The VP’s office announced Biden’s official Twitter account on Monday – @VP – calling it “the latest addition to the growing White House community on Twitter.”
But don’t expect to find any of Biden’s colorful language online; the account will be managed by his staff members. In the announcement, they promised to “keep followers up to speed on all things happening in the Office of the Vice President ... providing updates on the latest news and announcements coming out of OVP, as well as a behind the scenes look at Veep-life.”
Thus far Office of VP Biden has two Tweets:
It will be interesting to see if the staff both (a) stays on message and (b) manages to avoid campaign politics.
"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, July 5, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, twin bombings in Taji kill over 30, the White House continues to attempt to extend the US military stay in Iraq, the Los Angeles City Council says end the wars, Jalal Talabani plans another meet-up, and more.
David Zahniser (Los Angeles Times) reports the vote was twelve for and one against today when, "The Los Angeles City Council called Tuesday for the federal government to end its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying money for those foreign wars should be invested in cities and other domestic needs." This follows the June 20th by the Annual Conference of US Mayors, held in Baltimore, passing the resolution demanding the wars be brought to an end and the vast amounts of money spent on these wars be spent instead on domestic needs in the United States.
The LA City Council's move comes as Lara Jakes (AP) reports 10,000 is the number of US soldiers the White House is floating to Iraq to keep with an understanding that Iraq will respond by September to the offer. Jakes reports, "Already, though, the White House has worked out options to keep between 8,500 and 10,000 active-duty troops to continue training Iraqi security forces during 2012, according to senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials in interviews with The Associated Press." This happening after Robert Gates has left his post as US Secretary of Defense may force even some members of the Cult of St. Barack to face the fact that Barack is the one pushing to extend the US military presence in Iraq, not Gates who, repeating, is gone. VoteVets' Ashwin Madia has not been among the foolish; however, today at Huffington Post, he writes, "Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- the president's top ally in the Senate -- came out forcefully today against a continued American presence in Iraq, which most observers believe President Obama is for. Senator Reid said, according to the Associated Press, "As Iraq becomes increasingly capable, it is time for our own troops to return home by the end of the year and for these precious resources to be directed elsewhere. There is no question that the United States must continue to provide support for the Iraqis as they progress, but now is the time for our military mission to come to a close."
Madia links to an AP article (one that quotes Madia) and Reid's statment is actually about the 15 US soldiers who died last month. The idea that Harry Reid is going to lead the fight is hard to believe. He did lead the fight . . . against the House efforts to end the Iraq War when Bush occupied the White House. Madia sees Reid's statements as meaningful. Others could disagree. Reid's not saying anything.
Reid's comments -- made in response to June's 15 deaths of US soldiers in the Iraq War -- are not inconsistent with Barack's (and Bush's) claims that "we will stand down as they stand up." Harry Reid didn't call for an end to the Iraq War or even that the SOFA be followed.
He says "our military mission is over." How does that differ with Barack's (false) assertion August 31st that 'combat missions' were over? It doesn't. And on 'stand up' does no one follow the violence in Iraq? Here's Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe discussing it with Washington Week's Gwen Ifill on tonight's NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, video and audio):
GWEN IFILL: Well, if the U.S. says the Iraqis should step up and do something about it, what does this tell us about the state of Iraqi security right now?
ED O'KEEFE: Well, part of the reason -- or part of the frustration among American officials is that, while their pleased with how the Iraqi security forces have responded -- they have taken the lead in several counterterrorism measures -- they have targeted insurgent groups over the past several weeks and months -- they feel that perhaps they could be doing a little more. Part of it, the problem, is that the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, still hasn't named a new defense minister and a new interior minister, and that, if there were leadership at the top of those two important ministries, perhaps there would be clearer direction given to the Iraqi security forces to go out and target these groups a little more.
That said, for the most part, if you talk to military officials here, they say a lot of progress has been made, that, whether you're an infantry soldier in the Iraqi army or part of the special forces, you are better trained today than you were even just a year ago.
Reid has issued a brief statement acknowledging 15 deaths where he states the US will 'stand down as Iraqis stand up' and that the US 'military mission is over.' That's perfectly in keeping with Barack's remarks. Wish it wasn't. Wish Harry Reid was finally going to find a spine and lead a mission worthy of the post of Senate Majority Leader. And it could happen but it doesn't seem likely. Reid was the stalling block for Democratic efforts in the House to put a minimum of restrictions on the Iraq War when Bush was in office. This isn't my hypothesis, this is fact. Nancy Pelosi has spoken publicly -- including to the
San Francisco Chronicle's edtiorial board -- about Reid on the Iraq War. She got very angry when a reporter questioned her (rightly) about the refusal to end the Iraq War and began listing off what the House had attempted and told the reporter that people needed to ask Reid why the Senate refused to act.
It makes for a novel twist in the 24-hour news cycle but it doesn't make for reality. Today at the White House, spokesperson Jay Carney was asked how the White House planned to pay for US troops in Iraq beyond 2011 if they were kept in Iraq?
Jay Carney: I will have to bump that to the Defense Department. I don't have a specific answer for you on that. We are, as of now, on track to withdraw all of the U.S. forces in Iraq by the end of this year, as dictated by the agreement we have with the Iraqi government and as promised by the President of the United States. So we have said for a long time now if the Iraqi government asks us to maintain some level of troops beyond that end-of-the-year deadline, we would consider it. That doesn't necessarily mean we would do it. We would just consider it. And I really don't have any more information on that possible outcome, because, again, we haven't even gotten a request.
There's Carney's lies and there's reality. Saturday Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) reported US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffery spoke with reporters today about the US mission in Iraq beyond 2011 and stated that "keeping thousands of troops in Iraq" after 2011 is a possibility. Also over the weekend, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported on the US Special Forces in Iraq and how they're training the Iraqi Special Operations forces to bash in the doors of suspect's homes in the middle of the night ("the sound of glass shattering and screams pierced the nighttime stillness" really doesn't sound like freedom or democracy) and quoted Iraqi Maj Gen Fadhel al-Barwari stating, "The Americans need to stay because we don't have control over our borders." On the Fourth, a US Senator weighed in. US Senator John McCain tells Anna Fifield (Finanical Times of London -- link has text and video) that the US neeeds to keep troops on the ground in Iraq, "I'm talking 10,000-13,000 specifically for intelligence capabilities, air capabilities and also as a peacekeeping force up in the disputed areas around Kirkuk and that area." McCain was visiting Afghanistan with (among others) Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham. Also weighing in that day was Sabah Jawad of the London-based Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation who told Iran's Press TV (link has text and video):
Yes it's quite obvious they don't want to withdraw, they don't even want to withdraw now more than before because of the uprisings that have taken place in the Arab world; they want to keep their military presence in Iraq. As you said they have the biggest embassy here in Iraq and also that this embassy is supposed to staff over 16,000 employees. I don't know of any other country where the Americans have a 16,000 staff in their embassies. This is an indication that these people will be in full control of the security situation in Iraq -- security operations. They will control Iraq's air space and the Iraqi economy. They will advise every important minister in Iraq and they will continue to interfere in the internal situation in Iraq for the foreseeable future. So these all are indications for the future that the US does not want to withdraw from Iraq. They have invested a lot of money in the occupation of Iraq and they continue the occupation of Iraq and they want to be there to steal even more oil and to tie up Iraq in its entirety to the so-called free market and to multinational oil companies.
Al Mada reports that "well-informed sources" (unidentified by the paper) are stating that the discussions taking place between the government and the US Embassy on US troops staying beyond 2011 continue and that what is being discussed currently is a memorandum which would allow for US forces to remain in Iraq for another five years and it is thought that going that route (memorandum of understanding) would allow Nouri to bypass the Parliament. (Al Mada also does a write up of Tim Arango's NYT report on US Special Forces.) Al Rafidayn reports Ammar al-Hakim is calling for a series of "extended meetings" to discuss US troops remaining on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011. He wants the heads of all the political blocs to attend a general meeting to address the issue. On The NewsHour Ed O'Keefe offered a summary of the various talks going on:
As one U.S. official joked to me a little while ago, he said, look, six months from now, one of these reports will have gotten it right. But, tonight, there is no discussion going on between U.S. officials and the Iraqis over how many troops might stay on beyond December. We had a conversation with the U.S. ambassador here over the weekend. And he said, look, if the Iraqis come to us with some kind of proposal for troops to stay, we will consider it. For us, it's not about the numbers. It's about what exactly U.S. troops would do. Most of them in the last year have focused on what is called advise-and-assist responsibilities. They essentially hang back when Iraqi forces go out to conduct counterterrorism measures or target other groups, and only jump into it if, for some reason, it's not going well. But you talk to military officials they say things are going pretty well. The problem is, Iraq still can't defend its skies, still can't defend its big port down in Basra, and military officials say that the Iraqi still want some more training, whether it's basic infantry training or more specialized training. So it's there that U.S. officials believe the Iraqis will come to them with some kind of a request. We're expecting the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, to meet with the prime minister, Maliki, and other political leaders as early as this week to once again talk about this. There have been several meetings, and no big conclusions just yet. But the thought is that perhaps we're getting much closer to some kind of a request that would be given to U.S. officials. And at that point, it lands back in the lap of President Obama and the Pentagon. They will have to discuss this, figure out what exactly they could do, how many more troops could stay here beyond December.
CNN reports that the US opened a consulate in Basra today (and notes the last one shuttered its doors in 1967). Ed O'Keefe noted Monday that the US plan was 15 consulates around Iraq staffed by "roughtly 17,000 US diplomats, contractors and security personnel."
Aswat al-Iraq adds that Joe Biden is supposed to be visiting Iraq shortly according to the Higher Islamic Council's Jalal al-Sagheer who states Biden is visiting "to resolve the questions related to the US withdrawal". Normally US visits are surprises and even the press is supposed to be hush-hush. It would appear some in Iraq who normally keep secrets are being rather talkative. Al Rafidayn reports Moqtada al-Sadr has heard of this visit "expected to take place over the next few days" and he's condemned it.
The question Jay Carney should have been asked today is: (A) Will Joe Biden still be visiting Iraq, (B) Does the White House have any idea who in Iraq started leaking news of the visit and (C) Since the White House always makes 'surprise' visits, is it really safe for Biden to go to Iraq in the near future?
Tony Blair, when he was prime minister of the UK, visited England and did so without secrecy. He also did the sort of well guarded walk through areas that US Senator John McCain did. So presumably a visit doesn't need to be kept in secret; however, the White House (under Bush and under Barack) has always treated it as a state secret and this time the secret got out and is now all over Iraq.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament, released a statement decrying today's attack and insisting "that security forces reveal the outcome of an investigation into previous attacks." Rob Crilly (Telegraph of London) counts 35 dead from the two Taji bombings. Aswat al-Iraq quotes "a security source" who states that there was a bombing in a garage and "a booby-trapped car". Hurriyet notes that the "two bombs detonated near a government council building." The Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe told CBS Radio News that, "It was a booby-trapped vehicle followed pretty closely by some other kind of explosive charge that went off as people were headed for the first explosion." (That's from a friend with CBS Radio News -- and they don't have a link so I'll just note this link to CBS News website.)
Yashir Ghazi and Tim Arango (New York Times) quote survivor Hesham Hasoon, "Why am I still alive? My brothers, friends, everyone left me. [. . .] When the first explosion happened, I saw the people and the kids start to gather near the car bomb and I knew something else would happen. I called on the stupid soldier to evacuate the place but he didn't care." Sinan Salaheddin (AP) quotes a police officer stating, "It was awful ... some of the lightly wounded people were running in all directions, either crying or screaming for help." Today Pacifica Evening News noted that the death toll had risen to 37 and that many of the dead and wounded had "lined up for national identity cards." (Pacifica Evening News has their own website, click here.)
At the State Dept today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland handled the daily press briefing and was asked about the increased violence in Iraq.
Victoria Nuland: I think you saw that Assistant Secretary Feltman is in Iraq today for the opening of our consulate in Basra. It gave him an opportunity to have some meetings with Iraqi officials. With regard to the uptick in violence, I would simply say that the people who are doing this are not only enemies of the United States, they're also enemies of the Iraqi people and their desire to live peacefully and have stability in their future. So we continue to work with the Iraqi security forces as they get ready for the full takeover of their own security. But obviously, we continue to work with the Iraqis on ensuring that they have a full and strong and stable government.
The Taji bombings weren't the only violence reported today. Reuters notes 3 Sahwa were shot dead in Hawija, 1 man was shot oustide his Rashad home, and, dropping back to Monday, a Baghdad rocket attack claimed 5 lives, 1 police officer shot dead outside his Mussayab home and a Jurf al-Sakhar bombing injured one Sahwa.
Last month Jalal's House Party accomplished nothing other than killing a Monday. June 20th, Jalal hosted political leaders in an attempt to get them to agree to return to the Erbil Agreement that ended the political stalemate and promised a security council would be created -- an independent body -- and it would be headed by Ayad Allawi whose political slate Iraqiya received the most votes in the March elections. Nouri's slate came in second. But, per the Erbil Agreement, he would be named prime minister-designate and given the 30 days to nominate a cabinet and have it approved by Parliament. Nouri got what he wanted and then broke the Erbil Agreement.
Unless and until Nouri wants to follow it, it's not going to be followed. But Jalal issued statements after his House Party insisting the meeting was a success. Ayad Allawi skipped it but Jalal said it was a success. And Jalal insisted they'd be meeting again real soon. Dar Addustour reports Jalal is scheduling a new House Party for next week. Why bother remains a question. Nouri still can't put forward a full Cabinet -- which, were the Constitution followed, would mean he wouldn't be prime minister. There are no heads to the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of National Security -- the three security ministries. Nouri claims he is heading all of them and bieng prime minister. That would explain the onslaught of violence Iraq is facing.
By December 25th, those posts were supposed to be filled -- per the Iraqi Constitution. If they were not filled by then, Nouri was supposed to step down as prime minister-designate and someone else was supposed to be name. The Constitution was not followed and as 2010 drew to a close, Nouri was promising he would name heads to the security ministries in a matter of weeks. It's even months into 2011 and he's still not filled those posts.
The day before Jalal Talabani's House Party, Fakhri Karim (Al Mada) reported that the meet up has to deal with several serious issues including:
* Providing the foundation to end monopoly control of the government by Nouri or "whatever person would occupy the post" of prime minister
* Work towards national partnership
* Confirm the words of the Constitution (and reject Nouri's interpretation of it) with regards to the executive branch
* End one party power.
* Review the security appointments which are in violation of the Constitution (Nouri cannot be Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Minister of the Interior and Minister of Defense as he's made himself for over six months now).
The meet-up accomplished none of those items. As a result Jalal Talabani began issuing statements making fanciful claims. From the June 21st snapshot:
Al Rafidayn offers that the meeting put an end to squabbles between Allawi and Nouri being played out in the media. That seems doubtful and not just because Allawi's very adept at manipulating the media (Nouri's a clumsy ox but he does have many flunkies he dispatches regularly). How can such an agreement be finalized when one of the two parties in the two party squabble is present? Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) notes a majority present agreed to end to the media campaigns but, again, how can such an agreement honestly be made when one of the two parties engaging in the campaign is not present? Rikabi notes Talabani, Nouri, Ammar al-Hakim and Adel Abdul Mahdi were among those preent while Saleh al-Mutlaq was the most prominent member of Iraqiya present. Jamal Hashim and Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) quote Talabani stating, "The meeting was successful. We discussed the presence of the U.S. troops in details whether to stay or to leave (the country) and whether we need trainers and the number of them."
"No more attacks on each other in the media!" That was the best Jalal could offer and even that claim seemed doubtful. It was doubtful. It was quickly broken. From the June 22nd snapshot, "Today the 'agreement' has already fallen apart. Al Mada reports Nouri's State Of Law is again attacking Allawi's Iraqiya to the media as they pin the 'crisis' in Iraq on Iraqiya and state that the political slate is what has prevented Nouri from filling the security ministries. It didn't even last a 24-hour news cycle and that does not bode well for the second meeting Talabni's been promoting." Nouri's State of Law slate also appears to have used the media to launch a disinformation campaign against Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament and member of Allawi's Iraqiya.
Al Mada notes today that Ayad Allawi has stated Nouri's government has failed to provide security and has failed to deliver basic services. Alsumaria TV explains, "Allawi took the floor during the Middle East and North Africa Conference held in Italy and affirmed that certain regional countries are interfering in Iraq's internal affairs pointing out to pressures on the political process in what serves the interest of specified parties."
Last week, we repeatedly highlighted Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya's Libyan War reports from Tripoli on KPFA's Flashpoints. He has an article up at Information Clearing House entitled "Journalism as a Weapon of War in Libya:"
The truth has been turned on its head in Libya. NATO and the Libyan government are saying contradictory things. NATO says that the Libyan regime will fall in a matter of days, while the Libyan government says that the fighting in Misrata will end in about two weeks.
During the night the sound of NATO jets flying over Tripoli can be heard in the Mediterranean coastal city. Tripoli has not been bombed for a few days, but the sound of the flyovers have been numerous. The Atlantic Alliance deliberately picks the night as a means to disturb the sleep of residence in an attempt to spread fear. Small children in Libya have lost a lot of sleep during this war. This is part of the psychological war being waged. It is meant to break the spirit of Libya. This is all additional to the severing wound imposed on Libya through trickery and sedition.
In the same context, the media war against Libya has continued too. The Rixos Hotel in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, where the majority of the international press is located, is a nest of lies and warped narratives where foreign reporters are twisting realities, spinning events, and misreporting to justify the NATO war against Libya. Every report and news wire being sent out of Libya by international reporters has to carefully be cross-checked and analyzed. Foreign journalists have put words in the mouth of Libyans and are willfully blind. They have ignored the civilian deaths in Libya, the clear war crimes being perpetrated against the Libyan people, and the damage to civilian infrastructure, from hotels to docks and hospitals.
One group of Libyan youth explained in a private conversation that when speaking to reporters they would interview in twos. One would ask a question followed immediately by another one. In the process the answer to the first question would be used as the answer for the second question. In the Libyan hospitals the foreign reports try not to take pictures of the wounded and dying. They just go into the hospitals to paint the image of impartiality, but virtually report about nothing and ignore almost everything newsworthy. They refuse to tell the other side of the story. Shamelessly in front of seriously injured civilians, the type of questions many foreign reporters ask doctors, nurses, and hospital staff is if they have been treating military and security personnel in the hospitals.
CNN has even released a report from Misrata by Sara Sidner showing the sodomization of a woman with a broomstick which was conducted by Libyan soldiers (which it refers to as Qaddafi troops as a means of demonization). In reality the video was a domestic affair and from prior to the conflict. It originally took place in Tripoli and the man even has an accent from Tripoli. This is the type of fabrications that the mainstream media is pushing forward to push for war and military intervention.
There are now investigations underway to show that depleted uranium has been used against Libyans. The use of depleted uranium is an absolute war crime. It is not only an attack on the present, but it also leaves a radioactive trace that attacks the unborn children of tomorrow. Future generations will be hurt by these weapons too. These generations of the future are innocent. The use of depleted uranium is the equivalent of the U.S. planting nuclear weapons in Germany or Japan during the Second World War and leaving timers for them to detonate in 2011. This is an important and newsworthy issue in Libya and all the foreign journalists have heard about it, but how many have actually covered it?