Friday, September 04, 2009

How we lose

"THEY TRY HARDER! The GOP has 'messaged' our keisters off. Does our wondrous side really care?" (Bob Somerby, The Daily Howler):

Why are Democrats so bad at messaging? Because we don’t care —and don’t try! And oh yes, one other thing: We have contempt for much of the public—for the people at whom such messaging aims, the people who get to vote.

Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman didn’t call the public crazy. They didn’t refer to their lizard brains when they could instead refer to their “hearts” and their “souls”—and to their “ideals.” (Emotional speech connects with ideals.) Quite famously, Roosevelt spoke to masses of people with great respect, through their radios. He remains famous for the fact that he spoke to the average “man.”

Today, our liberal leaders often prefer to sneer and display their contempt for such people. (They aren’t as smart and as moral as we are!) Why are we so bad at messaging? In part, because, as a point of pride, we refuse to speak to the unwashed masses to whom such messages would appeal.

We liberals! We must be the dumbest people on earth. Despite this fairly obvious fact, we take pride in calling the other side dumb. But in the past four decades, the other side has messaged our keisters off. As a result, they can offer ridiculous, blatant falsehoods—and using such falsehoods, they win.

Their side has messaging—our side really doesn’t. Let’s be honest about what that lack of messaging means:

Message: We don’t really care! For most of this era, we’ve been number two. But they have been trying much harder.

Wasn't expecting Bob Somerby to have an indepth post today but he does.

And that's pretty important.

Why do we lose?

In part, because we show such contempt for We The People. We serve up t-words to sneer at them. We forget that come election time, we're going to want their votes. And then when the Republicans are saying that those of us on the elites hate the working class, hate the regular people, we've already done the work for them to make their claim believable.

The first thing we on the left can do to help ourselves is stop attacking We The People.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, September 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, two fallen US soldiers are identified, the Bremer walls are put back up in Baghdad, Nouri courts an international crisis, Jordan and Iraq strengthen their ties, Steven D. Green gets sentenced for War Crimes and more.
Leaning up against the back of the building we discovered half of a rusted Russian heavy machine gun, and another piece of a Cold War era anti-aircraft gun. No big deal, except both weapons had been used against our company two years prior during the retaking of the city of Baqubah. Pretending this find meant the IPs were doing their job and taking dangerous weapons off the street and not that they were the average two-faced insurgents, we rounded the last corner of the compound and headed for the front gate.

Thanks to the hand-tying status of forces agreement between Iraq and the United States, American soldiers are not allowed to operate in urban areas without having the Iraqi Police or Iraqi Army present. Exceptions apply, but they're few and far between.

By the time our squad had regrouped around the front of the building, our IA escort forces from outside the city had exited their humvees and stood around smoking and joking with each other. They were dressed in USMC desert fatigues, military body armor, and commercial tactical vests. They were also carrying clean weapons outfitted with modern American optics and flashlights. Apparently, Iraqi Army Special Forces are fairly well funded.

We passed them by and headed out the gate, since our absurdly strict platoon leader wasn't around to stop us. One lonely IP stood guard just outside the entrance to the station. He remained rooted to the ground while we moved past him and out into the neighborhood. We figured he'd count as our Iraqi escort if someone important came along. Crossing a small lot with a few scattered cars and trash piles, a pack of four or five dogs picked up our scent and barked to alert the area to our presence. We held up at the far side of the lot, less than a hundred meters from the IP station. A group of kids had been playing around in the street, but had scattered as soon as we left the station. In previous years, that was a bad sign. Kids scattered and plugged their ears before roadside bombs detonated.

This time around, it's a different war. "War" is hardly the word to describe the current situation. Anyway, the unit we're replacing didn't spend a single second of their tour mingling with the locals around this particular IP station. It had been months since the last American foot patrol through their village. They peeked around corners and out from behind courtyard gates. Families weaving around rubble and small rivers of sewage eyeballed us suspiciously, rarely returning a wave.

Two young boys crept closer, stopping about ten meters ahead of us. I motioned to them to come closer while Todd called to them in broken Arabic. Cautiously, the older of the two darted up to us. Todd pulled a pack of gum from his pants pocket and handed a piece to the boy, who looked confused but optimistic. Todd pulled out another piece for himself, and popped it in his mouth. The boy smiled and darted back to the safety of his house. When he stuck his head out a moment later, he was chewing happily and surrounded by a new group of local kids.

I motioned again to them, and a younger boy came running up over the broken bricks and dirt littering the street. I handed him a little pack of Sweet Tarts as my squad started moving back to the police station. He accepted happily and ran back to the house. I turned and followed the squad out of the neighborhood and back through the guarded station entrance, offering the lone IP a wave as he closed the gate behind me.

We walked up to the front of the building, wondering where our blundering platoon leader was. The Iraqi Army Special Forces soldiers were still lounging around, smoking cheap cigarettes in the scorching afternoon sun. Approaching them, they welcomed us with open arms and all sorts of broken English. Cigarettes were offered all around, we removed our helmets and gloves, and relaxed. The language barrier is always difficult to overcome, but through the few Arabic phrases I remember from my first deployment and creative sign language, we got to know each other. We examined each others rifles and pistols, resisted the pleas of the IA soldiers to trade watches and jokingly traded insults. An American private from Guam was played up as an Iraqi who forgot how to speak Arabic, and the sexual preference of all involved was questioned. Some things are funny to soldiers no matter their nationality.

That blog post was written by Jordan Shay who was killed while serving in Iraq. Yesterday the US military issued the following announcement: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq -- Two Multi-National Division - North Soldiers were killed and five wounded in a vehicle rollover accident in the Diyala province of northern Iraq Sept. 2. ICCC is currently down [they note a server crash and that they are working to get the site back up] but the announcement should bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4338. (It was 4336 on Sunday. ICCC was down yesterday and remains down today.) It appears the two killed were Todd Selge, 25-years-old, and Jordan Shay, 22-years-old. Frederick Melo (Pioneer Press) reports Selge was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and his wife Dellona Selge states, "He was definitely gung-ho about the military. He was going to get out. He wanted to finish up school and move back home and have a regular life." With her and their sons "ages 6 and 2." John R. Ellement (Boston Globe) reports Shay was also on his second tour of duty and had been engaged to marry. Marie Szaniszlo (Boston Herald) adds that his MySpace page has "a clock counting down how many days he had left in the Army".
July 31st, Jordan Shay wrote (on his Twitter accont), "I've been saying I'm ready to go, and I am, but it's amazing how fast the last two weeks have flown by." August 23rd, he noted "back in iraq for round two, probably won't fire a shot in anger all tour. sucks." In his last post at his blog, Shay observed, "We are respected in Baqubah. We are also feared. Our battalion has a fantastic opportunity to use these facts to our advantage and make a real difference before the withdrawal of all combat forces in the summer of next year. We made a difference in 2007, we could do it again in 2009. I fear we will not."
Any such efforts at "a real difference" seem blocked as Nouri al-Maliki continues his quest to create an international incident. August 19th was Black Wednesday -- mulitple bombs going in off in Baghdad, the Foreign Ministry and the Finance Ministry being targeted, at least 101 people were killed nearly 600 hundred injured. Though no one knows who is responsible, Nouri has attempted to make political hay by blaming Ba'athists in Syria and demanding that the Syrian government turn over to Ba'athists. The Syrian government has responded by following the laws on extradition and requesting evidence before making a move. Boht countries have recalled their ambassadors. Nouri bloviates about evidence but either has none or is unwilling to turn any over. Nouri's demanding the United Nations set up some sort of tribunal to investigate the bombing -- which actually makes it clear how inept Nouri's 'leadership' is that he can't handle an incident of violence. Alsumaria reports that Syrian President Bashar Al Assad denounced the proposal at a press conference today with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Khalid al-Ansary, Muhanad Mohammed, Tim Cocks and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) report that Nouri's sending "thousands of extra police" to the border with Syria and Iraqi police chief Tariq Yusuf describes those being sent as "emergency forces." BBC quotes Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister, stating, "We have given them [the Syrian government] the evidence that we have through the Turkish foreign minister and we are waiting for their response." Efforts by Turkey to mediate between the governments of Syria and Iraq earlier this week appear to have fallen apart after Turkey refused to send more water to the two countries. Alsumaria reports that Jordan's Prime Minister Nader Al Dahabi (visiting Baghdad and now in the Kurdistan region) "noted that his country is willing to calm tensions between Baghdad and Damascus". As Mike noted yesterday, the Jordan Times reported Iraq and Jordan reached an agreement to establish "a free trade zone".
Iraq as the Angry Child. Stomping its feet and demanding everyone bow to its wishes. If you learn one thing from following the current government, it's how ignorant and uninformed or uncaring the officials are. Inside Iraq airs every Friday on Al Jazeera and usually includes one Iraqi government employee who struggles to redefine what government actually is and only succeeds in demonstrating how nothing resembling democracy is taking root in Iraq. Forget respect, there is no understanding of the press and you get idiots like the Ministry of National Dialogue's Saad al-Muttalibi (see the August 21st broadcast) stating:
And I'm not here to defend anybody, I'm just saying that there were no evidence. For somebody to write a piece, an article in a state-owned newspaper and claim that he knew in advance that somebody, anybody has the intention of doing the robbery and buying blankets and distributing the blankets through -- during the elections, that sounds to me like going out of the norm, this is not media reporting, this is accusation and without any evidence. I mean the journalists didn't have any evidence for his case. A journalist's job is uh to produce the news uh to convey the news and events that happen in the country and as truthfully and honest as possible and but not to make interpretation, their own interpretation of events. Thank you.
A journalist doesn't gather 'evidence.' Journalism is not a court of law. Reporting isn't a court of law. There are different standards in a court of law than are required for journalism and that's because public shaming (the worst that journalism can do) is not the same as imprisonment. Equally true, journalism is reporting and it is more than that. The article that had Saad al-Muttalibi so enraged wasn't "reporting." He wants to impose reporting standards on what was an opinion piece, a column. Forget that it was parody -- which the uneducated Saad al-Muttalibi and a whole host of others can't grasp -- it was an opinion column. But Saad thinks he can dictate what journalism will be in a country and what it would be under him is nothing but "The government said today . . ." That's not how journalism works and it's not even reporting is supposed to work. The thugs in charge in Iraq like to toss around "evidence" but they never understand what it is nor do they ever grasp that just because they dub something "evidence" doesn't mean others would recognize it as such. The government's a joke and it would deservedly fall apart if the US pulled out all troops tomorrow. Which should probably happen because it would allow the Iraqis a fighting chance -- the people who the US military was supposedly 'freeing' but instead have been enslaved to the whims of a bunch of cowardly exiles who couldn't fight Saddamn but could run off and hide in other countries where they lobbyied for US involvement for decades. These cowards are the ones the US government put in charge of Iraq and they have no legitimacy in the eyes of the average Iraqi which is not a surprise because no one would want their rulers to be composed of a slew of cowards and turncoasts who didn't have the guts to struggle in the country with everyone else but instead fled for posh and cushy lives in London, Iran, Jordan, Syria, etc.

When you grasp how many exiles make up the so-called 'government,' it's all the more shocking the central government's lack of concern for the ongoing external refugee crisis. UNHCR announced today that 36 Iraqi refugees living in Jordan and Syria have been "resettled to Belgium". On the subject of refugees, Marcia noted the appeal sent out by the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents -- Camp Ashraf is a camp of Iranian exiles who have been in Iraq for decades now.
On the 38th day of a hunger strike outside the White House in protest against the continuing siege of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, speakers at a news conference called on President Obama to intervene and end the humanitarian crisis in Ashraf, home to 3,400 members of the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and their families.

Steven Schneebaum, U.S. Counsel for the families of Camp Ashraf residents,
said, "The position of the United States that it no longer has any obligation
towards the residents of Ashraf is plainly wrong. The US is still responsible
based on the agreement it signed with each and every member in 2004, according
to Article 45 of the 4th Geneva Convention and International Customary Law."

Colonel Gary Morsch, Reservist, Commander, Combat Support Hospital in the US
army, who severed in Ashraf in 2004, remarked that, "I am speaking as a
soldier and cannot comprehend why our military did nothing to stop the carnage
at Ashraf."

"There are hundreds of people across the world on hunger strike. If we can get
our government to act quickly, and get the 36 hostages released, we can bring
the hunger strike to an end," Colonel Morsch added.

Unlike their 'leaders,' for the Iraqi people, the stuggle never ends. Campbell Robertson (online at the New York Times) reports from northern Iraq's "small Christian villages" where "residents seem tired; looking into their empty, often unhealthy faces, you wonder whether the massive exodus of Christians from Iraq -- half the population by many estimates -- has left only the weakest and least capable behind to look after their homeland." And in order "to look after their homeland," Nordland reports, a new development has emerged, the formation of Christian militias. Militia member Thabid Daoo is quoted stating, "We are protecting the whole city, not the churches only. We are the people of our city, so we know the strangers who are coming from outside."
Meanwhile Quil Lawrence (NPR -- text only) reports that Iraqi security forces are using an instrumbent to detect bombs that probably doesn't do that: "Many U.S. officials say the science is about as sound as searching for groundwater with a stick. [. . .] One American expert in Baghdad compared the machine with a Ouija board but wouldn't comment on the record. A U.S. Navy investigation exposed a similar device made by a company called Sniffex as a sham." Meanwhile one security measure is in the news. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that not only have they stopped taking down the Bremer walls (blast walls) in Baghdad, "This week walls were again being erected across the capital in areas where they had only just been removed. The symbolism was unmistakable: forebodying landmarks of Iraq's descent into chaos were once again necessary. The security gains of the past year are starting to look like a false dawn."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing and a Baghdad car bombing last night with seven injured from the latter. Reuters notes a Basra rocket attack last night "on the South Cas company offices" and a Baghdad car bombing which injured three people last night (in addition to the one that injured seven).
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.
Turning to the United States and what may be the only accountability for the crimes in Iraq. May 7th Steven D. Green (pictured above) was convicted for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents and the murder of her five-year-old sister while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21st, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. Today, Green stood before US District Judge Thomas B. Russell for sentencing. Kim Landers (Australia's ABC) quotes Judge Russell telling Green his actions were "horrifying and inexcusable." Not noted in any of the links in this snapshot (it comes from a friend present in the court), Steven Dale Green has dropped his efforts to appear waif-ish in a coltish Julia Roberts circa the 1990s manner. Green showed up a good twenty pounds heavier than he appeared when on trial, back when the defense emphasized his 'lanky' image by dressing him in oversized clothes. Having been found guilty last spring, there was apparently no concern that he appear frail anymore.
Italy's AGI reports, "Green was recognised as the leader of a group of five soldiers who committed the massacre on September 12 2006 at the Mahmudiyah check point in the south of Baghdad. The story inspired the 2007 masterpiece by Brian De Palma 'Redacted'." BBC adds, "Judge Thomas Russell confirmed Green would serve five consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole." Deborah Yetter (Courier-Journal) explains, "Friday's federal court hearing was devoted mostly to discussion of technical issues related to Green's sentencing report, although it did not change Green's sentence. He was convicted in May of raping and murdering Abeer al-Janabi, 14, and murdering her parents, Kassem and Fakhriya, and her sister, Hadeel, 6, at their home outside Baghdad."
Green was tried in civilian court because he had already been discharged before the War Crimes were discovered. Following the gang-rape and murders, US soldiers attempted to set fire to Abeer's body to destroy the evidence and attempted to blame the crimes on "insurgents." In real time, when the bodies were discovered, the New York Times was among the outlets that ran with "insurgents." Green didn't decide he wanted to be in the military on his own. It was only after his most recent arrest -- after a long string of juvenile arrests -- while sitting in jail and fearing what sentence he would face, that Green decided the US Army was just the place he wanted to be. Had he been imprisoned instead or had the US military followed rules and guidelines, Green wouldn't have gotten in on a waiver. Somehow his history was supposed to translate into "He's the victim!!!!" As if he (and the others) didn't know rape was a crime, as if he (and the others) didn't know that murder was considered wrong. Green attempted to climb up on the cross again today. AP's Brett Barrouguere quotes the 'victim' Green insisting at today's hearing, "You can act like I'm a sociopath. You can act like I'm a sex offender or whatever. If I had not joined the Army, if I had not gone to Iraq, I would not have got caught up in anything." Climb down the cross, drama queen. Your entire life was about leading up to a moment like that. You are a sociopath. You stalked a 14-year-old Iraqi girl while you were stationed at a checkpoint in her neighborhood. You made her uncomfortable and nervous, you stroked her face. She ran to her parents who made arrangements for her to go live with others just to get her away from you, the man the army put there to protect her and the rest of the neighborhood. You are one sick f**k and you deserve what you got. Green play drama queen and insist "you can act like I'm a sex offender" -- he took part in and organized a gang-rape of a 14-year-old girl. That's a sex offender. In fact, "sex offender" is a mild term for what Green is.
Steven D. Green made the decision to sign up for the US military. He was facing criminal punishment for his latest crimes, but he made the decision. Once in the military, despite his long history of arrests, he didn't see it as a chance to get a fresh start. He saw it as a passport for even more crimes. What he did was disgusting and vile and it is War Crimes and by doing that he disgraced himself and the US military. His refusal to take accountability today just demonstrates the realities all along which was Green did what he wanted and Green has no remorse. He sullied the name of the US military, he sullied the name of the US. As a member of the army, it was his job to follow the rules and the laws and he didn't do so. And, as a result, a retaliation kidnapping of US soldiers took place in the spring of 2006 and those soldiers were strung up and gutted. That should weigh heavily on Steven D. Green but there's no appearence that he's ever thought of anyone but himself. He wants to act as if the problem was the US military which requires that you then argue that anyone serving in Iraq could have and would have done what he did. That is not reality. He does not represent the average soldier and he needs to step down from the cross already.
AFP notes, "During closing arguments at his sentencing, Green was described alternately as 'criminal and perverse' and deserving of the death penalty, and as a 'broken warrior" whose life should be spared'." Brett Barrouquere (AP) has been covering the story for years now. He notes that Patrick Bouldin (defense) attempted to paint Green as the victim as well by annoucing that Green wanted to take responsibility "twice" before but that Assistant US Attorney Marisa Ford explained that was right before jury selection began and in the midst of jury selection. In other words, when confronted with the reality that he would be going to trial, Steven D. Green had a panic moment and attempted to make a deal with the prosecution. (The offer was twice rejected because the 'life in prison' offer included the defense wanting Green to have possible parole.) Steve Robrahn, Andrew Stern and Paul Simao (Reuters) quote US Brig Gen Rodney Johnson ("Commanding General of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command") stating, "We sincerely hope that today's sentencing helps to bring the loved ones of this Iraqi family some semblance of closure and comfort after this horrific and senseless act."
While Green plays victim, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan attempts to end the wars. Last week, she led demonstrations on Martha's Vineyard while US President Barack Obama vacationed there. John V. Walsh (CounterPunch) reports:
I spent but a short time with Cindy Sheehan as she carried her antiwar protest from an earlier time at Crawford, TX, to Martha's Vineyard, vacation spot for Obama and many other Democrat Party elite. As Cindy remarked, the real story was not that she was protesting Obama's wars but that the "leadership" of the peace movement did not support her protest. When the target was Bush in Crawford, she was all the rage with antiwar celebrities, but not so now that the target is Barack Obama. While there is considerable enthusiasm for her anti-Obama protest on the part of the rank and file in the anti-war movement, a refusal of its "leaders" to notify their members far and wide, high and low, crippled the action.

As a result of this betrayal, the numbers at Martha's Vineyard were not large. But Cindy and her fellow anti-warriors were undeterred. While I was there, she mounted a spirited march down the road to Obama's place, no more than a quarter mile away from where she stayed. The purpose was to present the President with a poster of Cindy bearing a signed plea to end the wars. The considerable armed force at the gate and the Secret Service officers would not even bring out the lowliest of staffers to receive the poster. Clearly the message from Obama was "Get lost, Cindy." And we were quickly told to move a considerable distance down the road. At least in Crawford it had been possible to demonstrate at the checkpoint to the site -- not so at Obama's place. Thus, did Obama greet a mother whose son was lost in the wars, which he continues and enlarges by the day.
Is there any sign of life in a movement that marshaled hundreds of thousands to march in protest against war in Iraq? Ah, but those were the Bush years. Now we have a Democrat in the White House.
One person hasn't tossed aside her peace sign. Cindy Sheehan sees war as war, whether the battle standard is being waved by a white moron from Midland, Texas or an eloquent black man from Chicago. But when she called for protesters to join her on Martha's Vineyard to stand outside Obama's holiday roost for four days at the end of August there was a marked contrast to the response she got when she rallied thousands to stand outside Bush's Crawford lair.
As John Walsh described it here last week, "the silence was, as Cindy put it in an email to this writer, 'crashingly deafening.' Where are the email appeals to join Cindy from The Nation or from AFSC or Peace Action or 'Progressive' Democrats of America (PDA) or even Code Pink? Or United for Peace and Justice. And what about MoveOn although it was long ago thoroughly discredited as principled opponents of war or principled in any way shape or form except slavish loyalty to the 'other' War Party. And of course sundry 'socialist' organizations are also missing in action since their particular dogma will not be front and center. These worthies and many others have vanished into the fog of Obama's wars."
Before he joined Sheehan on Martha's Vineyard, Walsh says he contacted several of the leaders of the "official" peace movement in the Boston area -- AFSC, Peace Action, Green Party of MA (aka Green Rainbow Party) and some others. Not so much as the courtesy of a reply resulted from this effort -- although the GRP at least posted a notice of the action.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on many PBS stations:

This week NOW, as part of a collaboration with the nonprofit investigative unit ProPublica, explores the controversial tactic of "preventative detention," a government plan that may detain suspects indefinitely without trial or even formal charges. Implementing such a plan may have far-reaching consequences on not just our fight against terrorism, but the integrity of the U.S. Constitution and the cause of human rights.

Washington Week also begins airing tonight on many PBS stations and sitting around the table with Gwen this week are Dan Balz (Washington Post), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe and her guests Sam Bennett, Amanda Carpenter, Karen Czarnecki and Eleanor Holmes Norton discuss the week's news on this week's edition of PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Age of Megafires Global warming is increasing the intensity and number of forest fires across the American West. Scott Pelley goes to the fire line to report. Watch Video
Combat in Afghanistan The enemy is on the rise in Afghanistan and Lara Logan's report from a forward operating base near Pakistan includes 60 Minutes footage of up-close combat. Watch Video
Mr. Ayers and Mr. Lopez Discovered living on the streets by Los Angeles Times newspaper columnist Steve Lopez, mentally ill musician Nathaniel Ayers has become the subject of a book by Lopez and now a Hollywood film. Morley Safer reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes Sunday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Somerby, Loverboy

"In Search of Democratic Messaging" (Bob Somerby, The Daily Howler):
Liberals and progressives “convinced most Americans that the interests of [average] citizens were not well served by a system that favored the rich and powerful?” This should be a Golden Age for such progressive messaging! But it plainly hasn’t been such an age. That’s why Rick Perlstein’s reader asked those excellent questions about our gruesome health care debate (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 9/1/09):
Why are Democrats so bad at messaging? So bad at pushing back?
This should be a Golden Age. Obvious question: Why isn’t it?
In fairness, it isn’t as if no such messaging has come from recent Big Democrats. In the 1990s, Bill Clinton produced some subtle, rather effective messaging which suggested where he stood—whose interests he stood to preserve.
Bill Clinton said he stood for those “who work hard and play by the rules.” He told them that he “felt their pain”—that he’d be “with them till the last dog dies.” In theory, almost everyone works hard and plays by the rules, of course. But this formulation suggested that someone stood to harm such regular people. And it stated whose side he was on.
In August 2000, Clinton’s vice president defined the shape of his own White House campaign. On MSNBC, Candidate Gore’s convention speech was ridiculed by Jack Welch’s all-Irish panel—until Frank Luntz rushed into the room and told them that his polling showed that the speech had been a “home run.”

Bob Somerby is the host who invites you to dinner but doesn't have enough food. So he doles out tiny bits. Bob, serve the meal!!!!!!

Seriously, I don't expect the issue to be addressed fully until next week and I assume he'll take Mondays off.

I watched the weirdest movie tonight. My oldest son wanted to watch it because it had Kyra Sedwick in it and he likes The Closer. He flipped around and ended up interested in the show because of the accents (we're from Georgia -- and yes, Black people can have southern accents -- I don't have one but my parents do). So it reminds him of home. The show may be a little adult for him but he's adult enough to handle it. I'd worry if it were my younger son.

But there was a movie and he came up and asked me if he could watch it because it was called Loverboy. He assumed it was going to be a flick about sex (not porno but adult). I thought it was going to be Loverboy which was a film with Patrick Dempsy, Kate Jackson, Carrie Fisher and a lot of others. But he wanted to watch and we did.

It did start out with Kyra and sex repeatedly. (Tasteful glimpses.) She was attempting to get pregnant. He asked me if there were many women like that? I told him I only knew one who tried to get pregnant and wasn't married and that was in tenth grade and she wanted to get her boyfriend to marry her. Krya just wanted to get pregnant to have a kid.

So she was a mother with no boundaries who was jealous of any other friend her son had. It was really weird.

It was involving. And Kyra was really great in the movie. But it was what I was expecting at all. I had thought it would be some little sex comedy and I'd have to say, "Change the channel" at certain parts.

So, at the end of the movie, she tries to kill him and herself. She only manages to kill herself.

It was weird. And it was good but he (my son) had a ton of questions and we had a long talk about the movie. So that was good. He really liked it because it was "adult." By that, he meant it didn't play down to you. It surprised you repeatedly as opposed to reassuring you by doing the expected.

The cast was really great. In addition to Kyra, there was Marisa Tomei, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Bacon, Matt Dillon, Blair Brown and many others.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, September 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, at least 15 Iraqis are reported dead today and 120 are reported injured, a British hostage missing since 2007 is confirmed dead, the US military -- according to a military official -- has little power in Iraq now due to reduced size, the Iraqi government continues to target the press, Cindy Sheehan provides input on a recent NYT article, and more.

Yesterday a British corpse surfaced in Baghdad. A somber UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown faced the cameras to issue a statement. Via ITN News (video link):

Gordon Brown: It's with the deepest regret that the body passed to the British embassy today is now discovered to be that of Alec Maclachlan. My thoughts, and I believe the thoughts of the whole country, are with the Maclachlan family at this time of great grief. No family should have to endure what they have gone through. The loss through the hostage taking, then the period of silence and not knowing what was happening and now to find that their loved one is lost -- Our thoughts are also with the families of those people who are the other hostages. We are demanding of the hostage takers that they now give us information about the whereabouts of Alan McMenemy and return Peter Moore who we still believe to be alive as soon as is possible. We will pursue these hostage takers. There is no justification for what they've done. And we are working with the Iraqi government at every point to ensure that we get information to the relatives, we get the return of the others and, at the same time, we bring the hostage takers to justice. That is what every family should expect of us and that is what we are going to do.

May 29, 2007 the League of Righteousness kidnapped five British citizens in Baghdad. Three are known to be dead: Jason Creswell, Jason Swindlehurst and Alec Maclachlan. Alan McMenemy is assumed dead (but that is not known) and Peter Moore is thought alive. Yesterday
Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) explained, "The men were abducted by gunmen posing as policemen by a group calling itself League of the Righteous, a group of Shia militants. They were recently understood to have been seeking to enter mainstream politics in Iraq, but attempts to release the hostages through dialogue have proved fruitless." The Daily Mail noted that the League of the Righteous had earlier attempted to use the five hostages to broker a release of "nine Iraqi militants" at Camp Cropper (the leader and his brother were two and, again, they were released in June) and that this "is Britain's longest running hostage crisis since Terry Waite and John McCarthy who were held for nearly five years in Lebanon in the 1980s." Nouri is very close with the League and last week Eli Lake (Washington Times) reported that Ahmed Chalabi was as well.

Oliver August (Times of London) reports, "Mr MacLachlan, who is from Llanelli, south Wales, died from multiple gunshots in what appears to have been an execution. According to sources close to the investigation, the killing took place quite some time ago, possibly last year, given the partly decomposed state of the body." BBC News' Frank Gardner states, "When I last met the men's families, they were still hoping reports of more deaths were untrue." He's referring to the announcement a month and a half ago by the British government about their believing Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy were dead. The families remained hopeful due to the fact that there were no bodies.

The League of Righteous is now responsible for the murders of three British citizens and is assumed to be holding 2 more and they are also responsible for an attack on US forces in which 5 US soldiers (Brian S. Freeman, Jacob N. Fritz, Johnathan B. Chism, Shawn P. Falter and Johnathon M. Millican) were slaughtered. Because the League of Righteousness is Nouri's best buddy, the UK and the US apparently have decided to humor the organization.
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reported on the release by the US military of Laith al-Khazali (the ringleader of the group) and his brother. At the end of July BBC News' Humphrey Hawksley (link has video and text) filed this report:

Humphrey Hawksley: Alan [McMenemy] from Dunbarton, Alec [Maclachlan] from South Wales believed to be two more victims in this long running Iraq hostage tragedy. Security guards whose colleagues Jason Swindlehurst from Lancaster and Jason Creswell from Glasgow were shot dead, their bodies recovered last month. There's hope that Peter Moore, the IT specialist they were protecting, is still alive. This is the fortified Finance Ministry in central Baghdad from where the five men were kidnapped more than two years ago in May 2007 in a highly organized operation. Forty men wearing the uniforms of the Iraqi police drove up surrounded the building and took the hostages off to a secret location. For moths there was no news then, in November, there came a video from Jason Swindlehurst and, three months later, another from Peter Moore. He called for the release of nine Shia Iraqis being held by the Americans, release them so we can go, he said. And a year ago Alan asked the British government to try to get them home as soon as possible. The Foreign Office has adopted a low profile, softly-softly approach although the families did speak out from time to time hoping their voices might lead to the freedom of their loved ones. But nothing until last month. Thousands of suspected insurgents are being held in Iraq but are slowly being released. On June 7th, one of the nine referred to in Peter Moore's appeal was freed. Twelve days later, the two bodies were recovered. They'd been shot some time earlier. It's not know if there was a connection. The hope now is that somewhere in the dangerous world of Iraqi militias, Peter Moore is alive with a chance of being released. Humphrey Hawksley, BBC News.

Oliver August includes an interesting aside deep in his report, "The staggered return of the hostages is part of a quid-pro-quo deal brokered by the Iraqi Prime Minister, who met representatives of the kidnappers two months ago. The League of the Righteous has apparently renounced violence and is seeking to enter the open political process ahead of parliamentary elections next year." Nouri and his friends are so very close. Some say it was this close nature that allowed them to successfully kidnap 5 British citizens to begin with.

July 29th, the families of the hostages held a press conference. Haley Williams is the mother of Alec's child and she spoke at the press conference noting the British government's statements that Alec and Alan were thought to be dead.

Haley Williams: These reports are the worst possible news for us but we continue to hope that they cannot be true. But whatever Alec's condition, he no longer should remain in Iraq. We appeal to those holding him to please send him home to us. I speak to you as the mother of Alec's son. We are not the people holding your men but I do understand your feelings cause you're going through the same pain we are going through. If we had any influence over the release of your men we would release them to you but we don't. Please send him home because as a family we can't cope with this anymore."

Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported:

The release of the third body had been widely anticipated since members of the Righteous League were hosted by the Iraqi prime minister, Nour al-Maliki, in July. The group, which has strong links to the Lebanese Hezbollah, has been campaigning for political legitimacy in the run-up to national elections in January.Britain has maintained a policy of not negotiating with the hostage takers and moves towards the release of the captives have been handled by Iraqi mediators, who have attempted to convince them that legitimacy will remain out of reach as long as they hold hostages.
In one positive sign, the group promised in August to lay down its weapons and join the political process. Over the past three months, up to 15 high-profile members of the Righteous League have been freed from American custody in Iraq.

Today the
US military issued the following announcement: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq -- Two Multi-National Division - North Soldiers were killed and five wounded in a vehicle rollover accident in the Diyala province of northern Iraq Sept. 2. The names of the deceased are being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the website no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." ICCC is currently down [they note a server crash and that they are working to get the site back up] but the announcement should bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4338. (It was 4336 on Sunday.) We'll stay with today's reported violence.


Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, a second Baghdad roadside bombing which resulted in five people wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting the Sahwa ("Awakenings" or "Sons Of Iraq") which resulted in eight people being injured (four were Sahwa), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, another Mosul roadside bombing which injured two people, a third Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, a fourth Mosul roadside bombing which injured three people, a Babil car bombing and four other Babil bombings which claimed 4 lives and left sixty-five people wounded, a Baquba car bombing which wounded four people, a roadside bombing outside Karbala which claimed 2 lives and left three people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Tal Afar suicide bomber who invaded a home and killed the wife and husband and then detonated his bomb when the police showed up wounding seven of them and an Iraqi soldier. Reuters notes a Mussayab bombing at a mosque which claimed 4 lives and left twenty-four people injured and, dropping back to yesterday, a Ramadi suicide bombing that left five people wounded (four were police).

July 28th was when the assault on Camp Ashraf by Nouri al-Maliki's 'troops' began. During Saddam's time, Iranian exiles were allowed safe harbor in Iraq. The exiles were leftists who were opposed to the religious fundamentalist leaders following the toppling of the Shah (the exiles did not favor the Shah). They utilized violence and are known as the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran or the MEK. They remained in Iraq in the 80s, the 90s and this decade. The European Union and England are among the organizations and countries that listed the MEK as a terrorist group -- past tense. The MEK has renounced violence and was removed from the terrorist listing. The US still has the MEK listed as a terrorist organization. There were efforts to remove it from that listing by Congress beginning in 2008; however, the previous administration wasn't interested in that or anything else to do with MEK. It is a hot button issue and it was ignored repeatedly by the Bush administration. This is one of the hot potatoes dropped into the current administration's lap.Repeating (for friends in the administration who have become whiners), Camp Ashraf is a hot potato that was dropped into the lap of the current administration. The outgoing administration made promises to Nouri and promises to Camp Ashraf. They also declared it protected under the Geneva Conventions.While it was a hot potato and unexpected, they were aware of how serious it was following the election. (To be clear, it was an obvious problem prior to the election and any observer could have known that. It was only after the election, during the weeks of information being passed on and relayed from outgoing to incoming, that they realized just how explosive it was due to a lot of empty promises made to both sides by the Bush administration. As that became clear, it was tasked to two people who were supposed to lead on the issue. They did not lead. They carved it out and removed it from the State Dept -- long before Hillary was asked to be Secretary of State -- and were supposed to lead on the issue. They did not lead. That is among the reasons -- there are at least four primary ones -- that Vice President Joe Biden was recently put in charge of Iraq.)As happened with the Bush administration in the fall of 2008, Nouri promised that he had no intention of assaulting Camp Ashraf. (To its credit, the Bush administration strongly suspected Nouri was lying. They were right.)AP's Kim Gamel files an in-depth report on Camp Ashraf and notes the video of the US military (who protected Camp Ashraf prior to the start of 2009) near the camp as the assault begins, with bloodied camp residents pleading for help to US "soldiers [who] get into a white SUV and roll up their windows as the bloodied men plead for help."Well they bellowed, and they hollered And they threw each other down Down in this valley This cruel and lovely valley Oh it should have been an alley In some low down part of town As the lights came up There was no sun And brandy splattered all over the ground As this woman with her head held high Yelled love and why oh why You're killing me, oh follow me As I watched safe and clean From the frosted windows of my limousine -- "Memorial Day," written by Carly Simon, from her album Spy. [Spy features the classic "Never Been Gone" and it is among the songs she's redone for Never Been Gone, Carly's latest (and mainly acoustic) album which will be released October 27th. (The album also contains two new compositions.)] Gamel quotes an anonymous "senior US military official" stating, "We could not become decisively engaged with a situation that really is up to the sovereign Iraqi government to settle in a peaceful manner as they have assured us that they would do. Even in a situation that allowed engagement, we didn't have nearly the amount of forces present to jump in the middle of this fray."
So why is the US military still in Iraq? Why is a long 'withdrawal' of "combat" troops planned when that will only create more moments where the US military can't step forward and watches as an assault takes place. Which is one of the scenarios then-Senator Joe Biden tossed out during an April 2008 Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing he chaired. Another was that the US military remaining on the ground in Iraq would be utilized to prop up Nouri's government and attack Iraqi civilians. So why is the US not leaving immediately and quickly? Exactly how long will thug of the occupation Nouri be humored?

Oliver August (Times of London) reports on the 'plan' to withdraw US "combat" troops from Iraq and he paints it as incredible difficult, "a logistics feat," when it is no such thing. There were more US service members in Vietnam in 1972 than are in Iraq now and George McGovern ran for the presidency with a plan to withdraw all in six weeks. It was possible.When tensions at home required Georgia (country, not US state) to withdraw their military at the start of 2008, they did so quickly demonstrating that the US could, in fact, do a complete and full withdrawal in six weeks.Anyone who tells you it's not possible is either uninformed or a liar. As commander in chief, all Barack has to do is give the order and the US military would make it happen. "A more difficult task is the removal of 100,000 vehicles, including tanks," August writes. But then goes on to note: "After six years of heavy use, much of the US military's equipment is in a bad state. Bases are littered with broken air-conditioners, leaking generators and discarded barbecues."Exactly. The bulk of the machinery does not need to be brought back and, check out the military's wishlist, you'll see that a large number of things being brought back are due to be replaced shortly.Give it to Iraq. Give it to Kuwait. Over half the equipment and machinery can easily be transported out of Iraq (with all US troops, ALL) in six weeks. A little over third of the equipment and machinery does not need to be brought back. Which really means that the inventory would have to be reviewed and some choices to do a FULL withdrawal in six weeks.Barack's not doing a withdrawal. He's removing "combat" troopos. We've long noted that more than 50,000 US troops would remain in Iraq -- we've noted that since the election. And that's because, as repeatedly pointed out, that's what the White House has been saying privately. Oliver August doesn't address the fact that the press began whispering in sotto voice in the last 13 or so days that, golly, 75,000 US troops may remain in Iraq. (After the 'withdrawal' of 'combat' troops.) George F. Will (Washington Post) has a column calling for withdrawal today. We'll go into that tonight in "I Hate The War." Unlike Peter Hart, I promise not to go off topic to snark on Will and we'll instead focus on reality and what's taking place (which we've noted repeatedly in the Thursday night entries was coming).July 28th, a Baghdad bank, Rafidain Bank, was robbed and eight security guards were killed as millions were taken out of the bank. Yesterday, four of the nine robbers were sentenced to death by hanging. Some of the robbers were body guards for Abdel Mahdi, Iraq's Shi'ite vice president. Today Rod Nordland and Riyahd Mohammed write a major piece for the New York Times entitled "In Bank Killings, Highs and Lows of Iraq Justice" filled with details that haven't made it into the paper before. Possibly, they can be so free with the information because they tie a ribbon around it? They note one of the nine was aquitted and four are missing. But then they get to that you-see-Timmy moment (see Speechless starring Michael Keaton and Geena Davis where he explains a speech needs a you-see-Timmy moment, end of the episode of Lassie where an episode and life lesson is quickly summed up):But the suspected ringleaders, with well-known ties to the Shiite political elite, have escaped. Even so, the Zuwiya robbery also demonstrated in some rickety way that Iraq's young institutions, the judiciary, the news media and its increasingly democratic politics, make it difficult for even the country's most powerful people to snap their fingers and make an embarrassing case go away. As details emerged, the vice president and his party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the largest Shiite grouping, would suffer a public relations body blow, one that may well affect Mr. Abdul Mahdi's ambitions to become the next prime minister in elections in January. "I am sure Adel Abdul Mahdi was not involved," said Ahmad Abdulhussein, a journalist threatened for an article he wrote on the case. "But the Iraqi people have to think, do they want a leader who has bodyguards who rob banks and kill?" Possibly because the verdict and (limited) trial can be spun as "Iraqi justice on the move!" the readers of today's paper can finally learn some of the efforts on the part of Abdul Mahdi to stop the proceedings? Strangely, the paper continues to avoid the attacks on the press. For example, they included Mahdi and his party threatening Iraqi newspapers that printed stories of the robbers connections to the vice president (and in one case, they sued a paper for such reporting).
The reporters tell you that five of the nine robbers were Mahdi's bodyguards. That lawsuit? It involves details like that. Details that the Times was silent on in real time while an Iraqi paper struggling to report was under attack. And it involved bullying journalists who write opinion pieces. Ahmed Abdul Hussain wrote "800,000 blankets" for Al Sabah and it was social satire. A concept that members of the Shi'ite vice president's political party especailly refused to grasp.Maybe noting the lawsuit and the bullying and blustering wouldn't have allowed a you-see-Timmy moment? But it would have meant that (a) readers could get the truth and (b) an Iraqi paper struggling to utilize freedom-of-the-press got some backing from a heavy weight who could well afford to toss some support into the ring.Another thing harming the life lesson is the fact that the judge in the case refuses to be identified in any reporting. If things were progressing as brightly and shiningly as everyone keeps saying, that wouldn't happen, now would it?If you
go to Al Jazeera, you'll see the names of the four convicted (Ali Eidan, Basheer Khalid, Ali Ouda and Ahmad Khalaf) as well as this detail:Most of the money was later recovered in the office of a newspaper owned by Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Iraqi vice president and a senior member of Iraq's largest Shia party, investigators said.Abdul-Mahdi has denied any involvement saying one of those charged in the robbery worked as part of his security team.He has said any suggestions of wrongdoing on his part were a politically motivated attempt to sabotage his bid to be re-elected in next January's polls.

Last week
Agnes Callamard (Guardian) tackled the proposed draft-law in Iraq which is seen as an effort to destroy a free press and among the points she explained was this one:

When local media workers express their concerns about the draft journalists' protection law, one of the issues they point to is the extremely
narrow definition of a journalist as "one who works for press … and who is affiliated with the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate". This specifically excludes editors, commentators, bloggers, citizen journalists and freelancers who may also be in the business of providing information and comment to the public sphere.

Friday August 21st, Inside Iraq's Jasim Al-Azzawi addressed the topic of press freedom in Iraq with panelists Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor), Saad al-Muttalibi (Ministry of National Dialogue) and Freshta Raper (Iraqi reporter).

Jassim al-Azzawi: Jane Arraf let me start with you, in light of the powerful bombs in Baghdad yesterday [Black Wednesday, August 19th] killing scores of people, is it still relevant for us to discuss an issue like freedom of the press in Iraq?

Jane Arraf: That's a great question and certainly as journalists I think we definitely have an interest in discussing this. But for the rest, I think, what that attack does, that horrifying attack which really shook so much that we thought was at the heart of the improving security here, it shows what the stakes are. That these are life and death stakes and that journalists are part of that and that's the atmosphere they're not only trying to cover but the events they are trying to convey and the threat that the government feels in responding to journalists.

Jassam al-Azzawi: And yet, Saad al-Muttalibi, in the package we've just seen we saw Jalal Talibani, the Iraqi president, in a way sniping at the Iraqi journalists and the Iraqi media for somehow covering the Rafidain robbery and there are enough circumstantial evidence to implicate the Iraqi vice president Abdul Mahdi. Why Jalal Talabani being so super sensitive?

Saad al-Muttalibi: Well start with we're in the process of building a stable state and that requires legislation and that requires that even at the darkest moments to look at the press, freedom of the press, and to look at other aspects of the state of Iraq. And I'm not here to defend anybody, I'm just saying that there were no evidence. For somebody to write a piece, an article in a state-owned newspaper and claim that he knew in advance that somebody, anybody has the intention of doing the robbery and buying blankets and distributing the blankets through -- during the elections, that sounds to me like going out of the norm, this is not media reporting, this is accusation and without any evidence. I mean the journalists didn't have any evidence for his case. A journalist's job is uh to produce the news uh to convey the news and events that happen in the country and as truthfully and honest as possible and but not to make interpretation, their own interpretation of events. Thank you.

Jassim al-Azzawi: Freshta Raper, of course that journalist is in hiding right now fearing for his life. The article he wrote pretty much is a tongue-in-cheek, political satire if you will, rather than a direct accusation. But let me talk to you about yourself. You are one of the Iraqi journalists, if I'm not mistaken, whose name is on a list. Tell us about it.

Freshta Raper: Last year, last year exactly, just July to say of a year ago, I -- the paper has leaked from the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] official offices that 14 journalists are the most wanted and has to be take care of and we even -- again we make sure that this was a genuine statement. I personally sent a letter e-mailed to Nechirvan Barzani personally sent to the Iraqi the embassy, we sent a letter to everyone of them to make sure this is genuine or is this a joke because if this is a joke, this is a sick joke to threaten people with killing. They have been doing it for many years and Jalal Talabani has to condemn this because he has a lot for himself to cover up, a lot of dirty secrets what are they doing against the journalists. The only thing I have done in the past four or five years, I'm writing more as criticizing the abuse of power, the corruption, and there are billions of evidence over there of how they misuse the power and how they are abusing people and abusing the system in a daily light. So I am -- I am one of those who could become a victim and at the time I was a lucky one. The person in Baghdad, I feel sorry for.

Jassim al-Azzawi: And you are remarkably lucky in the sense that you live in London and you contribute to the news and you appear on the news but, Jane Arraf, not everybody is as luck as Freshta. Iraq has been for the last few years perhaps the most dangerous place on earth. More Iraqis as well as foreign journalists have been killed in Iraq than in any other war zone and you have covered many of these war zones.

Jane Arraf: Absolutely I think they're some of the bravest people on the earth and one of the amazing things about this past six years has been that throughout the tragedy Iraqi journalists really keep coming out and trying to tell the news. Now they are working in a very difficult background. This is a new industry. Press freedom here is not developed as we're talking about. There also aren't a lot of entrenched standards for the press but one of the things that you see over and over is just an absolute proliferation of journalists who, despite the fact that almost 200 journalists and media workers have been killed here, still feel that they are going to go out, go out on those streets, stand up to those officials and it's -- it's absolutely amazing.

Jassim al-Azzawi: And yet Saad Muttalibi, this proliferation Jane Arraf is talking about, you cannot help but seeing a tinge of sectarianism in it. Most of the newspapers and most of the TV stations and the radios somehow, one way or another, they are affiliated by or financed by this political party and that political party and they take a life of their own. They pretty much attack the others based on sectarian, on ethnicity and other calibrations.

Saad al-Muttalibi: Absolutely right. Hence we require regulations. We require laws to define rights and to define limitations. Journalists jobs in Iraq is probably the hardest job to do, the most dangerous job --

Jassim al-Azzawi: What will laws do if you have militias assigned to a political party? They do the actual on behalf of that political party if they're politicians are attacked.

Saad al-Muttalibi: I must interrupt you -- I must interrupt you. There are no militias anymore. [The two journalists on the panel react in disbelief to the statement.] The militias were crushed in a very bloody way last year and we have now remnants of gangs that could be --

Jassim al-Azzawi: Hold that statement for a second.

Jane Arraf: That's an extraordinary statement.

Jassim al-Azzawi: Jane wants to say something.

Jane Arraf: I'm sorry.

Jassim al-Azzawi: Go ahead Jane.

Jane Arraf: I was just going to say that would really be wonderful if that were the case but that's not the evidence that we are seeing, that we are hearing from Iraqis when we go out in the street. They're -- I think the consensus is that there are militias. There certainly are not the militias there were a year ago that is certainly true but there are places where militias are creeping back and a lot of it depends upon how you define militias.

Saad al-Muttalibi: Yes, you are -- yes, you are absolutely right. As I said --

Freshta Rape: Exactly

Saad al-Muttalibi: -- as I said there are still criminal elements and gangs roaming certain parts of-of Iraq. Including al Qaeda, including uh uh from this party or that party that is all possible. I'm sure Freshta could tell us more about the things in Kurdistan but -- but the case is that regulation is required. We do require to make sure that we safeguard the journalists. As I said, the journalist job in Iraq is very-very tough. So is the soldiers so is every individual living in Iraq now. I mean people who died yesterday in the explosion, they weren't journalists, they weren't soldiers, they were just passers-by. So things here in Baghdad are very, very dangerous and journalists know that. But journalists also need to know the limitation of journalism. They need to know that they cannot accuse any citizen in Iraq --

Jassim al-Azzawi: Indeed, indeed they should, Saad Muttalibi, but when it comes to the ultimate sacrifice -- hold on -- by somebody going after them and killing them, that is not the way to settle the political atmosphere, Freshta, is it?

Saad al-Muttalibi: Of course, of course, of course --

Freshta Raper: No, it's not --

Saad al-Muttalibi: I'm saying

Jassim al-Azzawi: Saad Muttalibi, hold on just a second

Freshta Raper: Sorry. It's caused more violation. I-I totally agree with Jane. It's what sort of militia we're talking about. It is different. But the militia of today in the street -- especially if I look at the north part of Iraq -- is-is almost an enormous number of youths, unemployed and skillful, they are deprived from job, deprived from basic rights. And they are angry, they are upset. They are -- these are the people contributing the violence because they have been ignored and they don't feel they are part of there. They are not brutal murders. They are not bad people. But they can't get a basic right like the son and the daughter of people in power. They've got all the privilege in the world and there is no equality. There is no equal opportunity between the normal people and the people's children in power. That is what causes all these violations. People are very, very angry. And the government officials mainly, they don't listen to poor people. The people outside their zone and outside their border And that is -- I'm 100% sure yesterday's bombing is caused from -- it's not al Qaeda but anger of people anger of people that they are crying and screaming for some sort of security or basic life or imporving that poverty. You go to Baghdad you look like a stoneage village, is just feel some area of Baghdad you just feel disgusted with the country of an ocean of oil and a region of such poverty.

"I'm standing on the banks of the Tigris River where the water is so low the banks are cracked and dry,"
declares NPR's Deborah Amos (Morning Edition). "There's been a two year drought decades of war and mismangement. But Iraq once had the most fertile lands in the region. The Tigris is a reminder that's there's an environmental disaster."It's an important report at any time but it's especially important at a time when Nouri's created an international incident with the Syrian government. Nouri's attempting to force them to hand over to guests in their country, former Ba'athists. And since the law isn't on Nouri's side, he's resorted to bluster. As the tensions have risen, Turkey was presented as a broker in the dispute.A broker?Iraq and Syria will listen to Turkey why?As Deborah Amos pointed out, Iraq's suffering from a drought. Turkey has water. Some say it has water as a result of damns. Some in Iraq say that.Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert (CNN) report ministers of the three countries met in Anakara today and the topic was water: "Baghdad and Damascus want Turkey, where the source of the Tigris and Euphrates is located, to increase the flow of water passing through its network of dams." Ibon Villelabeitia and Diana Abdallah (Reuters) report, "Turkey has failed to meet a pledge to release more water down the Euphrates and Tigris rivers to Iraq, an Iraqi minister said on Thursday, and called for a coordinated water policy in the region."

Monday's snapshot included comments on the hideous article in the New York Times Sunday. Tuesday, Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan offered her critique of the article:

The New York Times ran an article on Sunday claiming that after a long period of dormancy, the "anti-war" movement was getting "restive" and planned to do some actions in October around the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan. Well, some of us have been restive and working for years and the groups that are now becoming "restive" are the very ones that let the War Genie out of the bottle, and will have a lot of problems putting it back in, if that is really the intention of these groups. The "restive anti-war movement" is planning "teach-ins" and "memorials" but not planning on surrounding the White House and demanding that their leader bring the troops home from all theaters of war and then threatening to withhold support if he doesn't. The "restive anti-war movement" will not do anything it thinks will compromise Democratic chances in the 2010 midterms. I have two questions to ask of the "restive anti-war movement." 1) How did the people of Iraq/Afghanistan lose value as human beings when the Democrats took over power in 2007? 2) How did the people of Pakistan lose their value as humans when Obama became president at the beginning of the year? The born-again "restive anti-war movement" allowed the Democratic Party to suck the wind out of our sails in 2007 and it is almost like we will have to start from scratch. "Give Him a chance," they say. "He's better than McCain," they say. "If you question Him then you're a racist," they say. I say "go to Iraq-Af-Pak and tell these things to the people who are being drone bombed for simply having the nerve to want to get married." Give Him a chance for what? No thanks, keep the change!
That's an excerpt, read the whole thing. We will include all the resource links Cindy notes:

Go here for more information about the October 5th protests.Go here to view a great interview that Cindy did with Russian TV this past week in Martha's Vineyard.Go here to listen to last week's Soapbox with attorney, Ellen Brown who talks about monetary policy.Go here to donate to our continuing efforts for peace.

iraqthe new york timesrod nordlandriyahd mohammedal jazeerakim gamelcarly simon
ivan watsonyesim comertcnnreutersibon villelabeitiadiana abdallahnprdeborah amosmorning editionoliver augustthe times of london
martin chulovdeborah haynes
the guardianagnes callamard
cindy sheehan
the christian science monitorjane arraf

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Here's Bob Somerby today:

It’s easy to be a conservative pundit--to keep driving those messages. Indeed, as long as liberals exist in the world, the second message listed above will just keep selling itself. Sadly but reliably, this is one way the world works:
Each morning, we liberals get into line on the sidewalk outside RNC headquarters. We take a number, awaiting our chance to drive that second conservative message. When our number is finally called, we bellow and wail about our own greatness—and about the stupidity, craziness, bigotry and evil of the average (white) t**-bagger. As the tea-baggers watch us act out, they see this message confirmed.
The RNC needn’t lift a finger. In our pseudo-liberal stupidity, we sell this message for them.

Bob Somerby uses the t-word to describe what the people are called. He's called that out from the start when Rachel Maddow started using it to be smutty and insulting. Even so, I'm not comfortable having the term here so I've edited it.

I'm Black and I do have friends back home (Georgia) who will say n-word this or n-word that. And I don't do that. If I had as a kid, my father would have washed my mouth out with soap and my mother would have beat my butt. And I'm just not comfortable with the t-word appearing at my site because it does insult gay men. It's taking one sex technique or act some of them do and turning it into a joke and insult.

I'm not comfortable having that here and I hope my discomfort would be the same even if my brother wasn't gay. But he is and I'm just not comfortable with it.

Again, Bob Somerby hasn't called people the t-word. And if you're late to Somerby on this topic, you may not get it. I'm not bothered by his use of it because I've been following it since he was calling out Rachel Maddow and Ana Marie Cox and others for using this term to insult people. But I'm just not interested in having that term up here.

So tomorrow, tomorrow, we're supposed to get the answer. Bob Somerby, you better not make me wait much longer and I know you're taking Monday off for the holiday. So get your foot off the brake and get to it.

He's illustrating the point today and it's sketched out fully. I sometimes wonder if his approach is based on his teaching and, if so, he's teaching to the middle?

Oh, Stan and I appear to have been correct in our guess. (See Stan's "One groups lies well, the other can't even message" from last night.)

"Piedmont lemonade-stand items delivered to Iraq" (News Tribune):
A Piedmont Heights lemonade stand staffed by five children Aug. 14 raised about $1,400 to buy diapers, school supplies and clothes for families in Iraq. The items recently were delivered.
Jessica Stauber’s sister-in-law, Jodi Stauber, is stationed in Baghdad with the Duluth-based 148th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard. She wrote home telling of refugee families with no diapers and other necessities for their children, and she asked her family to help.

I just enjoyed the story.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, September 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, reporter Ibrahim Jassim remains a prisoner of the US military, the US ambassador to Iraq makes a radio appearence, a corpse is turned over to the British embassy in Iraq, Cindy Sheehan speaks about the need for accountability, and more.

Chris Hill is the US Ambassador to Iraq. Yesterday he appeared on
WBUR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook. Jacki Lyden filled in for Ashbrook. Hill, as usual, showed up late ("shaking into town with the brakes complain" -- Joni Mitchell "Just Like This Train"). We'll start our excerpt moments after he joins the show in progress.

Jacki Lyden: I would like to point out what the most recent caller said: What makes us think that the millions of people who've been driven from their homes in Iraq will ever forgive us because we've made enemies with our bad foreign policy? And I do think it is a question that bears putting to you.

Chris Hill: Well, first of all, I agree with your sort of interim answer that uh there are a lot of nuances to this but uh in a way I also understand what the caller is saying. I mean this has been a very tough six years. I mean we're-we're into the seventh year of this very difficult period and to be sure I think a lot of Iraqis thought that it would go a lot better, thought that uh we would essentially bring America to them and that hasn't been the case. It's been -- it's been very tough. It's been very tough politically. It's been very tough to reconcile various sectarian communities. You know there are many Sunnis who feel that they are the big losers with the demise of Saddam Hussein -- even though they didn't like him he was a Sunni. And then frankly there are Shia who feel that they are winners but they always worry about what comes next. So it's a very nuanced picture but with respect to the view of the United States, that's also very complex there are a lot of Iraqis who feel that it has been such a tough time that, you know, why hasn't the US completely rebuilt this country? Well we have, as you suggested, spent billions of dollars but to just rebuild Iraq or to somehow turn it into something it never was would be costing trillions. So we have really tried to work with the Iraqi authorities, tried to stand up a uh market economy, try to get them to uh have uh a proper use of some their natural resources so they can bring in foreign investors and that sort of thing. So there's no question that progress is being made but it's very slow and it's very frustrating to a lot of people.

Jacki Lyden: I find that in Iraq and Iran too there's always and Steven I would be interested to see what you and David have to say about all of this, there is always that presence of people that you speak to that say I didn't know my own country we didn't know each other. But sometimes after a huge shift in leadership, however it comes about, whether it's deposing Saddam Hussein or revolution, that actors start to jockey for power and to even speak of the Iraqis can be tough because after all 66 million people there isn't monolithic opinion obviously. David?

David Ignatius: Well I-I-I would just like to take the moment to-to ask Ambassador Hill in these remaining months in which the US still has a significant troop presence in Iraq although not in the cities, how do you think we can use that leverage so as to leave behind solid political situation as possible? The hope at the time of the surge was that there would be a political reconciliation and yet I think many observers -- most observers would say that really hasn't happened. Ambassador, what tools can use in this remaining period when we're still there to try to make the outcome as good as possible?

Chris Hill: Well let me say, David, this issue of reconciliation is probably the name of the game. I mean if we can uh get some things uh squared away here politically I think Iraq can have a better future you know. Ironically it's the security situation that hits the headlines, the various hideous bombings that one sees but it's the it's the political situation that I think worries a lot of people because this idea of working together and trying to have some rules of the road for the political process is a bit of an elusive concept here. So to answer your question there are a couple of areas where I think the US can be very active and we are active One is on the internal boundaries the disputed internal boundaries and that's between the Kurdish areas in the sort of north and eastern part of the country and the rest of the country the more Arab parts and there are some really serious is agreements in some very key areas. A place called Kirkuk that actually has a lot of oil but there are 14 other features along that boundary. So we have been working really on a retail basis talking to the communities there but also talking to the Kurdish leadership up in Erbil and the leadership up here in uh Baghdad as well to see if we can find solutions. Now there are thoughts that somehow you can get some grand bargain in the process, you can you know sort out the oil, sort out all of these things and have it all come together. Unfortunately I think it's going to be a more retail business because it's local. Now the US forces have been very active here and I think this is where it's very important in the coming year. As you know, General [Ray] Odierno has been working with the Iraq National Police the Iraqi armed forces along with Kurdish counterparts to see if we can work out some joint-patrol and this sort of thing which I think could be extremely helpful. So I think we are trying to make use of this time during the last year. But I want to emphasize, you know, we have elections coming up and while uh Iraqis may have -- may have not totally embraced democracy they sure have embraced politics and so you know a lot of what is going on right now is various politicians are reaching out into other communities to try to put together a coalition they think can win for them in the parliamentary elections. That's kind of heartening stuff. So recently you had a sort of Shia -- Shia grouping put together. Those are mainly people mainly in the south but interestingly the Shia Prime Minister Maliki put a condition in there that he knew the others would not accept and so he's out there playing a sort of Dating Game with Kurdish partners and Sunni tribal partners so there's a lot of politics going on. That's the good news, the bad news is they sometimes you know don't get to the real homework of uh reconciliation in working some of these problems.

Jacki Lyden: Steven, you had, I think it was you. I saw a quote by I wish I could remember which Iraqi politicians said -- speaking to what the ambassador just said -- that sectarian politics are appealing, sectarian governments fail. Are people discussing that?

Steven Lee Myers: That was Ahmed Chalabi who many people will remember from his role supporting the invasion as part of the Iraqi National Congress. Uh, I-I think he's right and that this touches on what the ambassador just said, they need to translate the political process into governance. And I think that's one of the things we haven't seen very much of I mean there are pockets of stability, as I said before, but you don't really see on a national level the basics being done in terms of electricity or water or cleaning the streets and so forth. Going back to your previous question, I compare it to my previous time covering Russia, and the ambassador has seen this as well I assume in the Balkans, but what you have here is a country that's not just been through war but has been through a transformational period of moving from a dictatorship as Russia did after the Soviet Union collapsed to a new society and I think the violence here has prevented a lot of that still arduous transition from happening in terms of social values the economy the legal system. There's a lot that's involved in moving from dictatorship to democracy beyond just the elections themselves.

Jacki Lyden: We are going to take a few calls here in just a moment but Ambassador, I would like to ask you, based on your intelligence, who do you think is responsible for the August 19th bombings which was the worst in a very long time?

Chris Hill: Well I you know the investigations are very much continuing I'm not sure I want to sort of give you a running tab of an ongoing investigation but there are certain usual suspects here that we are obviously looking at very closely and one of course is this al Qaeda in Iraq -- so-called AQI. Now the government has some theories that it's more complex that you have possible ex-Ba'athist elements You know these are also Sunni who feel disenfranchised from the system but they're not sort of these extreme Wahhabists Sunnis that al Qaeda draws its ranks from. Yet there is you know talk in the analytical community whether they're Ba'athist in al Qaeda or AQI -- I want to stress this is al Qaeda in Iraq, a sort of franchised operation. And there's a lot of you know talk that perhaps they have some know -- tactical putting, you know, putting this thing together. It's really hard to say. What is clear though is that for many people in this country when those terrible bombings took place out came the fingers and pointing at each other. And to be sure there's a time for finger pointing, there's certainly a time to investigate and see what failures there were in the system. But there's also a times, as the United States, as we know very well in the wake of 9-11. There is a time to come together and one hope that that call will be better heard in Iraq. Because, uh, it's a very rough political climate here.

Steven Lee Myers is with the New York Times, David Ignatius with the Washington Post and
Post Global. Hill gets credit for alluding to the lack of sense made in al-Maliki's charges of (secular) Ba'athists working with the religious zealots of al Qaeda in Iraq. But it's amazing to listen to him and compare his remarks to those made on Inside Iraq on Al Jazeera (see yesterday's snapshot) where the audience last Friday was informed of charges that Iran was possibly involved. The bombs or the materials are said to have come from Iran (true or not, who knows). And the broadcast did cover it. But Al Jazeera covered Mohammed Abdullah al-Shehwani who handled the intelligence and who quit his post after declaring that Iran was responsible for the Black Wednesday bombings and being greeted with Nouri al-Maliki's rage. (al-Shehwani has now left Iraq.) That's not really going to be addressed by Hill apparently. Even though all of it -- the charges and the counter-charges -- are nothing but speculation. The Washington Post has covered the charges in their reporting and David Ignatius addressed it last week in his column for the paper which included this: "But forensic evidence points to a possible Iranian role, according to an Iraqi intelligence source who is close to Shahwani. He said that signatures of the C-4 explosive residues that have been found at the bomb sites are similar to those of Iranian-made explosives that have been captured in Kut, Nasiriyah, Basra and other Iraqi cities since 2006."

The previous administration wanted war with Iran very badly (as opposed to the current administration which just wants it badly at this point). That doesn't mean that, year after year, Iran gets a pass. Syria's being raked over the coals currently for -- key point often left out -- sticking to the law. When the government of one country wants to extradite someone, they present evidence to the government the person is in. That's how it works. That may be confusing to some since Colin Powell and the Bush administration demanded Afghanistan turn over Osama bin Laden and stated that, at some point after he was turned over, the US would present evidence. That's not how the law works. But the Syrian government is being raked over the coals as Nouri creates an international incident and finger pointing at Saudia Arabia has taken place at well (and made it into US outlets) so the idea that Iran is off limits? No. It's not. And it also needs to be stated that even if there is Iranian involvement, if, that doesn't mean involvement of the Iranian government.

When you declare this country or that country off limits (out of fear that the US wants to go to war with it), it becomes very difficult to have an honest conversation about what is taking place in the world. The broadcast featured Jackie Lyden, Steven Lee Myers and David Ignatius discussing possible Shi'ite on Shi'ite violence and that should have raised more issues. Such as: Is al Qaeda in Iraq going to be the scapegoat forever? Weren't we repeatedly told that al Qaeda in Iraq had been diminished and was a tiny element? (Yes, we were told that, repeatedly in Senate hearings from various military brass.) And haven't we repeatedly been told that al Qaeda in Iraq operates in one region? Remember which region that is? Hint, it's not the centeral region or the northern region and it's not a region Baghdad's in.

To buy the 'conventional' theory being proposed by Nouri and worked by too many in the US press requires that you also declare al Qaeda in Iraq has increased its presence, has added tremendously to its membership and has now expanded into other regions of the country. Of course, how al Qaeda in Iraq would be waived through checkpoints is the stumper. If you've seen the security camera footage of the trucks, there's no way anyone remotely doing their job waived those two trucks through by accident. So the catch all scapegoat of al Qaeda in Iraq really doesn't fit the way Nouri would like it too. Nor is there a reason Shi'ite dominated security forces in Baghdad would waive through Sunnis even for cash.

A Shi'ite 'gang' would be the League of the Rightous which has claimed credit for the slaughter of 5 US service members. Their leader and his brother were in custody but were set free by the US military in June. They were turned over to Nouri who then set them free and started claiming that they were ready to take part in the political process. The group was ready, Nouri insisted through his spokesmodels. Of course, the group also claimed responsibility for the May 29, 2007 kidnappings in Baghdad of British citizens. Five of the two are known to be dead (Jason Swindlehurts and Jason Creswell). Two were assumed dead (Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy) and a fifth (Peter Moore) was hoped to be alive throughout the summer. Today there's a development in that long running story. Apparently to demonstrate that they now want to just be 'political,' the group has turned over another corpse to the Iraqi government. (When the US released the two brothers from custody in June, the group handed over the corpses of Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst.)
CNN goes with caution saying it may be the corpse of a former British hostage. Catherine Philip (Times of London) reports the corpse is now in British custody, that UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband does not believe it is Peter Moore's body and quotes him stating, "We cannot yet definitievely confirm either that this is the remains of one of the hostages, or which one." Ben Livesey (Bloomberg News) notes that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a statement through his spokesperson that he was "deeply saddened" and that there would be "no stone unturned in the Government's efforts to secure the release of the remaining hostages." Not stated is that Brown is on vacation (still) and apparently is not willing to actually interrupt his vacation to make a statement directly. No stone unturned? BBC News adds, "BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner said it was believed the body belonged to one of the two men [Alec Maclachlan and Alan McMenemy] and, in that sense, the news would not come as a big surprise. Diplomats say the identity could be established within 24 hours, our correspondent added, and the body is expected to be flown back to the UK by the end of the week." Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) explains, "The men were abducted by gunmen posing as policemen by a group calling itself League of the Righteous, a group of Shia militants. They were recently understood to have been seeking to enter mainstream politics in Iraq, but attempts to release the hostages through dialogue have proved fruitless." The Daily Mail notes that the League of the Righteous had earlier attempted to use the five hostages to broker a release of "nine Iraqi militants" at Camp Cropper (the leader and his brother were two and, again, they were released in June) and that this "is Britain's longest running hostage crisis since Terry Waite and John McCarthy who were held for nearly five years in Lebanon in the 1980s." Nouri is very close with the League and last week Eli Lake (Washington Times) reported that Ahmed Chalabi was as well.

While the League of the Righteous can see their members (and their leader) released by the US military -- even after they have taken credit for the kidnapping of the 5 British citizens and the slaughter of five US service members, others aren't so lucky.
Michael Christie (Reuters) reports that a year ago today, "U.S. and Iraqi troops smashed in the doors of Iraqi journalist Ibrahim Jassam's home, shouting 'freeze' and holding back snarling dogs before they hauled him off into the night in his underwear." Ibrahim is still imprisoned despite the fact that Iraq's 'judicial' system found that he should be released. From the December 1, 2008 snapshot:
In other news, Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam has been a prisoner in Iraq since Sept. 1, 2008 when US and Iraqi military forces drug him from his Mahmudiyah home. He has been held a prisoner since then at Camp Cropper.
Reporters Without Borders and Journalistic Freedom Observatory have been calling for his release. Reuters reported yesterday that Iraq's Central Criminal Court has ordered that Ibrahim be released because "there was no evidence against" him; however, "There was no immediate response from the U.S. military to the ruling." Daryl Lang (Photo District News) adds, "Jassam's case resembles those of several other Iraqi photographers and cameramen working for Western news organizations, all of whom were eventually freed. And the decision comes as the U.S. is releasing thousands of security detainees and preparing to turn its much-maligned detainee system over to the Iraqi government."
Despite the finding that Ibrahim should be released, on December 9, 2009
Reuters reported that US Maj Neal Fisher disagreed with/disregarded the court finding and stated all the Iraqi court order meant was that when he is released Ibrahim "will be able to out-process without having to go through the courts as other detainees in his threat classification will have to do." Why is that? Because the court has found no reason to hold Ibrahim. So while others will go on to have their day in court, Fisher is admitting that Ibrahim's had his but the US military just doesn't want to release him. In June of this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a letter to Nouri al-Maliki and they noted Ibrahim and requested, "Press the U.S. military to respect the decision of the Iraqi courts and immediately release Ibrahim Jassam." Last September, Reporters Without Borders pointed out that over "20 journalists have been arrested in Iraq in similar circumstances since 1st January 2008, all of whom have been released after spending days or even months in custody without any charges being made against them." CPJ notes him here (note that Adel Hussein, whose profile follows, has been released and shouldn't even be on the current list of journalists imprisoned). Reporters Without Borders notes that three journalists are currently detained in Iraq, there's Ibrahim starting September 1, 2008; Mountazer al-Zaidi starting December 14, 2008 (he's the one who threw his shoes at Bully Boy Bush and Nouri's joint-press conference in December) and Jassem Mohamed who has been imprisoned since February 2009.When Ibrahim was taken away, Iman Jassam, Ibrahim's sister, told NPR's Quil Lawrence in July, "One of the Iraqi soldiers said, 'Why are you still talking? If you only knew what we are going to do to your brother, you would be crying.' These words are still echoing in my ears." Those who can't stream audio or for whom streaming audio is of no use due to hearing issues can click here for a trasncript of the Morning Edition report in the July 21st snapshot. Ibrahim is supposed to be released. The US maintains he's a security release but will not present evidence to support that allegation and the Iraqi court looked into the arrest and found no cause for Ibrahim to be held. Yet he's still held and don't think the hypocrisy isn't being noted around the world. Daya Gamage's "Iraqi journalist under U.S. custody without trial but, Us critical of Tissanayagam jail sentence in Sri Lanka" (Asian Tribune):The United States criticized Sri Lanka Monday, August 31 for sentencing to 20 years in prison an ethnic Tamil journalist by Sri Lanka's judiciary after an open trial. "We were disappointed to learn of the verdict and the severity of the sentence," State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said at the daily media briefing after a Sri Lankan court handed down the sentence against J.S. Tissainayagam. The United States' criticism of Sri Lanka which gave due process of the law to Tissanayagam came at a time when an Iraqi photo-journalist Ibrahim Jassam lies in U.S. military custody in Iraq since 02 September 2008 without trial and denying him the due process of the law.

In other Iraq news,
Natalia Antelava (BBC News) reports that the abandoned Nigerian embassy in Baghdad has been turned into "the Academy of Peace through Art, a school created under the umbrella of Iraq's national Symphony Orchestra." She quotes the director Karim Wasfi stating, "We offer space, teachers, the instruments and a chance to be exposed to a bit of civilisation, something that everyone in Iraq deserves. Straight away I tell students: you have a choice in life. You can choose a weapon, a Kalashnikov, or you can try a musical instrument." Also in Baghdad, Anne Barker (Australia's ABC News) reports that "four security officers have been sentenced to death for their part in a multi-million dollar banks robbery in Baghdad." She's referring to the July 28th bank robbery in which 8 security guards were killed and millions were stolen as US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was visiting Iraq. (The two are not unconnected. When US dignitaries visit, security is channeled towards that and you often see a spike in store and bank robberies.) BBC adds, "The judges gave the condemned men one month to appeal the sentence. They all proclaimed their innocence during the proceedings. Correspondents say the case has potential for major political fallout despite Mr Abdel Mahdi's denials of any involvement of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council to which he belongs." And Kirit Radia (ABC News) reports Blackwater's contract to guard the US State Dept in Iraq has been extended (it "was due to expire this month").


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four police officers wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two Iraqi soldiers and another one which injured a civilian. Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured and they drop back to Tuesday night to note a Baghdad car bombing which left two people injured.


Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 man shot dead at his home in Mosul and a Mosul home invasion in which 1 young woman was shot dead and her mother was wounded. Reuters drops back to last night to note 2 men shot dead in a Mosul mosque by unknown assailants.


Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul ("gunshot wounds to the head").

Peace Mom
Cindy Sheehan continues attempting to end the wars and was interviewed by Anastasia Churkina (RT, video link via Information Clearning House).

Anastasia Churkina: Through your eyes, what mistakes is Barack Obama making in his policies?

Cindy Sheehan: (Laughing) Am I supposed to limit my answer to two minutes? Well, you know, I think the-the administration made a bad mistake going after health care reform and staking the 2010 elections on that. And our health care system in America doesn't need to be reformed, it needs to be overthrown and replaced with a single-payer system. And not to -- and to let -- this is the biggest, I don't know if it's a mistake, I don't know if it's on purpose, I don't know what's happening but why do the Republicans in the House of Representatives and in the Senate have any say in what's going on? They're a minority. They have no power. We have a Democratic, a large Democratic lead in the House, in the Senate and we have a Democratic president. Every progressive agenda item should be able to be pushed through right now. As I see it, with them, Obama, using the Republicans to say "Well I can't do this because the Republicans say no," when it's actually the corporations like the health care, you know, the health insurance companies, Big Pharma and HMOs telling him "No, we can't have health care reform." He's exploiting the Republicans to say, "Well the Republicans say 'no'." And so they're going to lose seats in 2010. The Democrats are very vulnerable right now.

Anastasia Churkina: Barack Obama, on a number of occasions, has spoken about looking forward. You have compared this to putting blinders on. Why?

Cindy Sheehan: No American president has had to be held accountable for War Crimes, for crimes against humanity, for international crimes against humanity and, to me, that's a tragedy because we have had presidents that have committed War Crimes and international crimes against humanity. Specifically the Bush administration. And so they're not putting the full force of our law, of our Constitution and basic common law to -- and international law -- to investigate and prosecute the crimes of the Bush administration. And I think it's because the Obama administration is carrying on what the Bush administration did. So how can you prosecute somebody for -- for what you want to do and what are you doing because that would implicate you. And there can't be any healing in this country, there can't be any true change without accountability and I'm a firm believer in that. I don't think any one of us could break a law here and say I get pulled over for running a stop sign? And I can't say, "Well, officer, haven't you heard we're looking forward now? That-that crime was in the past. You can't ticket me." And so crimes happen in the past and they have to be investigated in the present. So I think that it is putting blinders on and it's ignoring the fact that millions of people are dead, wounded, displaced from their homes because of the crimes of the Bush administration.

There's not room for a highlight in the snapshot today but
Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) covers the need for accountability here (that went up yesterday). Related, NOW on PBS has an online exclusive: US Lt Col Stuart Couch was tasked with prosecuting Mohamedou Ould Slahi for alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks but then learned that Slahi had been tortured while in custody. He tells David Brancaccio, "I felt like what had been done to Slahi just reprehensible. For that reason alone, I refused to have any further participation in this case." In other TV news, this January Diane Sawyer becomes the anchor of ABC World News Tonight. ABC News posts Charlie Gibson's "Goodbye Cruel World" e-mail here. Still on TV, American Dad and Family Guy genius Seth MacFarlane wanted his Mallory. Mallory is the Family Ties character Justine Bateman made famous. He declares he wanted his Mallory while speaking with Kevin Pollack on Kevin Pollack's Chat Show (click here for the actual episode).

The Simpsons came along and made it actually funny. If you watch The Flintstones, if you see a slapstick gag, it's not, you know, there's the camera shake and there's the big effect of the Starburst that goes out beneath them . . . [But on The Simpsons,] these characters were being treated like three dimensional objects. When somebody would fall through a table, it played, you know, real. It played like you were watching the gas station scene from Mad, Mad World.

Along with It's A Mad Mad Mad World, Seth references Mel Brooks, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks' Modern Romance and he reveals a security guard at his college was the inspiration for Peter Griffith's voice on Family Guy. Kevin Pollak does the weekly broadcast (live) each Sunday. He is a stand up performer and an actor and his many, many acting credits include A Few Good Men, Grumpy Old Men (and the sequel), and Miami Rhapsody.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. He is an independent journalist and a photographer with tremendous gifts and an exhibit of his work is currently running in Santa Rosa through October 10th.


Journalist and documentary photographer David Bacon highlights the difficult issues that are critical to California's indigenous farm workers. He explores the unique challenges that indigenous communities face, while celebrating the culture and community spirit that sustains them.
For the first time, this exhibition includes both color images from the Living Under the Trees traveling show, and black-and-white prints from the earlier photodocumentary project,

SANTA ROSA JUNIOR COLLEGE 1501 Mendocino Ave. Santa Rosa, CA 95401
SEPTEMBER 3 - OCTOBER 10, 2009 MONDAY - THURSDAY · 10 AM TO 4 PM SATURDAY · NOON TO 4 PM EVENT PROGRAM THURSDAY · SEPTEMBER 3, 4 - 7 PM · DOYLE LIBRARY 4201 Opening Reception with Danza Mexica Coyolxauhqui TUESDAY · SEPTEMBER 8, 4 - 6 PM · ART GALLERY Panel Presentation - "Immigrant Workers Speak" SATURDAY · SEPTEMBER 12, 4 - 7 PM · ART GALLERYCommunity Forum and Cultural Program "Living in Sonoma County: Housing for the Immigrant and Farm Workers Communities" MONDAY · SEPTEMBER 14, NOON - 1:30 PM · NEWMAN AUDITORIUM Guest Lecture · David Bacon "Living Under the Trees" TUESDAY · SEPTEMBER 15, NOON - 2 PM · ART GALLERY Cultural Presentation and Poetry Reading Ballet Sonatlan and Armando Garcia-Davila WEDNESDAY · SEPTEMBER 16, NOON - 2 PM Mexican Independence Celebration with MeChA Quad in front of the Frank P. Doyle library, SRJC THURSDAY · OCTOBER 1, 4 - 6 PM · ART GALLERY Panel Presentation "Immigration and California Farm Workers" MONDAY · OCTOBER 5, NOON - 1:30 PM · NEWMAN AUDITORIUM Guest Lecture · Dr. David Montejano "The Border as History: Immigration Debates, Past and Present" THURSDAY · OCTOBER 8, NOON - 1:30 PM · 1:30 - 4 PM · ART GALLERYStudent Presentations
"Immigration Policy Proposal
Living Under the Trees is a cooperative project with California Rural Legal Assistance and the Frente Indigena de Organizaciones Binacionales.
For more articles and images on immigration, see
See also Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008
See also the photodocumentary on indigenous migration to the US
Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)
See also The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

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