Friday, February 15, 2013

10 years ago today

Today was the 10th anniversary of the global protests against the impending war.

Did you participate?

You might not have been old enough.  That was ten years ago.  Some of you might, for example, be 15 today.  

I did participate.

I would love to tell you that I believed the protest would work.

I did not, though.

I said it at the time, that the leaders of the world would ignore us and continue with the illegal war.


Because they had spent months and months on this.  The White House leaked a story on Iraq and 9-11 in October of 2001 -- to the New York Times.  One month after 9-11, the paper of record was making the 'connection' (there was no connection) on the front page.  (Judith Miller was not the reporter.)

So I marched because I didn't know what else to do but I was not thinking, "Bully Boy Bush and Tony Blair are going to see all of us and say, 'Oh, alright, no war.''

 Did it make a difference, the marching?  You judge that one.  In other news,  AP reports:

The White House nominee to run the CIA said setting up a special court to oversee deadly drone strikes against American citizens is worth considering but raises difficult questions over how much authority it would have in decisions currently made by the president.
Expanding on his testimony a week ago, John Brennan said the White House and other agencies had discussed the idea, when coming up with the process to determine which al Qaeda targets go on a capture-or-kill lists for the CIA and the military.

Of course he's thrilled and wants such a court.

It gives another stamp to his illegal killing program. 

We don't need a court to approve these illegal activities, we need a court to stamp them out.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 
Friday, February 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests take place in Iraq (including Baghdad), one American media outlet explores Iraq, today was the 10th anniversary of the global protests, and more.

Your Call airs on the Bay Area's public radio station KALW Monday through Friday (ten to eleven in the morning Pacific Time).  Today host Rose Aguilar and the program offered something you rarely hear on American radio today: a discussion of Iraq.  The guests were Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson.

Rose Aguilar:  It's been almost ten years since the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. In fact today marks the 10th anniversary of the historic global protests against the war that took place all over the world.  In 2003, today's guests photo journalist Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson took photos of Iraqi citizens outside of the confines of the US military's embedded journalist program.  Their goal was to find out how the war was effecting ordinary people.  Their photos are on display at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.  The description on a photo taken in Baghdad at a hospital on April 9, 2003 says, "A pool of blood is left on the floor of the lobby of the Saddam Medical Center after a man died on a makeshift operating table.  Located near the front lines, the hospital was overlowing with patients."  Another photo taken in Najaf on August 21, 2004 shows a man holding his crying son.  The description reads, "On the wrecked outskirts of the old city, a father tries to cross the front lines with his terrified child signaling to snipers to hold their fire.  Father and son crossed safely."   Thorne Anderson began his work in Iraq in October 2002 photographing the impact of UN sanctions on Iraqis.  He spent ten months of the last two years -- actually, that's not right.  He was last in Iraq in 2004.  While covering the war from Baghdad, he was arrested by Iraqi intelligence and expelled from the country.  He returned from Iraq as soon as the borders opened at the end of the war and has covered the occupation resistance movements.  He's also worked in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine.  He's taught photo journalism at the American University in Bulgaria and his photographs regularly appear in major American and international newspapers and magazines.  And Thorne joins us here in the studio.  [. . .] We're also joined by Kael Alfred, a freelance photo journalist who was based in Baghdad during the US invasion in 2003.  She was last in Iraq in 2011.  Her work focuses on the growing culture of resistance, religion and the grassroots movements developing since the invasion.  She has worked extensively covering southeast Europe and the Middle East for many major US and European magazines.  She's currently working on a longterm project about the environmental degradation of the landscape and culture of the Gulf Coast.
At the top of each Friday show, Your Call always asks their guests to note reporting that they found valuable and noteworthy that week. 

Kael Alfred:  Well this isn't specifically -- It's not journalism but it's reporting done by Human Rights Watch.  They just -- every year they publish this world report based on what happened in the last year.  And as I was researching and preparing to speak to audiences about Iraq, I came across their report which goes into some depth about what's happened in Iraq in the last year.  And, although I was there in 2011, it's nice to see -- or,  it's not sort of nice, but it's confirmed in this report what I saw in Iraq in 2011 which is that the leadership of Iraq is, and I'm quoting the report here, sort of the intro to the report, "is using draconian measures against opposition politicians, detainees, demonstrators and journalists -- effectively squeezing the space for independent civil society and political freedoms in Iraq."  Human Rights Watch said this today in their world report -- this was just published at the end of January.  And so it's -- There just isn't a huge amount of reporting coming out of Iraq these days by western media because budgets are shrinking.  There are a lot of conflicts happening all over the world and our attention shifts elsewhere. And, you know, we were just speaking about this before the show, how tens years on, the anniversary of this war, we don't really know what's happening in Iraq, we don't know what it looks like.

Rose Aguilar:  Right. I remember on MSNBC, one of the hosts said, "President Obama has announced that the war is over, the troops are leaving."  Sort of 'end of story.' 

Kael Alford: Right.

Rose Aguilar:  So you went there last year.  Just talk about when you go, where do you go and what do you set out to do?  What did you find this time around?

Kael Alford:  Well I-I had a short period of time to work there.  I only had a few weeks.  And actually my time was even shortened by my having to get my visa through.  So I had this window to work and I decided that what I would -- The best way to catch up with what had happened since I was there last would be to take the photographs I had made and revisit as many of the people as I could in these photograph -- people I had met in the past and reported on in the past.  So I searched systematically, went searching for these people, and it was like detective work because the country was so up-ended in the last years that I didn't know where to find anyone, they weren't living in the same neighborhoods, they certainly didn't have the same phone numbers --

Rose Aguilar:  And these are the people you have gotten to know over the years?

Kael Alford:  Right.  The people who I met in 2003 and 2004.  And, you know, I hadn't really kept in close contact with them, it was really difficult, many of them don't speak English or don't write English and I don't speak or read Arabic.  So when I went back, I found these people and just sort of asked them what's happened in the last eight years since I was here last?  How is your life?  What are your concerns?  And almost universally, people's lives had gotten much, much harder.  The situation was violent.  It was very divided.  People couldn't live safely in the places they'd lived before. The Sunni people I'd met, many of them felt confined to specific neighborhoods.  There really was this ethnic divide, this ethnic cleansing, that targeted mostly Sunnis -- who are in the minority now -- were the subject of that.  So Sunni people were really living in much more cloistered circumstances than they'd lived before -- if I could even find them at all.   And-and there's one woman.  Her name is Karimah.  She and her family, I'd spent time at their house a lot in 2003 and 2004 and she's a widow and her husband was killed in the Iran - Iraq War.  She has a large number of kids.  And I went to visit her and her son, her oldest son, Aalee had been picked up at a cafe in a raid.  And there were these Iraqi security forces who were looking for members of the Sadr militia.  They picked him up, detained him, didn't charge him with anything really and interrogated him, extracting a confession from him and then proceeded to sort of keep him in prison until the family sold everything they had and could buy him out of prison basically.  And that speaks to the state of the Iraqi judicial system today.  It's a confession-based sort of system and people are frequently detained and not charged with anything until people can just buy them out.  And that's included in this Human Rights Watch report.  So it's really, the biggest concerns for the people who are coming up from this new very sort of corrupt  and ineffective Iraqi government, in their words, in the way they described it and also the infrastructure was just a mess.

Rose Aguilar:  Tell us more about that because we've done -- over the years we've done a lot of shows about the infrastructure.  And I remember when we used to have a series Open Line To Iraq and we'd bring Iraqis on on a regular basis and the first question was do you have electricity, do you have water and it was so sporadic.

Kael Alford:  So sporadic.  I mean, the grid supplies maybe six hours of power a day -- the national grid.  And otherwise, there are these neighborhood generators that are either privately owned by one wealthy person in the neighborhood that sells energy to everybody else -- produces it and sells it to everybody else at whatever price they decide to set.  At least when I was there, they were talking about regulating this generator system but it wasn't happening yet when I was there.  And then sometimes a neighborhood would go in together and buy a generator and they can be more of a grassroots, sort of democratic use of the generator.  And these are the very large generators, like the size of shipping containers that would sit every few blocks and were constantly running and spewing fumes -- they run on petroleum and they smell terrible and they're loud.  And then people would have a little generator at their house if they were wealthy enough to have their own generator that they would run when both those other systems weren't working.

Thorne Anderson:  You know, it's important to note, we're not talking about an earthquake or some kind of natural disaster.  What we're talking about here is just a disaster of massive corruption because there have been billions and billions of dollars that have been poured in for the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure and that has not been realized.  That money has gone into Iraq but it hasn't gone into the infrastructure.

Kael Alford:  That's a good point.

Thorne Anderson:  So we're not talking about a national disaster here.  We're talking about a really poorly managed transition of huge amounts of money.

The exhibit is entitled to "Eye Level in Iraq" and the exhibit continues to June 16, 2013 at the de Young Museum.  Kenneth Baker (San Francisco Chronicle) reviews the exhibit today observing:

Looking at these images, visitors who opposed the man-made human catastrophe of Operation Iraqi Freedom before or after it began will experience again some of the nauseating helplessness they felt a decade ago at government deceit, lawlessness and ideology-driven aggression.
The exhibition leaves it to viewers to connect the discredited neocon foreign policy with draconian provisions of the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act and with the killer drones now fatally realizing abroad the nightmare concept of the world as a battlefield. A picture such as one Alford took in Zafrania a month after the invasion suggests the peril she must have faced daily from enraged Iraqis certain of her foreignness but not of her relationship to the calamity engulfing them.
No less chilling is a shot she took from behind on the same day of an insurgent peering from an alley, a loaded rocket launcher on his shoulder. Was he aware of her presence? What preceded and followed from the image we see?

The Your Call discussion is a great one and hopefully we'll return to it next week.  I'll also note that Thorne Anderson is an associate professor at the University of North Texas (Denton, Texas).  And quickly, on the topic of photography, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted:

REMINDER - has begun publishing its 'Iraq War - 10 Years On' series of photographs. Have a look:

Moving to Iraq.  Last Friday saw the largest turnout in the ongoing protests which now span three months (December, January and February).   Each week, the numbers grow, but last week was a huge leap forward in participation.  (I'm basing that call on media coverage, on social media photos, on reports from Iraqi community members by e-mail and two that I spoke with on the phone as well.) Nouri's forces infamously attacked the protesters in Falluja on January 26th., killing at least nine (Human Rights Watch noted that 2 more of the wounded had died) with dozens left injured.  And this resulted in public condemnation -- though not from the US government where the pathetic response from the State Dept was to have Icky Vicky Neocon Nuland, Dick Cheney's former Deputy Advisor on National Security, insist that both sides should not resort to violence.  (Number of protesters killed by Nouri's forces: at least 9.  Number of forces killed at protests: Zero.)  But while Victoria and the administration coddled, stroked and fondled their puppet Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, others were appalled.  The United Nations and the British government were among the most publicly vocal.  Nouri knows the world is watching and that's, for now, prevented another assault on the protesters.

With the huge increase in participants and with Nouri refusing to meet the demands -- which have been the same demands for months now and which are also pretty much the exact same demands that the protesters were making in February 2011 (demands Nouri swore he would meet if given 100 days -- he didn't meet them, he didn't care, he lied to stall for time and to try to stop the protests) -- the protesters decided maybe a stronger presence was needed in the capital.   From Saturday:

Kitabat reports that yesterday some protesters in Anbar Province announced their intent to march to Baghdad next Friday.  All Iraq News notes National Alliance MP Qasim al-Araji is calling out the plan to stage a sit-in in Baghdad.  The Ministry of Interior (run by Nouri al-Maliki since he never nominated anyone to head it) had its own announcement.  Alsumaria reports that today it was declared their intent to crack down on any protest -- anywhere in the country -- that they felt was a threat or lacked a permit.  Al Mada notes that the spokesperson for the Anbar protests, Sayad Lafi, states that the protesters have written Baghdad seeking permission to pray in the city on Friday and return the same day. 

And Nouri's response?  From Tuesday's snapshot:

In the failed state of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is refusing to allow Iraqis from the west to enter their own country's capital.  We noted this development yesterday morning and in yesterday's snapshot.  The non-Iraqi press continues to ignore it with only one except[ion]: Jane Arraf (see yesterday's snapshots for her Tweets) who reports for Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI.  Today, she Tweets.

  1. Back in this evening, anti-aircraft batteries along the river, roadblocks, rumors of a Thursday curfew. That is some scary protest.

Alsumaria reports that there will be a ban on 'roaming' in Baghdad starting Thursday and that "security reasons" are being cited for the curfew that kicks off at midnight tonight and for the refusal to allow 'outsiders' into Baghdad. Dar Addustour adds that security forces have been put on "high alert" and that there is pressure on various mosques in Baghdad not to call for demonstrations on Friday while i.d.s continue to be checked and people from western Iraq are being refused access to Baghdad.  The Iraq Times notes that two military brigades are being used to stop cars attempting to enter Baghdad.

Why is he allowed to use the military to prevent Iraqis from entering the capital?  Whether you agree with his call or not -- I don't -- why is he repeatedly allowed to use the military on the Iraqi people?  The military is supposed to protect from external threats.  Nouri also controls the police.  Why does he keep using the military?  Juntas use militaries to control the people.  Thugs and dictators use militaries to control the people.   It it any surprise that the Los Angeles Times' Ned Parker made this discovery:

Most striking thing in Anbar last week was how many young Sunni males are afraid to come to Baghdad because they fear the security forces.

Following the Falluja massacre last month, Nouri was forced to pull the military out of Falluja by the provincial council which demanded he stop using the military to police the people.  Baghdad's not in Anbar so the Anbar council has no power.  But why is he allowed repeatedly to use the military on the Iraqi people?  The Associated Press' Adam Schreck Tweeted this morning:

  1. Sunnis stage big protests again, but stop short of traveling to . Govt shut roads just in case:

Nouri may have prevented western Iraqis from entering Baghdad but he didn't prevent protests. Not even in Baghdad, where, All Iraq News notes protests took place and that banners were unfurled demanding the government respond to the demands and do so promptly.  Al Mada reports his preventing Iraqis from entering their own capital was criticized in multiple provinces on Friday.  Mosul's Sheikh Badr al-Din al-Hayali is quoted declaring, "Baghdad is not the property of the of rulers of armed forces gathered in the city and around it."  Baghdad belongs to the Iraqi people.  Anbar spokesperson Said Lafi told Al Mada that the protesters would scream loud to awaken Iraq from its slumber.  NPR's Kelly McEvers Tweets on the Baghdad protest:

  1. Demo underway at Abu Hanifa. Pretty chill and small so far.
  2. Inside Abu Hanifa. Prayers underway. Very quiet up til now. Adhamiya on lock-freaking-down

Abu Hafina is a Sunni mosque in Bahgdad.  AFP reports, "Thousands of people in Sunni-majority areas of Iraq called on Friday for the government's fall amid a spike in violence that has accompanied a political stalemate two months before provincial polls."  Shafaq News pointed out yesterday, "Demonstrations and sit-ins still continue in Iraq in protest against Maliki's policies, as the sit-in in Ramadi had entered its 56 day.  Maliki's government is witnessing recently protests in several areas, including Anbar, Fallujah, Kirkuk, Samarra, Mosul and a number of neighborhoods in Baghdad to demand reforms and cancel laws that prohibit some from participating in the political process, as well as cancelling Article 4 of Anti-Terrorism Act and release detainees especially women detainees and achieve balance in the institutions of the state."

Yesterday Kitabat reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has stated that the choice for the government is to reform or resign.  That's rather basic.  Alsumaria notes "tens of thousands"  turned out today in Ramadi calling for the detainees to be released and for an end to marginalization and exclusion.  Alsumaria notes that thousands continue protesting in Kirkuk.  The protesters are making their demands and criticizng Nouri's for show commission that has so far accomplished nothing.   Hawija Mohammed al-Jubouri tells Alsumaria that over 20,000 protesters showed up in Haija and that the calls included for Iraqis to be able to go into Baghdad -- a reference to Nouri's refusal all week to allow western Iraqis into Baghdad -- using the military to prevent them from entering their own capital.  AP explains it this way, "Protestors had hoped to move their demonstrations from predominantly Sunni provinces to Baghdad on Friday, but they backed off that plan after the government rejected their request and imposed tough security measures. Government security forces blocked roads leading from Sunni-dominated provinces and sealed off all Sunni neighborhoods."

Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI's Jane Arraf Tweeted on the protests:

In protest central , cleric makes clear these are Sunni protests, says Iranians have more freedom in Baghdad than they do.

sheikh to more than 100,000 protestors - we are exiles in our own country. Other protests in warn they will come to Baghdad.

True or false, I have no idea, but there is a rumor in Iraqi social media this evening that there will be a raid in Ramadi early Saturday morning -- this alleged raid is an effort to end the protests.  Again, that's the big talk on Iraqi social media right now, I have no idea whether it's true or false.
But I do know that Nouri's refusal to listen to the protesters is why the protests continue.  Nouri's refusal to govern -- let alone govern fairly -- is why the violence continues today.  Alsumaria reports one person was injured in a Baquba arm,ed attack, a Baquba car bombing has left four people injured (one an Iraqi solider), and an Al Zeera roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured (Al Zeera is a village to the south of Mosul)All Iraq News adds that 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad and a Muqdadiyah suicide car bomber has left at least eleven people injured.

Today is the tenth anniversary of a historic day around the world.  At the Guardian, Patrick Barkham reports:

For some, 15 February 2003 will go down in history as the final moment that Britons demonstrated a touching faith in parliamentary democracy.
Henna Malik, a sixth-former at the time, painted her face with the Stop the War logo and took the train to Waterloo with her friends. She believed the millions chanting "George Bush, terrorist" would persuade their MPs to vote against the war. "It was incredibly empowering at the time," she says. When most MPs and the government ignored this will of the people, Malik became a revolutionary socialist; now she does not support any political party but is training to be a human rights lawyer. "In retrospect we didn't stop the war so I became quite disillusioned but it did shape my political beliefs and how I felt I fit within society," she says.
It was an epic day of protest by people who didn't usually do that sort of thing. "There were nuns. Toddlers. Women barristers. The Eton George Orwell Society. Archaeologists Against War. Walthamstow Catholic Church, the Swaffham Women's Choir and Notts County Supporters Say Make Love Not War (And a Home Win against Bristol would be Nice). They won 2-0, by the way," as Euan Ferguson memorably noted in the Observer the next day. As night fell, Jesse Jackson and Charles Kennedy made rousing speeches and Ms Dynamite sung in Hyde Park.

Channel 4 News provides a video report which includes the reflections of four protesters.  We'll do an excerpt noting Sarah Jewell and Henna Malik:

Sarah Jewell (Occupy Activist) : There was a genuine feeling of unease in the west and certainly in Britain and in London.  Communities that I were a part of, we had a sense for a long time that something was going to happen.

Henna Malik (Trainee Lawyer):  I mean Iraq was a humongous issue.  It was everywhere.  It permeated every aspect of society. You couldn't walk down the street without seeing an Iraq War poster -- an anti-Iraq War poster.

[. . .]

Henna Malik (Trainee Lawyer):   I remember standing behind the student banner surrounded by tens of thousands of students all chanting in unison.  It was incredible.  It was absolutely incredible.  I had my face painted with the Stop the War logo on it.  I was surrounded by a lot of my friends and a lot of other students.

Sarah Jewell (Occupy Activist) :   [. . .] because we were stuck at Gallow Street for so long, we started singing.  And we were singing quite traditional, quite 1960s protest songs that people could join in on.  We were singing, "Step-by-step the longest march, can be won, single stones will form an arch [the American Miner's Association Song].  Rich, poor, old, young, right-wing, left-wing, no wing, everybody was on that march.

We noted Laurie Penny's  "Ten years ago we marched against the Iraq War and I learned a lesson in betrayal" (New Statesman) earlier this week.  For some reason, former Marxist Tim Stanley (Telegraph of London) feels the need to hurl insults at Penny but he really comes off looking like a fool:

Never mind that school children should be in school (that includes a 16-year old Laurie Penny). [. . .]  “What changed in 2003 was that millions of ordinary citizens around the world finally understood that the game was rigged, because only a few weeks after that march Nato went to war anyway.” No, Laurie, Nato didn’t lead in the invasion of Iraq and 2003 wasn’t the first time that a protest failed. The Peasant’s Revolt? The Vietnam War? Perhaps it was a history lesson that Penny missed the day she went to London.

Laurie Penny went to London on February 15, 2003.  If I was a pompous ass like Tim Stanley, I don't believe I'd be lecturing Laurie Penny.  But maybe a pompous ass gets off on the world laughing at him?  Tim, if that's what gives you an orgasm, prepare to moan.  Your idiotic assault on Laurie and how she missed school that day?  February 15th was chosen precisely because it was a Saturday and most people would not be at work or at school. Do you get that, Tim Stanley?  You've mocked Laurie and chided her but you're the big idiot because the sarcastic point of your bad column is that she should have been in school that day learning and the reality is there was no school that day. 

Other coverage of the world protests ten years ago?  Ishaan Tharoor (Time magazine), Philip Maughan (New Statesman), Ned Simons (Huffington Post UK), these letters to the Guardian newspaper, Philip Kane (Socialist Resistance), Symon Hill (Ekklesia), Ben Quinn (Christian Science Monitor)Dan Hodges (Telegraph of London), Rabble's "F15: Assessing the legacy of the largest protest in world history," Press TV's "Why was the biggest protest in world history ignored?," and "The Feb. 15 Call for Global Protests for Democracy, Solidarity and Justice" (War Is A Crime).

We're nearly out of space. 

Michael Dakduk: Well, Mr. Chairman, I want to acknowledge that since the system has been rolled out that there has been an increase in the processing of GI Bill claims so that should be acknowledged.  But I would also say that at the beginning of the semesters, that's when we see an influx of delays. and that's when we receive most of our complaints at Student Veterans of America. So we have a concern when we talk about troops returning home from Afghanistan and the Dept of Defense estimate over the next five years one million troops will remove the uniform and make the transition into civilian society.  Many of them are going to use this Post-9-11 GI Bill.  So we want to make sure that the Dept of Veterans Affairs is ready to handle that influx of military veterans on college campuses.  At the beginning of semesters is when we see a high number of delays.
That's Student Veterans of America's Michael Dakduk testifying to Congress yesterday.  We'll cover it next week, there's no space tonight to do it justice.  We'll close with this on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs
United States Senate
113th Congress, First Session
Hearing Schedule
Tuesday, February 26, 2013 2:00 p.m. 345 Cannon HOB (House Side)
Joint Hearing on the legislative presentation of Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
Thursday, February 28, 2013 10:00 a.m. SD-G50
Joint Hearing on the legislative presentation of Military Officers Association of America, Retired Enlisted Association, Non Commissioned Officers Association, Blinded Veterans Association, Military Order of the Purple Heart, Wounded Warrior Project, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, American Ex-Prisoners of War
Heather L Vachon
Chief Clerk
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
SR-412 Russell Senate Office Building

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm getting a little tired of the 'new' NPR

NPR wants to be more than landlocked radio -- because terrestrial stations are said to be a thing of the past.  Streaming is the way to go.  So NPR's building up their online presence and doing so by a variety of means.

Like C.I., I will praise them for including transcripts of most of their programming.  National Public Radio should serve all Americans and that includes the deaf and hearing challenged.  It also includes those with computers that do not allow for streaming -- either do to connections or operating platforms.  C.I. rarely links to a video or audio without providing at least a partial transcript for that reason -- we are a welcoming community in The Common Ills.

But while I applaud that, there is much I protest.

I object to the crap Ann called out last night in " David Greene lowers NPR" --  Ann's correct, he turns it into a bad morning TV show with his inability to conduct himself professionally and need to give nicknames and titles to correspondents -- like he did last Wednesday with the sportscaster who does the weekly report (Frank whatever his name is).

I also strongly object to the blogs at NPR which lack professionalism and fail to maintain journalistic standards.  Frank James is among the worst bloggers for NPR.

Today, he blogs about the Senate filibuster of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  He blogs like someone working for The Nation, not like an objective reporter working for NPR.  (The Nation is an opinion journal for Democrats.  Not for the left, I'm the left, it's a DNC party organ and little else.)

I object to his characterization of the Senate hearing.  It was not just Republicans objecting.  They are the only ones objecting now.  But in the actual hearing, Democrats were objecting to Hagel's remarks and/or attitude on Israel -- that includes the senator from Kentucky, the woman and Gillibrand from New York.

As well as objecting to his summary of that hearing from weeks ago, I also object to this characterization:  "Even Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the closest thing to a moderate in the Senate Republican caucus, said on Wednesday that she would be voting against Hagel."

Wait, the closest thing to a moderate?

We have been told for years that she was a moderate -- and that Olympia Snow was one as well.

I'm not a fan of Susan Collins.

I am someone who expects honest journalism.

I would love for Frank James to explain to NPR's ombudsperson and readers just how Susan Collins went from moderate to "the closest thing to a moderate in the Senate Republicans caucus."  NPR is no longer reporting from the center.  Or even pretending to.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Wednesday, February 13, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq War he wanted turns profitable for John Podesta, Podesta advises US President Barack Obama these days and last night Barack gave another questionable speech, will protesters go to Baghdad, England's Labour Party takes a step away from Tony Blair's Iraq War, and more.

Felons rejoice, at his company website, Tony Podesta self-boasts, "Many people in Washington can tell you what just happened to you.  Tony Podesta helps you change outcomes."  The company slogan appears to be -- because it's all over the website -- "we are the podesta group. we deliver." -- "the trash" must have been left off due to a lack of space.  Or maybe with the Podestas, trash is just implied? 

In the second most popular episode of Charlie's Angels, season one's "Consenting Adults" (written by Les Carter), Farrah Fawcett's Jill lays down some basic truth with Laurette Spang's Tracy.

Jill:  Okay, let's both stop playing games.  For starters, you can drop the "Tracy."  It rhymes with Stacy and Macy and all those other jive names hookers like to latch onto.

Hookers and con artists frequently have to change their names -- which one is the Podesta Group?  Wikipedia explains the lobbying group "was founded in 1988 by brothers John Podesta and Tony Podesta and has previously been known as Podesta Associates, and PodestaMatton" or, as it's called in DC, "the Podestaphile."  Byron Tau, Anna Palmer and Tarini Parti (POLITICO) reported this afternoon, "The government of Iraq is in the final stages of inking a contract with the Podesta Group as its first D.C. lobbying firm, according to multiple sources."  Really?  One wonders how the Iraqi people will feel about that, their government signing with John Podesta's lobbying firm considering John's Iraq history.

Dropping back to the March 28, 2007 snapshot:

Interviewed by Bonnie Faulkner (KPFA's Guns and Butter) today, professor Francis Boyle discussed how a 2003 exploration of impeachment by the Democrats was cut short when John Podesta announced that there would be no introduction of bills of impeachment because it would harm Democrats chances in the  2004 election.  Speaking of the measures being applauded by much in the media, big and small, Boyle declared, "It's all baloney.  All they had to do was just do nothing and Bush would have run out of money. . . .  The DNC fully supports the war, that was made clear to Ramsey [Clark] and me on 13 March 2003 and nothing's changed."  John Podesta, former Clintonista, is with the Democratic talking point mill (that attempts to pass itself as a think tank) Center for American Progress -- with an emphasis on "Center" and not "Progress." 

Here's David Swanson (in 2009, at discussing Podesta's role in the Iraq War:

Boyle and Ramsey Clark presented the case for impeachment to Democratic congress members on March 13, 2003, just days before the bombs hit Baghdad. Impeachment could conceivably have prevented over a million deaths. The congress members present accepted the validity of the case, but John Podesta and others argued that it would be better for Democrats in the next election to let the war happen. We saw this same cold blooded calculation, of course, in 2007 and 2008, as the Democrats controlled the Congress and claimed to "oppose" the war while keeping it going. While Clark argued for the political advantage of pursuing impeachment, Boyle declined to address that point, preferring to stick to the facts. Sadly, electoral arguments are almost the only thing most congress members care about, and human life is not even on the list.

Here's Boyle speaking to Dori Smith (Talk Radio Nation -- link is audio and transcript) from February 7, 2007:

Francis A. Boyle: We just need one person to introduce the bill with courage, integrity, principles, and of course a safe seat. In Gulf War one I worked with the late great Congressman Henry B. Gonzales on his bill of impeachment against Bush Sr. We put that one in. I did the first draft the day after the war started. So in my opinion there is no excuse for these bills not to have been put in already. In fact, on 13 March 2003, Congressman John Conyers convened a meeting of 40 to 50 of his top advisors, most of whom were lawyers, to debate putting in immediate bills of impeachment against Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft, to head off the war. There were draft bills sitting on the table that had been prepared by me and Ramsey Clark. And the Congressman invited Ramsey and me to come in and state the case for impeachment. It was a two hour debate, very vigorous debate, obviously all of these lawyers there. And most of the lawyers there didn't disagree with us on the merits of impeachment. It was more as they saw it a question of practical politics. Namely, John Podesta was there, Clinton's former White House chief of staff, who said he was appearing on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and they were against putting in immediate bills of impeachment because it might hurt whoever their presidential candidate was going to be in 2004. Well at that time no one even knew who their presidential candidate was going to be in 2004. I didn't argue the point, I'm a political independent. It was not for me to tell Democrats how to elect their candidates. I just continued arguing the merits of impeachment. But Ramsey is a lifelong Democrat and he argued that he felt that putting in these bills of impeachment might help the Democrats and it certainly wasn't going to hurt them in 2004.

So when the right thing could have been done, when the Iraq War could have been stopped before it started, when everything could have been changed, there was John Podesta arguing to destroy Iraq, to destroy the lives of the Iraqi people, so that Democrats could win the 2004 elections?  (For the record, the whore was wrong even when it came to electability: the Dems lost in the 2004 election -- they lost the presidency, the House and the Senate both remained under Republican control with Republicans increasing their seats -- in the single digits, but it's an increase -- in both houses of Congress.)

The Iraqi people are going to see their public monies go to feather the nest of the Podestas?  Oh, thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki may have some fresh problems on his hands.

The ongoing political crises continue.  Fresh off meetings this week with Ayad Allawi (head of Iraqiya -- the political slate that came in first in the 2010 elections) and cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr, Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani met with another official today.  Alsumaria reports he met with US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft in Erbil where they discussed the political crises and the issue of the democratic process in Iraq and that Beecroft supports a national meet-up which would be what Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since December 21st -- of 2011. 

Yesterday there was outrage over the arrest of Imam Mohammad Zaidi.  Alsumaria reports today that the he has been released after being held for a little over 24 hours.  His supporters see the arrest as evidence of Nouri's practice of arbitrary arrests targeting those he sees as political rivals.  Mohammed Sabah (Al Mada) reports State of Law (Nouri's political slate) is insisting that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is keeping 30 people from being arrested -- that they have warrants and he won't lift immunity (members of Parliament cannot be arrested while serving unless their immunity is lifted).  Iraqiya (political slate Osama al-Nujaifi belongs to) responds that the warrants are an attempt by Nouri to intimidate political opponents.

Moving over to protests, All Iraq News reports a new development in Basra where "hundreds" have staged a sit-in outside a center for the blind.  There are said to be as many as 500 people taking part in the sit-in that's calling for the government to care for the people with special needs (at least 13,000 people in the province are recognized by the federal government as challenged or disabled).  All Iraq News also reports that National Alliance MP Jawad Franck is insisting that protesters elsewhere in Iraq are being supported by 'third parties,' outsiders, foreigners.  More alarmist talk.  The reason?  Saturday, protesters in Anbar Province asked for permission to do a sit-in in Baghdad this Friday.  Nouri's been in a tizzy.  He's held multiple meetings with the National Alliance trying to figure out how to stop the protests.  Al Mada reports Anbar responds today with protesters saying they will go to Baghdad and take part in morning prayers and that Nouri cannot prevent them from entering their country's capital, not these residents and tribes of Anbar who refuse to allow their dignity to be besmirched.

But everything's in a state of flux and Ali Abel Sadah (Al-Monitor) reports that it appears the citizens will not be going to Baghdad to march, attend worship or take part in a sit-in thei Friday:
But the widespread deployment of security personnel at the entrances to Baghdad, alongside security checkpoints near Adhamiya, where the Abu Hanifa Mosque is located, prompted the protest leadership to retract the decision to move to Baghdad.
Rafi Taha Rifai, the Sunni Grand Mufti of Iraq, said in a statement obtained by Al-Monitor that the demonstrators’ decision “to go to Baghdad was rejected by the dictatorial authorities."
Rifai called on demonstrators to “postpone the decision to move to Baghdad to an appropriate time.”
Sources close to the leaders of the Anbar demonstrations expected activists to stay at their traditional place, in the “square of glory and dignity.”

By the way, who's supporting 'Ba'athists'?  Nouri's forever accusing protesters of being 'terrorists' and 'Ba'athists' and having connections to Saddam Hussein's regime.  For an example of that kind of propaganda, you can refer to this Ahlul Bayt News Agency nonsense.But Al Mada reports it's Nouri who's paying for the treatment of a Ba'athist in Turkey.  Sheikh Ali Hussein al-Hamadani's medical expenses are being covered by Nouri (which most likely means the Iraqi people are paying the costs) and the rumor is that he's doing it to curry favor with tribal leaders in Anbar in the hopes that they'll call off the protests.

Violence continues in Iraq at an alarming pace with Iraq Body Count offering that through Monday, February 11th, Iraq has already seen 150 violent deaths this month.  Today, Alsumaria reports 2 people were shot dead in Baghdad, a Baquba armed attack left two people injured, a man was shot dead on his farm in Diyala Province's Mukhisa village and 4 police officers were shot dead in different parts of Mosul.

Staying on violence, Saturday there was an attack on Camp Liberty.  Prensa Latina reports, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  CNN explained, "The rocket and mortar attack occurred at Camp Hurriya, a onetime U.S. base formerly known as Camp Liberty, which is now the home of the Iranian exile group Mujahedin-e-Khalq. Accounts of the number of people killed and wounded in the attack vary."  Amnesty International issued the following:

Authorities in Iraq must urgently investigate the attack against a camp of Iranian exiles that left several people dead and injured and ensure all those wounded receive appropriate medical care, said Amnesty International today.
The investigation should also look into the conduct of Iraqi security forces in the lead up and during the attack and whether they have failed to prevent any such attack.
Several people reportedly died and have been injured as a result of the attack against Camp Liberty, home of some 3,000 Iranians in exile in Iraq, on 9 February.
“The attack against Camp Liberty is a despicable crime,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Programme's Deputy Director. 
“Authorities in Iraq must ensure not only that those responsible for this attack are brought to justice but that those living in the camp are protected.”
The residents of Camp Liberty, members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran which opposes the Iranian government, were recently relocated to a site in north-east Baghdad – after having been settled for 25 years in Camp Ashraf.
Residents claimed the Iraqi forces attacked some of them during the relocation process in 2012.
Today the UN High Commissioner for Refugees' Chief, Antonio Guterres, stressed that the residents of Camp Liberty are asylum seekers undergoing refugee status determination process and as such are entitled to international protection.
In April 2011, Iraqi troops stormed camp Ashraf using grossly excessive force, including live ammunition, against residents who tried to resist them. Some 36 people ­– 28 men and eight women – were killed and more than 300 wounded. Those injured were prevented from leaving the camp to obtain medical treatment.  

Yesterday's snapshot included State Dept's spokesperson Victoria Nuland commenting on Camp Ashraf residents in full.  She insisted that the residents would not be allowed to return to Camp Ashraf (a position Nouri al-Maliki shares).  She's really not the one to make decisions.  The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents is calling for the refugees to be allowed to return to their original camp which was more protected than Camp Liberty:

The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR), on behalf of hundreds of Iranian-Americans whose loved ones in Iraq’s Camp Liberty were the target of the Tehran-engineered rocket attack last weekend, has written to the US Secretary of State John Kerry to urge him to facilitate the immediate return of Camp Liberty residents to Camp Ashraf where they are far better protected against such attacks.
Saturday’s cowardly attack, which left seven residents killed and more than 100 seriously wounded, attests to the fact that this camp is neither safe nor secure for the residents whom the UN Refugee Agency has recognized as asylum seekers.
In the letter, USCCAR noted that “By all measures, Camp Liberty is a killing field. It is only half a square kilometers in size, 80 times smaller than Camp Ashraf. The camp lacks any shelter or high concrete walls to shield the residents against rocket attacks. The residential areas are consisted of dilapidated trailers that are crammed next to each other. The trailers’ aluminum walls provide no protection at all against rocket shrapnel… In contrast, the sprawling Camp Ashraf has buildings made from concrete and contains protective shelters.”
“We, the families of Iranian dissidents in Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf, hold the United States responsible for safety and security of our loved ones in accordance with its treaty and international obligations as well as its written guarantees to each and every resident in 2004 that it will protect them until their final disposition,” the letter added.
Recalling Secretary Kerry’s condemnation of the April 2011 attack on Camp Ashraf by Iraqi forces as a “massacre” when he was the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair, the letter urged Secretary Kerry “to facilitate the immediate return [of the residents] to Camp Ashraf before more innocent lives are taken by Tehran and their Iraqi proxies.”
Some 3,100 members of Iran’s principal opposition movement, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) have been living at Camp Liberty, a former U.S. military base near Baghdad international airport after they left Camp Ashraf, their home for 26 years, following US and UN assurances about their safety and security. About one-third of the residents are women and an equal number are former political prisoners in Iran.

The Iraq Times reports today that the Navy Seal who shot Osama bin Laden revealed to the Spanish press that Metallica's music was used in the torture of Iraqis up until the group learned of it and asked that they US military stop using the music because they do not favor violence.  The outlet refers to this article -- so if you read Spanish but not Arabic, you can refer to it.   3News adds, "Interrogators opted for Christian metal group Demon Hunter to replace Metallica, and they were more than forthcoming about being used to wear down terror suspects."

Tuesday, we were noting Tom Harris (Huffington Post UK) ridiculous column moking Sam Parker's column on the Iraq War.  Harris is a Labour MP and, as we pointed out, his column didn't help his party.

Tony Blair left office in disgrace.  Ed Miliband is an idiot if he lets Tony back in.  David is the smart brother (I know them both) and, were he the leader of Labour, he'd be explaining to Tony that he's a liability.  Whether Ed gets the brains to do that or not, Tony Blair is a joke in England and around the world.  There have been repeated attempts at citizens arrest.  He can't escape his War Crimes.  He may escape legal punishment, but he's a joke.  Even his 'religion' has become a joke (specifically, smearing leaves, fecal matter and whatever else on himself and his wife before they 'procreate' has made for laughter around the world).  Tony didn't just leave in disgrace, he poisoned the term of his successor Gordon Brown.  Tony Blair and his lies are the reason Labour's no longer in power (the same way that in the US, the Republicans lost power or why Kevin Rudd's Labor Party -- and now Julia Gillard's Labour Party --  replaced John Howard's Liberal-Democrats).
Harris is an idiot to fail to see that that every political party in power in the three countries at the time of the start of the war are no longer in power.
He's a pompous ass who hurts his own party because what Labour needs to do is to find a way to make up for their appalling position on Iraq, not pretend like it doesn't exist.  As long as Harris is  bitchy, he can count on Labour continuing to have to struggle and to be out of power.
And tip to Harris, I don't believe a politician ever wins a public battle when they mock a citizen.  In fact, that strikes a lot of people as unseemly and undignified, it sort of cheapens the office.

Andrew Grice (Independent of London) reports today:

Ten years after the Iraq War, Labour will attempt to further distance itself from a conflict which alienated many voters by warning against the “ideological” crusade against al-Qa’ida favoured by Mr Blair and Mr Cameron.
The party will say that Mr Cameron risks repeating Mr Blair’s errors in Mali, where 350 British  personnel are supporting the French military operation.
After criticism that it has few policies, Labour is finally starting to show its hand. Ed Miliband will make a major speech on Thursday as he defines what his “One Nation Labour” slogan would  mean for economic policy.

Nick Hopkins covers the same story for the Guardian, "Labour has conceded for the first time that a 'primitive understanding' of the Islamic world caused some of the problems faced by the west in Iraq and Afghanistan, and warned David Cameron his response to the terrorist crisis in north Africa shows he has not learned the painful lessons from those conflicts."  This is a step in the right direction but if Labour wants to attract voters back to the party, this can only be the first step in a series of steps.

Pretty word walking?  Last night, US President Barack Obama gave the Constitutionally mandated State of the Union address.  Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

Senator Murray's Statement on President Obama's State of the Union Address

“Tonight the President laid out a robust agenda for continuing to build a more secure middle class and an economy that provides opportunity for everyone. He described how by investing in manufacturing, our infrastructure, new and cleaner forms of energy, our schools, and the skills of our workers we can create the economic growth needed to put Americans to work and reduce our deficit responsibly.
“The President also spoke about the core American ideals of compassion and opportunity that will be so important as we tackle issues that should unite us, like finally passing comprehensive immigration reform. And the President delivered welcome news that more of our troops will be coming home in the coming year. As they do, it is going to be critical that the Pentagon and the VA do more to work together to give these brave men and women access to health care, employment opportunities, and the benefits they have earned to help ease their transition back into civilian life.
“On the tough fiscal battles ahead, the President repeatedly stressed the key principle that will be required for us to make progress: balance. He made it clear that while we absolutely need to tackle our deficit and debt responsibly, the number one priority right now needs to be protecting our fragile economic recovery and creating strong middle-class jobs. This means we need to move quickly to replace the automatic and damaging cuts from sequestration with a balanced mix of responsible spending cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest Americans. And it means that any budget plan we put forward needs to be fair and not call on seniors, our men and women in uniform, and our most vulnerable to bear the burden of deficit reduction alone.
“Families in Washington state and across the nation are hungry for bold solutions to the challenges they see their families and neighbors confront each day. Tonight the President spoke directly to them and reassured them that their daily struggles will continue to drive his agenda. In the months ahead I will be doing the same by laying out a pro-growth budget that that puts jobs and the middle class first, tackles the debt and deficit responsibly, calls on the wealthy to pay their fair share, works for seniors and families, and lays down a strong foundation for long-term and broad-based economic growth.”

Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

Last night's speech?  As CNN's Gloria Borger observed (link is text with video of the speech and response), "In many ways, what we heard tonight is the same old, same old argument."  The most important critical observation came from Fred Kaplan (Slate) who offered it as a parenthetical, "(As for Iraq, it's so forgotten he didn't even deign to mention it.)"   Here's what he had to say on Afghanistan:

Tonight, we stand united in saluting the troops and civilians who sacrifice every day to protect us. Because of them, we can say with confidence that America will complete its mission in Afghanistan and achieve our objective of defeating the core of al Qaeda. Already, we have brought home 33,000 of our brave servicemen and women. This spring, our forces will move into a support role, while Afghan security forces take the lead. Tonight, I can announce that over the next year, another 34,000 American troops will come home from Afghanistan. This drawdown will continue and by the end of next year, our war in Afghanistan will be over. Beyond 2014, America’s commitment to a unified and sovereign Afghanistan will endure, but the nature of our commitment will change. We're negotiating an agreement with the Afghan government that focuses on two missions -- training and equipping Afghan forces so that the country does not again slip into chaos, and counterterrorism efforts that allow us to pursue the remnants of al Qaeda and their affiliates.

In terms of the drawdown, it's more honest than what he said about Iraq.   And that's allowed the news outlets to be more honest than they were about Iraq.  Devin Dwyer and Jonathan Karl (ABC News) word it this way, "There are currently 66,000 U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan. Obama has vowed to bring nearly all of them home by the end of next year, though a small contingent will likely remain to train Afghan forces and assist counterterrorism operations, officials have said. " Just like in Iraq, where US service members remain for training and counterterrorism operations.  So, no, it's not really ending.  Senator John McCain speaks with Nicholas Ballasy (The Daily Caller -- link is video) about Iraq, relating it to Afghanistan. I'm giving it a link because it is on the topic.  I'm not transcribing it because I have better things to do than transcribe lies.  This is not about the fact that I disagree with McCain or that I don't like him -- all of that's long established here.  At any hearing I attend where he speaks, he stands a shot at being quote -- both to be fair and because he usually is fairly straightforward in the hearings.  In this instance, Ballasy is either unaware of the reality of the US in Iraq currently or he doesn't care about truth.  I don't know.  But McCain does know the truth and he hedges his responses to tailor to Ballasy.  McCain's basic complaint is that Barack hasn't left a large enough force in Iraq.  That's his opinion, I disagree but have no problem noting that opinion and would note it without even a "I disagree" (assuming -- possibly incorrectly -- that most reading would already know my position on this topic).  But to go along with Ballasy's notion that all troops left?  McCain knows better than that.  I don't have time to transcribe lies.  As Cindy Sheehan noted to Abby Martin October 12th of last year on Breaking the Set (RT -- link is video) with regards to claims of the war being over, "but we both know that the violence continues and we're still occupying Iraq."  FYI, Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox this week features an interview she did with Abby Martin -- if it's the one in the video, it's a much longer version and Cindy speaks about failures within the peace movement -- or about frauds within the peace movement who were really about an anti-Bush movement.  Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) observes of Barack's latest speech:

And appallingly, he defended his drone warfare and assassination policy. “Where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans,” he said. And in the very next sentence, he had the chutzpah to add: “As we do, we must enlist our values in the fight.”
He said his Administration “has worked tirelessly to forge a durable legal and policy framework to guide our counterterrorism operations.” But is it “legal” just because he and his Justice Department say it is?
He also said, in a bald-faced lie, that “throughout, we have kept Congress fully informed of our efforts.” Try running that past Sen. Ron Wyden, who for months has been trying to get his questions answered on the Administration’s assassination doctrine.

A few quick notes.  "Consenting Adults" is the episode of Charlie's Angels which is better known for Farrah Fawcett's skateboarding.  The only more popular episode was "Angels in Chains" -- when Jill, Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) and Sabrina (Kate Jackson) went to a women's prison (other prisoners included Kim Basinger).  None of the post-Farrah episodes were ever as popular as those two.  Farrah was a friend and I was speaking to a mutual friend today who said he'd bet I couldn't find a way to mention her in the snapshot -- he was wrong.  When I told him how I planned to work her in, he noted that Dick Dinman was a guest in that episode and he now hosts a radio show in Portland, Main on WMPG entitled DVD Classics Corner on the Air -- which I promised I'd link to. Dinman played the john that Tracy sleeps with and sets up for robbery setting the Angels case in motion.  In yesterday's snapshot, I got Joshua Key's name right at the top and then in the middle called him "Joshua Long" before going back to Joshua Key.  His name is Joshua Key.  I probably was thinking of a friend (Joshua Long) when I was working on the snapshot (I typed up Joshua's remarks at lunch and dictated the rest).  My apologies.  We should cover a hearing in tomorrow's snapshot -- House Veterans hearing that took place today -- but there's not room to do it today.