Friday, October 23, 2009

Army pays out $4.3 million

"Army vet wins $4.3 million verdict" (Ben Schmitt, Detroit Free Press):
A former Michigan soldier who lost his hand after an explosion while trying to disarm a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004 won a $4.3 million verdict today against the U.S. Army in a disability discrimination civil case.
"He proved that the Army created a hostile work environment for him because of his disability." said Royal Oak attorney Kevin Carlson who won the case along with attorney Joseph Golden.

I found the above story very interesting and congratulate James McKelvey on his win.

CBS. New Adventures Of Old Christine. Wednesday nights. First half-hour of prime time. Funniest show on TV.

If you don't watch, boy do you miss a lot.

Wanda Sykes is one of our favorites but she wasn't on Wednesday; however, it was still a very funny episode. Will from 'Will & Grace' was on (Eric McCormack).

So the gym Barb and Christine own was closed for the week. Christine decided to do Matthew a favor and play his receptionist. She mentioned she used to do that in college. And so she dug out her old clothes . . . from the 70s. Matthew (her brother) took one look at her and asked Rhoda (her) where Mary was?

Implying she looked like Rhoda on the sitcom classic 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show.'

Richard took one look at her and called her Maude.

Matthew ended up firing her. Christine couldn't stop giving advice to his patients.

They had a fight that was a little like when Mary (MTM) and Phyllis bickered over whether Phyllis was Mary's assistant or secretary.

Eric McCormack played a man with the suite next to Matthew. He asked Christine out but she thought he was inviting to do therapy with him. Then they decided to go on a date but Christine couldn't stop making things about her. He's part of a multi-arc series of episodes (I believe it's six).

New Christine? She and Richard got back together. He thought.

For her, it was just casual sex.

When he found that out, he decided it was time to move out. He hadn't yet and New Christine asked him to go to the sushi bar with her and seemed to appear to be hinting 'more to come' so they may be back in bed next episode.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, October 23, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, still no 'progress' on Iraq's election law, Iraqi Christians consider fleeing due to violence, the United Nations says Iraqis should not be forced to return to Iraq (pay attention England and Denmark), Gordo Brown decides British lives are worth less than Iraqi oil, the US Congress forgets Iraq, and more.

This morning on NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show (second hour, international hour), Diane was joined by panelists Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg News). Iraq was noted in the following:

Diane Rehm: Let's go right back to the phones, to Kansas City, MO. Good morning, Ron.

Ron: Good morning. My question deals with the economic development. I was -- I traveled in Iraq and one of the things that I saw there wasn't really -- for all the billions of dollars that we were spending over there -- there's not a lot of economic development taking place. So, you know, that's lacking. My understanding of Afghanistan is that they were once -- they are geographically located in what was known as "The Old Silk Trade" -- that's between the Middle East and Asia. And I want to know what's going on to try to redevelop that in the way of infrastructure with roads and railroads which would allow them to have a place into the global economy which should be the essential goal that the United States would want?

Diane Rehm: Let's take Iraq first. Abderrahim?

Abderrahim Foukara: Well the issue of economic development, it has at least two impediments in Iraq. One is corruption. And the second one is political instability. Now Prime Minister Maliki was here in Washington recently. They're saying -- both he and President Obama have been saying -- Iraq is now stable enough to start focusing on economic development. Now that's one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is that the whole focus on economic development as we have seen it talked about here in Washington during Prime Minister -- Prime Minister Maliki's visit is that Iraq, which has sort of fallen off the radar here in the United States, is actually still not doing well politically. And talking economic development is one way of diverting attention -- people's attention -- from the real problems that continue to bedevil Iraq. [. . .]

Diane Rehm: Janine?

Janine Zacharia: Well you know too echo what Abderrahim said, Prime Minister Maliki came again this week to say "Iraq's open for business" but it truly is not open for business when you still have the sec -- Correct, the political situation is involved so we don't know what's going to happen with January elections, but the security issues is still paramount. You cannot -- American businessmen or international businessmen cannot go and roam around Iraq and set up shop right now and import Coca Cola and do all these things without being worried about being blown up. [. . .]

Diane Rehm: Moises?

Moises Naim: Economic development is very, very difficult. Economic development in the middle of a war is impossible. So it doesn't matter. There's no country ever that's developed on the basis of foreign aid. You can pour as much money as you want and unless you have a functioning market and investors, commercial activity -- development will not happen. And it's impossible to have that if you have a war going on.

We're not doing the "Afghanistan snapshot" so "[. . .]" indicates they then turned to the issue of Afghanistan. We will note Afghanistan in a moment, in terms of a Congressional exchange led by US House Rep Susan Davis. But first, let's note the political referred to above.

Howard LaFranchi (Christian Science Monitor) observes, "Once again the US finds itself hostage to Iraqi politics -- this time as a result of a standoff among Iraqi political parties over an overdue election law." If you're saying "Huh?", you were sleeping last week when Gina Chon was warning the Thursday date was approaching and Iraq appeared to be missing it. Parliamentary elections in Iraq are said to take place this coming January. That's after they were already kicked back. They were supposed to take place in December. They kicked it back to January. Last week, on Thursday, they were supposed to have passed the law and didn't. And still haven't. On Wednesday, the Pentagon's Michele Flournoy appeared before the House Armed Services Committee and stated that Iraq actually had two more weeks to pass it. (Kat covered the hearing here.) Flournoy also stated they could just pass legislation on what day to hold the election and leave all matters to the 2005 election law -- which, no, would not be 'progress'. She left out the part about Iraq's court system finding that law to be unconstitutional. While Flournoy attempted to downplay, others aren't doing so. Michael Jansen (Irish Times) observes, "The US military may have to put on indefinite hold its plan to dispatch additional troops to Afghanistan if Iraq's election does not take place on time in January. [. . .] On Wednesday, after prolonged debate, the Iraqi parliament admitted failure in its efforts to draft a new election law to govern the coming contest and asked the Political Council for National Security to take on the task." "Thrown in doubt" is the call Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) makes and goes on to note of the High Electoral Commission: "The commission, responsible for organizing polls in Iraq, has said that it needs 90 days to print and distribute ballots. Iraqi and UN officials fear that the election could be delayed if lawmakers fail to pass a revised election law this week." The New York Times editorializes in "Counting Backward" that when it comes to the elections, Iraq's Constitution must be followed (they appear to forget that Iraq's Constitution also covers Kirkuk -- click here for more on that and don't miss the latest Inside Iraq for the issue as well). Barbara Surk (AP) reports today that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's spokesperson stated the Ayatollah wants the elections to take place January 16th as has been announced. Howard LaFranchi explains:

The situation, which caught Obama administration diplomats off guard as they have focused attention on Afghanistan and the electoral crisis there, is reminiscent of the stalemate the Bush administration faced in 2007 concerning a series of "benchmark" laws the US Congress sought in return for continuing support to Iraq.
At that time, US diplomats spoke of "two clocks" in the two capitals to explain the discrepancy between Washington's demand for quick political action and Baghdad's refusal to be rushed.
The two clocks are on display again, with US diplomats including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton imploring Iraqi leaders to pass an election law. For their part, some Iraqi politicians say it is Americans and not Iraqis who feel a need to hurry on legislation that cuts to the heart of Iraq's power struggles.
The election law should have been approved by Oct. 15 in order for elections scheduled for Jan. 16 to go forward, according to the Iraqi constitution.

Alsumaria reports that the National Security Political Council will discuss the election law tomorrow when they meet. Former Reagan administration official Lawrence J. Korb (Center for American Progress) is on the ground in Iraq gathering impressions and, in his latest piece, he notes:

Iraq is a fragile state, and it can become a stable or failed state depending on whether the government increases or decreases in legitimacy and competence. If it does not become more competent or regresses, there is danger of a coup. Losing legitimacy could lead to a civil war.

From Parliament issues to the US Congress, we're dropping back to yesterday. And we'll start with a question: Does the US Congress exist to help scoundrels rake in more ill gotten gain?

Thursday, we (
Ava, Wally, Kat and myself) attended a hearing that was a complete waste of time unless you're a lobbyist/business person needing Congress to give you a stamp of approval. We attended the waste of time hearing because it was entitled "Afghanistan and Iraq: Perspectives on US Strategy." Due to votes, there was a lengthy break in there and, if we'd been smart, we would have bailed during the break because after one hour of that hearing, one hour when NO ONE mentioned Iraq, it was as obvious as it was embarrassing -- embarrassing for the US House Armed Services Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Do they have trouble reading on the Hill?

For most of us in the United States, a hearing entitled "Afghanistan and Iraq: Perspectives on U.S. Strategy" would be about . . . Afghanistan and Iraq. So where the hell was Iraq?

They didn't have time for it. They had time to call war mongers "public servants."

What the hell is Barry McCaffrey doing testifying to Congress to begin with? Retired general? BR McCaffrey Associates, LLC is his company. And his company is in the business of prolonging wars so when he says the military has to stay and when he refers to the 'justifiable' "anger" Americans had towards Afghanistan -- and laments it being gone -- every damn word out of his mouth is suspect because he's working the street, under the street lamp, trolling for bucks.

Here's SourceWatch on the Old War Whore Barry:

In April 2008 documents obtained by New York Times reporter David Barstow revealed that McCaffrey had been recruited as one of over 75 retired military officers involved in the
Pentagon military analyst program. Participants appeared on television and radio news shows as military analysts, and/or penned newspaper op/ed columns. The program was launched in early 2002 by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. The idea was to recruit "key influentials" to help sell a wary public on "a possible Iraq invasion."[1]

[. . .]

Shortly after the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, McCaffrey exclaimed on
MSNBC: "Thank God for the Abrams tank and... the Bradley fighting vehicle." The "war isn't over until we've got a tank sitting on top of Saddam's bunker," he added. The Nation noted, "in March [2003] alone, [Integrated Defense Technologies] received more than $14 million worth of contracts relating to Abrams and Bradley machinery parts and support hardware." [15]

The above says he's got nothing to say that isn't either suspect or paid for. He sells war and he profits from it. There is no reason the US Congress needs to waste their time or US tax payer dollars getting Barry's opinion on Afghanistan. He is not, no matter how many times some members of Congress got it wrong, "a public servant." He is a lobbyist and he lobbies for war. That's reality.

Reality is also that if you're hearing's entitled Iraq and if US forces are in Iraq -- more than are in Afghanistan -- it's pretty damn stupid and insulting not to even shoot the s**t about Iraq in passing during the hearing. Now Pakistan the subcommitee made time for in the hearing despite Pakistan not being in the hearing's title.

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert made an idiot of himself (no surprise there) in an online discussion with David Brooks (Brooks was no better but the world has grown accustomed to that). Here's Herbie:

Bob Herbert: David, the president is deciding what we should be doing with regard to troop deployments in Afghanistan. It seems to me that however one feels about this war and the war in Iraq, the environment here on the home front is bizarre. This is as weird a wartime atmosphere as I can imagine. For most Americans, there is nothing in the way of shared wartime sacrifices. There is no draft. We have not raised taxes to pay for the wars. Except for the families of those in the military, most Americans are paying very little attention to these conflicts. I've brought this matter up a few times on college campuses and the response has been, in essence, a collective shrug.

We addressed that in terms of the press last night (
click here). But, hey, Bob Herbert, what does it say when the US Congress forgets the Iraq War? Riddle me that, Bob Herbert.

Here's a section of the hearing:

US House Rep Susan Davis: Help me with this issue because we are continuing to raise the issue of the role of women and whether or not we're abandoning them in any way if we move into negotiating or how we're able to have some kind of reconciliation in Afghanistan -- we want to focus on them. Where -- where does security lie because clearly the military has paved the way for many efforts in Afghanistan. I mean there's no doubt about that. And yet on the other hand, I understand that it's perhaps overly ambitious of us to believe that all of those efforts with the military and civilian capacity both are not necessarily in the best -- are picking up the best -- the best interests of the Afghan people -- or the region, assuming that Pakistan we're talking about as well. Do you want to -- Ms. Cole?

Beth Ellen Cole: I think that with governance -- like all of these issues -- we have to enlarge our view of security. I mean security is not just something that military forces can bring to the communities of Afghanistan. In the United States, we think of the security as school guards and bank guards and people who protect judges. And it's not just a question of military or police forces. Border guards, people that are dealing with looking at money laundering and bank operations and we -- in that sense, this -- the debate about troops is a very, very important debate but we have to think about the other assets that we have to bring to bear including -- with the Afghans -- including putting women as police officers in certain places or as school guards which we've shown we can do in Liberia. [. . .]

US House Rep Susan Davis: General Barno, do you have any thoughts?

Lt Gen Dave Barno (retired general): Two things. I think one, on the issue of security, you're absolutely correct that there -- it's not a sequential problem of security and reconstruction and development, these things are concurrent , these things have to parallel with one another. [. . .] The other question I think you alluded to was this idea of "What does it mean to women if we negotiate with the Taliban?" That's a paraphrase of what, perhaps, I think you were saying you were saying. And-and I do think we have to be aware that in my estimation, I think from a policy standpoint right now, having the Taliban be part of the government of Afghanistan is not where this is going, is not the objective. Having reformed Taliban, ex-Taliban, Taliban that have rejected violence, put down their weapons and join the political process, that's a very different outlook. The small "t" if you will, the individuals, not-not the movement. And I think that's where we have to be careful that we don't inadvertently send this message that we're willing to negotiate with the Taliban because we're really trying to exit -- as opposed to we're willing these Taliban, former Taliban fighters, lay down their arms and become part of this political process. Our goal when I was there was not to kill the Taliban -- collectively in the big strategic picture, it was to make the Taliban irrelevant, make no one want to become part of the Taliban, no one aspire to the Taliban and that takes a very nuanced approach of many different elements of simply security and military forces.

US House Rep Susan Davis: Mm-hm. Mr. Waldman, can I just real quickly get a response from you on that?

Matthew Waldman: Sure. I-I-I mean, in terms of security [. . .] But as has been said by Ms. Cole, the notion of security is much broader and-and of course, really security will political strategy which is indigenous In terms of women, you're absolutely right to raise this, I think it's a very serious issue. I think the-the-the -- when one travels the country and talks to Afghans, it's very clear that they want their girls to go to school -- if you look at the numbers now, over 2 million girls in school, yeah, you know, there's this universal desire to see that happen and for women to have the uh, in most areas, for women to be able to work and have rights, freedoms and rights that-that men have. It is alarming that the Shia law was passed recently, which you're probably aware of. And I certainly think that one has to ask about the commitment to the current administration to --

Us House Rep Susan Davis: Yes --

Matthew Waldman: -- women's rights.

US House Rep Susan Davis: -- which is doubtful.

Matthew Waldman: Yeah, yes. It certainly is. And uh we've yet to see real substance behind the-the-the work to try to-to empower women and to uh support their opportunities and rights. But you're also right that there is concern about women's rights after -- as negotiations move forward. Now of course reconciliation -- truth and reconciliation -- is essential in Afghanistan.

To review the participants above: Cole works for the US Institute of Peace (US government), Waldman works for the Carr Center AGAINST Human Rights (US government mouthpiece with a major in counter-insurgency studies and cheerleading) and Barno (Near East South Asia Center For Strategic Studies --
billed as "the preeminent U.S. Government institution for building relationships and understanding in the NESA region"). So the US government is more than well represented and we can all chuckle and pretend the stammering and stumbling Waldman represented the land of academia as well. So what did Barry represent? The War Machine. So that gets a seat at the table in front of Congress? That's really pathetic and really shameful and it's past time that Barry was pulled from Congressional panels because he's not an expert and he uses the fact that Congress calls on him as part of his business portfolio.

Now we didn't highlight the above exchange to say: The US must stay in Afghanistan for the women! That's b.s. The Afghanistan War's gone on long enough. Suddenly, the US gives a damn about women's rights? No, it's time to fly that false flag and see if you can get anyone to salute it.

No one should.

And you need to relate it back to Iraq where women did have a higher social standing, the highest in the region. And they've lost all that. It's much too late to worry about women's rights. Women were sold out by the US government and it was not by accident or happen-stance. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US government made the decision (after making the decision for illegal war) to install thugs with US ties that they thought they could interact with (in stealing the natural resources of both countries) and that they thought could terrorize the local population (the non-exiles) into a state of fear where they would not fight back.

They went for thugs. They installed thugs. Thugs don't respect rights. They don't respect women's rights, they don't respect women. At the start of this month, Najaf banned alcohol -- and not out of any concern over alcoholism but to 'condemn' the 'sin' of drinking alcohol. They're reactionary zealots and thugs and they were installed because that's what they were.

We do not need to get caught up in the cry of "for the women!" -- of Iraq or Afghanistan. The US has destroyed the lives for women in both countries and the US is not the one who can fix it. They've had more than enough time to try. They don't give a damn. With Iraq, US President Barack Obama could have sent a powerful message by making the US Ambassador to Iraq a woman. He wasn't interested. He went with the inept Chris Hill. And, as Republicans in the Senate knew, Chris Hill would screw things up because that's what he does -- as his personnel file demonstrates -- and they knew they could turn around and use him in any campaign. "Chris Hill screwed up Iraq!" "We had the surge and everything was wonderful! Then Chris Hill was installed!"

The Obama administration refuses to learn from mistakes and refuses to anticipate them. The arrogance is what is bringing them down (and, yes, they are being brought down -- the hero worship is over). Republicans (the current incarnation) would not attack Ray Odierno. He's military. So if they wanted to attack on Iraq -- a very serious issue to many voters -- they were going to go civilian. Therefore, who Barack appointed as ambassador was a serious issue. He or she was going to be attacked regardless. A competent woman doing a wonderful job would still have been attacked by the Republicans. But that said (whomever was installed in the post would be attacked), it's no excuse to install an incompetent of either gender but that's what happened with Chris Hill.

As Janine Zacharia observed on NPR today, violence continues in Iraq.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing last night (no one wounded or killed apparently), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier. Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 man and left his wife and their three children wounded and a Baaj roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul on Friday, 1 traffic police officer shot dead in Mosul and one police officer wounded in a Mosul shooting.

Mike noted, "Reuters reports, 'Iraq will temporarily shut down thousands of schools in two provinces and some in Baghdad after discovering 36 new cases of the H1N1 flu virus, Iraqi officials said on Tuesday'." Today John Leland (New York Times) reports on the "nearly 2,500 school closings" which have resulted from the fears or concerns: "Dr. Ihsan Jaafar, general director of the Public Health Directorate in the Health Ministry, said the number of cases was insignificant, especially compared with neighboring countries, where infection rates were much higher."

Yesterday's snapshot noted the United Nations High Commisoner for Refguees (UNHCR) released a new report entitled "Asylum Levels and Trends in Inudstrialized Countries First Half 2009: Statistical overview of asylum applications lodged in Europe and selected non-European countries." The report found that Iraqis continued to be the number one aslyum-seekers around the globe. Today UNHCR's Andrej Mahecic spoke on the issue of Iraqi refugees and the forcible deportation of them:

UNHCR is concerned about the fact that some European states have begun forcibly returning Iraqi originating from the region of Central Iraq over the last few months. In our guidelines issued last April, we noted that in view of the serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents throughout Iraq, most predominantly in the central governorates, asylum-seekers from these governorates should be considered to be in need of international protection. UNHCR therefore advises against involuntary returns to Iraq of persons originating from Central Iraq until there is a substantial improvement in the security and human rights situation in the country.
This reminder comes after the UK attempted to forcibly return 44 Iraqi men to Baghdad earlier this month. They were reportedly unsuccessful asylum claimants held in immigration removal centres in the UK. Iraq only accepted 10 who were allowed to leave the chartered aircraft in Baghdad, and the remaining 34 were returned to the UK and placed in immigration centres.
Other European states have signed readmission agreements with Iraq for voluntary and forced return. Denmark has forcibly returned 38 people originating mainly from Central and Southern Iraq since signing its agreement in May 2009. Sweden has undertaken some 250 forced returns with an unspecified number of returnees originating from the five central governorates of Iraq since signing an agreement in February 2008. UNHCR has also concerns about the safety and dignity of these returns.
Concerning asylum-seekers from the three northern governorates, as well as those from the southern governorates and Al Anbar, UNHCR recommends that their protection needs are assessed on an individual basis.

A significant number of Iraqi refugees are Christians.
Mindy Belz (World Magazine) recounts some of the recent violence aimed at Iraqi Christians: "In May a 32-year-old Christian teacher was kidnapped in Kirkuk, but freed two weeks later by a joint operation between the Iraqi army and Awakening forces, or former insurgents now siding with Iraqi and U.S. forces. On Aug. 18 insurgents kidnapped a 50-year-old Christian physician named Samir Gorj. A passerby, also a Christian, who tried to come to his aid during the abduction was shot and killed." After his family piad a larger ransom, Gorj was released. "Then on Oct. 3 Imad Elia, a Christian nurse in Kirkuk, was kidnapped in front of his home and found dead in the street two days later." Meanwhile Sardar Muhammad (niqash) reports that Iraqi Christians are weighing whether or not to flee Kirkuk due to an increasing violence, "Local Christians say that they are now targets of armed groups and tens of them have been killed and kidnapped, while their churches have been bombed."

Iraqi refugees aren't the only ones being returned by others.
Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports the British government is sending the country's Royal Navy back to Iraq "to help train Iraqi sailors and protect oil platforms" according to the UK's Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell. To protect the oil, imagine that. Of especial interest to the US is this section of Rammell's statement:

The House will be aware that the UK concluded combat operations in Iraq on 30 April, and that our combat forces were withdrawn by the end of July in accordance with our previous arrangement with the Government of Iraq.

"Combat forces" are 'gone.' Because "protecting oil" is a non-violent effort? Point: The UK returns to Iraq. There was no withdrawal. "Combat" forces is a joke. Combat forces as opposed to that brigade of Iyengar Yoga instructors the US military usually deploys? On the UK's return, as Rebecca observed last week, "
gordo even screws up a withdrawal."

In the
September 4th snapshot, the following appeared: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." SniffexQuestions comments:

The NPR story you mentioned about a dubious explosive detector understates the problem. This is the latest in a long history of fraudulent explosive detectors that are dowsing rods. 15 years ago, the FBI busted the company, and when they opened the detectors they found they were empty. When they raided the factory, the FBI found the company was photocopying a Polaroid photo of cocaine in order to tell the detector what the molecular signature was. And in a stroke of genius so that competitors or foreign countries could not reverse engineer the "detection signature chip" they printed the photocopies on black paper. The company moved overseas, has changed the name of the product multiple times, but it has never passed a test showing it is more effective than flipping a coin as to finding explosives or drugs. Sniffex was a copycat product by a Bulgarian "inventor" that came out a few years ago. The US distributors were arrested and prosecuted by the Securities and Exchange Commission for using the device as the basis of a stock scam, but the new Sniffex Plus is still for sale to consumers overseas. I have been to the Middle East, and seen these in use outside hotels and other businesses.

TV notes. Tonight on most PBS stations (check local listings),
NOW on PBS explores global warming:Is climate change turning coastal countries into water worlds? NOW travels to Bangladesh to examine some innovative solutions being implemented in a country where entire communities are inundated by water, battered by cyclones, and flooded from their homes.Imagine you lived in a world of water. Your home is two-feet under. You wade through it, cook on it, and sleep above it. This is the reality for hundreds of thousands of people around the world, coastal populations on the front lines of climate change.Only weeks before world leaders meet in Copenhagen to discuss climate change, NOW senior correspondent Maria Hinojosa travels to Bangladesh to examine some innovative solutions -- from floating schools to rice that can "hold its breath" underwater -- being implemented in a country where entire communities are inundated by water, battered by cyclones, and flooded from their homes.

Many PBS stations begin airing
Washington Week tonight as well (remember there is a web extra to each show if you podcast and you can check out the web extra the following Mondays when it is also posted to the website). Joining Gwen around the table this week is Dan Balz (Washington Post), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times), David Sanger (New York Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal) -- and the show plans to remember journalist and Washington Week panelist Jack Nelson who passed away earlier this week. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Linda Chavez, Bernadine Healy, Avis Jones-DeWeever and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Medicare/Medicaid Fraud Medicare and Medicaid fraudsters are beating U.S. taxpayers out of an estimated $90 billion a year using a billing scam that is surprisingly easy to execute. Steve Kroft investigates.
Fighting For The Cure More Americans are suffering from epilepsy than Parkinson's, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis combined. Katie Couric reports on a disease that may not be getting the attention it deserves. Watch Video
Tyler Perry When Hollywood refused to produce his films his way, Tyler Perry started his own studio in Atlanta and now his movies - including the popular "Madea" series - are drawing huge audiences. Byron Pitts profiles the new and unlikely movie mogul. Watch Video
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Oct. 25, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

the diane rehm shownpr
michael jansenthe irish timessalah hemeidthe new york times
bob herbertdavid brooks
howard lafranchi
caroline alexanderbloomberg news
sniffexquestionsmorning editionquil lawrence
60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbe

Thursday, October 22, 2009


"FOR LACK OF A PRESS CORPS! Davey’s liberal use of soft soap continued a growing tradition" (Bob Somerby, The Daily Howler):
That brings us to the latest non-correction correction on last night’s Maddow Show.
Rachel Maddow opened the show with an utterly pointless topic. She did an interview with Tamara Lowe, executive vice president of the Get Motivated Seminars Incorporated. Why was Maddow wasting viewers’ time on this topic? Here’s why:
George W. Bush is going to speak at two upcoming Get Motivated events. On Tuesday night, Maddow had devoted an entire segment to ridiculing this ludicrous notion. (To watch that segment,
click here.) But on Wednesday night, she opened with Lowe—and soon took part in one of her program’s familiar non-correction corrections.

If you missed The New Adventures of Old Christine, you can watch it online. It was hilarious. (All the episodes this season have been. This is America's funniest show.) It reminded me of Mike because Richard didn't want New Christine to take her date to 'their' place -- a sushi bar. And didn't want them sharing 'their' dish: California roll. Mike loves sushi and California roll is his favorite. So I naturally thought of him.

I'll probably write about it tomorrow night. So I'm giving a heads up. Don't e-mail me after I write about it saying, "You spoiled it!"

I'm really out of energy tonight so that'll be it. Go watch Christine if you're able to. If you're not, I'll talk about it tomorrow night.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, October 22, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US government serves up a partially nude moment, the UN releases a new report on Iraqi refugees, the US cross-border raid assault into Syria back in 2008 receives some attention, and more.

The United Nations High Commisoner for Refguees (UNHCR) released a new report entitled "
Asylum Levels and Trends in Inudstrialized Countries First Half 2009: Statistical overview of asylum applications lodged in Europe and selected non-European countries." From the introduction:

This report summarizes patterns and trends in the number of individual asylum claims submitted in Europe and selected non-European countries during the first six months of 2009. The data in this report is based on information available as of 28 September 2009 unless otherwise indicated. It covers the 38 European and six non-European States that currently provides monthly asylum statistics to UNHCR.
The numbers in this report reflect asylum claims made at the first instance of asylum procedures: applications on appeal or review are not included. Also, this report does not include information on the outcome of asylum procedures, or on the adminission of refugees through resettlement programmes, as this information is available in other UNHCR reports.

The report uses the terms "the 44 industrialized countries" referring to: "27 Member States of the European Union, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey, as well as Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America." The study found that all the countries are seeing increased claims for asylum and the US "continued to be the largest single recipient of new asylum claims during the first six months of 2009." The top five countries for most asylum claims are (in descending order) the US, France, Canada, UK and Germany.

Number one country of origin for aslyum seekers? From the report:

Iraq again became the main country of orgin of asylum-seekers in industrialized countries in 2006, having previously been the main source country in 2000 and 2002. Iraq also continued to be the leading country of origin of asylum applicants during the first six months of 2009 with 13,200 asylum claims lodged by its citizens. The latest figures, however, show a decreasing trend, with roughly one third fewer Iraqis requesting international protection compared to the previous two semesters. The decrease in Iraqi claims was particularly signficant during the second quarter of 2009 when 5,400 applied for asylum in the 44 industrialized countreis, the lowest quarterly level since the second quarter of 2006.
During the first six months of 2009, Iraqis lodged asylum applications in 38 out of the 44 industrialized countries covered by this report, but the distribution of claims is not equally spread across countries. More than half of all Iraqi claims were submitted in just four countries: Germany (3,000), Turkey (2,600), Sweden (1,000) and the Netherlands (950). The decrease in Iraqi asylums was observed among all major receiving countries, and in particular in Sweden, where figures plummeted, from an average of roughtly 9,300 claims per semester during 2007, to 1,000 during the reporting period. Although the levels and trends in asylum flows are often difficult to explain, they can sometimes be related to concrete policy changes. In the case of Sweden, the change in Swedish decision making on Iraqi asylum claims, following the Migration Court's determination that the situation in Iraq is not one of "armed conflict", may have led to a shift in flows to other countries such as Germany, Finland and Norway.

This was the fourth year in a row that the number one country of origin was Iraq. UNHCR also released [PDF format warning] "
Developing a Livelihoods Assessment and Strategy: Case Stduy from UNCHR Jordan." The report estimates there are currently 685 Iraqis seeking asylum in Jordan and 500,413 Iraqi refugees in Jordan.

The Iraqi refugee population in Jordan has come from various educational and societal backgrounds. Many had become very frustrated and suffer psychological distress due to the isolation and idleness that they face. Many were asking for an opportunity to be involved in delivering services to the refugee community (which also can be used as a method to enhance the community based approach), and many asked for opportunities to expand their existing skills and capacities.

And how many Iraqi refugees did the US accept? In the
August 19th snapshot the Eric Schwartz (Asst Sect of Population, Refugees and Migration) State Dept press conference was covered. He asserted in that press conference, regarding Iraqi refugees being accepted by the US, "The numbers -- let me -- I think I may answer your next question. The numbers for fiscal year 2008, I think are on the order of about 13,000. I'm looking to my team here. And the numbers for fiscal year 2009 will get us -- will probably be up to about 20,000." Click here for transcript and video of the press conference. Following the November 2008 election, Sheri Fink (ProPublica) reported on the issue and noted, "A State Department official contacted by ProPublica said, 'We really do recognize a special responsibility.' The official said that resettling 17,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal 2009 was a minimum target. 'We hope to bring in many more.' The U.S. will also be accepting Iraqis who worked for the US through special immigrant visas, a program [7] that resulted from legislation introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy (discussed [8] recently by Ambassador James Foley, the State Department's senior coordinator on Iraqi refugee issues)." So how many Iraqi refugees resettle in Fiscal Year 2009? According to the US State Dept this month, the number is 18,838. Bare minimum was reached and a tiny bit passed. So what is that? The partially nude minimum? What a proud moment for the US government.

Staying with the US government, at the State Dept today, spokesperson Ian Kelly was asked about Iraq and the 'intended' elections for January 2010 and he responded:

The Iraqi legislative branch, which is called the Council of Representatives, has had two readings of the bill, two sessions debating the bill and -- I guess -- Iraqi law or the-the Iraqi parliamentary rules call for three readings before it comes to a vote. What's happened is that because there is this inability to agree on a text. The whole process has been passed to the Political Council for National Security which is composed of the head of the main parties and the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, President and (two) Vice Presidents. This is to see if they can come to some kind of agreement. And, of course, we encourage them to come up with a reconciled text and rapidly pass the legislation. Ultimately, of course, this is a -- this is for the Iraqis to decide. And this is a -- this is the kind of a process that you don't see very often in Baghdad. So, in some ways, it's encouraging that we have this kind of lively debate. But having said that, this has to move expeditiously. We see the elections in January as a real milestone in the development of Iraqi democracy. And we would like to see this law passed and the elections carried out in a fair and open way.

McClatchy's Jospeh Galloway notes the 'intended' elections in a piece where he weighs in on the 'change' (non)delivered by US President Barack Obama, "The president-to-be promised a swift withdrawal from the Iraqi quicksand, but that hasn't come to pass, either. Instead, we witness a slow-mo pullout that will sort of end things on the Bush administration's timetable of late 2011 for the last American combat troops to be gone, and God only knows when for the rest to leave. That's if the Iraqi parliament can pass a new election law in time for elections to be held on schedule in January." Yesterday, the Pentagon's Michele Flournoy told the US House Armed Services Committee that the delay was not currently a problem. She stated that Parliament had two weeks to act and that they could "simply have a vote on an election date" and leave all other issues by the wayside as they utilized the law from the 2005 elections. This would not only mean that the elections would be on a closed-list, it would also mean the issue of Kirkuk was not being addressed. (The long post-poned issue of Kirkuk was not being addressed.) On the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) began airing Friday (a new one begins airing tomorrow night), Jasim Azawi explained "an open list is where a group, they list every single candidate running for office, for parliament. While a closed list-- just like happened in 2005 -- you really don't know who you are voting for." Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was on the show and he is among those calling for an open list -- as is current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- and Allawi offered this, "In fact, this is another failure by the Iraqi Parliament to produce a strategic law that would -- hopefully would be cementing democracy. But unfortunately, that's not the case. Likewise, the Parliament has failed in producing a law for the parties -- to say where the funding for these parties are coming from, what they are, who they are, are they national, are they sectarian, are they secular. So there are no laws -- no laws of election. Indeed, the Iraqi people are disenchanted with the so-called closed list because usually it's either voting for the sect or voting for the -- for the leader of the list." Along with using the former election law being seen as a failure by Iraqs, there's also the what Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported yesterday, "Iraq's existing election law was declared unconstitutional by its highest court, which said it needs to be replaced or amended." Michele Flournoy did not reference that decision to the committee yesterday. Which doesn't mean it doesn't apply.

Other problems include
Faleh Hassan (Middle East Online) reports that the country's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is currently "facing allegations of corruption and of poorly supervising elections" Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the "supreme Shiite religious tuhorities," the Marajiya, have concerns about the elections including the issue of the lists, "Another Iraqi who's close to the Marjaiya said their foremost goal was to preserve the unity of Iraq, and that replacing the system of party lists of candidates with direct votes for representatives would serve this aim."

US State Dept spokesperson Ian Kelly was also asked today about the US Embassy in Baghdad and "shoddy work" and he sidestepped the issue with, "Let me take that question and see if I can get a reaction to you." What was he avoiding?
Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the costly ($736 million) US Embassy is the subject of a new study by the State Dept's Inspector General which finds, "contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co., failed to properly design, construct and commission the largest U.S. Embassy overseas. It also cites failures by the former leadership of the State Department bureau that's responsible for constructing overseas diplomatic posts. Officials there said that those failures had been rectified, and they took issue with some aspects of the inspector general's report." And they note McClatchy's previous coverage of the US Embassy construction issues including the following:

New U.S. Embassy in Baghdad ready — six months late
At new U.S. Embassy in Iraq, even kitchens are fire hazards
Mammoth new U.S. Embassy marks new stage for Iraq

The State Dept uses contractors to provide 'protection' in Iraq -- contactors such as Blackwater (which prefers to be called "Xe" these days).
Earlier this month, Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) reported US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina has shut the press and the public out of the pre-trial hearings and the judge asserts he is doing so to guarantee a fair trial. The trial? September 16, 2007, Blackwater shot up Baghdad. The death toll was at least 14. Finally the issue moves to a US court and the press and public are left in the dark. Del Quentin Wilber reported that Washington Post attorney James McLaughling lodging a request for the judge to reconsider the decision to hold the pre-trial hearing behind closed doors. Today the Los Angeles Times editorialized on the matter observing:

Urbina's action is an extreme and unjustifiable response to fears about pretrial publicity. It is also difficult to square with long-standing Supreme Court decisions requiring that courtrooms be open unless there are extraordinary circumstances justifying closure.
[. . .]
It's appropriate for a judge to worry about the effect of prejudicial publicity. But the Supreme Court repeatedly has insisted that there are ways to minimize the effect of publicity without closing the courtroom or forbidding the media to report on what transpires there. For example, when it comes time to select the jury, candidates can be subjected to what the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger called "searching questioning ... to screen out those with fixed opinions as to guilt or innocence."
[. . .]
As for the revelation of secret grand jury material, to the extent that's a problem, the judge could close sessions in which such testimony was likely to play a part and release redacted transcripts later. But blanket secrecy is no more justified by a fear of disclosing grand jury testimony than it is by a concern about pretrial publicity.

Josh Gerstein (Politico) reports that attorneys representing the five Blackwater contractors in the case "are demanding that the U.S. government arrange armed security for the defense team as it heads into the dangerous streets of Baghdad to gather evidence and interview witnesses." Among the arguments the defense is making is that the prosecution will be relying on the efforst of the FBI which has visited Baghdad to meet with witnesses and compile evidence. Gerstein notes that, last month, "Judge Ricardo Urbina asked Defense Department General Counsel Jeh Johnson to consider the plea for help." As the FBI noted last December, a sixth Blackwater contractor entered a guilty please December 5th "to charges of voluntary manslaughter and attempt to commit manslaughter for his role in the Sept. 16, 2007 shooting at Nisur Square." At a press conference December 8th, US Assistant Attorney General Patrick Rowan declared, "While there were dangers in Baghdad in September 2007, there were also ordinary people going about their lives, performing mundane daily tasks, like making their way through a crowded traffic circle." In the press conference it was noted that "at least 14 persons" were killed and at least twenty were injured while and the five contractors were also alleged to be responsible for "assaulting but not injuring at least 18."

Nouri al-Maliki hid out in Syria for many years and Syria rejected efforts on the parts of the then-government in Iraq to extradite Nouri and many others. These days he's angry that Syria won't turn over Iraqis to the current government or 'government' in Baghdad. He thinks if he stomps his feet, Syria should immediately turn over approximately 200 Iraqis. When Black Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday, Gory Wednesday took place back in August, Nouri immediately attempted to utilize the Baghdad bombings to claim that Syria was enabling terrorism and that they must turn Iraqis over. This wasn't the first time the Nouri led government or 'government' in Baghdad had taken part in confrontations with Syria. Dropping back to the
October 27, 2008 snapshot:

Reuters reported that US and Iraqi officials were summed by the Syrian Foriegn Ministry following an attack which the Telegraph of London described as follows: "In an echo of the Israeli air strikes which last year targeted a suspected Syrian nuclear facility, US military helicopters were reported to have crossed into Syria to drop troops who then executed the mission.The state news agency Sana reported that eight civilians had been killed in the raid. 'Four American helicopters violated Syrian airspace around 16:45 local time (1345 GMT) on Sunday,' it said. 'American soldiers' who had emerged from helicopters 'attacked a civilian building under construction and fired at workmen inside, causing eight deaths. The helicopters then left Syrian territory towards Iraqi territory,' Sana said." Tony Perry (Babylon and Beyond, Los Angeles Times) wondered, "Was the weekend raid a way for the U.S. to warn the insurgents, and their Syrian cohorts, that although the U.S. is retreating from the border, it is still on watch and able to strike?" Today Ellen Knickmeyer and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explained, "U.S. attacks inside Syria are extremely rare, though the U.S. military has stepped up security along Iraq's border with Syria in recent months to stem the traffic of fighters and weapons into Iraq. U.S. officials say many insurgents, particularly suicide bombers, arrive in Iraq via the Syrian border." Reuters reports: "A deadly raid on the Syrian side of Iraq's border, blamed by Syria on the United States, targeted an area used by insurgents for attacks on Iraq, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said on Monday." CNN cites Sgt Brooke Murphy as one military spokesperson stonewalling: "Unfortunately, we cannot confirm anything at the moment." Borzou Daragahi and Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) explain, "In Washington, several military representatives who were asked about the operation did not deny that a raid had taken place. Although they would not confirm the attack, they used language typically employed after raids conducted by secretive special operations forces."

Reese Erlich and Peter Coyote (Vanity Fair) examine the attack. This is from their opening where they detail how bystander Akram Hamid ended up shot by US forces:

They display no markings of the Syrian Air Force, and they are the wrong color, painted black. He sees a B and a four. And they are flying low. When the door-gunners open fire, Hamid throws himself against the angled bank of the river. The men are shooting everywhere, firing from the air, spraying the ground.
Suddenly, the formation splits apart. Two helicopters hover just above the cinder-block walls that enclose a small farm, 300 feet away. One disappears inside the farm, and the last one lands about halfway between him and the wall. Eight men in uniform leap out and run quickly, crouching low, carrying weapons. They are not Syrians. They take cover farther up along the same bank, several hundred yards away.
Shells from the air are tearing out chunks of concrete, punching holes through the cinder blocks as if it were paper. The noise of the guns and motors is deafening. Hamid pulls himself along the rutted ground, peers fearfully over the edge of the bank, and slithers away, taking advantage of a lone tree for cover. He does not understand what is happening.
Some of the eight soldiers on the ground move forward and take up positions outside the high walls, but they don't seem to notice him. The hovering helicopters continue firing, tearing up the ground between him and the farm. "I thought it was safe because they didn't shoot at me," Hamid says later. After watching for about 15 minutes, he jumps on his bike to escape but, he says, "that's when they shot me." A bullet rips through his right arm, breaking it, mangling the muscles and nerves badly, and knocking him to the ground. Struggling to his feet, he sees the soldiers watching him as they climb into the helicopters and leave. "I was the last one they shot," he recalls. "No one was shooting at the soldiers," Hamid continues with certainty. "No one was shooting back."

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

Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 person and left another injured, a second Baghdad sticky bombing wounded four people, 1 Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, 1 Mosul roadside bombing left three people injured and a Diyala Province sticky bombing was an attack on Sahwa leader Sheikh Hussam Aziz and injured him and his driver.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that Wedensday night 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk and 3 people were shot dead in Mosul while today in Mosul 1 woman and her 6 children were shot dead by her husband (the children's father) who then took his own life and a Mosul armed clash resulted in 2 deaths (one police officer, one assailant). Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Mosul today.

In the US,
Courage to Resist notes that Iraq War resister Tony Anderson has been "released from the Ft. Sill stockade after serving a full year in prison for refusing to fight in Iraq" and quote Tony stating, "I know in my heart that it is wrong to willfully hurt or kill another human being. I simply cannot do it. I don't regret following my conscience. I know there must be consequences for my actions and I must accept this fact." And they note, "Please help Courage to Resist support the troops that refuse to fight with your urgently needed tax-deductible donation today. We also host a number of individual defense funds if you wish to contribute to a specific resister. Read more ." And Ms. magazine notes:

What does it mean that for the first time in U.S. history women are about to become the majority of U.S. paid workers?
Ms. is pre-releasing its
Fall feature article "Paycheck Feminism," that suggests some of the governmental policies that can and must change to meet the needs of women today.
Join Ms. NOW to get the rest of this exciting Fall issue delivered straight to your mailbox.
What will this historic milestone mean for government policies, our workplace, and our lives?
Tell us what you think.
Here is what you have told us so far: "Ratify CEDAW and make it illegal for men to be paid more than women for the same quality of work." - Julia from California
"Mandate that business provide 12 weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave" - Bridgette from Washington, DC
"We need to revive the 1980's discussion of comparable work and start a legislative imitative addressing this…" - Margo from Illinois
"Help lesbian women in the military by repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' … legalizing gay marriage… start[ing] a national ad campaign promoting equal distribution of household labor… lower[ing] the work week from 40 hours a week to 36 hours a week…" - Azzurra
"Single payer health care not attached to a job!" - Nora
"Finally, pass the ERA" - Jean from Washington, DC
Our Fall issue also includes Gloria Steinem's 75th - birthday wishes (true to Gloria, they are wishes for feminism's future!) and an original poem about Gloria by Alice Walker.
Make sure that you get this exciting and iconic issue of Ms.
For a Feminist Future,

joe galloway
roy gutman
sahar issa
al jazeera
inside iraq
jasim al-azzawi
the new york timesrod nordland
warren p. strobel
reutersthe los angeles times
del quentin wilberthe washington post
ellen knickmeyerernesto londonoborzou daragahijulian e. barnes

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Where it stands

"Backwards with Obama" (Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report):
The world is better off when an American president is obtuse, vulgar, uninformed and openly offensive. When such a person is in the white house, humanity has the common sense to be fearful. When a man resembling Alfred E. Newman spouts nonsense about “evil doers” and boasts “You’re either with us or against us” all but the most foolish know they should be very wary. Now that an American president talks nice, quotes the Koran when speaking to Muslim audiences, and claims to want to engage the world, he is able to do much, much worse than his predecessor ever dreamed.
For eight years many Americans and the rest of the world waited with baited breath for the day that Bush would leave Washington DC as a private citizen. Quite rightly, crowds serenaded him, singing “Hey, hey, hey, good-bye.” The happiness with which he was dispatched was justifiable, but the joy expressed at the coming of Obama was not.
Barack Obama has a unique ability to get the rest of the world to move backwards, even as he is praised for embracing a new vision of world unity and multilateralism.

The above is by Margaret Kimberley and I'm using it to talk about Black Agenda Report.

A number of us in the community, especially those of us who are Black or African-American, have been getting e-mails asking why we don't highlight?

There are a number of reasons and we're in a cooling off period right now while we decide if we want to pull the links or just ignore it?

Chief among the problems would be calling Joe Wilson a racist.

If Kimberley had done that, I'd just roll my eyes because, as my father's long pointed out, she's not real good with the facts. (And she's not.)

But this was from the top. And I read that and just thought, "Based on?"

I'm real damn sick of White people crying "racism" (allegedly on my behalf) every time Barack gets criticized. I'm not going to be a hypocrite and say, "Go Bruce Dixon! Go Glen Ford!" just because they're Black.

I will given them the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. I will throw it around in my head and see if there's any way, based on what happened, that I could call someone a racist?

In the case of Wilson we're supposed to believe "You lie!" is his 'confession.'

I don't buy it and that was like the last straw for me.

There's very real racism that we face without having to distract from reality with a bunch of garbage. Barack was called a liar. Boo-hoo. A man tried to throw two shoes at Bush and I didn't cry over that either.

Grow up.

I'm so sick of it.

And I'm sick of BAR. They're Black owned and operated but I don't feel they do enough for the Black community and I don't feel they do a damn thing for Black bloggers. Check out their list some time and ask where the 'independence' is on that list?

It's no where to be found.

That's not: Link to me!


That's, "Look at all that White people they're linking to."

They should be leading the list for links to Black bloggers and instead, they offer up a few and the most obvious (and watered down).

It's shameful.

If BAR was in charge of Black history, it would be hidden.

I'm also damn sick of about 100 other things to do with BAR these days; however, I'm not the angriest. We've discussed this, Black and African-American community members, and what we decided to do if we had a site was back off for a few weeks and then decide to delink or not.

So that's where it stands.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, October 21, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi Parliament still has not passed an election law, the issue was raised by the US Congress today, Congress has a problem getting the Defense Department to show them a draw-down plan, and more.

"Today the Committee meets to receive testimony on the status of the US Military Redeployment From Iraq: Issues and Challenges," explained US House Armed Services Committee Chair Ike Skelton this morning. The Committee heard from the Pentagon's Michele Flournoy, Vice Admiral James Winnefeld, Alan Estevez and Lt Gen Kathleen Gainey. Chair Skelton observed, "I don't think anyone on this committee thinks this will be the last hearing on this subject. We have been involved in Iraq for a long time, and I believe we will be involved there for a long time to come." In her opening remarks, Flournoy noted that

Michele Flournoy: Examples of the kinds of excess equipment that we intend to transfer to the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] are tool kits and sets, individual clothing and equipment items such as helmets and body armor and commercial trucks. We requested the authority to streamline the material process and transfer some non-excess equipment such as 9mm pistols, cargo trucks, airfield control and operations systems, M1114 up-armored HWMMVs and armored gun trucks. We would like thank the Committee for including this authority as it will help ensure that the ISF can fulfill their mission by the time US forces depart, an absolutely vital step toward the goal of a soverign, stable and self-reliant Iraq.

Meanwhile Vice Admiral James Winnefeld
made like Fatboy Slim. The original . . .

Fatboy Slim: We've come a long, long way together
Through the hard times and the good
I have to celebrate you baby
I have to praise you like I should-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d-d

The pale copy . . .

Vice Admiral James Winnefeld: Meanwhile the Iraqi Security Forces
which we'll refer to as "ISF"
have come a long way
since the security agreement was signed in November 2008.

Like most people, I prefer the original; however, it should be noted that both are creative -- even if only one is recognized as such while the other is treated as 'fact' by a cowed media.

Chair Ike Skelton: Back on July 22nd, Madame Undersecretary, we asked that the Department of Defense provide our committee with a copy of Up Forward 0901 which is, so the members will remember, the order that lays out the organizations and responsibilities for various functions and how the redeployment will work. Despite repeated requests, by our staff, of the Dept of Defense, that Up Forward 0901 has not been provided nor has their been a legal reason given for not providing it for us. Now we pass legislation based upon testimony, based upon briefings, based upon documents. And all of this goes together to put us in position to receive compliments like Admiral Winnefeld just gave us on putting out good legislation. But this one piece of legislation, which is highly important on redeployment from Iraq, thus far, unless you're willing to give it to us this morning, has not been furnished.

Michele Flournoy: Sir, I am -- we are quite happy to have -- to bring that O plan over to you to have staff brief you on the details --

Chair Ike Skelton: And you will leave it with us in our classified --

Michele Flournoy: And I regret that we were not more responsive to your request earlier. But what we'd like to do is come over and-and share it with you, brief you on it and we can work out the details of how it should be handled.

Chair Ike Skelton: Well the details are not just coming over and show it to us and then walk back with it.

Michele Flournoy: I understand.

Chair Ike Skelton: We are very responsible in this committee and responsible with classified material as you know.

Michele Flournoy: I understand. Right.

Chair Ike Skelton: It's some 400 pages long --

Michele Flournoy: [Overlapping] I understand.

Chair Ike Skelton: -- and come over and give us a rough look in 400 pages is pretty difficult. And we would expect full cooperation. And really, is there some reason? We really want to know --

Michele Flournoy: There is --

Chair Ike Skelton: I'm not trying to be difficult I just really want to know.

Michele Flournoy: There is no intention to keep the information from you at all and-and we want to be responsive to your requests.

Chair Ike Skelton: But that was July 22nd?

Michele Flournoy: I understand. I think it was recently brought to my attention and we want to make sure that we are responsive to your response as quick -- as soon as possible. I don't have it physically with me today but I can promise you that we will get it to you.

Chair Ike Skelton: You'll bring it over and leave it with us in a classified manner so we will have the time to go through the 400 pages? Is that correct?

Michele Flournoy: Yes.

Requested July 22nd and three months later still not provided. Why would the administration work so hard to avoid sharing the plan with Congress? And didn't the secrecy leave with George W. Bush? ("No" on the latter.)

Iraq still hasn't passed the election law. The one that was supposed to have been passed by Parliament no later than . . . last Thursday.
Jeff Mason (Reuters) reports that "Barack Obama urged Iraq on Tuesday to complete an election law so that a January poll is not delayed" and it didn't make a damn bit of difference. Iran's Press TV reports the Parliament took a pass again today and quotes Speaker of Parliament Iyad al-Samarrai, "The issue has failed and has been moved on to the Political Council for National Security." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) quotes al-Sammaraie stating, "Lawmakers felt they had reached a dead end and couldn't move forward any further so we are giving this to the political leaders." They are now 'planning' to vote on Monday . . . "if the council, comprising of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and the leaders of major political parties, make a proposal by Sunday." Laith Hammoudi and Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) report that Dawa Party member Ali al "Adeeb told McClatchy in a phone call that the Kirkuk issue is the main problem with the new law. He added that Arab and Turkomen want to use 2004 voter records, because those after the 2005 election reflect a large increase in the province's Kurdish population. The Kurdish bloc in the parliament, however, wants the province's representation to reflect that increase, which Kurds argue merely reverses Saddam's 'Arabization' campaign." Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports, "The United Nations envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, said further delays in passing the law may call into doubt not only the Jan. 16 election date, but also the credibility of the result." Melkert is quoted stating, "It is the collective responsibility of members of parliament to now rise to the occassion and be ready to account to the Iraqi people, who expect to exercise their right to express their preference in the upcoming elecitons." Rod Nordland (New York Times) adds, "The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission and United Nations elections experts have said Iraq needs at least 90 days to adequately prepare for the vote. Iraq's existing election law was declared unconstitutional by its highest court, which said it needs to be replaced or amended." Jane Arraf observes in "Discord as elections looms in Iraq" (Global Post):As Iraqi parliamentarians struggled over the past week with exactly how democratic they really want to be, it was telling that the brightest spot of democracy and certainly the savviest public relations campaign was playing out across town in Sadr City. Members of parliament for the past two weeks have been trying to pass an election law that would pave the way for national elections by the end of January, which are wanted by the voters and required by the Constitution. A vote Thursday became bogged down in a dispute over how voting would take place in Kirkuk, the city disputed by Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen and every other group that wants to lay claim to its oil and historic homelands. It stalled again on Monday.The delay has so alarmed both the U.S. and the U.N. that they've both issued statements urging parliament to get its act together and pass the law. The U.S. has been so fixated on the January elections that worry over the timing and type of elections has eclipsed the almost unspoken fear lurking in the background that elections done badly could be even more destabilizing than no vote at all.

The lack of an election law was raised during today's hearing.

Ranking Member Howard McKeon: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have this article that was written [by Oliver August] in the London Times yesterday. The title is "
Violence Threatens Barack Obama's pledge to pull troops out of Iraq." And what they're basically saying is that they're threatening to move back the election from January. The election can't be held until their Parliament passes an election law. And, uh, al Qaeda doesn't want to have an election. And they want to do what they can to disrupt it. [The top US commander in Iraq] General [Ray] Odierno feels that he needs to keep his troops there thirty to sixty days after the election to ensure a peaceful transition of government. Do you have any intelligence showing that -- or any feeling that the election is going to be postponed?

Michele Flournoy: Uh, let me start by saying, you know, the draw-down plan that we have, is conditions based and it creates multiple decision points for re-evaluating and, if necessary, changing our plans based on developments on the ground. Although the government of Iraq's self-imposed deadline of October 15th for passing the elections law has passed, we judge that the COR [Council Of Representatives] still has another week or two to come to some kind of an agreement on the elections law before it will put the January date -- the early January date -- in jeopardy in terms of the election commission's ability to actually physically execute the, uh, the election. If a new law with open lists is not passed, the fall back solution for them is to return to the 2005 election law which is based on a closed list system. But that could be used for upcoming elections, the COR would simply have to vote on an election date. If that law is not passed in the next two weeks, they will be looking at slipping the date to later in January which would still be compliant with the [Iraqi] Constitution but would be later than originally planned. In that instance, M-NF-I [Multi-National Forces Iraq] would need to engage with the government of Iraq to do some contingency planning on how to secure the elections at a later date and that might well have-have implications. But I just want to reinforce, right now, on the ground in Baghdad, here in Washington, just yesterday, our focus is on trying to stick to the current election timeline. The [US] President [Barack Obama] personally impressed upon Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki the importance of sticking to the Constitutionally specified timeline for the Iraqi elections and we are putting all of our diplomatic effort towards that end. That said, of course we will have contingency plans to adjust if necessary. But right now, we're using all of our diplomatic and other leverage to try to make sure the elections happen on time.

Ranking Member Howard McKeon: We won't be forcing General Odierno to withdraw our troops if they don't hold the election in a timely manner? We will still be flexible and allow him to keep the troops there? To provide the national security so they don't -- they don't put themselves at risk in trying to rush out in the couple of month period?

Michele Flournoy: The draw-down plan is not rigid. It is got -- it is conditions based, it leaves room for re-evaluation and adjustment in terms of the pace of the draw-down between now and the end of 2011 so, if need be, we will re-examine things based on conditions on the ground.

The above will shock a few. Especially those who, for example, foolishly believed Barack wanted all troops out and was promising that when he ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Barack made clear to the New York Times that everything was contingent and that he would send troops back in if there was a problem. Of course, the New York Times confused the issue with their write up of that interview (Tom Hayden got confused, for instance) and it was only if you read the transcript of the interview that you discovered what Barack was actually saying (when Hayden discovered that, he suddenly was alarmed but, like all of his alarms, it was a twenty-four hour, viral kind of alarm).

From the
November 2, 2007 snapshot

Though Obama says he wants "to be clear," he refuses to answer that yes or no question and the interview is over."
So let's be clear that the 'anti-war' Obama told the paper he would send troops back into Iraq. Furthermore, when asked if he would be willing to do that unilaterally, he attempts to beg off with, "We're talking too speculatively right now for me to answer." But this is his heavily pimped September (non)plan, dusted off again, with a shiny new binder. The story is that Barack Obama will NOT bring all US troops home. Even if the illegal war ended, Obama would still keep troops stationed in Iraq (although he'd really, really love it US forces could be stationed in Kuwait exclusively), he would still use them to train (the police0 and still use them to protect the US fortress/embassy and still use them to conduct counter-terrorism actions.

You can also see
Third's article and the actual transcript of the interview.

Or we could paraphrase Samantha Power (to the BBC in March of 2008) and offer that Barack can't be held, in 2011, to any promise he might make as a president in 2009 because things on the ground change. And though many work overtime to avoid that potential occurence, it was raised in the hearing today.

US House Rep Vic Synder: What if things really go badly in Iraq and President Obama who has already made the decision, he's already sent 17,000 additional troops has changed the leadership in Afghanistan and clearly is making Afghanistan a higher priority, what if he were to decide, in the Secretary's words, be flexible, we're going to have put troops back in? Uh, you say we have adequate capacity, we didn't. We didn't for six or seven years. If we had it, I don't know where they were but we didn't as a country respond to the need in Afghanistan. What assurance do we have adequate capacity should we decide that we need to return troops to Iraq.

Vice Adm James Winnefeld: I'd say right now our-our principal focus right now is to make sure that-that-that Iraq goes on the same trajectory that it's on and we don't have to confront that decision. And so far [. . .]

So far. So far. So far isn't a concrete state, now is it?

In one of the more interesting exchanges, Chair Skelton brought up an issue from the prepared statements that he found puzzling and it was interesting to watch as Flournoy fumbled and stumbled.

Chair Ike Skelton: Before I call on Mr. Hunted, Madame Under Secretary, let me add, on page six of the written [opening] statement furnished us, it says that "we have made contingent support of the Iraqi Security Forces contingent on their non-sectarian performance. Now, I suppose that means, contingent upon the Shi'ites not shooting Sunnis. How will this work? How will we make judgments on this? Have we placed any other conditions on future assistance? Tell us about it.

Michele Flournoy: Well, I think, this is something that we are in dialogue with the Iraqi government about and Iraqi commanders about on an ongoing basis. We are supporting the development of the ISF towards a certain objectives and one of those is a -- is making sure that the military is truly representative of Iraq, it's a national institution, it is not a tool that anyone individual or party or person in power can use for sectarian aims. We continue to monitor that. In many instances, we've had uh-uh many opportunities to work through specific issues and frankly the Iraqis have been very responsive over time on this point. They understand that the only way we can get the support here to support them is to demonstrate that truly are a non-sectarian institution. So we continue to bring that home at every level -- from the tactical all the way up to the headquarters to here in Washington when we have interactions.

Chair Ike Skelton: If we do see some sectarian performance, what do we do?

Michele Flournoy: Uh, generally what's happened is the ambassador [Chris Hill] and General Odierno have uh have gone -- have called the, uh, the government and the military on the issue, immediately gone in to discuss it with them and-and worked out remedial steps to either isolate a unit, to step in and deal with a situation and so forth. They've also taken very proactive initiatives such as to try to get the ISF, for example, and the [Kurdish forces] peshmerga much more closely in border areas where the two forces come up against each other. So I think that they've done both reactive steps and proactive steps but, again, we have seen -- you know, we've seen a decrease, a decline, in that kind of behavior over time, uhm, and so that is the good news. Something we need to continue to be watchful for but it's something that has been very well managed up to this point.

Chair Ike Skelton: If there is a severe sectarian act, at what point do we say, 'Sorry, we're out of here?'

Michele Flournoy: Well I, uh, again, I think, uhm, you -- you know, I don't want to speculate on what exactly could provoke that kind of thing. What-what I can say is we take it very seriously, we've taken it very seriously and

Chair Ike Skelton: Well the important thing is do they take it very seriously?

Michele Flournoy: They-they certainly understand when this is happen -- you know, in the instances this has happened, the reaction from us has been very swift and very clear and uhm it's had impact. So I don't think there's any question in the minds of the Iraqi government where our red lines are on this issue.

Let's zoom in on one section of that exchange:

Chair Ike Skelton: If there is a severe sectarian act, at what point do we say, 'Sorry, we're out of here?'

Michele Flournoy: Well I, uh, again, I think, uhm, you -- you know, I don't want to speculate on what exactly could provoke that kind of thing. What-what I can say is we take it very seriously, we've taken it very seriously and

You don't want to speculate? Interesting because I can't think of a single time when the United States government would be involved with another government known for human rights abuses and they would not stick a qualifier on it as in, "You do X and we pull our backing." Now "X" might be far after the point that I'd want the backing pulled, but there is always a line that will not be crossed and there is nothing speculative about it. So it's interesting that Flournoy wants to claim otherwise and what it really indicates is that the US government has no intention of pulling out for any reason. Her claims that, in the past, a 'scolding' led to changes is ridiculous. It was not a civil war in 2006 and 2007. I've used that term here myself and I've stated in the last twelve or so months that I was wrong on that. It was genocide. There were not two equal sides in that 2006 and 2007 conflict. There was an armed and funded side and there was the Sunni side. It was genocide, it was ethnic cleansing. And it only stopped because it 'worked' for the Shi'ites. Had it not worked, it would continue to this day. There was no desire on the part of Nouri to stop it because he was getting a scolding from the US and you really have to be in a child-like state (to put it nicely) to buy that or what Flournoy attempted to sell in that exchange.

Violence continued in Iraq today . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Kirkuk bombing which claimed the life of 1 journalist (cameraman) and wounded another. Reuters notes an Iskandariya bombing which left six people injured. Xinhua reports that twelve people were wounded in the Iskandariya bombing and that it took place "at a busy marketplace".


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 adult and 1 child were shot dead in Nineveh Province. Reuters notes that 2 people (parents of a police officer) were shot dead in Mosul.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi police officer was stabbed to death in Falluja.

Nouri al-Maliki continues his stay in the US.
Carl Azuz (CNN Student News) reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is visiting the U.S. this week, meeting with American leaders and taking part in a conference about his country's business opportunities. During yesterday's meeting with President Obama, the two talked about Iraq's economy, but they also discussed that nation's security situation. President Obama says he's committed to all U.S. troops leaving Iraq by the end of 2011. But both leaders are concerned about an increase in violence in Iraq and the possibility that the country's upcoming parliamentary elections could be delayed."

Two US service members have been announced dead in Iraq this week. One was Bradley Espinoza, the other was Daniel Rivera. Myrian Rivera is Daniel Rivera's mother and
she tells WIVB (link has text and video), "This war has to end . . . because they're little, they're kids. He's 22, he's a kid. They're kids dying." Susan Reimer (Baltimore Sun) reports on Peg Mullern who recently passed away and fought to find out why her son Michael died while serving. Reimer traces Peg Mullen's legacy on through Cindy Sheehan (mother of Casey Sheehan) and Marty Tillman (mother of Pat Tillman). Meanwhile Lauren DeFranco (WABC -- link has text and video) reports Christal Wagenhauser gave birth to a two month premature daughter and she and the family want Cpl Kieth Wagenhouser -- currently stationed in Iraq -- home to see the baby: "If the baby's condition deteriorates, it would take Wagenhauser a week to get home. At that point, it would be too late."

In the US yesterday, a twenty-year-old Iraqi woman was run over along with her 43-year-old friend.
James King (Phoenix News) reports that police are looking for the twenty-year-old's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, whom they supsect of running the two women down and that the alleged motive is that the daughter was "becoming too westernized." Katie Fisher (ABC 15 -- link has text and video) reports the 20-year-old woman is Noor Faleh Almaleki and her 43-year-old friend is Amal Edan Khalaf and the friend is also the mother of the twenty-year-old's boyfriend.

mcclatchy newspaperslaith hammoudi
the wall street journalgina chon
jane arraf
the new york timesrod nordland
lauren de franco
oliver augustthe times of london