Friday, July 03, 2009

KPFA, half-assed radio

Bob Somerby has a must-read today so be sure to check it out.

Unless there's a snapshot on Monday (C.I.'s going to play it by ear), I don't plan to post on Monday, just FYI.

Today on KPFA, they had a War Comes Home special. A rebroadcast.

Making Contact - The War Comes Home: Washington’s Battle Against America’s Veterans (ENCORE EDITION) - July 3, 2009 at 1:30pm
As we mark the 6th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, reporter Aaron Glantz takes us inside the war as it comes home to our communities. We focus on the role educational institutions can play in helping former soldiers adjust to civilian life.Browse other online episodes of this showMore information about this show

Which only reminded me that for two weeks now, the War Comes Home website has been offline. If you go there you see this message:

The War Comes Home website is currently undergoing maintenance. For more information, contact KPFA at

Now it's not like they've bothered to add any content in months. When it was up, I'd see something from August 2008 or August 2007 as the most recent. That's embarrassing. But at least I could flip through the old stuff. Now you can't even do that.

For those who don't remember, KPFA and Aaron Glantz promoted the site with much fanfare and it was supposed to be a weekly thing -- a weekly brief report. That took place for a few seconds, blink and you missed it. And it was supposed to be a blog. Never happened. And a resource. Ditto.

So maybe they took it down because they were so ashamed of it?

I don't know.

I do know that the only thing that ever ends a war is continued pressure and that this stop-start-we're-too-busy-for-Iraq nonsense serves no one. But I guess it did allow KPFA to pat itself on the back a few times. And pretend they really did something.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, July 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Joe Biden is in Iraq, so are land mines and the UN is drawing attention to the crisis, al-Sadr followers protest Biden, and more.

"Biden has come here to divide Iraq according to his plan." Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq
yesterday and among today's activities is a protest of his visit by supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr. Andrew Quinn and Sattar Rahim (Reuters) report al-Sadr supporters marched in Baghdad and remarks from al-Sadr (including "Biden has come here to divide Iraq according to his plan") were read aloud to the crowd. The remark by al-Sadr refers to Biden's support for a federation of three autonomous areas in Iraq: Shia, Sunni and Kurd. That plan is among the reasons Biden has become the point-person for the administration on Iraq because the Kurds are increasingly unhappy with the US and increasingly vocal about what they see as US abandonment of their interests and needs. Quinn and Rahim note that al-Sadr's supporters were vocal as well, chanting "down, down USA" while burning US flags during their protest. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports the Kurds aren't the only ones worrying that Iraq has been abandoned and she quotes Hoyshar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, stating, "My message to them [US] is . . . you lost Afghanistan in 2001, 2002, and 2003 because you turned your attention to Iraq from Afghanistan -- now you are redirecting your attentions of Afghanistan and if you disengage with Iraq, it could be another failure. The situation is not that solid." Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Timothy Williams (New York Times) quote Biden declaring he is there to ask: "What is their plan to resolve the real differences that exist?" Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) quotes Biden stating, "The reason I came is the president wants focus within the White House on the implementation of our administration's plan to both draw down troops in Iraq and also to promote a political settlement on unresolved issues from boundary disputes to the oil law."
Alsumaria notes it is is a three-day visit and that the vice president "arrived to Baghdad Airport amidst a sand storm which prevented him from conducting a scheduled visit to the US Embassy." The White House offers three photos of the arrival and Biden being greeted by Zebari and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Ray Odierno. Thomas M. Defrank (New York Daily News) reports Biden had breakfast with son Beau. Delware's WDEL has an audio report here. Beau Biden is the Attorney General for the state of Delaware and serving in Iraq as a captain in Delaware's Army National Guard. Biden's the first child of a president or vice president to serve in this decade's Iraq War. (The 2008 Republican presidential ticket had two candidates with children serving in Iraq. US Senator John McCain's son Jimmy served in Iraq. Governor Sarah Palin's son Track is serving in Iraq.) Despite George W. Bush sending other people's children into harm's way, neither of his daughters served in his illegal war of choice. Nor did Mary or Deferment Cheney, Dick Cheney's daughters, serve.

Taking a sidebar on Dick Cheney, for those who have forgotten, retired Ambassador Joe Wilson was sent by the CIA to Nigeria to vet accusations that Saddam Hussein (then president of Iraq) was attempting to obtain yellow-cake uranium from the country. Wilson found no evidence to support the claims. Despite that investigation, the false assertion began working its way into cases for the illegal war made by the Bush administration and Bully Boy Bush himself would say that they'd recently learned Saddam attempted to obtain yellow-cake uranium from Africa. Was that Nigeria?Wilson, at that point didn't know, and attempted to find out. Maybe Saddam had tried with another African country? Nope. It was Nigeria. The administration was lying.What do you do?Wilson began warning reporters and then began speaking out publicly.In retaliation, the administration that LIED and attacked. This was their pattern repeatedly. When former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill went public with issues, the administration attacked him and the press -- hey, David Gregory -- ran with the administration's lies and presented them as fact. In O'Neill's case, he was being accused of stealing government information on discs. Gregory stood on camera, for Today, waiving a copy of Ron Suskind's The Price of Loyalty and repeating the White House charges with a who-knows-what-really-happened spin. Apparently the only one who could know reality would be the non-idiots who knew to read the introduction of a book before repeating baseless charges because the discs are covered in the intro. (As was so often the case on Today, Katie Couric would have to grab the mop and clean up for her co-workers the following day.)Now they were going after Joe Wilson.And it wasn't enough to go after Joe Wilson because this was a petty, mafia-like administration. They didn't just go after Wilson, they went after his wife and began outing her to the press as a CIA agent until they found some one (Robert Novak) willing to print their tale.Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA agent and her cover was blown by the government she worked for.Thanks to the efforts of George H.W. Bush and his administration, what had just taken place was a crime. Not for reporters, but for government officials or workers involved in the outing.Dick Cheney's right-hand I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby ended up convicted from the investigation. Many thought and hoped others would be as well. That was not the case. It was hoped that with a new administration, Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson would have the support of the government on their side as they attempted to discover what had happened to them.That has not been the case. "Status quo you can believe in" is the Obama administration's slogan and they've done everything they can to prevent the truth from coming out.R. Jeffrey Smith's "
New Evidence Cheney Swayed Reaction to Leak" (Washington Post) takes you through the latest that's emerged as Barry O's Justice Dept argues the truth must be buried. One of their claims is that to allow Cheney's testimony during the Plamegate investigation to be known would prevent other vice presidents from offering testimony to a criminal investigation. Uh, no, it wouldn't. And if testimony means anything, it means that it's not buried out of fear of what might happened some day.Barack's administration is not open, it's not trying to be open and is not attempting to put the US back on balance. It is attempting to continue all the abuses from the Bush administration. And it gets a lot of help from a cowardly Congress. (It's noted in the article that Congress once fought the Bush White House to make Cheney's testimony public. Not noted in the article is that any member of Congress could make Cheney's testimony public on the House or Senate floor.)

Back to Iraq, Biden is not the only official visiting Iraq.
Alsumaria reports that France's Prime Minister Francois Fillon met with Nouri al-Maliki and Jalal Talabani today with Fillon and Maliki doing a joint-press conference at Baghdad International Airport ". . . Fillon pointed out that Iraq is on the right track. No one should be worried over Iraq redress for it intends to cooperate with its neighbor and it constitutes an intergral part of the region's stability. France undertakes to help Iraq to reach stability as soon as possible, to resolve conflicts with its neighbor and to get fast result, Fillon said. He also added that France takes upon itself assisting Iraq to emancipate from international sanctions which hinder development process." Xinhua reports the two "signed a cooperation agreement to promote bilateral economic, cultural and scientific relations. According to the statement, the agreement stated that France comitted to support Iraq to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and to conclude a partenership agreement with the European Union." CCTV observes (link has text and video) that Fillon was heading a delegation of "30 high-level business executives" and quotes him stating, "It is high time now we look to the future. The team accompanying me represents major French firms. Currently we have firms working in Iraq in the field of transportation and airports." At the start of the week, Jonas Gahr Storra met with Zebari. Store is the Norewegian Foreign Affairs Minister. Among the topics discussed were assisting Iraq in clearing land mines. Yesterday Patrick Quinn (AP) explained that the United Nations sees Iraq as "one of the world's most contaminated countries" when it comes to land mines and quotes the UN"s Development Fund's Kent Paulusson stating, "The government needs to recognize the size of the problem and deal with it. [. . .] Some areas are so contaminated that people can't live there." CNN notes that UNICEF joined the UN Development Fund in drawing attention to the land mine problem in Iraq and notes UNICEF's report: "The report says about 1 million Iraqi children are at risk of being injured or killed by mines and unexploded ordnance. Some 2,000 children -- a quarter of all victims -- have been maimed or killed by cluster bomblets since 2003, the report said." Aseel Kami (Reuters) adds Iraq's Environment Ministry estimates there are 25 million land mines in Iraq and that the border between Iraq and Iran "is particularly mine-infested." David Morgan (Global Arab Network) observes, "Vast stretches of potentially highly productive agricultural land cannot be cultivated because of the potentially lethal hazards presented by explosive materials that still lie undetected. Hundreds of Iraqi people continue to suffer injuries and dozens have been killed."
Today the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees notes a new "special residentail centre for Iraqi refugees in the southern Armenian village of Darbnik. The building, a former agricultural college provided to UNHCR by the government last year, features 46 apartments and a social and recreation room. It was rehabilitated by UNHCR implementing partner, YMCA/Shelter." The Iraq War has resulted in a refugee crisis of both external and internal refugees. The refugees are a diverse group but a large number of them are Iraqi Christians. The assault on Iraq's LGBT community has led to a number of them becoming refugees as well. Sunday July 5th BBC Radio 5 airs Gay Life After Saddam (7 to 8 p.m. in England -- that will be eleven to noon PST). Ashley Byrne and Gail Champion produce the special for Made in Manchester. James Chaperlard (Crain's Manchester Business) reports:

In Gay Life After Saddam, presenter Aasmah Mir finds out how life for the country's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community (LGBT), has got worse since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Human rights campaigners claim hundreds of LGBT people have been killed or tortured while others have fled the country fearing for their safety since Saddam was toppled from power six years ago.

Not noted in the article but among the people interviewed for the special is Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation.

At CounterPunch today,
Anthony DiMaggio offers a look at Iraq and it's a serious attempt so he gets a link. I don't agree with the bulk of anything he says and feel he's repeating points that were made some time ago and that many don't hold up today. The continued and illegal occupation does stabilize Iraq. It puts into power the US interest, their puppets, and it blocks any real representation of Iraqis. It is not a sovereign government. It's one that would not exist were the US not still occupying the country.The illegal war itself and the continued occupation breed violence but part of the breeding is not just resentment over the continued presence of the US, it's also resentment over the installation of the puppet government. The exiles placed in power (by the US) are not representative of Iraq.The US took sides, installed one faction, a fundamentalist faction, and backed them because they believed this faction was ruthless and unafraid to resort to violence (the US was correct on both counts) and that these thugs would intimidate Iraqis into silence.Violence has never gone away in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. But that doesn't mean the puppet regime doesn't 'stabilize' it to a point where the violence lowers slightly, just enough to lull people into looking the other way.The 'civil war' wasn't a civil war. It was a genocide where the thugs in power went about ethnically cleansing parts of Baghdad. They succeeded. They did that with the whole world watching and with most of us not even grasping what was going on.DiMaggio is taking on the continued presence of US forces and also disputing the idea that there's any level of 'stability' in Iraq currently. The resentment and rage goes beyond the presence of foreign fighters. It goes to the fact that the 'rulers' are exiles installed by the occupiers, not chosen by the people. And those 'rulers' do allow for a form of 'stability' but they do it by targeting the Iraqi civilians and by using terror tactics.DiMaggio's argument's great for 2003 but it's completely out of step today because the people still pushing for continued war on and occupation of Iraq are not being countered with any claims DiMaggio's making. Their argument is that when the US leaves, violence levels will soar. DiMaggoi insists that US forces on the ground cause resentment and violence. That was true in 2003 and remains true today; however, we know more today and what he's saying isn't enough. It's not just the military, it's what they prop up, it's the 'government' the US has created.The response to those who insist in 2009 that the illegal war must continue for stability is that no one knows what will happen when US forces leave but there's not a real government there now and claiming stability via a thug regime doesn't encourage democracy or allow US forces to ever leave. The government is not of the people and it doesn't represent them. It will always need force behind it to remain in power.Lastly, the referendum on the Status Of Forces Agreement is not happening this month. It can't. It requires planning. The US stepped in and al-Maliki was more than happy to go along with it. The claim is it will now be held in January when national elections are held. Alsumaria explains, "Meanwhile, the government seeks to delay the referendum till January 2010, when the country also holds parliamentary elections as holding both at the same time will save money. In this concern, lawmakers and electoral authorities say there is no way a referendum can be organized in just a month." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports, "Attention here is now shifting to national elections expected in January. The elections are seen as the best hope for addressing the grievances of Iraqi factions that feel they've been left out of a political system created by the US and dominated since 2003 by a Shiite-led government."

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing which injured three Iraqi soldiers and a Tikrit roadside bombing wounded one police officer.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was shot dead in Mosul and "an officer in the Iraqi army called Saddam Hussein" was shot ded in Kirkuk. Reuters notes "three judges who were traveling together in a car in northern Hilla" were injured in a shooting by unknown assailants.


Reuters notes 1 male corpse was discovered in Mosul and 1 female corpse in Hilla -- both has "bullet wounds to . . . head and chest".

Yesterday the
US Defense Dept identified the four soldiers killed in Baghdad June 29th: "They were assigned to the 120th Combined Arms Battalion, Wilmington, N.C. Killed were: Sgt. 1st Class Edward C. Kramer, 39, of Wilmington, N.C. [;] Sgt. Roger L. Adams Jr., 36, of Jacksonville, N.C. [;] Sgt. Juan C. Baldeosingh, 30, of Newport, N.C. [and] Spc. Robert L. Bittiker, 39, of Jacksonville, N.C." Jennifer McLogan (WCBS) speaks with Baldeosingh's sisters Jennyfer and Diana Baldeosingh. Jennyfer states, "At first it's anger. Why did he go? Why him?" Diana states, "Some of them have done two or three tours, they have families and kids, they need to be with them -- not over there. We did our time there. It's time to come home, please." John Valenti and Sophia Chang (Newsday -- link has text and video) also speak with the two sisters and they note: "He also leaves behind his wife, Rebecca, and three young daughters -- Emily, 2, and 5-year-old twins, Isabella and Kylie." ENCToday speaks with Brian Wheat, the stepfather of Robert Bittiker and explains, "Bittiker leaves behind his wife Tami, and two sons Cameron, 14, and Ronnie, 18, who just graduated from Southwest High School". The Salisbury Post notes Edward Kramer's wife Vicki issued a statement explaining, "He loved us very much and he did this for his children [Erica, age nine, and Megan, age seven] so they wouldn't have to". Catherine M. Welch (WHQR) reports a Sunday event to remember Kramer, "A memorial walk is planned for Sunday at 6:00 p.m. It will start at the Wilmington Fire Department Headquarters on Marketstreet in downtown Wilmington and end at the National Guard Armory."

World Can't Wait has several upcoming actions including:

Monday, July 13, The World Can't Wait and other organizations will protest the inclusion of military recruiters at the national NAACP Convention in New York City.
4:30-7:00pm New York Hilton Hotel 1335 6th Avenue (53/54 Streets)Also, on Thursday, July 16, when Barack Obama addresses the convention, we'll be there protesting the expanded war in Afghanistan, drone attacks on civilians in Pakistan, and Obama's refusal to release the torture photos and prosecute the Bush era war criminals. 9:30am until noon @ New York Hilton
Read letter sent by NYC High School student to Benjamin Jealous, CEO of the NAACP, asking him why recruiters are invited to the convention. Sign on to letter to be sent to the officers and Board of the NAACP this week:To Benjamin Jealous, President & CEO, NAACP

iraqjane arraf
the christian science monitorthe new york timessheryl gay stolberg
timothy williams
mark silvathe chicago tribune
anthony dimaggio
mcclatchy newspapers
laith hammoudi
aseel kami


Thursday, July 02, 2009

The economy and voting

"Gender-Bending in the South: How Straightlaced Got Us All Tied Up in Jackson" (Sarah Young, ACLU Blog):
The smell of popcorn is wafting through the Red Room at
Hal and Mal’s in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. Moviegoers creep through the door, some tentative, others confidently waving at friends and familiar faces. The crowd is small — about 40 people. I recognize a local beloved priest, he himself “in the closet” about supporting an ACLU of Mississippi event. I won’t tell the reporter I saw him inside.
Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition (MSSC), of which the ACLU of Mississippi is a founding partner, has decided to screen Groundspark’s new film Straightlaced: How Gender’s Got Us All Tied Up. We thought it would be an excellent way to raise awareness about gender identity and gender roles, educate the public about the MSSC, and raise some funds for our annual conference and other coalition expenses.
Our coalition, started in the fall of 2008, is almost entirely youth-led (if your definition of youth is 25 and under) and a unique model of LGBTQ organizing in the South. The beautiful thing about Straightlaced is that the documentary is told entirely by youth in their voice. Many viewers remarked that they haven’t seen a movie quite like Straightlaced with such diverse youth telling their experiences so candidly. Groundspark is partnering with community organizations around the country to screen Straightlaced and we were proud to host the first and only screening in Mississippi.

I thought that was a good way to open. Now someone e-mailed a thing from the Young Turks asking me to link to it.

Uh . . . No.

First off, they are hopium addicts and a huge part of the problem of 2008. Second, that stupid article was full of nonsense.

Barack's had six months.

He can be judged.

He was supposed to be ready on day one.

That means his job performance can be judged on day one.

I don't have time for his on the job training and no one in this country does.

An idiot's insisting that Ronald Reagan came close to being a one-term president and then, at the end of the first term, the economy turned around. It could happen to Bam-Bam!

Uh . . . no.

California's the first state to face what others are going to. It was among the first to see the housing bubble burst. So what's going on in California is going to happen across the country.

People don't forget losing jobs.

People don't forget losing jobs and going on public assistance. They don't forget losing their houses.

If Barack doesn't do rush in quickly to help California (and get a plan for all fifty states), come 2012 don't expect him to win California. It's got a Republican governor right now. And you've got people hugely disappointed with him in the state.

I won't be voting here. (Or I don't plan to be voting here. If the economy never improves, I'll hang on to this job.) I'll be voting in Georgia. But I'm hearing so many of his supporters insist they're done with him. It's the economy, it's the refusal to help California, it's the gay rights issue, it's the torture issue and it's just his incredible likeness to Bully Boy Bush.

Today at lunch, I was at a big table with about 12 or so people and these were Democrats and they're all worried because of the economy and because of coming layoffs. They're appalled by what's going on in their state and wondering why Barry O has billions to give to bankers but nothing for the states. I heard over and over, around the table, "If I lose my job, I'm not voting for him again." Him is Barack. Again is 2012.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, July 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad sees renewed violence, Joe Biden visits Iraq, Odierno reveals US troops really aren't out of Iraqi cities, and more.

Despite the for-show hype, US troops haven't really pulled out of Iraqi cities. That revelation came from the top US commander in Iraq when he was being
interviewed by Judy Woodruff for yesterday's NewsHour (PBS):

GEN. RAY ODIERNO: Well, what we have is we have U.S. forces in joint coordination centers all over Iraq, inside of the cities, and they are there doing training, advising, assisting, and they also are coordinating with the Iraqis. So we have these relationships that are built from the lowest levels up to the highest levels that allow us to communicate. And if they need assistance, they can ask, and we will provide that.JUDY WOODRUFF: So they're not technically out of the cities. They're still there, but they're working side by side with the Iraqis?GEN. RAY ODIERNO: That's right, but we're at much lower numbers. These are just small advisory and coordination cells, and they're not related to combat formation, such as brigades and battalions. Those are now outside the cities. But we have coordination cells that work very closely with the Iraqis to enable them and train them and advise them and coordinate with them.
Technically? That's right, Odierno immediately agrees.
The non-change was the subject on NPR's Morning Edition earlier today:

David Greene: So 130,000 that's a big number -- the number of US forces remaining in these forward operating bases outside the cities and we'll probably be there until next fall. What exactly does this withdrawal mean? Is anything really different?

Thomas E. Ricks: I don't think it really is that different. I think politicians are trying to make more of it, especially Iraqi politicians, then is really warranted here. American troops are going to continue to fight in Iraq, they're going to continue to die in Iraq. In fact, I suspect, in the areas around Baghdad, the so-called 'belts,' you're going to see some real fighting this summer.

David Greene: One of the Iraqi politicians you're speaking of is probably Nouri al-Maliki. He's made some pretty significant pronouncements of optimism saying, 'We've got this covered.' Let's play out a scenario, if things don't go that well in the city, can he reach out and say to the Americans, 'I need you back?'

Thomas E. Ricks: He can pull the Americans back and, in fact, that's happened several times. This is not the first time the Americans have tried to transfer security responsibility to Iraqi forces. We tried it several times, it hasn't worked several times. Now we look back and say, 'Well that was a rush to failure.' So the question now is: Are Iraqi forces up to the job? And the answer is: nobody knows.

David E. Greene: You joined us on this program back in March and you said at the time you thought we might be half-way through this war. Is that about still where we are?

Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah. I might have been a bit optimistic.

David E. Green: Optimistic?

Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah, I think we have a lot longer road ahead of us in Iraq than anybody in this country seems to think. It worries me that Americans have turned their eyes away from Iraq and have almost gotten bored with it. The old 1960s slogan was: What if they gave a war and nobody came? Now we're in a situation: What if they gave a war and nobody paid attention?
David Greene: A lot of Americans would be shocked to hear we're less than half-way through this war Certainly President Obama seems to be sending a different message. You also said something about the president. You said that Iraq was going to change Obama more than Obama changes Iraq. Uh, what's your sense so far? Have you seen him adapting since taking office?
Thomas E. Ricks: Well, yeah. I think in fact, he has broken more campaign promises on Iraq than on any other area. He campaigned saying he would take a brigade out a month from the day he took office instead he's keeping troop levels about where they were during the entire Bush administration. Instead of getting out quickly, he's actually is looking at getting out rather slowly. Bush said the mission was accomplished when it wasn't and Obama's saying we're going to get the combat troops out. Well guess what? There are no non-combat troops in the US military. There is no pacifist wing in the military.

David Greene: So what does that mean when he says get the combat troops out?

Thomas E. Ricks: It's a meaningless phrase. Either you have troops there or you don't. If American troops are there, they will be involved in combat. In fact, American troops who are advisers to Iraqi units are going to be vulnerable.

Not all politicians are attempting to spin this into another wave of Operation Happy Talk.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich explained the reality of the 'pull-back':

The withdrawal of some U.S. combat troops from Iraq's cities is welcome and long overdue news. However, it is important to remember that this is not the same as a withdrawal of U.S. troops and contractors from Iraq.
U.S. troop combat missions throughout Iraq are not scheduled to end until more than a year from now in August of 2010. In addition, U.S. troops are not scheduled for a complete withdrawal for another two and a half years on December 31, 2011. Rather, U.S. troops are leaving Iraqi cities for military bases in Iraq. They are still in Iraq, and they can be summoned back at any time.
This is not a great victory for peace. On May 19, the Christian Science Monitor reported that Iraqi and U.S. military officials virtually redrew the city limits of Baghdad in order to consider the Army's Forward Operation Base Falcoln as outside the city, despite every map of Baghdad clearly showing it wih in city limits. In afact, according to Section 24.3 of the "SOFA" U.S. troops can remain at any agreed upon facility. The reported reason for this decision is to ensure U.S. troops are able to "help maintain security in south Baghdad alon gwhat were the fault lines in the sectarian war."
This troop movement should not be confused with a troop withdrawal from Iraq. In reality, this is a small step toward Iraqi sovereignty as Iraqi security forces begin assuming greater control over security operations, but it is a long way from independence and a withdrawal of the U.S. military presence.

Also issuing statements were insurgent and resistance leaders.
Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reports that they issued statements which "all commanded Iraqis to continue fighting the American military until it has left the country completely; nearly 130,000 troops remain. The statements also insisted, in unusually clear language, that Iraqis not turn their violence on one another."

Meanwhile Vice President Joe Biden is in Iraq.
The White House released the following statement, "Vice President Biden has arrived in Iraq to visit U.S. troops and to meet with Iraqi leaders, including President Jalal Talabani, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Speaker of the Council of Representatives Ayad al-Samarrai. The Vice President will reiterate the United States' commitment to fully implement the Security Agreement and the Strategic Framework Agreement and to carry out President Obama's plan to draw down US forces. He will discuss with Iraq's leaders the importance of achieving the political progress that is necessary to ensure the nation's long-term stability. This is Vice President Biden's second trip to Iraq this year and his first as Vice President." The Vice President's oldest son, Beau Biden, is serving in Iraq as a member of Delaware's Army National Guard. Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) notes that it is "a two-day series of meetings" for Vice President Biden who "was greeted at Baghdad International Airport by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abbawi and Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of American forces there."

In Baghdad today, violence 'returned.'
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and wounded ten people including two more Iraqi soldiers. Patrick Quinn (AP) adds, "The attack occurred near a bridge that controls access to the walled-off Green Zone in central Baghdad." Quinn also notes 2 dead and fifteen injured from a Baghdad car bombing. Aseel Kami, Michael Christie and Charles Dick (Reuters) report that Iraqi police claim it is the first Baghdad bombing since Tuesday but that it is "not immediately possible to verify the claim that the bomb was the first but no major incidents were reported in Baghdad on Wednesday." Alice Fordham (Times of London) adds, "Despite concerns, the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad have already begun a policy of reopening closing roads, reducing the number of fixed checkpoints and removing the concrete barriers that have long dominated the Baghdad streetscape. "

In other reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 2 lives and left fifteen people injured and Falluja roadside bombing targeted an Iraq military officer but killed his driver ("The officer was not in the car"). Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured three people, a Yusufiya car bombing claimed 2 lives and left fifteen people injured, an Al-Zab car bombing claimed 1 life and injured six people and a Falluja sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and and left two others injured..


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Kirkuk. Reuters notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul and 1 Iraqi "army major" was shot dead in Kirkuk.

Those following the oil industry can refer to Tamsin Carlisle's "
Iraq seeks plan B after auction" (The National):Iraq said yesterday its state oil companies would manage and exploit two gasfields and possibly one oilfield that failed to attract acceptable bids from foreign companies in the country's first post-war oil and gas licensing round.Baghdad also rejected further offers it received after the close on Tuesday of a televised auction of service contracts for work on six of the country's biggest oilfields and the two gasfields."The offers from the foreign companies were rejected by the government," said Ali al Dabbagh, a government spokesman. "If they want the oilfields they have to match the prices offered by the ministry of oil."Reporters who are handmaidens to Big Oil have repeatedly attempted to play the events as a failure. Iraq doesn't need foreigners to reap millions on oil. If they're not happy with the bidding, they don't have to award contracts. There's a Western attitude of "you must" that Iraq fails to respond to (no surprise, that's been the case for Iraq historically). "Emboldened by what Iraqi oil officials are calling a successful first oil-licensing round this week," Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports, "the oil ministry is to move up a second auction that was to be held at the end of this year for 11 oil and natural-gas fields." As Chon explains, Big Oil was the one who "balked" in the auction. AFP quotes Nouri al-Maliki declaring, ""Some companies succeeded, others did not. The oil ministry will think about how to exploit the oil resources of Iraq." Repeating: Big Oil removed itself from the process (kind of the way Barack took his name off the Michigan ballot -- maybe Big Oil thought the DNC 'Rules' Committee would award it contracts regardless?). Big Oil's Pimp Sheila McNulty (Financial Times of London) spins it as a win for Chevron: "The US oil company did not even bid for one of the highly touted contracts. While Chevron is not saying anything about what kept it out of the race, an industry source says the world's third biggest oil company decided the terms being offered were too unfavorable for the company to make money." Meanwhile Vivienne Walt (TIME magazine) notes the hesitation to bid on Kirkuk fields in the past:

Until now, major oil companies such as Chevron and ExxonMobil have stayed out of investing in the Kurdish zone for fear that investing there might prompt Baghdad to blacklist them from bidding for the far larger fields down South. But those fears have diminished as the stalemate in parliament over oil has dragged on. Big Oil might also be emboldened to make deals on oil fields in the Kurdish areas since last week, when the Chinese oil giant Sinopec announced that it was acquiring the Swiss oil company Addax Petroleum, which operates in Iraqi Kurdistan. "It will be much more difficult to blacklist Sinopec," says Yousni. "This is China, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, not some small oil company," he says. Having dared to take on Baghdad, China has increased the Kurds' ability to become an autonomous economic power, and perhaps allowed other companies to follow suit. "The Chevrons and Exxons of this world can now do the same, and go into Kurdish fields." For now, some may see that as a safer bet than the riches on offer, at a steeper price and risk, further south.

yesterday's snapshot, we noted Josh Drobnyk's "Iraq war veteran will lead effort to reverse 'don't ask, don't tell'" (Los Angeles Times) but we'll return to it to note this:With Murphy, 35, the Democratic leadership has an aggressive two-term lawmaker who in 2006 was the first Iraq war veteran elected to Congress. A former prosecutor and West Point professor, Murphy was a captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division.He said he anticipated a struggle to rally enough support to bring the bill to the floor. "This is going to take months and months, but change is going to happen."The legislation's prospects are similarly uncertain in the Senate, where Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is suffering from a brain tumor, is expected to take the lead.Opponents are readying their own fight, arguing that gays' open service would hurt national security.It goes on to quote hag, you know who we mean. Monday's snapshot noted Senator Roland Burris' commitment to work with Kennedy on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. While that's wonderful that Burris has shown the courage to step up on this issue, Kennedy's not only suffering from a tumor, he's also got his hands on the health care. Burris needs a senior senator to work with and it's past time someone stepped up to the plate. This can't wait for Ted Kennedy to finish working on health care, it needs to be addressed now.Iraq War veteran Anthony Woods is running for Congress, he was discharged under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Kel Munger (Sacramento News & Review) spoke with him (and I've added their names before they speak to make it easier to follow):Kel Munger: So you were discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Did they ask or did you tell?Anthony Woods: I told. I reached the point where I had fully accepted who I was, and the more I thought about it, the more I understood that it was not right at all to lie about who I was. I was on the honor committee at West Point. I was raised with regular American values and taught that it's not right to lie in any context. As I started to think about it more and more, it baffled me that we had a policy in place that was the law of the land that required every member of the GLBT community who served to lie.Kel Munger: There's something fundamentally wrong with that, especially in our country. It's unacceptable.Anthony Woods: That compelled me to be honest with my commander. And because of the law, she was required -- whether she wanted to or not -- to launch an investigation into my background to confirm the truth of the matter. I had to provide her with lists of names of people who knew me and knew I was gay. After a six-month investigation, I was honorably discharged. I was asked to repay the tuition that the Army had paid for at West Point, which was about $35,000.Kel Munger: How many years had you given the military? You'd already done two tours in Iraq, right?Anthony Woods: When I was discharged, I'd served just a little over five years. After grad school, I was going to do five more years.[. . .]Kel Munger: And what about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which is kind of where we started this conversation?Anthony Woods: Think of all the straight soldiers who are left in the unit now who are going into battle with one less person on their side, one less resource for their unit. Look at my friend Dan Choi, for example. He's an Arab linguist, speaks Arabic fluently. Now his unit has to go to war without translator. They're less effective at doing their job and they're more at risk while they try to do it. It simply doesn't make sense to take talented, competent people who want to do their job and remove them and send everyone else off to war without them. Or we could talk about the $400 million it has cost us to implement "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." That would buy a lot of body armor and a lot of armored Humvees. Instead, we've got a net benefit of zero.Dan Choi is fighting for his military career. Tuesday an army board recommended he be dischared. Catherine Philip (Times of London) reports:An Iraq war veteran has been ordered out of the US military after publicly announcing his homosexuality in a direct challenge to the army's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.Lieutenant Dan Choi, who speaks fluent Arabic, outed himself in March in the military journal Army Times and on national television at the launch of Knights Out, an association representing gay and lesbian graduates of West Point military academy.He said that his declaration was a protest against a policy that forced soldiers to lie in order to serve their country. "It's an immoral code that goes against every single thing we were ever taught at West Point with our honour code," he said.

from ETAN:The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras)Joint Statement on Accountability in the Run-up to the Indonesian Presidential ElectionsAs Indonesia prepares for its second direct presidential election on July 8th, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (Kontras) together urge the Indonesian government, its citizens, and the international community to highlight past human rights violations and to push the next Indonesian administration to end impunity for human rights violators.We are especially concerned about the well-documented human rights records of some of the candidates, including vice presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and Wiranto. Prabowo, vice-presidential candidate for Megawati Sukarnoputri, was commander of Indonesia's special forces unit Kopassus from 1995 to 1998. Under his command, Kopassus kidnapped and disappeared a group of student activists during the last part of the dictator Suharto's rule. For this, he was later forced to retire by a military court. He also presided over brutal actions by Kopassus in occupied East Timor, including the torture, kidnapping and killings of independence supporters.Wiranto, vice-presidential candidate for Jusuf Kalla, was commander of Indonesia's military during the tumultuous period of 1998 and 1999, when Suharto was pushed from power by widespread demonstrations and elite disillusionment with his rule. The military and its militias wreaked havoc in East Timor during its vote for independence. For his role, Wiranto was indicted for crimes against humanity by the UN-backed serious crimes process.Kontras and ETAN are concerned that should either of these candidates assume office, their past crimes will impede the next president's ability to satisfactorily resolve outstanding cases of human rights violations by Indonesia's security forces and hinder the critical movement toward military reform and accountability. Almost certainly Wiranto and Prabowo's own impunity would continue for human rights and war crimes.Under the current Yudhoyono administration, progress in the major human rights cases has been halting at best and military reform efforts have stalled. Also a former general, he has shown only a limited commitment to expanding human rights. Human rights violations have escalated in Papua. The involvement of the highest levels of the government's intelligence agency in the assassination of human rights activist Munir, who was murdered just prior to Yudhoyono taking office, has yet to be satisfactorily resolved. President Yudhoyono once declared the Munir case a "test case for whether Indonesia has changed."As the legal process has stalled in a number of important cases, the installation of a presidential team which respects human rights and can inject new momentum into these cases is critical. The international community can greatly assist efforts for genuine accountability and military reform by restricting military assistance to Indonesia. Together Indonesia's government, its citizens, and the international community must push for human rights accountability no matter who assumes office.Contact:Usman Hamid (Indonesia) +62 811 812 149John M. Miller (United States) +1-718-596-7668; +1-917-690-4391Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan (KontraS)East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) Pernyataan bersama tentang akuntabilitas dalam pemilihan presiden IndonesiaSeiring dengan persiapan Indonesia menghadapi pemilihan presiden langsung keduanya pada 8 Juli 2009, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) dan Komisi untuk orang hilang dan korban tindak kekerasan (KontraS), bersama mendorong pemerintah Indonesia, warganya, dan komunitas internasional untuk mengingat pelanggaran Hak Asasi Manusia (HAM) di masa lampau dan untuk mendorong pemerintah Indonesia agar mengakhiri impunitas pelanggaran HAM.Kami sangat prihatin dengan catatan HAM- yang terdokumentasikan dengan baik- dari beberapa kandidat, termasuk kandidat Wakil Presiden Prabowo Subianto dan Wiranto. Prabowo, kandidat Wakil Presiden untuk Megawati Sukarnoputri, adalah komandan komando pasukan khusus (Kopassus) dari tahun 1995-1998. Dibawah pimpinannya, Kopassus menculik dan menghilangkan sekelompok aktivis mahasiswa pada masa akhir kepemimpinan diktator Suharto. Karena ini, ia dipaksa untuk pensiun oleh pengadilan militer. Ia juga terlibat dalam tindakan brutal Kopassus di wilayah okupasi Timor Timur, termasuk penyiksaan, penculikan dan pembunuhan terhadap pendukung kemerdekaan. Wiranto, kandidat Wakil Presiden untuk Jusuf Kalla, adalah Panglima Angkatan Bersenjata pada masa bergejolak 1998-1999, ketika Suharto dijatuhkan dari kekuasaan oleh demonstrasi yang meluas dan disilusi elit pada kekuasaannya. Militer dan milisinya melancarkan kekacauan di Timor Timur pada masa referendum kemerdekaan. Untuk perannya ini, Wiranto dituduh kejahatan atas HAM melalui proses peradilan kejahatan serius yang disokong oleh PBB. Kontras dan ETAN prihatin bila salah satu kandidat ini berhasil menang, maka kejahatan masa lalu mereka akan menghalangi kemampuan presiden selanjutnya untuk menyelesaikan kasus kasus besar pelanggaran HAM masa lalu yang dilakukan oleh angkatan bersenjata Indonesia, serta menghalangi gerakan kritis terhadap reformasi militer dan akuntabilitas. Hampir dipastikan impunitas Wiranto dan Prabowo akan terus berlangsung dalam pelanggaran HAM dan kejahatan perang. Dibawah pemerintahan Yudhoyono yang sedang berjalan, perkembangan kasus-kasus HAM besar terhambat dan upaya reformasi militer tersendat. Sebagai mantan Jendral, ia menunjukkan komitmen terbatas dalam penegakkan HAM. Pelanggaran HAM meningkat di Papua. Keterlibatan pejabat tinggi badan intelijen pemerintah dalam pembunuhan aktivis HAM, Munir, yang terbunuh beberapa saat setelah Yudhoyono memangku jabatan, belum terselesaikan secara memuaskan. Presiden Yudhoyono pernah mengatakan "kasus Munir adalah suatu batu ujian seberapa besar Indonesia telah berubah."Seiring terhentinya proses hukum beberapa kasus penting, pembentukan pasangan presiden yang menghargai HAM dan bisa menyuntikan momentum baru pada kasus ini adalah kritis. Komunitas internasional dapat membantu upaya upaya menegakkan akuntabilitas sejati dan reformasi militer dengan membatasi bantuan militer ke Indonesia. Bersama-sama, pemerintah Indonesia, warganya, dan komunitas internasional harus mendorong akuntabilitas HAM, terlepas siapapun yang memangku jabatan.
ETAN welcomes your financial support. Go to to donate. Thanks.
John M. Miller
National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
PO Box 21873, Brooklyn, NY 11202-1873 USA
Phone: (718)596-7668 Mobile phone: (917)690-4391
Skype: john.m.miller
Web site:

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

California earthquake (financial)

What the hell is going on with the California budget?

I thought by now, Barack would do the right thing and begin some sort of funding of California but that's not happening. "Drop dead." That's the message and when C.I. included that in a snapshot, I honestly didn't get it but today at work, people were talking about how Barack has told the state to "drop dead" and I asked what the reference was too? In the 70s, New York state was struggling and Gerald Ford refused to bail it out. So the headline was something like "Ford to New York, Drop Dead."

I was told that Carter carried New York. And I was told, by Democrats, that if Barack doesn't come through for California, they don't plan on voting for him in 2012.

There is very real anger. I knew it was an issue but it wasn't one I was following too closely. A) I have a lot of work at my job. B) I have three kids. C) I'm only now feeling comfortable in my new job.

So I was aware of the news but not really discussing and exploring it until today.

California's usually in the lead of things and I mention that because this will probably happen to other states. And Barack better figure out how he's going to handle it because I would argue the federal government has a bigger obligation to bail out states than to bail out banks and other multi-nationals.

There is such anger and there are so many public workers who are losing money. Not just the ones losing jobs but the ones being 'furloughed' which is losing eight hours of work because they can't pay you. So suddenly, you on the tight budget trying to make ends meet finds out that you're getting only 32 hours this week and not 40.

Does the Democrat Party not realize where this is headed?

Maybe they think everyone will blame Arnold but the state legislature is Democratic, right?

And if you're among the many losing a job right now, I don't think you're going to fill very favorable to the White House come 2012.

For students, Barack's got some sort of an intern program coming. It's a four-week program and that's for all the states, apparently. Other than funding that, there's nothing for the states. Apparently he spent everything the US had on TARP.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, July 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Kenneth Pollack Laments, Patrick Murphy tackles Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and more.

Today US House Rep Patrick Murphy spoke about the need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Clinton era compromise came about when Colin Powell and others flaunted their homophobia and refused to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, a pledge Bill Clinton campaigned upon. The compromise was that you couldn't be asked about your sexuality and you couldn't talk about it. Unless you were straight. It was a compromise and, for that time period, a step forward. Today is out of date and out of step.
Josh Drobnyk (Pennslyvania Ave. Blog) reports that with Ellen Tauscher's departure from Congress (she's now Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security), Murphy will now take the lead on the Military Readiness Enhancement Act which would not only repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, it would also allow everyone to serve regardless of their sexuality and with no requirement that they hide who they are. Iraq War veteran Murphy states, "This is going to take months and months, but change is going to happen." Yesterday Lt Dan Choi learned that a US Army board was recommending he be discharged because he is gay and refuses to hide in a closet. Martin Wisckol (Orange County Register) quotes Choi, "I'm a leader. A setback is an opportunity to keep fighting, and I'm going to do that through my actions." Yesterday Jasmyn Belcher (WRVO -- audio and text) spoke with Choi who explained, "My job is to be here and to continue being an officer everything I was trained to do regardless of the discomfort, regardless of the emotions that are going on, you still do your duty. I believe this is my duty to stand up and to fight to stay in." Choi is not done fighting and hopefully he will be successful at a higher level but if he's not he will be, as Stan noted last night, the 266th US service member to be discharged for being gay since Barack Obama was sworn in as president. If Barack wanted to, all he need do is issue an executive order for a stop-loss on discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That would stop it right away. Congress could then address it but all the people (over 200 under Obama already) being discharged would no longer be drummed out of the military as a result of that executive order. CNN notes this citing Knights Out's Sue Fulton: "Fulton said that while Obama can't change the law himself, he could sign an executive order halting discharges while the policy is under review." Barry O likes to play helpless but he's not. One executive order is all it would take. The Syracuse Post-Standard editorializes for the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy to be eliminated and observes that "enforcing the policy has cost taxpayers more than $400 million since 1994."

Joe Garofoli (San Francisco Chronicle) adds, "Still, some analysts say Choi's case is another example of how Washington leaders aren't showing much urgency -- or leadership -- in overturning 'don't ask, don't tell.' Obama has said he wants Congress to overturn the law; congressional laders say they are waiting for the president to take the lead; and military leaders say they won't change the policy unless directed by Congress." Mike McAndrew and Mark Weiner (Syracuse Post-Standard) report Choi "said he refuses to lie about being involved in a relationship with another man. Choi said the relationship has made him a better person, a better Christian and a better officer." Alexa James (Times Herald-Record) quotes Choi explaining, "All I did was tell the truth. I refused to lie about my boyfriend. His name is Matthew, not Martha."

McClatchy Newspapers' Sahar Issa appeared on Democracy Now! to address Iraq.

Sahar Issa: National Sovereignty Day, of course, is a day that is celebrated by the hearts of all Iraqis, you must know that Iraqi's pride -- is a proud country -- Iraqis are proud people. It is difficult for them not to be happy at the action of foreign troops leaving their cities and streets. At the same time that they are happy to gain control over their streets and cities there is doubt in their hearts whether the Iraqi security forces are actually adequate to the task that is in front of them in the coming days and weeks and months of keeping the peace and keeping the population secure. This is as the bottom of the doubts that you see: Is the Iraqi force actually adequate to the task? Are the Iraqi forces infiltrated by many? The Iraqi force has been formed upon somewhat sectarian lines. The Iraqi force also because of the administrative corruption -- has many people who have brought in their relatives, their friends, their neighbors, people who are not professional. And after six years, perhaps it would be a legitimate question to ask and to forward to the American forces: after six years of training they have understaken to present Iraq with a new force after dismantling the old one, why isn't the Iraqi force actually adequate to the task? The people of Iraq ask this question. It is the first question they ask. They are still not confident that the Iraqi forces are capable.

Those observations jibe with those of
Alissa J. Rubin's (New York Times), "The excitement however, has run hollow for many Iraqis, who fear that their country's security forces are not ready to stand alone and who see the government's claims of independence as overblown." Back to the Democracy Now! segment:

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Sahar Issa, what about the ability of the Iraqi government to provide basic services to the population? There's obviously many reports of corruption within the government and continued infighting among the various factions. How has the public seen the ability of the government to administer the society?

SAHAR ISSA: To tell you the truth, if you look back a little bit, you will find that with the height of violence that only started coming down in the beginning of 2008, and while human life was at stake, violence was like a blanket, cutting off a cross-section of what is really happening inside the Iraqi government, because everything was so clouded, people were hurt, they couldn't look further than their lot.
But when the violence ebbed after the beginning of 2008, people started picking up the reins of their lives, looking around to see what was going on. And they found, horrendously, that the government is totally riddled with corruption. It is totally built on tribal and sectarian bases, where people have their relatives in very sensitive places simply to make the profit. And the confidence in Iraqis that they had at first when they went to elect their government, they lost this confidence. They said, "Then what is the difference, if it is going to be tribal again? What is the difference between this government and the past, even if it is elected, if it is going to use the same lines?"
And that is, of course, part of the problem, is that it is not a matter of just putting the government out there. The problem is this government needs to gain the confidence of the people. It needs to give them something that they can hold onto. It needs to look at their very difficult lives. They didn't have electricity when the -- you know, outside this building, if I walk out now, it is so hot, toys will melt in cars. To just to give you an idea, toys will melt in cars. That is the heat. And people don't have electricity. After six years, they don't have water in their homes.
I spoke to a person yesterday in Beya'a neighborhood, when we were touring the city for reactions. And she said, "How can I be happy with sovereignty, if sovereignty has not brought me enough water to bathe, I can't wash my clothes, if I don't have electricity so I can sleep at night? What kind of sovereignty is this?" We are struggling, my dear friend. We are struggling so hard to reach square one. And so far, we haven't achieved it yet.

AMY GOODMAN: Sahar Issa, are you afraid of having your image known, of being identified as a reporter?

SAHAR ISSA: Oh, certainly, certainly, certainly. Working for a foreign -- never mind a US, American -- news agency will have me very clearly titled as the pastor's pie or working for the occupation. People -- the simpler people, let us say -- can't differentiate between a person who is picking up information and lighting things and making things public for -- to, how do you say, to extend a hand to other people to know what is actually going on inside our country. They can't tell the difference between this person and the person who's gathering information perhaps for intelligence preferences. And therefore, yes, of course, I am afraid. No one knows. Only my parents and my children and the people working with me know. And even the people who are working with me, not all of them know where I live. That's how bad it is.

Jeremy Scahill was also a guest on the segment.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. I mean, this is a very contrived sort of Hallmark holiday here. I doubt that decades from now many Iraqis are going to be, you know, telling their grandchildren where they were on National Sovereignty Day. I mean, remember the whole stumbling of President Bush: when he declared Iraqi sovereignty, he talked about the definition of sovereignty as a sovereign entity. Paul Bremer already officially handed over sovereignty to the Iraqis five years ago, and yet we have 130,000 US troops that remain in the country. This really is George Bush's Iraq plan that Barack Obama is now implementing and taking the political risk of implementing, because if the violence blows up, then of course it looks very much like Barack Obama has been a failure in Iraq, and not George Bush. So Obama, in many ways, has played into the Bush administration's hand. But we can see the clearest endgame of the US occupation in the fact that the Iraqi government, on a day when they declare their own sovereignty and you have the US military commander handing over the keys to the Defense Ministry, the Iraqi Oil Ministry opens up the country for bidding now on its oil resources, and you had eight of the ten top oil companies in the world that are not part of a nationalized state apparatus. In other words, eight of the ten most powerful private oil corporations in the world are now bidding for large shares of the Iraqi oil supply. I mean, to me, this is a grotesque symbol of what exactly is happening in Iraq.
And let me just say, Juan, that while we're seeing the sort of contrived celebrations, where ordinary Iraqis, for the most part, are not permitted to go into these big celebrations -- it's largely off-duty police officers, Iraqi soldiers and dignitaries -- the reality is that US soldiers are simply going to the outskirts of the cities and could easily go in to strike at them. General Ray Odierno, the top US military commander there, would not be clear on how many US soldiers are going to remain in the region. At the end of the day, the US has a massive eighty-football-field-size embassy. They have thousands upon thousands of contractors, 130,000 troops still in the country. And they're going to keep a force of 35,000 to 50,000 residual US forces when Obama is officially done withdrawing from Iraq. So, in reality, we see Barack Obama implementing, almost to the letter, George Bush's and the neocons' plan for Iraq, while putting a Democratic stamp on it and essentially downsizing and rebranding what remains a US occupation. So, no, this is Hallmark holiday stuff. And I think it's clear for anyone who's been following this that this is the same situation as when Bush tried to declare Iraqi sovereignty, when Paul Bremer snuck out of Baghdad in June of 2004.

At Information Clearing House, Jeremy explains of the for-show play-day:

While a lot of the media hype today focuses on the U.S. "withdrawal," that is hardly the reality. As
previously reported, U.S. military commanders have said they are preparing for an Iraq presence for another 15-20 years, the U.S. embassy is the size of Vatican City, there is no official plan for the withdrawal of contractors and new corporate mercenary contracts are being awarded. The Status of Forces Agreement (SoFA) between the U.S. and Iraq gives the U.S. the right to extend the occupation indefinitely and to continue intervening militarily in Iraq ad infinitum. Article 27 of the SoFA allows the U.S. to undertake military action, "or any other measure," inside Iraq's borders "In the event of any external or internal threat or aggression against Iraq." As the airwaves and internet are flooded with reports of this new Iraqi sovereignty and U.S. withdrawal, it is important to remember a bit of history. Five years ago -- almost to the day -- President Bush put on an almost identical show. His proconsul L. Paul Bremer "handed over sovereignty" to the Iraqi government just before he skulked out of Baghdad on a secret flight (right after he issued an order banning Iraq from prosecuting contractors). Despite the pronouncements and proclamations and media hype, the occupation continued and real sovereignty was non-existent.

CNN reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has released a call for all US forces to leave Iraq and stated their presence "shows that the (Iraqi) government and the occupation are not serious about the withdrawal". Noting the silence on Iraq in the US, Dan Baltz asks "Have We Forgotten Iraq?" (Washington Post) in which he wonders, "If they [the White House] are wrong [about Iraq being able to stand up], there may be questions about what kind of country Americans are preparing to leave behind. Obama could find himself under pressure to adjust the withdrawal timetable." Or he could realize that it was a mistake to delay withdrawal because there is nothing else the US military can do (even the war hawks should agree with that) and allowing them to remain in the country as babysitters really turns them into sitting ducks of the continued occupation. And let's stop pretending the White House doesn't have plans. As we noted in Third's "Editorial: Save us from the panty sniffers" Sunday, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill gave a press conference in the US June 18th:

What should have bothered Americans was Hill's refusal to discuss "contingency plans" for Iraq should the (partial) pull-back from cities (June 30th) result in increased violence. "Well, again," he repeated, "I don't want to discuss contingency plans." Why not? And why aren't these contingency plans known to the American public?

Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) ignored Hill's press conference, he feels something important is missed from the press conference Gen Ray Odierno held yesterday in Baghdad: "We'll be operating in the belts around Baghdad." Ricks takes that to mean "that the U.S. strategy in the coming months will be to try to protect Baghdad by cutting off insurgents and militias operating in the fields, towns and palm groves that surround much of the capital. And that was where some of the heaviest fighting took place during the spring and summer of 2007, as 'the surge' began." So that may be, that may be, as Cass Elliot once sang ("California Earthquake") but equally true, and reporters know this, when a person loses it at a scheduled press conference, that's also known as "very telling." Translation, Reuters shouldn't have been the only outlet to report on Odierno Earthquake yesterday. And, no, Ricks hasn't written of that.

Here's some of the exchange from
the DoD transcript:Q General, it's Andrew Gray from Reuters. You talked about a small number of U.S. forces remaining in the cities to train and advise. Can you put a figure? How many U.S. forces will remain? GEN. ODIERNO: Yeah, people have been trying to get me to say a figure now for about a month. And the reason I won't do it is because it's going to be different every single day, and it'll be based on how much training, how much advising, how much coordination is required. That will change each and every day. So I won't put a number on it. It is a smaller number, a significantly smaller number than what we've had in the cities now. But it has very specific missions: train the Iraqi security forces, advise them as we continue to move forward, enable them in order to -- potentially if they need some help with aviation, logistics, et cetera. But more -- almost as important, coordinate and help us to continue our situational awareness of all situations within Iraq. And that will help us to better support the Iraqi security forces.

Q General, just to follow up briefly, I am disappointed you didn't give us the scoop after a month of holding out, but I wonder if you could at least give us a -- you know, is it an -- a few thousand? If you could give us a kind of ballpark -- are we talking about several thousand? Would that be a reasonable ballpark to use? GEN. ODIERNO: Again -- again, there's hundreds of cities around, and we have hundreds of -- you know, and I've let the local commanders work this out. So for me to give a number would frankly be inaccurate, and I just don't want to do it. There'll be trainers, advisers, helping throughout all of the Iraqi cities where we continue to support and advise Iraqi security forces. Q Whatever the number is, how are you going to convince them basically, the U.S. forces remaining, not to jump in and be helpful, where perhaps you would prefer that the Iraqis take the lead? What will be different about what they're told to do, in a situation where they might think, their first instinct is, gosh, we can do that better.

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, again this is -- I call it -- we are working on changing our mindsets in the city. And I equate it to when we first started the surge, where we had to change our mindset. So pushing our soldiers back out, getting back into the communities, really partnering with the Iraqi security forces and today, it's the same kind of thing. We have to change our mindset. When we're in the cities, there's very specific things that we'll do. Actually we've been out of the cities, a large majority of the cities now, for the last eight months. So it's really only Mosul and the last remnants that we've had, in Baghdad, that have pulled out over the last few weeks. So we've actually been implementing this in many parts of Baghdad for a long time. And they understand what their mission is. They understand what we expect them to do. And you know, we have worked this very closely with all of the leaders in Iraq. We've worked -- I've worked very closely with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, the operations commanders, the operational commanders in order to work this out. And I feel very comfortable with where we're at.

Q General, it's Tom Bowman with NPR. I mean, you're reluctant to talk about how many trainers and mentors are in the cities. And it raises a question about whether or not this is just a show or not whether, you know, this is just semantics. There are essentially U.S. soldiers with guns in the cities. You can call them trainers or mentors. But how different is it from what we saw maybe two-three weeks ago? And if you have U.S. soldiers just outside the cities, I mean, what is this? Is this just a show for the American people?

GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I would say, you probably didn't listen to what I just said. Because what I just said was, having battalions and brigades inside a city is significantly different than having trainers, advisers and MiTT teams. And I said, we'll be operating in the belts around Baghdad. I've been very clear about this, just like we did in the surge. We had -- the reason we had to surge forces is, we had to get people in the cities. And then we had to eliminate safe havens and sanctuaries in the belts around Baghdad. It's the same thing, except the Iraqis will take responsibility for security in the cities. We will continue to do full-spectrum operations, outside of the cities, to work the safe havens and sanctuaries around the cities. And we will continue to do that. And it's legitimate, legitimate operations that we'll continue to conduct outside of the cities. If you're here in Baghdad, you would know. There is a significant change inside of the cities. There are thousands among thousands of soldiers that have pulled out of Baghdad. There -- and there hasn't been any soldiers in the cities in southern Iraq, there hasn't been any soldiers in the cities in Ramadi, there hasn't been any soldiers in the cities in Fallujah for months now. And we've been executing this very well. So again, if you're here in Iraq, you would see it for yourself there is a significant change.

As we noted
yesterday, he apologized for his outburst (and referred to it as his "temper"). But that's a key moment of the press conference and not just because some reporters are now talking of starting a pool to see how quickly they can get Odierno to explode in the next press briefing, but also because that's not normal behavior from him. He's under huge pressure from the White House to walk their line and stick to their script and his feelings are rather well known about that at this late date. The troops haven't left Mosul and are not leaving Baghdad and no one knows what else and no one knows how many. Except Ray Odierno. He knows exactly what is going on with US troops in Iraq. And he's not allowed to reveal that. That's where his frustration comes in. He felt like the biggest idiot in the world because he couldn't answer the question that he knew the answer to but which the White House won't let him speak on. That, Thomas E. Ricks, is an important detail.

Now let's sit down at the piano, it's time for "Miss Kenneth Laments" -- the lost Cole Porter song. "Sure, well, first, of course," hemmed and hawed War Hawk and Cheerleader Kenny Pollack, "as listeners of your show are aware, 'cause I've been on the show any number of times to talk about, this, I did believe that an, uh, invasion would be necessary but not the invasion that we got. Not in the time that we did it, not in the way that we did it, not how we did it or with whom we did it. As for what have we accomplished? I think the jury is still out." Brookings Boy Kenny sure was nervous and, please note, his 'answer' was to a question about whether or not the Iraq War was worth it. Monday on
NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Diane explained, "And here's a question for you, Ken Pollack, you were among those who favored US invasion of Iraq. What do you believe we have gained if anything?" The question wasn't did he support the illegal war before it started.

And yet, he nervously stated, before getting to the question he'd been asked, ""Sure, well, first, of course, as listeners of your show are aware, 'cause I've been on the show any number of times to talk about, this, I did believe that an, uh, invasion would be necessary but not the invasion that we got. Not in the time that we did it, not in the way that we did it, not how we did it or with whom we did it." First, let's again note, this is the talking point and War Hawks pushed it after Vietnam as well. It goes like this: "The problem wasn't the war and its illegality, the problem was the way it was fought." No, the problem was the war. As for what he advocated for? His 2002 book Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq made it pretty clear in the title but in it he argues for the US "to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam's regime, and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction." Saddam had no WMDs. Kenny boy forgot to include that on NPR Monday. He forgot to admit that or own any of his mistakes. Instead, he wanted to complain that the war he dreamed of arrived in the wrong size and color.

The Wall St. Journal's Gina Chon appears briefly at the start of the program, reporting from Iraq, but technical difficulties sideline her.

Diane Rehm: Okay, let's talk about what the Iraqi people can and cannot do.

Paul Pillar: As part of the bargaining that Prime Minister Maliki had to get agreement with his cabinet and Parliament for the security agreement, he agreed that there would be a referendum to approve or disapprove the agreement. Your caller is correct that July 30th was the date that had been previously set but it appears that it is most likely going to be delayed until January to coincide with the Parliamentary election. So that will be an important outcome -- whether or not the Iraqi people approve it. If they disapprove it, then what -- as I understand the agreement -- what comes into play is the withdrawal clause which basically says 'either party has a year to terminate the agreement' which means that would move up the deadline for all US forces to -- to get out by almost a year -- to 2010 rather than 2011. But, again, that does not preclude some new agreement being negotiated between the governments of the day in Baghdad and Washington.

Kenneth Pollack: This is a really important point because what you're seeing now is the Iraqis using the politics to deal with the security situation in potentially very difficult ways, dangerous ways. We talked a lot about how the Iraqis, the Iraqi people, are ambivalent about the agreement. We haven't talked about Prime Minister Maliki and his own ambivalence. At one level, he knows that he can't allow the country to fall apart and he's nervous that his own security forces can't hold it together. By the same token though, he sees the United States as an impediment to his consolidation of power and I think that there's a lot of evidence to suggest that he's moving it to January in hope that it will either discredit all of his political adversaries or cause a termination of the agreement prematurely exactly as Paul was suggesting.

[. . .]

Diane Rehm: Just before the break, one of our callers, Lily in Syracuse, New York, had asked about the referendum that's going to take place -- the decision of the Iraqi [. . .] [people] to stay or not to stay. That's a really important point, Paul.

Paul: It's very important and I'm glad we got the call, that raised the issue but I would simply agree with what we heard from Ken before the break. It's partly Maliki continuing to play a political game. But if -- if the referendum, it's voted down, uh, in January, uh, there are going to be extremely difficult decisions for the Obama administration to make about its policy and posture in Iraq over the course of the next year. To some extent, it might be seen as a political blessing for much of his constituency, it means getting out earlier, but he is going to have to sit down with his commanders, with General Petraeus, General Odeireno, or who ever is occupying their jobs at that time and have some very hard talk about the security situation in Iraq as of the end, not of 2011, but of 2010.

Diane: Elise?

Elise Labott: And let's not forget that President Obama won, in part, the presidency on his campaign to withdraw US forces from Iraq. He said that the war in Afghanistan was the more important war, the war that was the greater threat to US national security with the emergent -- the reemergence of the Taliban and al Qaeda and he wanted to pay more attention to that war and by all accounts you can't do that with 130,000 troops in Iraq. But the question is if the sectarian violence gets worse, if Iraq continues to spiral, the question is: Does Barack Obama have blood on his hands if -- if he withdraws all of his troops from Iraq and a lot of people -- it's a moral dilemma for him.

Diane Rehm: Ken Pollack?

Kenneth Pollack: Well I think that there's also a strategic consideration which is that the truth is that Iraq is ultimately of far greater strategic consequence to the United States than Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a problem because of the terrorism problem and because of relationship to Pakistan but you can't solve the problem of Afghanistan through Pakistan.

That last Pollack 'gem' is included to dissuade his cult from e-mailing and saying, "His 2002 book said!" Don't give me that crap. Don't spit out the Slate book review claiming Kenny's 2002 book said Afghanistan was more important. Kenny's all over the map, always has been, there's never been a cohesive argument from him. Only baseless charges followed by meaningless laments. The full hour was devoted to Iraq (
here for that segment itself) for those who missed it. (I did. An NPR friend passed it on.) The guests were (very briefly) Gina Chon, CNN's Elise Labott, Brookings Kenneth Pollack and Georgetown's Paul Pilar.

Earlier mid-June US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill claimed that fatalies were down in the month of June. Silly Chris and silly reporters who fell for that garbage.
Reuters reports that there was a spike and that the official numbers from the Iraqi Health Ministry is 373 for the month of June. Those are the Iraqi government figures. The actual figures are likely far higher. In some of today's violence, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Iraqi forces shot dead a man in Mosul (a 'suspect') and that a Mosul roadside bombing injured a police officer.

Sir! No Sir! Exposing and Debunking Military Lies from Vietnam to Iraq notes a national anti-war conference put on by National Assembly to End the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pittsburg End The War to be held at La Roche College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Veterans for Peace's Michael T. McPherson, Arab American Union's Marily Levin, Black Voices for Peace's Gail Austin, Arab American Union's Monadel Herzallah and Iraqi poet-activist Zaineb Alani are among those participating. Cindy Sheehan will be participating as well and we'll note her in just a moment. Diane Rejman is also with Veterans for Peace and she tackles recruitment at CounterPunch noting:

The recruiting system leaves out the second part of this. Recruiters talk about travel, adventure, skill-training, and getting your college education paid for. They don't mention that the travel and adventure may involve being in 110 degree+ temperatures, loaded up with gear, sleeping in tents, having your life threatened on a daily basis, and maybe not even having enough clean water to drink. They don't mention that the skill-training is usually not transferable to a civilian job, or that some of the skills taught include how to be a prejudiced, hate-filled, bigot, who can be capable of killing another human being without feeling. They don't explain that the military will teach a person to hate when he or she enlists, but doesn't teach love when the soldier returns. And they certainly don't mention that only 14 percent of soldiers who sign up for the GI Bill use the benefit.
The lies of omission often go further. A recruiter may promise a job as a pilot, knowing the soldier won't qualify and will possibly end up as a truck driver in Iraq – one of the most dangerous jobs. A prospective Navy medic may not understand that he or she may end up in a combat zone since they are the ones who take care of Marines. Or the biggest lie of all – they convince the soldier he or she is signing up for three years, and don't point out that these days, with the stop-loss program in place, the enlistment agreement (note I don't use the word "contract") currently commits the soldier potentially to a life sentence.
But you know what, these are only a few of the lies involved in keeping a war machine going. The bigger ones come from society itself. That war is a good thing. That movies and video games represent reality. You get killed in a video game, press a button, and start over. You don't lose a friend, body parts, or your mind.

Click here to see Diane Rejman performing Bob Dylan's "Joe Brown."

As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, US presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and others on The Spirty of Humanity being detained by the Israeli government and prevented from delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan is calling out the detention:

Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Human Rights' Activist and Gold Star Mother, Cindy Sheehan, calls on the Israeli government to immediately release the members and crew of the boat The Spirit of Humanity that was attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the devastated peoples of Gaza.Speaking from Newton, Mass, Ms. Sheehan commented: "The detention of the crew and human rights' workers on The Spirit of Humanity is a clear violation of international law, as the blockade of Gaza is a clear violation of not only international law but the human rights of the people of Gaza. Not only must the Israeli government immediately release and recompense the captives, but it must allow the humanitarian aid to penetrate the blockade."
She continued: "I not only call on the Israeli government to do the right thing, but I call on our own President, who has claimed that he is an advocate for human rights, to condemn this act of international piracy by the rogue state of Israel and also demand the release of the kidnapped aid workers. This condemnation must be as strong and clear as the condemnation for the Somali 'pirates' was. A very courageous and dear friend of mine, Cynthia McKinney, was on that boat and the captives must all be treated with dignity and respect and speedily released."

Cindy Sheehan's Myth America Tour continues this month.
The dates for the start of the month include:

July 8th Wednesday 2 to 4 p.m. Cleveland Book Signing
Mac Bac's Books
1820 Coventry Road
Cleveland Hts. OH

Akron Main Public Library
July 8th 7 to 9 p.m.
60 S. High St.
Akron, OH 44326

Cleveland Community pot luck with Cindy
July 9th four to six p.m.
10220 Clifton Ave.
Lakewood, OH

St. Coleman's Parish Hall
July 9th seven to nine p.m.
West 65th and Madison

Drum Circle
July 10th noon to two p.m.

National Assembly to End the War
July 11th to 12th

Al Franken in a US Senator. See, the US can do recounts and can be patient. Al Franken and Norm Coleman (his Republican opponent who lost) proved (probably not intentionally on Coleman's part) that the Supreme Court did not need to stop the process in Bush v. Gore. The votes could have been counted. And would have been easily before Christmas 2000.
Al Franken is interviewed by former US Senator Fred Thompson here. The only one put out by the long drawn out process was Senator Amy Klobuchar and even she and her staff managed. The US can do recounts, no matter what the Supreme Court thinks.

iraqmike mcandrewmark weinerjoe garofolithe san francisco chroniclealexa james
jeremy scahillthe washington postdan balzthe new york timesalissa j. rubinsahar issamcclatchy newspapersdemocracy now
nprthe diane rehm show
cindy sheehan
elise labott