Friday, August 27, 2010

The retraction, Fort Hood Disobeys, etc

Regarding the Christian Science Monitor's retraction (see Wednesday's journal entry), Sunny tabulated the e-mails expressing an opinion and it breaks down as (out of 51 e-mails) the majority feel a retraction is fine but 31% disagree and feel it doesn't go far enough.

I can see both sides of that. On the one hand, I find it outrageous that they just struck their statement and didn't issue a correction. On the other hand, it does require a correction.

I do agree though that at least they ditched it quickly before any more damage could be done. It's a tough call.

Staying on the topic of peace, this is a video from Fort Hood Disobeys:


This one is GREAT!!! Thanks to Jeff Zavala.

I know not everyone can stream. C.I. covered a lot of the blockade in yesterday's "Iraq snapshot" and I'll set it off with lines.

Early Monday morning, a major action took place as a group of activists joined in an action to block a troop deployment at Fort Hood in Texas. They chanted and held a huge banner "TELL THE BRASS: KISS MY ASS YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU MORE." The group was originally longer but the time on Sunday for the troops to leave in their bus was repeatedly changed. It left early in the morning and several dedicated activists were still present. Stephen C. Webster was present to report for Raw Story (and was among those harassed by the police) amd reports that the activists managed to halt the deployment "for approximately 10 seconds while police and military personnel shoved them out of the road," that those participating feel it was a success (it was, my opinion) and that "not a single one of them was arrested." One of those participating in the action was Matthis Chiroux who explains (along with others at the link) why he participated:
I am a former Army sergeant and war resister. I was press-ganged into the Army by the Alabama Juvenile "Justice" System in 2002. While in the military, I occupied the nations of Japan and Germany for more than four years, with shorter tours in the Philippines and Afghanistan.
I was a Public Affairs noncommissioned officer specializing in strategic communications. In reality, I was a propaganda artist. I was discharged honorably to the Individual Ready Reserve in 2007.
While I have always been against the war in Iraq, I began resisting it actively in 2008, after I received mobilization orders for a year-long deployment to Iraq. I refused those orders in Congress in May of 2008, calling my orders illegal and unconstitutional. I believed appealing to Congress would end the war. When 13 Members signed a letter of support for my decision and sent it to Bush, I thought we had won a victory for peace. This was more than two years ago. The president has changed, and the wars and destruction drag on.
Today, I am blocking the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with my fellow vets and military family members because the wars will continue to victimize our communities until we halt this bloody machine from within. I am putting my body on the line in solidarity with the people of the Middle East, whose bodies have been shot, burned, tortured, raped, and violated by our men and women in and out of uniform. I cannot willfully allow Americans in uniform to put their lives and the lives of Iraqis in jeopardy for a crime. We are here because we have a responsibility to ourselves as veterans and as humans of the world. I will not rest until my people, ALL PEOPLE, are free.
The others participating who write of their actions are Bobby Whittenberg-James, Crystal Colon and Cynthia Thomas. Monday, World Can't Wait reported, "Five peace activists successfully blockaded six buses carrying Fort Hood Soldiers deploying to Iraq outside Fort Hood's Clarke gate this morning at around 4 a.m." Alice Embree (The Rag Blog) reports:
Under darkness at about 4 a.m. this morning, buses carrying the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) to planes were stopped by a group of five protesters that included two Iraq veterans, one Afghanistan veteran, and one military spouse whose husband had been deployed to Iraq three times.

The Fort Hood Disobeys group clambered down from a highway overpass where supporters held banners and signs. Holding banners that said, "Occupation is a Crime" and "Please Don't Make the Same Mistake We Did. RESIST NOW," the protesters spread across Clarke Road. Police with automatic weapons and dogs beat them out of the roadway. They were not arrested.
You can find photos of the action taken by Malachi Muncey here, photos by Jeff Zavala here, Cindy Beringer (US Socialist Worker) quotes attorney James Branum stating, "The most amazing thing was troops in buses raising clinched fists as buses drove by the protest. Solidarity!"
In a video Jeff Zavala made about the issue several of the activists share their thoughts. This is an excerpt:
Geoff Gernant: I think it's important people resist the occupations -- the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think it's important to do that in a such way that it's the people themselves resisting in a direct action and not doing something like lobbying Congress or writing letters to Congressmen or relying on politicians to do something -- which they've shown that they're not willing to do which is end this war. We all need to start doing, actively opposing it ourselves. And I've been involved in activsim here, Under The Hood, for like a year or so.

Crystal Colon: Because I think it's time that people do something about these wars. I don't feel like there's enough support for the wars in the American population. But there aren't enough people actually getting out there and doing something about it, trying to stop it. And I want to be one of the people that goes out there and says, you know, "This is exactly what I think, this is how I feel about this and I am going to try and stop you from doing this anyway I possibly can. I came out to Under The Hood -- I've been here since June for two months just organizing around Fort Hood, doing all the protests that we've done, like the one at the East Gate and the Col Allen banner that we made specifically for the 3rd ACR. I just really want these soldiers to know that this is not something that they have to do because I know if someone would have done this for me when I was in, I wouldn't have gone back a second time. I probably wouldn't have gone the first time if someone would have done this for me back in '06. So I really just want soldiers to know there's support for them out there, that what they're feeling -- If they're feeling like this is not what they want to do, this is against their moral values and it's against their feelings and they feel like this is not the right thing for them to do, we are there to support them and that's what I want them to see.
Bobby Whittenberg: War in our time always kills innocent civilians, it kills children, it kills women and it destroys families both in the Middle East and here in the United States. The United States has always been predatory, has always been violent -- a country built on the land of slaughtered Native people. It was built by slaves. The United States is always killing innocent people to take things that do not belong to them. I do not lend my consent to the actions of the United States government. I'm here today to say no more. A lot of us have just been talking and, you know, holding signs -- that's great. But we decided that it's time that we moved beyond that and what we're planning is totally non-violent but it's definitely a sign to say that we've had enough and that we can't trust the politicians, the capitalists to end these wars because they make them more wealthy and consolidate their power. So if we want to see any change, we have to do it ourselves. They always say, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Right? That's what we're doing, do it yourself.


That's the snapshot. The activists did a really great and brave thing and let's do our part by getting the word out on their action. I find it inspiring and I'm sure others will as well.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, August 27, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, the American people continue to see the Iraq War as a mistake and worse, greater attention comes to prolonging the illegal war, who's trying to overthrow Iraq's labor unions, and more.
Last week, Gallup and AP polls were released offering the findings that most Americans are opposed to the Iraq War and feel it should never have been started. Gallup found 53% judge it as a failure, 55% judged it a failure. AP's poll with GfK Roper Public Affairs found that 65% opposed the Iraq War. Now Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports on CBS' poll (but doesn't explain why the New York Times took a pass) which finds "nearly six in ten say it was a mistake to start the battle in the first place, and most say their country did not accomplish its objectives in Iraq." The number saying it was a mistake is 59% which is in stark contrast to March 2003 when a majority, 69%, stated the US was correct to declare war on Iraq (the US-led invasion began in March 2003) and only 25% of respondents then (March 2003) said it was a mistake. The most telling response is to question eleven:
Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not?
Only 20% of respondents say the war was worth the costs while 72% say it was not worth the costs. Looking at the costs to the US, 72% are, in fact, calling the illegal war a mistake.
57% of Americans believe the Iraq War is going well (don't blame them, blame a media that's forgotten Iraq) and who do they credit for that? Montopoli reports that "one in three say both the Obama and Bush administrations [deserve credit]. Twenty-six percent credit the Bush administration, 20 percent credit the Obama administration, and 19 percent say neither deserves credit." Cynthia English reviews Gallup's latest poll which sureveyed Iraqis and found a five-percent drop in approval of US leadership from 2008 (35%) to 2010 (30%) and an increase in approval of Iraqi leadership during the same time (2008: 28%; 2010: 41%).

Jim Michaels and Mimi Hall (USA Today) report on USA Today's poll which found 60% expressing the belief that the Iraq War was not worth it. The reporters then survey a variety of people about the war and we'll note this section which includes Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan:
"I don't think there's been any measurable thing that we could cite that this occupation of Iraq has made better. We achieved exactly nothing," says Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war activist. Sheehan says the war made things worse for Iraqis and others.
"My work has gone from trying to stop these wars to trying to alert people to the problems of being subjects of a military empire," she says.
Empire as a shell game? That would require the Orwellian use of language to misdirect the citizens and misidentify what is going on. In other words, that would be Barack Obama calling the military "non-combat" forces and calling bases "outposts" and calling the continuation of the Iraq War the 'end.' Today the Council on Foreign Relations' Bernard Gwertzman interviews the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf.
Bernard Gwertzman: President Obama is planning to give a speech on Iraq next week marking the pullout of U.S. combat troops from the country. Does their departure make a big difference in Iraq?
Jane Arraf: It really doesn't. A lot of that is because it isn't a development that has had much of an impact on the ground. Some have called it a "rebranding" of the conflict, and there is some truth to that. What we've got left are fifty thousand other troops, a substantial number, and a lot of those are actually combat troops. Any brigade here is erady, equipped, and trained for combat. It's just that the mission is changing. So with that many troops on the ground, the latest withdrawals really don't have that much of an impact, particularly since we haven't been seeing the United States in unilateral combat missions since June of last year. As part of the security agreement signed by the Bush administration, the U.S. forces are taking ab ackseat to the Iraqi forces. The bottom line is that nothing will change on September 1. What we're really looking at is what happens as next year's deadline of December 31, 2011, approaches for all the troops to leave.
[. . .]
Bernard Gwertzman: Will the United States be providing long-term air defense? Or is that supposed to end next year too?
Jane Arraf: Everything ends next year, so it really all has to be negotiated. The commanding general in charge of training Iraqi forces told me they are in the midst of negotiating an agreement to allow NATO to continue training. Such an agreement of course to replace the Iraq-U.S. security agreement will actually have to be negotiated by whatever new government is formed. The assumption is that it will be a pro-Western, pro-U.S. government, but that's not a certainty. What if, for instance, the Sadrists have a large role to play in the new government? What if it's a much more Iranian-friendly government than some people are suggesting? They could turn to Iraq for a security agreement.
On public radio today, the security agreement was briefly touched upon. On the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane was joined by Courtney Kube (NBC News), Moises Naim (El Pais) and David Wood (PoliticsDaily).
Diane Rehm: Let's turn to Iraq. For the first time since the US invasion in 2003, US troop strength in Iraq has dropped below 50,000. Is Iraq prepared to defend itself, Courtney?
Courtney Kube: Well I think you have to remember -- I don't think you'll find many average Iraqis on the street in Baghdad or anywhere in the country that would say that just because Operation Iraqi Freedom is technically ending in a few days, Operation New Dawn begins, US combat forces are out, I don't think the average Iraqi believes that that means a light switch is going to flick off and violence is going to end. The Iraqi security forces are certainly going to be tested in the coming days, weeks, months probably. But the US force that exists there now -- it's still almost 50,000 troops, they're not going anywhere, they're not going any beyond this until next summer.
Diane Rehm: But you did have a wave of coordinated attacks in thirteen cities just --
David Wood: Yeah, just a horrific thing. Mounted apparently by al Qaeda in Iraq, the sort of home grown, foreign directed, Sunni terrorist organization. What was particularly striking, I thought, was that after these bombs went off in these thirteen cities in a two hour period, the Iraqi people rushed in to help and people stoned them and shouted at them and were very angry and yelled: "Why can't you protect us!" And it was, I thought, "Uh-oh." It was a real uh-oh moment because clearly the Iraqi security forces cannot keep this kind of thing from happening.
Diane Rehm: Moises?
Moises Naim: August was the deadliest month for Iraqi security forces in the past three years, at least 265 have been killed in June alone. And if you look at these places where the attacks took place. They bring back names that had gone out of the news. Falludi, Ramadi, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra. These were places where we used to talk about them all the time and then they disappeared. This is a way of telling the world and telling Iraqis, we are still here -- on the part of insurgents in Iraq. And explaining the fact that the US troops are leaving is creating -- plus -- the very important backdrop to this story is that Iraq doesn't have a government. They had an election several months ago. That election does not yield a clear result. And now they have been struggling to create a functioning government.
Diane Rehm: How are these 50,000 so-called non-combat troops going to be able to stand back and watch as this kind of desecration happens.
Courtney Kube: Well they won't be standing back at all. I mean 20,000 of those 50,000 are assigned to advise-and-assist brigades that -- Just today, there was an advise-and-assist, some US troops that went out with Iraqi security forces, arrested seven al Qaeda in Iraq suspected members. They won't be sitting back. Almost half of those forces are going to be involved in combat missions, frankly, it's just that they cannot do it alone.There really hasn't been a big change in posture of US forces since last summer, since the US forces were no longer allowed to operate on their own, no longer allowed to conduct missions within Iraqi cities. So the only real difference that we're seeing right now is the numbers are down a little bit, the combat troops that were assigned to, you know, so-called combat brigades are now out and they're now reassigned to advise-and-assist.
Diane Rehm: There is more than a little ambiguety here, David Wood.
David Wood: I think it's deliberate. I want to pick up on something Moises was saying and that was that there's no Iraqi government in power, of course. There's been a lot of political turbulence since March when there were presidential [C.I. note: Parlimentary elections] elections and nobody won a clear majority or enough to put together a government in Parliament. One of the -- one of the upshots of that is that the United States is supposed to be, by law, withdraw all of its military forces from Iraq by December 31st of next year. I think that agreement was made in the last months of the Bush administration with the understanding that it would be renegotiated because, if it were carried out, you wouldn't even be able to have Marine guards at the US Embassy. With no government, you can't regnegotiate it. And the clock is ticking. And al Qaeda in Iraq has noticed and the statement they issued after this bombing was: "The countdown has begun to return Iraq to the embrace of Islam and its Sunnis with God's permission." Pretty chilling stuff.
Diane Rehm: Moises.
Moises Naim: So the story here again is one of calendars versus conditions. There is a political -- a Washington based or a US politics-centered calendar that people are following and then there are realities on the ground. And these two are clashing. The realities on the ground in Iraq are not in synch with deadlines and with timelines and the calendar that has been decided by purely domestic US politics kind of consideration and calculations.
Diane Rehm: So next week President Obama is going to make an Oval Office speech, next Tuesday. What's he expected to say, Moises?
Moises Naim: He's going to confirm two things that may be a bit contradictory. I think. One is that the troops are going out and this was his campaign promise and that Iraq is in better shape than before and so on. But at the same time he's going to claim the continuing support and commitment of the United States to the building of a democratic Iraqi nation.
Staying on the 'end of war' 'treaty' 'requirement,' Gareth Porter (IPS via Dissident Voice) reports, "All indications are that the administration expects to renegotiate the security agreement with the Iraqi government to allow a post-2011 combat presence of up to 10,000 troops, once a new government is formed in Baghdad But Obama, fearing a backlash from anti-war voters in the Democratic Party, who have already become disenchanted with him over Afghanistan, is trying to play down that possibility. Instead, the White House is trying to reassure its anti-war base that the U.S. military role in Iraq is coming to an end." The editorial board for the Seattle Times notes the drawdown is phase one, "Remember, the operative description is Phase One. The departure of all U.S. military is supposed to come at the end of 2011. Do not confuse that goal with an end of U.S. presence or involvement in Iraq. Parsing out the future depends on definitions and interpretations. The exist of designated combat forces still leaves 50,000 American troops in Iraq, with another 79,000 U.S. contractors. Men and women in uniform are essentially replaced by taxpayer supported mercenaries who attract a lot less public attention." Elise Labot (CNN) reports:

For the people of Iraq, the withdrawal of U.S. forces will be largely symbolic. The average Iraqi has not seen U.S. forces since June 2009, when they redeployed to the outskirts of Iraqi cities under the terms of the 2008 security agreement between the United States and Iraq.
Since then, Iraqi forces have been in charge of urban areas: manning most checkpoints, conducting operations against extremists and maintaining law and order.
But for the United States, the transfer from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn is monumental. The handover will put the U.S. State Department in an expanded and indeed unprecedented role, one it is forced to scale back before it even starts due to budget constraints.
Besides, the United States is not actually leaving the country. As Chris Toensing, editor of the Middle East Report (a must-read for understanding the area), points out, there will still be 50,000 troops left behind in an "advisory" capacity.
"The essential realities of the Iraq War remain the same: Iraq is oil-rich and strategically located at the head of the Persian Gulf. Its ruling elites are fractious and weak," Toensing writes. "Our continued troop presence is an insurance policy against disaster for the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi politicians, who would otherwise fear violent overthrow, and the White House, which would otherwise fear Iraq's takeover by unfriendly elements."
A lot of people will be paying for George Bush's folly for a long time to come.
And Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report -- link has text and audio) points out, "In addition to the fantasy reporting, American military and civilian authorities are conducting fantasy arguments behind closed doors about whether the U.S. is going to withdraw all of its military forces, regardless of the nomenclature, by the end 0f 2011 - as required by solemn agreement with the Iraqis. One faction favors deploying a force of up to 10,000 mercenaries, complete with their own armored trucks, air force and missile-firing drones. But powerful figures in the Obama administration say they are confident they can talk the Iraqis into allowing 10,000 uniformed American troops to stay in the country after the deadline. Certainly, billions of dollars in bribes can sometimes work wonders - but U.S. plans for an eternity in Iraq have repeatedly been thwarted by the Iraqi people, themselves."
As Diane and her guests noted, a political stalemate exists currently in Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 20 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
One of the biggest roadblocks for the process -- before, during and after -- has been Ahmad Chalabi. Babak Dehghanpisheh (Newsweek) notes:
Salih Mutlak can only wonder where in Iraq he might find justice. As one of the country's leading Sunni politicians, he was puzzled and angry to learn shortly before this spring's parliamentary elections that the Accountability and Justice Commission had barred him from running, along with roughly 500 other candidates. Prominent Sunni politicians like Mutlak were particularly targeted. So he picked up the phone and called the commission's head, Ahmad Chalabi, who was relaxing in Beirut. "I had nothing to do with it," Chalabi calmly asserted. "Come on, Ahmad," Mutlak persisted. "What does the committee have against me?" Chalabi told him there was a letter showing that Mutlak had cooperated with Saddam Hussein's notorious secret police, the Mukhabarat. "That's nonsense!" Mutlak snapped. Chalabi promised to look into the matter and try to resolve it.
But it was not resolved. With the March elections looming, Mutlak's brother Ibrahim took over the vacant slot -- and won. That didn't stop the commission from stepping in again with dubious authority and disqualifying the substitute candidate retroactively. Today, the fate of Ibrahim Mutlak and a dozen or so other similarly disqualified candidates remains an open question. "It's a disaster that Ahmad Chalabi would have such an influence in this country," says Salih Mutlak. "He wants to bring sectarianism back. He wants to damage the reputation of the Americans. He wants to spoil everything here!"
Michael Christie (Reuters) notes of the stalemate, "But the longer the political impasse continues, the longer it will take to address public anger about poor public services, such as a lack of electricity in the stifling summer heat. The perception may also grow that democracy in Iraq does not work, and Iraqi leaders are incapable of governing, raising the risks of public disturbances, coup attempts and increased meddling by often troublesome neighbours." But the stalemate hasn't prevented targeting of labor unions in Iraq. David Bacon (Truthout) reports:
Early in the morning of July 21 police stormed the offices of the Iraqi Electrical Utility Workers Union in Basra, the poverty-stricken capital of Iraq's oil-rich south. A shamefaced officer told Hashmeya Muhsin, the first woman to head a national union in Iraq, that they'd come to carry out the orders of Electricity Minister Hussain al-Shahristani to shut the union down. As more police arrived, they took the membership records, the files documenting often-atrocious working conditions, the leaflets for demonstrations protesting Basra's agonizing power outages, the computers and the phones. Finally, Muhsin and her coworkers were pushed out and the doors locked.
Shahristani's order prohibits all trade union activity in the plants operated by the ministry, closes union offices, and seizes control of union assets from bank accounts to furniture. The order says the ministry will determine what rights have been given to union officers, and take them all away. Anyone who protests, it says, will be arrested under Iraq's Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005.
So ended seven years in which workers in the region's power plants have fought for the right to organize a legal union, to bargain with the electrical ministry, and to stop the contracting-out and privatization schemes that have threatened their jobs.
The Iraqi government, while it seems paralyzed on many fronts, has unleashed a wave of actions against the country's unions that are intended to take Iraq back to the era when Saddam Hussein prohibited them for most workers, and arrested activists who protested. In just the last few months, the Maliki government has issued arrest warrants for oil union leaders and transferred that union's officers to worksites hundreds of miles from home, prohibited union activity in the oil fields, ports and refineries, forbade unions from collecting dues or opening bank accounts, and even kept leaders from leaving the country to seek support while the government cracks down.
At the U.S. Embassy, the largest in the world, an official says mildly, "We're looking into it. We hope that everybody resolves their differences in an amicable way." Meanwhile, however, while the U.S. command withdraws combat troops from many areas, it is beefing up the military and private-security apparatus it maintains to protect the wave of foreign oil companies coming into Basra to exploit the wealth of Iraq's oil fields.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award.
Overnight, violence continued in Iraq. Reuters notes a Baaj attack in which 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 Iraqi military officer were shot dead, a Falluja roadside bombing apparently targeting police which wounded seven people and was followed by a second bombing when police arrived (wounding three) and a Shirqat attack on Sahwa which led to two Sahwa being killed and four more injured. AFP reminds, "When full control of the Sahwa passed from the US military to the Iraqi government in April last year, Baghdad promised to integrate 20 percent of its men into the police or army, and find civil service jobs for many others. But 52,000 are still waiting for new employment." Reuters notes today's violence included a Kirkuk home invasion in which 1 child was slaughtered and three members of the child's family were left injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and injured four more people, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Mosul mortar attack injured one adult male and the corpse of a Christian male was discovered in Mosul (the man had been kidnapped earlier in the week).
Turning to England, Mark Stone (Sky News) observes of the British inquiry into the Iraq War, "At the top of that list, surely, is the civilian death toll. I wrote about it on this blog last month. There was an expectation then that the subject would be raised with ex-Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram. It was. For about a minute. Other than that, it's hardly been mentioned." Ian Dunt (Politics) reports that Iraq Body Count (IBC) -- infamous for undercounting the dead in Iraq -- has hurled insults at the Iraq Inquiry, labeling it both "flawed" and "derisory" and has released their correspondent with Committee Chair John Chilcot in which they advocate for the inquiry to (quoting from correspondence) "fully and properly investigate Iraq casualties" and Dunt closes by noting that the Inquiry will go to Iraq. Only they "won't." They may. That was always the point. Chilcott has made two public statements about that. They would like to, they hope to. Whether they go or not, nothing is concrete at this point. Jonathan Steele (Guardian) grasps that reality, "The five-person Chilcot inquiry team plans to visit Iraq briefly in the next few weeks but the IBS says this appears to be 'an afterthought'." Channel 4 News adds, "Iraq Body Count (IBC) co-founder John Sloboda told Channel 4 News: 'Some of the deaths and injuries caused must have been breaches of British and international law, so some sort of judicial inquiry would seem to be in order'."
Meanwhile, Professor Robert Jensen (at Dissident Voice) explores the ethical issues and implications:
The legal case is straightforward: Neither invasion had the necessary approval of the United Nations Security Council, and neither was a response to an imminent attack. In both cases, U.S. officials pretended to engage in diplomacy but demanded war. Under international law and the U.S. Constitution (Article 6 is clear that "all Treaties made," such as the UN Charter, are "the supreme Law of the Land"), both invasions were illegal.
The moral case is also clear: U.S. officials' claims that the invasions were necessary to protect us from terrorism or locate weapons of mass destruction were never plausible and have been exposed as lies. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in 2001, when sensible changes in U.S. foreign policy and vigorous law enforcement in collaboration with other nations could have made us safer.
The people who bear the greatest legal and moral responsibility for these crimes are the politicians who send the military to war and the generals who plan the actions, and it may seem unfair to deny the front-line service personnel the label of "hero" when they did their duty as they understood it. But this talk of heroism is part of the way we avoid politics and deny the unpleasant fact that these are imperial wars. U.S. military forces are in the Middle East and Central Asia not to bring freedom but to extend and deepen U.S. power in a region home to the world's most important energy resources. The nation exercising control there increases its influence over the global economy, and despite all the U.S. propaganda, the world realizes we have tens of thousands of troops on the ground because of those oil and gas reserves.
While Jensen attempts to explore the complexities, Mr. Pretty Lies Barack Obama is already reducing it all to a simplistic bumper sticker -- one full of lies -- such as today's claim that Americans are "safer" as a result of the Iraq War. Notice that only a War Hawk or a War Whore can sell and spin an illegal war. The Cult of St. Barack damn well better decide which Barry is: a War Hawk or a War Whore. He certainly isn't a truth teller. We need to highlight two today who told the truth about the illegal war. First up, Justin Raimondo's "All Lies, All The Time" (
This farcical "withdrawal," which amounts to merely increasing the number of mercenaries in the region, is a complete fabrication, motivated by pure politics and an infinite faith in the cluelessness of the Average Joe, who is too busy looking for a job to care. As to what they'll do when the insurgency starts to rise again, not to worry: no one will notice but the soldiers in the field. Surely the American media won't be so rude as to point it out, unless the Green Zone goes up in flames and they have to evacuate stragglers by helicopter as they did in Vietnam. In that case, the visuals would be too good to pass up.
Everything that comes out of this administration, from its pronouncements on the overseas front to its own unemployment numbers, is a lie: it's all lies, all the time. Even in small matters, the default is a fib, such as in the case of the Pentagon's denial that it was ever in touch with WikiLeaks about minimizing the alleged damage done by the next Afghanistan document dump. After all, why would WikiLeaks make up such a story? The feds just want the documents "expunged," thank you. I doubt they really believe it's possible to "expunge" the Afghan war logs from the internet. If so, they are dumber than anyone has so far imagined. And so much for the myth that the Pentagon really cares about any danger to Afghan informants, who might be compromised by the release of more documents: Julian Assange and WikiLeaks have given them their chance to safeguard the identities of US collaborators, and the Pentagon flat out rejected it. So be it.

It's true that Iraqis suffered under the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein but his overthrow did not lead to a better life for Iraqis. "I am not a political person, but I know that under Saddam Hussein, we had electricity, clean drinking water, a healthcare system that was the envy of the Arab world and free education through college," Iraqi pharmacist Dr. Entisar Al-Arabi told me. "I have five children and every time I had a baby, I was entitled to a year of paid maternity leave. I owned a pharmacy and I could close up shop as late as I chose because the streets were safe. Today there is no security and Iraqis have terrible shortages of everything--electricity, food, water, medicines, even gasoline. Most of the educated people have fled the country, and those who remain look back longingly to the days of Saddam Hussein."

Dr. Al-Arabi has joined the ranks of the nearly four million Iraqi refugees, many of whom are now living in increasingly desperate circumstances in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and around the world. Undocumented, most are not allowed to work and are forced to take extremely low paying, illegal jobs or rely on the UN and charities to survive. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported a disturbing spike in the sex trafficking of Iraqi women.

There were many truth tellers and that was a great thing. This week, we've attempted to highlight some each day but there wasn't room on Thursday.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Charles Babbington (AP), Eamon Javers (CNBC), Karen Tumulty (Washington Post) and Pete Williams (NBC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Why We Love It When the President Goes Away." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Kim Gandy, Christina Hoff Sommers and Avis Jones-DeWeever on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is an exploration of whether or not there's any link between sex and schoolwork. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and it explores hydraulic fracturing and the salmonella egg outbreak. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Stealing America's Secrets
"60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy that offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China's spying may pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S. Scott Pelley reports. | Watch Video

The Bloom Box
Large corporations in California have been secretly testing a new device that can generate power on the spot, without being connected to the electric grid. They're saying it's efficient, clean, and saves them money. Will we have one in every home someday? Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

In the latest craze that has killed several extreme sports enthusiasts, men don wing-suits, jump off mountaintops and glide down at speeds approaching 140 miles per hour. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, August 29, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A retraction, but no correction

To "A milestone in Iraq as US ends combat phase. How to mark it?," the Christian Science Monitor has added this note:

[Editor's note: A detail from an earlier version about the public's treatment of returning Vietnam soldiers was omitted from this version.]

What has been omitted? The spitting lie.

Does that suffice for a correction for you?

I don't know what to think. I'm serious. They put that lie into print (online) and then they pull it. I'm glad they pulled it but I think they owed a correction and not just a deletion.

Kat and I were talking about this. Both tonight and last night. Last night, her theory was that there would be an immediate action (C.I. was outraged and she was working the phones) and I didn't think there would be. I thought after a week, we'd get a correction, after a week of complaints.

I will praise them on the speed. But I do think that if you put out false information then you need to correct it. Especially on something as serious as this topic.

What do you think that?

I'll leave it to you to weigh in if you'd like. Just e-mail and I will note it on Friday. (I don't blog Thursday nights.)

CIA Red Cell Memorandum on United States 'exporting terrorism, 2 Feb 2010" (WikiLeaks):
This CIA "Red Cell" report from February 2, 2010, looks at what will happen if it is internationally understood that the United States is an exporter of terrorism; 'Contrary to common belief, the American export of terrorism or terrorists is not a recent phenomenon, nor has it been associated only with Islamic radicals or people of Middle Eastern, African or South Asian ethnic origin. This dynamic belies the American belief that our free, open and integrated multicultural society lessens the allure of radicalism and terrorism for US citizens.' The report looks at a number cases of US exported terrorism, including attacks by US based or financed Jewish, Muslim and Irish-nationalism terrorists. It concludes that foreign perceptions of the US as an "Exporter of Terrorism" together with US double standards in international law, may lead to noncooperation in renditions (including the arrest of CIA officers) and the decision to not share terrorism related intelligence with the United States.

You should check that out, it's very interesting and worth reading. It's also worth noting that this memo is causing an uproar, it's publication is causing an uproar. I think WikiLeaks has a great deal more and that, as long as the US government keeps screwing with Julian Assange, WikiLeaks is going to keep releasing documents.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday August 25, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed by bombings, the refugee crisis continues, the political stalemate continues, the Pentagon finds new ways to disrespect gays and lesbians, and more.

Iraq was slammed by violence but before we get to that, the Pentagon found a new way to insult gays and lesbians this week as, apparently, apparently did President Barack Obama. Instead of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Barack's promised to study it for a year. He didn't need a study when he made it a campaign promise. Don't Ask, Don't Tell is the policy put in place in the early 90s to allow gays and lesbians the ability to serve. It did not allow them to serve openly. The policy was they couldn't tell and they couldn't be asked. It was a compromise policy. People were being asked and were being kicked out the military for their sexuality. The policy never worked the way it was hoped because the questions and witch hunts continued. It was a step and the most then-President Bill Clinton could get in the face of opposition from Congressional Democrats and Colin Powell. Time does move on, thankfully. And Barack campaigned on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell so that gays and lesbians could serve openly without fear of being kicked out for their sexuality. But instead of doing that, he announced a 'study' was needed. If the study says "Don't Repeal!" will Barack still repeal? Ask Magic 8-ball, it's more honest than Robert Gibbs. As offensive as the study option was, it's now gotten worse.
150,000 questionaires were sent out this month by the Pentagon . . . to the husbands and wives of service members asking for their input.

Next up look for the Pentagon to check with the cable guy of service members and, after that, their dry cleaners. That should eat up enough time that Barack will be out of the White House and his 'promise' long forgotten. If you want to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, you repeal it. It's not that difficult -- unless Barack's saying that, like his cigarette smoking, homophobia is a personal addiction for him.

In the United States today the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm Mike Mullen, spoke in Chicago. He was speaking to a variety of business leaders and the thrust of his speech was how returning veterans were a valuable employment resource with skills companies would be more than fortunate to have. He took questions (although he refused to address topics that had nothing to do with him or his position -- including the Water Cooler topic that the chattering types can't shut about).
Alex Keefe (Chicago Public Radio -- text and audio) quotes him stating, "This is a - an effort on the part of al Qaeda, in particular, in Iraq to re-ignite the sectarian violence." He addresses the Detroit Economic Club tomorrow and he spoke with Steve Courtney today on the Paul W. Smith AM Show (WJR).

While Mullen offered hypothesis. At least 60 dead at least 265 injured today as Iraq is slammed with bombings -- mocking Joe Biden and the speech he gave to the VFW on Monday. That always happens. Attempt to serve up a wave of Operation Happy Talk and expect Iraq to correct your spin with a bracing splash of reality. As
Jackson Browne once sang, "With all the times that I've been burned, by now you'd think I'd have learned" ("Rosie"). Ned Parker and Riyadh Mohammed (Los Angeles Times) explain, "The violence shook at least seven cities from north to south and appeared timed to undermine confidence in the Iraqi army and police as the U.S. military ends it formal combat mission in the country." Anthony Shadid and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) note the assaults appear "to be part of a coordinated wave of attacks" and they quote Mohammed Abbas who lost a cousin in one of today's bombings: "There may be a state, there may be a government. But what can that state do? What can they do with all the terrorists? Are they supposed to set up a checkpoint in every house?"

Kadhim Ajrash and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explain, "Car bombs were used in the attacks in Baghdad, Basra, Karbala, Baquba, Kirkuk and Wasit, the officials said in statements." In addition, they note, "Vice President Joseph Biden and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said at separate events yesterday that the administration is confident Iraqi forces are capable of taking on the primary security role." Barbara Surk and Hamid Ahmed (AP) point out, "The attacks made August the deadliest month for Iraqi policemen and soldiers in two years, and came a day after the U.S. declared that its troop levels were at their lowest level since the war began in 2003." BBC News reminds, "Iraq's top army officer recently questioned the timing of the pull-out, saying the country's military might not be ready to take control for another decade." On the attacks, Reuters notes a Baghdad suicide car bombing claimed 15 lives (plus driver for sixteen) with fifty-six injured, a Kut suicide car bombing which claimed 30 lives (plus driver) and left eighty-seven injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five people, a Dujail car bombing which injured twenty people, a Basra minbus bombing which injured twelve people, a Kirkuk car bombing which killed 1 person (nine more injured), six Balad Ruz roadside bombings which injured thirteen people, a Falluja suicide car bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left ten people injured, a Baghdad, a Muqdadiya car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left eighteen injured, a Ramadi car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left thirteen wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left fourteen people wounded, two Samarra roadside bombings which wounded Col Mustafa Hameed and three of his bodyguards, a Tikrit roadside bombing which injured two police officers, a Tikrit roadside bombing which injured two college students and five Iraqi soldiers, and a Baghdad attack on a police checkpoint which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Falluja sticky bombing which claimed 1 life, a Wasit car bombing 10 people (fifteen injured), a Karbala car bombing claimed 1 life (eight more injured) and a Mosul suicide car bombing which claimed the lives 3 Iraqi soldiers (thirteen more injured). By 7:30 a.m. US EST this morning, the totals were at least 60 dead, at least 265 injured. BBC offers a slide show of the aftermath of some of the bombings. Jason Ditz ( reports, "Though the casualty figures are still coming in and may change, at least 86 Iraqis, including a large number of security forces, were killed and 371 others were wounded in the attacks." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports "Day of violence hits every corner of Iraq." Mike Hanna (Al Jazeera) states, "It does appear the primary targets are police stations, check points [and other] symbols of the attempt to create a system of law and order within Iraq." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) explains, "U.S. commanders and the caretaker government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki repeatedly have blamed the attacks on a hodge-podge of insurgent groups, including extremist groups linked to al Qaeda and, separately, to Iran. They allege the groups are trying to take advantage of a political vacuum -- politicians have yet to form a government after March polls -- and sow fear amid the U.S. withdrawal." Jane Arraf, Laith Hammoudi and Mohammad Dulaimi (Christian Science Monitor and McClatchy Newspapers) report, "No group has yet taken responsibility but Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki's office blamed the attacks on Al Qaeda and Baathists. The statement said the bombings would not derail the 'historic national achievement' of the troop withdrawal in line with Iraq achieving full national sovereignty." Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds, "The US military faces mounting pleas from Iraqis to reconsider its exit." Tang Danlu (Xinhua) notes the continuing political stalemate as the violence continues.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 18 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

Lebanon's Daily Star covers the rumors that Moqtada al-Sadr may move "to Beirut to escape Iranian pressures to endorse a second-term for incumbent Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki" and that "On Tuesday, Ziyad al-Darb, a lawmaker from Iraqiya said Sadrist lawmakers were throwing their weight behind Allawi for prime minister."

BBC News' Hugh Skyes appeared on The Takeaway today supposedly to offer insight but instead apparently wanted to convey that Judi Dench is far from Britian's only drama queen. For the record, if he's going to admonish the host, he ought to get his facts correct. The drawdown is not, IS NOT, mandated by the Status Of Forces Agreement (" . . . that their forces are down to the 50,000 required by the State Of Forces Agreement here"). Know what you're talking about Hugh before you lecture someone else. What a putz. I can't imagine anything more stupid than being a reporter on Iraq and not knowing what the SOFA says and what it doesn't. Especially at this late date. The evening of November 27, 2008, the
White House finally provided a copy of the Status Of Forces Agreement to the American people. (Even the US Congress was working with a translation of it prior, the White House did not provide Congress with a copy.) Read over it and find that 50,000 in the SOFA, Hugh Sykes. You won't. Because it's not in there as Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) and countless others have attempted to make clear over and over for nearly two years now. The 50,000 is Barack. It is not the SOFA which was signed on off before he was president. I don't think I've ever heard a guest on American public radio treat a host so rudely. And the reality is that while Hugh got his knickers in a wad, he's the idiot who doesn't even know what the SOFA says. Before he offers his next condescending lecture, he might try familiarizing himself with the basic facts.

Monday Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) spoke with Marco Werman for PRI's The World (link has transcript and audio) about life in Iraq.

Marco Werman: Egyptian society is typical of much of the Middle East. It's conservative. But one country stands out from its neighbors. That's Iraq. Prostitution, drugs and pornography are now widespread there. It wasn't always this way but it's part of the enormous change that the country has gone through in the past eight years. Jane Arraf has witnessed the changes in Iraq as a reporter, first for CNN and now as a freelancer. Jane, how is Iraq different from its neighbors and when did it change?

Jane Arraf: Well I think the thing about Iraq is that with the toppling of Saddam, it basically lifted the lid on pretty much everything. It wasn't as if prostitution didn't exist before the war. It certainly did. And particularly in that period of sanctions when there were international trade sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s and even middle class women who couldn't find food for their families were turning to prostitution. I think the thing is now though that essentially it became lawless after the invasion, after Saddam was toppled, then law was imposed again. It has become quite religious. So it's this really odd combination of increasing religiousness -- Islam, of course -- and an openness and the two things coincide rather unhappily.

Marco Werman: Gives ua an example. Perhaps you can talk about the pornography situation in Iraq. I mean what was Saddam's point of view on pornography and what is the kind of the national approach to pornography today?

Jane Arraf: Well, essentially pornography is bad. It's about as simple as that. It certainly doesn't jive with any sort of religion and it's frowned on. But, having said that, this is a country where young men particularly do not have many avenues open to them. They can't really have sex. They certainly can't have sex with women for the most part. And pornography is one of the few ways that they have access to that sort of thing. It's the same on US military bases. There's a prevalence of pornography on the bases even though it's officially banned there. But really the thing about Iraq is, well, I think is, it's a country that's very much still coming to grips with what kind of country it wants to be. And we've seen that in the spate of recent killings of gay men. This has been an openness that many people have taken advantage of. They couldn't have dressed the way they dress under Saddam Hussein's era. They couldn't have engaged in the kind of behavior, danicing in clubs, that they did then. Men with men. But, having said that, it's collided with an increasingly religious atmosphere here. It has resulted in the death of at least a dozen gay men and they've eseentially gone underground, gone to Syria, gone to other places and gotten the message very clearly that even though things seem open here, they're not really.

Jane Arraf went on to explain, "Sexual experiences between young men are considered fairly normal before they get married. So that if you have an experience of that sort with another man, you're not necessarily considered gay here. The thing that really offends people is not so much the sex, it's the appearance of being gay. It's the perception that you're gay, that you're effeminate."

Psychologically speaking, it is the rejection of self and what the man has done which frequently manifests itself in homophobia and leads to lashing out -- verbally and/or physically -- at those who may or may not be gay (or bi) but whose appearance might result in that assumption. Along with the rejection, there's the projection and, of course, the almighty quaking fear that if "Mustaffa" is gay and you don't attack Mustaffa, you may be thought to be gay as well.

Turning to the issue of Iraqi refugees, as July was winding down, Iraqi Osman Rasul took his own life.
Owen Bowcott and Natalie Hanman (Guardian) reported that the 27-year-old man who was seeking asylum in England lept to his death after being "perched on railings surrounding the seventh floor balcony of a Nottingham tower block. He blanked out police officers attempting to talk him down and [. . .], placing his hand on his heart, he looked up to the sky and leapt." He was not allowed to work in England and his legal aid was cut off. Corin Faife (Ceasefire Magazine) remembers him: "Over the three months that he lived with me I heard more stories from him: of the murder of his father and brother by a militia in Iraq, and his fear for his own life; of his journey to the UK in the hold of a ship, and his impossible struggle to prove his origin and identity when he had arrived with nothing; of his arrest and imprisonment after a false accusation, and his bitter disbelief when he was aquitted, a year later, to be thrown back out on the street with no life to go back to. Living with Osman I saw firsthand the spirit-crushing inhumanity of the British asylum system, and how unremittingly bleak life can be for those who are left in limbo. Prohibited from working, with no access to housing or financial supports after his first claim was rejected and still awaiting furhter documents to make a fresh claim, he was left destitute, forced to rely on the charity of others to his continual chagrin." Great Britian's Socialist Worker adds, "He had applied for asylum, but it was denied because he could not prove he had a legal right to be in the country. He then applied to stay so that he could be with his children, who have British citizenship. This too was turned down. He was destitute and had been forced to sleep on friends' floors or on the street. Osman was not alllowed to work and was living on food parcels and charitable donations." His wife, Malgorzata Gajda, told the Coventry Telegraph that she believed he phoned her before he lept to his death, "I said 'Hello, hello' but no one answered. I'm sure it was him. He wanted to hear me and the kids for the last time."

This week UN Dispatch's Mark Leon Goldberg published a list of "
The Top 5 Most Ignored Humanitarian Crises" and coming in at number one: Iraqi refugees: "The invasion, occupation and subsequent civil war in Iraq war caused one of the biggest refugees crises in recent history. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are 1.7 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria and Jordan. There are another 1.5 million Iraqi IDPs. The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released its regional response plan for Iraqi refugees in January. The appeal called for $367 million to support the refugees. So far, though, only 17.9% or $65 million is funded. The United States has contributed $17 million to the fund."

In the United States, candidate Barack Obama swore he would provide $2 billion for Iraqi refugees. President Barack Obama has yet to do so.
Kevin Robillar (PolitiFact) explained at the start of this year that the money wasn't being allocated: "If Obama is going to provide $2 billion over the course of four years, he would need to spend $500 million a year. That would be more than a third of the total amount the United States spends on refugees in 2010, which would seem unlikely." Today Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) reports on the State Dept's Eric P. Schwartz and on the issue of Iraqi refugees. Sheridan's reporting on Schwartz' life and his testimony (before a body staffed with US lawmakers) and mentions a body of lawmakers. The Commission On Security & Cooperation in Europe aka the US Helsinki Commission -- not a Congressional committee. But they did issue a statement this month:

WASHINGTON--The United States needs to develop a plan to assist the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have worked, or continue to work, for the U.S. in Iraq, 22 U.S. Senators and Representatives said today in letters to both Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates.

The letters authored by U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission), and Co-Chairman Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) follow a recent hearing titled "No Way Home, No Way to Escape: The Plight of Iraqi Refugees and Our Iraqi Allies" that highlighted the dire situation of Iraqis employed by the United States. These men and women are considered "traitors" or "collaborators" and are marked for assassination by Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups.

"Time is of the essence in developing a plan to address this looming crisis as the August 31, 2010 withdrawal date rapidly approaches," the letters say. "The United States has a moral obligation to stand by those Iraqis who have risked their lives -- and the lives of their families -- to stand by us in Iraq for the past seven years, and doing so is also in our strategic self-interest."
(Full text of both letters below. To view a pdf of the letter to Secretary Clinton click here. For the letter to Secretary Gates, click here.)

Since resettlement to the United States is the safest option for many of our Iraqi allies, the signatories of the letters called for changes to the Special Immigrant Visa program to accelerate the application process and fulfill more of the current availability of 15,000 visas, only 2,145 of which have been used to date. This follows the legislative work of Co- Chairman Hastings, whose successful amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 calls on the Departments of Defense and State, in consultation with other federal agencies, to develop a plan to expedite resettlement of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis at risk as the United States withdraws from Iraq.

"Providing support for our Iraqi allies will advance U.S. national security interests around the world, particularly in Afghanistan, by sending a message that foreign nationals who support our work abroad can expect some measure of protection," the letters state.

The letters are signed by:
U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Commission Chairman*
U.S. Representative Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Commission Co-Chairman*
U.S. Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Senate Assistant Majority Leader
U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN)
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
U.S. Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA)
U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)*
U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-NY)
U.S. Representative Ike Skelton (D-MO)
U.S. Representative Howard L. Berman (D-CA)
U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA)
U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)
U.S. Representative William D. Delahunt (D-MA)
U.S. Representative James P. McGovern (D-MA)
U.S. Representative Shelley Berkley (D-NV)
U.S. Representative Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL)
U.S. Representative Darrell E. Issa (R-CA)*
U.S. Representative G.K. Butterfield (D- NC)*
U.S. Representative Russ Carnahan (D-MO)
U.S. Representative Gwen Moore (D-WI)
U.S. Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA)
U.S. Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS)

* denotes member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission

Text of letters follows:

August 12, 2010

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Madam Secretary:

We write to bring to your attention the plight of our Iraqi allies, those Iraqis who have worked alongside our troops and diplomats as interpreters and in other capacities since 2003, and who are now threatened for their service. We urge you to work with the Department of Defense and other federal agencies to develop contingency plans to protect these allies as our forces redeploy.

Since 2003, tens of thousands of Iraqis have worked, or continue to work for, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, U.S. government contractors and other U.S. government funded entities in Iraq. Al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq have labeled these Iraqis traitors, collaborators and worse. Many have already paid the ultimate price for their service, and many more may be at risk after U.S. troops depart Iraq.

Resettlement to the United States could be the only safe option for thousands of our Iraqi employees. We commend the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security for expanding and accelerating the admission process for Iraqi refugees during the past three years. However, we are advised that the application process for Iraqi refugees currently takes a year or more on average, and that fewer than 5000 of those resettled to date were employed by the United States in Iraq. This process will not work quickly enough when U.S.-affiliated Iraqis need it the most urgently.

A second path to resettlement, Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), has also underperformed the current need. As you know, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 expanded the availability of SIVs to enable our Iraqi employees to resettle to the United States. Out of a current availability of 15,000 SIVs, only 2,145 have been issued to principal applicants to date. We believe that the underuse of the SIV program is due in large part to a consular interpretation that improperly restricts the scope of that legislation by extending eligibility only to Iraqis who had worked for the United States as direct hires, contractors, or subcontractors. This has denied eligibility to a class of Iraqis whom the Act sought to protect -- Iraqis who have worked for NGOs or private implementing partners funded by the United States Government through grants and cooperative agreements. Many of these individuals provided critical support to U.S. efforts and personnel in Iraq and face threats that are just as grave as the threats faced by direct hires and contractors. It is extremely unlikely that Iraqi extremists will consider the difference in funding mechanisms between grants to NGOs or contracts to companies when choosing which Iraqis to kill. We urge you to amend this interpretation as quickly as is practical.

Finally, we should consider an airlift, for later processing, out of Iraq for those Iraqis who worked for or on behalf of the United States, who wish to leave Iraq, and who cannot be processed before all U.S. troops depart. The British did exactly this as they departed Basra and militant thugs openly hunted Iraqis who had worked for the British, airlifting their surviving Iraqi employees directly to a Royal Air Force base in England. Each of America's principal coalition partners -- Britain, Denmark, and Poland -- has honored its moral obligation to endangered Iraqi employees through airlifts to military bases.

There is precedent for a similar undertaking by the United States in Iraq. In the 1996 Operation Pacific Haven, the United States airlifted more than 6,000 Iraqis to Guam in a matter of weeks, where they were safely processed for resettlement to the United States. While circumstances are somewhat different, our country also used Guam as a processing center for tens of thousands of Vietnamese refugees in 1975.

Madam Secretary, time is of the essence in developing a plan to address this looming crisis as the August 31, 2010 withdrawal date rapidly approaches. The United States has a moral obligation to stand by those Iraqis who have risked their lives -- and the lives of their families -- to stand by us in Iraq for the past seven years, and doing so is also in our strategic self-interest. Providing support for our Iraqi allies will advance U.S. national security interests around the world, particularly in Afghanistan, by sending a message that foreign nationals who support our work abroad can expect some measure of protection.
SIGNED (listed above)

Let's hope Hillary tossed that letter in the trash can. (She didn't, but she should have.) Why?

Pay attention -- and how stupid and uninformed are members of the US Congress -- Hillary's not over Iraq. Maybe it's time to bring back a literacy test? Not for voters, mind you, but for members of Congress. If you can't pass it, you're out. That's how it should work. And Cardin and the rest need to stop wasting Hillary's time with letters that should have never been sent.

In a suitcase tied with string
On the highest shelf
In the closet down the hall
Hidden from myself
Fits of madness, pools of grief
Fevers of desire
How peculiar these remain
Salavaged from the fire
For some I crumpled
Some I burned
Some I tore to shreds
Liftetimes later, here they are
The ones I saved instead
Letters never sent to you
Letters never sent to you
Letters I never sent
Letters never sent to you
-- "Letters Never Sent," written by
Carly Simon and Jacob Brackman, first appears on Carly's Letters Never Sent album.

Why should that letter have never been sent to Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State? Because she's not over Iraq and it is damn well known -- or damn well should be -- that she's not over Iraqi refugees.
Press statement by Robert Gibbs, White House spokesperson and plus-size model, on August 14, 2009:

Further to discussions that took place during Prime Minister Maliki's recent meetings in Washington, President Obama is pleased to announce that Samantha Power, Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the National Security Council in the White House, will coordinate the efforts of the many parts of the U.S. government on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), including the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Defense.

Who did Barack put in charge of Iraqi refugees? That's right. The old War Whore Samantha Power. So why the hell are lawmakers wasting time by addressing the letter to Hillary? And when can we propose a literacy test for all members of Congress?

And continuing this week's plan to highlight at least one truth teller on the drawdown in each snapshot, today we'll note
Camilo Mejia, Iraq War veteran, conscientious objector, speaking to Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! last Friday (link has video, audio and text):

JUAN GONZALEZ: Camilo, your reaction now to this so-called news of the withdrawal of the last combat brigade from Iraq?

CAMILO MEJÍA: My reaction is that this is just another media stunt, because what is not being reported as strongly as the final troop leaving Iraq is that we're still leaving 50,000 troops in country, not to mention that the 4,000 who are leaving are being replaced by 7,000 security contractors, called "dirty gangs" by Iraqis. I think that basically what we have is just a recycling of forces in what effectively could be called a transferring of military duties from the US military into the hands of corporate paramilitary forces in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Camilo, as you see the coverage over the last twenty-four hours, first, you know, as one of the leaders of Iraq Veterans Against the War, do you think this is the right move, what President Obama is doing? And then, what are your thoughts, hearing, watching soldiers talking about their experiences?

CAMILO MEJÍA: I have not been really tracking the testimonies of soldiers about the alleged withdrawal of the troops. But I do think that it's very troubling to see how the corporate media are covering this withdrawal, because very little to nothing has been said about the fact that we are privatizing just absolutely everything. Now we have the situation in Iraq where huge contracts are going to be given to these corporations to do what the US Army used to do, not that one is better than the other. I think there probably will be less accountability for private security contractors to be doing the job that soldiers, who are at least subject to be court-martialed, but are now going to be in the hands of people like Erik Prince and people like that. We already have over 100,000 contractors in Iraq operating, many of them operating in the capacity of mercenaries. If you read the coverage by the New York Times, you realize that these are not just going to be security guards, these are going to be highly specialized former military personnel who are going to have the skills and the ability to operate radars, to go out there and find improvised explosive devices, so we're talking about EOD personnel. You're talking about people who are pilots. You're talking about people who are going to be operating drones in Iraq. So this is not just people who are going to be bodyguards. You're talking about highly specialized individuals who are going to be replacing soldiers from the US military and other special operations units within the Army. So, basically, it's the privatization of a military occupation. It is what we're witnessing right now, the transferring of military authorities and duties from the US military into corporate paramilitary forces.

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