For one of America's youngest presidents, in office less than nine months _ and only for 12 days before the Nobel nomination deadline last February _ it was an astonishing award.
But the prize seems to be more for promise than performance. Obama so far has no standout moment of victory. As for most presidents in their first year, the report card on Obama's ambitious agenda is an "incomplete."
That's AP's Jennifer Loven. The Nobel Peace Prize is now officially a joke. It's flirted with that status for some time. Hadning one out to a woman for planting trees didn't help. Add in that the woman also believes AIDS is a way for the West to attack Africa?
It's been a joke for some time.
It wasn't about peace at all this year.
It really was about hating Bush.
When you grasp that and then factor in the prize that they gave Al Gore for a movie and book, you grasp that this is all about politics.
I'm not so stupid that my dislike for Bush means I love Barack.
But that's all it really was for the Nobel Committee. That and a desire to be the biggest joke in the world. Congrats, Alfred Nobel!
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, October 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, news of the US continuing the Iraq War on into 2012, the war against women continues and Sahar Issa documents it, where is the 'progress,' the US fails to meet the admission numbers for Iraqi refugees predicted in August by the State Dept, the US Army releases suicide data, and more.
Let's deal with realities and the first that the Iraq War has no end-date at present. Despite spin and lies and assertions, there is no end-date. In fact, if the SOFA truly eneded the Iraq War -- as the popular narrative and press fools claim -- then Bush couldn't have skipped the Congress. There would be no debating that it was a treaty if ended a war. That's what treaties historically have done. But let's deal in what is known.
Matthew D. LaPlante (Salt Lake Tribune), reporting on new deployments to Iraq for Utah units and, almost as a whispered aside, drops this explosive word-bomb: "And some Utah units have been told to anticipate deployments to Iraq as far off as 2012." As far off as 2012?
B-b-b-but my TV told me the Iraq War ends most certainly as 2011 draws to a close! My TV said so!!! Imagine that. A press that lied a nation into war might also lull a nation into a false belief that the Iraq War was ending. For the record, the press tried that during Vietnam as well. You can't learn about it in Norman Solomon's books because he always misses that point and fails to grasp the conflict between stateside editors and reporters stationed in Vietnam. It would be shocking that Norman might not know that . . . unless you grasped he's lied that the Iraq War ends in 2011 along with so many other gas bags. The pledged delegate for Barack Obama gave it up for his crush and was left with nothing but a wet spot and sullied reputation. Norman you kind of picture right about now peeing on a stick and waiting to see what color it turns.
The Dept of Defense released a statement on October 8th. AC W (Gather) examines the release, "The first thing to note is that all four elements mentioned in the press release are COMBAT forces. The three brigade combat teams (the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from the 3rd Infantry Division, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team from the 25th Infantry Division, and the 4th Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division) are just what their names say they are: brigade COMBAT teams. They are made up of COMBAT troops with weapons designed for COMBAT. The armored cavalry regiment, the 3rd ACR, is a combat unit with tanks and infantry troops. How will all COMBAT troops be out of Iraq by mid-next year if we are sending COMBAT troops to Iraq in mid-next year?"
Today, filing a rare report from Iraq, Marc Santora (New York Times) opens with, "There is no more visible sing that America is putting the Iraq war behind it . . ."
Is America putting Iraq behind it? That's not only factually incorrect, it's also highly insulting. Did we not hear yesterday from Russell Powell, an Iraq War veteran, explaining to the Senate about how exposure to Sodium Dichromate in Iraq has seriously destroyed his health? Is Russell Powell "putting the Iraq war behind" him?
No, the New York Times wants to put the war behind it.
Why? Because they sold the illegal war. Little liars -- and it went far beyond Judith Miller who, for the record, was woefully misguided but did not lie because she honestly thought there were WMDs in Iraq and that's why she commandeered that squadron while in Iraq to 'discover' the non-existent WMDs -- sold that illegal war. And it wasn't just the Times but it was the Times which never got accountable for their actions. There was the mini-culpa, the meaningless tiny item that might as well have been a blind item for all the weight it carried. And the promise of a later investigation into their errors. Where's that later coverage? Oh, right, they never did it.
The New York Times would love to put the Iraq War behind it. First of all, it damanged their reputation in ways Jayson Blair can only dream of. Second of all, they can't sell a new war -- and, make no mistake, the New York Times always sells wars -- effectively while the Iraq War is still on people's minds. Look at the pushback the current administration is experiencing on their desire for war with Iran. What keeps getting brought up? Iraq. The lies that led to that war. So, yeah, the paper wants to put the Iraq War behind it. And the media at large does.
But shame on all of them for pimping that when you have people suffering (including Iraqis but as John F-ing Burns explained so long ago, the paper's only concerned with Americans) and so many dead. Shame on them. It's not just that they lied to sell an illegal war, it's that they never owned the consequences of their decision to do so, let alone taken accountability.
Marc Santora and the New York Times want to put the Iraq War behind them. How sweet for them. In the real world? William Cole (Honolulu Advertiser) notes that an estimated 4,300 members of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Schofield Barracks has received orders to deploy to Iraq "in the summer of 2010." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) adds, "They are part of the three brigades and one armored cavalry regiment with 15,000 soldiers that the Pentagon said will be sent to Iraq next year." But don't worry, Marc Santora and the New York Times have put Iraq 'behind' them.
Many Iraqi and American families don't have luxury of putting that (ongoing) illegal war behind them; however, the Times has never been known for having a sense of perspective. Among the many who won't be 'putting it behind them' so quickly will be Iraqi refugees. This week Human Rights Action and the Human Rights Institute at Georgetown Law Center issued [PDF format warning] a new report entitled "Refugee Crisis in America: Iraqis And Their Resettlement Experience." Behind them? "Across the United States, many resettled Iraqi refugees are wondering how, after fleeing persecution at home to seek refuge in a country that barely tolerated them, they have found themselves in 'the land of opportunity' with little hope of achieving a secure and decent life." Iraq is the MidEast refugee crisis with an estimated total of 4.7 million external and internal refugees (figure from the March 31st snapshot covering the Senate subcommittee hearing Senator Bob Casey Jr. chaired where the issue of the numbers was addressed at length). The report notes:
Under pressure from advocacy groups and increased reporting on the plight of Iraqi refugees, the United States ultimately began resettling more Iraqis. In the fall of 2007, Congress passed the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act, providing admission for Iraqis that worked for the United States or its contractors in Iraq, and allowing in-country processing for at-risk Iraqis. In 2008, the United States appointed two Senior Coordinators for Iraqi Refugees, one at the Department of State and one at the DHS, to strengthen the American humanitarian commitment to refugees with a particular emphasis on resettlement. In FY [Fiscal Year] 2008, the United States resettled 13,822 Iraqi refugees. As of August 31, 2009, the United States has resettled 16,965 Iraqi refugees in FY 2009, totaling over 33,000 since the 2003 war.
Fiscal Year 2009 is over. It ended with the month of September. So the study tells us that by August 31st, only 16,965 Iraqi refugees were granted resettlement into the US? Let's drop back to the August 19th snapshot and Eric Schwartz (Asst Sect of Population, Refugees and Migration) State Dept press conference. He asserted in that press conference, regarding Iraqi refugees being accepted by the US, "The numbers -- let me -- I think I may answer your next question. The numbers for fiscal year 2008, I think are on the order of about 13,000. I'm looking to my team here. And the numbers for fiscal year 2009 will get us -- will probably be up to about 20,000." Click here for transcript and video of the press conference. About 20,000? August 19th, he claimed that. In the last month of Fiscal Year 2009 (which would be September), did the US manage to resettle over 3,000 Iraqi refugees? Great . . . if they did. But it's highly unlikely. Following the November 2008 election, Sheri Fink (ProPublica) reported on the issue and noted, "A State Department official contacted by ProPublica said, 'We really do recognize a special responsibility.' The official said that resettling 17,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal 2009 was a minimum target. 'We hope to bring in many more.' The U.S. will also be accepting Iraqis who worked for the US through special immigrant visas, a program  that resulted from legislation introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (discussed  recently by Ambassador James Foley, the State Department's senior coordinator on Iraqi refugee issues)." They 'hope'd to bring in any more. 2009, when Americans learned the definition of "false hopes." So they most likely met the minimum target. What a proud, proud moment . . . for an under achiever.
The Georgetown study notes that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees created "11 resettlement elegibility criteria for Iraqi refugees" and that the US government signed off on them:
(1) Survivors of torture and violence, including sexual and gender based violence;
(2) Members of minority groups and persons targeted due to their ethnicity or sect;
(3) Women at risk in country of asylum;
(4) Unaccompanied or separate children;
(5) Dependents of refugees living in resettlement countries;
(6) Elderly refugees;
(7) Refugees with medical needs;
(8) High profile cases;
(9) Iraqis who fled due to their associations with U.S. or other foreign institutions;
(10) Stateless persons;
(11) Iraqis at risk of refoulement.
Despite the US government agreeing to these criteria, the study notes that "the USRAP [US Refugee Admissions Program] expects the most vulnerable refugees will find employment and become self-sufficient almost immediately. Thus, the United States offers resettlement to those refugees with particular vulnerabilities that can inhibit their ability to achieve self-sufficiency while expecting them to quickly become self-sufficient."
Today Avi Selk (Dallas Morning News) reports on the approximately 865 Iraqi refugees who are now in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. Selk notes a study on Iraqis who have experienced torture and how they "and their family members" are very likely to have "suffered post-traumatic stress disorder". They're not seeking treatment for PTSD in part because they don't know what resources are out there for them. That's really a shameful comment on the government process for Iraqi refugees.
Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, thinks he's Ann Wilson's lover talking to the refugees: "'Come on home, girl,' he said with a smile, 'You don't have to love me yet, Let's get high awhile'" ("Magic Man" written by Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson and recorded by the Wilson sisters' band Heart). But Chris Hill is apparently the one who needs to try to understand, try to understand, try, try, try to understand. On the subject of repatriation, the report notes that "international humanitarian groups agree that Iraq is still not safe enough to allow return. And though some are returning, there is 'still no big flow back into Iraq.' The International Commission of the Red Cross informally estimates the flow at close to one percent of the total refugee propulation and believes that 'most come in to look and see if it's safe, if their property is still there, [and so], then quickly [go] back [to countries of asylum].' There are no credible reports of Iraqi refugees returning home in significant numbers."
Twenty families -- a small number -- were in the news this week for returning to Iraq. But they're not the refugees the report is talking about (or that were sold as part of the Myth of the Great Return). Chelsea J. Carter (AP) reported this week that the approximately 250 people were exiles . . . during Saddam Hussein's reign. They returned from Iran.
The external refugees of the current conflict settle in countries such as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The majority of the refugees in Jordan interviewed for Jordan's study want to move to the United States but "[w]hile the situation in Jordan is quite bad for many Iraqi refugees, the news of struggling friends and family in the United States is causing more and more Iraqi refugees to wonder whether choosing resettlement is really worth the risk."
Along with a lack of coordination among the government agencies helping refugees who arrive in the US, other issues include lack of vehicles and poor or no public transportation in the areas they are resettled in, difficulties with the maze of the DMV in order to get a driver's license and cash assistance being far too small. The study notes, "As it exists now, the totalk package of assistance to refugees amounts to between just seventeen to forty precent of the federal pvoerty line. Although a family of six may receive up to $2,500 in R&P assistance to cover living costs for the first ninety days, a single adult receives only $425, or less than $5 a day."
Those are only some of the problems facing Iraqi refugees resettling to the US. We'll go over more next week but we'll note the study's recommendations:
• Refugee resettlement should be decoupled from U.S. anti-poverty programs and
tailored to the unique needs and experiences of refugees. Refugee assistance should be increased from eight to eighteen months, and programs designed to promote the long-term self-sufficiency and integration of refugees should be better funded. A stronger emphasis should be placed on the core barriers to self-sufficiency and integration, including lack of English language skills, lack of transportation, and lack of opportunities for education and recertification.
• Funding for employment and social services should be tailored to estimates of
incoming refugee arrivals and secondary migration, as well as the unique needs of these particular groups. Funding should not be based on the number of past refugee arrivals.
• All actors within the USRAP must improve planning and information sharing
capabilities. Planning should anticipate and prepare for the unique needs of each
refugee group prior to arrival. In order to tailor services for refugees, actors must
take into account important information on refugees collected in the resettlement
process, such as health status and professional background.
On today's NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, the last two minutes raised the issue of Iraq. Had it been a longer segment, Paul Richter's assertions might have been explored by the panel. Along with the Los Angeles Times' Richter, panelists includes Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) and Hisham Melhem (Al-Arabiya TV and An-Nahar) with Susan Page guest hosting.
Susan Page: We've seen the campaign start in Iraq for the election of a new Parliament. Any surprises there, Paul?
Paul Richter: Well there's an interesting alignment that's taking place there. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has been the dominant figure in Iraq for a couple of years obviously, he's put together a coalition that is largely Shia but includes some Sunnis, some Kurds and a few other -- a scattering of a few other small ethnic groups. That's lined up against another Shia coalition which is pretty much solidly Shia and has -- actually has some backing from Iran. And so the question is going to be which of the two coalitions is going to prevail in the elections? I think from the US standpoint, it would be better to have the Maliki coalition prevail because it is nationalist but it claims not to be sectarian. You know, the US goal obviously is to have power sharing.
Susan Page: So we'll see perhaps a debate on how secular the Iraqi government -- the next Iraqi government -- will be?
Karen DeYoung: Well, and I think that, so far at leas, from the American point of view, this is not all bad. You know Maliki was a compromise candidate to start with. He was nobody's first choice. He ended up being the choice several years ago that everyone could live with and the census that he's developed into a politician and is trying to gather these disparate groups.
So Iraq's holding elections in January. Hmm. Thing is, the elections were supposed to take place in December. Thing is, to hold elections at any time, certain things need to be done. Is everything in order for January elections in Iraq? Uh, no. Not at all. Mike noted Michael Jansen (Irish Times) report this week which explained, "DISAGREEMENT OVER Iraq's election law and a spike in violence threaten dissent and death ahead of the January parliamentary poll." September 30th, the top US commander in Iraq offered testimony to the US House Armed Services Committee. During the hearing, he was asked to explain the voting in Iraq.
General Ray Odierno: I'll wal -- Congressman, I'll walk you through in general terms. First, the el - by the [Iraqi] Constitution, the election is supposed to occur no later than the 31st of January. Right now, it's scheduled for the 16th of January. Again, pending the passing of the election law.
We'll stop on that point. "Pending the passing of the election law." If discussing 'progress' in Iraq on public radio, might be a good idea to know something about the election law. The same week Paul didn't appear to, his paper runs Saad Khalaf's "Hope survived one Iraq bombing, but not the second:"
Every day, I worry that someone will plant a bomb on my car or I will drive into a suicide attack on my way to work. The other night at a restaurant, a waiter dropped a cutting board and I jumped. One minute Iraq could be the best country in the world, and in the next minute it could be the worst. I don't know what to do do. All my thoughts are about leaving the country. If I stay here with my parents, there is a possibility that I will face another attack and die. If I leave Iraq, I will lose my job and my family but I will probably save my life.
Doesn't sound safe even with all the spin. The elections may or may not be held in January. That uncertainity remains the only consistent in Iraq. Vivienne Walt (Time magazine) notes this uncertainity and this lack of defined progress:
Among the key "benchmarks" for progress in Iraq set by President George W. Bush in January of 2007 was the passage of a new Iraqi oil law. But almost three years on, the controversial legislation setting terms for foreign investment in the country's oil sector, and for distributing its revenues, remains stalled in the legislature. And Iraqi politicians admit it's unlikely to pass before the current parliament is replaced following Iraq's general elections next January.
So we've had a serious complaint about NYT, a complaint about a LAT reporter (who's not really knowledgable on Iraq, hate to break it to you) and now we move to McClatchy where a friend this morning passed on an article and lamented it was presented as a blog post. And now you can find Nancy A. Youssef leaving a comment on the 'blog post' which does, at least, give Sahar Issa a byline. But someone should have looked at Sahar Issa's writing and said, "This isn't a blog post, this is an article." And it should have been run as such.
What's Sahar reporting on? Women in Iraq. Which is the subject of so few articles. She went to "The Crossed Swoards" symposium in Baghdad's Green Zone and heard a lot of patronizing comments about women and what they could and couldn't do. No surprise, Iraqi military women like Rasha Ahmed tell Sahar, "The problem is not the women themselves. Many are capable and willing. It's the men. They don't take us seriously as professionals. They don't even train us as they do other men -- 'What a waste, where will you practice fighting? In your homes? Ha ha ha.' That's their attitude." Rasha Ahmed also tells Sahar, "We are pioneers. We will pave the way for other women who wish to take this path. We may be a novel spectacle in our society today, but if we prevail, the next generation will not laugh when they see a woman in uniform." It's really appalling that Iraqi women have been dealt such a huge setback, such an overturning of their rights, due to the US government's desire to get 'stability' in Iraq by installing thugs. It's a shame that even when the US administration changed, women were still not important. The symbolic value, for example, of a qualified and capable woman in the post of US Ambassador to Iraq would have gone a long way towards helping Iraqi women. It's disgusting. And Rasha Ahmed's comments about the road she has to blaze? Inspiring. In the face of all the setbacks, it's women like Rasha who have to do the work and know they have to do the work and, most of all, grasp that it's not going to mean a great deal in their own lifetime but it's going to help the next generation. As Holly Near sings (and she wrote the song -- she wrote the song women live) in "Somebody's Jail" (from Show Up):
And I feel the witch in my veins
I feel the mother in my shoe
I feel the scream in my soul
The blood as I sing the ancient blue
They burned by the millions
I still smell the fire in my grandma's hair
The war against women rages on
Beware of the fairytale
Somebody's mama, somebody's daughter
Holly Near has a new album she's done with emma's revolution, We Came to Sing! which Kat praised here. If you will download from iTunes or purchase or oder the CD, it's an amazing album worth having. (See Kat's review. This community only recommends those two options due to issues members had attempting to obtain the album.)
From the war against women to the daily violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Baghdad grenade attack left three people wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three people, a Mosul roadside bombing wounded three people and a Falluja car bombing claimed 3 lives -- an Imam and two of his bodyguards. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds it was Sunni cleric Jamal Humadi who was "known for denouncing insurgents in Iraq". Reuters notes a Tikrit car bombing last night which left six people injured.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.
Yesterday the US Dept of Defense issued the following:
The Army today released suicide data for the month of September. Among active-duty soldiers, there were seven potential suicides. One has been confirmed as a suicide, and six are pending determination of the manner of death. For August, the Army reported 11 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, four have been confirmed as suicides and seven remain under investigation.
There were 117 reported active-duty Army suicides from January 2009 through September 2009. Of those, 81 have been confirmed, and 36 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 103 suicides among active-duty soldiers.
During September 2009, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were seven potential suicides. Among that same group, from January 2009 through September 2009, there were 35 confirmed suicides. Twenty-five potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 40 suicides among reserve soldiers who were not on active duty.
Over the past year, the Army has engaged in a sustained effort to reduce the rate of suicide within its ranks. This effort has included an Army-wide suicide prevention stand-down and chain teach for every soldier; the implementation of the Army Campaign Plan for Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention; the establishment of both a Suicide Prevention Task Force and Suicide Prevention Council; a long-term partnership with the National Institute of Mental Health to carry out the largest ever study of suicide and behavioral health among military personnel; and more than 160 specific improvements to Army suicide prevention policies, doctrine, training and resources.
"Whether it's additional resources, improved training or ensuring those in our Army community can readily identify the warning signs of suicidal behavior, all our efforts often come down to one soldier caring enough about another soldier to step in when they see something wrong, " said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, Director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force. "Soldiers will be willing to do that if they know help is available, if they believe there is no stigma attached to asking for that help, and if they are certain that Army leaders remain absolutely committed to the resiliency of our entire Army Family."
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCOE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647, their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com
Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil .
The Army's most current suicide prevention information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp
Meanwhile Page Gardner, Women's Voices, Women Vote, notes the traditional decline from the number of voters in a general election to those in the mid-terms. They're focusing on the Rising American Electorate (RAE): "The RAE is comprised of Unmarried women (the largest portion), African Americans, Latinos, other people of color and Youths (18-29 yr olds). [. . .] WVWV is committed to keeping the RAE engaged in the democratic process and is at the forefront of analyzing who will turn out to vote in the 2010 midterm elections. To see our work on drop-off voters and the composition of the 2010 electorate, as well as state by state analyses, you can click here and here or visit www.wvwv.org."
Finally, Caro (MakeThemAccountable) observes:
I no longer have any respect whatsoever for the Nobel committee. Obama is continuing TWO wars, with no end in sight.
How that can be considered giving hope for peace is simply beyond me. Obama no more deserves this prize than George Bush.
The man never has to do a damn thing for people to shower him with praise and gifts.
the honolulu advertiser
the honolulu star-bulletin
gregg k. kakesako
the new york times