Saturday, August 21, 2010

Steel Magnolias

I spent the last two hours crying. Blame Jim. Dona's at her folks until tomorrow. Ty and his boyfriend had stuff to do and Jess had joined Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally in Boston. So after the kids were in bed, we played some Monopoly and were going to start Scrabble when Jim suggested a movie.

I love movies, I don't care which ones if I'm watching with someone. I'll watch any genre. So Jim was looking for something he hadn't seen in awhile or hadn't seen at all and found Steel Magnolias which he remembered being really funny due to Shirley MacLaine. I hadn't seen the film in about eight years, maybe longer.

If you haven't seen it, it's a Herb Ross directed film (the other film of his I like is Boys On The Side) set in the south. Sally Field plays Julia Roberts mother. Dolly Parton runs the town beauty parlor. Olympia Dukakis is the rich woman in town whose husband died. Shirley is the rich woman who has "just been in a bad mood for the last 40 years." Daryl Hannah goes to work for Dolly. Julia has a form of diabetes that's very bad when she's a young woman and gets much worse after she gets pregnant (she marries Dylan what's his face from the Practice -- McDermott). Eventually Sally Field gives Julia a kidney but even that doesn't help in the end and she goes into a coma and then dies.

Yes, Shirley walks off with the film. But I had forgotten how sad it was. When Julia gets her hair cut short, I started crying and was crying straight through to the funeral -- sobbing between when Sally goes to see her grandson right after Julia dies.

Everyone is so great in the film. The first time I saw it, I hated Sally's character. I thought Julia was just the most perfect character. I was very young. I've grown since then and realize that at the beginning, Julia's really a spoiled brat and she'd realize that if Sally hadn't worked so hard to make everything appear normal.

My heart breaks for Sally's character now. I still like Julia but I can see a lot of immaturity in her character (and I had it at that age too -- Julia Roberts plays the character perfectly and it's probably the best performance of her entire career).

Dolly's great, Daryl's great. Olympia's always funny. But the movie belongs to Shirley who does such a great job.

But it's a movie that just rips you apart. And though Jim will deny it, he got a little watery eyed too. It was a good movie. It is still a good movie. Even after seeing it countless time over how many years. That's what makes a classic.



"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, August 20, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military suffers another death in Iraq, some in the media try to set the story straight about what's taking place in Iraq while others spin like crazy, the US Army's latest suicide statistics, and more.
The Scripps Howard News Service reports, "As the last combat troops leave Iraq, one Kentucky family learnst their son has died there." Christopher Wright of Lewis County, Kentucky is the fallen. Misty Maynard (Ledger Independent) reports he was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and she speaks to the family's pastor John Moore, of Tollesboro Christian Church, "Moore said it had been at least a year since he had seen Christopher Wright. One of the most vivid aspects of Wright, Moore said, was his passion for the military and his hopes to attend jump school and become a Ranger or a Green Beret." Elizabeth Dorsett (WKYT) quotes James King, who works for Joe Cochran (Christopher Wright's father), on the family learning the news, "When the military guys came in, they didn't have to say anything." ICCC's current total for the number of US service members killed in Iraq is 4416. Strangely USF never announced the death.
The war didn't end yesterday. The one good thing about so many pushing the myth that it did is that so many people are weighing in. If you're noted, you were among the best weighing in but that doesn't mean we happen to agree with you in part or in total. Let's start with US Senator Russ Feingold:
"While I applaud President Obama for sticking to his redeployment timetable, more than 50,000 U.S. troops are still serving in harm's way in Iraq. I urge the president to redeploy those remaining troops as promptly and safely as possible so we can reduce the strain on our military and our budget.
"While our departure from Iraq is taking much longer than it should, it does show that setting a timetable for redeployment can help contribute to stability and enable us to focus on combating al Qaeda's global network. Al Qaeda and its affiliates continue to expand in places around the world like Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, North Africa and elsewhere. Rather than send more troops to Afghanistan, where there is no military solution, the president should lay out a timetable for ending our military involvement there so we are better able to combat al Qaeda's global network without needlessly risking American lives and spending dollars we don't have."
No, Barack didn't keep his pledge, but we'll note that after Matthew Rothschild (link is audio):
I'm Matt Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive, with my Progressive Point of View which you can also grab off our website over at Progressive.org. Barack Obama is to be commended for keeping his pledge to pull US combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August and congratulations to the soldiers and the families of the soldiers coming home. But let's remember that 4,415 members of the US military never came home and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died in this immoral and illegal war that Bush and Cheney launched for no good reason. And let's also remember that the US still has 56,000 troops in Iraq who may well see combat in the year ahead and by the end of next year, it's not like the American presence will vanish. The State Dep is building new fortresses in Iraq to go along with the massive embassy in Baghdad. It's spending upward of one million dollars on outposts in Erbil, Mosul and Kirkuk and Basra. And instead of soldiers guarding these facilities and the diplomats who work there, the State Department is going to be relying on 7,000 private contractors -- mercenaries by any other name. This is good news for the like of DynCorp and Blackwater, but not for Iraq and not for us. I'm Matt Rothschild and that's how I see it.
I'm disgusted and that's how it is. 'Barack Obama is to be congratulated . . . but that mean nasty State Dept!!!' What? Barack got congratulated (despite the fact that it was not his campaign promise -- or is basic math not a progressive value? -- April 2010 was one campaign pledge and, in Texas in Feb. 2008, he lowered it October 2009). But not held accountable. But not held accountable? Who is over the State Dept, who is over the entire federal government in the United States? That would be the president who would be Barack Obama. It's real cute the way Matthew Rothschild parcel's out praise for Barack (unearned praise, Matt Rothchild) but can't hold him accountable. Now the militarization of diplomacy was Samantha Power's plan -- presented to Barack in 2007. But he signed off on it. He's the one seeing that it's executed. He's the one putting all the national security types -- past and present -- on it. And that's why we're calling it the "militarization of diplomacy." When no one was talking about or writing about it, we called it the "militarization of the State Dept" but this really won't be State Dept led. This will go under the national security and that's why those people -- including the gangbusters for it woman who is so convinced she gets Robert Gates' job if he does step down in 2011 -- are the ones at the meetings and why so many meetings take place without State even being present or in the loop. It's also why the new US Ambassador was selected. (Or are we ignoring his national security background as well?) About the militarization of diplomacy, yesterday, Michele Kelemen (All Things Considered, NPR -- link has audio and text) reported:

Michele Kelemen: Overseeing contractors will be another key challenge, he says. Security contractors will be needed not just at the embassy but also at the other diplomatic outposts that are being opened if diplomats are going to be able to get out of their buildings to do their jobs. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Corbin says there will be two consulates - one in the southern city of Basra and one in Erbil in the Kurdish north. There are also plans for temporary branch offices in Mosul and Kirkuk.

Michael Corbin (Deputy Assistant Secretary of State): These are a three- to five-year presence. And we chose the Kurd-Arab fault line, as we like to call it, it's not what the Iraqis call it. But there are issues in Kirkuk and in Mosul that have not only to do with Arab-Kurd issues but also Iraq's minorities.
Peter Hart: Goodbye Operation Iraqi Freedom, hello Operation New Dawn. The Iraq War is ending, we're told, with TV crews back in Iraq, capturing footage of the final combat troops exiting the country. One might reach for the term Orwellian to describe such events, perhaps because there is no fitting way to convey the "up is down, black is white" sense of what has happened in Iraq and what is happening there now. Our next guest wrote about this for Salon.com under the headline "The Iraq Withdrawal: An Orwellian Success." Hannah Gurman is an assistant professor at New York University's Gallatin School. She joins us now by phone. Welcome to CounterSpin, Hannah Gurman.
Hannah Gurman: My pleasure.
Peter Hart: Well here's the official story: Violence is down, Iraqis are stepping up, as ABC's Christiane Amanpour put it recently, "The surge, let's face it, has worked." These are basically the indisputable facts in our media discussions about Iraq. In what ways do you think this Iraq narrative might qualify as Orwellian, as you put it?
Hannah Gurman: Well it's really hard to say where to begin. By almost every measure with respect to security, the state of Iraqi politics and maybe most importantly Iraqis to basic resources and the state of Iraq's infrastructure. There are things that the mainstream story just isn't illuminating. In terms of infrastructure, for example, there are still many, many Iraqis who do not have electricity. They have about two to three hours of electricity a day. And the latest Brookings Index shows that there are 30 - 50,000 private generators making up for that gap between the national grid and what people actually need. So that's just one example of the basic situation on the ground that we don't really hear that much about from Obama or from Ambassador Christopher Hill when they are touting the success of the surge narrative.
Peter Hart: It's interesting, those Brookings numbers used to be widely cited in the media when they wanted to cite progress in the Iraq War. You don't hear them cited as often now. Perhaps because the findings are rather dismal.
Hannah Gurman: Yeah and that gets to heart of really what Iraqi citizens see on the ground and they point to the every day situation. So it is interesting that that's one of the things that we're really not hearing very much about in terms of the surge narrative. We're hearing a lot more about the decreases in violence, we're hearing a lot more about the optimism of Iraqi politics and even with respect to their things, there are things to be questioned.
Peter Hart: Speaking of Orwellian, I'm looking at the Washington Post headline the day we record this show, "Operation Iraqi Freedom Ends As Last Combat Soldiers Leave Baghdad." The article [by Ernesto Londono] notes that there might never be an acknowledged end to the Iraq War. The real point seems to be this: US commanders are also stressing that this is no longer America's war to lose. The end it would seem is not about winning then, it's about not losing.
Hannah Gurman: Yeah and it does also point to the strange shift from the concept of victory which used to be the way people thought about America's goals in war to now success so even if we don't win, we still don't lose. There is this prominent word "success" and you see it everywhere in discussions of the Iraq withdrawal -- that we are "successfully" handing over this situation to Iraq.
Peter Hart: Also today, the day we record this show [Thursday], the New York Times has this piece [by Michael R. Gordon] that's somewhat muddled. It tells us there's going to be this tiny military presence in Iraq. Experts are quoted saying this will be insufficient for the task, we may need to send more troops. At the same time, this presence will exist alongside thousands of private security forces, five massive compounds, massive amounts of State Dept planes and helicopters, there will be private security guards. The Times explains these are "quick reaction forces" to rescue citizens in trouble. And it also tell us that Iraqis object to these forces because they have a history of killing civilians. What are the mechanics of the Iraq occupation in this post-war phase.
Hannah Gurman: Well you heard that today, or Thursday morning Iraqi time, the last combat brigade pulled out of Iraq so now you have by the end of this month, 50,000 troops are going to be in Iraq and they're going to be simply transferred or relabled from "combat battallions" to "advise-and-assist battallions." And so they'll be there training or continuing to train the Iraqi security forces. What they actually do on the ground, I think, is very much up in the air whether and when they will actually be participating in combat, I think, is very much up to debate. Then you have this other story you've been discussing which is the transferring over, in many ways, the transferring over military responsibilities to the civilian personnel in Iraq. And, in essance, it's a shadow army. It's very paradoxical because on the one hand it really raises the responsibility of the civilian presence in Iraq but, on the other hand, it's really a civilian presence that is operating security appartaus in Iraq. And there are many military and even senior civilian officials who believe that that civilian presecne is going to have to be upped or eventually supported by a more conventional military presence. So they really don't know.
Moving over to today's second hour of The Diane Rehm Show today, Diane and her guests David Ignatius (Washington Post), Laura Rozen (Politico) and Thom Shanker (New York Times).
Diane Rehm: Thom Shanker, the last American brigade left Iraq yesterday. Wasn't this earlier than the actual deadline?
Thom Shanker: Well it's very interesting, Diane. We have to be careful of the words we use and the labels we apply. I mean what the American military force in Iraq has been doing for the past six to nine months is very similar to what they'll be doing throughout the rest of this year and 2011. What the military did is they waived their hand and symbolically said 4-2 Stryker brigade from Fort Lewis is the brigade that's leaving and will not be replaced. So that brigade has left Baghdad and crossed the border into Kuwait on its way back to the United States. But there are six brigades left in Iraq, still 56,000 troops whose mission officially changes on September 1st, from combat to advise-and-assist, but that's been going on. In fact we should note the 4-2 Stryker brigade that's gotten so much attention did not lose a single soldier to a combat death during its entire 12 months there. So clearly the mission has been changing. I think it's sort of a case, if we could rephrase the great John Lennon song, it's not exactly peace, but all we are saying is give the non-combat-advise-and-assist mission a chance.
Diane Rehm: What about the contractors who were left behind? What kind of role will they play?
Thom Shanker: They will only have an increasing role. When the American military officially ends its presence under the Status Of Forces Agreement at the end of next year, the State Dept takes over. We've already seen statistics. The State Dept will have to hire up to 7,000 security contractors to protect its 5 hardened sites across the country. The State Dept's looking at a security operations bill of a billion dollars once the American military leaves and, with it, helicopters, armored vehicles, security patrols. I don't think the American people understand the cost and extent of the commitment to sustain whatever progress has been made.
Diane Rehm: Laura Rozen, I don't get that the State Dept is going to be taking over the security measures.
Laura Rozen: Well that's actually the point the State Dept and Defense officials have been trying to make this past week is that, you know, in the effort to normalize the US-bilateral relationship with Iraq, the State Dept will be taking the lead from the Pentagon in managing US relations with Iraq. And they've actually been Defense Dept and State Dept officials going together to Congress to try to ask for the kind of appropriations Thom is talking about. And the State appropriaters in Congress just aren't used to these 5, 6, 7 billion dollar appropriations requests from the State Dept. You know, they spent monthly, for the Pentagon in Iraq. So the Pentagon and the State Dept have been quite frustrated. They had to downsize a bit the US diplomatic presence that will be in Iraq over the next several years to five total diplomatic offics.
Diane Rehm: David Ignatius, I'm totally confused by this.
David Ignatius: Well welcome to Iraq. You shouldn't imply that the State Dept is going to have responsibility for security. It won't. The contractors who will be coming in, many of them will be doing force-protection to protect these State Dept officers. They're not a military force. They need in today's Iraq people to travel with and keep them safe. The problem is that Iraq is kind of now really excited about getting its sovereignty. Excited but not all is efficacious in dealing with it. And the issue of contractors is a very, very prickly one for the Iraqis. We've had incidents in which Blackwater people shot people up in downtown Baghdad. So it's a real problem. The State Dept is going to need people to protect them but the people doing the protecting may be very unpopular in Iraq.
Diane Rehm: Thom Shanker, what about training Iraqi soldiers? Just before the brigade pulled out, you had Iraqi recruits killed in a suicide bombing.
Thom Shanker: That's exactly right, Diane. Even though the overall violence levels are far, far below what they were at the worst of 2006, the insurgents and the militants are still capable of spectacular attacks. What's happening between September 1st when the Operation Iraqi Freedom, the invasion war plan, becomes Operation New Dawn, anadvise-andd assist mission for the Americans, 50,000 American military personnel that stay through the end of next year are doing exactly what you said, Diane. They'll be training, advising, trying to make certain if they can that the Iraqi security forces can do it all once they leave at the end of 2011 unless, unless, the Iraqis ask for a continued American presence.
Diane Rehm: David.
David Ignatius: Diane, I think when we're talking about Iraq, we ought to just know the really sad point from the standpoint of view which is as the designated withdrawal of the last combat brigade happens, Iraq doesn't have a government yet. Five months after the elections, if you want to put any kind of positive spin on this terrible, painful experience in Iraq it's that the US brought democratic elections, Iraq has elected a Parliament but that Parliament is frozen. In talking with an Iraqi friend of mine, who's part of the government, yesterday, he said they just don't see any way forward right now. The administration here in Washington is working very hard to try to broker a deal between Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya faction -- he's a former prime minister -- and the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and his State Of Law faction that would add a new position that presumably would be given to Allawi where he would run a national security council and have some security -- It's a kind of jury-rigged system for a country that can't make the positions its got already work in a functional manner, the idea of adding a whole new layer, strikes some people as crazy. But that's the current administration plan for breaking the logjam.

Diane Rehm: And let us not forget that the US death toll -- the US death toll has been 4415 soldiers-- men, women. And that does not even touch the Iraqi civilians who've been killed in the process.
Thom Shanker: That's exactly right to weave that point and the smart point that David just made. I was having coffee with some smart army colonels yesterday at the Pentagon. Officers who have had multiple tours in Iraq. They have made peace with the sacrfice of their colleagues and comrades because they are soldiers, they are patriots. They've made peace with the initial mission for the invasion: Weapons of Mass Destruction proving false. They've made peace with the under-resourcing of the war. But as the last combat troop leaves, as the 50,000 remaining advise-and-assist, what really troubles smart military officers is: Will the Iraqis take advantage of the great sacrifice of American blood and treasury that's made this possible? And as David so correctly said, that's the question mark today.
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I called out Matthew Rothschild, so we'll note of the above exchange a few points. First off, Diane noted the US death toll and that was good. That's one of the things she does best. However, she then went into civilians. Civilians? Iraqis. Iraqis. No matter what you label them, they live in their own country. This nonsense of a US death count but only an Iraqi civilian matters? Do we think the US military sent civilians into Iraq with guns? No, they sent a fighting force into a foreign country. Iraqis who fought back an invasion and continue to fight it are defending their country. And the history of Iraq will decide whether they are heroes or scoundrels. But what they are right now is Iraqis and their deaths need to be counted regardless of whether they are civilian or 'insurgent,' regardless of whether they are civilian or military. In fact, there's something really disgusting about the US trumpeting its own military death toll but repeatedly the White House (under Bush and under Barack) spins and the press runs with this idea that only Iraqi civilians deaths matter. We count the US dead and we take that seriously -- the US military dead. Why are Iraqi soldiers and police officers less important? They're not. Again, I do not subscribe to these classifications which I find insulting (I do not believe Diane was trying to be insulting and this didn't originate with her) to the suffering of the Iraqi people.
The suffering of the Iraqi people. This 'great gift' the US gave ("under false pretenses" as a listener e-mailed)? It's really not a great gift. You may show up at Sue's house with a juicer. But Sue has a juicer already that she doesn't use and doesn't want. You can go all over town telling people you gave Sue a great gift. Actually, Sue, the one who received it, will determine whether it's a great gift or not. She's the one who will use it (or toss it). The Iraqi people are not all in agreement on what the US 'gave.' There feelings -- little explored in the press -- need to be taken into account. I could go on and on but I'll leave it at that. As noted, a listener brought up objections. Thom Shanker responded but it is not his place -- does he not get this -- to hail what has happened in Iraq as "a truly historic opportunity". Iraq may or may not want democracy. That's why it hasn't taken root, pay attention, they haven't been allowed to decide. The exiles have ruled over them, put in place by the US government. It is not for Thom Shanker, an American citizen, to decide that what was done in Iraq is "a truly historic opportunity" for the Iraqis. The Iraqis -- who are not being asked or reported on -- are the ones who will decide whether the alleged 'gift' is a good one or a bad one. It's their country. Do we not get that? Democracy is self-determination. They could determine tomorrow they want a dictator. That would be a democratic move in making that decision if that's the choice they wanted to make. It is not on the US to decide for the Iraqis. Thom Shanker is a smart person and an often gifted reporter so it is very maddening that the objectivity that is such a hallmark of his reporting is out the window when he's talking about Iraq and its future -- its future, not his. "I think we can all agree that democracy is better than dictatorship." Who is "we"? Americans? Yes, I suppose most Americans, having grown up in a democracy, are comfortable with it. But democracy is not a one-size fits all nor, in fact, is it pret-a-porter. It is not off-the-rack, one-size-fits-all. Democracy is a garmet that fits you best because it has been designed to your needs and wants. Democracy requires input of the governed and the governed in Iraq are the voices no one is hearing from and the ones Shanker seems unaware of. And, again, he's smart and often a gifted reporter. But democracy cannot be grafted it has to come from the people -- continued democracy stands no chance -- in any country, even the US -- without the consent of the people. As Jeremy R. Hammond notes a Foreign Policy Journal:
This view of "Many Iraqis" is offered a voice. The view of the majority, as indicated by public opinion surveys, however, is excluded. Back in December 2007, for instance (and there's little reason to think Iraqis' views have since reversed), the Post reported that "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation, according to focus groups conducted for the U.S.military last month." The focus group's report stated that most Iraqis "would describe the negative elements of life in Iraq beginning with the 'U.S. occupation' in March 2003".
Last night on The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, video and audio), Judy Woodruff spoke to Margaret Warner (Warner was reporting from Iraq). On violence, Warner noted the uptick and the concerns including: "And we went to see the sheik who is essentially the city council chairman. And I asked him the question you just asked me. And he said, you know, we really had a good handle on this. In 2008, he said, this was one of the safest cities in Anbar. And, in 2009, it was in good shape. But he said, in the last two-and-a-half months, he said that security is being breached, and they have had IED attacks. They have had attacks on police force members. He suspects some members of the police force of being involved." Let's move over to Kenneth J. Theisen's "A Combat Brigade Leaves; U.S. War of Terror Against Iraq Continues" (World Can't Wait):
The country is divided by sectarianism. Months after the election, Iraq's politicians can not agree on a government that will collaborate with the U.S. occupiers. Militias still function as independent military forces and are run by warlord politicians. Iran still controls or influences many of the various political factions that exist in the country, and that along with other disputes and contention with the U.S. imperialists, could lead to war between the U.S. and Iran. (Admiral Mike Mullen, one of the top U.S. military leaders, recently stressed that the military options are still on the table in regard to Iran.)
The bottom line is that Thursday's withdrawal of the "combat" brigade is not a "historic moment." It is just one more piece of propaganda and one more step in the continuing U.S. war of terror. In addition to the tens of thousands of troops still in Iraq, tens of thousands of others are nearby either in other Middle East bases or in the waters near Iraq on nuclear task forces. If the U.S. needs to do so it can rapidly reintroduce combat forces within days.
The Iraq War is not over, despite claims by what Michael R. Gordon has termed the "electronic media." It's a nice photo-op, it's just not reality. Yesterday on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric (link has text and video), Couric (in Afghanistan) spoke with one-time top commander in Iraq (replaced by Gen Ray Odierno) Gen David Petreaus.

Katie Couric: Having been in Iraq with you, I have to ask you now that the combat troops are leaving Iraq, is this the right time? I mean you have an uptick in violence -- 61 recruits were killed -- lots wounded. No clearly formed government. The head of Iraqi military says it won't be until 2020 until they can really provide security for the country. Is this a success?

Gen David Petraeus: Well, first of all we are not leaving. There are 50,000 U.S. troops that are remaining in Iraq albeit in a support role rather than in a -- a leading combat role. But that's an enormous capability.
"For me there are two unanswered questions," he added. "One, for the United States, where are we taking this; we're supposed to be drawing down all of our troops come 2011. I think that question is going be up in the air depending on what happening on the ground in Iraq."
"Secondly, I've got a question as to how the president and this administration will portray Iraq and our policy in Iraq," Zarate said. "The President is in a tough position. He didn't like the war, he opposed it, he talked about withdrawing but he's the American president, how does he portray what it was that we sacrificed and did in Iraq at the end of the day."
Meanwhile there is the political stalemate. Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) goes to Brooking Institution voices for feedback and Ken Pollack states of the militarization of diplomacy, "What the State Department is being asked to do is not in their DNA" and "Michael O'Hanlon, a military affairs scholar also at Brookings in Washington, says he actually sees three transitions going on in Iraq, making for a particularly difficult moment in the country. In addition to the US military-to-civilian shift and the Iraqi stalemate over forming a new government, he says the top tier of US leadership in Iraq has changed all at once." Rebekah Mintzer (Xinhua) speaks to NYU professor Patricia DeGennaro, "DeGennaro said she sees the current lack of a national government as 'hurting the country as a whole in the long run,' but does not believe that recent events will change the U.S. established timetable for withdrawal. She stressed that the United States is maintaining some troops in Iraq until the end of 2011 in order to continue to train Iraqis to deal with insurgent attacks and other violent incidents."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 12 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
Voted? Reuters reports that the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission had a death -- an employee was discovered dead from gunshots, his corpse hidden in a Baghdad car and they note a Baghdad roadside bombing killed 2 people (six more injured).
Those deaths are reality. Reality isn't that the US is down to 50,000 troops. RTT News reports the Defense Dept puts the number at 52,000 currently. Frank James (NPR's The Two-Way blog) notes that combat brigades remain in Iraq. In the spin cycle passing for a news cycle, we're not only seeing media deceptions, we're seeing the emergence of self-deceptions and that's really important to grasp.

Vietnam was not judged a 'success' or 'good thing' or any such during the final years of war or immediately after. What happened? Jane Fonda explained explained in the amazing documentary Sir! No Sir!, "You know, people say, 'Well you keep going back, why are you going back to Vietnam?' We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."

And that is how revisionary history works. A people are in agreement largely but a faction continues to pollute the public square with distortions and misinformation. It's how we end up with a pathetic Barack Obama repeatedly distorting that time period -- please note, a time period that he loves to whine "I was only 8 years old!" about when asked to explain his one-time friendship with Bill Ayers (Bill was drop-kicked under the bus) but he wants to lie repeatedly about Vietnam. And he gets away with it because people don't want to go back. So he's lied about veterans being physically spit on as they returned to the US, he's lied about them being shunned by the public (the government shunned them, the public never did -- whether they were pro-war, anti-war, or apolitical).

It's really something to see and amazing to watch people fail to call him out. Even George W. Bush pulling this nonsense was considered newsworthy. August 22, 2007, Bully Boy Bush spoke to the VFW and, as Jim Rutenberg, Sheryl Gay Stolber, Mark Mazzetti, Damien Cave and Eric Schmitt (New York Times) observed: "With his comments Mr. Bush was doing something few major politicians of either party have done in a generation: rearguing a conflict that ended more than three decades ago but has remained an emotional touch point." As Jane said, "We keep going back to Vietnam because, I'll tell you what, the other side does. They're always going back. And they have to go back -- the Hawks, you know, the patriarchs. They have to go back because, and they have to revise the going back, because they can't allow us to know what the back there really was."

It's probably not going to be different with the Iraq War. And that may surprise you if you didn't live through the Vietnam period. How could it ever change? A number of reasons but mainly because the War Hawks will invent a new hypothesis, test it out, if it has some form of acceptance, they will begin selling it repeatedly. They will sell many such claims, often all in contradiction with one another, muddying the water, confusing the facts and, in less than ten years after the illegal war ends (it hasn't ended yet), you'll have a large number of people unaware how massive opposition to the Iraq War was.

At Gallup, Jeffrey M. Jones breaks down the latest poll on the Iraq War (1,013 respondents, poll taken from August 5th through 8th, margin of error +/-4%):

More Americans believe history will judge the Iraq war as a failure (53%) rather than a success (42%). These views have varied little over the past few years even as Americans have become more positive in their assessments of how the war is going.
To a large degree, Americans' predictions on how history will judge the war mirror their basic support for the war -- 55% say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, while 41% disagree. War opposition has eased only slightly in recent years from a high of 63% in April 2008.
The Associated Press and GfK Roper Public Affairs published a [PDF format warning] poll today. 1,007 respondents, surveyed from August 11th through 16th, with a +/- 4.5% percent margine of error. 31% "favor" the Iraq War, 65% "oppose" the Iraq War. 3% need to be called in a few years because they're not sure how they feel. The respondents identified themselves most often as "conservative" (41%), second highest self-designation was "moderate" (33%) and "liberal" followed that (25%). (2% aren't sure what they are.)
Those numbers will not change significantly . . . for those who lived through it. That's true of the Vietnam era as well. The War Hawks can't trick the ones who lived through it. But that's not what they're about. They're about tricking future generations, they're about lying and rewriting history. Because the lessons and Vietnam and Iraq are very similar: Want to go war, then you better lie to the people.

That's not the message the War Hawks want passed around and imparted to future generations. So they try to hide behind service members and act as if they're speaking on their behalf when all they're doing is attempting to free the government to start more wars based on lies, to trick and deceive the American people and to send more people (on all sides) into early graves.

If you're reading this in 2010, our numbers will stay the same. We're not the target for the revisionary history. It's the future generations that are the targets. If Vietnam and Iraq can't be revised into 'good wars,' if the facts can't be left out, then generations can grow up knowing that their government has lied in the past and, patterns hold, will lie again in the future. Future generations will know to strongly question assertions made by elected officials allegedly acting on behalf of the American people's best interests. And that's what War Hawks, and their strong streak of authoritarianism, can't tolerate. For more on current feelings about the Iraq War, see The Takeaway's listener feedback page.
Today the Defense Dept issued the following release on Army suicides:
The Army released suicide data today for the month of July. Among active-duty soldiers, there were 12 potential suicides: three were confirmed as suicides, and nine remain under investigation. For June, the Army reported 21 potential suicides among active-duty soldiers. Since the release of that report, 10 have been confirmed as suicides, and 11 remain under investigation.
During July 2010, among reserve component soldiers who were not on active duty, there were 15 potential suicides. For June, among that same group, there were 11 suicides. Of those, five were confirmed as suicides and six are pending determination of the manner of death.
"Suicide prevention is much more than thwarting that last final act of desperation. It is increasing awareness and education in order to preclude members of the Army family from ever getting to the point where suicide might be considered an alternative to asking for help," said Col. Chris Philbrick, director, Army Suicide Prevention Task Force.
"The Army Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention Report released last month is the result of a 15-month effort to better understand high-risk behavior and suicides in the Army. The report is intended to inform and educate on the importance of recognizing and reducing high-risk behavior related to suicide and accidental death, and reducing the stigma associated with seeking behavioral health treatment," Philbrick said.
Soldiers and families in need of crisis assistance can contact Military OneSource or the Defense Center of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Outreach Center. Trained consultants are available from both organizations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental United States is 1-800-342-9647; their Web site address is http://www.militaryonesource.com. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.
The Army's comprehensive list of Suicide Prevention Program information is located at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/default.asp.
Army leaders can access current health promotion guidance in newly revised Army Regulation 600-63 (Health Promotion) at: http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/r600_63.pdf and Army Pamphlet 600-24 (Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention) at http://www.army.mil/usapa/epubs/pdf/p600_24.pdf.
Suicide prevention training resources for Army Families can be accessed at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/suicide/training_sub.asp?sub_cat=20. (Requires Army Knowledge Online access to download materials.)
The DCoE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil.
Information about the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program is located at http://www.army.mil/csf.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://www.afsp.org.
Suicide Prevention Resource Council: http://www.sprc.org/index.asp.
Remember that the military's suicide hotline is 1-800-273-TALK. And the National US Suicide Hotline (for anyone in the US not just those serving or veterans but veterans and those serving who are not comfortable for whatever reason with calling the military's suicide hotline can use this as well) is 1-800-448-3000.
TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Helene Cooper (New York Times), Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "An Unplanned Aberration: A peek behind the curtain at the PBS NewsHour." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Melinda Henneberger, US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton and Princella Smith on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is a discussion of marriage equality re: California verdict. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcasts Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and they examine religious history (lower Manhattan) and Iraq as well as speak with author Gary Shteyngart. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Blowout
Scott Pelley investigates the explosion that killed 11, causing the oil leak in the waters off of Louisiana, and speaks to one of the oil rig platform crew survivors who was in a position to know what caused the disaster and how it could have been prevented. | Watch Video


The Russian Is Coming
Mikhail Prokhorov, perhaps Russia's richest man, discusses his purchase of the N.J. Nets basketball team, his vast wealth and the surprisingly unusual way he made most of his money in his first American television interview. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video


60 Minutes, Sunday, August 22, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.