Friday, February 20, 2009

Get yourself right with your daughter, Alice

Marcia and Betty here, doing a joint post. Why? We both wanted to tackle the same topic and figured we could do it better together.

CODESTINK strikes again. And boy does it stink it up. And to really pile the stank on, they drag out sad "Go ask Phallus, Phallus Walker Red." Yeah, Alice Walker.

During the recent ruthless assault on the people of Gaza when so many people were injured or murdered, I lost my own sister; she had been ill for many years. The loss of this one person, whose death was anticipated, was such a blow, that when I considered the losses to the people of Gaza - of mothers, children, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, and friends, I wondered how the anguish of so much tragic loss could be sustained. Housing, hospitals, nurseries, libraries, schools, were also lost. Surely the blow to the human spirit would be intolerable for many, and there would seem little reason for continuing to live.
Going to Gaza is our opportunity (my partner Garrett Larson's and mine) to express solidarity with the people there. To demonstrate the concern we feel each day for the suffering endured.

Alice Walker wants to whine about her dead sister?

Whine? Yeah, you heard us.

Her loss, her great loss. Shove it up your San Rosa ass, Alice.

We all know she's turned her back on her daughter Rebecca. And we all know the stank ass refuses to see her own grandson. She has never seen her only grandchild. She refuses to do so.

So for her to whine about a death when she effectively killed off her daughter and her grandson, well, cry us a river, Alice.

What a fake. She wants to play Earth Mother Alice yet again. And we're all supposed to pretend like it's perfectly normal to do what Alice Walker has done. It's not normal.

And no one needs her Hallmark-style b.s. about any world problem. We're not idiots, Alice. We laugh at you.

She's just a joke now.

To be really clear, what she's done does not fly in the Black community she wants to pretend to represent when it's time for Red Alice to pimp Barack. But she never proves how much of an outsider she is as when she disowns her own daughter and her own grandchild.

That's a White thing, Alice, and you damn well know it. In our community, we don't disown family.

You were a lousy mother, Alice. Rebecca explained some of the ways you failed. Some. And to make sure America knew how right Rebecca was, you didn't just kick her out of your life, you refused the grandchild you never met.

We don't know who the hell you think you're fooling acting like a White girl, but Alice that ain't the Black community.

And we don't give a damn what you say about any cause or action.

Get yourself right with your daughter, Alice. Go meet your grandchild.

Then we might take you seriously. Right now, you're just a sista trying to act White -- just like you've done your whole adult life.

Big community welcome to the community cartoonist Isaiah who has started his own site, The World Today Just Nuts, to use as as an archive for his past comics.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 20, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a US soldier is convicted in a murder case, Britian claims Iran made an offer (they could or couldn't refuse?), KBR has more problems (of their own making) and more.

Starting with one-time Halliburton subsidary Kellogg Brown & Root,
US House Rep Carol Shea-Porter's office announced that a letter was sent to US Secretary of Defense "Robert Gates asking why defense contractor KBR, Inc. was recently awarded a new $35.4 million contract involving electrical work in Iraq. KBR is currently under investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector General for the deaths of 18 Americans, who were electrocuted in buildings that KBR held a contract to mainatin. Military criminal investigators have reopened five cases, and the Army Criminal Investigate Services has classified one of them as 'ngeligent homicide'." The letter, signed by 18 other members of the House, notes:

As you are aware, KBR has held a contract for building maintenance for U.S. military facilities in Iraq since 2003. During this time, there have been numerous investigations into the dangers KBR's faulty electrical work is creating for our military personnel. The Department of Defense Inspector General is currently investigating the electrocution deaths of 18 Americans (16 soldiers and 2 contractors) in KBR-maintained facilities. KBR is under criminal investigation for the electrocution deaths of several U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform conducted an in-depth investigation into the problem of electrocutions in U.S. facilities in Iraq and the death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, 24, a decorated Green Beret electrocuted in his shower on January 2, 2008. The Committee's investigation showed that KBR was alerted to the deficiencies in this and other cases, but failed to take corrective action. In 2008, the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA) issued a "Level III Corrective Action Request" to KBR, indicating that the contractor was in "serious non-compliance." This action request, the final warning before a contract is terminated, points to KBR's continuing failure to ensure electrical safety for our troops. With this history, it is not surprising that Capt. David J. Graff, commander of the DCMA's International Division, was quoted in an Associated Press article, stating that "many within DOD have lost or are losing all remaining confidence in KBR's ability to successfully and repeatedly perform the required electrical support services mission in Iraq."
Despite these serious, ongoing concerns, the Department of Defense has awarded KBR a new contract that includes the type of work that KBR failed to perform adequately for years. Threats to the safety and lives of soldiers or others because of known hazards and negligent performance of work are not acceptable.

US House Rep Betty McCollum is among the 18 signing the letter and she released this statement earlier this week, "Secretary Gates should immediately rescind any new awards to KBR. It is irresponsible and negligent for the Department of Defense to grant additional contracts to a company facing such serious allegations. We recently learned, after five years of scrutiny, that a Minnesota sailor was electrocuted to death by faulty wiring. Who can trust KBR's work? . . . We have a moral responsibility to esnure the safety for our troops at home and abroad -- not pad the pocket of a negligent military contractor." CorpWatch's Pratap Chatterjee (writing in Asia Times) explains that $35.4 million contract is "for the design and construction of a convoy support center at Camp Adder in Iraq. The center will include a power plant, an electrical distribution center, a water purification and distribution system, a waste-water colleciton system, and associated information systems, along with paved roads, all to be built by KBR." KBR is being entrusted with a project that has to do with electrocity? It should not be getting any contracts but you'd think that just the term "electricity" in a KBR contract would be more than enough to make one pause.
Those actions are on the House side of Congress.
December 23rd, we last noted what the Senate was working on. KBR was involved in that as well. For an update, we'll note that Senator Evan Bayh's office issued the following statement last week:

Washington -- Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND) are taking issue with the conclusions of an Army investigation into the exposure of hundreds of U.S. soldiers to a deadly carcinogen, sodium dichromate, at Qarmat Ali in Iraq in 2003. Since September 2008, Bayh has pushed to ensure the Army conducts a thorough investigation to ascertain whether every precaution was taken to protect Indiana National Guardsmen serving in Iraq.
"I am still unsatisfied with the information provided by the Army about their response to the exposure of U.S. service members to sodium dichromate at the Qarmat Ali water injection facility in Iraq," Bayh said. "We are asking again for a complete account of how our service members were exposed to these conditions and what went wrong. If there's criminal negligence, people must be held accountable. If there was a lack of oversight by Army Corps of Engineers, people ought to be fired."
Senators Bayh and Dorgan released a letter Thursday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, saying the conclusions reached by the Army study the senators requested only raise new questions on the exposure of U.S. troops from Indiana, North Dakota, Oregon, West Virginia and South Carolina.
The senators say the Army's evidence and their own investigations indicate that exposure of the troops appears to be far more severe than the Army or KBR have acknowledged.
Bayh said he still has many unanswered questions about KBR's role in the original exposure and contamination.
"The company needs to be held to account for its behavior in this incident. We have a moral obligation to the men and women who were put in harm's way. We need to make sure to never find ourselves in this situation again," Bayh said.
They also asked Gates and Geren to explain how the Army could pronounce itself "satisfied" with its own oversight of contractor KBR, and with the response by KBR and the Army to the exposure, given that:
Some soldiers, exposed to the deadly chemical in the spring and summer of 2003, still have not been informed by either the Army or KBR that they were exposed.
For months, KBR failed to identify the presence of the chemical, even though it was required to conduct an "environmental risk assessment" at the site.
According to the Army's own timeline, nearly three months passed after the initial detection before KBR began testing at the site. KBR waited two more weeks to start to start remediation of the site, and protective gear was not provided to soldiers until nearly a month after that.
Indiana National Guard personnel were not told of the exposure until they saw KBR employees using PPE (personal protective equipment) at the site.
"It looks like conclusions were made, without regard to the facts," Dorgan said. "We owe our soldiers much more than that. Given the well documented and serious failures at the site, I don't understand how the Army can claim KBR acted appropriately.
"We have to identify those service members who were exposed to sodium dichromate and other lethal chemicals and make sure they get the kind of long-term care and treatment they deserve," Bayh concluded.

That is KBR, a corporation that
Pratap Chatterjee points out has raked in "more than $25 billion" from the US government. KBR announced another contract this week. They're currently being sued by ten contract employees over the exposure to the carcinogen and AP notes of that lawsuit, "The KBR contractors' complaint in Houston is scheduled to be heard by an arbiter at a March hearing that will be closed at KBR's request. Contractors with complaints about work in Iraq generally have gone to arbitration as part of KBR's contract with the U.S. government in Iraq."

Despite the above,
UPI reported that the corporation won a contract "from the Army Contracting Command" worth $`9.2 million to "provide bulk fuel farm support for the Army in Kuwait". Tom Fowler (Houston Chronicle) reported last week on KBR's guilty plea to bribing "Nigerian officials to win contracts to build a massive natural das project in that country". Zachary A. Goldfarb (Washington Post) reports the $579 million fines agreed to are "the biggest fines ever paid by U.S. companies in a foreign corruption case". We're not done with KBR. The February 10th snapshot included thi

Deborah Haynes and Sonai Verma (Times of London) report that "a British manager for the services company Kellogg Brown and Root" is accused of an inappropriate sexual relationship with an Iraqi women working for the British embassy and that the manager "was also accused of sexual harassment more than 18 months ago by an Iraqi cleaner and two cooks at the embassy." The reportes quote the cleaner who charged sexual harassment a year and a half ago stating today, "I was in the British Embassy and under the British flag and I was oppressed but nobody did anything about that."

Afif Sarhan (Islam Online) reports the woman described above "is locking herself home, refusing to meet anyone and sinking into despair over what she describes as sexual abuse and bullying at the British Embbassy and notes serious questions being raised as to why the British Embassy is allowing KBR to (again) investigate themselves? British attorney Anna Areen declares, "The UK has long been very serious on the law of conduct inside government and similar places. If they don't take on their hands the investigation in Baghdad, they will be saying that it is sllowed in Britain on the coming future. [Those] responsible should pay for what they did and it will be honorable if UK officials take head of the investigation and punishment." .

The January 9th snapshot highlighted
Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Margaret Cronin Fisk (Bloomberg News) report that KBR and Halliburton decided that the an attack on a KBR truck in 2004 was not due to lack of security provided by the mega-rich corporations, the attack -- resulting in deaths and injuries -- was the fault of "the U.S. Army and Iraqi terrorists". Which was a low even for them. Throughout the illegal war, KRB has put the US military at risk -- not just by electrocuting them or exposing them to dangerous chemicals. When the KBR trucks would have a flat, get stuck or whatever, KBR employees would be able to leave the scene while US service members would have to stay there and wait for orders on what to do. Stay there and be sitting ducks. Kelly Dougherty (IVAW) has explained repeatedly, they would wait and wait and then finally be told to destroy the trucks and any cargo on it. Which would frequently anger the local populations. In March of last year, Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation. KPFA carried the hearings live for the bulk of the four days and Aaron Glantz and Aimee Allison were the on air moderators. One of the ways to hear the audio of the hearings is to go to Glatnz' War Comes Home site. [Allison is co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None.] March 14th was the first day of panels (the previous day was the opening of the hearings) and one of the afternoon panels was on corruption and war profiteering. Appearing on that panel was Doughtery and we'll note this from the March 14, 2008 snapshot:

KBR was the focus of Kelly Dougherty's testimony. She discussed how she and others serving in Iraq assigned to protect convoys were repeatedly put at risk when a KBR vehicle broke down, how they were told it was an asset to be protected even if that meant killing someone and then they would be told to forget it, to destroy the vehicle and move out. Iraqis desperate for fuel or the contents of the truck were not a concern and, if pressed, the US military command would instruct service members that distributing something in the trucks (before destroying them) could cause a riot. All of which goes to Doughtery's statement of Iraqis, "I'm looking at people I can't even look in the eye." Moving to Kuwait after serving in Iraq and while waiting to be sent back homes, service members were living in a KBR tent city. Doughtery explained, "When we were leaving . . . we were put in these tent cities. Our tents were completely covered with mold on the inside." The tents had bunk beds and not cots so service members were not allowed to (as some wanted) sleep outside the tents to avoid what appeared to be Black Mold. Instead, they suffered from respitory infections. Dougherty noted "this living condition where we couldn't even be in the place were we were supposed to live without getting sick." KBR made a big profit of the illegal war. KBR provided the troops with tents that made them sick. Where's the audit on that?

Marcia also covered Kelly Doughtery's testimony:

They were dealing with KBR trucks -- which were worth about $80,000, chump change to KBR. You may remember the stories of contractors abandoning trucks and cars and the cost for new ones (usually on a cost-plus contract) being passed back on to you and me the tax payers. Doughtery noted that KBR's trucks "would break down a lot, would get in accidents a lot." They'd stop for flat tries or because they got stuck in the mud,things like that as well. The drivers were treated horribly by KBR and were from countries such as Pakistan, India, etc. The truck would break down, the driver would hop out of the truck and get a ride with someone else in the convoy and the MPs would be called in to secure the abandoned trucks. Doughtery explained, "For us as miltary police, we're told when we get into Iraq and when we're getting on these convoy missions" that KBR's trucks are United States assets and "need to be protected, with force, with deadly force if necessary." The drill was always the same: secure the trucks and wait. Then came the call that they couldn't find anyone to come get the trucks so they should just leave it.That didn't mean, "Hop in your vehicles and leave!" That meant disable the vehicles (fire grenades into the engine blocks) and destroy whatever cargo it had. That meant setting fuel on fire in front of Iraqis who had no fuel. That meant burning produce in front of Iraqis who were hungry. That meant destroying a brand new ambulance in an area that had none and really needed one. Doughtery explained that even the local sheiks were out on the last one, trying to convince US soldiers that if they would leave the ambulance alone, they (Iraqis) would figure out how to get it off its side and out of the mud."That was pretty much a daily occurence," said Dougherty. "Where we were abandoning vehicles by KBR contractors on a daily basis."

And we'll use Kelly Dougherty's testimony as the transition to
Iraq Veterans Against the War in order to note:

IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st

As an organization of service men and women who have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, stateside, and around the world, members of Iraq Veterans Against the War have seen the impact that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on the people of these occupied countries and our fellow service members and veterans, as well as the cost of the wars at home and abroad. In recognition that our struggle to withdraw troops from Iraq and demand reparations for the Iraqi people is only part of the struggle to right the wrongs being committed in our name, Iraq Veterans Against the War has voted to adopt an official resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and reparations for the Afghan people. (To read the full resolution,
click here.)
To that end, Iraq Veterans Against the War will be joining a national coalition which is being mobilized to march on the Pentagon, March 21st, to demand the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and further our mission and goals in solidarity with the national anti-war movement. This demonstration will be the first opportunity to show President Obama and the new administration that our struggle was not only against the Bush administration - and that we will not sit around and hope that troops are removed under his rule, but that we will demand they be removed immediately.
For more information on the March 21st March on the Pentagon, and additional events being organized in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Orlando, to include transportation, meetings, and how you can get involved, please visit: or
Click here for more IVAW Updates

That is next month and
World Can't Wait is another organization participating. Hopefully someone will ask President Barack Obama about the speech he gave in Danville, immediately after the 2004 DNC convention, where he declared, "I'd pick up arms right now to defend this country. But if I'm going to ask someone else's son and daughter to go to war, I want to make sure it's the right war." Did Iraq suddenly become "the right war"? And what makes Afghanistan the right one as well? (Barack's always said this is where the fight must be -- but aside from a lot of 9-11 spin, he's never said why. Yes, Barack is the new Bully Boy and, just like the other one, hides behind 9-11 to justify his actions. (Has everyone forgotten that Bush insisted some pages not be released to the public -- regarding the Saudis and 9-11 -- in the official report? If Barack's going to toss around 9-11, he might need to order those papers released -- as Congress had intended for them to be.)

While some pretend things are great or even good or even okay in Iraq,
Dahr Jamail, back in Iraq, offers some realities:

"We only want a normal life," says Um Qasim, sitting in a bombed out building in Baghdad. She and others around have been saying that for years.
Um Qasim lives with 13 family members in a brick shanty on the edge of a former military intelligence building in the Mansoor district of Baghdad.
Five of her children are girls. Homelessness is not easy for anyone, but it is particularly challenging for women and girls.
"Me and my girls have to be extra careful living this way," Um Qasim told IPS. "We are tired of always being afraid, because any day, any time, strange men walk through our area, and there is no protection for us. Each day brings a new threat to us, and all the women here."
She rarely leaves her area, she says. Nor do her girls, for fear of being kidnapped or raped.

CBS Radio News' Tammy McCormick explained in this afternoon's newscast, "And anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is hailing the Iraqi election results as a new chapter. He now says religious leaders and others should work together to put the needs of the country first. al-Sadr has long backed rebellions against the invasion and occupation." AP quotes al-Sadr stating (through a spokesperson -- like when Michael Jackson was interviewed by Rolling Stone and he whispered all his answers to Janet), "Iraq has turned a new page after the elections, which I hope will be a gate for liberation, a gate to serve the Iraqis and not keep occupiers to divide Iraqis. Goals are unified between politicians and the resistance to push out the occupiers." I guess the press could pretend al-Sadr's statements meant something if they hadn't all spent the week leading up to the election and the days immediately after telling their news consumers that al-Sadr was nothing, that he had no pull and that he was a relic or at least, as Tanya Tucker once sang, a faded rose from days gone by. Of Anbar Province, AP notes, "The so-called Awakening Councils won eight of 29 provincial seats in Anbar - giving them a strong hand to form a governing coalition with smaller Sunni groups across a province that was once a major al Qaeda stronghold." Alsumaria reports, "While Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (IHEC) was announcing the provincial elections final results a constitutional controversy was raised regarding the conditions of electing a new House Speaker. In fact, Accordance Front insists that its candidate Iyad Assamarrai won while some other blocs say that Saturday's session will decide who won the seat of Speaker of House." That's yesterday but they have video and it's worth nothing again that there is no Speaker all this time later.

In other news,
Bridget Kendall (BBC) reports on the claims that Iran has floated a proposal to England: They will "stop attacking British troops in Iraq to try to get the West to drop objections to Tehran's uranium project, a UK official says." That is England's United Nations Ambassador John Sawers. Sawers claims, "There were various Iranians who would come to London and suggest we had tea in some hotel or other. They'd do the same in Paris, they'd do the same in Berlin, and then we'd compare notes among the three of us." Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) adds, "As Iran marks the 30th anniversary of the revolution that turned out the Shah and installed a cleric-led regime, senior figures have openly discussed a series of secret deals with West. Iran had used its involvement in hostage taking during the Lebanese war to break its isolation in the 1980s."

In some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba sticky bombing that resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi soldier and a Kirkuk roadside bombing which left another injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi soldier wounded in a Baghdad shooting. Reuters notes the US military announcement on 1 woman and 2 children killed in a bombing outside Baghdad last night.

In Germany a US soldier has been convicted.
Seth Robson (Stars and Stripes) reports the US Army's Rose Barracks Courthouse court-martial saw the vidoe of Sgt Michael Leahy Jr "confessing an hour and 10 minutes into an interview with a Criminal Investigation Command special agent" found Leahy stating, "I shot one of them" -- Iraqi prisoners -- "I shot two shots. It was my decision. I always kenw this . . . would come back to me." In an update, Robson notes that Leahy was found guilty and "could face the death penalty after being found guilty . . . of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder in the deaths of four Iraqi detainees in March 2007." BBC notes that the 4 Iraqi prisoners' corpses were "dumped in a Baghdad canal" after they were shot. Leahy confessed to murdering one. AP notes this was not Leahy's first time being accused of murdering an Iraqi: "Leahy, 28, was acquitted of murder in a separate incident involving the death of another Iraqi in January 2007."

Staying with the Iraq War, libertarian
Justin Raimondo ( has a piece responding to Joan Walsh (Salon) and her review of Thomas E. Ricks' new book The Gamble. I wrote about the book last night, that's not the reason for bringing up Justin. If Justin quotes Walsh accurately (I have neither the time nor the inclination to read Walsh), then Walsh has reviewed a book she doesn't understand. Justin has her praising the 'surge' and saying it worked and she was wrong to doubt it. That can be her opinion. If so, I disagree. But that's not the opinion Ricks expresses in the book. You can't just read a few pages, Walsh, nor can you skim. The 'surge' was a failure -- Thomas E. Ricks is quite clear -- because it was supposed to allow that 'progress' to happen. Not on a military field, on the political field. If Joan Walsh is quoted accurately by Justin, then Walsh needs to re-read the book she reviewed because she missed one of its biggest points. (I have no reason to doubt Justin's honesty or accuracy. I am repeating the "if" because I haven't read Walsh and I have no interest in reading her.) The 'surge' was supposed to allow those now-forgotten benchmarks to be reached. That never happened. That is a part of the story Ricks tells in the book. Justin doesn't claim to have read the book so I'll just note that in quotes he attributes to Joan Walsh, she has some serious comprehension difficulties including an inclination to attribute to Thomas Ricks statements and opinions of others quoted in his book. As they might word it in Annie Hall, "How you ever got to review a book on anything is totally amazing."

Anthony Fenton (Asia Times via ZNet) explores Barack and the counterinsurgency:

Early signals indicate that United States President Barack Obama will continue driving the "counter-insurgency era" that began under his predecessor George W Bush. Less than one month into his administration, the most significant indicators that Obama will continue implementing a
foreign policy transformation that began under the Bush administration may be found in and around his National Security appointments. Strikingly, the very rhetoric that is being used to signify change is representative of this continuity. The first key signal came on December 1, when Obama confirmed that he would continue with Robert M Gates as secretary of defense. That day, Obama also announced that (retired) marine general James L Jones would become his national security advisor, and that Hillary Clinton would be secretary of state. Subsequent appointments, including (retired) navy admiral Dennis Blair to director of national intelligence, and Michele Flournoy as under secretary of defense for policy, along with keeping Michael Vickers on at under secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, are all linked to Obama's assurances that "irregular warfare" will remain at the forefront of US policy, strategy and operations for the foreseeable future. To help solidify matters, on December 1, Gates quietly signed Department of Defense

Directive (DoDD) 3000.07, establishing the policy that "irregular warfare is as strategically important as traditional warfare". [1] According to the directive, irregular warfare (IW) encompasses "Counter-terrorism operations, foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, counter-insurgency, and stability operations". Under 3000.07, Vickers, a former special forces and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operative who is considered one of the key architects behind the CIA's covert war with the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, becomes Gates' "principal advisor" on irregular warfare and the person who will provide "overall policy oversight" to ensure the US military establishment is transformed to be "as effective in IW as it is in traditional warfare".

And finally -- LANGUAGE WARNING if you use the link to follow --
Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) addresses the clowns who live to lie to you:

By now, the governor was a "house of hypocrisy" -- though Olbermann still hadn't made the slightest attempt to explain the unflattering claim. In the world of Big Stupid Cable, it's all about handing the rubes preferred narratives, the ones they turn on your program to hear -- and Olbermann seems to love nothing more than beating up on Palin. He no longer gets to mock the young blondes, something he used to do every night, but Palin seems suitable as a replacement. And he doesn't waste much time explaining what's actually wrong with Palin's views -- or even what they are. It's all about calling the lady stupid -- and it's all about calling her a hypocrite, without quite explaining why. And of course, the tasteless insults fly. This is the way the chat began when he introduced the evening's tough moll, Flanders. Note: In his question, he's still pretending that Sarah Palin has somehow changed her stance on education, now that her own daughter's pregnant:
OLBERMANN: Is this not the mirror image of the conservative`s joke about reality, that "a liberal is just a conservative who hasn't been mugged yet?"
FLANDERS: I think there is a name for people who only teach their kids about abstinence and that's "grandparents." And Sarah Palin is finding that out. The scariest thing in that conversation with Greta Van Susteren was -- well, I thought the scariest thing was the part where Bristol Palin said that talking with her mother was worse than labor. I mean, I guess Katie Couric found that out. Can any of us imagine what a Palin presidency would be like? Like a Nadya Suleman labor?
A Palin presidency would be "like a Nadya Suleman labor." Laura Flanders was keeping it classy -- and respectful feminist that she of course is, she was crawling up Suleman's sn**ch in pursuit of prime insults for Palin.

The two weren't bound by facts and, were Flanders not a lesbian (a self-loathing one) and Keith not already in a significant and longterm relationship with his own ego, she and Olbermann would be perfect for each other. Flanders can't keep it classy, Bob. And she's not a feminist. She claims she is. But a feminist doesn't repeatedly refer to Hillary's laugh as a "cackle" -- which Flanders did on KPFA at the end of February. It was that little fact-free stunt (which also included Flanders -- like all other 'expert' 'analysts' booked by KPFA for that two hour broadcst -- not revealing she had already endoresed Barack Obama -- real easy to call a debate for Barack when the only ones 'evaluating' have all endorsed Barack). That was when
Ava and I began using the term Panhandle Media to describe the beggar media. Good for Bob Somerby for calling Flanders out and today's post has him explaining his use of the term that may be objectionable. I dispute his reasoning (Flanders reads everything written about her -- she's obsessive -- and she will love the term Somerby used, not be offended by it) but don't feel he was 'wrong' to use the term. Just as I don't feel there's any term that's off-limits when it comes to Arianna after she allowed (in 2007) her Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box to be used to attack special-needs children.

Public TV notes,
NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations tonight (check local listings) and this week offers a look at sexual harassment: "This week, NOW collaborates with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University to bring you an unprecedented broadcast investigation of teen sexual harassment in the workplace. In the program, abused teenagers share their own stories with Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa. We track their legal journeys to justic, and how the issue impacts hundreds of thousands of teenagers across the country -- many of whom don't know how to report workplace abuse, or to even recognize when their bosses cross the line. This is the first report in a new NOW on PBS beat on women and men in the twenty-first centurey we call 'Life Now'." Late Friday night, NOW should be available online for those who'd like to watch online. On Washington Week, Gwen continues to demonstrate how difficult it is for her -- despite PBS' mandate -- to offer up a panel with an equal number of men and women. Four slots open and yet again Gwen's only been able to find one woman. Jeanne Cummings stands by while Gwen and the boys have a measuring contest. NPR's Tom Gjelten, New York Times' David Sanger and the Associated Press' Charles Babington. (Though who knows what Gwen's packing, smart money is on Charlie as the winner.) This will be available online for streaming Monday afternoon and a transcript will be posted then as well. If you podcast, the show will be available either late tonight or Saturday morning -- podcasts for Washington Week are available at iTunes (for free) in audio or video form (audio downloads faster).Moving over to broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, on 60 Minutes:The Drinking AgeLesley Stahl examines the debate over lowering the drinking age to 18, a controversial idea embraced by some people and roundly criticized by groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Watch Video
Kidnapped In BasraWhen the Iraqi army regained control of the city of Basra from warring religious militias, it meant peace for the city's war-torn residents and rescue for CBS News producer Richard Butler, who had been held captive there for three months. Lara Logan reports. Watch Video
The MascotA young Jewish boy who fled into the forest after his family was killed by the Nazis was later captured by Nazi soldiers who, not knowing he was Jewish, gave him a little uniform and a gun and made him their mascot. Bob Simon reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update:
The Kanzius MachineOn Wednesday, Feb. 18, John Kanzius, a retired radio technician who invented a possible cancer fighting machine in his garage, died after a long battle with leukemia. In April 2008, Lesley Stahl reported on Kanzius and his machine, which had been dreamed up while he was battling the side effects of chemotherapy treatment. Experiments building on John Kanzius' research continue. Video

the washington postzachary a. goldfarb
deborah haynes
laurel brubaker calkinsmargaret cronin fiskbloomberg news
iraq veterans against the war
kelly dougherty
aimeee allisondavid solnit
aaron glantz
damien mcelroy
pbswashington weeknow on pbs

Thursday, February 19, 2009

This and that

First off, Stan's "So he probably wanted something more" went up last night and it's the highlight I tipped you off too. I got a ton of e-mail on that and was surprised. I don't generally check my e-mails very regularly. But women get it. They say, "You think some guy wants to be your friend and then you find out he's scamming you." And that is what it's about. You think you're are engaging with someone and the two of you are hitting it off. You're completely uninterested in the guy.

Then you find out that he's actually just pretending to want to talk to you because he's interested in you.

And for two guys who are confused, let me explain it as I will to my middle son and already have to my oldest son.

When you're interested in someone, you have a brief amount of time to make that clear. After a bit, you're seen as a friend and that's where you'll most likely stay out of fear of destroying the friendship. So when you're interested in someone, you make a point to let them know.

They may tell you they're not interested. And they may never be. They may tell you they're not interested and later decide, "Hey, you're pretty interesting." But if you're sharing with someone like a friend and they find out later you were hoping for something more, it will completely discredit all the conversations you had. You will not be trust worthy at all.

It's not "minor" as one guy wrote.

It is a big deal.

It's a bit like finding out the whole time you were talking and some guy was agreeing with you, he was staring at your breasts. Uh, did you hear one word I said? Were you agreeing with my boobs? What was that all about?

"The 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Trip to India and Black History Month" (US State Department):SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Well, we are so delighted to have you – please be seated – here in the Treaty Room at the State Department for what is an historic occasion, something that means a great deal to this Department and to our country. I am pleased that His Excellency, Ambassador Sen of India is with us today, and I’m also very honored to be joined by a remarkable group of Americans.
We have standing before you some of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement and of our recent history. Certainly, Congressman Lewis needs no introduction. We have with us also Congressman Bachus. They will be leading a congressional delegation to India to retrace the steps of Dr. King and Mrs. King. And of course, the person who – for whom this is a personal journey as well as a historic one, Martin Luther King III.
Now Herbie Hancock is going along as well. (Laughter.) And I think there’ll be a lot of people who recognize him. And he just told me he’s going to be recording, including some Indian artists. And maybe he’ll say a word more about that in a minute. Also joining the CODEL will be a number of other distinguished members of Congress, as well as Ambassador Andy Young and former Senator Harris Wofford. This is the real American dream team. And I don’t think we could find better ambassadors for our country to send to help mark the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic trip to India.
As we celebrate Black History Month here at home, the 50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s trip to India is a reminder that the struggle for civil rights and justice has always been and continues to be a global mission; it knows no borders. As Dr. King told us, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Now Dr. King was just 30 years old when he traveled to India in 1959, but he had already led the Montgomery bus boycott, and understood the wisdom and power of the nonviolent protest movement pioneered by the great Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. King toured the country for a month, studying Gandhi’s philosophy, meeting with Prime Minister Nehru. He met with other Indian leaders in politics and government, in academia and the professions in business and across the society. And he talked with citizens and young people at every opportunity. He brought the lessons he learned there back to the United States, and renewed his own faith in the unmatched moral force of nonviolent resistance and its ability to achieve meaningful social change.
It’s been my great privilege to have heard Dr. King speak when I was a young girl. It was a few years after he had returned from India. It was a cold January night in Chicago, but I was deeply moved then, as I continue to be, by his timeless call to all of us, his dream for a world that is really worthy of our children. I remain inspired by his undying hope for a better tomorrow.
So I am pleased to honor Dr. King’s historic journey which really represents the journey that our country has been on. And in many ways, as we have celebrated the inauguration of President Obama, a journey that has brought great faith to people who follow the tenets of nonviolence and Dr. King’s philosophy and preaching and who have worked to make the changes here at home that continue to reverberate around the world, it’s fitting that this mission then be undertaken during Black History Month, and just weeks after our President’s historic inauguration. And on behalf of President Obama, I want to express his gratitude for you doing this and for your service as well.
You know, Dr. King’s trip to India stands as a landmark of the Civil Rights Movement and a real testament, ambassador, to the bonds of affection and shared history between our two nations. I want to thank the Government of India for welcoming and supporting our delegation, a reflection that India also understands that the deep and broad partnership our countries are forging is one based on common history and values. And it is because of that that it is destined to grow even stronger in the future. So I wish you Godspeed and a great deal of – oh, shall I say, jealousy that (laughter) – that you are retracing these footsteps.
And now I’d like to introduce some of my friends and those who will be making this journey, starting with Martin Luther King III, followed by Congressman Lewis and Congressman Bachus, if you would also like to say a few words, and ending up with Herbie Hancock.
MR. KING: Thank you so much, Madame Secretary, and thank you, Congressman Lewis, Congressman Bachus, and of course, the great Mr. Herbie Hancock. I must also thank the Government of India and Ambassador Sen, for this is a very special journey for me personally, my wife and I, to retrace the steps that my parents engaged in 50 years ago. On behalf of everyone at Realizing the Dream, an organization I started, I am honored to be making this journey on this 50th anniversary of that incredible visit.
In 1959, at the invitation of the Gandhi National Memorial Foundation, my parents, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, traveled to India to immerse themselves in Gandhi’s nonviolence movement, and to identify with and give support to the people of India who were struggling to overcome the evils of poverty and discrimination.
By working to foster peace through nonviolence, I hope this pilgrimage will inspire others to end the dependence on violence for nominal change, and instead look to reconciliatory power of nonviolence to create sustainable progress and diplomacy.
The impact that Gandhi’s life had on my father was quite profound. And it is in that spirit that I set out on this journey in just a few days. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. LEWIS: Madame Secretary and His Excellency Mr. Ambassador Sen, I would like to thank you, the United States Department of State, and the Government of India for all that you have done to support this delegation. It is with great pleasure and delight that I embark on this journey with Representative Bachus, my friend and my brother and my colleague from Alabama, co-leader of the delegation; other colleagues in the House; Martin Luther King III; Herbie Hancock and their delegation to pay tribute to the abiding link between Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The two men were not politicians or lawmakers. They were not presidents or popes. But they were inspired human beings who believed deeply in the power of nonviolent resistance to injustice as a tool for social change. Because of their courage, commitment, and vision, this nation has witnessed a nonviolent revolution under the rule of law, a revolution of values and ideas that have changed America forever. We are all a beneficiary of this powerful legacy.
It is a great honor to retrace the steps of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. in India. Madame Secretary, I don’t where I would be if it had not been for the teaching of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We are looking forward to fulfilling an inspiring journey. Thank you, Madame Secretary, for all your help in making this possible. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you so much. (Applause.)
MR. BACHUS: I walked into my office this morning and there was music playing, and my staff was just ecstatic that Herbie Hancock – (laughter) – was – I would be traveling with Herbie Hancock, and they knew about Martin Luther King. And I first want to say that thank you for your father. I’m the congressman from Birmingham, Alabama. And Birmingham is a better place today than it was, because of Martin Luther King. As Congressman Lewis, when he called me and asked me to head this delegation, I was overwhelmed, because we in Birmingham, probably more than anywhere else, know about the ills of discrimination and racism.
I buried my father two years ago, and I’m proudest of him for crossing that color line and being the first contractor in Birmingham to hire subcontractors. He had vandalism of worksites, but he had the vast support of the people in Birmingham when he did that. And I want you to know that Birmingham is a better place. And I’m not sure there’s any place more committed to equality than a place which suffered from inequality. And for that, I thank you and I thank your father. Thank you. (Applause.)
MR. HANCOCK: Madame Secretary, members of Congress, Mr. Ambassador, members of the Diplomatic Corps, Martin Luther King, Jr. – Martin Luther King III – and honored invited guests, it is a privilege for me to be here today among such esteemed company.
As chairman of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, I am honored to be traveling to India with my fellow musicians, singers Chaka Khan, Dee Dee Bridgewater, pianist George Duke, and young students who are studying with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz performers in New Orleans. We are honored to be partnering with the State Department and to be taking this journey with Martin Luther King III, Congressman John Lewis, and other members of Congress. And we look forward to bringing music and jazz education to the people of India through this historic tour that celebrates the philosophies of Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi, two very inspirational political and spiritual leaders whose teachings have really encouraged me to lead a life of peace, honesty, and filled with love for my fellow man.
And of great importance to me and my fellow artists, their philosophies of cooperation, communication, and harmony are also essential elements of every jazz band. (Laughter.) The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz has partnered with the State Department now for over 15 years, and this is our third trip to India. On the first trip I was humbled meeting Mother Teresa, as I have told you, Madame Secretary, and then filled with joy having several opportunities to contribute to the cultural fabric of the Indian people through performance and jazz education workshops.
We look forward to being a part of the Living Dream concerts in Mumbai and Delhi, and then working with the students who attend the Ravi Shankar Institute of the Performing Arts, where our students are going to be able to exchange valuable lessons with the young Indian musicians and prove again that the language of jazz knows no boundaries.
On behalf of the institute, all the musicians on the tour, and myself, I’d like to say a very, very warm and heartfelt thank you to our good friend and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and to the U.S. Department of State for continuing your support of culture, jazz, and music education throughout the world, and for giving us the opportunity to represent the United States and to be a part of this historic tour. Thank you. (Applause.)

I believe Ruth's noting the above too. We should all note it because it's important. (That's not me lecturing, that's my noting it's important. Many people have a huge backlog of things to cover and aren't able to. I understand that.) Another thing I want to note is two e-mails Stan got saying he had stepped away from Roland Burris. He hasn't, I haven't, C.I. hasn't. No one in the community has.

We've seen nothing to indicate Senator Burris did anything wrong. If anything emerges, then we'll weigh that. But we're taking the attitude of we're not engaging in speculation. We'll leave that to his attackers.

Senator Burris is a US Senator. Hopefully he will continue to be one. At present, for all the hot air from Dick Durbin, there's nothing that Senator Burris has done wrong that's emerged. When Stan brought it up, C.I. hit the roof (Stan brought it up in the roundtable so you can read C.I.'s reaction in Gina and Krista's newsletter tomorrow). I think we'll probably write about it Sunday. But we were trying to stay out of it. But this really is becoming nonsense. (C.I. noted it's yet another standard for Burris that no one else has. And I agree. I'm getting damn sick of it.)

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, February 19, 2009. Chaos and violence continue,election results are released (yes, the results to January 31st elections), Iraq still has no Speaker of Parliament, the Kurds ask for the Constitution to be followed and the "Awakening" Council's cheif cheerleader rushes to tell the world violence is a'coming, Muntadhar al-Zeidi gets a day in court (one) and much more.

Starting with today's Most Needy (the intelligent deficient), little Eric Stoner, come on down. Eric was one of Katrina's coffee fetchers nearly three years ago and that task provides no on the job training. Now he 'works' at Aging Socialite's Cat Litter Box -- in fact, word is he has cleaning duties. Taking his recycled blog post and limited intelligence to the Labour Party's party organ (Guardian -- you can
catch it at ZNet which we will link to), Stoner (was a last name ever more apt) babbles about Blackwater between the muchies. Like the gut over the belly young 'dude' he fancies himself, Stoner knows, just knows, where there are problems, there is a woman causing it all. So the Barack Cult Member whines that mercenaries are still in Iraq:

Hillary Clinton offerred a glimmer of hope when she endorsed this bill during her campaign for the presidency. But as Obama's secretary of state, she has quickly abandoned her commitment to "show these contractors the door."

Oh, that awful Hillary! Cursing her must give Stoner something to focus on while digging the sand and tar out from underneath Arianna's toe nails (or is that hooves?). Reality, Stoner, Hillary's 'glimmer of hope' was a bill she supported as a Senator. And she was
slimed by Jeremy Scahill and others while your poster boy Barry got yet another pass. Did you forget that? Or just ignore it? Samantha Power pulled a charm offensive (yes, that is scary) and purred in Jeremy's ears and he felt so 'included' and couldn't shut up about his 'secret source,' his 'high level source.' It didn't matter that Our Modern Day Carrie Nation Sammy Power was telling him that Barack wouldn't support the bill, what mattered to Jeremy was attacking Hillary. So he hissed at her bill and he invented motives (some fed to him by Sammy) for Hillary. Anything to make Barry look better.

That was a Senate proposal. Barack didn't get on board. It died. Barack is the president. Hillary is the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State does not make policy -- she or he implements it. Is that too complex for you, Stoner? Translation, Barack didn't support Hillary's bill during the Democratic Party primaries and he doesn't support it now that he's president. If you're unhappy with that fact, the blame goes to Barry. Not to Hillary. The blame goes to Barry and all the Cult Members who lied and covered for him and continue to do so -- like you, Eric Stoner.

Feb. 13th, Blackwater made the news for changing its name to Xe -- in an attempt to run from their blood crimes. For those late to the party, Steve Grant (Comic Book Resources) provides this recap: "Remember Blackwater, the third-party army serving as mercena -- whoops, I mean 'civilian contractors' -- in Iraq for the occupation, as well as building private prisons and other interesting activities here in the States (no word on the future of those now that their government contracts are theoretically all dried up)? Blackwater is no more! It has 'rebranded itself' Xe, pronounced Z, apparently to shake off their war-built image as civilian-murdering thugs. As long as they're updating their image, they might want to rethink the busines cards printed with human blood, too..." The Fayetteville Observer makes a prediction, "The company does, after all, have an image problem -- thanks, among other things, to accusations that its employees were rampaging Dirty Harrys in Iraq, gunning down innocent civilians. We doubt that the public will quickly adopt Xe, any more than it has embraced Altria as the new name for Philip Morris." Al Arabiya quotes Blackwater spokesperson Anne Tyrell whining, "We were defined as a security company, we never were a security company. We offer a lot of other services. But Blackwater became synonymous with our security work." Nathan Hodge (Wired) reports the mercenary corporation has just completed another "round of layoffs". Name changes and layoffs don't wipe away the September 16, 2007 slaughter in Baghdad. Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) reported US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina refused the motion to dismiss the charges against five Blackwater employees and notes, "The charges were brought under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, which allows U.S. prosecutors to charge American service members, their family members and those employed by the military for illegal acts committed overseas." The Virginian-Pilot notes that the judge also dismissed the motion by the defense to move the trial to Utah.

From the criminal Blackwater to he-should-be-set-free Muntadhar. Muntadhar al-Zeidi garnered international attention for the events of
December 14th. Then Bully Boy of the United States George W. Bush had traveled to Iraq for photo-ops with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki as the two singed the Strategic Framework Agreement and the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Bully Boy was just declaring, "The war is not yet over -- but with the conclusion of these agreements and the courage of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi troops and American troops and civilian personnel, it is decisively on its way to being won" -- just declaring that when . . . it was as though someone cranked up Carly Simon's "De Bat (Fly In Me Face)" as one-shoe, two-shoe was hurled by the journalist who explained, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss you dog" and (with the second shoe) "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Neither shoe hit Bully Boy and, apart from Nouri soiling his pants, neither man suffered physically. Bully Boy, in fact, was laughing, "Okay, everybody calm down for a minute. First of all thank you for apologizing on behalf of the Iraqi people. It doesn't bother me. And if you want some -- if you want the facts, it's a size 10 shoe that he threw." Bully Boy and everyone else had a good laugh -- everyone except Muntadhar who was being attacked by Nouri's thugs -- thugs who grabbed the moment to show the world what thugs they were and how the US installed strong man of Baghdad resorts to violence as they beat the journalist down. He was whisked away and only allowed one visit with his family and his attorney before this month -- and that visit only came about after the press covered the fact that he was being denied visits.

Today Muntadhar was in court.
AP's Sinan Salaheddin quotes him declaring, "What made me do it was the humiliation Iraq has been subjected to due to the U.S. occupation and the murder of innocent people. I wanted to restore the pride of the Iraqis in any way possible, apart from using weapons." Tina Susman and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) explain the hearing lasted 90 minutes, that there were three witnesses and that the trial is adjourned "until March 12". Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link has text and video) reported on the trial noting that Muntadhar declared, "I don't know what acomplishments he [Bush] was talking about. The accomplishments I could see were the more than 1 million martyrs and a sea of blood. There are more than 5 million Iraqi orphans because of the occupation. . . . More than a million widows and more than 3 million displaced because of the occupation."

Jomana Karadsheh: He was very calm and he spoke mainly about what motivated him to throw his shoes at former president Bush. What he said was,he was sitting throughout the press conference -- if you remember the incident happened at a press conference -- right after former president Bush finished speaking. And he said former president Bush was speaking about his accomplishments and victories in Iraq an al Zaidi said the 'accomplishments' for him, in his view, were the one-million widows in Iraq, the orphans, the martyrs and what he called violations committed against the Iraqi people. He referred to president Bush as the commander of the occupying forces here and this is what really, he says, like pushed him. He said "I could see the blood that was spilled in Iraq while he was speaking. He was justifying. He showed no remorse or regret for what was done. On the other hand he was trying to also explain that president Bush to him was not a guest of Iraq. He was saying "they are here, the US forces are in Iraq. They are an occupying force. So he does not see him as a visitor who should be -- who should be diginifed by Iraqis. As he was -- After the session ended -- for technical reasons basically -- the judge decided that they want to get more information from the prime minister's office on whether president Bush was here on an official or non-official visit.

Many of the reports are noting claims of torture taking place while Muntadher was in custody.
Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) gets specific explaining that silly statements (silly on the face) were introduced by the prosecution and Muntadher explained they were "untrue and had been extracted under torture including electric shocks." Register that and grasp that Iraq has a long history of torturing prisoners -- both before and after the start of the war. So when Samira Ahmed Jassim al-Azzawi is arrested by police on January 21st and February 3rd -- 13 days later -- the police suddenly wants to tell the world they arrested her and also offer a 'confession' she's made -- grasp that there's a good chance she made no 'confession' freely. (Late to the party? Feb. 3rd snapshot, Feb. 4th morning entry, Feb. 4th snapshot.) Originally, al-Azzawi allegedly recruited and trained the women. As the lurid details piled on, she was organizing the rapes of the female bombers. It was lurid, it was sleazy, it was unverifiable and it required more suspension of disbelief than any film that provides Clint Eastwood with a love interest under 60. Now why was that? And why was it necessary to paint the female bombers -- who had previously been portrayed as widows by Iraqi MPs -- as rape victims (which is 'shameful' for women in Iraq -- not for the rapists, just for the women)?

Thom Shanker (New York Times) explains the way it works. A young woman came forward -- this is the woman Leila Fadel covered non-stop (in what should have been the left's final clue as to how entwined with US military propaganda McClatchy was becoming) -- who had a story and the US military commanders "convened sessions with Iraqi politicians, activists and journalists" and, much to their surprise, they didn't have to pay for coverage or write it themselves (as they had in the past) because it was "the content" itself that was of interest. Col Darryl Williams explains, "We supplied suggestions, informations. But we had no control over editorial content." No, you were the source and a lot more than that because you had the counter-insurgency 'gurus' advising you -- a fact Shanker either was unaware of or preferred to avoid. Shanker does note that Williams "ran the division's unit that analyzed the effects of combt and noncombat operations" and maybe Shanker believes that passes for using the term "counter-insurgency"? Shanker tells you, "The Iraqi news media leapt on the story" -- well they did and so did Leila. Most outlets filed one story. Leila was writing stories, doing blog posts. She was a one woman Voice of America. Shanker informs that the US military wanted to use the fifteen-year-old girl "to spread the word that Rania and others appeared not to have been willing bombers and that the killing of innocent Iraqis could not be defended as an approved religious act. But they wanted to do so without American fingerprints that might undermine the message." Without American military fingerprints.

Which brings us back to al-Azzawi who was a societal nightmare with all of the allegations hurled at her. When a story seems too good to be true, it probably is. The Iraqis kept piling on lurid details -- a lot like they did when they pimped The Myth of the Great Return in late 2007. That started out with a very small group of Iraqis returning and, much to their surprise, it got press, positive press. From Saturday to Sunday evening, the same group had grown from 2,000 to 20,000 and was still growing the next day. That's your first tip that a story is false. When the 'facts' change that quickly in a matter of days, that's your first clue. Fortunately Damien Cave and Cara Buckley (New York Times) had the guts to report the truth and bury The Myth of the Great Return. And let's note that again: Damien Cave and Cara Buckley. They did so as November ended. For weeks, the myth was pimped and it was pimped by Big Media and Panhandle Media. We saw no bravery in our so-called 'independent' and 'alternative' media. Remember, The Nation didn't fight that myth, Amy Goodman didn't question it -- two reporters for the New York Times did.

Back to Muntadher and Liz Sly who describes the court scene: "Baghdad's Central Criminal Court, located inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, erupted in chants and cheers from Zaidi's relatives when he entered the room. His aunts and sisters ululated, and one of them thrust into Zaidi's hands an Iraqi flag, which he kissed and then draped around his shoulders."
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) explains three judges presided over the case and al-Zaidi's lawyers are attempting to argue (one of many points) that Bush was not on an official visit to Iraq. NPR's Corey Flintoff (All Things Considered -- link has text and will have audio) adds of the attorneys, "Police added extra chairs behind the defense table to accomodate some 20 volunteer lawyers who wanted to be part of the defense team, which is led by the president of the Iraqi Bar Association." Ernesto Londono and Zaid Sabah (Washington Post) describe Muntadhar's court room appearance: "leather shoes, a pressed beige suit and a scarf emblazoned with the Iraq flag". And those who need to pretend there is a justice system in place in Iraq should skip the next part: Muntadar testified "from a wooden cage before a packed courtroom." From a wooden cage.

No justice, no democracy.
Xinhua reports that the 'official' 'results' to the 14 provincial elections on January 31st were released today (Iraq has 18 provinces) by the Independent High Electoral Commission of Iraq (the group that responds to threats of violence by awarding votes to those who make the threats). Dalwat al-Qanun (State of Law -- proving Nouri al-Maliki does have a sense of humor -- who knew?) didn't do wonderful. In Baghdad, they won half the seats (28 of 57). Baghdad's the seat of al-Maliki's power. In Basra, Dalwat won 20 of the 36 seats. Missy Ryan, Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report,"In the western desert province of Anbar, Sunni tribal chiefs who helped U.S. forces drive out Islamist militants like al Qaeda, and who had threatened to take up arms again if they did not win political power, got the most seats. It was a surprise after the tribal chiefs placed second in preliminary results. The tribal chiefs, with 8 out of 29 council seats, plan to form an alliance with a secular Sunni group." Yes, that was surprising. And completely unbelievable. Nouri al-Maliki was not a candidate in the race (though he did use his office in an unethical manner and did offer bribes for votes) but his party didn't do very well. They will have to form consensus governments with other parties in order to rule. That's not a majority. That's nothing. So Iraq remains lukewarm on al-Maliki. And you can remember that when you read Lyndon LaRouche proteges offering their garbage on the elections and the 'meaning' for Iraq -- 4 provinces haven't voted (and Dalwat is not expected to do well in any of the four) and, even in Baghdad, Dalwat limped along.

Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports signs of a war between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq -- information, no doubt, supplied to her by the "Awakeing" leaders she chums around with. UPI reports today on Nerchirvan Barzani's statements from days ago that the US should address the regional disputes (primarily oil-rich Kirkuk) before withdrawing (the US isn't going anywhere). (See Feb. 17th snapshot, when Prime Minister Barazani made the remarks, for more.) The issue of Kirkuk -- per Iraq's Constitution -- was supposed to have been addressed no later than December 31, 2007. Juan Cole of course cheerleaded the illegal war at various points -- and got snippy with CounterSpin when that cheerleading was pointed out. Always one to jump on a bandwagon (he has no clue what's going on in Iraq -- he's been focused on Palestine and he's not all that bright to begin with), Juan rushes to back up Leila with . . . well nothing. Juan, the news broke Tuesday. Trying to run with it today only yet again reveals how out of it you are. So do statements like, "If the Kurdish-Arab hostility rises further, the US could be drawn right back into Iraq." Uh, Juan, when did the US leave? Huh? We know when you lost interest, but when did US troops -- approximately 145,000 of them -- leave Iraq? (No link to garbage.) And PLEASE GET THIS, the Kurds ask for what is written in the Constitution and notice all the Nervous Nellies reaching for the vapors. Neither Leila nor Juan were at all alarmed when Anbar's Thug Sheik was threatening violence. But the Kurdish Regional Government pointing out that the Constitution needs to be followed is suddenly cause for an alarm. You'd think the KRG's Prime Minister had threatened violence the way Leila and Juan clutch the pearls. They really ought to be ashamed of themselves but neither is capable of shame (which is why they're such wonderful propagandists). Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) hat tips Juan and Leila -- Thomas, you're usually so much smarter. From his blog post:

Salon just carried an insightful
review of my book that triggered a mudslide of nasty letters from the magazine's readers.
"If you enjoyed 'Fiasco,' thrilled to have your prejudices about the clueless Bush administration confirmed, it's your responsibility to read 'The Gamble' to have some prejudices challenged," wrote the reviewer, Joan Walsh, Salon's editor-in-chief. I think she really captured the ambivalence at the heart of the book, the sense that staying in Iraq is far from appealing, but may be the least worst choice available. Her review concludes that, "I still want troops out of Iraq as soon as possible. But reading this well-reported book may have changed even my notion of what that means."

The Gamble is a book worth reading -- the best on Iraq. A reader can learn a tremendous amount from the book and still disagree with some or all of Ricks' personal opinions. It's an important book. I may write about it tonight or in tomorrow's snapshot.

Waleed Ibrahim, Aseel Kami, Missy Ryan, Michael Christie and Victoria Main (Reuters) report that despite the lack of Speaker, they plan to tackle the 2009 budget next week. Yep, the 2009 budget. Yes, most countries have that place before the fiscal year starts let alone the calendar year. But, hey, Nouri's itty-bitty feelings get hurt when anyone points out the reality of how little 'progress' is being made so maybe we're all supposed to look the other way? The reporters inform, "Work on the budget, an important task as Iraq confronts sharply lower oil revenues at a time when it desperately needs funds to rebuild after six years of war, has been held up by parliament's inability to agree on a new speaker."


Reuters notes a Balad Ruz roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 4 Iraqi soldiers, a Garma roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded one person, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left eight people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured and a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer with seven people left injured. Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul suicide bomber who took his/her own life as well as the life of 1 police officer with seven more people wounded and a Falluja sticky bombing that claimed 2 lives (a "policeman's father and wife") and left 1 person (police officer) injured.


Reuters notes 1 shop owner shot dead in Mosul, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Mosul and 1 man shot dead in Mosul (and his car stolen).

Turning to the United States,
Sean Hannley (People's Weekly World Newspaper) reports on a February 15th teach-in at Howard University organized and sponsored by Latim American Solidarity Coalition, the North American Congress on Latin America, SOA Watch, CISPES, the Alliance for Globa Justice and others where Father Roy Bourgeois and others spoke. We'll note this section:

Professor Lesley Gill, the chair of the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University, questioned whether or not we are likely to see much promised "change" from president Obama in Latin American policy. She pointed out that he has already begun hostile rhetoric towards Venezuela and promised to continue the Cuba embargo. She pointed out that the United States has been a destabilizing force in Latin America for decades; however, the Left is on the rise all over Latin America. Latin America has become more economically independent from the US, with the Bank of the South, UNASUR and access to new markets in Europe and China. Argentina has begun to prosecute offenders from the "dirty war" and democratic governments throughout the region have started to deal with issues of inequity. She told the audience that Bush's response to this was aggressive. He responded with more intervention in the region: supporting coups in Haiti and Venezuela, viewing people in Latin America as a security threat, and continuing "Plan Colombia", a program which has the stated purpose to combat drugs, but ends up funneling money to paramilitaries. These paramilitaries make alliances with drug lords, murder civilians and burn through the country side. She told the group how private security forces (such as Blackwater, one of the groups under investigation for crimes in Iraq) have been used in Colombia. These groups have no accountability for murder and human rights violations and have become the "[US] empire's paramilitaries" in the region. She told the crowd how Obama needs to be "pushed from below" in order to address problems such as our "divide and conquer" strategy in the region and to accept the center-left governments which have come to power in the region. She told the audience that US policies, namely agricultural "dumping" (where subsidized US crops destroy a country's agricultural base) create huge unemployment, which forces people to become migrant workers or drug traffickers. She made note that Obama is one of the historical revisionists who claim that US torture began after 9/11 when, in fact, the US has always employed torture. She said his anti-torture policies, while a step in the right direction, do not address the other countries we have trained in torture including Colombia and Israel.
The 'post-racial' 'peace' movement sold its soul and also the lives of people in Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq and Latin America. That's the reality. Leslie Cagan, you're United For Death and Destruction and don't think you can waltz your way out of this one.

iraqdel quentin wilberthe washington post
the los angeles timestina susmanraheem salmanmuntadhar al-zeidisinan salaheddinjomana karadsheh
liz sly
gina chonthe wall street journal
nprall things consideredcorey flintoff
ernesto londonozaid sabahwaleed ibrahimaseel kamimissy ryanmichael christiethe new york timesthom shanker

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I wasn't planning on blogging tonight. But Stan called to say he downloaded indie.arie's new album ($5.99 for the full album right now at Amazon, Stan says) and wanted to ask me or Ty a question? Ty's out for the night. So I ask what's up?

He wants to know if he's bad to be upset that someone has monopolized his time?


He's hemming and hawwing and I finally ask, "Stan, what's the real problem?"

So it appears that there's an elderly man (66) who is interested in him and has been monopolizing Stan's time for weeks and months. Stan's pretty ticked off because he thought the guy was this lonely grandfatherly type and not this elderly swinger.

I told him I think most people would be hurt.

I would be. I'd be hurt that I'd gone out of my way to be nice to an older person that I thought was lonely only to discover that he was using my niceness (he hoped) to get me interested in him.

And I could still be friends with him if we could laugh about it and put it behind us.

But that's if I had wanted to talk to him.

Stan never wanted to. The guy works at the library and Stan goes in to do his research for class. He's always complaining about this guy and how he'll have to stop everything because the guy will want to talk and that can last 90 minutes or only 30. But there's no time for it.

And I would listen to Stan vent and then he would calm down and say, "Well, he's old and I might be old and lonely some day." So he'd vent and get out his frustrations and then try to be a nice guy.

But to have put in that kind of time being nice only to find out that someone was hoping you'd be more than 'nice,' it's just got Stan angry.

I don't blame him.

That man monopolized Stan's time. His limited time.

So I do understand and if it were me in that situtation -- where I'd given hours and hours of time I didn't have -- I'd be ticked off as well.

He plans to write about it tonight. Be sure to read his "Avoid the book Welcome To The Revolution" from last night, by the way. "River Rise" is my favorite indie.arie song from the new album so far. I really hope you'll check the album out, it's just really amazing.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, February 18, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis continues, Iraq confirms they have received Guantanamo prisoners, the UN examines the unemployment rate, the State Dept denies speaking with Jordan or Turkey about air space or land in the case of a draw down in the near future, and more.

Heaven save the world from the idiot Patrick Cockburn. You'd think with that family, the members would have long ago reached the beyond-disgrace stage but Paddy keeps upping the ante. Most recently in his latest I'm-Crazy-Ass-Cockburn-Column (no link to trash or insanity) where he praises an increase in prices for real estate in a section of Baghdad. A traditionally
ritzy section of Baghdad -- not far from the country clubs. But Paddy can't tell you that and it's a real come-down from his deranged high when, near the end, he has to start mentioning hos it might not be good news. But, what the heck, the Iraq War is over.

It's not? Don't tell Crazy Ass Cockburn who informs readers the illegal war is over ("Boom time Baghdad"): "Mr Hadithi says that this is explained primarily by the end of the war." The Iraq War is not over. There hasn't even been the limited drawdown yet. But Patrick Cockburn is an idiot and a crazed one at this point. That entire family has become a menace to society. You've got Laura-The-Self-Loathing-Lesbian intoning, "Embrace the homophobia," Nutty Alex rubbing his crotch while moaning "Mena! Mena!" and offering crazed theories on Vince Foster. . . We could go on and on because pretty much the whole family is nuts and if Andrew's managed to keep it together thus far (which he has) it's got to be just a matter of time before he goes bug-eyed nuts like the rest of them.

As Patrick declares the illegal war over and minimizes the economic plight of Iraqis, he also invents a mass return of refugees. We've already had The Myth of the Great Return and it being disproven but Paddy's damn sure that his name means something (it doesn't) that he thinks he can say it's so and no one will argue. Reality argues with crazy men, reality always argues with them.
Refugees International has started a new campaign to ask that Barack Obama, US president, not forget about the Iraqi refugees. They note:

Five years into the US military intervention in Iraq, the country is dealing with one of the largest humanitarian and displacement crises in the world. Millions of Iraqis have fled their homes -- either for safer locations within Iraq, or to other countries in the region -- and are living in increasingly desperate circumstances. Failure to address the needs of Iraqis will have dramatic impacts on security inside Iraq.
Refugees International has observed extreme vulnerabilities among the approximately 1.5 million Iraqi refugees living in Syria, Jordan and other neighbors of Iraq, as well as the 2.7 million internally displaced persons within Iraq. Most are unable to access their food rations and are often unemployed; they live in squalid conditions, have run out of resources and find it extremely difficult to access essential services.
The Governmnet of Iraq has access to large sums of money, but it lacks both the capacity and the political will to use its resources to address humanitarian needs. Due to this failure, militias of all denominations are filling the vacuum and playing a major role in providing social services in the neighborhoods and towns they control in Iraq. Not only do these Shiite and Sunni militias now have a qausi-monopoly in the large-scale delivery of food, oil, electricity and money, but an increasing number of civilians are joining their ranks -- including displaced Iraqis.
Some Iraqis who have tried to return home have found their homes occupied or destroyed, the likelihood of violence still high, a collapse of social services, and neighborhoods divided into homogenous, sectarian areas. While Refugees International hopes that Iraqis will be able to return to their homes in the future, the necessary conditions for returns to take place in safety and dignity do not exist. Returns must not be encouraged until the violence subsides and people can receive adequate assistance and protection.
Actions Needed
The U.S. must craft a new policy to:
1. Assist Iraqi refugees.
2. Ensure a safe, voluntary return home when possible.
3. Pressure Iraq to meet its responsibilities to its own people.
4. Increase resettlement for those who can't go home. Read more about our
comprhensive plan here.

Justin Martin (News & Observer) reported from Amman, Jordan and noted, "My country's claim of liberating Iraq means nothing without the liberation of those the campaign violently expelled from their country. The basic math is that around 2.2 million Iraqi refugees have been forced from their country since 2003, according to the United Nations, and the United States has admitted just over 16,000 according to a Baltimore Sun report in December. This is about seven admited refugees per 1,000. The majority of the remaining 2 million-plus refugees are scraping by in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, where the savings of many have been exhausted and unreplinished, since many can't find legal employment in these countries." And as IRIN noted at the end of last month, in Syria some refugees are forced to sell food rations in order to make rent. George Baghdadi (CBS News) notes US Senator Ben Cardin is leading a US delegation in Damascus and that they intend "to visit the United Nations High Commission for Refugees facility in Damascus to assess the situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria." The most well known Iraqi refugee to go to Syria is Riverbend (Baghdad Burning) who moved their with her family in 2007.

In January,
William Dalrymple (New York Review of Books) noted "the wreckage of Iraq" included the "over two million external refugees and the ethnic cleansing of its Christian population". And proving just how the al-Maliki government refuses to help the people of Iraq, Press TV reports that Iraq's Deputy Minister of Refugees and Displaced Persons, Asghar al-Moussawi is scapegoating those attempting to assist Iraqi Christians by insisting, "To encourage a group of any particular faith to leave the country is against international law, and causes more harm than benefit to those people." Really? Want to talk about Baghdad's decimated Jewish community? Didn't think so. Just because al-Moussawi has the gift of speech doesn't mean he needs to utilize it but when he does it only reminds everyone of how ineffective al-Maliki was during the attacks on Christians in Mosul last fall and how the puppet government has repeatedly ignored the Red Cross and Red Crescent, the United Nations and other humanitarian organizations in insisting it was 'safe' for refugees to return to Iraq. Paul Isaac (International Herald Tribune) writes a plea on behalf of Assyrians in Iraq:

Since 2003, over 40 churches have been bombed by Islamic militants. Numerous priests have been murdered, including the Chaldean archbishop of Mosul, killed last year shortly after he reminded extremists that the Christians of Iraq predate Islam.
Knowing that Assyrians lack militias or regional backers, terrorist groups understand that for every bomb and slain priest many Christians will flee their homes. And to this end, the militants have been dreadfully successful: While representing only 3 percent of the population, Assyrian Christians comprise over 20 percent of its refugees. Perhaps half of the pre-war Christian community has fled, in what one Iraqi bishop has dubbed a "campaign of liquidation."
While some have touted the success of the "surge" in reducing violence, the targeting of Assyrians has not diminished.

He calls on the US to do more* and notes that whether Barack started the Iraq War or not doesn't matter, it's Barack's war now. (*"More" is being generous. And the
Feb. 11th snapshot noted the Assyrian community's open letter to Barack and vice president Joe Biden.)
Cockburn's lunacy on the 'gold rush' was offensive in terms of the refugees and it's offensive in terms of realities for Iraqis -- a topic he chooses to bury. Sunday,
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported on the United Nations' latest findings regarding economic realities for Iraqs which include "28% of males age 15 to 20 are unemployed; 17% of women have jobs; and most of the 450,000 Iraqis entering the job market this year won't find work 'without a concerted effort to boost the private sector'." IRIN notes the report's findings that the rate of unemployment "could undermine long-term security and social stability". And Iraqis struggle while AFP reports Nouri al-Maliki is purchasing $5.5 billion dollars worth of weapons from the US. And while he destroys the already meager budget for the Ministry of Women's Affairs (from $7,500 a month to $1,500). Yesterday wowOwow offered a news brief on the situation for women in Iraq and quoted Parliament's head of women's affairs Sameera al-Moussawi stating, "Women don't need a ministry to represent us. We need effective women in every ministry of the country."

Regardless of where you stand on the issue (and it doesn't have to be one or the other -- women could and should be represented in the ministries and they could also have the Women's Ministry of Affairs) don't look for any of that mythical 'progress' in Iraq any time soon. Not even when culture results in bitter power struggles. Monday,
Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) covered the power struggle between the Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities and the Culture Ministry as to whether or not the museum will open next Monday. The Culture Ministry's Jabir al-Jabiri is stating that the museum is not opening and his ministry is over the Ministry for Tourism and Antiquties while MfTaA's Baha al-Mayahi states yes, they are opening next Monday. Aseel Kami (Reuters) explains today that nothing's changed. MfTaA's maintains that the museum will open Monday and Jaber al-Jaberi continues to insist that it won't and that "is the official and final position." Kami observes, "The feud illustrates some of the challenges facing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government as it seeks to capitalise on a drop in violence and unify a country shattered by war." And if they can't get their museum opening straight, lots of luck with prisoners. Marc Santora (New York Times) reports that Wijdan Mikhail Salim (Human Rights Minister) confirms Iraq has received the four, Santora uses Human Rights Watch to provide the names: Hassan Abudl Said, Arkan Mohammad Ghafil al-Karim, Abbas Habid Rumi al-Naely and Ali Abdul Motalib Awayd Hassan al-Tayeea. The paper speaks with the sister of the first man (Hassan Abudl Said) and she (Nada Abdul Hadi Said) tells them she hasn't seen her brother since "1999 when he was drafted into the Iraqi Army" but began hearing from him after the Red Cross told the family in 2004 that "he was a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay." What happens next to the four men is as big a question as when will the US ever leave Iraq?

Ross Colvin (Reuters) reported last night that an unnamed administration source has declared the decision of what Barack plans to do about "cutting troop levels in Iraq" will come "in weeks, not 'days or months'." Rebecca noted that last night. As pointed out most recently in the Feb. 6th snapshot, what to do was supposedly already settled, that campaign 'promise' which included him initiating upon being sworn in. But his Cult never holds him accountable. At the US State Dept today, spokesperson Gordon Duguid was asked if the airspace or land of Turkey and Jordan could be used for US equipment "when the time comes" and Duguid responded, "I am not aware of any discussions on that. I know that the President has asked for a review from the Pentagon on just how you could draw down U.S. forces in Iraq. I am not aware that the review has been finalized, so I would have to refer you to the Pentagon for where that stands at the moment." From J.K.'s "Obama--War Criminal" (The Guillotine):As we noted earlier, if Obama chose to continue the war(s), then he would be the war criminal. Well, it's one month into his regime, and the Los Angeles Times reminds us that Obama has said (among a number of things) that he wanted combat troops out of Iraq by the end of 2010--so almost two years from now!--but that: "There are about 146,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Obama has not detailed plans for reducing the force in Iraq". Did anybody who voted for Obama, thinking he was the "anti-war" candidate, really think he wouldn't even have announced any details of a plan to reduce troops in Iraq by the end of his first month in office? Of course, all along Obama, the lawyer, allowed himself a loophole. He would only reduce troops in Iraq if his generals told him it was OK to do so. In other words, he would do what the military told him to. Funny, because in addition to that being the same excuse Bush always used for escalating (and also losing) the wars, the command structure in the US military actually doesn't work that way. The president is the commander-in-chief of the military and it is he who orders the generals around, not the other way. And, has anybody ever asked--what the hell does "OK" mean anyway?Because it wasn't "OK" for US troops to have been in Iraq one damned second. And it still isn't "OK", and it won't ever be "OK"--till they get the hell out of Iraq.

While Barack delays a decision on what to do about Iraq -- after 'promising' 'withdrawal' on the campaign trail, the violence continues.

Ahmed Rasheed and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report the Iraqi Islamic Party's Samir Safwat was shot dead "in his car in Baghdad's Zaafariniya neighborhood" and that his wife was a provincial candidate. Oh those peaceful elections! Results are supposedly due tomorrow.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul raodside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, roadside bombing outside of Kirkuk claimed 1 life and left two people injured.

Also last night in Karbala, the
Telegraph of London reports, 7 people died and twenty-seven were wounded when a bus and a British "armoured vehicle" collided/crashed.

In England a mystery surrounds what was lost?
Patrick Foster (Times of London) reports a Treasury Solictor's Dept attorney left "highly sensitive documents relating to the Iraqi War . . . unguarded on a train" Monday and they are now missing. Foster explains, "It is not yet known exactly what aspect of the Iraq War the documents relate to. Eversheds has carried out public-private partnership work for the Ministry of Defence in the past, including advising on the Combined Aerial Target Service project, which awarded a £300 million contract to provide targeting services for the military."

ETAN is calling for the US "to chart a new course:"

February 17 - In a letter sent today on the eve of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to Indonesia, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and three dozen other organizations urged her not to offer U.S. assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI) or intelligence agencies."The Secretary of State's visit offers the new Obama administration a great opportunity to chart a new course in U.S. relations with Indonesia," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "We urge Secretary Clinton to promote a forward-looking agenda when she visits Indonesia. Any military assistance should be contingent on human rights accountability and real reform," added Miller. "Secretary Clinton should break with the failed Bush administration policy of engagement with the TNI. The U.S. should once again use military assistance as leverage to promote reform and human rights." "The TNI looks at U.S. government actions. Statements promoting rights and reforms will be dismissed by the TNI unless U.S. assistance is suspended until genuine progress has been made," according to the letter.The letter also urges "no resumption of assistance to or cooperation with the notorious Kopassus special forces. They remain the most egregious element of the TNI. There should also be no initiation of assistance to the military and civilian intelligence agencies (BAIS and BIN) which have long records of repressing human rights groups and other critics." BIN is linked to the murder" of Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia's leading human-rights advocate. "An all-carrot, no-stick approach will undermine efforts to strengthen civilian control of the TNI and achieve judicial accountability for victims of human rights violations," the letter concludes.ETAN advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for East Timor and Indonesia. ETAN calls for an international tribunal to prosecute crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from 1975 to 1999 and for continued restrictions on U.S. military assistance to Indonesia until there is genuine reform of its security forces. For additional background, see

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Department of State Washington, DC February 17, 2009 Dear Secretary Clinton: As organizations deeply concerned with human rights and justice in Indonesia and East Timor (Timor-Leste), we urge you to make human rights and reform central to your upcoming visit to Indonesia. Like you, we value a strong U.S. relationship with a democratic Indonesia. We recognize that there are a wide-range of issues of mutual concern between the two countries, among them climate change and the global economic crisis. If you genuinely seek to open a new chapter in U.S. relations with the world's largest Muslim majority nation, we urge you to make clear to Indonesia's leaders that respect for human rights is crucial and that security assistance must be contingent on accountability and real reform. While Indonesia's leaders may balk, its citizens will be grateful. For far too long the United States government has been an accomplice to human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military. In recent years, U.S. leaders often have paid lip service to human rights accountability and reform. Assistance to the Indonesian military (TNI) expanded rapidly -- despite the lack of any significant TNI reform and despite the ongoing failure to hold the TNI accountable for its past and current human rights violations. Any pretense of conditioning engagement on accountability and human rights evaporated. Past U.S. administrations have argued that close cooperation with the Indonesian military would spur reform by exposing TNI personnel to democratic perspectives and build respect for human rights and civilian control. However, decades of U.S. collaboration with the Indonesian military has shown no improvement coming from such association. Many U.S.-trained officers were involved in the worst violence in East Timor (Timor-Leste) and elsewhere. The greatest changes occurred only when the U.S. withheld military assistance, such as foreign military financing and training such as IMET and JCET. For example, during the brief period of serious reform in the years immediately following the resignation of the dictator Suharto, when the separation of the police and military was completed, unelected military officials were removed from Parliament, and East Timor was set on its path to independence. Now that the U.S. is again engaged with the Indonesian military, international and domestic organizations have documented the Indonesian military's continued resistance to civilian control and oversight. The TNI continues to evade budget transparency and maintains its widespread impunity for crimes against humanity. The government has yet to release a long-completed inventory of TNI businesses, a crucial step towards the divestment of all military businesses by 2009 as required by law, despite the Defense Minister's repeated pledges to do so. Reportedly, assets have been stripped from many TNI-owned firms. The US State Department's annual human rights report describes TNI prostitution rings in Papua, while illegal logging and extortion of foreign and domestic firms continues there and elsewhere. UN, State Department and other reports describe Indonesia's human rights courts as incapable of bringing Indonesian military and police perpetrators of serious human rights violations to justice, including those involved in the Tanjung Priok massacre and Abepura (Papua) violence. All those tried by Jakarta's ad hoc Human Rights Court on East Timor were acquitted. No senior officials have been convicted for the widespread crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in East Timor from 1975-1999. Officers credibly accused of serious crimes have continued uninterrupted careers. Several are leading candidates for Indonesia's highest political office this year. Many in Papua view special autonomy as a failure. The military and police are brutally cracking down on Papuans peacefully-expressing their wish for greater control of their land and protesting environmental degradation and deforestation. In the Maluku and Papua, protesters have received lengthy prison terms for their peaceful dissent. Retired senior military officials working in Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency (BIN) are suspected of planning and ordering the 2004 assassination of Munir Said Thalib, Indonesia's leading human-rights advocate. They have yet to be successfully prosecuted. The failure to resolve the high profile murder of such a prominent human rights defender puts others on the front lines in defense of fundamental human rights at even graver risk. Human rights defenders in the provinces of Papua and West Papua remain particularly exposed to threats and violence. The "territorial command system" positions the TNI at the village level and enables their continued involvement in business and politics. This pervasive system poses a threat to upcoming national elections. The TNI-backed fundamentalist Islamic Defenders Front has been intimidating small parties and individuals critical of the military. The previous administration's pursuit of the TNI as a "partner" in the fight against terrorism raises other fundamental issues. American assistance to and cooperation with the TNI ignores the reality that it is the Indonesian police and not the military that are responsible for tracking down alleged terrorists. (Your department's latest "Country Reports on Terrorism" praises civilian efforts and does not mention the TNI.) The previous administration pledged to carefully calibrate any security assistance to Indonesia to promote reform and human rights. There is no evidence they ever did so. We urge you to evaluate the impact of U.S. security assistance on accountability, military reform and human rights. The TNI looks at U.S. government actions. Statements promoting rights and reforms will be dismissed by the TNI unless U.S. assistance is suspended until genuine progress has been made. We urge you to use this leverage and restrict assistance until their substantial progress actually occurs. We especially urge no resumption of assistance to or cooperation with the notorious Kopassus special forces. They remain the most egregious element of the TNI. There should also be no initiation of assistance to the military and civilian intelligence agencies (BAIS and BIN) which have long records of repressing human rights groups and other critics. As noted above, BIN is linked to the murder of human rights advocate Munir. An all-carrot, no-stick approach will undermine efforts to strengthen civilian control of the TNI and achieve judicial accountability for victims of human rights violations. Sincerely,The full list of signers can be found at

And we're closing with
John Pilger's "Hollywood's New Censors" (Information Clearing House):With honourable exceptions, film critics rarely question this and identify the true power behind the screen. Obsessed with celebrity actors and vacuous narratives, they are the cinema's lobby correspondents, its dutiful press corps. Emitting safe snipes and sneers, they promote a deeply political system that dominates most of what we pay to see, knowing not what we are denied. Brian de Palma's 2007 film Redacted shows an Iraq the media does not report. He depicts the homicides and gang-rapes that are never prosecuted and are the essence of any colonial conquest. In the New York Village Voice, the critic Anthony Kaufman, in abusing the "divisive" De Palma for his "perverse tales of voyeurism and violence", did his best to taint the film as a kind of heresy and to bury it. In this way, the "war on terror" -- the conquest and subversion of resource rich regions of the world, whose ramifications and oppressions touch all our lives – is almost excluded from the popular cinema. Michael Moore's outstanding Fahrenheit 911 was a freak; the notoriety of its distribution ban by the Walt Disney Company helped to force its way into cinemas. My own 2007 film The War on Democracy, which inverted the "war on terror" in Latin America, was distributed in Britain, Australia and other countries but not in the United States. "You will need to make structural and political changes," said a major New York distributor. "Maybe get a star like Sean Penn to host it -- he likes liberal causes -- and tame those anti-Bush sequences." During the cold war, Hollywood's state propaganda was unabashed. The classic 1957 dance movie, Silk Stockings, was an anti-Soviet diatribe interrupted by the fabulous footwork of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire. These days, there are two types of censorship. The first is censorship by introspective dross. Betraying its long tradition of producing gems, escapist Hollywood is consumed by the corporate formula: just make 'em long and asinine and hope the hype will pay off. Ricky Gervais is his clever comic self in Ghost Town, while around him stale, formulaic characters sentimentalise the humour to death. These are extraordinary times. Vicious colonial wars and political, economic and environmental corruption cry out for a place on the big screen. Yet, try to name one recent film that has dealt with these, honestly and powerfully, let alone satirically.. Censorship by omission is virulent. We need another Wall Street, another Last Hurrah, another Dr. Strangelove. The partisans who tunnel out of their prison in Gaza, bringing in food, clothes, medicines and weapons with which to defend themselves, are no less heroic than the celluloid-honoured POWs and partisans of the 1940s. They and the rest of us deserve the respect of the greatest popular medium.

the los angeles timestina susman
aseel kamithe new york timessteven lee myers
ross colvin
marc santora
mcclatchy newspapers
john pilgerredactedbrian de palma