Friday, February 13, 2009

Iraq Roundtable

Rebecca: We're doing an unplanned roundtable and participating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Ava, me, Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man, C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review, Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills), Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix, Mike of Mikey Likes It!, Trina of Trina's Kitchen and Wally of The Daily Jot, Kat, you want to explain how we ended up with a roundtable.

Kat: Except for Betty and Cedric, everyone's at Trina's. And Rebecca and I were on the couch with out laptops and I was scanning and scanning the net for topics to write about and just couldn't find anything. Rebecca groaned, I said, "I know!" And we're doing a roundtable with anyone else who hadn't already done a post tonight plus dragging Ava and C.I. into it.

Trina: Ava and C.I. are taking notes and will type up the rush transcript. If they speak one after the other, I'll help out with note taking.

Rebecca: So let's start with Iraq. The Iraq War is over, right? That's what the press has told us, so it's over and all is peachy keen in Iraq.

Mike: It really seems like they -- the press -- lost interest in Iraq and, now that so many are leaving Iraq and rushing off to Afghanistan, they want to find a way to justify their decreased coverage of Iraq. So they try to write it off as a 'success.'

Ava: I think that's a really solid point and that, yes, when you are, for example, ABC pulling your news staff out of Iraq and partnering with the BBC to provide you with Iraq content when needed, you're going to really gas bag a river in order to justify the fact that you've killed your coverage. You're going to justify your actions in any way you can.

Betty: But they didn't really get to get away with that this week. They tried to. C.I.'s documented, for example, the New York Times' effort to downplay Iraq all week while 'reporting' on it. Wednesday's violence ended up being buried at the end of the Thursday article despite the fact that more people were reported dead in Iraq than in Afghanistan and they tossed Afghanistan on the front page. Then Thursday's violence, reported today, is curious for what it leaves out.

Cedric: I agree with Betty and one of the things C.I.'s really great at is noting the patterns before anyone does. I'm sure a lot of people reading today's New York Times article on Thursday's violence didn't even register that there were three assassination attempts --

Mike: Two successful.

Cedric: Two successful, flowing from the provincial elections. The paper reports one and mentions another in passing without even noting the name of the guy. This is a pattern and C.I. was the first to note, we're going back years, the targeting of government officials, the first to notice that Mosul was becoming the most violent city in Iraq, just go down the list. I have no idea why the New York Times would ignore what appears to be a pattern. It's hard for me to believe it's accidental.

Trina: I don't believe it's accidental at all and considering that paper's history, even just the most recent history, they've lost the right to the benefit of the doubt after selling the illegal war. They promised, in their sort-of-culpa, a greater look at their actions in selling the illegal war and they never provided it. Howard Kurtz, in the Washington Post, did a lengthy report on how the Post got it wrong. The New York Times never did anything like that. But the week started with the nonsense that things were going great in Iraq and the reality is completely different.

Wally: I could be wrong but I'm finding -- when Ava, Kat, C.I. and I are speaking to college groups about the illegal war -- a lot more interest. And there's always been an interest but it seems like it's increased. Kat, Ava, C.I., anyone else noticing that?

Kat: Yeah. And I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that our news outlets are not reporting as they need to be. So when we're discussing Iraq, this is often the first some are hearing about whatever examples or details we're addressing. I'll give an example, at the start of this week, when C.I. was talking about the reports that [Nouri] al-Maliki was making overtures to Baathist officials who had left the country and how al-Maliki and his supporters were denying that, no one knew about that, no one we spoke to. They had a lot of questions about that. Then, Thursday, Trenton Daniels does his really bad article on it. Which leaves out Dawa's strong, public denial. It really was a white wash article but I don't really have any respect left for McClatchy.

Rebecca: I'm going to jump in with an Iraq and media question that Lilly e-mailed to ask me. Last week, C.I. noted the reputation McClatchy had for bias re: Iraq coverage and she wondered if I could write about that. I can't. C.I. could but, C.I., I'll put you on the spot here now.

C.I.: McClatchy's Iraq coverage has always been seen as tilting towards "Awakening" Councils. That's due to Nancy A. Youssef's reporting, yes. It's do to Leila's and others. But it's also due to blog posts by Leila and Iraqi correspondents where they have revealed opinions and, time and again, it has been pro-"Awakening." The Los Angeles Times, by contast, is thought to be biased towards the KRG and the reason for that has to do with their Kurdish ties. The New York Times is only interested in officials and the State Dept will always trump the military at the paper. The Washington Post has had too much of a change over and too many strong voices to get one reputation pinned on them. Certain things you might have noted in, for example, Ellen Knickmeyer's reporting would be countered with Sudarsan Raghavan's who would be countered with Ernesto Londono who would be countered by Anthony Shadid. And to be really clear, the bulk of the outlets have reporters capable of strong reporting. McClatchy harmed itself partnering up with an 'NGO' and whether they can recover or not, I don't know. But the New York Times, for example, I can't think of anyone that's not capable of strong writing. Time limitations, rewriting and editing from outside Iraq can destroy a strong report. There are other things as well. But the days where the Times just had a propagandist in Iraq are gone.

Rebecca: You've praised Tina Susman recently, at the Los Angeles Times, and I'm wondering who else has strengths?

C.I.: Everyone. Leila Fadel has let her division slip out of control but even Leila has talent -- even at this late date. I'll praise anyone reporting from Iraq for any of those four papers tomorrow. Tina Susman, for example, usually has the context. You can expect that in her writing. But is there anyone that hasn't had praise? Other than Trenton? I don't care for him and if I don't care for you, there's a reason. And if I really don't care for you, I've checked you out and spoken to editors who've worked with you. I really don't care for Trenton. But if he wrote an amazing article, I'd praise it tomorrow. If he even wrote a good one, I'd praise it.

Cedric: You called out Helen Pidd today and I loved it. It was funny and it was important and I don't think that's really grasped. The funny part, yes. But the important part, no. You're calling Helen Pidd because she's repeating a falsehood. And if it doesn't get called out, and called out loudly, it seeps into the coverage. We all saw that when Barack put out the lie that Bill Clinton pardoned two women with the Weather Underground. The next morning, after that debate, you and Ava wrote a piece and you walked people through it. And the lie stayed in. That night, you let it rip and tore into people by name for repeating the lie and only then did the public record start getting it right.

Ava: I'm grabbing because C.I. nodded to me. First, Barack floated two things in that debate and the press -- gee, which side were they on? -- went with the worst. David Corn couldn't let it go and was screaming about it in a press conference and writing his high drama posts at Mother Jones. When he was finally forced to issue a limited correction, he did so minimizing his actions. But, yeah, we did think it would straighten out in the course of the news cycle. That morning, when we wrote that Bill Clinton didn't issue two pardons to the Weather Underground -- or any pardons, we were writing an entry and thinking it would all come out during the day. It didn't. And C.I. had to hit hard. And when people lie, C.I. has to hit hard. When people refuse to correct mistakes, C.I. has to hit hard. Kat and I were talking about that this week, about how difficult, for example, the morning entries are and how C.I. has to include this and that and cover this and that and is going from one cell phone to the other over and over and there are plenty of times where C.I.'s speaking to someone, in the press, who is saying, "Call it out or it's in the cycle and it stays in." It is not easy for the press cycle to self-correct. And to drop back to the Weather issue, credit to ABC News who quickly self-corrected, to Jake Tapper and ABC News who quickly self-corrected. But that's very rare. Much more likely is the David Corn who refuses for days and days to correct and then, when he finally does, does so in a snarky manner where he refuses to take responsibility for repeating falsehoods and then has to make a Marc Rich 'joke' to try to excuse the seriousness of the matter. It is a serious matter. For days and days, the press ran with, "Barack's friends with Bill Ayers but Bill Clinton pardoned two people in Weather Underground!" That created a dynamic to the story that was never true.

Trina: I have no idea why Helen Pidd couldn't get her facts straight. That's really embarrassing to be reporting something, a month after it took place, that is not true and that many, many MSM news reports have established wasn't true. As for McClatchy, I think they're useless at this point. I repost the snapshot once a week, sometimes more but usually I just post once a week. And the drive-by e-mails, oh. "Never anything nice." Along with Tina Susman, Ned Parker's been praised recently, Alissa J. Rubin's been praised several times recently, Sam Dagher and I can think of many others. And guess what, it's really not required that C.I. praise. But I do love the drive-bys -- most of whom seem to never grasp that "Here's C.I.'s 'Iraq snapshot'" means "Here's something I didn't write." But if Rebecca's reader's question got answered, I'd like to move to the issue of the elections because I'm really getting sick of the nonsense where they supposedly mean something. Am I alone on that? I know C.I.'s sick of it, anyone else?

Cedric: I have watched in amazement as the press has spun these elections and turned it into some deep meaning for Nouri al-Maliki who was not a candidate. Each and every belief they espouse -- which they present as fact -- has at least one counter-belief but they ignore that to promote al-Maliki. Over and over.

Wally: And today, one of the reports was how al-Maliki's 'success' in the elections -- in elections where he was not a candidate but somehow found 'success' -- proved that Iraq wants a "strong man." Iraq wants it? Or the reporters want it? And, yeah, Trina, I'm sick of it. And I really do think the press wants a strong man or that they know the military does and they spin it that way for the military.

Betty: I'd agree with Wally on that -- I agree with Cedric's comments as well but specifically about what the military wants and what our government wants. We put thugs in charge in Iraq because thugs could frighten and scare the populace and if that happened quickly the efforts to privatize everything in Iraq could move quickly -- not to mention violence could diminish. So we put thugs in charge and I think we are trying to sell this belief that -- after we've put thugs in charge -- what Iraq really wants is what we did. It's a justification. An after the fact justification. Which brings us back to Ava's point about the justifications. Now Cedric's point about how they keep going with what shores up their view is good point as well.

Rebecca: Today's snapshot -- and link to that please -- includes a commentary that appeared last night, a commentary by C.I., and that was included at Trina's request. Trina, why don't you talk about that?

Trina: Sure and since Ava and C.I. are typing, we all agreed when we want a link, we will request it. That way they don't have to figure out what needs to be hunted down and what doesn't and we're also trying to avoid multiple links because we don't want to be up all night waiting to post it anymore than they want to be up all night hunting down links. But the commentary went up last night and I asked C.I. to please include as much of it as possible in the snapshot. I'm going to summarize it. Iraq held provincial elections January 31st. Iraq has 18 provinces. Only 14 held elections. al-Maliki's Dawa party did well in 9 provinces -- well, nothing that would resemble a mandate for Dawa -- and didn't do so well in 3 provinces. 4 provinces still haven't held elections. At least three will shortly. C.I.?
C.I.: The three Kurdish provinces have scheduled elections for May.

Trina: Thanks. And then there's Kirkuk that no one knows if or when it will be allowed to hold a vote. We can come back to that. But 3 provinces didn't go to Dawa -- southern provinces. 3 Kurdish provinces will not go to Dawa. It's doubtful that Kirkuk would -- due to the ethnic violence and ethnic splits in the region. So that's 6 Dawa will not have support in and you can toss in Kirkuk and make it seven. This is not a huge win for Dawa. This reflects a country that's a lot more split than is being noticed. And, as C.I. pointed out, if you want to use these still non-official results to make some sort of a statement, the statement has to be that the south and north are not on the same page as centeral Iraq, where Baghdad and al-Maliki are and that al-Maliki's got a little bigger space than Hamid Karzai to move around in. But that space could shrink at any time.

Cedric: Agreed and it also does, as C.I. noted, indicate support for a federation and not a nation with the south breaking off in the same way the north's KRG has.

Mike: Has anyone -- Wally, Kat, Ava and C.I. -- have any of you spoke of that in front of students or other groups? If so what was the reaction?

Wally: C.I.'s addressed it about seven or eight times this week. The way C.I. sets it up may mitigate some of the reactions because -- like with the commentary we're talking about -- C.I. notes that a decision for Iraqis and only them. So you don't get some of the response you might get. But there seems to be a collective gulp each time at the prospect of a federation.

Mike: That would be my reaction as well. Do we want to talk about why it's not a US decision? I know we grasp it but someone coming in late may not.

Kat: Well it's not for the US, an occupying power, to determine the fate of Iraq. Iraqis should make that determination. If they want a nation-state, that's their choice, if they want a federation, that's their choice. It's not up to the US to impose anything on it and, honestly, were the US to impose something it would be based on what they think would provide a quick fix. Not unlike the decision to allow Nouri to install his thugs in the ministries -- especially the Ministry of Interior -- decisions based on quick fixes that result in real damage.

Betty: And, I mean, it's like a marriage. Someone outside of it can't decide to end it or to continue it. That has to come from those in the marriage. If Iraq's going to move forward as a nation-state or become a federation that's up to them.

Mike: And the US shouldn't interfere if only out of selfish reasons. If the decision comes from the US or is imposed by the US or encouraged by it, then all the problems with the decision for years and years are the fault of the US. If only to avoid being the ones holding the bag, the US should stay out of it and allow Iraq to make the decision.

Wally: Exactly. It goes to s**t, the US really doesn't need to be any more responsible than it already is.

Kat: Which it already is. Responsible.

Rebecca: Thomas E. Ricks' new book is The Gamble. C.I. offered an opinion on it this week, clearly labeled "my opinion," in a snapshot and I'm wondering if anyone got any e-mail on that -- not C.I. but anyone who reposted?

Cedric: I got some loon screaming the book is pro-war and how dare we endorse pro-war. Is that the sort of thing you're talking about?

Rebecca: Exactly. It was clear that it was an opinon and C.I. had noted that the community would disagree with the idea that the US needed to remain in Iraq for some time but I still had a loon -- probably the same one you did -- e-mailing on a war path.

C.I.: I did label that "my opinion" and did so because I didn't want to cause anyone any trouble or for their to be any mistake that I was speaking for the community -- most of whom have not read the book or started reading it. It is a great book. It's wonderfully written. Think of some of the Iraq books by reporters and how badly written they have been. This isn't a book you have to grimace in order to get through. It's a pleasure to read. But, yeah, we can disagree with some of his conclusions. He's very clear as to why he comes to the conclusions and he could be right about them but I disagree, for example, that the US needs to remain in Iraq. I also disagree, to cite another example, that MoveOn's General Betray Us ads were off limits. I think when Colin Powell countermands Bill Clinton, 1993 on gays serving openly in the military, and does so publicly, undermines the campaign promise Clinton has made, I don't think we can say that the military isn't political or isn't fair game. The Gamble notes some examples, including Powell, but that really went beyond just politics, it went to an attack on civilian command of the military. It went to an attack on the entire system. After that, my opinion, this idea that the military command is off limits -- no, they aren't and no one is off-limits in a democracy. My opinion. But this is an amazing book and I think he's very clear when he's expressing his opinion and very clear when he isn't. I think it's the best book on Iraq that's been published this decade. It's a pleasure to read because he does have a style, he is a writer and he hasn't just clipped his old articles and done a copy and paste. He's also very generous to other reporters. He cites and names them and not just in the end notes but in the actual text. I think it's a weighty and ambitious work that succeeds in all of its goals, it's perfectly executed. My opinion.

Rebecca: I know Elaine's read it and loves it but other than that, Mike's the only one I know who's reading it. Mike?

Mike: I'm enjoying the book. I'm finally up to the half-way mark. It's like 170-something, where ever the section of pictures ends, that's the page I stopped on. It's jam-packed with information. And that's new information and new analysis. It's not a clip-job. I found the section on General Ray Odierno especially interesting.

Wally: Ava and I have read it. It's a big book, over 320 pages of text. And what stood out was the ending. A lot of the time, you end up with an author who starts winding down and the last chapter may or may not be worth reading. Ricks' final chapter contains information and observations that go to the conclusions he makes. And that includes Odierno's belief that at least 30,000 US troops will be needed in Iraq through 2014 or 2015.

Ava: That's really the big shock. We do talk about the book when we're speaking about Iraq because it is about Iraq, it's new and most college libraries have at least one copy or are getting one. So when we get to that point, you can hear and see puzzlement. And someone will bring up the treaty and we'll have to do the walk through. It's really amazing how badly the MSM bungled it and the Beggar so-called Alternative Media didn't give a damn. They were too busy with their orgasms over Barack. So we have to go into what the treaty masquerading as the Status Of Forces Agreement actually does and says.

Kat: And people are always shocked. And they have been since since last year when C.I. was sketching it out. So one thing I'm really hoping the book does -- and I've got fifty or so more pages before I'm done with it but I am enjoying it -- is get the word out on the realities. Getting back to C.I.'s point, I never had a problem telling when Ricks was expressing his opinion. He doesn't try to present it as fact. He explains his take and why he has it. I wish he was saying, "The US needs to get out! And now!" He's not but this wasn't a piece of propaganda. And he's synthesizing and it's just an amazing book. Trina, are you reading it?

Trina: Yes, but remember I'm taking care of my grandbaby --

Ava: Emphasis on baby and noting that because a child under two requires a lot more direct care than a child of eight or older who can have play time on their own and who would be in school for some of the day.

Trina: True, thank you for that. And we're teething.this week so it's a little more hectic. So I'm only on page 201. So I've really just finished the period where Robert Gates is house cleaning Donald Rumsfeld's people -- including Peter Pace. It's a serious book and that alone is reason enough to read it. If you're interested in the Iraq War, whether you support it ending or continuing, now or in the immediate future, you will find the book absorbing. And to back up what C.I. was pointing out about the genoristy, Michael Ware, for example, of CNN gets cited by name. A lot of these books -- and they have been cut and paste books -- just say CNN. If you're saying something was reported right, if something deserves noting, it deserves naming. And Ricks doesn't balk at giving credit.

Rebecca: Okay a question just for two people. I have a young child. That's my question. No, I'm joking. I have a young child who is just a few months older than Trina's grandbaby and Betty has three young children. I know that, for me, a lot of my feelings regarding the illegal war and the need to end it come from that. I was against the war before I gave birth and before I was pregnant. But what I'm getting at is that, yes, for me, having a child has intesified my opposition to the Iraq War and I'm wondering if Trina or Betty has anything similar going on? And Betty, Trina's indicating for you to go first.

Betty: Okay. Thank you. For me, all my decisions go through that filter. I'm a single parent and that may be why but I do think about my kids. I hear the peanut crisis and immediately think of my kids. I'm listening to the weather report/prediction for the next day and I'm thinking, "What do my kids need to wear for that?" So I've got that going on all the time and, yes, when I hear about a young man or woman dying -- Iraqi, US -- Thursday the British soldier, I am thinking of it in terms of, "What if it was one of my three children?" I would say that is very true for me. And let's talk about this aspect of the Iraq War continuing past 2015 -- because 35,000 US service members in Iraq up to 2015 means still there past it. I do think, "Well are they going to draft?" I do think, "What if one of my kids wants to rebel and do it by enlisting?" These are serious concerns and not fleeting thoughts for me.

Trina: I would agree with that. Mike was our big concern, he's our youngest son, when the Iraq War started. His father had a long talk with him about that -- about the war that was coming -- for that reason. Mike has a younger sister but she's a girly-girl and who begged for excuses to get out of gym class so we didn't really see her as possibly enlisting in the military. And once my husband talked with Mike and that was straightened out, I did feel an easing of tension. So I do think there is a personal aspect. I'm not saying it made me object less to the illegal war but, as it was gearing up to start, it did take one worry off my mind. One aspect -- and I think Betty and Rebecca will agree with that -- of parenting during a time of war is grasping, especially when the kids are very small, how much they depend on you and how instrumental you are in shaping and mis-shaping them. And that does lead you to wonder about the childhood experiences of some who make the news -- someone who died while serving or someone who was killed by a mortar like the two children today. I'm sure a young father would have a similar story to share and I just want to note that we're not saying, "This is a mothering issue." I also think that, for those who support the Iraq War, the same news is greeted differently and they see it from a different perspective. But their being a parent would also impact their reaction.

Rebecca: I think that's a good point. In 2006, C.I. regularly started asking the question of whether those who support the illegal war are more committed to continuing it than those opposed to the illegal war are committed to ending it. Just going around, and starting with Cedric and then Betty, true or false today?

Cedric: Absolutely true. I thought it was true when C.I. first started asking that question. And it's only more so today. C.I.?

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

Cedric: Thanks. We do need to note that when talking about this topic. But most of the movement broke off a long time ago. They give lip service at election time because it's an issue that energizes voters but they really aren't concerned with ending the illegal war. I think the small number still committed to continuing the illegal war are much more dedicated than the bulk of the left. Betty?

Betty: United For Peace and Justice does nothing. They hold their 'strategy' session and cast themselves as the cheering squad for Barack Obama and suddenly some politician -- a politician! -- is more important to an alleged peace group than is ending the Iraq War. United For Peace and Justice is disgusting. That's true of the bulk of them. They've disgraced themselves. I agreed we need to include the news of that action and I'll also note that Military Families Speak Out just finished up a four-day action. I'm not really impressed with these other people and their "How we can help Barack" articles. It's not the peace movement's job to "help" Barack. It's the peace movement's job to make demands, to make noise and to force politicians to end the illegal war.

Rebecca: Okay, now for those of us physically in the same room. How about we start with Mike, who's seated next to me, and just work our way around which means we end with C.I.?

Mike: I agree so much with what Betty and Cedric just said and it's not just CODESTINK or United For Peace and Justice that's become an embarrasment. The Center For Constitutional Rights is a joke. They refuse to call out Barack. They couch every criticism and cower. The ACLU has shown some real strength -- could I get a link for them for that reason -- but the Center, which is supposed to be radical, is just this huge, huge disappointment. The bulk of the left and 'left' has disgraced themselves. And it's why, even though those wanting the Iraq War ended are in the majority, nothing's forcing the end. Nothing will until people learn to demand it. We are the government. As long as we act like our employees are movie stars we worship, we're powerless and chicken ass cowards who can't accomplish a damn thing.

Kat: I don't think anyone's going to disagree with which side is more committed at this point. And it's pathetic because, as we've noted before, if Hillary had been elected, the same left that plays the quiet game currently would be demanding action. A lot of it is people being scared to criticize Barack, a lot of it is them believing the hype, a lot of it is the desire to worship a man. But it's pathetic and it's pathetic that they believed his lies about Iraq and it's pathetic that they played Sophie's Choice with Iraq and Afghanistan -- that knowing that while he was saying he'd pull 'combat' troops from Iraq, he was saying he'd send more to Afghanistan, these same so-called lefties endorsed him and lied for him and covered for him.

Trina: You know, I look back on Vietnam and I remember LBJ being called out and Nixon. Today, I look around and feel like we have nothing but immaturity at the top of the peace chain. And I feel we have people cutting private deals at the expense of the peace movement. I do not consider Kim Gandy a voice of peace. I know some people do. I know some idiots, like Pundit Mom, think Kim did something wonderful to end the Iraq War. Buy a clue, you idiot. But Kim's not criticized Barack and what do we have now? Kim angling for a job with the administration. Please, our so-called leaders have been bought and paid for and seem, in retrospect, to have existed completely to tap down on actions and outrage. They've repeatedly -- and The Nation has been the worst here -- attempted to turn a vote for the Democratic Party into a peace action. And then they've done nothing but offer excuses for Dems in office -- despite that laughable editorial they ran starting on the cover about how they wouldn't support any candidate who blah, blah, blah.

Wally: Yeah, that's true. And you have to wonder, since Katrina vanden Heuvel used the Roosevelt board position to hook up early members of Barack's team -- like his Facebook connect, you have to wonder how genuine that editorial was and how much it was about setting up Barack because The Nation was pimping him long before 2007. I want to turn it to a point that C.I.'s made for five years now. The Iraq War hits the six year mark in March. Where is the Pacifica Radio program devoted to Iraq. There's not one. There's not even a half-hour program once a week that's sole focus is Iraq. So let's quit pretending that any of our leaders give a damn about Iraq. They don't. An illegal war is ongoing and they've refused to cover it as such. What show started covering the first Gulf War?

C.I.: KPFA's Flashpoints.

Wally: Thank you. There has never been a focus on Iraq. You can actually see these Beggar outlets spike their coverage -- increase it -- of Iraq -- which is really just discussions because they don't report from Iraq -- as elections approach. Otherwise, they ignore it. So, no, they don't care.

Ava: I -- I'm going to need another question. This gets into something C.I. and I have agreed to write about for Third this weekend. I can't comment. I doubt C.I. can.

Rebecca: Okay. How about this for your question: If the left doesn't find a way to get active, when does the Iraq War end?

Ava: I have no idea. If they don't get active, the illegal war does not end before 2013. I don't know that it ends in 2013. Rebecca, you remember how, summer 2005, we were all working on Third -- Betty, Rebecca, Mike, C.I and I. The others weren't doing their own sites and weren't working on it with us then. But Rebecca, you remember how it was an awful, awful writing edition and we were all stressed and C.I. brings up the fact that ideally The Common Ills should go dark in 2008 and we're all shocked by that and then really shocked when C.I. says that the Iraq War will still be going on past 2008. That was 2005. And the idea that the Iraq War would continue three more years was just unbelievable to us. A few of us even thought C.I. was joking. But it's 2009 and the Iraq War is ongoing. So I return to the points C.I. made then about who wants it more -- those who want to end it or those who want to continue it -- and who treats it as a serious issue. We have a left that defocuses and hops all over the place. I mean, Rebecca, you were writing about this recently, how the Beggar outlets are all over Gaza this week and completely ignoring Iraq. And pair that up with Wally's point about, all this time later, still not having one program -- even a half-hour, once a week -- on any of the Pacifica Radio stations that focuses solely on Iraq. There is no concern for ending the Iraq War. There was once a desire to make a few fast bucks off the illegal war on the part of many writing bad books and making bad 'documentaries.' The Amy Goodmans will continue to trot out Iraq when it's pledge drive funding time but that's just lip service. They only care about what they can make a buck off. Typical Panhandle Media.

C.I.: Everybody's said what needs saying. If you want a specific example, I think we can offer up Free Speech Radio News. Betty started the roundtable noting the huge amount of violence all week in Iraq and she specifically stated Wednesday's violence and Thursday's violence as well as today's -- Fridays. I think it takes a lot of nerve to do what Free Speech Radio News did this week. Today -- Friday -- the violence was the worst of the year thus far. And every outlet had to weigh in. So what does Free Speech Radio News do? They show up declaring, "A female suicide bomber in Iraq killed nearly 40 women and children today as they made the annual Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala to mark the death of the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. This is the most deadly bombing in Iraq so far this year. And the third day in a row of attacks against the Shiite Pilgrims." Oh, it's the third day in a row, is it? Well, where was your Wednesday coverage, where was your Thursday coverage? They didn't offer any. And that quote, that's the extent of their Friday coverage. So if you're looking for the perfect example, take that program. Ignoring Iraq all week. Ignoring the House and Senate hearings on Iraq and Afghanistan that took place Thursday, ignoring this and ignoring that. And when forced to comment, they serve up a news item that makes it sound like they have been covering the attacks when they haven't. It's all a bunch of frauds and fakers and I'm sick of it. I think we all are.

Rebecca: And the oven buzzer just went off so this is going to be it. I don't know about Betty and Cedric, but here we've been drinking -- alcohol -- throughout this. And, except for Ava and C.I., eating. Ava and C.I. have been taking notes so we're going to end now that Trina's loaf of French bread is coming out of the oven. This roundtable focused exclusively on Iraq. Sites other than The Common Ills will offer C.I.'s Friday snapshot below this.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, February 13, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Thomas E. Ricks tries to drag Americans to the grown ups table (no word on how successful the attempt was), Blackwater changes its name, at least 40 dead from a single bombing, and more.

Alan Gomez (USA Today) reports Maj Gen Michael Oates declaring he has no idea why US troops are in southern Iraq and "that he believes recent security gains there are permanent -- and that some of his troops are openly wondering why they're still there, even though he believes their presence remains crucial." Oatest acknowledges problems in Mosul but appears to think that's it. This as Iraq's rocked with the worst bombing of the year this morning. Iskandariya is south of Baghdad but it is considered to be "central Iraq" and not "southern Iraq." Wisam Mohammed, Sami al-Jumaili, Waleed Ibrahim, Khalid al-Ansary, Mohammed Abbas and Michael Christie (Reuters) report, "The attacks occurred despite heavy security on the pilgrimage route. The ranks of troops and police patrolling Kerbala were boosted by 5,000 to 30,000, a city official said. The Arbain rite, which culminates early on Monday, is difficult to secure. Many pilgrims walk all the way to Kerbala, and are easy targets as they cover hundreds of miles clutching religious banners." Michael Evans (Times of London) states, "A female suicide bomber disguised as a Shia pilgrim on the annual trek to the holy city of Karbala today killed over 30 people, mostly women and children. The woman set of a device hidden beneath the traditional abaya Muslim garment. At least 60 were wounded with head and chest injuries." The death toll and the number wounded have continued to rise throughout the day. Monte Morin (Los Angeles Times states, "The bomber had reportedly tried to pass through a checkpoint at Abu Al Jassim village, but failed. It was then that she entered the crowd of women and children who were eating lunch and detonated explosives strapped to her body." Saad Sarhan and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) provide this context, "The bombing, which occurred shortly before noon, was the deadliest in Iraq this year. . . . Millions of Shiite pilgrims make a yearly pilgrimage to Karbala for the end of a 40-day period of mourning commemorating the death of Hussain bin Ali, one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam." Wisam Mohammed and Sami al-Jumaili (Reuters) report 40 dead and sixty-nine injured. At the United Nations, the following statement was released on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:

The Secretary-General is appalled by the suicide bomb attack against Shi'a pilgrims near Baghdad today, and similar attacks targeting innocent civilians in the past days which have left dozens of people dead and wounded, including many women and children. These acts cannot be justified by any political or religious cause and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. The Secretary-General joins with the people of Iraq in rejecting these cruel and reprehensible attempts to reignite sectarian violence in the country. He also calls on Iraqi leaders to work together in a spirit of national dialogue and mutual respect as demonstrated during the peaceful provincial elections held last month.

Helen Pidd (Guardian) notes the death toll has now risen to 35 and then she pimps the following, "Today's bombing is at least the second attack by a female suicide bomber this year in Iraq: on 4 January a woman blew herself up among a crowd of pilgrims worshipping at the Imam Musa al-Kazim shrine in northern Baghdad, killing 38 people and wounding 72. Though the overall number of suicide attacks has dropped off in recent months, attacks by women are becoming more common." Actually, Helen, the January 4th bomber was a MAN. See the January 6th snapshot, see the January 14th snapshot (at this point al-Maliki's government is admitting the Jan. 4th bomber was a man). Second of all, 30 female bombers in all of 2008 is not "more common" but how nice of you to play the alarmist. How about you tell your readers how many bombers there have been and then explain to them what a tiny percentage of that female bombers actually are? Oh, that wouldn't allow you to play the alarmist. The UNINFORMED alarmist. The scariest thing may be that Pidd is paid to write. The Feb. 2nd Khanaqin bombing is said to be a male suicide bomber or a female suicide bomber. And the gender there was actually worth following up on since al-Maliki's government was pimping the alleged confession of the woman they claimed was the 'Mother of all Bombers' (no, that's not the translation, that's what they were saying -- remember, she recruited, she had them raped, remember all those completely unverifiable claims?). If Mommy of all was indeed captured, who was overseeing these female bombers!!!! Daddy of all Bombers? Aunt of all? Who? Who????? Helen Pidd, please, please, wrap your limited capabilities around that story. McClatchy's Idiot in Iraq, Trenton Daniels also repeats the false claim that January 4th was a woman -- it was a man disgusied as a woman and you'd think as much water as McClatchy carries for Nouri al-Maliki, they'd gladly get it right just because he said so.

We'll use Trenton as our jumping off point to address the elections by noting
the very bad article he wrote yesterday where he rushed to inform that al-Maliki was talking to Baathist officials in exile outside of Iraq. He left out a whole lot including the denials that such talks were taking place. Trent offered white-wash, not news. We'll again note Ma'ad Fayad's "Iraqi Dawa Party Official: No dialogue with Armed Groups" (Asharq Alawsat -- and Haydar al-Ibadi who is spokesperson for Dawa , Nouri's party):Al-Ibadi categorically denied that any official in the state spoke to Baathist leaders whether inside Iraq or abroad. He explained: "The Iraqi constitution does not allow this. Besides, the public' general mood does not support the Baath Party because it committed a lot of crimes during and after the rule of the [former] regime."He added: "The Baathists have committed a lot of crimes and killed a large number of Iraqis since 2003 to date. It is they who allowed the Al-Qaeda Organization to enter the country and who were involved in the killing of hundreds of Iraqis." He asked: "So, how can such a party rejoin the political process?"However, Al-Ibadi noted: "There are Baathists who returned to their jobs and who live a normal life without any problems. But they did so as Iraqis, not as members of the Baath Party, which is known for being a conspiratorial military party that does not believe in democracy and does not allow the establishment of a democratic rule."He added: "Permission for the return of the Baath Party to political action needs a constitutional amendment, and I very much rule out the possibility of such a move."Trenton quotes al-Ibadi in his article, though he downgrades his position in the party. And he leaves out the whole denial that invitations were taking place. Here's reality, al-Maliki's being built up by the press and they never intended to report on the Baathist issue. The fact that some Americans were noticing the situation meant it was time for a white wash and look who shows up.So what he gives you is, 'Guess what, invitations to Baathists are going out!' He leaves out the entire denial that they were taking place -- a HUGE story in Iraqi media at the start of the week. He leaves out the claims of Constitutional issues at play.He reveals himself as something other than a journalist. Toss a Hershey bar on the ground in front of him and he will drop drawers and drop to all fours.There's Trenty, in too much make up and heels that will kill his back and feet, cooing about "Iraqis' desire for a strong ruler. In the poll's preliminary results, Maliki's State of Law coalition won a plurality of the votes in nine of 14 provinces -- more than any other party. Maliki has reinvented himself as a pragmatic, non-sectarian leader. He was the bold figure who crushed both Sunni and Shiite militias, although his opponents charge that he's becoming a dictator." His opponents say that? I can think of many NGOs that say similar things off the record. al-Maliki has not "reinvented himself," the press has and it takes idiots like Trent -- the equivalent of a general studies major -- to continue to pimp the equivalent of state legistlature elections (only in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces*) as 'heavy on the symbolism.'The portent was there when al-Maliki began campaigning around the country, offering empty promises and bribes, and he wasn't a candidate. If the President of the United States started trying to pull that stunt in Vermont, people would be outraged. They would rightly point out that the President has no business sticking into his nose into the election of a state legislature. But al-Maliki sits on billions and he controls how it is spent. He completely thrwarted the democratic process and he should have been called out for it. The elections do not indicate a damn thing. The country remains split. Iraq has 18 provinces, nine -- if you misread the results -- are for al-Maliki!Well nine aren't. Kirkuk might go for him. It's doubtful but it could happen. The three Kurdish provinces will not be hopping on board the Dawa Party wagon.And if people want to get really honest, what the results indicate is a federation just became more likely. Look at the provinces. The north won't go with al-Maliki's party, nor will the south. The support cuts straight along the lines of proposal for breaking up Iraq.What the results -- if people want to read them as support or non-support for al-Maliki (and that's how the press has played this) -- indicate is that the southern section of Iraq stands a good chance of becoming its own regional government the way the northern section is now the KRG. That's good news for al-Maliki?No, it's not. All the oil rich areas and the ports are denied him with 'control' over central Iraq only. Not only is not good news, it indicates that should al-Maliki do something that the KRG and the southern region do not support, he's about as powerful as Hamid Karzai. If the press insists upon wrongly maintaining that the results (still not official results) say something about al-Maliki, then what it actually says is he has very tiny base of power, it is centrally located in Iraq and he's hemmed in there with only slightly more room than Karzai. Meanwhile Marc Santora (New York Times) points out regarding today's deadly bombing, "For the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, which has been widely credited with improving security significantly in the past year, the pilgrimage had represented an opportunity to showcase the efficiency of its security forces. But after the recent spate of attacks, including four in Baghdad alone this week targeting pilgrims, his government is now facing criticism." Today Thomas E. Ricks reminded everyone, "Remember the elections a couple of years ago, puple fingers, people coming out? Followed by a civil war. So I think there's a lot of reasons that Iraq '09 is going to be very tough and harder, in fact, than the last year of Bush's war. And I think there's a good chance that Obama's war in Iraq will last longer than Bush's war." We'll come back to Ricks and that CBS interview in a minute.

But tensions continue to rise between Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government. At yesterday's State Dept briefing, AP's Matthew Lee raised that issue (
here for text, here for video).

Matthew Lee: Robert, speaking of the people who feel ignored by the United States, the Kurds, there seems to be growing concern and some resentment in northern Iraq that the United States is not paying enough attention to the situation there and to the concerns that they have. Can you offer any reassurance to the Kurdish leaders who think that? I mean we've got one here, the regional prime minister saying, "We love the U.S., and they don't care."

Robert Wood: Well I haven't seen those remarks. I don't actually know what they mean. But look, we have been working with the Iraqi Government to do what we can to support a democratic process going forward in Iraq that encompasses the views, the aspirations of all peoples who live in Iraq. Iraq has made a lot of strides, as you know, Matt. It's been a very challenging several years for the people of Iraq. Yes, there are concerns from various groups. There is a democratic government in place. There is a system in Iraq that allows for complaints from various groups, parties to seek, you know, restitution. The democratic experiment in Iraq continues. The recent elections were very positive. That's the best I can tell you, with regard to -- I haven't -- while I've seen these types of comments --

Matthew Lee: Your response? You went on for awahile, but you didn't mention, you know, you didn't mention who I was asking about. What can you do to reassure the Kurds specifically that -- that you are --

Robert Wood: Well it's not so much what the United States has to do. It's really what the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people decide is going to be the future of their country. And I think the Iraqi Government has chosen a path of democracy. It's experiencing, as I said, a number of challenges. But there are ways for peoples in Iraq to bring the concerns that they have to the levers of power. And it's a democracy, and it's not really up to the United States to reassure anyone. It's the Iraqi people and -- through -- and with the Iraqi people, their government, to deal with questions like those.

Matthew Lee: Okay. But you still haven't used the word that begins with K. Is there some reason why you're reluctant to do that?

Robert Wood: No, there's no specific reason at all. I've just given you, I think, is what our views are with regard to Iraq and its future, and where there may be some issues that some of the ethnic groups have.

Matthew Lee: Right. But -- well, your response, I don't think, is going to reassure anyone. In fact, it's going to reinforce their concerns --

Robert Wood: Well, I would disagree with you. What I've said, and I've been very clear about this, is that there is an Iraqi Government, a democratically elected government that's responsible for dealing with the issues that confront its people. And the United States is -- has been a helpful partner. We will continue to be a partner and friend to the Iraqis. But with regard to complaints that various groups may have about their future in Iraq, in the end, that's going to be a decision determined by the Iraqi people and its government -- and their government.

No, press spokesperson Robert Wood never did answer the question. And tensions continue on the border between northern Iraq and Turkey.
Xinhua reports that Turkey's latest air strike resulted in 13 deaths, supposedly all PKK which the US, Turkey and the European Union have labeled a terrorist organization.

"I think there are a lot of reasons Iraq '09 is going to be very tough and, in fact, harder than the last year of Bush's war. And I think there is a good chance that Obama's war in Iraq will last longer than Bush's war." That's Thomas Ricks speaking today on CBS'
Washington Unplugged (link is video). Thomas E. Ricks has released a new book:

Two excerpts from my new book
The Gamble are running in the Washington Post Sunday and Monday. There also are some cool on-line only things -- not just another excerpt, but also a great video about how one officer, Capt. Samuel Cook of the 3rd Armored Cavalry, conducted counterinsurgency operations in one part of Iraq last year. (To read more about how Cook talked an insurgent leader into cooperation, read this excerpt from the book, a section called "The Insurgent Who Loved Titanic.")
Yesterday's snapshot included two paragraphs of Ricks' book on where the top US commander, Gen Ray Odierno, he sees the Iraq War in 2014. Today on CBS News' exclusive webcast, Ricks spoke with Slate's John Dickerson about the reclassification game -- Barack's promised on the campaign trail that he would withdraw "combat" troops within 16 months of being sworn into office -- and noted "there is no pacifisitic branch of the US Army." He detailed the realities everyone tries to avoid, "Newsflash for Obama, there is no such thing as non-combat troops."

Everyone also attempts to avoid the realities of the resistance. This week NPR's
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (Morning Edition -- text and audio) reported on resistance fighter Abu Abdul Aziz (not his real name) who informs, "I have killed many Americans, not just one or two. When I kill them, I feel happy, like victory is coming. . . . If you look into my heart, you won't find any sympathy for the Americans at all. That's not because I have no human feelings, but because I feel that they are here to harm us, to steal from us, to kill our women and our children. . . . The honorable resistance does not do suicide bombings. That's al-Qaida. We do not harm innocent people, Muslims or not Muslims. Our target is only the Americans." Garcia-Navarro also reported on the Iraqi police:

Inside Samarra's local police station, officer Adnan Shakir, who works in the investigation unit, says things are better, but "it's a fragile safety, it's a cautious quiet."
The problem, he says, is mistrust between the different branches of the security forces here, especially between local Sunni policemen like himself and the mostly Shiite national police.
"The national police, they don't know how to deal with the people here. They are outsiders. There are always problems; when there is any problem, they use their weapons," he says.
Shakir says many of the complaints they investigate come from local residents regarding abuses by national police. Some are serious. Several women have come forward saying they were raped or assaulted by members of the national police.
Capt. Waleed Abdul Rahman is the head of the major crimes division at the local police station.
"One girl claimed that the police commandos violated her. In another case, a girl was kidnapped, and her family claimed that she had been forcibly abducted by a national policeman as well and taken to Baghdad," he says.
Abdul Rahman says the first case was never investigated. The second girl was slain by her family in a so-called honor killing when she returned home.
The captain says they generally don't take the complaints of assault and rape seriously.
But without an investigation, it's hard to determine the truth of the allegations or how widespread the problem may be.

They don't take the complaints seriously? Well why should they? With the delightful prospect of an 'honor' killing, what girl or woman wouldn't rush to their police station to declare a rape falsely! That attitude of assuming the woman is lying is part of the problem in Iraq. That attitude gets backed and stroked when the US installs thugs because they are cheaper to work with and may bring quicker 'stability' (widespread fear).

In some of today's other reported violence . . .


CNN reports a Mussayiab mortar explosion that claimed the lives of 2 children. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad grenade attack that left three police officers wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a home invasion in which the Ministry of Defense's Thamir Yousif and his son were shot dead.

In other news, do you know Xe? Mercenaries hope you don't.
Maddy Sauer and Megan Churchmach (ABC News) report, "The scandal-ridden security firm Blackwater USA is officially changing its name effective immediately as the company moves to rebrand itself after being fired last month by the State Department from its job protecting diplomats in Iraq." Why Xe? Maybe because XYZ would have left them feeling exposed? For those keeping track, this is the third name change in recent years for the company. Blackwater USA was the name until the infamous Baghdad slaughter September 16, 2007. Then it became Blackwater Worldwide. And it has many new names. For example, Blackwater USA is now know as US Training Center which is "An Xe company." This includes not only their physical facilities in Moyock, NC, Mt. Carroll, Il and San Diego, CA but also their home study courses, where they let you tailor your killing needs specifically for your company in the designing of "custom courses." The name change is rather surprising when you consider that if an individual appeared before a judge and asked to change their name, he or she would be asked if there were any outstanding debts or liability actions? Xe is pronounced "Z," Jennifer Wells (Globe and Mail) explains and notes the September 16, 2007 slaughter and how "a company spokesman told The Associated Press that the rebrand was 'not a direct result of a loss of contract, but certainly that is an aspect of our work that we feel were defined by'." Howzit Howard (Hawaii's KGM9) wryly observes, "Blackwater Worldwide, an employer of mercenaries that arguably made life more dangerous for the real U.S. soldiers in Iraq, has decided to take decisive action about its bad name. It is changing it."

Yesterday the UK Ministry of Defence announced the death of a soldier in Basra. He's been identified as 21-year-old Ryan Wrathall. They note Ryan Wrathall "deployed to southern Iraq in November 2008 and was about halfway through a six-month tour of the country as a member of the 5 RIFLES (Strike) Battle Group" and that "The incident, which occurred at approximately 0630 hours local time, will be subject to a full investigation. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence to suggest that anyone else was involved. "

Turning to US politics, the stimulus is in the news and it is being analyzed.
Michael Hudson (CounterPunch) offers:

The first question to ask about any Recovery Program is, "Recovery for whom?" The answer given on Tuesday is, "For the people who design the Program and their constituency" – in this case, the bank lobby. The second question is, "Just what is it they want to 'recover'?" The answer is, the Bubble Economy. For the financial sector it was a golden age. Having enjoyed the Greenspan Bubble that made them so rich, its managers would love to create yet more wealth for themselves by indebting the "real" economy yet further while inflating prices all over again to make new capital gains.The problem for today's financial elites is that it is not possible to inflate another bubble from today's debt levels, widespread negative equity, and still-high level of real estate, stock and bond prices. No amount of new capital will induce banks to provide credit to real estate already over-mortgaged or to individuals and corporations already over-indebted. Moody's and other leading professional observers have forecast property prices to keep on plunging for at least the next year, which is as far as the eye can see in today's unstable conditions. So the smartest money is still waiting like vultures in the wings – waiting for government guarantees that toxic loans will pay off. Another no-risk private profit to be subsidized by public-sector losses.While the Obama administration's financial planners wring their hands in public and say "We feel your pain" to debtors at large, they know that the past ten years have been a golden age for the banking system and the rest of Wall Street. Like feudal lords claiming the economic surplus for themselves while administering austerity for the population at large, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population has raised their appropriation of the nationwide returns to wealth – dividends, interest, rent and capital gains – from 37 per cent of the total ten years ago to 57 per cent five years ago and it seems nearly 70 per cent today. This is the highest proportion since records have been kept. We are approaching Russian kleptocratic levels.

Left Business Observer's Doug Henwood (LBO News from Doug Henwood) explains:
And it looks like the Treasury and the Fed will pump up some $250-500 billion to help hedge funds buy bad assets - with the FDIC guaranteeing the buyers against losses.
At this point, the only thing that makes any sense is to nationalize the weakest banks, kick out management, wipe out the shareholders, clear the decks, and start over with a tightly regulated system. This isn't even all that radical a position anymore - and it may be inevitable, if these sick and devious "public-private partnership" schemes don't work out, which seems likely. There is a radical nationalization position - take the banks over and convert them to public institutions - but I know that's completely out of the question with this gang. But they're doing absolutely everything they can to avoid even an orthodox nationalization. This is looking more and more like Japan's disastrous indulgence of their "zombie banks" in the 1990s than Sweden's successful bailout, the model for the "nationalize them and clear the decks" approach. Instead of a few rough years, we're likely to get a miserable decade.
They've botched the stimulus, and they're botching the financial rescue. They're worse than I expected, and I wasn't expecting much in the first place (see:
Obamamania, a febrile disease).

Bill Moyers Journal's Michael Winship explores the bailout:

You know what they say - half a million dollars just doesn't go as far as it used to. News from the White House that $500,000 was the cap the government wants to put on executive salaries at the banks receiving bailout cash had some on Wall Street and along the plush corridors of Manhattan's swank Upper East Side hollering "Unfair!" (But without those unsightly street demonstrations and picket lines, of course.)"You Try to Live on 500K in This Town" was the tongue-in-cheek headline in last Sunday's New York Times. Just add up private school tuition, mortgage payments, maintenance fees and wages for the nanny and you're already up to more than $250,000 a year - and that's pre-taxes, assuming you're paying any. Then tote up payments and upkeep on vacation and weekend homes, charity balls, car and driver - pretty soon you're maxing out your American Express Black Card.But they work hard for their multi-million dollar salaries and bonuses, perks and solid gold benefits, complained some of the financiers. Besides, executive headhunters say, the money giants just can't get good help for anything less. Good help? Spare us the kind of moguls who helped us straight into the current deep, dirty hole we're trying to climb out of."Like spoiled, petulant children," is how Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein described them. "These guys won't be happy until the government agrees to relieve them of every last one of their lousy loans and investments at inflated prices, recapitalize every major bank and brokerage and insurance company on sweetheart terms and restore them to the glory days, so they can once again earn inflated profits and obscene pay packages by screwing over their customers and their shareholders."
More of the essay can be found
online at the show's blog. Tonight on most PBS stations, Moyers speaks with Simon Johnson (about the stimulus) and with poet Nikki Giovanni.
Which brings us to public TV notes,
NOW on PBS offers a look at the stimulus package and zooms in mas transit and North Carolina as "part of a PBS-wide series on the country's infrastructure called 'Blueprint America'." And online, last week NOW dealt with the Housing Crisis and Manish Thakor ("financial guru") replies to questions viewers asked. NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations tonight, check your local listings. Washington Week also begins airing on many PBS stations tonight and Gwen's roundtable gasbags this week include Gloria Borger (CNN, US News & World Reports), John Maggs (National Journal), John Dickerson (Slate) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:Coming Up On 60 Minutes:
Buy AmericanThe economic stimulus package includes a "buy American" clause that the steel and other U.S. industries lobbied hard for. However, American businesses that export overseas now worry foreign governments will retaliate and keep U.S. products out of their market, hurting their business. Lesley Stahl reports.
World Of TroubleThree years before the housing market crash, Paul Bishop says he warned his superiors at World Savings - the nation's second largest savings and loan company - that many of the mortgages they were granting were misleading and predatory. Scott Pelley reports.
War In PakistanSteve Kroft reports from Pakistan, where Islamic insurgents are trying to take over the country and he interviews its new president, Asif Ali Zardari.
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

the washington posternesto londonosaad sarhanthe los angeles timesmonte morin
wisam mohammedsami al-jumailiwaleed ibrahimkhalid al-ansarymohammed abbasmichael christie
the philadelphia inquireralan gomezhelen pidd
ma'ad fayadmcclatchy newspaperstrenton daniel
thomas e. ricks
morning editionlourdes garcia-navarro
michael hudsondoug henwood60 minutescbs news
pbswashington weeknow on pbs

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Somerby calls it right

I am not a Bob Somerby fan but he's got something worth noting today:

One such person is Bob Herbert, who is still in a rage today because Lindsey Graham dared to say that the stimulus package “stinks.” (Graham “was behaving like a 6-year-old,” Herbert thunders today, behaving a bit that way himself.) But then, Herbert is in a rage at all who find fault with his emerging Dear Leader—liberals, centrists, conservatives alike. As his column begins, he calls the roll of those who would “bad-mouth” a god:
HERBERT (2/10/09): It was just a week ago that the bad-mouthing of Barack Obama seemed to be reaching a fever pitch. The president was taking heat for the tax problems of Tom Daschle, Timothy Geithner and other appointees and nominees. Liberal supporters of the president were upset that he was making such a high-profile effort to get Republicans to climb aboard his stimulus package bandwagon.
Self-styled middle-of-the-roaders were snarling that Mr. Obama was not doing enough bipartisan outreach, even as Republicans on Capitol Hill were attacking his economic package with the kind of venom usually reserved for the handiwork of Satan. Mr. Obama was called a hypocrite, dismissed as both craven and politically naive and taken to task for being too much in the public eye.
“Taken to task for being too much in the public eye?” Chris Matthews authored that silly complaint—but Herbert absent-mindedly forgets to cite those in his professional cohort. But: After giving a pass to professional pals (it’s the law), Herbert savages all who remain. “Self-styled middle-of-the-roaders” were snarling; “Republicans” were displaying the venom normally aimed at Satan himself. But omigod! Even liberal supporters were at fault in the “bad-mouthing” of this Dear Leader. How dare such citizens voice their views about one without blemish or fault?
And yes, Obama is truly becoming Dear in Herbert’s new, silliest column. In the headline, he’s called “The Chess Master;” in the body of the piece, Obama is praised in the sycophantic ways which have sometimes emerged in far capitals. “He’s smart, deft, elegant and subtle,” Herbert says. He’s “responsible and mature,” “concerned not just with the short-term political realities but also the long-term policy implications.” How silly does the pandering get?

Bob Herbert's gone completely insane and C.I. pointed that out early in 2008 if not late in 2007. It's a real shame because Herbert used to be worth reading but now he's just a joke.

You have to wonder what makes grown men turn into teenyboppers? I have to wonder if it's not the fault of professional sports? If the Manning brothers or Tony Romo were any better, these juvenile men would just worship sports as usual. Instead they need to create a hero and, hate to break it to them, Barack is so unworthy.

They're going to get their little hearts broken.

"Iraq snapshotBold" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, February 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, al-Maliki slams Joe Biden, the ACLU speaks out, Cliff Cornell turns himself in, and more.

Today US war resister Cliff Cornell turned himself in. Some reports state he's the second US war resister to be deported from Canada. The second deported would appear to be Daniel Sandate.
Rena Guay interviewed Daniel on January 22, 2009. In one video, Daniel tells about enlisting.

Daniel Sandate: Well, like a lot of other soldiers, the military seemed the last resort [. . .] to stay on my feet. My father had just died and I inherited his house and, after a series of events -- mostly my fault, I just was tired of living that every day life. I just got out of jail, actually, a few days before I went to the recruiters and the marine recruiter asked me if I had ever been arrested and he asked me a series of other questions and they ended up flat out rejecting me in like five minutes. They said, "Get out of our office, we don't want you!" And so, I walked directly, right across the hallway, to the army recruiters, they were all in the same building. And they asked me the same questions and I gave them the same answers and basically they said, "Yeah! Sure, we'll take you. There's absolutely no problem at all. All you need is just to get a waiver and you'll be in.

J. Adrian Stanley (Colorado Springs Independent) wrote of Daniel's court-martial

Sandate tried suicide countless times, using drugs, rat poison, even slicing his tongue in half, hoping he'd bleed to death. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, depression and attention deficit disorder. He never finished high school. He did a lot of drugs.
He says he told everything to military recruiters. The Marines wouldn't take him; the Army gave him a waiver. He was 24.
Later he went to Iraq, where he survived three attacks and cleaned up masses of dead bodies. Along the way, he herniated a disc in his back. Instead of immediately treating his injury, the Army put Sandate through a bureaucratic nightmare. He became suicidal again. Then he took an online friend's offer to desert and live with her in Canada. Together, they grew marijuana to help Sandate with his phyiscal pain and mental instability. But Sandate says he felt guilty for abandoing his comrades, and blamed his girlfriend. The relationship crumbled. Alone again, Sandate slit one of his wrists in his Canadian apartment.

His attorney James Branum explains the route back to the US in
this video, "You went from Brantford, Onatrio later to Niagra Detention Center, eventually was deported into the US and from there he was transported to Colorado Springs where he was held in the county jail in pre-trial confinement." In this video, Branum explains that Robin Long and Daniel were the first two US war resisters to be forcefully deported from Canada and Daniel speaks about the back surgery he had while in the military.

Which brings us to
Cliff, also represented by Jim Branum. Gary McCollum co-owns the Village Food Market where Cliff worked and he told the Nanamio Daily News, "He was a wonderful worker, it is very sad that he had to leave and that the U.S. arrested him. He won a national award for us for setting up the best display in the country last November. I know the entire store missed him and he got a great deal of support from across Gabriola [Island]." Today Cliff turned himself in at Fort Stewart. Russ Bynum (AP) quotes him explaining yesterday, "I'm nervous, scared. I'm just not a fighter. I know it sounds funny, but I have a really soft heart." Project Safe Harbor's Gerry Condon continues to call on US President Barack Obama to grant amnesty to all war resisters. Former US presidents Gerald Ford created a process for Vietnam war resisters (draft dodgers and deserters) to seek asylum and Jimmy Carter provided amnesty to all Vietnam draft dodgers. AP notes, "His lawyer says Cornell has been assigned to a unit after meeting with military police, but it's not clear if the Army will hold him in pretrial confinement."

MIlitary Families Speak Out just wrapped up four days of action in DC. Saturday's action was "a solem procession from Arlinton National Cemetery to the White House . . . to bring President Obama the message that they want him to bring an immediate end to the war in Iraq that has already claimed the lives of over 4,200 U.S. troops and more than a million Iraqis." Celeste Zappala explains, "Our walk from Arlington to the White House is a symbol of the walk that families of the fallen make everyday -- we mourn and miss our heroes, our lives will never be the same, and we promise in their names to do everything we can to bring the troops home and never again commit to a needless war -- this is the message of our feet and the tears in our eyes." Celeste Zappala is the mother of Sherwood Baker who was killed in Baghdad April 24, 2004. Next month another action takes place. From Iraq Veterans Against the War:
IVAW's Afghanistan Resolution and National Mobilization March 21st

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

Yesterday President Barack Obama held his first 'press conference,' calling on pre-selected journalists. Not one asked about Iraq despite the fact that the Iraq War hits the 6 year mark in March, despite the fact that approximately 147,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, despite the fact that four US service members died in Mosul yesterday, despite all that and more, Iraq wasn't a 'worthy' topic. Sports stars on steroids was considered a 'national issue' to ask about, but an ongoing war, not one damn question. Barack was asked if he would allow photos of flag draped coffins returning to Dover. He needed 'more time'. Really? When George W. Bush banned it, he did so quickly. The practice of hiding the dead is not an American practice or policy. There is nothing to review, you simply overturn Bush's ban. Barack's not interested in that. Today he added more insults to the military.
Yunji de Nies (ABC News) reports that Barack declared today, "I am so proud of you guys and grateful for you. You guys are doing very important stuff." As de Nies points out, these were military "men and women in uniform". Not that a sexist like Barack easily understands but "guys" have penises. His remarks were insulting. Maybe he thinks it a plus that he didn't call the women "sweeties"? 102 service women have died serving in Iraq.

Joe Biden is the vice president of the United States. He's in the news today as thug Nouri al-Maliki tries to see if the new White House puppet masters will be easier to jerk around than the previous ones. Thug Nouri is blasting Biden.
Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) quotes al-Maliki stating Biden is "out of date" for stating that the lack of progress in Iraq means (Biden) "I think our administration is going to have to be very deeply involved. We are going to have to get in there and be much more aggressive in forcing them to deal with these issues." al-Maliki whined, "Such a speech is out of date, because the government of Iraq knows its responsibilities and acts accordingly in a strong way." While such b.s. no doubt has Patrick Cockburn reaching around inside his shorts and heavy panting, the adult world grasps that al-Maliki hasn't done a damn thing.

The 'surge' was rammed through -- over Democratic (verbal) objection -- with the understanding that it was being done to give the Iraqi government the room to maneuver and accomplish some of the needed tasks. The 'surge' resulted in no action on the part of the government. The Iraq Parliament STILL does not have a speaker. De-de-Baathification measures (passed by the Parliament) have still not been implemented.
April 2, 2008, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing entitled "Iraq After The Surge." From that hearing, exchange between US Senator Barbara Boxer and Council on/for/of/from Foreign Relations Stephen Biddle:

Barbara Boxer: Did you just say that Maliki uses the Iraqi security forces as his militia? Did you say that?

Biddle: Yes.

Barbara Boxer: If that's true and Maliki uses his military as a force to bring about peace -- that's scandalous and that we would have paid $20 million to train [it] and someone that we consider an expert says it's a militia, that's shocking.

[. . .] Boxer wanted Biddle to explain his remarks and explain how the US could still be a peacekeeping force in Iraq while they were engaging warlords in Iraq which boils down to taking sides. ("You cannot count" on them, Boxer pointed out of the warlords on the US dime.) She rejected as offensive Biddle's suggestion that that sitting down with warlords was an answer. "There is no good solution to this nightmare," she pointed out, "so why not just figure out a way to tell the Iraqis, 'We've spilled the blood, now it's your turn.'"

April 8th, Gen David Peteraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker took their song and dance to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and from
that day's snapshot:

She wanted to know about the training, all the training, that had gone on and then on again. "We've done a lot for the Iraqis just in terms of the numbers themselves," Boxer declared. "I'll tell you what concerns me and most of my constituents, you said -- many times -- the gains in Iraq are fragile and reversable. . . . So my constituents and I believe that" after all the deaths, all the money, "you have to wonder why the best that you can say is that the gains are fragile and reversable." Noting the lack of military success and Hagel's points, Boxer pointed out that nothing was being done diplomatically "and I listened carefully to Senator Hagel and Ambassador Crocker -- from the answer you gave him, I don't get the" feeling that the White House has given anything, it's still "the status quo. She then turned to the issue of monies and the militias, "You are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them" and wouldn't put them into the forces because he doubts their loyalty. She noted that $182 million a year was being paid, $18 million a month, to these "Awakening" Council members and "why don't you ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that progam" because as Senator Lugar pointed out, "It could be an opportunity" for the Iraqi government "to turn it into something more long term." This is a point, she declared, that she intends to bring up when it's time to vote on the next spending supplamental. Crocker tried to split hairs.

Boxer: I asked you why they couldn't pay for it. . . . I don't want to argue a point. . . I'm just asking you why we would object to asking them to pay for that entire program giving all that we are giving them in blood and everything else?

What's al-Maliki done? Since emerging from hiding after the US military went into Iraq. al-Maliki's just another pathetic Iraqi exile installed by the US government and the puppet might want to consider that before snapping and pretending he's actually accomplished a damn thing because outside of terrorizing the press, al-Maliki hasn't done much but fatten his own bank account and it's past time an independent auditor was sent to Iraq. Remember that when the puppet leaves and -- yet again -- we hear, "Where did the money go? Where did it go?" If the puppet's feeling so strong, why doesn't he order the US military out of Iraq? (He won't because the moment they leave, his 'power' crumbles.) "
Goodbye Pasha" indeed.

Meanwhile the thug refuses to help Iraqi women.
Feminist Wire Daily reports on Nawal al-Samarraie's resignation:

Nawal al-Samarraie, the Iraqi Minister of Women's Affairs, resigned from her post last week largely due to lack of funds for her office. Her budget was slashed from $7,500 to $1,500 a month after a drop in oil prices. Al-Samarraie told the
Associated Press, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women. The budget is very limited ... so what can I do?"The Iraqi State Ministry of Women's Affairs was founded after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, but has achieved little progress since. On a daily basis, women in Iraq face homelessness, lack of jobs, domestic violence and the possibility of detention during US and Iraqi military sweeps. Other Iraqi ministries have faced similar budget cuts, yet Iraqi women's rights activist lawyer Safia al-Suhail told IRIN that "when we talk about the women of Iraq, we are talking about nearly 65 percent of the population. They need a national and comprehensive strategy to help them enjoy their legal, health, and social rights." Al-Suhail urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to deny al-Samarraie's resignation and instead help form an independent commission for women with a bigger budget, according to the Associated Press. However, al-Maliki signed al-Samarraie's resignation the day it was submitted Al-Samarraie told IRIN, "my office is inside the Green Zone with no affiliated offices in other provinces and not enough funds to hold conferences, invite experts for studies and implement development plans." "How can I work and serve women under such circumstances?" Al-Samarraie plans to travel to an international conference in Turkey concerning Iraqi women. She said she would consider returning to her job and told the Associated Press that "maybe with the next government it will be a priority."

The resignation comes as
Naseer al-lly (Asharq Alawsat) notes that "dozens of widows" are being refused assistance by family members and quotes Bosaina Mahmoud Abbas, Director of the Eve Relief Organization, stating Diyala Province "is currently suffering from a problem that warns of an imminent danger, and this is the swelling of the size of the number of widows, divorced women, and unemployed women who are forced to marry elederly men in order to ensure their own livelihood, and the livelihood of their children. But the question is: who guarantees that the new husband will actually support the widows and her children? . . . I recently met dozens of widows who complained that their late husbands families has disowned them and their children. Such a phenomenon is dangerous. Iraqi society in the past was known for family interconnectivity and social integration, to the point that you would find relatives supporting afflicted family members. But now families disown their own children due to the hardship of life. And so there is only one option and that is to get the government to focus on supporting the families of the victims of terrorism. It is a terrorist victims right to have the support of the government."

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

Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher (New York Times) offer that Anbar thug Sheik Risha is very happy to display photos of himself with George W. Bush and Barack Obama -- a thug's gotta' have friends -- and having intimidated the 'election' 'commission' into results he liked, he now declares that his weapon of choice is "papers and evidence." The reporters note he "did not recant his earlier threats of violence". The reporters note:
Khalid al-Alwani, a senior official of the Iraqi Islamic Party in Anbar, called the accusations a smear campaign. He insisted that the party's slate in Anbar won nearly 40 percent of the votes, not the 15.9 percent that was announced. The party issued a statement on Sunday accusing Sheik Ahmed and Mr. Mutlaq of practicing "intimidation and extortion" in order have the results declared in their favor. It vowed to "reclaim what is rightfully theirs." Another of the party's backers called for more drastic action. Sheik Hakem al-Saad, a leader of one of the largest tribes in Anbar, called for the firing of the police chief and army commander and the declaration of a state of emergency. He accused the Awakening leader of sowing discord and inciting violence."Ahmed Abu Risha is a bandit and thief," he said.

From election crimes to some of today's reported daily violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing on the car of a bodyguard to Iraq's Shia vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi -- two people were wounded, a Baghdad mortar attack that claimed 1 life and left four people injured and a Mosul car bombing that left three police officers injured. To the sticky bombing, Reuters adds, "Reuters Television footage showed the badly wounded guard lying motionless. Eye witnesses said he died but police did not confirm that. Police initially said the guard worked for Vice President Adel Abdul-Mehdi's office, but the vice president's office said he worked for another branch of government."


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul.

This week
Dahr Jamail (MidEast Dispatches) back in Iraq reports on hospitality. Last week, he reported on the thriving grave digging business including that "in the Al-Adhamiya area of Baghdad, what used to be a park is now a cemetary with more than 5,000 graves. According to the manager, most of the dead are never counted. . . . Such graveyards, and there are many, raise questions about the real death toll in Iraq."

Iraq is moving to stop foreigners from visiting their country apparently as a result of the Italian visitor. The
New York Times' Baghdad Bureau Blog offers more details -- from an Iraqi correspondent -- on the Italian tourist and the correspondent notes, "I found it very strange that he had got to the city so easily. Falluja resident have badges that allow them to get in the city. Those who are not locals of Falluja are usually there on missions."

Meanwhile Thomas E. Ricks has a new book out on Iraq.
Tim Rutten (Los Angeles Times) reviews Ricks' new book The Gamble and notes, "This is contemporary history of a vivid and urgent sort, and Ricks has produced a book that deserves to be read by any American who realizes that something other than today's economic news also is of vital interest to the nation." Michiko Kakutani (New York Times) also reviews the book today and notes, "Mr. Ricks writes as both an analyst and a reporter with lots of real-time access to the chain of command, and his book's narrative is animated by closely observed descriptions of how the surge worked on the ground, by a savvy knowledge of internal Pentagon politics, and by a keen understanding of the Iraq war's long-term fallout on already strained American forces." From Rick's "The right way to do Iraq, and the wrong way" (Foreign Policy):Two excerpts from my new book The Gamble are running in the Washington Post Sunday and Monday. There also are some cool on-line only things -- not just another excerpt, but also a great video about how one officer, Capt. Samuel Cook of the 3rd Armored Cavalry, conducted counterinsurgency operations in one part of Iraq last year. (To read more about how Cook talked an insurgent leader into cooperation, read this excerpt from the book, a section called "The Insurgent Who Loved Titanic.")FYI, Ricks is of the opinion that the US cannot leave Iraq and clearly everyone in this community (including me) disagree with that call. But that's an opinion expressed in the book and not what his book's about. It's offering a serious look at events on the ground in Iraq and it is as strong a read as his previous book Fiasco (my opinion).

Turning to the US, the
ACLU issued the following yesterday:Justice Department Stands Behind Bush Secrecy In Extraordinary Rendition Case (2/9/2009) FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; NEW YORK – The Justice Department today repeated Bush administration claims of "state secrets" in a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the extraordinary rendition program. Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen was brought on behalf of five men who were kidnapped and secretly transferred to U.S.-run prisons or foreign intelligence agencies overseas where they were interrogated under torture. The Bush administration intervened in the case, inappropriately asserting the "state secrets" privilege and claiming the case would undermine national security. Oral arguments were presented today in the American Civil Liberties Union's appeal of the dismissal, and the Obama administration opted not to change the government position in the case, instead reasserting that the entire subject matter of the case is a state secret. The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU: "Eric Holder's Justice Department stood up in court today and said that it would continue the Bush policy of invoking state secrets to hide the reprehensible history of torture, rendition and the most grievous human rights violations committed by the American government. This is not change. This is definitely more of the same. Candidate Obama ran on a platform that would reform the abuse of state secrets, but President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged on that important civil liberties issue. If this is a harbinger of things to come, it will be a long and arduous road to give us back an America we can be proud of again."The following can be attributed to Ben Wizner, a staff attorney with the ACLU, who argued the case for the plaintiffs: "We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration's practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government's false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court." Totally non-related but we'll note Sandra Bulluck's Q&A with In Style readers -- just because it's Sandra.

iraqruss bynumthe new york timessam dagherstephen farrellcliff cornellcourage to resistdarh jamailaclu
the washington post
thomas e. rickstim ruttenmichiko kakutani