legs, I'm learning how to put them on and how to fire it to where the knee comes forward and everything like that.
Yesterday our survey of veterans noted, "Veterans of the current wars participating in the survey feel that PTSD is an important issue but feel that other wounds -- hearing, blindness, loss of limb -- top three cited and in that order -- are not being addressed in committee hearings." Maybe Martin's report will motivate Congress to explore these wounds. Tomorrow morning at North Dakota's Fargo VA Medical Center, US Senator Kent Conrad will be taking part in PTSD awareness event:
For many of our soldiers returning from war, the battle does not end when they come home. All too many veterans today face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms like anxiety, anger, and depression as they try to adjust to life after war. We cannot sweep these problems under the rug. PTSD is real. More must be done to educate veterans, families and communities about this illness and the resources and treatments available to them. I recently learned about the efforts of North Dakota National Guardsmen to draw attention to PTSD and pay tribute to Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, their friend and fellow member of the 164th Engineer Combat Battalion. Biel suffered from PTSD and took his life in April 2007 after returning to North Dakota following his second tour in Iraq. The efforts of Sgt. Biel's friends to raise awareness of PTSD inspired me to draft a Senate Resolution declaring June 27 National PTSD Awareness Day. This campaign is all about awareness, assuring our troops -- both past and present -- that it's okay to come forward and say they need help. They need to know that it's a real sign of strength, not weakness, to seek assistance. I will present Sgt. Biel's friends from the 164th Combat Engineer Battalion with a copy of the Senate Resolution on Wednesday, June 2, at the Fargo VA Medical Center. If you are in the area, I encourage you to join me in this effort to raise public awareness about PTSD. Again, the event will be held Wednesday, June 2, at 10:00 am at Fargo VA Medical Center, 2101 Elm Street North in the UND Atrium. I hope you can join us.
Meanwhile US Senator Daniel Akaka's office notes:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Kawika Riley (Veterans' Affairs)
May 28, 2010 (202) 224-9126
AKAKA INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO IMPROVE GI BILL
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced S. 3447, a bill to improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits program. Akaka introduced the bill yesterday to provide a starting point for discussion among Members of Congress, veterans service organizations, and concerned Americans who want to improve this important benefit program.
"The World War II GI Bill changed my life, and my generation," said Akaka, one of three current senators who attended college on the original GI Bill. "Hundreds of thousands of troops and veterans are already using the new GI Bill to pursue their education. Now that we have seen the benefit in action, this new legislation can improve the existing framework. I look forward to working through a comprehensive legislative process to pass a good improvement bill," said Akaka.
Senator Akaka chaired an oversight hearing on the implementation of the Post-9/11 GI Bill on April 21: LINK
Akaka cosponsored the Post-9/11 GI Bill of Rights Act and was a strong supporter of its passage in 2008. When former President Bush threatened to veto the bill, Akaka vowed that he would fight back. The bill was signed into law on June 30, 2008 and took effect last August.
To read Senator Akaka's introductory remarks on the bill in the Congressional Record, click here: LINK
U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman
On American Public Media's Marketplace yesterday (link has text and audio), Bob Mommn spoke with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Tim Embree about the Post-9/11 GI Bill and modifications that are needed: Moon: One of the issues that I've heard discussed is online courses or distance learning isn't covered under the current law. Why is that important?
Embree: Well, what it is is we have a lot of folks that maybe come home and are dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or recovering from a traumatic brain injury or live in a rural area, and they're trying to attend these non-traditional colleges, online, through correspondence, because a lot of times they can't get to the brick-and-mortar schools. So we want to make sure that their tuition is covered, and also they have a living stipend. Because we know how tough it is where if you're taking a class online -- and the reason for that is because maybe it is tough for you to get out of the house -- we want to be able to make it so these folks can pay their rent or pay their mortgage.
Moon: What about troops returning from service who don't want to go to a four-year college?
Embree: That's a big one. If you actually look at the original GI Bill, over 70 percent of folks in the original GI Bill went to vocational schools, on-the-job training programs, and apprenticeships programs. And that was one of the things that we're really trying to push to be part of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. In fact, Senator Akaka just the other day dropped the comprehensive upgrade package that we had been working with his office as well as Senator Webb's office and a few other folks on. And this is one of the things that it points out is making sure that folks can go to vocational schools, can go to on-the-job training, can do that apprenticeship. Because these are the folks that are opening up your mechanic shops, and your repair shops. These are the EMTs and folks like that. So it's a really important thing.
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