Friday, April 03, 2009


So it is Friday and we all made it through the week. I'm with Mike, this has been a long and exhuasting week. I can't think of a week when I've been more tired. I think it's in part the weather. But something that just hit me today was how quickly the year passed.

I was thinking about how it was going to be May and I was suddenly realizing that May last year, we were going to Puerto Rico to get the word out on Hillay's campaign and that really doesn't seem like nearly a year ago. Things have just moved so quickly.

On another topic, actually still this one, my oldest sister called this evening and I was sharing with her what I wrote about over. She agreed itwas hard to believe how quickly the year had passed. She also suggested we just do a fun edition at Third.

And that and my response is why I think we're so tired.

We haven't done a fun edition, an edition where we can be silly. Every week, due to the Barack propaganda, we've had to do hard hitting features. We've had to call it like it is and then some because so few on the left will.

So we can have a 'light' and 'fun' edition when other people start doing their jobs. Until then, I just don't know.

This is from Ranj Alaaldin's "The US is failing Iraq's Kurds" (Guardian):

Tensions between Baghdad and Kurdistan are on the rise. An attack on a Kurdish funeral that killed 30 in the disputed territory of Khanaqin provided a stark reminder to President Obama that all will not be well until the US plays peacemaker between age-old enemies, Arab Baghdad and the Kurdish north.
When Kurdistan's regional president Masoud Barzani visited the UK, his message was simple: democracy, the rule of law and respect for Iraq's constitutional integrity are the order of the day.
Such has been the brutality of Middle East geopolitics for them, that one would expect Iraq's Kurds to be the last to place their trust in law and democracy. Enemies, external and internal, have historically sought their obliteration; they have been victims of genocide and mass expulsion, and have been sacrificed to convenience by western and regional powers, with disastrous consequences.
With the US withdrawal now imminent, a chain of events suggests the Kurds will end up losers once again. They face a post-election resurgent Prime Minister Maliki who seeks greater power for Baghdad and less for Kurdistan, while tensions are increasing over Kirkuk and the distribution of oil. The US still refuses to meddle in Iraq's internal affairs beyond security and stabilisation – despite Maliki's continued use of Iraqi forces to undermine Kurdish authority with, perhaps, the long-term goal of coercing the Kurds into submission over outstanding issues.

Like a number of people, I think the above is the tension simmering that's going to flare up and no one's going to expect. No one's really paying attention.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, an earlier death announced this week is surrounded with mystery, the US military air bombs "Awakenings," Iraqi refugees garner some attention, and more.

Starting with the topic of Iraq refugees, Fahed Khamas has been expelled.
Alsumaria reports Switzerland expelled him yesterday and notes "he used to work as an Iraqi interpreter with the US military in Baghdad" and he stated elements in Iraq had made threats on his life. Meanwhile Assyrian International News Agency reports, "The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has called a protest on 16-17 April in Geneva about the plight of Iraqi refugees. It says: The situation of the Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran and Europe is a tragedy. Many thousands of Iraqi refugees have resorted to begging, prostitution, selling their internal organs to avoid destitution." At the center-right Brookings Institution, Roberta Cohen contributes a lengthy article on Iraqi refugees (here for HTML intro, here for PFD format article in full) entitled "Iraq's Displaced: Where to Turn?" Cohen opens by sketching out how refugees were an Iraq 'industry' when Saddam Hussein was in power but the US war on Iraq "far from resolving the problem, however, made it worse. It catapulted the country into a near civil war between Shi'a, who had largely been excluded by Saddam Hussein's regime, and Sunnis who until then had dominated the government." Combining external refugees (2.7 million) with internal ones (2 million), Cohen notes that "4.7 million people out of a total population of 27 million -- remained displaced." While their numbers have increased, the sympathy for them throughout the world appears to have decreased and Cohen postulates that this is due to the fact that their displacement (due to the Iraq War) is "seen as a problem largely of the United States' making and one that the United States should therefore 'fix'." It's felt, she continues, that the US and the oil-rich government in Iraq should be footing the bill for host countries such as Jordan and Syria. "Even though Iraq's budget surplus from oil revenues is projected to be $79 billion by the end of 2008," Cohen writes, "the Shi'a-dominated government of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has delivered only minimal amounts of funding to neighboring states for the refugees. Some believe it is because many of the refugees are Sunni and Christian or because the refugees humiliated the government by departing. Still others argue that support for the refugees will discourage their returning home. Nor has the government been forthcoming with support for its internally displaced population, again dampening other countries' willingness to contribute." The post-9/11 world is noted by Cohen. Tuesday Senator Bob Casey Jr. chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on "The Return and Resettlement of Displaced Iraqis" and one of the witnesses appearing before the subcommittee was Ellen Laipson of the Henry L. Stimson Center who noted that the 'security' measures post-9/11 were harming Iraqi refugees. Cohen notes the "intense screening" refugees have to go through from the US Department of Homeland Security and that the number of Iraqi refugees the US accepted while Saddam Hussein was Iraq's president was much greater than the number the US has currently accepted. Cohen notes the stereotypes of Iraqi refugees which include that, struggling for cash, they "could easily fall prey to militant groups" and how those stereotypes harm their attempts at garnering asylum. These stereotypes are re-enforced (I'm saying this, Cohen touches on it but doesn't state it -- see page 314) when those attempting to help refugees make the case that, if you don't, there will be "security consequences." Cohen quotes Brookings' Elizabeth Ferris arguing that if aid is not provided "there is a very real danger that political actors will seek to fill the gap." Cohen notes that the bulk of Iraqi refugees are not the perpetrators of violence but refugees because they have been targeted with violence.

Cohen notes countries neighboring Iraq already had taken in Palestinian refugees and there were concerns re: large influxes of refugees as to cohesive societies. Palestinian refugees from Iraq suffer, Cohen argues, because neighboring countries already which might take them in already have a large Palestinian refugee population with Jordan listed as having 70%.

The claims that these refugees are 'temporary' and will soon be returning is explored by Cohen who notes the small number of returnees to Iraq and cites the UNHCR for explaining that those who did return did so "because their resources or visas ran out in Syria and Jordan." Cohen notes the 'guest'-like status of refugees in Syria and Jordan where they do not "have a clear legal status". Neither Syria nor Jordan signed onto 1951's Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees so they do not recognize this agreement popularly known as the "Refugee Convention" which requires rights such as the right to work. The agreement also recognizes the rights of refugee children to education and Syria does have free access but the bulk of Iraqi children are not enrolled. Jordan officially allows all Iraqi children to attend public schools; however, 1/5 of the Iraqi refugee children is the number enrolled. In both countries, they also have more medical needs than are being met. Not noted in the report is that having 'guest' status means a number of refugee children may not be enrolled for the reason that the parents are attempting to stay off the grid -- especially important in Syria where you are required to leave every six months and re-enter the country. Staying off the grid allows them to avoid that. (PDF format warning,
click here for Bassem Mroue's AP article on this six month policy at Refugees International.) Cohen notes how the economies in Syria and Jordan (mirroring the economices worldwide) have begun to slide and there is a growing hostility to the refugees in both countries where they are [unfairly] blamed for the economy. She notes that the UNHCR maintains their request that neither Syria or Jordan forcibly deport any Iraqi refugees.

Cohen documents the US government's refusal to take responsibility for the Iraqi refugee crisis such as the State Dept's Ellen Sauerbrey telling Congress in 2007 that the situation was a "'very top priority' for the United States, but [she] expressed little urgency about expediting refugee resettlement. As former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton explained it, sectarian violence, not American actions, created the refugee problem so it was therefore not the United States' responsibility" and Cohen quotes Bolton's pompous comments, "Our obligation . . . was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don't think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war." Bolton -- and this is me, not Cohen -- should have been required to explain how the "sectarian violence" he credits for creating the refugee crisis came about because the US seeded and grew it. Back to Cohen. She notes fiscal year 2006 saw the US admit a paltry 202 Iraqi refugees, while in 2007 the figure rose to the still tiny 1,608. Cohen doesn't note it but neither of those figures met the target goal the administration had itself set for admittance of Iraqi refugees. Fiscaly year 2008 saw 12,000 Iraqi refuees admitted. While the US does grant refugee status to those admitted and Syria and Jordan do not, note the difference in numbers with Jordan and Syria both having over 750,000 each by the most conservative estimate (that's me, not Cohen). Cohen notes that Syria and Jordan are said to need $2.6 billion in aid for their refugees but that the US in 2008 was offering a meager $95.4 million. [Me, under Barack, it should be noted, that figure is the meager $150 million and that's for the Iraqi refugee crisis period -- not just for Syria and Jordan -- neither of whom will directly receive any funds from the US.]. Cohen contrasts that meager $95.4 million with the $70 billion the Congress granted for the US military effort in Iraq for fiscal year 2008. Cohen notes that al-Malikis government gave $25 billion to neighboring states towards the costs of sheltering Iraqi refugees. (That is a shameful figure.) She tosses out that the Bully Boy Bush administration might have been less than eager to help Iraqi refugees due to the fact that doing so might be seen as admission of the failures of the Iraq War to create "peace and stability in Iraq" and she notes Barack Obama, campaigning for president, promised an increase to $2 billion in aid for the Iraqi refugees. (In the words of
Diana Ross, "I'm still waiting . . . I'm waiting . . . Ooooh, still waiting . . . Oh, I'm a fool . . . to keep waiting . . . for you . . .")

Cohen then turns to the issue of the internally displaced and notes "radical Sunni and Shi'a militias who drove the 2006-07 sectarian violence were tired to political parties, police and army units. The Ministry of the Interior is still widely reported to be infiltrated by Shi'a militias, which assaulted and expelled people from their homes, sometimes in police uniforms. In such a political environment, it is not surprising that the government has failed to exhibit the will, resources or skills to deal with the needs of the displaced. In the Ministry of Displacement and Migration, it is not unusual to find staff that sees the displaced only from the perspective of their own ethnic or religious group." Cohen observes that when displaced, Sunnis and Shi'ites tend to relocate to an area where their sect is dominant while Iraqi Christians flee "to parts of Ninewah province and Kurds to the northern Kurdish areas." A large percentage (40%) state they do not intend to return to their homes. As with external refugees, Iraq's internal refugees "face extreme hardship, many with urgent needs for shelter, food, medicine, clean water, employment and basic security." Cohen observes, "Thus far, the national government has not demonstrated that it has the skills, resources, or political will to take care of its displaced population or provide the security, access to basic services, and livelihoods needed for the return of large numbers to their homes." Cohen notes that while the government provides no assistance "radical sectarian Sunni and Shi'a groups" rush to fill the void. Robert Cohen offers several proposals for helping both the external and internal refugees and you can read
her report for that (and we may or may not note them next week).

Sahar S. Gabriel is an Iraqi media worker for the New York Times who was granted refugee status in the US.
She (at the paper's Baghdad Bureau) reports on her initial impressions of the US:

After spending 21 hours waiting in airports and 13 hours in flying I arrived at the windy city of Detroit, Michigan. It is raining, always a good sign to me. My sister and I put on our gloves and jackets as we get off the plane. While I follow the baggage claim sign, I keep repeating to myself: "Don't panic, but you've made it." I am now on the other side of this war. The less violent side.

Iraqi refugees in the US have found how quickly initial benefits dry up and how few the opportunities often are -- to the point that some refugees are considering returning for economic reasons only. And think how sad that is, refugees to the US think they'd have better economic chances in Iraq. (As noted before, those refugees who want to should be offered jobs at various US bases where they could provide cultural training to those due to ship out to Iraq for the first time -- and to those who've been to Iraq as well.) If the paper were smart, it would set up a fund for Sahar and any other Iraqi media worker who came to the US because, without them, the paper's coverage of Iraq would not have been as strong as it was and a large number of readers grasp that and would contribute to a fund. But let's turn to the violent side.

New news in the continued attacks on Sahwa (e.g. "Awakenings," "Sons of Iraq," etc.). This morning
Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) broke the news that US "aircraft opened fire Thursday night on Sons of Iraq members who were allegedly spotted placing a roadside bomb north of Baghdad". Mohammed Abbas, Khalid al-Ansary and Dominic Evans (Reuters) add, "The incident could further heighten tensions with the Sunni forces, who number some 90,000 and whom the U.S. military had backed to steer Iraq's Sunni Arabs away from an anti-U.S. insurgency. The arrest of Adil al-Mashhadani, a Baghdad Sunni Arab force leader, last week started clashes between his supporters and Shi'ite led government forces." UPI reports, "A U.S. military official said an air weapons team spotted four men placing a roadside bomb near Taji 'near a critical road juncture' in a rural area close to a U.S. military base, and where several attacks were carried out in recent months." Ernesto Londono calls the bombing "the latest sign of the fraying allegiance between the paramilitary groups and the U.S. military." Amazingly, this is how this weekend starts -- amazing after last weekend's violence. Last weekend's violence was kicked off by the arrest of Adel Mashhadani and the slowly revealed of arrest of Raad Ali. Though Mashhadani remains imprisoned, Raad Ali has just been released. Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report Raad Ali was released by a judge (who dismissed the charges) Wendesday and quotes him stating, "They've accused me many times. I went to court and they listened to me and said I am clean. If anyone wants to talk about me, every time they have a charge against me, I have shown that I am clean." He also states he was imprisoned in a "secret" location and that the US military had no idea where he was. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes that Raad Ali "returned home to a rain of celebratory shooting by neighbors and supporters. He told McClatchy that he'd been charged with seven crimes, including kidnapping a man who'd already accused someone else of the crime, planting roadside bombs, displacing Shiite families and killing two police officers, one of whom had been his own follower. He said that all of the charges were bogus." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quotes an unnamed Sahwa leader in Diayla Province explaining "that the Government did not trust the Awakening movement because it was made up of Sunni arabs. 'We fought al-Qaeda, so how could it be that my guys are terrorists?' said the man, who goes by the nickname of Abu Iraq (father of Iraq). 'I do not trust my Government'." Haynes notes al-Maliki's pledge to take on responsibility for Sahwa from the US and that only 5% have been provided with jobs (al-Maliki pledged 20%) and that Thursday saw the transfer of the last thousands of Sahwa to al-Maliki's government. For "Abu Iraq," he has seen half of the 1,000 of the men working under him "laid off without the prospect of further employment and there was no sign that the 530 still with jobs would be accepted into the security forces soon." Haynes notes the Baghdad located Abu Safar "said a quarter of his force was on strike because of the lack of wages" (the Iraqi government has not been making their payments). But one Sahwa isn't worried. Hamza Hednawi (AP) reports the Abu Risha 'clan' is positively glowing and Shakey Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha is thrilled to be in bed with Nouri al-Maliki -- wet spot or not -- and that "he and al-Maliki arleady have discussed joining up in the government that will emerge from parliamentary elections expected late this year." Really? First off, as Dahr Jamail explained back in February, Shakey is in the "construction business" -- Iraqi mafia -- and a real thug. Second of all, imagine that, Shakey Risha being thrilled with al-Maliki. Now why would that be? Let's drop back to the US Defense Dept report [PDF format warning] entitled "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq March 2009" which we were discussing yesterday. The report went out of the way to lavish the provincial elections held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces on January 31st. You had to go deep to find out 'irritating' facts such as only 51% of Iraqis voted (many -- largely Shia -- have lost faith in the process as a result of the ones elected in 2005 having done little; Sunnis boycotted the 2005 elections and had they done the same this year, the percentage would have been even lower). Deep in, it did note that "no party won the majority of votes in any province. As a result, most of the 14 prvoinces where elections were held will face a period of complex coalition-building before they can form governments." It also included the laughable assertion that "parties pledged to accept the outcome of the democratic vote." Did they? Which brings us back to Shakey Risha. Did he make that pledge? Well damned if he didn't abandon it lickety-split. From the Feburary 4th snapshot:

Ned Parker, Caesar Ahmed and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha vowing, "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." If the Iraqi Islamic Party is declared the winner in Anbar, the "Awakenings" say they will begin a slaughter. And instead of being called out, they're getting catered to. [. . .] Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes how "quickly" the officials go into motion for the ones making threats in Anbar, "The Independent High Electoral Commission sent a committee from Baghdad Wednesday to recount ballot boxes from some polling stations in the province after tribal leaders accused the Iraqi Islamic Party, IIP, which currently controls the provincial council, of rigging the vote. The accusations of vote rigging came from an especially important source, Ahmed Abu Risha, the head of the province's Awakening Council, which is widely credited with bringing calm to Anbar." Oh, yes, that voice of peace Sheik Risha. And what did LAT quote him saying? "If the percentage is true, then we will transfer our entity from a political to a military one, to fight the Islamic Party and the commission." [. . .] And Monte Morin and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) quote the menacing Sheik Risha promsing, "There will be very harsh consequences if this false election stands. We won't let them form a government."

From the
February 5th snapshot:

Turning to Anbar Province. As noted
yesterday, Sheik Ahmed Buzaigh abu Risha has been threatening violence over the possibility that the Iraqi Islamic Party might have done better in the polls than his own party. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) observes, "In Anbar province, in western Iraq, tension between rival Sunni parties have been running high after leaders of the Awakening Council groups, or Sahwa militant groups who fought al-Qaida militants in their areas, accused the Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP), headed by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, of committing fraud to win majority of the 29-seat provincial council. IIP vehemently denied the accusation." Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports "al-Maliki sent a deputy, Rafie al-Issawi, a Sunni who is an Anbar native" to speak with Shik Risha and that the meeting was also attended by the Iraqi military. He threatens violence -- he continues to threaten violence -- and he gets his way. All the people who peacefully demonstrated against not being permitted to vote? They're ignored. But it's rush down to make nice with Sheik Risha when, if it was anyone else, the US military would be rushing down to arrest him. And al-Maliki can't stand Risha. The fact that the sheik is being catered to indicates just how little control al-Maliki still has. Dahger speaks with another tribe leader from the area, Sheik Ali al-Hatem, who has (like many in Anbar) frequently been in conflict with Sheik Risha (al-Hatem has also had issues with the Iraqi Islamic Party)who notes that each tribe put up their own candidates so you had slates competing against each other as well as competing against IIP. He states that Risha is "sowing rifts among the tribes" and that the violence could become "intratribal": "Ahmed is playing with fire. We will confront him if he acts this way and divides the tribes." al-Hatem doesn't call on al-Maliki to reign in Risha, he calls on the US military to do so. (If that happens, it may take place during today's meet-up in Anbar.) Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) reports the US Marines are back in "Ramadi in observation roles, patrolling areas from which they had largely withdrawn." Again, Risha stamps his feet and threatens violence and gets his way. All the people turned away from the polls and refused the right to vote? All Faraj al-Haidari has to offer them is this 'pithy' little comment, "It's not our fault that some people couldn't vote because they are lazy, because they didn't bother to ask where they should vote." Again, they should have ditched the peaceful protest and run around threatening violence -- that's the only way al-Haidari would have listened. Sheik Risha works the commission the way he wants to.

Now what had Shakey Risha so upset was the fact that he lost big. He knew it, the pollsters knew it. And instead of telling him "tough cookies," he got catered too. The mafia don threatened violence and Iraqis and Americans rushed to soothe him. Many believe the election was tossed to him in the 'counting' as a result of his tantrum. The fact that he and al-Maliki will be building so many alliances begs the question of what was offered during those February talks that, honestly, should have resulted in Shakey Risha's ass being hauled off to jail?

International Christian Concern notes that on the first two days of this month, "four Iraqi Christians were killed [in] Baghdad and Kirkuk." Sabah Aziz Suliamn was murdered in Kirkuk and the Baghdad killings, taking place on April 2nd, were of Nimrud Khuder Moshi, Glawiz Nissan and Hanaa Issaq. The organization's president, Julian Taimoorzy, states, "The killing of four innocent people within the last two days has put renewed fear in our hearts. What is important to keep these continuous atrocities in the media and on the policy makers' radars. What we need is a more safe and secure Iraq for all of Iraq, especially for the Christians who have faced ethno-religious cleansing." And they quote Jonathan Racho, ICC's Regional Manager for Africa and the Middle East, declaring, "The suffering of Iraqi Christians has been beyond description and is not yet over. More than ever, the Iraqi Christians need our prayer and support. The latest martyrdom of our brothers should serve to awaken churches in the Western countries to come to the aid of their Iraqi brothers and sisters. We call upon Iraqi officials and the allied forces in Iraq to avert further attacks against Iraqi Christians. It is simply unacceptable to watch the extinction of the Christian community from Iraq." Sabah is the Iraqi Christian Betty was noting last night who was beheaded. Betty also noted Daniel Graeber (UPI) reporting on the fears of Iraq's Christian community quoting Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako declaring, "Under Saddam's regime, we had security but no freedom. Today we have freedom, but the problem is security." The Archbishop also pointed out the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have fled Iraq. On Iraqi refugees, an Iraqi correspondent for BBC News shares this popular joke in Iraq, "A Jordanian finds a magic lamp. A genie appears and asks him what is his heart's desire. 'Send all these Iraqi refugees back across the border,' the man says. 'Why?' asks the genie. 'Whatever have we done to you?'"

Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Bgahdad roadside bombing which wounded four people, a Baghdad mortar attack which left four children wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 "official of the oil products directorate" and left his wife and their child injured, and another Baghdad sticky bombing which left Lt Gen Hussein Breisamn injured.

Today the
US military announced: "JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- A 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Soldier died as a result of non-combat related causes Apr. 3. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending next of kin notification and release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings to 4262 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Meanwhile, on the heels of
the news that David H. Sharrett II was not shot to death by 'insurgents' in January of 2008, a new mysterious death makes the news. Yesterday the Defense Dept identified a March 31st death in Iraq: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Lance Cpl. Nelson M. Lantigua, 20, of Miami, Fla., died March 31 as a result of a non-hostile incident in Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10 Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C. The incident is currently under investigation." Sharrie Williams (CBS4) reports Nelson will be buried in the Dominican Republic and quotes his cousin Milagros Santos stating, "He didn't deserve this." Robert Samuels and Luisa Yanez (Miami Herald) spoke with the family who state Nelson died from an apparent shooting and was discovered in his bed this week with "less than a week" left in his tour of Iraq. He'd spoken to an uncle, Francisco Santos, on the phone in the last few days and to his grandmother. The reporters quote Santos stating of Nelson's wife Rossana, "She's so upset she can't even speak." Marine Times notes that Nelson was 20-years-old and "An English-language media outlet in the Dominican Republic, saying Lantigua was born near Santiago, reported Wednesday that 'companions' found him facedown in bed around 2:30 a.m., having suffered a single gunshot wound to the head. His aunt, Arelis Torres, told Dominican Today that she didn't have any additional details about Lantigua's death, saying only that he was married shortly before his unit deployed and that he likely will be buried locally." Jose Pagliery and Robert Samuels (Miami Herald) note Nelson was "born in the Dominican Republic, joined the Marines on Oct. 29, 2007" and while in Iraq for the last six months had "received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the National Defense Service Medal."

Turning to legal news,
Rick Rogers (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports on Sgt Ryan Weemer's murder trial where he's represented by War Hawk Paul Hackett and notes 'pride of the Marines' Hackett is arguing 'no one saw my client shoot the man dead!' but yesterday saw Paul Prichard, Chief Warrant Officer who "ran prisoner operations" during the assault on Falljua, explain on the witness stand that prisoners were taken to an area "in a train station north of the city," not killed. Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times) states, "Although Weemer confessed to killing the Iraqi in two tape-recorded interviews in 2006, the prosecution is hampered by lack of forensic evidence and lack of a name for the alleged victim." Apparently, kill an unnamed Iraq and be presented with a get-out-of-jail free card. 'Pride of the Marines' Hackett is attempting the same cowardly behavior of Jose Luis Nazario who is refusing to testify which, Perry points out, is what Weemer did during Nazario's trial for the same crimes and allowed Nazario to walk. At that time, Hackett wanted a deal for Weemer and bragged/bullied, "Granting Ryan immunity and ordering him to testify would be the only way . . . (to prosecute Nazario) because to my knowledge, there is not physical evidence that supports the prosecution's case." Play-Marines like Paul Hackett fail to grasp what a disgrace they are when they refuse to follow the judicial process. They fail to grasp what chickens and cowards they appear to be and how little respect for the US Constitution they appear to have. Hackett won't defend his client's actions because there is no defense for them. So instead, he'll try to -- as with Nazario -- win by cheating. What a proud, proud moment for Paul Hackett.

Maybe next he can defend rapists in the ranks as well? Oh wait they and the killers of American family members don't get charged very often, do they?
Ann Jones (Znet) covered "Death on the Home Front" this week:

In April 2000, after three soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, murdered their wives and CBS TV's "60 Minutes" broke a story on those deaths, the Pentagon
established a task force on domestic violence. After three years of careful work, the task force reported its findings and recommendations to Congress on March 20, 2003, the day the United States invaded Iraq. Members of the House Armed Services Committee kept rushing from the hearing room, where testimony on the report was underway, to see how the brand new war was coming along. What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn't even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm. Years later the military seems as much in denial as ever. It has, for instance, established "anger management" classes, long known to be useless when it comes to men who assault their wives. Batterers already manage their anger very well -- and very selectively -- to intimidate wives and girlfriends; rarely do they take it out on a senior officer or other figure of authority. It's the punch line to an old joke: the angry man goes home to kick his dog, or more likely, his wife. Anger may fire the shot, but misogyny determines the target. A sense of male superiority, and the habitual disrespect for women that goes with it, make many men feel entitled to control the lesser lives of women -- and dogs. Even Hollywood gets the connection: in Paul Haggis's stark film on the consequences of the Iraq War, In the Valley of Elah, a returned vet drowns the family dog in the bathtub -- a rehearsal for drowning his wife. The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the "Black Raptor," half-man, half-dinosaur. In February 2008, after the ninth homicide at Fort Carson, the Army launched an inquiry there too. The general in charge said investigators were "looking for a trend, something that happened through [the murderers'] life cycle that might have contributed to this." A former captain and Army prosecutor at Fort Carson asked, "Where is this aggression coming from?... Was it something in Iraq?"
The topic of sexual assault in the military will be explored by
Cindy Sheehan on her internet radio program The Soapbox this week with her guests Sara Rich (sexual assault activist, peace activist and mother of Suzanne Swift) and retired Army Col and retired State Dept diplomat Ann Wright. Turning to TV programming notes, NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings and true of all PBS programs noted here) and tonight's stories include:"Coming Home?" & "Paradise Lost, Revisited"Has the Army been denying care to its neediest soldiers?Thousands of U.S. troops are getting discharged out of the army. Many suffer from post traumatic stress disorders and brain injuries, and haven't been getting the care they need. The Army's been claiming these discharged soldiers had pre-existing mental illnesses. But health advocates say these are wrongful discharges, a way for the army to get rid of "problem" soldiers quickly, without giving them the treatment to which they're entitled.NOW covered this issue last summer, and this week we revisit the army's controversial position and follow up with affected soldiers we met.As a result of the media attention from our report and others, the Department of Defense revised its criteria for diagnosing pre-existing conditions and, now, fewer soldiers are receiving the diagnosis, making more of them eligible for care.This is an update to the NOW investigation: Fighting the Army

They also cover how global warming is effecting Kiribati. On
Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), Martha Raddatz (ABC News), Pete Williams (NBC News) and John Harwood (New York Times and CNBC). Topics include the economy, Russia, China and Iran, GM and the case of former US senator Ted Stevens. And lastly on PBS, To The Contrary finds Bonnie Erbe addressing the week's topics with: "U.S. News & World Report's Dr. Bernadine Healy; The Global Summit of Women President Irene Natividad; The National Council of Negro Women's Dr. Avis Jones-Weever; and Conservative Commentator Tara Setmayer." All three PBS programs will offer their programs in podcasts. In addition, streaming will be up tonight for NOW with the others adding the streaming option on Monday. Washington Week and To The Contrary will post transcripts early next week, ideally by Monday afternoon. Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Closing The ClinicThe economic crisis is affecting society's most vulnerable as a county hospital is forced by budget cuts to close an outpatient cancer clinic. Scott Pelley reports.
Torture In IranIn his first U.S. television interview, Ahmad Batebi tells CNN's Anderson Cooper how he was tortured during his eight years in an Iranian prison and how he was finally able to escape.
DollyDolly Parton, the oh-so-country music superstar with the city-slicker sense of show business talks to Morley Safer about her childhood, her career and the Broadway production of her film, "9 to 5." Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, April 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

The one and only
Dolly Parton, Sunday on 60 Minutes. By the way, though the e-mail arrived in plenty of time to make this snapshot, I'm not interested in a sexist essay which refers to a woman with condescending remarks of "Baywatch." I wouldn't have gone if I were Miss Universe (I'd never be Miss Universe -- at my age, nor would I have when I was younger) but disagreeing with her trip doesn't give you the right to insult her leering, sexist insults. And considering the program and its long, long history of sexism, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. Naturally, that garbage is posted at Sexist Robert Parry's Consortium News. And I'm not sure what's more frightening, that PBS funds paid for this vile sexism or that the idiots involved don't even know how to spell? Miss Universe is not "Dyanna Mendoza." Her name is Dayana Mendoza. But hey, who needs basic facts when you're in a rush to flaunt what a sexist pig you are? While I won't note that garbage, I will gladly note Liz Smith (wowOwow) on Marlo Thomas leading the cast of Arthur Laurents new play "New Year's Eve" which plays from April 17th through May 10th at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey. I know Marlo and am sure she'll be wonderful but the cast (which also includes Keith Carradine) features Natasha Gregson Wagner and I'll note the item for that reason (disclosure, I knew her mother -- a wonderful woman who is sorely missed). I'm sure it will be amazing play with an amazing cast and I hope to see it.

Lastly, David Solnit, author with Aimee Allison of
Army Of None (Allison co-hosts KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), notes this event which takes place tonight and is sponsored by Courage to Resist, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War & Unconventional Action in the Bay:
Friend and filmmaker
Rick Rowley comes to town with three films just shot on the ground in Iraq-- in typical high energy in-your-face style. Rick is joined by local IVAW organizer Carl "Davey" Davison and cutting-edge movement analyst Antonia Juhasz to do some collective thinking-discussing about how we can take on Obama to make the world a better place. Hope you can join us! Please Invite your friends: Bay Area Premiere from the makers of "Fourth World War" & "This is What Democracy Looks Like"OBAMA'S IRAQ A Big Noise Film followed by a Public Discussion: How Do We End Occupation & Empire Under Obama? Carl Davison, organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in the Marines and the Army, and refused deployment to Iraq. Antonia Juhasz, analyst, activist, author of Tyrany of Oil; The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It Rick Rowley, Big Noise film maker recently returned for Iraq. Friday April 3, 7pm ATA THEATER 992 Valencia Street (at 21st), SF Everyone welcome, $6 donation requested, not required. Obama's Iraq is an evening of short films never before seen in America. Shot on the other side of the blast shields in Iraq's walled cities, it covers a very different side of the war than is ever seen on American screens. It reports unembedded from war-torn Falluja, from the giant US prison at Umm Qasr, from the Mehdi Army stronghold inside Sadr City -- from the places where mainstream corporate channels can not or will not go. Obama's Iraq asks the questions -- what is occupation under Obama, and how can we end the war in Iraq and the empire behind it? After the film, a public discussion will begin to answer that question. Join us.

the washington post
ernesto londonothe los angeles timesiraqned parkermcclatchy newspapersleila fadel
roberta cohen
sharrie williamsrobert samuelsluisa yanezsandra colethe new york timessahar s. gabriel
sam daghercaeser ahmedsudarsan raghavanmonte morinrick rogerssan diego union-tribune
dahr jamail
ann jones
cindy sheehan
dolly parton
60 minutescbs newsnow on pbspbsto the contrarybonnie erbe
aimee allisonphilip maldaridavid solnitobama's iraq

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Iraq and Sesame Street

I planned to blog yesterday but the kids and I watched Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change (and Ty and Jess watched with us). That was the PBS special with Rosita and Elmo from Sesame Streeet and Queen Latifah and John Mayer and wounded veterans and their families. My kids are aware of the Iraq War. They always have been. Back home, they have a few friends who have a parent in the military. But this was the first real thing that addressed wounded that they have seen.

So they had a lot of questions and a lot of comments after the special was over.

We probably talked for at least an hour and then, when I put my daughter to bed (she's the youngest so she has the earliest bedtime), she wanted to talk some more.

I don't know if you saw the special or not. If you did, I think it was a very strong one for children. I know that for adults some of it may have seemed a little simplistic but this was geared for kids and I think it did a really good job.

I also agree with C.I.'s point in yesterday's snapshot about how this really is needed and it's amazing that six years into the Iraq War this is the first one really geared for children and families. And of course those with disabilities or challenges are all but hidden away on TV. So I really did enjoy the special.

This is from Daniel Graeber's "More U.S. troops for Afghanistan; Christians wary in Iraq" (UPI):

The Christian community in Iraq is fearful of the security environment once U.S. military forces diminish their presence in the country, church officials said.
Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako expressed hope that the Christian minority in Iraq would be able to stand strong amid mounting tragedies facing the community, the Catholic News Agency reports.
"Under Saddam's regime, we had security but no freedom," he said. "Today we have freedom, but the problem is security."
Christians in Iraq faced a spate of targeted attacks last year in the north of Iraq, where much of the community is concentrated. More than 700 Christians were killed in the past five years, including Archbishop
Paulos Faraj Rahho, who was assassinated in Mosul in 2008.
As a result, much of the Christian community in Iraq has fled to Syria and other countries in the region to escape persecution.
"Some 200,000 Christians have left the country," Sako said. "This is a tragedy for us."
Despite the security challenges, Sako expressed confidence his community could reach out to their Muslim counterparts in order to live securely in Iraq.
"We have many problems, but we also have great hope. We are not afraid, but rather we want to be able to live together with the Muslims in Iraq in peace," he said.

Yesterday, an Iraqi Christian was beheaded. Iraqi Christians are refugees and, despite what the idiot professor who testified to Congress this week thinks, they do need assistance.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, April 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq's LGBT community remains under attack, Gareth Porter reports on the assaults on the "Awakenings," a new DoD report spins 'progress' and more.

Gather notes today, "Gays are now apparently going to be executed in Iraq, for the 'crime' of being gay. How nice that the neocons instilled that form of vicious hatred into this fledging experiment of theirs." Kilian Melloy (Boston's The Edge) reports:

The country Iraq, liberated by U.S. forces and purportedly on the road to democracy, is set to execute more than 100 prisoners accused of the crime of homosexuality, says a GLBT group headed by an exiled Iraqi gay man.The charge comes from
Iraqi LGBT, which is run from London by exiled gay Iraqi Ali Hili, according to a March 31 article posted at UK Gay News. Hili claims that the prisoners face execution from the Iraqi government in groups of 20 starting this week. A total of 128 Iraqis accused of being gay face death. The group has posted a petition at its Web site to protest the reportedly imminent executions, and has issued an appeal to the United Kingdom and to the UN's Human Rights Commission to exert political pressure on the Iraqi government to stop the executions from taking place.

Kelvin Lynch (San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Examiner) notes, "The men were all convicted and sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), which the group says ignores international standards against torture, and consistently falls short of giving those arrested a fair trial." Lez Get Real posts a video chronicling the targeting of Iraq's LGTBT community. Over photos, the following text appears:

Amar, abducted and shot in the back of the head (2006)
Ameer, abducted by militias and found shot dead (2006)
Emad, lived as a woman and was crushed to death (2006)
Hosam, found shot dead (2006)
Khalid, taken by police. His family collected his body a week later (2006)
Othman, abducted and strangeled to death (2006)
Haydar, a transgender person, beaten and burned to death by Badr militias (2005)
Karar, killed and set alight by Badr militias (2006)
Men [3] suspected of being gay gunned down (2006)

In another section,
Peter Tatchell explains, "Wathiq, age 29, a gay archietect, was kidnapped in Baghdad. Soon after, the Badr militia sent his parents death threats accusing them of allowing their son to lead a gay life and demanding an eleven-thousand pound ransom. The parents paid the money, thinking it would save Wathiq's life but he was found dead a few days later with his body mutilated and his head cut off." At, Michael Jones observes, "If true, this is shocking, and quite possibly one of the gravest consequences of the Bush administration's War in Iraq. Groups like Amnesty International have called for investigations into executions in Iraq based on sexual orientation discrimination, but sadly little has been done to address LGBT discrimination in Iraq. If LGBT people are being systematically murdered in Iraq, it's something the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress need to address. The U.S. government shouldn't be in the business of propping up administrations around the globe that execute people because of their sexual orientation. We've created an action here where you can write your members of Congress, express concern about the reports coming out of Iraq that people are being executed simply because they are LGBT, and ask them to investigate these atrocious killings."

Investigate the killings? What might happen if all the killings in Iraq were investigated?
January 16, 2008 snapshot included this: "Today the US military announced: 'Three Multi-National -- North Soldiers were killed by small arms fire while conducting operations in Salah ad Din province Jan. 16. Additionally, two other Soldiers were wounded and evacuated to a Coalition hospital'." ICCC notes the three who died:

US Private 1st Class Danny L. Kimme Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade
US Private 1st Class David H. Sharrett II Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade
US Specialist John P. Sigsbee Balad - Salah Ad Din Hostile - hostile fire -- small arms fire, grenade
The links all go to the same
DoD release which reads:
The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Jan. 16 of wounds suffered in Balad, Iraq, when they were attacked by grenade and small arms fire during combat operations. They were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
Killed were:
Pfc. Danny L. Kimme, 27, of Fisher, Ill., who died in Balad, Iraq.
Pfc. David H. Sharrett II, 27, of Oakton, Va., who died in Pallouata, Iraq.
Spc. John P. Sigsbee, 21, of Waterville, N.Y., who died in Balad, Iraq.
For more information media may contact the Fort Campbell public affairs office at (270) 798-9966.
The three weren't killed by enemy fire nor were the two wounded actually injured by enemy fire.
James Gordon Meeks (New York Daily News via US News & World Reports) reports that the David Sharrett was killed by US !st Lt Timothy Hanson "during a botched night raid" in what is being called "friendly fire" and that Robert McCarthy ("the unit's ex-commander") states "he knew within days of Sharrett's death that a soldier had killed him". If the unit's ex-commander knew it why didn't the platoon leader and others also know it? Platoon leader Lt Tim Cunningham told Corey Flintoff, "We assaulted through their [insurgents'] position, we confirmed by kicking or moving their bodies, to make sure that they're dead, and then we secure the site around our casulties." That was for a NPR report which All Things Considered aired January 25, 2008 -- nine days after, recorded eight days after. "Within days" the unit commander McCarthy says he knew what happened. So why, eight days later, did Cunningham tell Flintoff the (now known to be) false story? Yesterday, Corey Flintoff updated his story and noted that the fathers of Kimme and Sharrett say there was no reason for any of the deaths:

Sharrett and Kimme cite a list of mistakes that were documented by the Army investigator. There was no need for the soldiers to approach the enemy position in the dark, Kimme says, "there was no hurry. They owned these guys." In other words, the regiment knew where the six insurgents were hiding and had them under surveillance by helicopter. The insurgents were pinned down. They could have been forced to surrender or killed from a distance. Kimme says the general consensus among soldiers he spoke with "was that [McCarthy] wanted those prisoners, he wanted his trophies," and that the effort to capture them was hasty.
There was also no reason to assume that the insurgents were unarmed.
"Looking at the casualty report," Sharrett says, "we compromised ourselves tactically, and we assumed that the enemy was unarmed, although we knew it was a well known tactic of these guys to cache weapons in the groves and then run to them."
There was no reason to approach a group of six suspected enemy fighters with a team of only eight soldiers.
"They violated the three-to-one rule," Kimme says, referring to Army guidelines that recommend soldiers outnumber their opponents by three-to-one when attacking.

James Gordon Meeks quotes Douglas Kimme stating, "McCarthy should be relieved of duty and Hanson should be court-martialed." In other Iraq shooting news,
September 17, 2007 Blackwater mercenary workers staged a slaughter in Baghdad. That's the most famous one but it is far from the only one. It is the one, however, that has nudged Blackwater/Xe out of Iraq. Elaine covered the news yesterday on the US State Dept's decision to turn security tasks over to Triple Canopy noting Charles Keyes (CNN), Sharon Weinberg (Wired) and Wednesday's State Dept press briefing. Quoting ABC News' Kirit Radia on how Triple Canopy and Dyncorp were in northern and souther Iraq, Elaine pointed out that meant they were under less scrutiny seems Bagdhad, due to the press concentration there, gets more oversight from the press corps. Elaine concluded with , "So let's recap with what we learned: Blackwater, now Xe, is no longer going to be in Baghdad. I say 'in Baghdad' because everytime Blackwater is allegedly out of Iraq, it turns out they've found a loophole. Again, I would also caution that just because a mercenary isn't 'Blackwater' doesn't mean it's a group of Santa's happy elves out to save the world."

Matt Kelley (USA Today) reports that John Frese ("top security official at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq" when the slaughter took place) made the decision not to take "disciplinary actions" because to do so, he felt, "would be deemed as lowering morale". Frese was aware Blackwater mercenaries were "making fales statements". When did the incident take place? February 16, 2005 ("previously unreported," Kelley notes)and Blackwater had attacked an Iraqi vehilce "with more than 70 bullets". Had that example not been hidden and those involved not escaped punishment, the Sept. 17, 2007 slaughter might not have taken place. But the State Dept repeatedly sent the message that they would look the other way when it came to the wounding and killing of Iraqi civilians.

The challenge for the IqAF [Iraqi Air Force] will be to expand current capabilities and build the foundation of a credible and enduring IqAF for the future. Currently, the IqAF has minimal capability across the spectrum of capabilities, but progess is being made in ISR, airlift (fixed/rotary wing), and developing its Airmen, with a focus on the COIN [Counterintelligence] fight. These areas should achieve foundational capability by December 2010. Ground attack, airspace control, and C2 lag behind with these foundational capabilities expected by December 2012. Despite its rapid growth in the past year, the IQAF lags behind all major Middle Eastern air forces, and achieving a credible and enduring IqAF will require continued Coalition support.

The US Defense Department released the report. Zoom in on one sentence above: "Ground attack, airspace control, and C2 lag behind with these foundational capabilities expected by December 2012." Now how would the US military leave Iraq December 31, 2011? Is Iran going to cover and protect Iraq's air space? Will the US allow that? (If you answered "yes," read the report.) Turkey? No, that won't fly either. Long before the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement was signed, you could find various Iraqi military figures holding press conferences in the Green Zone and explaining the US would help with the Iraqi Air Force till at least 2014. What's changed? A piece of paper?

The new report was released at the end of last month (March 25th) and is entitled [PDF format warning] "
Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq March 2009." Every two months, the Defense Deprt does an update and sends the report to Congress. The actual report is 55 pages of text and updates the situation since the last report with the March report covering December 2008 through February 2009. Information included is basic such as the fact that the following countries have left Iraq since the last report (which covered through November 2008): Albania, Armenia, Azebaijain, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Japan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Tonga and the Ukraine. It also includes problematic sections such as the evaluation of Iran that seems based on something other than facts and that, in fact, really has nothing to do with the period that report is allegedly covering.

For example, the report insists, "Despite repeated promises to the contrary, Iran atttempted to derail the negotiation of a security agreement between the United States and the GoI [Government of Iraq], but ultimately achieved little success in affecting the SFA [Security Framework Agreement] or the SA." The "SA" refers to what the US government calls the Status Of Forces Agreement. It is what the White House calls it. It is what the document itself, the document Nouri al-Maliki and Bully Boy Bush both signed, called it. Why the Defense Dept feels the need to call it another name -- one not used by the US government -- is a question to put to them. If and when you do, ask them what the hell that sentence is doing in the report to begin with? Allegedly this report covers December through February. Nouri al-Maliki's Council of Minister signed off on the SOFA November 16th, November 17th the agreement was signed by US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari. The Status Of Forces Agreement passed the Iraqi Parliament on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 2008. While it still had to be ratified by the presidency council (December 4th) and signed by Bully Boy and Nouri (December 14th -- the shoe heard round the world press conference), those were ceremonial events and after it passed the Parliament, the treaty was no longer in doubt. Nouri controls the Cabinet and without his approval, it would not have passed his own Council and gone to the Parliament. The presidency council is a three person council: Jalal Talabani, the president, and Iraq's two vice presidents Tariq al-Hashami and Adel Abdul Mahdi. Who would Iran have pressured? Talabani's a Kurd, al-Hashami's Sunni and that leaves only Shi'ite Adel Abdul Mahdi. However, Iran was already doing cartwheels public (check Iran's Press TV) on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement after it passed Parliament. Any objections or attempts to derail the treaty on Iran's part would have required Shi'ite channels. Any objections or attempts to derail the treaty on Iran's part would have had to have taken place prior to Thanksgiving. Why are November events making it into a report allegedly covering December through February?

Another problematic area is their rates on unemployment and underemployment which I was not able to verify with any NGO working in Iraq. It was thought by the one that the percentage the report refers to might be a percentage increase since the previous report but no one believed the percentages in the report were the acutal rate of unemployment or underemployment. We're skipping that section of the report for that reason.

The report hails the "progress" in Iraq but reminds "gains remain fragile and uneven throughout the country." That phrase has been a mantra since the first anniversary of the illegal war (March 2004). No commander in Iraq goes before Congress without repeating it and no one occupies the White House without repeating. From Bully Boy Bush to Bully Boy Barack, it is the phrase of choice and that's really frightening and sad. Six years after the start of the illegal war and the US government continues to trot out the "gains remain fraigle" excuse is sad. Frightening comes in when you grasp that if something can't be done in six years, it can't be done. It never could. The first sentence of the introduction to the report lists US goals and, while the goals change from time to time, these are -- more or less -- the generally cited goals: "The United States seeks an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant; an Iraqi Government that is just, representative, and accountable; neither a safe haven for, nor sponsor of, terrorism; integrated into the global economy; and a long-term partner contributing to regional peace and security." Sometimes those goals are wrapped in the words "democracy" and/or "liberation." Those really aren't goals the US can do anything about other than stand and cheer. But for six years, the US has used it as an excuse to be in Iraq and for how many more years will they continue to use it as an excuse?

Stars & Stripes notes the report referred to the drop in the price of oil per barrell and how this might harm "the training and equpping of Iraqi forces." I don't know what report Stars & Stripes read, but the one I read stated clearly that the hiring freeze did not apply to bringing people back into the military. So what's stopping them from doing that? We'll get to it. Yesterday Marcia addressed Reuters' report that "basic services . . . such as sewage treatment and power supply" will have to be cut.` The Government Accountability Office found in their most recent report, [PDF format warning] "Iraq: Key Issues for Congressional Oversight," that "many Iraqis are without water or have access to water that puts them at risk of diseases such as cholera and dysentery, as evidenced by outbreaks in 2007 and 2008. According to the United Nations, only 40 percent of children have reliable access to safe drinking water; with water treatment plants operating at only 17 percent capacity, large voluments of untreated waste are discharged into Iraq's waterways." And what does the Defense Dept's report say about the basic services? Quote: "Simarly, many Iraqis continue to have limited access to clean water, and challenges continue with respect to sewage services and water treatment plant operations, maintenance, and sustainment." And yet this is what will be cut? The report lists billions and billions being spent on military hardware by the al-Maliki government, but apparently cholera outbreaks every summer is a-okay. On electricity, the report noes, "Only 43% of Iraqis feel they have been able to get the electricty they need at least some of the time, twelve percentage points less than the previous ten-month average. Only 18% of Iraqis are somewhat or very satisfied by the zmount of electricity they receive, down from 34% who felt satisfied in November 2007." If the Kurdistan Regional Government was removed from the polling, the percentages would be even lower since their provinces have very high averages of daily electricity with Erbil topping all of Iraq with 22 hours per day on average.

Remember those fragile 'gains' and how we'd also get back to the issue of members who have left the Iraqi military returning? We're getting to it.

Constitutional reform is the responsibility of the 29-member Constitutional Review Committee (CRC). The original deadline for the completion of the CRC's work was March 2007, but it did not issue its final report until August 2008. The CRC's final report left all of the major constitutional issues, including revenue distribution, federalism, and the status of Kirkuk, entirely unresolved.

Yes, it did. And the census the report's so ga-ga over? That too was already supposed to have taken place. As with the Constitution reform, these dates just pass and yet the US continues to want to hail 'progress.' (During the period of review, the Speaker of Parliament, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, was forced out of his job --
December 23rd -- and there is still no one in that position. The 'report' handles it by stating he resigned. A very simplistic version of the events which went down.) So there's a sort of show-progress or non-progress, what does that have to do with the military. Paul Bremer de-Baathified Iraq. He drove the Baathists out. One of the benchmarks the US White House devised for Iraq (which was never met) was for the Baathists to be brought back in -- a kind of de-de-Baathify. The DoD report notes, "Despite the January 2008 passage of the Accountability and Justice Law, the GoI has not begun implementation. The Council of Ministers (CoM) has yet to nominate the individuals to head the new De-Ba'athification Commission, leaving the original Coalition Provisional Authority-appointed commission in place, but with no authority." No, there's been no progress. Nouri al-Maliki signed off on Bush's benchmarks, agreeing to them, and then did nothing. The law referred to, even if implemented, has no oversight mechanism to ensure that it's working. But it's not been implemented. So those who served in the military prior to the 2003 invasion can't be easily brought back in. Bremer purged the Baathists from the government. It should be pointed out that Nouri al-Maliki and his toadies love to scream "Baathist!" whenever they target a Sunni and claim some conspiracy/coup. Nouri doesn't want the Baathists back in and that's why there's been no progress on this issue. Just as he doesn't want to absorb the "Awakening" Council members.

The report notes that he agreed to absorb 20% of the 94,000 "Awakenings" within the Iraqi Security Forces. The others would be considered for civil service jobs or for training for other jobs. Considered. Only 20% -- despite the nonsense the Guardian of 'London' --
see Rebecca's post last night -- and AFP have been reporting -- were pledged to be given jobs. Not all. He doesn't want the "Awakenings" and he doesn't want the Baathists. Over the weekend, Nouri launched another attack on the "Awakenings." Gareth Porter (IPS via CounterPunch) reports:

Despite reported U.S. efforts to reassure Sunnis that they are not being abandoned to repression by the Shi'a government, the U.S.-assisted operation against Sunni militiamen protesting the arrest of Adel al-Mashadani in the Fadhil neighbourhood has already prompted threats by Sunni militia commanders in other neighbourhoods to go back to armed resistance.
Given the present U.S. definition of its mission in Iraq, U.S. forces are likely to be directly involved in more such operations against Sunni militiamen in the future, analysts of Iraqi military affairs say.
The Awakening Councils or Sahwa, which U.S. military officials have generally called "Sons of Iraq", were created in 2007 through arrangements reached by Multinational Forces-Iraq with Sunni tribal chiefs and some commanders of armed resistance groups, under which former Sunni insurgents became paid local security forces in Baghdad neighbourhoods as well as in nearby Diyala Province and in Sunni-dominated Anbar province.
But al-Maliki has never hidden his hostility to the U.S. scheme to set up neighbourhood Sunni security units. "These people are like a cancer, and we must remove them," one Iraqi general was quoted by Shawn Brimley and Colin Kahl of the Centre for New American Security as saying last summer.
Iraqi army units and special operations forces which were controlled directly by al-Maliki began arresting SOI leaders in Diyala and Baghdad, and the arrests continued through the fall.
Despite the evidence that al-Maliki intended to destroy them, the United States agreed last October to turn over control of all 90,000 Awakening Council members to the Iraqis. The government agreed, in turn, to continue paying the neighbourhood Sunni security forces 300 dollars a month.

What Gareth Porter's describing was known as a very real possibility.
April 10, 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee discussed agreements the then-administration was attempting to make with al-Maliki. The then-proposed agreements would require the US "to take sides in Iraq's civil war," then-Committee Chair Joe Biden noted, and "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out. . . . Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."

We'll come back to the report tomorrow. On violence it notes that from Dec. 2008 through Feb. 2008, the average number of "insurgent initatied attacks a day" was 12 but in February it increased to 13.75. Moving on to today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded five people, a Tal Keif car bombing which claimed 1 life and left three more people injured and a Baquba bicycle bombing which injured five people. In addition to the Mosul roadside bombing which wounded five, Reuters notes another left four Iraqi service members wounded.


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report the Iraqi military shot dead 1 suspected 'insurgent' "and arrested another in Baghdad.


Laith Hammoudi and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 2 corpses discovered in Sulaimaniyah.

Quickly, last night
Stan covered Nouri's cabinet minister, Abdul-Latif Jamal Rasheed, blaming Turkey and Iran for Iraq having a water shortage. As Stan observed, "Who would want Nouri al-Maliki for a neighbor?" Ruth noted that the US is supposed to abandon the 75 combat outposts across the country as they retreat from Iraqi cities (some, Nouri has noted it will be only some, despite what the SOFA says). And Mike covered the press on Iraq's new fleet of unmanned drones and he observed, "Because the way I'm taking it, it means that the drones must be weaponized. How else would they have 'engaged' and 'managed to eliminate their threat'?"

David Solnit, author with Aimee Allison (Allison co-hosts
KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), notes this event by Courage to Resist, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War & Unconventional Action in the Bay:
Friend and filmmaker
Rick Rowley comes to town with three films just shot on the ground in Iraq-- in typical high energy in-your-face style. Rick is joined by local IVAW organizer Carl "Davey" Davison and cutting-edge movement analyst Antonia Juhasz to do some collective thinking-discussing about how we can take on Obama to make the world a better place. Hope you can join us! Please Invite your friends: Bay Area Premiere from the makers of "Fourth World War" & "This is What Democracy Looks Like"OBAMA'S IRAQ A Big Noise Film followed by a Public Discussion: How Do We End Occupation & Empire Under Obama? Carl Davison, organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in the Marines and the Army, and refused deployment to Iraq. Antonia Juhasz, analyst, activist, author of Tyrany of Oil; The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It Rick Rowley, Big Noise film maker recently returned for Iraq. Friday April 3, 7pm ATA THEATER 992 Valencia Street (at 21st), SF Everyone welcome, $6 donation requested, not required. Obama's Iraq is an evening of short films never before seen in America. Shot on the other side of the blast shields in Iraq's walled cities, it covers a very different side of the war than is ever seen on American screens. It reports unembedded from war-torn Falluja, from the giant US prison at Umm Qasr, from the Mehdi Army stronghold inside Sadr City -- from the places where mainstream corporate channels can not or will not go. Obama's Iraq asks the questions -- what is occupation under Obama, and how can we end the war in Iraq and the empire behind it? After the film, a public discussion will begin to answer that question. Join us.

killian melloykelvin lynchlez get real
james gordon meeksu.s. news and world reportsthe new york daily newsnprcorey flintoffall things consideredmatt kelleyusa todaykirit radia
david solnitobama's iraqlike maria said pazsex and politics and screeds and attitudemikey likes itruths reportsickofitradlzoh boy it never ends

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday thoughts

Swinging Prez

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Swinging Prez" and I'm not sure which I enjoy more? The arrogance on display or Little Dicky wetting himself?

It's a toss up.

Do you know Regina Spektor? My daughter is into her. I have no idea from what. And I have no problem with Spektor provided she's not cursing. (My daughter's in elementary and very pretty -- she doesn't get that from me -- and thinks that means she can get away with anything. So if she picks up swear words, believe me, she will be using them.)

My daughter's just loving it here in California. I keep waiting for the front to fall but it doesn't. The boys (both older than she is) sometimes get down. And we'll talk about that. But she's loving it. If anyone asks her if she misses home (Georgia), she'll take on this exasperated tone and declare, "Well we are going back."

And it's honestly rude and I've told her that so she knows not to do it when I'm around but people think it's cute when she says stuff like that. Because she is so very pretty.

Her father is as well. And the boys got his good looks but I think my daughter got my mother's good looks. It skipped right over me which is fine and dandy with me. But she's already a looker and I'm at a loss at times how to handle something.

By that I mean, if I said some of the stuff she did, I wouldn't get away with it. But my sisters (who are much prettier than I am) usually got away with it (not from our parents) and maybe I'm depriving her of the spoils that go to the pretty girl?

I feel bad about it if that's the case but I don't want a spoiled brat for a daughter.

And I'm really appalled by some of the passes she's getting because of her looks. She's at the age where 'bitchy' is something you play. I think you play it and get a lot of applause and laughs (because you're pretty) and bitchy ends up sticking.

I had no idea that I'd be dealing with all of this so soon.

I thought, "Maybe in third grade . . ."

But it's already time to deal with it and it really makes me again appreciate how easy the boys are. Their big thing is asking me a gross question. "Mom, this is gross but there's a turtle and he gets run over . . ." And I can handle those and was a tom boy growing up so I actually know a lot about gross stuff.

But I am just thinking that if we don't get this settled quickly, my daughter and I will end up one of those child-parent combos that are always at war.

No, we didn't yell at one another tonight. And this isn't, "I punished my daughter and I feel so bad." She didn't get punished. We didn't fight. But I know for a fact that soon it will be,"No, I won't stop it just because you say so."

I remember my mother having to go through that with my sisters. They all laugh about it now but it was torture growing up through that.

My thoughts for the night.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Monday, March 30, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the "Awakening" Councils appear targeted and they fire back, Barack says no faster draw down but Odierno said something different, Lesley Abdela is the Woman Political Journalist of the Year, and more.

Cindy Sheehan's radio show, Cindy's Soapbox, continues on the internet and she interviewed Ray McGovern last week as Barack prepared to make his "Same Way To Quagmire" speech on Friday. In the portion we're going to note here, Cindy's bringing up the 'surge' in Iraq.

Cindy Sheehan: The surge that I believe began in the beginning of 2007.

Ray McGovern: Correct.

Cindy Sheehan: Because I think at the end of 2006, I was arrested in Crawford, Texas trying to -- they were having some kind of meeting between -- it was Cheney and Bush and Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice and, you know, all the major War Criminals of the Bush administration were up at the ranch so I think there were about five of us who got arrested trying to cross the barriers and you've been to Crawford so you know what I'm talking about.

Ray McGovern: Mm-hm.

Cindy Sheehan: The barriers to go to the ranch. So we were arrested protesting the 'surge' because we could see the surge was going to be a nightmare. And no matter how much Obama says the surge was successful. Or Cheney, or Rums -- or Gates, Rumsfeld's out of the picture. I don't even know where he is anymore. However much they say the 'surge' was successful, there was a high price and it's not so successful if you know what really happened, was it?

Ray McGovern: No, it's true, Cindy, most people don't realize that 1,000, at least 1,000, young men and women from our armed forces are dead now --

Cindy Sheehan: Mm-hm.

Ray McGovern: -- dead. And you know what that means, better than anybody else.

Cindy Sheehan: Yeah.

Ray McGovern: And thousands wounded. Not to mention Iraqis. I mean, Iraqis, last time I checked the Bible, I looked it up. Iraqis are human beings too. Would you believe it?

Cindy Sheehan: Really?

Ray McGovern: Yeah, they really are.

Cindy Sheehan: Oh. Wow.

Ray McGovern: So we have to cout them too.
Cindy Sheehan: But we don't count them. We can only estimate how many Iraqis have been killed.

Ray McGovern: That's right. They don't count. Well that was the attitude. And what we saw with the 'surge' was really bizarre, Cindy. If you think back to the end of 2006, what was clear is that the Iraqi political figures were not taking seriously their duty to get their act together.

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Ray McGovern: No matter what we said, they always knew -- well Bush promised them, 'We'll never leave you,' right? That's because he never wanted to leave them, okay? What was happening was the place was falling apart. And General [John] Abizaid and General Casey -- Abizaid being the head of CENTCOM, Casey being the head of the troops there in Iraq -- came back and testified in September before the Senate Armed Services Committee. And what they said was this, "Thank's very much but please -- please -- don't send any more troops. The last thing we need is more troops. Why? Because if we send more troops, those Iraqis will never, never think they have to get their act together. We don't need more troops. What we need is for them to get some religion here. Work out their differences so we can leave, okay?"

Cindy Sheehan: Mm-hm.

Ray McGoven: Now that's what everyone was saying. That's what the Hamilton . . .

Cindy Sheehan: Baker-Hamiliton report.

Ray McGovern: . . Baker-Hamilton report said. Everybody in their right mind, everybody sane here, which is usually not too many people but most people in Washington were saying we have to acknowledge that. So what did Bush do? Well he talked to Cheney and Dick said, "Well now, Mr. President, you want to lose a war on your watch? You want to tuck tale and go home to Texas and have the whole thing fold in on you? No, we have to -- we have to reinforce, can't listen to these other folks." And so they ginned up some folks at the American Enterprise Institute and a general named Keane and they whipped up this little plan to put in 30,000 troops. 30,000 troops in and around Baghdad. With formal screens, so that the Shia could ethnically cleanse Baghdad.

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Ray McGovern: Now that's, that's big, you know?

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Ray McGovern: Baghdad used to be equal Sunni - Shia. What these guys did under the protection of US forces -- and often with the help of US forces -- drive the Sunnis out of Baghdad, we're talking millions of people, Cindy.

Cindy Sheehan: Oh, I know. I've been to -- I haven't been to Iraq yet but I've been to Iman, Jordan speaking with the people who were forced out if they were lucky to escape with their lives and if they were lucky to escape the country but, as you know, there are millions of refugees in and outside of Iraq right now.

Ray McGovern: Yes, some four-and-half million folks out of 27 million when the war began

Cindy Sheehan: Mm-hm.

Ray McGovern: So what you have here is a really great success We calmed down Baghdad, partly by driving the Sunni out, and also by building the kind of wall you used to see in Berlin that now we see in the West Bank and also on our southern border, I have to say, having recently been in southern Texas. You know that kind of wall's a really great thing to bring people together, right? Well it seperated what was left of the Sunni and actually divided that whole city so that was really great, that's really great, if you like walls and if you like ethnic cleansing. And then of course we gave Petreaus a whole bunch of money and he gave it out to the Sunnis. "Here, we'll give you $300 a month, just don't fire in our direction."

Cindy Sheehan: Ten dollars a day. They were giving, I think it was estimated about 80,000 people, ten dollars a day to not attack the US.

Ray McGovern: So now of course that dole is run out and what happens to the Sunni now? Well, we'll just have to see.

Yes, we will have to see and we may be seeing it. Over the weekend, the "Awakening" Council members/Sahwa/Sons of Iraq were in the news. It started with arrests and ended with gun battles. Along the way the nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill had his testimony to Congress last week (see
Wednesday and Thursday's snapshots) again punked. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explained Saturday, "16 people were injured (seven Sahwa members, four Iraqi soldiers and four civilians) after clashes broke out between the Iraqi army and Sahwa members in Fadhil neighborhood in downtown Baghdad around 2 p.m. The clashes broke out during an operation of the Iraqi army to arrest the leader of Fadhil Sahwa and one of his deputies. Five Iraqi soldiers were kidnapped in the incident." McClatchy's Leila Fadel added Adel Mashhadani was the arrest target and that the arrest of him (as well as an assistant) "heightened fears among Sunnis that the Iraqi government plans to divide and disband the movements now that its taken control of all but a few thousands of the 94,000 members across the country." Now let's pause a moment. The point of opening with Cindy Sheehan and Ray McGovern's discussion is they're talking about the way Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, eradicated the Sunni presence from Baghdad. So when discussing why "Awakenings" might be leery, why they might not trust al-Maliki, that 'rezoning' plays a big part in it. As does the fact that al-Maliki staffed his ministries with Shi'ite thugs and allowed them to attack Sunnis without any fears of reprimands, let alone reprisals. Nouri's been very clear in his distaste for Sunni thugs -- Shi'ite ones he loves -- which is why US Senator Barbara Boxer was able to reference European press interviews al-Maliki gave stating that the bulk of the "Awakenings" would not be brought into his government. With that and more in mind, Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland (New York Times) quote the spokesperson for Fadhil "Awakening" Council, Abu Mirna, stating Saturday as fighting was ongoing, "American forces have broken the alliance with us by arresting our leader. Now there are clashes in the area between the Americans and Awakening fighters and you can hear shooting. It's chaos." There were reports of 5 Iraqi soldiers being captured in the battle and held hostage.

"The reason it's significant,"
McClatchy's Leila Fadel told Real News Network, "is that it's one of a series of detentions of top leaders of the Sons of Iraq -- in Iraq, across the country. Specifically in Diyala [Province] and Baghdad. And this program, the Sons of Iraq, which is really part of the reason the US military can claim what they call success now with the lower levels of violence because these guys either turned on al Qaeda [in Mesopotamia] or stopped shooting and are on US payroll and now they're being transferred to Iraqi government control. And with that control, it seems that they are trying to weaken these groups and some of that can lead to violence as Fadhil clearly showed over the weekend."

Real News Network's Paul Jay: So they're targeting some of the leaders of these groups at the same time that they are incorporating some of the ordinary members or are they actually targeting the whole organizations?

Leila Fadel: Well the --

Paul Jay: "They" being the Iraqi government.

Leila Fadel: Right. The transfer of authority started in October of last year. Where the US military said "Here are these 100,000 guys who we've been paying $300 a month and who have been in their streets, in their neighborhoods secure them. Now you take them." The [Iraqi] government has always said, "We believe most of these guys are former insurgents. We don't trust them. We don't want them. We won't give them amnesty. And so finally the government said "Give them to us, we want to take them." So now the authority technically is the Iraqi government -- in most of Iraq, not all of them have been transferred Salahuddin [Province] I think has still not transferred. And during that time and right before that, when I say "target," they've gone after them with arrest warrants on accusations of crimes they've committed but the Sons of Iraq themselves are saying they feel targeted, they feel that the leaders who stood up and took a risk and went against the people that were destroying their neighborhoods and also maybe turned on, or changed their minds about things of the past, where they would attack US forces or government forces as their enemy are now being betrayed and being arrested for those crimes of the past.

And it continued on Sunday.
Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) explain Raad Ali arrest became public (arrested five days prior): "Ali, a former insurgent, had a close working relationship with the Americans, shared a military base with them, and said he had briefed visiting U.S. diplomats from Afghanistan about the Sons of Iraq movement. Ali spoke regularly about the need for Sunnis to enter the political mainstream and leave behind their insurgency." Sudarsan Raghavan and Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) report, "On Sunday, Iraqi soldiers backed by U.S. combat helicopters and American troops swept into a central Baghdad neighborhood, arresting U.S.-backed Sunni fighters in an effort to clamp down on a two-day uprising that challenged the Iraqi government's authority and its effort to pacify the capital." Waleed Ibrahim, Wisam Mohammed, Aseel Kami, Abdulrahman Taher, Thaier al-Sudani, Tim Cocks, Michael Christie and Jon Boyle (Reuters) add, "A Reuters Television cameraman saw U.S. military vehicles alongside Iraqi army ones using loudspeakers to warn the fighters in Arabic to put down their weapons, while U.S. military helicopters hovered overhead." Leila Fadel reported Sunday that "Awakenings" had handed "over 10 Iraqi soldiers they'd been holding" after they surrendered "and gav eup their weapons" and that this came after Iraq's "Army sealed off the district, and [US] helicopters circled in the air".

Fadel explains to the Real News Network that "Awakenings" feel betrayed because the US military gave or "Awakenings" thought they were given amnesty but that the US military could only give amnesty for attacks on the US, not attacks on Iraqis. Note that the term "amnesty" was used (this is me, not Leila) by the US military in recruiting "Awakenings." It caused some rumbles on the internet play left side of the world (Arianna Huffington was a huffing back then about it). Clearly, had the "Awakenings" known that the "amnesty" was limited, they wouldn't have gone along. What would be the point? Help pacify/terrorize the country and then when Nouri no longer needs them, he can pick them off? If they had known that the amnesty did not apply across the board, they would not have gone along because the reason they were armed and against the puppet government in the first place was they didn't trust the puppet government (or the puppet).

The US started the "Awakening" Council "movement" by putting Sunni thugs on the payroll (having already installed Shi'ite thugs into the puppet government) because, as Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker repeatedly explained to Congress last April, paying them off meant they wouldn't attack US forces. When paid by US forces, they had many "duties" but primarily they were stationed at checkpoints where they controlled who passed and who didn't. In January and February, some still waiting to be absorbed felt the checkpoints were their responsiblity. What happens now that they feel under attack? What happens as the word gets out that al-Maliki hasn't paid a large number in months and that word is on top of the arrests and targeting of them in Baghdad? As
Sinan Salaheddin (AP) explains, "How the Shiite-led government deals with the Sunni security volunteers is widely seen as a test of its ability to win the loyalty of disaffected Sunnis _ an essential step in forging a lasting peace in Iraq." The arrest on Saturday is said to be because of "Baathism" and that's the charge whenever al-Maliki wants to haul someone away: they're a Baathist, they're plotting to overthrow him, they're an enemy of the state, etc.

al-Maliki's last big claim of "Baathist conspiracy" exploded in his face. If this one does, he'll not only have the "Awakenings" to answer to, he'll also have an international community beginning to tire of his repeatedly playing "they're plotting against me!" Interestingly, the
US military's statement doesn't mention any Baathist charge but does toss out their own constant cry of "al Qaeda in Iraq!": "Mashadani was arrested under a warrant issued by the Iraqi government. He is suspected of illegally searching, detaining and extorting bribes in excess of $160,000 a month from the citizens of Fahdil, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks that killed Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), leading an IED cell, leading an indirect fire cell, ties to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and collusion with the terrorist network Jaysh al Islami." Al Jazeera quotes al-Maliki's military spokesperson stating, "We also have information that Mashhadani heads the military branch in Fadel of the [banned] Baath party [of Saddam Hussein, the executed former Iraqi president]." Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed also note the Baathist assertion: "The government accused Mashadani of running a secret wing of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and his supporters of abusing their power."

For those who forgot, Barack's "best and brightest" (and hopefully not another tax cheat) nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week a lot of fairy tales including that they're all now under Nouri's control -- no, some have been turned over; that they've been abosrbed into the Iraqi forces by Nouri and this weekend proves that's not true plus only 5% have been employed by the government at present; and that Nouri's grabbed the responsibility of paying them from the Americans (US tax payers paid the March salaries for a huge chunk of "Awakenings") and is now on top of the payroll. On top of the payroll?
AP reported Saturday that "leaders of several Awakening Council groups complained the government has not paid them in months, with some threatening to quit a movement." Complaints came from "Awakenings" in Baghdad, Diyala Province and Azamiyah -- Diyala "Awakenings" said they hadn't been paid in three months.

That wasn't the only news over the weekend.
Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported that the Mujahedeen al-Kahlq, an Iranian group that has been in Iraq since 1979 and protected by the US military since the start of the Iraq War, is yet again the topic of al-Maliki's government as they repeat that the group must leave but, for now, the focus is on moving them "to new quarters in western or southern Iraq". Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) quotes some offensive remarks made by Nouri al-Maliki's National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie, MEK "should understand that their days in Iraq are numbered. We are literally counting them. . . . The party is over for them. The party is over for coalition protection for them." and, as Londono notes, "them" is al-Rubaie "referring to the U.S. military." The puppet's playtoy wants to say the "party is over for the" US forces? When did the party begin for them? When did the party begin? What an insulting remark from a sleazy, trashy assed piece of ___ who wouldn't even have a job if the US government had installed him and his man-crush al-Maliki. Meanwhile Mustafa Mahmoud (Reuters) reports it's kick the can down the road yet again regarding the oil-rich Kirkuk which will now have any sort of decision or referendum on its status delayed until June at the earliest. While Kirkuk may be postponable (it may not be), rumors float that Moqtada al-Sad's movement is in danger. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports on a supposed break in Moqtada al-Sadr's movement which takes place as "the government has begun granting secret amnesty deals to members of the breakaway group who also were members of Iranian-backed Shiite militias, in exchange for laying down their arms, according to government officials and three militia members who said they had won amnesty. The militias, dubbed special groups by the U.S. military, have continued to fight U.S. and Iraqi security forces." If either or both are true, al-Sadr's movement might be weakened.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba bike bombing which claimed 3 lives and left eight people wounded, a Baquba roadside bombing which wounded a police officer, and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul, 3 "Awakening" Members were shot dead in Eskanderiyah, 2 people were shot dead in Babil Province and "the general director of the immigrants and displaced people department" was shot dead in Mosul and his assistant was injured.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baquba.

Turning to legal news out of Germany,
George Frey (AP) reports US Sgt 1st Class Joseph Mayo entered a guilty plea to "premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder" in the 2007 murders of 4 Iraqis US forces had taken into custody and that this follows Sgt Michael Leahy's conviction last month for his role in the murders. Fran Yeoman (Times of London) reports "Mayo told a court martial in Vilseck, southern Germany, that he thought the shootings were in the best interests of his troops because he feared the prisoners would attack them if released." In other legal news, Friday's snapshot noted: "Meanwhile, in the United States, Paul J. Weber (AP) reports that Sam Marcos commissioners are rethinking using KBR after two Iraq War veterans, Bryan Hannah and Gregory Foster, spoke out at a commissioner's court meeting against the war profiteer KBR which stands accused of intentionally exposing US troops in Iraq to carcinogenics and of doing such a poor job in their building of US facilities in Iraq that showering becomes a hazard for US service members." Bryan Hannah tells his story at US Socialist Worker:

Greg and I brought to the attention of the county commissioners the company's history of scandals, including bribery, the negligent homicide of 11 soldiers and five Marines, rape and gang rape cover-ups, tax evasion and more.
Greg read the top results for a Google search that contained a multitude of shady business dealings and crimes to demonstrate that the commissioners had not done adequate research. He then read a letter from Spec. Jude Prather, a Hays County resident and infantryman in Iraq.
Jude's letter outlined his concerns about KBR being a daily fixture in his community, stating that his convoy escort team's opinions of KBR were "too colorful to be read in court." Greg recalled a saying of his father: "Son, your dollar votes. If you don't like how a company does business, don't do business with them."
I brought to the commissioners' attention the siphoning by KBR of tens of billions of dollars out of our treasury in exchange for the delivery of substandard service and even unacceptable "disservices" to U.S. troops in Iraq.
Some soldiers suffered illnesses from contaminated drinking water, others were exposed to carcinogens such as sodium dichromate, and some died as a result of faulty electrical wiring and air-conditioning units placed so close to showers that water splashed on them.
"Hays County has a laudable record of supporting its service members and veterans," I said. "I do not think we could in good conscience accept that reputation and hire a company responsible for killing U.S. soldiers and Marines, then attempting to cover it up and deny compensation to the families."

Again, Cindy Sheehan's radio show
continues on the internet and she interviewed Ray McGovern for her most recent show. Here McGovern's just finished explaining that the Bush adminstration refused to meet with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Ray McGovern: And we're still not getting any hearing which is really disappointing -- was really disappointing because the tea leaves say, Cindy, that President Obama is about to make his LBJ Vietnam or George Bush Iraq mistake. We're about to get involved in a real quagmire there. And you know, it's almost as though there's something here in the water in Washington, Cindy.

Cindy Sheehan: Right.

Ray McGovern: Because it doesn't make any sense at all. And grown up people should know that.

US President Barack Obama appeared today on CBS'
Face The Nation with moderator Bob Schieffer (here for text report by Michelle Levi with video option and link for transcript).
Daivd Zurawik (Baltimore Sun) observes that Barack sounded like LBJ on Vietnam when discussing Afhganistan:But that is what Obama sounded like to me when he was talking about how some of the U.S. troops would only be training their Afghan counterparts for combat. It clearly sounded that way to Schieffer, too, because he came out hard-charging with questions for the president about his commitment of more troops to Afghanistan, and he took precious minutes at the end of his broadcast to do a stand-up outside the White House explaining the decision to focus on Afghanistan."When he decided to move more Americans into harm's way in Afghanistan, for better or worse, it became his war," Schieffer said of Obama. Schieffer closed by wondering whether Obama would look back one day on that decision from last week as a major turning point in his administration and legacy. The questioning on Afghanistan and the related matter of whether or not we will follow terrorists into Pakistan and strike there was so pointed, that at one point, Obama said, "I'm enough of a student of history to know about Vietnam." But he sure sounded like LBJ in 1965 when he talked Sunday about the Afghan Army as having "great credibility" and being "effective fighters" -- all they needed was a little "training" from the American troops. At least, Obama didn't use the 1960s's rhetoric of the U.S. soldiers and Marines only being advisers.

That was on Afghanistan. Iraq came up during the interview (because Schieffer raised the issue):

Bob Schieffer: You said the other day in the 60 Minutes interview that you would not have thought at this point in your presidency that Iraq would be the least of your worries, something to that effect. Barack Obama: Right. Right. Bob Schieffer: Are things going well enough there now that you may consider speeding up the withdrawal of troops from Iraq? Barack Obama: No, I think the plan that we put forward in Iraq is the right one, which is, let's have a very gradual withdrawal schedule through the national elections in Iraq. There's still work to be done on the political side to resolve differences between the various sectarian groups around issues like oil, around issues like provincial elections. And so we're gonna continue to make progress on that front. I'm confident that we're moving in the right direction. But Iraq is not yet completed. We still have a lot of work to do. We still have a lot of training of Iraqi forces to improve their capacity. I'm confident, though, that we're moving in the right direction.

would the draw down be speeded up? No, says Barack. That's what he says?
Friday's Iraq snapshot noted NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) interviewed Gen Ray Odierno, top US commander in Iraq. Now Barack said yesterday nothing will speed up the rate of the draw down. What did Odierno tell Lourdes Garcia-Navarro?Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Despite those worries and others, Odierno is considering more troop reductions this year ahead of Parliamentary elections. Ray Odierno: In August, September time frame, I will look at how things are going and I will make another decision on whether I think we should either reduce our presence more. And that assessment will be based on "Do I think I have enough forces to ensure that we have a peaceful, successful, national election?" If I believe we can do that with less forces then we will off-ramp some forces. Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Eventually there will be around only 50,000 Americans here down from just under 140,000 now. So are you confused? Or is it Barack that is? Meanwhile despite the continued bombing in Basra, all but 400 of the approximately 4,000 British soldiers are gearing up to leave, Reuters reports. Remember that when violence is offered as the excuse for Barack slowing down his draw down. And England and the US both got involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. So possibly something might be transferable? Some form of knowledge? If so, Barack better hope and pray it's not to be found from Richard Dannatt. Michael Evans (Times of London) reports that Dannet has told the paper the decision by then-prime minister Tony Blair to switch the emphasis from Iraq to Afghanistan in 2005 led to a huge increase in violence in Iraq. The US military needs to withdraw (not draw down) from both countries. That's not the point in raising the issue of Gen Richard Dannatt. The point is an administration that wants both illegal wars will probably be trotting out the we-didn't-realize excuse at some point in the near future.

Lastly, three years ago journalist Lesley Abdela made the "
Top 50 Heroes Of Our Times" (New Stateman). She has just been announced as the Winner of the 2009 UK Woman Political Journalist of the Year. The honor comes from the Dods & Scottish Widows Women in Public Life Awards and are voted on by the Parliamentary Press Lobby, Members of Parliament and Members of the House of Lords. You can find out more about Lesley Abdela at Third Sector Women and you can also read up on her at SourceWatch.
Click here for some of her writing at the Guardian.

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