Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tim DeChristopher

From Wikipedia, here's an overview of activist Tim DeChristopher:

Tim DeChristopher is an American environmental activist. On December 19, 2008, he protested an oil and gas lease auction of 116 parcels of public land in Utah’s redrock country, conducted by the Bureau of Land Management. DeChristopher decided to participate in the auction, signing a Bidder Registration Form and placing fake bids to obtain 14 parcels of land (totaling 22,500 acres) for $1.8 million. DeChristopher was removed from the auction by federal agents, taken into custody, and questioned.

Please note that the actions were after the 2008 election. This was the Bush Justice Department doing the questioning. But Barack Obama was sworn in in the first month of 2009. Tim was indicted in April -- under the Obama Justice Department. It has been determined that the lands he bid on shouldn't have been put up for sale. There was never a real crime. But he was put on trial by the Obama administration. He was sentenced to two years in prison this week.

Terry Tempest Williams wrote a letter to the Salt Lake Tribune. I find it interesting that TTW's letter is now the copyrighted property of the newspaper. (TTW is a professional writer and a columnist for The Progressive.) They didn't pay her a single dime for her writing but they've slapped a copyright notice on it and called it their own.

Ian Wilder (On The Wilderside) has a critique of Peter Yarrow's Tim DeChristopher coverage. He notes Yarrow's steady while piling the blame on Bush but when

His misdirection is based on his inability to pin the blame squarely on President Obama for prosecuting DeChristopher. DeChristopher’s acts should have been nullified when the auction was withdrawn. There should have been no prosecution because, in essence, there was no auction. Yarrow goes on to indict DeChristopher for not having the means to pay for the leases. That was never tested. DeChristopher never reached the point where payment was allowed. Yes, he may not have had the funds when the bid was made, but he did when he would have been required to pay. This is no different then how businessmen in this country commonly buy things they can’t afford, and only obtain the financing when the bill is due.

Sentencing Tim to any amount of time is a travesty.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, July 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, tensions continue to rise between Iraq and Iran, is Iraq being run by an Iranian general?, protests take place in Baghdad, Tony Blair continues to think he has something to say, and more.
Starting with the Libyan War, yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Kevin Pina noted, "Today it was announced that the former Minister of the Interior of the Libyan government, Abdul Fatah Younis, who is now serving as the chief of staff of the rebels -- that's right, he had defected from the Libyan government to then become chief of staff of the so-called Transitional Council of the rebels in Libya hs been killed." On Tuesday's show Mahdi Nazemroaya had noted there were rumors Younis was near Tripoli and in the western mountains.
Kevin Pina: And we turn our attention once again to the ground in Libya where a NATO bombing campaign continues. There has also been a lot of talk that the dealine for Muammar Gaddafi to step down has passed there is even the introduction of the concept or trial balloon of landing ground troops in order to solve the 'crisis.' We also know that the United States has accelerated and sort of shown its hand as the force behind the rebels in Libya also known as the Transitional Council. Now joining us on the ground in Tripoli, Libya to talk about all of this more is our special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroaya Mahdi is also a research assistant at the Centre for Research on Globalization based in Montreal, Canada. Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Thanks for having me, Kevin.
Kevin Pina: So lets talk about the first thing, let's talk about the fact that now we're hearing that the bombing campaign is continuing, we're hearing that there's a possibility that there might even be ground troops landing in Libya.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well if there are ground troops, like I said, they'd have to be fools. Everybody is armed, all the territories that are under the control and jurisdiciton of the Libyan government, people are armed there and they are more than willing to fight for their home land. So they will see this as a colonial invasion and it would only bring more blood. And it would be so far from a 'humanitarian intervention' and 'no fly zone.' The only way I could see them doing that is if they tried to say that the so-called Transitional Council which they've recognized as the legitimate government of Libya now -- I'd like to point out that this is an unelected and secretive and corrupt body. And the only way I could see them trying to invade is by saying they've gotten permission from the government in Benghazi [Transitional Council]. But I cannot see that happening. I can only see them going to certain strategic areas and I don't think the US wants to be seen in another war that's going to end like the quagmire in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Kevin Pina: And that's the voice of Mahdi Nazemroaya, our special correspondent, coming to us direct from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, again, is also a research assistant at the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, Canada. Mahdi, I also understand that there was a high level, former Gaddafi official, a member of the Libyan government that had actually defected over to the rebel side who now, it's being announced, has actually been killed.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. I'm at the Swiss al Nasr which was formerly the Rixos al Nasr, so sometimes you'll catch me calling it the Rixos because the name change was very recent. This is where the foreign media center is and right now the international press is gathering for a press conference and there's been a lot of hustle and bustle here about the topic. Abdul Fatah Younis has been declared dead. The circumstances around it exactly aren't known. We'll know at the press conference. And CNN will be present, BBC, Sky News, as well as various international news services.
Kevin Pina: Well Mahdi, explain to us who this man was and why it's so important. And obviously this is a breaking news story, you're breaking news on Flashpoints that this man was confirmed dead.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well this man was the former Interior Ministry of the government in Triopoli. He's a longtime friend of Col Gaddafi as well and he's also a member of the group of young Arab officers who started the revolution with Col Gaddafi. So it was actually a big surprise when he defected and joined the Transitional Council in Benghazi. Now his death, as I mentioned, the circumstances around it aren't known. I've heard different things I'm going to have to confirm. I was told that the rebel forces, the so-called rebels, have claimed that they killed him themselves because he was about to defect --
Kevin Pina: Defect back?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. He was going to do a second defection. Because a lot of the rebels are also tired of the fighting and I've heard that there might have even been negotiations for them to end the fighting and to come back. But anyways, I've also heard that he probably could have been killed by the government side. So this is not clear and it has to be confirmed.
Staying with that topic, Ivan Watson (CNN -- link has text and video) reports: on the death and this is included in the text report:
[Marina] Ottaway, the Carnegie Endowment scholar, said the killing raises questions about the rebel council.
"It's clear there are divisions" within the Transitional National Council, she said. "There are suspicions of some of the people who went from being close allies (of Gadhafi), as Younis was, to joining" the rebels.
The motives of those who switched sides have been questioned by people who weren't sure whether they had truly made the transition or were just pretending to have changed. There has been speculation, she said, that Younis might have been dealing somehow with Gadhafi.
"The main point perhaps is that the unity at the Transitional National Council is tenuous at best. This is a strange coalition at best," she said. "They are very aware of the fact that they are not an organization that represents the entire country."
Today Terry Gross flaunts her stupidity and her smutty by re-airing one of her stupidest interviews ever -- one of the reasons Fresh Air was pulled from several radio stations last year -- with a "dominatrix." No one needs that s**t on the public airwaves, do you understand? There's enough going on in the world that NPR doesn't need to work the blue room. Terry goes there repeatedly. And it was her laughing (and playing) her 'comedian' friend using the word fa**ot over and over on her sho last year that was the last straw for some stations. Please note, that "comedian" went public weeks ago saying Tracy Morgan's homophobic rant as funny and fine. Of course he did. He's a homophobe himself. Terry Gross awful show needs to be pulled. The woman's an idiot, ill-informed and plays to the lowest common denominator repeatedly. She's also a little War Hawk as anyone who followed her coverage should be aware (including the way Ehren Watada was covered -- and if Terry's so wise how come she and her guests were SO WRONG about what would happen to Ehren?). In 2010, as Ann, Ava and I documented at Third, only 18.546% of Terry's guests were women. Yet another reason her tired ass needs to be retired. But it was yesterday's show with CJ Chivers of the New York Times and Transitional Council that we're noting right now. Chivers is in bed with the so-called rebels. No, the paper didn't do that in Iraq. From the interview.
Mr. CHIVERS: I don't know exactly what the air power is up in the air. I've been trying to get it at that. And the governments that are involved, when they sign on for NATO, some of them seem to get sort of nondisclosure agreements with NATO. So I don't really know. I'd rather - they also almost bombed me one day...
GROSS: Oh, my G**. Really?
[. . .]
Mr. CHIVERS: Well, we later approached - I mean it was one of those situations. We came back and, you know, I was suffering from some headaches and having trouble hearing. And so we came back and I, you know, I called the paper and let them know very briefly what had happened - told them I was fine. And then we started to ask a few questions. Because, you know, it struck me as unusual that they would bomb something that was very blown up. They would bomb something that was, in this case, behind rebel lines.
Oh, you poor baby. How awful for you, the American, visiting someone else's country and free to leave anytime you want. to experience what so many Libyans are going through right now as a result of that war. [We censored Terry's use of a religious deity's name in vain because we don't allow that here out of respect for all religions and those people who are religious.] I'm also confused as to why we need a history of Libya from CJ Chivers. Meaning whatever did or did not happen years and years ago. Is that supposed to be "perspective"? If so the biggest perspective and the only one that matters right no is that Barack said this would be a few weeks and it has been months, that Libya is an established and recognized government, that the CIA has backed the so-called rebels and that this is part of the AFRICOM dream. Don't expect CJ Chivers to ever put that in perspective while working for the New York Times or to acknowledge that his little scare is the sort of thing Libyan children are living with every damn day in and near Tripoli and for no legal reason at all.
Staying with NPR. today on The Diane Rehm Show's second hour, guest host Susan Page (USA Today) and panelists, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Joby Warrick (Washington Post) and Jill Dougherty (CNN) discussed Iraq.
Susan Page: In Iraq, there's been another bomb blast targeting police this time in Tikrit. Do we see a pattern emerging, Jill? What's happening in Iraq?

Jill Dougherty: Well, Iraq, I guess you'd have to say the big thing is when do the Americans pull out? I mean, we know, according to the Status of Forces Agreement, that they're supposed to be out, the troops must leave Iraq by the end of this year, December 31st. But you do have some movement now among the Iraqis and certainly the U.S. would be open to that to keep the U.S. as trainers for a longer period. But, you know, with the mood about the war, it seems, you know, in both countries, it could be a problem to try to continue them. And so if, let's say, Afghanistan and Iraq, if the local military cannot take care of the security situation, then things can fall apart. It's a real dilemma.

Susan Page: And, in fact, these -- the bombing came just hours after the Iraqi prime minister was talking on the phone to Vice President Biden about the withdrawal of U.S. troops. What is the issue there? We need Iraqis to make some decisions, Nancy?

Nancy A. Youssef: Well, the real issue is that no Iraqi wants to come out publicly and say he asked for the occupation forces to stay on, however beneficial they may be to Iraqi security. And so al-Maliki came out and said the parliament must vote on this.

Susan Page: So that's a way for him to say I'm not asking, let's have the parliament?

Nancy A. Youssef: Yes, I mean, let's -- Really there's a game of chicken going on where the Iraqis are trying to see how close they can get to not asking and having the Americans still stay. And so we heard from Hoshyar Zebari this week who is the foreign minister. He said something quite interesting. He said, well, maybe we could work out a deal defense ministry to defense ministry. And so I went to the Pentagon and I said, would that be acceptable or do you have to have parliamentary support? And there's a debate going on right now about that and my sense is that no, they'd have to have the backing of the parliament. Because remember, the parliament is the one who approved the Status of Forces Agreement that allows us to stay until the end of 2011. And so what the Iraqis are looking for is the least they have to do to get the Americans to stay without having the onus of going to the public and saying, I asked for the forces to stay.

Susan Page: But do we want to be asked to stay? Or would we prefer to be able to go?

Joby Warrick: Yeah. It's there is a push within the administration to try to get some residual force there beyond the end of 2011 because of the regional concerns, because of Iran and all the things that it's doing in the region. We'd like to have a counter-balance to that. And -- but again, we have to be asked and now this, the whole negotiation process appears to be frozen. There's no movement in sight and if we are going to leave at the end of 2011, there's a lot of logistical things involved in that and we have to start moving now.

Nancy A. Youssef: You know, Jill talked about the cost of this and the financial pressures essentially to bring down war costs. The Congressional Research Service released a study earlier this year and they found that with fewer troops, it actually costs more per trooper in Iraq. In 2006 and 2007 at the height of the violence, it cost about $500,000 per trooper and that is the logistics, the equipment and getting that trooper there. We're now in 2010 and it was at $800,000 and so there is a cost factor in this. It is actually more expensive per soldier to keep them in Iraq even if there are fewer of them.

Susan Page: President Obama campaigned as a candidate on a promise to get the U.S. forces out of Iraq. So Jill, what if he fulfils that promise? We see troops coming out and the situation there really deteriorates. Does that mean we would go back in or do we just leave the Iraqis to themselves?

Jill Dougherty: I shudder to think what they would do. I'm not quite sure because, you know, you have legal issues governing the relationship between the two countries. You have the financial realities in the United States budget, which -- It's a perfect day to be talking about that. You have the American public, I think the last I looked, 30 percent support the war or the conflict. So it would be very, very hard to begin that over again.

Nancy A. Youssef: And also I think the question becomes what could the U.S. do to mitigate whatever emerges in that period because you're starting to see Iraqis sort of positioning themselves for the post-U.S. period and so the relevancy, the impact of the United States diminishes with every brigade that the United States pulls out. So if you keep 10,000, which is the number we hear tossed around at the Pentagon, what real impact could they have to stopping whatever the momentum ends up being in Iraq post 2011?
The Los Angeles Times reports that unnamed U.S. officials say the White House is prepared to keep as many as 10,000 U.S. troops around Baghdad and elsewhere in the country. That would be on top of the nearly 50,000 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force personnel the Pentagon reports deploying "around Iraq" as of March 31 of this year.
The Pentagon is putting "multiple plans" in place to support U.S. troop operations in Iraq in 2012, Alan Estevez, the Pentagon's nominee to lead its logistics and materiel readiness office, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing July 19. As contracts expire on food services, fuel, and logistics support, he said, the Department of Defense can almost immediately turn "the volume on [them] back up."
The U.S. embassy, which opened on new grounds in January 2009, is by far the largest in the world -- about the size of 80 football fields and 10 times bigger than any other U.S. embassy.
Saturday was to be the meet-up of political blocs at Jalal Talabani's home to discuss a number of issues including whether or not to extend the presence of US troops. , Ahmad al-Rubaye (AFP) reports that meeting has been axed. (Jane Arraf noted yesterday that people were saying the meeting wouldn't take place.) al-Rubaye explains Ali Mussawi delivered the news that the meeting was off: "He said the talks were postponed because President Jalal Talabani, who was to lead them, had to visit the northern city of Arbil to attend condolence ceremonies for the mother of Massud Barzani, president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. She died on Wednesday." And as the White House pushes for an extension, there is silence. Dennis "DJ" Mikolay (Populist Approach) observes:
Apparently, despite the current president's tenacity for waging war, the once thriving anti-war left is uninterested in opposing him. Why? Were the peace-seeking activists of the past decade motivated more by a hatred of George W. Bush than they were a love of human life? Perhaps they believe that, unlike his predecessor's wars, the current president's are somehow morally justified?
Whatever the case, opposition to American interventionism seems to have gone the way of the Furby or the Pet Rock, meaning President Obama can wage as many wars as he likes with minimal criticism. That is a truly frightening realization. Who will the United States wage war with next? Iran and Syria seem likely contenders for that dubious honor.
One must wonder how much blood must be shed before the American public demands a revamping of the "War on Terror?" How many Americans have to die before voters turn their backs on both the neo-conservative Republican and Progressive Democratic war machines?
Given the neutralization of anti-war sentiment in the United States, coupled with the lack of viable Republican presidential contenders, the probability that the United States will remain engulfed in war until at least 2016 is becoming increasingly likely. The sad moral of this entire affair, however, is that by casting their ballots for a pro-war candidate the American public got exactly what they asked for. And they don't even seem to realize it.

Al Mada has an interesting story
on a statement released by Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi. In the statement, Allawi's stating that the problems (Political Stalemate II) are not between Iraqiya and Nouri's State of Law but "our real problem" results from agreeing to a move that left them in a lesser position (Iraqiya won the March 2010 elections) and accepting tokens instead of real partnership. He notes the Erbil Agreement was not implemented. (He is correct. The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I -- the nine months after the March 2010 elections -- and when Nouri trashed the agreement, Political Stalemate II began.) Al Mada also reports that six deputies withdrew from Iraqiya yesterday for a number of reasons but chief among them the fact that they did not support Salman Jumaili as president of Iraqiya's bloc in Parliament. The paper also reveals that yesterday's efforts by State of Law to attack the Electoral Commission with a no-confidence vote found only 94 of the 245 MPs present voting in favor of the proposal.
Turning to Iraq and its neighbors, today AFP reports a 10-year-old boy was killed in Iraq by the shelling from Iranian forces. Haj Omran's mayor Maghdid Aref Ahmed explains, "Mohammed Antar Zerrar, who is 10 years old, was killed on Thursday evening at around 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) by Iranian shelling of the village of Battas." Iran's Fars News Agency reports, "Iran's Police Chief Brigadier General Esmayeel Ahmadi Moqaddam announced that the country's law enforcement forces have adopted tight security measures along Iran's Northeastern borders with Turkey and Iraq to confront insecurities and terrorist groups in border areas." In addition, Reuters notes a border clash between the Iranian military and PJAK resulted in the death of 1 shepherd.
Iran maintains that the military action is to defend itself from Kurdish rebels PJAK. Protests have taken place in Iraq over Iran's attacks. This week Foriegn Minister Zebari called out the attacks but it was a meaningless statement. Zebari doesn't run the country. Nouri al-Maliki has not condemned the attacks publicly. In addition to Nouri being prime minister and tight ith the Iranian government, there's the fact that Zebari is a Kurd and the Iranian government has shon no respect for them via the treatment of the Kurds in Iran and also their treatment of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani when he visited the country which Talabani's office found so dimissive and insulting that they publicly aired their complaint. Zebari and a host of others can decry the attacks but Nouri's the only person the Iranian government might listen to. Meanwhile Iraqis watch the attacks and remember their past with Iran (the Guardian provides a timeline here) and remember that whatever they think of the Camp Ashraf residents, Iraqis have not been calling for their forced expulsion, the government of Iran has. It feeds into further distrust of Nouri and his government. Ahmad Farhardpour (Kurdish Aspect) offers:
Iraqi Kurdistan border regions have come under intermittent ground and aerial assaults by neighboring powerful countries. These threats further escalated in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. At present, Islamic Republic of Iran has resumed such confrontational attacks once again, killing scores of innocent civilians. The international community is observing, but not reacting to it. Iranian perpetuation of crimes should not go unnoticed.
To pacify public rage, Kurdish leaders and representatives dismiss their part of answerability by maintaining that there are accords and protocols in effect that constitutionally hinder Kurdish Regional Government from taking unilateral actions to defuse any menace confronting Kurdistan, apparently leaving them with the only alternative to hinge on the leniency of the incumbents in federal government in Baghdad to rush to their aid. Whether it is Kurdish Regional Government's fragility or limitations, in either case, it does not resolve the setback.
If Kurdistan is part of a federalist, democratic and pluralistic Iraq as claimed by KRG officials, then so should the burden of security provision and preservation of its territorial integrity remain those of the federal government? Iraqi citizens would like to know what has been rendered so far by their so-called federal government as regards protecting them. If the federal government is unwilling or pathetic to guard them, then who is? Has not yet the Iraqi Army or Kurdish Regional Government Army been effectively trained and empowered adequately to cope with foreign threats after elongated 8 years? And if not, where and how have all the allocated funds been expended. How long more time and what other means do they require achieving their goals.

Meanwhile Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports on rumors that Iranian military officer Qassem Suleimani is calling the shots in Iraq adding, "In Baghdad, no other name invokes the same sort of reaction among the nation's power base -- discomfort, uncertainty and fear." True or not, while it's NO reason for the US military to stay in Iraq, just the talk of it adds to more discomfort for Nouri as Iraqis have yet another reason to distrust him. His biggest problem, which he fails to grasp, is that the Iraqi people do not feel he even attempts to serve their needs or interests. This appears to be illustrated by the fact that, all these years later, they still don't have basic services and they still don't have jobs. When you add in what Chulov is reporting, true or false doesn't matter, it feeds into the pre-existing image of the way Nouri 'runs' (ruins) Iraq.
It's why the protests take place each Firday. Today? Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweeted:
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janearraf jane arraf
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Our Correspondent in Tahrir Square: A journalist in Tahrir catches the officer responsible for the infiltrators and photographs him giving them orders which led to an attempt to kidnap the journalist that failed, but they broke his camera, dragged him some distance and tore up his clothes." And they report, "Our Correspondent in Tahrir Square:The Young Rebels in Tahrir help the jounalist to escape from the infiltrators and stop the attempted kidnapping."
Turning to Iraq and another neighbor, Al Sabaah reports that Iraq and Syria concluded their eight meeting yesterday and came up with a cooperation agreement between the two countries. A statement by Iraq's Minister of Trade, Khairul Hassan Babiker praises the agreement as good for both sides. Syria borders Iraq and, throughout the Iraq War, has been a place many Iraqis attempting to escape violence have gone to. Recently, Syria has had its own turmoil and many media outlets have wrongly reported that a major exodus from Syria back to Iraq was taking place. When these claims proved false, they switched to 'reports' that it was going to happen, about to happen, give it time. That's actually not reporting and you'd think, for example, that someone at NPR would hear that report and ask how the hell it made it on air? Today Tim Arango (New York Times) provided reality explaining that the few Iraqis that have returned from Syria do not outnumber the amount of Iraqis continuing -- even no -- to go to Syria. He speaks with Iraqis visiting Iraq and no returning to Syria who, even ith the current problems in Syria, portray a better life there than in Iraq such as barber Ali Mohammed who notes that, "You can relax there. You don't need to worry about electricity, the heat."
In news of violence, Reuters notes 1 Sahwa and 1 police officer were killed in Baquba by unknon assailants, a Baghdad car bombing injured three people, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured two police officers, 1 corpse as discovered in Kirkuk ("gunshot wounds") and, dropping back to Thursday night, a Mosul sticky bombing claimed 1 life and 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.
Turning to the British War Hawk Tony Blair who felt he had some 'authority' with which to address people, he was in New Zealand this week and the New Zealand Press Association reports that there was a citizen-led effort to arrest him but the "heavy police presence kept protesters out of Eden Park" allowing Tony Blair to continue to present himself as the victim of the Iraq War by responding to a question about doing anything differently with the comment that he wished that back then he'd had know that replacing Saddam Hussein would require a "long struggle."

Tony never regrets the loss of life, of course. TVNZ quotes him stating, "You can't govern by protest . . . you've got to do what you think is right." So lying was right? Attempting to scare the British people with the claim that Iraq could attack England in a matter of minutes was the right thing to do?

Earlier this week, Chris Greenwood (Daily Mail) reported that for Tony Blair's two days of appearaning before the Iraq Inquiry, British tax payers had to fork over five-hundred-thousand pounds to cover his security. That's a good thing. 3 News reports that his New Zealand appearance required the hiring of extra security as well. Tony Blair goes to events like the one in New Zealand because he's paid big money. If it requires big money to keep the protesters away, someone's got to pay that. It's not going to be Tony. He's too damn cheap. So if tax payers in New Zealand or the organizing body gets the bill, maybe Tony won't be invited back. And maybe at some point the War Hawk will be hemmed in and unable to travel freely? He belongs in prison for his War Crimes but if that's not possible, life can at least be made uncomfortable for him. And should be. He's now moved on to Brisbane where the Brisbane Times reports he declared there's a "confidence crisis" in the West. Why not? Didn't he lie to start an illegal war? Didn't the UN reward him for that lie by making him the Middle East Envoy when he belongs behind bars? A liar is probably the last one to lament a crisis of confidence. The paper notes, "Before he spoke, a small group of protesters gathered outside the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre to exercise their right to free speech. Activists waved placards and chanted slogans, accusing Mr Blair of genocide for supporting the Iraq war." Brian Jones (Iraq Inquiry Digest) notes:
From declassified documents released in May, it has become clear that, in early 2002, Tony Blair's overriding wish was to use Iraq as the next step in the application of the political philosophy of "liberal intervention" to which he had become wedded in his first term of office. This was made plain in a minute from Blair to Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, and Sir David Manning, his foreign policy adviser, in March 2002, shortly before Blair's visit to Crawford. The Crawford summit, for which Blair appears to have been thoroughly and accurately briefed, is thought by many to have been the meeting at which Blair pledged his determination to provide British military support for an invasion of Iraq.
In the minute to his closest confidants, the prime minister does not cite any need to tackle the "threat" of Saddam's putative WMD stockpiles or to support US action for wider political or security reasons. The former is not surprising because he had been repeatedly advised that intelligence on Iraq's WMD would not justify the military action he seemed to anticipate. He also appears to acknowledge that Iraq "hasn't any direct bearing on [UK] national interest".
In a speech in Chicago in April 1999, at a time when he believed he needed to persuade a reluctant President Clinton to take more direct military action in the Balkans, Blair had argued for a "political philosophy that does care about other nations". It advocated that, in a post cold war environment free of threats to national security, the west could afford to do this. For example, where appropriate they could pursue military action to achieve regime change in order to free oppressed people from unscrupulous dictators, eliminate regional dangers and restore stability.
Even in his March 2002 minute to his closest aides Blair feels the need to rehearse the case for "liberal intervention" in Iraq by reference to his successes in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone and appears to suggest it was right to be "gung-ho on Saddam". By defining things in this way he tacitly acknowledges that he did not consider as particularly serious, any current or possible future threat from Iraq and its WMD, or the consequence of an increased threat from terrorists such as al Qaida that might arise in the future or directly as a consequence of any such action. Indeed he said his greatest fear was about oil prices because: "Higher petrol prices really might put the public off."
None of this should surprise us since Blair has latterly made no secret of the fact that he was always much more than a compliant supporter of George Bush in pursuit of the policy on Iraq. It puts a little more flesh on the bones of the implication inherent in his admission to Fern Britton in 2009 that if he had known before the Iraq war that Saddam had no WMD he would have found another way to persuade people the invasion was appropriate.
All this is very strong, if not conclusive, evidence that the WMD "threat" was deliberately exaggerated as immediate (or current) to boost public, political and international support for military action because neither humanitarian considerations nor a potential future WMD threat from Iraq or terrorists would have been enough.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Bring on the 14th Amendment" (Robert Kuttner, POLITICO):

There is something insane about the debate now dominating Washington.

You would think the U.S. economy’s most pressing threat is the federal deficit and that a 10-year path to budget balance would produce the economic recovery and job growth that have eluded us since the 2008 financial collapse.

He goes on to blame "the narrative" while refusing to note who created it.

I'm just not in the mood for little bitches these days. Be it Barack or Robert Kuttner, could adults all please grow the hell up? At least on this issue?

Kuttner goes on and on and refuses to call out Barack on page one.

He may on his second page.

It doesn't matter if he does. No one will read that far.

Which is the other thing to learn, Robert, stop yammering. The case was made early in the column. You did not back up your points, you overwhelemed your audience and they stopped listening.

Other than that and being unable to call out Barry, Robert's got something to say. It's a real shame that at his age he hasn't learned to communicate better.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, July 27, 2011. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, State of Law continues war on the Election Commission, the Foreign Minister talks withdrawal, the Libyan War continues and we focus on a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.
Crystal Nicely: For most of the family members, we were thrown into this new role unexpectedly and unprepared, but we have taken it in stride with determination and hope of the future. We have discovered is that we could never have prepared ourselves for what we face on a day to day basis while taking care of our loved ones. For me, I am not only my husband's caregiver, non-medical attendant, appointment scheduler, cook, driver and groomer, but I am also his loving wife faced with my own stresses and frustrations. To be clear, this is not an issue of being overwhelmed with caring for my husband for there is no other place on earth I want to be other than by his side. I am sure that many of the other caregivers would agree. What is upsetting is the lack of support, compassion and benefits for these individuals. It needs to be just a little bit easier. Many of us left our lives back at home and assumed a new role and life at Walter Reed -- as many caregivers have done across the country. Simply put,life her isn't a picnic. It is a bittersweet struggle of coping with new identities and new norms, whatever those may be. I first wish to address the most difficult and disheartening issue that continues to be a problem and barrier at Walter Reed. There is not much these days my husband can do without me or someone at his side. We attempt to function independently, but the reality of his injuries requires that I be close to his side, and even if I am away for only short periods someone must be there. This is part of our new normal. Without his prosthetics Todd is unable to perform many of the very basic Activities of Daily Living (ADL) that are taken for granted by so many. The process to serve as an NMA is tedious, particularly at a time when we must oversee all the other parts of our household and our lives. I am not enlisted so it is frustrating when I'm expected to carry on as if I were, when the circumstances I have now are so much bigger than that. This is an additional and unnecessary burden for the spouses and family members. This continual process of reapplying to be an NMA feels as though I am being assessed on my love and care for Todd, or my value to him and his condition. But helping him through his treatment is what I want to do. How could I ever ask someone else to step away from their lives to come do what we so proudly do, loving and caring for our husbands. It's almost disheartening to think that someone no matter how willing they may be can care for my husband more than I can. It hurts just to consider having someone else there instead of me sharing and growing in this experience with my husband. A lot of us come from jobs or school, and there are those that have children to look after as well. Personally, I was attending school before this. Now I have to consider the very expensive life that lies ahead for my husband and me.
Crystal Nicely was testifying to Congress this morning. In her opening remarks, she broke down several times -- more than understandable. We're going with her prepared remarks above and not what she delivered due to the fact that she edited for time and I felt there were too many details in her written remarks that needed to be shared. When a VA official drones on and on forever, you're glad there's a time limit for opening statements. When someone is sharing the details they live with, as Crystal Nicely did, there just isn't enough time to get it all in. I'm noting this because someone's going to e-mail (or call) and say, "Oh, you ignored her crying" or something similar. There is nothing wrong with crying and she was speaking of difficulties she faces. It was very brave and strong of her to speak, it was very brave and strong of her to continue speaking. Repeating, we're excerpting from the written statement because it includes the points she made plus additional details and I think those details need to be included.
"Good morning and welcome to today's hearing where we are going to examine the lifetime costs of supporting our newest generation of veterans," declared Senator Patty Murray bringing the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to order. "As we all know, when our nation goes to war, it's not just the cost of fighting that war that must be accounted for, we must include the cost of caring for our veterans and families long after the fighting is over. And that is particularly true today at a time when we have more than a half a million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the VA health care system. That's an over 100% increase since 2008. This presents a big challenge and one that we have no choice but to step up and meet if we're going to avoid many of the same mistakes we saw with the Vietnam generation. But it's more than just the sheer number of new veterans that will be coming home that presents a challenge for the VA. It's also the extent of the wounds -- both visible and invisible -- and the resources it will take to provide our veterans with quality care. Through the wonders of modern medicine, service members who would have been lost in previous conflicts are coming home to live productive and fulfilling lives. But they will need a lifetime of care from the VA. Today we will hear from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, the RAND Corporation and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. In an effort to help us understand and quantify these costs and to ensure that we meet the future needs of our veterans and their families. And today we are so fortunate to be joined by one of those brave family members, Crystal Nicely, who's not only a wife but also a caregiver to her husband Marine Cpl Todd Nicely. Todd was seriosly injured by an IED in the southern Helmand province of Aghanistan. Since that time, he's come home to fight every day, focus on his recovery and I even heard yesterday that he's already starting to drive again and I want to take a moment to say thank you so much for your service to our country. You have shown bravery not only as a Marine in Afghanistan but also through the courage you have displayed during your road to recovery. I invited Crystal here today because I think it's incredibly important that we hear her perspective. The costs we have incurred for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and will continue to incurr for a long time, extend far beyond dollars and cents. When I first met Crystal last month while touring Bethesda Naval Base, her story illustrated that. Crystal's here today to talk about the human costs and that cost is not limited exclusively to the service members and veterans who fought and are fighting our wars but it is also felt by the families of these heroes who work tirelessly to support their loved ones through deployments and rehabilitation day in and day out. Many like Crystal have given up their own jobs to become full time caregivers and advocates for their loved ones. Last month, while testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm Mike Mullen told me that without the family members, we would be no where in these wars. I couldn't agree more and after you hear Crystal's story that will be even more clear."
Along with Crystal Nicely, the Committee heard from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Paul Rieckhoff, the CBO's Heidi Golding, the RAND Corporation's James Hosek and the GAO's Lorelei St. James.
Commitee Chair Patty Murray: Mrs. Nicley, I want to start with you. You know when I first met you up at Bethesda, I was really disconcerted when you told me that you'd been waiting forever for your husband to finish his joint disability evaluation process. You had to wait almost 70 days for approval of a simple narrative summary. I went and checked and what I understand is that the summary only needed to state the obvious, that your husband was indeed missing two legs and two arms. And that essentially sat on someone's desk for more than two months. That is really unacceptable and my apologies to you and your family on behalf of that. But I wanted you, as you shared with me a little bit about what you were going through for those many days while this country essentially put you on bureaucratic hold.
Crystal Nicely: I think Todd's therapy is very important but he got to a point in his therapy where he was able to do more stuff more independently which didn't require his therapist to be there, I guess, during the whole time. So, it's kind of like -- I don't know if it's a requirement -- I don't know whether it's Marine Corps procedure that they go into therapy. And if Todd was not being taught new things or it was just getting redundant over and over again. So he had pretty much accomplished much of what he had wanted to in that time frame which meant he was taking up more space that other people could have been utilizing the therapist and so, I guess, why pay for his therapy? Or why if you could be paying it for somebody else? So it was a waste of time, I guess.

Committee Chair Patty Murray: What were you spending your time doing all of that time?
Crystal Nicely: Support. Taking Todd back and forth to therapy and just helping him with the daily living.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: You talked to me a little bit about Coordinators of Care, that they were coming through, changing every two months, and that you knew more than they did and they left and then you were training the Corrindators of Care. Can you share with us a little bit about that?
Crystal Nicely: I don't want to say that all of them are at fault due to the situation because of the way it is but the way that the military site has all of the liasons coming in and out is very frustrating because they're not MOS specific.trained in the jobs that are being asked of them. So they come here without the knowledge of what they're expected to do and take the time while they're here to learn what they're doing. And by the time that they've adjusted and maybe absorbed some of it, it's time for them to leave again and new individuals come in who are still not MOS specific. So that doesn't help us with what they're here for is the frustration and helping to take the stress off of the families and able to do the things that are necessary and instead, me personally, had to look for outside assistance from -- whether it was other family support or my case manager -- but was not assisted on the military side of things. That doesn't aid and for me in the beginning of the family process it's hard to open up to people and trust individuals. So to be able to get a connection with somebody and to have somebody there for the short period of time and then transition out and give us somebody else is not allowing us to have that connection or allow us to open up to them because, okay, if we come to you, what are you going to do for me because I know more than you do? So it's extremely frustrating. I know that they're working on it but it's extremely frustrating.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: You are a tremendous advocate for your husband and I am extremely impressed with what Todd is capable of doing and I know that that's -- your proud of that as well. I also know that he needs you at his side and you are there every single minute doing that. You met many people through this process. What does somebody do who doesn't have a wife or a live-in caregiver?
Crystal Nicely: I think -- Oh, boy. That's hard because you do see it in some cases. The family support is maybe not there or maybe not there for the right reasons. I think because of the lack of -- I don't want to say lack of knowledge, their ability to assist in a lot of ways and the lack of compassion when it comes to these guys, there next choice would be to reach out to somebody, I don't know, that whether it's through the military side of things or the hospital because the hospital staff is wonderful -- I guess there's not really a way to say this --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Maybe if you can share with this Committee, like you did with me, a little bit of what your day is like.
Crystal Nicely: Well here recently a lot easier than normal because Todd has strived to become very independent with his prosthetics. Without his prosethetics, it would be -- I would be doing the work for two people. With his prosthetics and because of his knowledge with what he's been able to absorb with his therapist and his daily work in putting into therapy. I basically just observe and watch and if he needs assistance, then I assist him, if he asks of course.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Well thank you and thank you again for your courage in being here too.
I am not interested in Paul Reikoff. As per usual, Paul wanted to go Water Cooler instead of addressing issues. No, not every veteran is worried about "the default." Adam Kokesh (Adam vs The Man airs on RT Monday through Friday at 7:00 pm EST and streams online) is an Iraq War veteran who's been mocking the 'crisis' (rightly so). But let's get one thing clear, if the doomsday that dime-store economist Paul used the hearing to portray came true, everyone would suffer. Don't whine that veterans benefits aren't getting paid. If the whole country were to go under (it's not going under), then, yeah, veterans would be up a creek without a paddle, just like everyone else. They are American citizens and they will suffer the same economic plight that other Americans suffer. Paul's grand standing was, as usual, done with one eye to the gallery, hoping he'd get some camera time. If a significant number of veterans are truly spooked by the White House and media narrative on the debt ceiling, shame on Paul for refusing to tell them that everything's fine. Life does go on and it will go on. Calm down, America. If we had a qualified leader in the White House, calm would be dictated. Instead we have someone who wants to gut the safety net and is willing to scare the nation in an attempt to get them to go along with that.
The government has many debts and obligations and they owe as much on any promise to any American citizens. In terms of paying, the government is taking in more than enough money to service the debt. It can't pay it off. But, as with a VISA or Master Card bill, it can make the monthly payment even though it can pay off the full charge currently. To pretend otherwise is outrageous and, when the manufactured crisis is over, people better be demanding answers from the White House over the administration's efforts to, in effect, create the equivalent of a Y2K panic. And should the White House not pay the bills, Barack should be impeached. Bill Clinton is correct in his legal assessment (though the White House wants to dismiss it -- and, on top of that, to question his understanding of the Constitution because he's not taught it in X years -- the Constitution hasn't changed with regards to the powers of the president). Not only could Barack raise the ceiling right now on his own but if the magic day arrives and it's not raised, he can raise it under the powers of the presidency in a national emergency. The money is there. The powers are there. This stinks of self-created drama on Barack's part.
FYI, if you still don't grasp Harry Reid's proposal, Brian Montopoli (CBS News) covers it here in a realistic manner. Back to the hearing, last excerpt:
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Ms. St. James, I wanted to ask you while you were here, I recently heard some very disturbing complaints from a female veteran. She told me she had a great deal of difficulty in accessing appropriate, safe care for herself. She'd had some exams from a doctor with the exam room open to a crowded hallway, had been harassed by male veterans while trying to get mental health care and other things. And I'm concerned about the lack of separate women only in-patient mental health care units that we're hearing about as well. So I'm very concerned that the VA is not strategically planning for the increasing number of women veterans, something Mr. Rieckhoff mentioned as one of the costs of this war. Can you share with this Commitee how many of VA's backlogged construction projects involve improvements needed just to protect the privacy and safety of women veterans?
Lorelei St. James: I really, excuse me, don't have that specific information. I do know that there are initiatives that VA includes in its planning process but I don't know specifically if that's one.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Is that something you can find out for us?
Lorelei St. James: We can certainly get back to you on that.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Okay. I'd really appreciate that. Ms. Golding you testified that the medical cost for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans between 2011 and 2020 totaled between $40 billion and $55 billion. That number of course doesn't take into account the cost of paying for previous generations that we're still responsible for. CBO did another report earlier this year on possible ways to reduce the deficit where they made a couple of recommendations about veterans programs. I don't support those specific proposals because they negatively impacted benefits which I believe we shouldn't be touching. But I do believe that there are ways we can be more effective with tax payer dollars but not diverting it from direct delivery of services and health care. I wanted to ask you this morning do you believe there's enough excess and duplication that can be addressed to make VA more efficient without negatively impacting services?
Heidi Golding: Uhm, just one or two points that I want to make on that. And the first is that we also have projections for the 2011 - 2020 time frame for VHA for all veterans and the budget would grow -- not the budget but the amount of -- the cost to treat those individuals would rise from the $48 billion in 2010 to under the one scenario $69 billion and the higher scenario -- which included higher medical inflation and so forth, I think it was $85 billion so in the lower case, we're talking about an increase of about 45% over the next ten years which is a substantial increase in order to be able to provide health care for all enrolled veterans. Now we have not -- We do not make policy recommendations and we do not in that paper look at options to and we have not looked at efficiencies. I cannot tell you about that specifically. You're aware of our budget options so we do have a couple of options in that. But it may also involve just not efficiencies but it may involve shifting some costs or --
Committee Chair Patty Murray: If we just do efficiency and shift costs will we meet that projection that you just made.
Heidi Golding: I cannot tell you unfortunately.
Committee Chair Patty Murray: Mr. Hosek a 2008 RAND study concluded that there was a possible connection between having PTSD, TBI and major depression and being homeless. Last month Amd Mike Mullen expressed concern about repeating the mistakes we made after the Vietnam War and said, "We are generating a homeless generation, many more homeless female veterans. And if we're not careful, we're going to do the same thing we did last time." I'm quoting him. Can you walk me through the costs -- both budgetary and human -- of caring for veterans after they become homeless and of using care as a tool to prevent homelessness?
James Hosek: [. . .]
Committee Chair Patty Murray: You want to turn on your mike?
James Hosek: Thanks. Unfortunately, I can't give you estimates of the costs. My concern, which I foreshadowed in my testimony is that there may be a value in being more pro-active in guiding people as they leave the service. Right now when service members leave the service, they receive an out brief. That out brief covers, among other things, the benefits they're entitled to and-and of course advised them that they'll have a post-deployment health assessment and a six month follow-up of that if they're still in the service and leave later on. But this information comes at them very fast. And even though it's provided -- which is a good thing -- I'm afraid that many of them don't really absorb it at the time. And when they leave the military and go out and need care or need to learn about their VA benefits or need to learn about job search upport, they really don't know where to turn. They haven't necessarily absorbed or remembered what they were told. And what our research indicates is there isn't readily available, cohesive, easily accessible sources of information. Now people absorb information in two ways: When it's pushed at them or when they pull for it. And a lot of the discussion that we've received has to do with the push of information, that is just making it available. But the fact that there isn't readily available, cohesive sources of information -- something that Paul referred to -- I think is important to.
And we'll stop there. Do you even remember the question he was asked? About homeless veterans, about the cost and about whether care could impact that. He goes on and on and uses his own buzzwords but where is his answer? Okay, they're getting info as they leave and it's not being recalled because the info is overwhelming. That's one sentence. And I didn't need to whine about "available, cohesive sources of information" or any other time waster.
I am not including Senator Scott Brown who acted as the Ranking Member for the hearing because Ava covers Brown and will be covering him tonight at Trina's site as usual. For an overview of Brown's hearing style, you can see "Ava spills Scott Brown's dirty secret" from June. Right now Wally's planning to cover Senator Johnny Isakson (cover at Rebecca's site tonight) and Kat's going to go into the economy at her site.
Iraq's Foreign Minister is Hoshyar Zebari and he is in the news today with regards to withdrawal. Few appear able to figure out what he said today on the topic. Press TV puffs out its chest to insist that no US forces will be on the ground in Iraq after 2011 and that Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) emphasizes other details of today in Iraq and mentions Zebari only in passing. So what happened?
Press TV is wrong. AFP and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) get it right. AFP reports Zebari raised the issue of withdrawal and the yquote him stating, "Is there a need for trainers and experts? The answer is 'yes.' I think it is possible to reach a consensus on this. The Iraqi government alone cannot reach a decision on this issue. It needs political and national consensus; it's an issue all political leaders should back." Sinan Salaheddin explains, "Zebari and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appear to be preparing the public for some type of American military presence in Iraq past 2011, but have been trying to paint it as a training force as opposed to combat units."
Zebari also covered the planned big meet up. Which one? This morning, Dar Addustour reported Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, has announced house party at Jalal's for tomorrow -- another meet up of the political blocs. Jalal's again announcing big things, BIG, will take place at the meeting. Al Rafidayn continues with Jala's boasting noting that Erbil will be addressed, the presence of US troops will be addressed . . . You get the feeling that, were they still alive, Jalal and his supporters would be insisting Katharine Hepburn would be arriving for dinner with Greta Garbo in tow.

Already, The Party of the Century has hit a snag with Aswat al-Iraq and Al Sabaah noting Saturday as the big day. Aswat al-Iraq notes the delay is said to be to other pressing issues.

Hemin Baban Rahim (Rudaw) reports on the issue of withdrawal:

In an interview with Rudaw, Dr. Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament, said the planned US troop withdrawal has turned political but that US troops are needed in Iraq's disputed territories.
"Iraqi security officials have to present their own report about their ability to maintain Iraq's security," Othman said. "But right now they do not play any role and instead it is politicians who make decisions for them, which is really bad."
Kurdish politicians in Erbil and Baghdad advocate for extending the US troop presence in Iraq. Othman, however, said it is a national issue and if Baghdad decides the US military must leave there is nothing the Kurds can do about it.

In other news, Aswat al-Iraq reports:

A Legislature of Iraq's al-Ahrar (Liberals) Bloc has charged the government of Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, with "failure to face violations by the U.S. forces in southern Iraq's Missan Province."
Legislature Amir al-Kinany was quoted to have told al-Hayat newspaper on Wednesday that "Maliki's government was implementing hostile operations against the Shiite Sadrist Trend," charging the government "with being disable to stop the violations by the occupation forces in Missan Province."

Dar Addustour notes these issues are supposed to be addressed by Parliament today. In addition, Aswat al-Iraq notes State of Law is supposed "to vote no confidence on Election Commission."

In other news, since the middle of July the Iranian military has been shelling northern Iraq and possibly entering the area. Radio Zamaneh notes the protest that took place yesterday against Iran's actions, "A group of Iraqi Kurdish activists and citizens demonstrated today in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government, to decry Iran's artillery attacks in the Iran-Iraq border region. A Radio Zamaneh correspondent reports that the demonstration was organized by the Iran Ist [Stop Iran] Campaign, an umbrella group of various civil organizations in Arbil. The demonstration began at the governor's buildings and ended at the Iranian consulate."
In other violence, Reuters notes a Mosul raid in which 1 suspect was killed and one Iraqi soldier was injured, a Katyusha rocket attack on the Green Zone and dropping back to yesterday Kirkuk sticky bombing injured one police officer.

Charisma News alerts, "A house church leader has been kidnapped by Muslims in Duhok, Iraq, according to a report from Voice of the Martyrs, Canada. A young Iraqi girl recently told VOM contacts that Muslims broke into her home and took her father, Jamal." He is a pastor to the Shabak and is being referred to in accounts as "Pastor Jamal." Minority Rights Group International notes, "The Shabak are an ethnic and cultural minority located in a handful of villages east of Mosul, in the Nineveh Plains, and a small group in Mosul itself. Their language is a confection of Turkish, Persian, Kurdish and Arabic. About 70 per cent of the group is Shi'a and the rest Sunni. Shabak have been in Iraq since 1502, and today are mainly farmers." The Voice of the Martyrs Canada adds, "Several weeks ago, the home of one of Jamal's recent converts was sprayed with machine gun fire. Many fear that the militants, possibly members of al Qaida, will not give Jamal any option of release but immediately kill him." Mission Network News covers the details above here but also offers an audio option. Iraq's religious minorities have been under attack throughout the Iraq War.

Still on religion, Geoff Ziezulewicz (Stars and Stripes) reports on Ramadan:

As Muslims prepare to observe the holy month of Ramadan with fasting and prayer, U.S. troops across the Middle East are being reminded to respect the customs of the societies around them. Among the guidelines: Do not eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public during the daily fast, and dress appropriately: no shorts or short skirts.
During Ramadan, which this year begins Aug. 1, Muslims refrain from eating or drinking between sunup and sundown.
Among guidance issued to U.S. military deployed in Muslim majority countries, the Bahrain-based command of U.S. Navy 5th Fleet posted guidance for sailors and their family members to heed during Ramadan when off base.
Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Excerpt.
Kevin Pina: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio. And we now once again turn our attention back to Tripoli, Libya with our special correspondent on the ground, Mahdi Nazemroaya. Mahdi is also a research assistant with the Centre for Research on Globalization based in Montreal, Canada. Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Thanks for having me, Kevin.
Kevin Pina: Well it's been a big weekend. We know that there's been tremendous bombing at the capitol again. We were worried about you. We weren't able to reach you for a little bit there. What happened?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well the phone lines and the internet go off and on. I don't have internet at my hotel. I have to go to the Rixos. Bombings as you said were very bad and in fact the last couple of days they've been, the war planes have been attacking with their lights on. This is something new. Before their lights would be off but now they don't even bother. Since Friday, on Saturday and Sunday, I -- almost the entire day I heard planes overhead. So there's been a lot of bombings throughout the day and the ground shaking near me and I could hear it. There's also been terrorist attacks as well.
Kevin Pina: What are the terrorist attacks?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Well they're targeting -- the rebels with the support of NATO are targeting officials and groups now and the Libyans have tried to keep this under control. They don't want panic. But these have not been -- these have not been massacre attacks, but they have been terrorist attacks. There's even one peaceful demonstration, a march for peace and solidarity in Libya from Al Sabah which was going through the town of Galesh [sp?] was -- it was actually ambushed. When the march was going through two buildings, they were attacked by snipers and anti-aircraft machine guns as well as FN Belgium sniper rifles. And there was a fight that ensued after awhile because volunteer fighters -- I believe half and hour from Al Sabah, volunteer fighters went there to defend the people who were actually surrounded. And later on NATO even got involved. NATO air cover came to actually help these people that were attacking the people -- protesters. Sorry, not protesters, the peaceful march which was going through the western mountains, the western mountains that have been talked about in the news. That's south of here. This is about two days ago and about 75 so-called rebels died and 3 died out of the march.
Kevin Pina: Now this is a march in support of the Libyan government?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: This is a march in support of unity in Libya. It was a march in support of unity and, yes, it does support the Libyan government. But it was peaceful, there was nobody with weapons. They came in after. When these people were ambushed. They were told by the rebels to head back and they wouldn't head back and this is why they were shot at and ambudshed. And this happened only a few days ago and 3 people died out of the march and about 70 were injured criticially. So the -- so the death count could go up.
Kevin Pina: But there were Libyan army elements that were there. You said there were 75 rebel elements that were there as well.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: What happened was that al Sabah is really close. When they heard fighting, people rushed --- people rushed with weapons because everybody's armed. But the specific people in the rally were not armed. And I was talking to people who were there, eye witnesses, and they were just ambushed. It was a unity march. It had no connotations of fighting involved with it. Or anything of the sort.
Kevin Pina: And let me just remind our listeners, you're listen to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and we are speaking to Mahdi Nazemroaya. He's speakign directly to us from Tripoli, Libya. Well, Mahdi, what you've described is there was a peaceful march, called a unity march, that it was going to Galesh [sp?] and that in a town before Galesh it was ambused by snipers. And that then people from other outer-lining areas that support the government -- who were also armed -- came and rushed to their aid. And there was an ensuing firefight after that where 75 so-called rebels were killed.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes. And the important part of this is that NATO actually provided the people who were doing the ambush air cover to and it attacked Al Sabah after. By the way, just two days ago, NATO bombed another hospital east of here.