Friday, December 04, 2009

The Dickless Bob Somerby

It's not even summer, but we got repeats. This is Bob Somerby Friday afternoon:

Reports of death threats and the ongoing role of despised minorities: As official Washington continued to shriek and wail about the deeply despised Salahis, Mark Sullivan, Secret Service director, testified yesterday before a House committee. In this morning’s Washington Post, Jason Horowitz reports the most interesting thing he said:
HOROWITZ (12/4/09): Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) wanted to know whether Obama faced a greater threat to his security than past presidents.
Sullivan said that published reports claiming that Obama faced a 400 percent increase in death threats were incorrect. "I'm not sure where that number comes from," he said. The number of threats against Obama, he said, "are the same level as it has been for the last two presidents.”
In the New York Times, Ginger Thompson keeps it short and sweet. Director Sullivan “said Mr. Obama had not received more death threats than any of his recent predecessors,” she writes. Our emphasis.

If you're thinking, "I already know that," of course you do! C.I. was at the hearing Thursday and reported on it in Thursday's snapshot.

You know what, I'm sick of Bob Somerby. We all hate his friend who is a pyscho from hell and belongs in an institution. But we drew a line -- because C.I. asked us to -- between the psycho perv and Bob Somerby. C.I. said to high road it and not hold Bob responsible for his drunken idiotic friend who can't stop making threats to this community or obsessing over Rebecca or C.I.

Now C.I.'s a mature person and set that aside and didn't blame Bob for it or use it to go after Bob or anything like that.

But the Asshole Bob will regularly 'discover' something C.I.'s already been on (several times last month) and never give credit.

I'm done being nice.

Bob Somerby knows a great deal. He also refuses to give credit and he regularly rips off C.I. Despite the fact that she's suffered non-stop abuse from his best friend, C.I.'s played it professionally. Bob Somerby can't say the same.

I'm done with him and in my parting shot to Bob The Dickless Somerby, I'll add, why don't you tell your readers now about how Joe Wilson was wrong? I'm referring to Valerie Plame's husband. Joe wasn't wrong. He was right.

But from the left, Bob ripped him apart day after day. Called him a liar, in fact.

Why did Bob do that?

This is why Bob really hates C.I.

Bob's best friend and buddy?

Matt Cooper. [12-8 corrected. Matt Cooper. Thanks to community member Marci who caught it and e-mailed me.]

The same Matt Cooper who lied for Karl Rove in Time magazine repeatedly. The same MattCooper involved in the outing of Valerie Plame.

That's Bob's friend.

That tells you all you need to know.

Mr. Disclosure probably should have revealed when he was writing daily attacks on Joe Wilson that he was being fed the attacks by his friend Matt Cooper. His friend Matt Cooper who would eventually face a grand jury summons for his role in Plamegate. Probably not a good idea to keep that from your loyal readers, Bob Somerby.

I will continue to highlight Hillary is 44 but I'm done now with Bob Somerby and all his rip-offs.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, the Iraq Inquiry continues in London and we learn that the US rules England -- long live Queen Barack apparently, NPR finds time to advance war with Judith Miller like claims while refusing to cover Iraq, and more.

Starting with NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show, the second hour where the panelists are Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times) which was a wealth of stupidity and lies. So many lies, so little time. Let's start with Barbara.

Barbara, grab your passport and, yes, Annie Grab Your Gun, and get your ass over there. Over where? Where ever it is from one moment to another that Barbra 'knows' Osama bin Laden is. Take your ass, take your gun and get the hell over there, Big Girl. Reality, Barbara Slavin doesn't know where Osama bin Laden is -- a point Diane Rehm should have made -- but it isn't it interesting that Barbara's claims support further war? And isn't that really the point of your claims, Barbara? You really want to be the next Judy Miller? Really? And what about you, Diane? You going to keep letting guests claim to know where Osama is and use that 'knowledge' to launch a verbal attack on a country? You going to do that? And delude yourself that you've informed the public? How very, very sad.

James Kitfield, I have heard repeatedly how I hurt your feelings when I pointed out that you needed to learn speak. Well boo-hoo cry baby. This time you actually finished a few sentences. But maybe you should return to your stammering half-sentences? You don't know what the hell you're talking about as usual. There's reality and then there's James Kitfield's reality. The paying off Sunnis (Sahwa, the "Awakenings," the "Sons Of Iraq") was not about getting people "off the fence." That's a bold face and ignorant lie. Then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and then-top US Commander in Iraq General David Petreaus testified publicly to Congress in April 2008. Where the hell were you, Kitty? What did they say? They said the US paid the Sahwa so that they would stop attacking American military equipment and US service members (they put the emphasis on military equipment in their testimony to the House and Senate). People who are attacking the US military equipment and US service member are not "on the fence." They have made a choice. You can agree with the choice or disagree with it but they are not "on the fence." Try knowing something before you open your mouth.

It was the third Friday show where Iraq was not addressed (in fairness, last Friday was a canned special and not the roundtable). Diane will claim otherwise. No, Iraq popped up as a 'historical' to compare Afghanistan to. Iraq itself was never discussed. Except for the last thirty seconds when Abderrahim Foukara was supposed to provide an 'update' -- in 30 seconds. As he spoke vaguely of whether "elections are going to happen or not" the audience was likely confused if Diane Rehm's show is their primary news source.

Diane Rehm listeners who hear only her show have no idea what's happened for two weeks now in Iraq. And when James Kitty Litter and others are lying about 'success' in Iraq, it damn well matters.

Diane and her guests need to grasp FAILED STATE is the only term for Iraq. FAILED STATE. Now Diane's listeners would know that if they knew there were not going to be January elections. But that topic has NEVER been addressed and the final 30 seconds Diane tossed to Abderrahim Foukara were confusing at best as he attempted to sum up the problems and, honestly, didn't do a very good job. But, in fairness to him, you can't in thirty seconds. You can't update her audience in thirty seconds. The last time The Diane Rehm Show discussed Iraq (a discussion is more than 30 seconds) -- FOUR FRIDAYS AGO -- the listeners were told that elections were a go. What were they told. Let's drop back to the
November 13th snapshot for a reminder of what listeners of Diane's show were told:

Susan Page: Roy Gutman, I know that you were reporting from Iraq last month. This week we hear that Iraq's Parliament finally has approved a law for its election in January. There had been a kind of stalemate before that.

Roy Gutman: Well there had been and it was a very damaging stalemate. If they hadn't approved the law by this point then you begin to have to predict the country going downhill rather quickly. Uhm, had they approved it a month ago, you could have said Iraq is almost heading towards a normalcy despite all of the violence. This kind of muddled middle that took a long time to decide actually is nevertheless huge progress. This election, uh, is in a way is going to create a new Parliament. There will be what they call open lists -- every parliamentarian or every person running for a seat uh will be named before the elections so it's possible for people to find out who they are and rather they have dual citizenship. You know I heard while I was there that as many as 70% of the Iraqi -- of the current Iraqi Parliament has dual citizenship. Many of them Iranian-Iraqi dual citizenship. So that-that part will end and it looks like -- they have an independent election commission, they run elections that I think, in comparison with Afghanistan, certainly in comparison with Iran, are going to look good, very clean. It's possible that this election could make a real big difference.

Is that possible? Not currently. There will be NO January elections. Diane's audience still doesn't know that, even after the 30 second update today. But there will be NO January elections. None. That's all fallen apart. Iraq is a FAILED STATE. It may hold elections at the end of Februrary, it may do it in March. It may do it later. But the reality is these elections were supposed to be held in December, mid-year Nouri kicked them back to January and the US wasn't alarmed by that. The Parliament and Nouri are legally no longer in office February 1st. By the Constitution, their terms are over. But they will remain in office, in violation of the Constitution, because they couldn't get it together to meet their Constitutionally mandated deadline. That's reality. It makes Iraq -- forget being ranked the second most corrupt state currently -- a FAILED STATE. When you can't follow your own Constitution for elections, when you can't meet a simple election deadline, you are a FAILED STATE.

And when your show tells listeners that Iraq elections are a go four Fridays ago and then they aren't a go, you do a damn update. In four weeks, you've got more than enough time to do an update. If you don't make the time for it, that's telling something about you and what passes for journalistic standards on your program.

FAILED STATE. The only term for it and though Diane Rehm avoids it, the US State Dept is in the midst of a major spin operation. Tariq al-Hashemi vetoed the law that Roy Gutman was discussing above. As one of the three members of the presidency council (he's one of the country's two vice presidents), he has that right (not explained in the 30 seconds on Diane's show today). The response to the veto from Parliament (not touched on at all) was to offer a counter-proposal which stripped seats from Sunnis and gave them to Kurds and a few of Iraq's minority population (ethnic and relegious). al-Hashemi is not pleased, nor are Sunnis. At present, the UN and Iraq's independent election commission (also not discussed on Diane's show today) say elections might be able to happen at the end of February or the start of March if Iraq can get a law in place.

Yesterday, the US State Dept's Rachel Schneller contributed "
Avoiding Elections At Any Cost" at the Council of/on/for Foreign Relations. In this piece of spin, Schneller tries to stamp Happy Faces all over the disarray:

But the derailing of the election law may not be as bad as it sounds. The version approved by the governing council actually could have triggered greater instability in Iraq. Not only could corruption and fraud call the results and a new Iraqi government into question--even if Iraqi elections are free, fair, and uncontested--the new election law could lead to troubling divisions over oil revenues. The law has created conditions for even greater Kurdish control over Kirkuk and oil resources in northern Iraq. Other oil-rich regions of Iraq, such as the largely Shia south, will also have a basis to agitate for oil revenues to flow to regional governments. With the Iraqi central government still relying on oil for more than 90 percent of its national budget, the long-term viability of the country is called into question even if elections signal short-term success. The Sunni minority in Iraq, facing ever more desperate political and economic conditions in Iraq, is likely to resort to increasingly desperate measures to ensure survival as they face another round of elections where they could lose further seats in parliament.

Schneller calls for the US to stop pressing Iraq to put through an Iraq law. Schneller calls for? A US State Dept employee calls for the US to stop doing something?

Are you laughing? How stupid do they think everyone is? The State Dept knows they have no power on this issue (Iraqi MPs tried to block US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill from the Parliament in November) but they need to spin it and along comes Rachel Schneller to 'advocate' for the US not to 'pressure' when, in fact, the US has no power to pressure on this issue as has been repeatedly demonstrated in the last weeks.

Is it a good thing, as Schneller argues in her spin, that the election law has not yet gone through? If this were October, it might be. But this is December. And Iraqi elections are Constitutionally mandated to take place in January. That's not blaming al-Hashemi for any of this. He has the right to veto and he used that right and did so, according to his public stated remarks, for valid reasons: Concerns that Iraq's refugee community was being under-represented. He did what he did and he's stated why he did it. But to spin this, as the State Dept is attempting, as a good thing is a HUGE STRETCH to the point that the truth just broke apart.

FAILED STATE. Iraq's installed government always knew that elections had to take place no later than January. That's why they were supposed to take place in December. After the elections take place, it will take weeks for the ballots to be counted and weeks for process to go through -- as has happened with every election held in Iraq since the start of the 2003 war. This is known. It is known that the Parliament and the Prime Minister's term expires at the end of January 2010. Is known and was known. And yet the Constitution is going to be 'bent' (thwarted) and al-Maliki will get to serve additional days. How many? Who knows. But everytime you treat your highest law of the land as something you can ignore, you set a dangerous precedent.

It is a FAILED STATE and the State Dept needs to stop embarrasing itself by sending Rachel Schneller out to spin it. There is no way to spin the Constitutional crisis -- that's what it is -- that Iraq's currently going through. That's true if Iraq's passes a law tomorrow. They are in a Constitutional crisis. They have disregarded their Constitution. That's the reality.

Reality is also that an Iraq Inquiry continues in London and reality is that Diane Rehm listeners don't know that because the show never tells them. Despite all the revelations, Diane's show has ignored the inquiry. From today's
Free Speech Radio News:

Dorian Merina: The British government continues its inquiry into its role in the Iraq War. The inquiry, which began last week, showed that senior diplomats had doubts about the legality of the war. This week, Tony Blair's former foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning testified. Panel members asked about the controversial Crawford Ranch meeting, during which some speculate former US President George W. Bush convinced Blair to support an invasion of Iraq regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction were discovered.
FSRN'S George Lavender reports.

George Lavender: The five person commitee of inquiry, selected by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, is chaired by Sir John Chilcot, a career civil servant.

John Chilcot: My colleagues and I come to this task with open minds. We are apolitical. We are independent of any political party. And we ought to examine and rely on the evidence.

George Lavender: Despite assurances that the inquiry is impartial, the committee includes prominent supporters of the war. Among them Sir Lawrence Friedman, a former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair. Nadji Mahmoud is an Iraqi political activists in the south of the country.

Nadja Mahmoud: I watched the news on Iraqi TV channel sattelite it's an inquiry that comes from the establishment, it's not outsiders that want to do this inquiry. Iraqi people don't put a lot of of hope on the results.

[. . .]

George Lavender: In a small room near the Houses of Parliament the panel heard evidence last week from senrior government officials and diplomats that regime change in Iraq was supported by many in Washington even before 2001.

Christopher Meyer: There is a more of a continuum here with previous administrations before George W. then maybe the Democratic and Republican party would be willing to admit.

George Lavender: Former Ambassador to the United States, Christopher Meyer, testified on the third day of the hearings.

Christopher Meyer: So sometimes people say to me, well, it was the nutiers, the right-wingers, the neocons who invented regime change. Absolutely wrong.

George Lavender: The panel asked Meyer when the British governement became committeed to the policy of regime change? He speculated that Tony Blair and George W. Bush reached an agreement on taking that action almost a year before the war started.

Christopher Meyer: To this day, I'm not exactly clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at-at the Crawford Ranch.

George Lavender: For many antiwar activists the inquiry lacks credibility. Witnesses may be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for testimony and are not under oath. In setting up the inquiry, Gordon Brown also made it clear it would not apportion blame. For many Iraqis, the inquiry is inconsequential. Again, Nadja Mahmoud.

Nadja Mahmoud: I think what the Iraqi people are really concerned about is not what the Iraq Inquiry is going to find out. They are really concerned about their daily life, about security, about jobs. It is chaos here, it is a mess here and people really care about these things.

George Lavender: Violence has increased in the country in advance of government elections last month [October] more than 155 people were killed in two car bombings in Baghdad in the deadliest attack since 2007. The panel will also hear from both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. It's expected to publish a final report at the end of 2010. George Lavender,
FSRN, London.

Staying with the inquiry, which heard from British Maj Gen David Wilson, from Dominic Asquith and from Lt Gen Anthony Pigott today.
Click here for video and transcript options.

Maj Gen David Wilson testified today about being at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood at the start of the Afghanistan War and serving "as a conduit for communication between the operational level heaquarters, Central Command, commanded by General Tommy fRanks, and the permanent headquarters at Northwood, a conduit for information" on Afghanistan. He stated he was kept in the dark and "not made aware" of any plans on Iraq.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: When did this change? When did Iraq come within the argument?

Maj Gen David Wilson: It did change. It changed in the latter part of June of 2002 and it changed very suddenly from where I sat in Tampa. The change was signalled by what was then the draft planning order for Iraq, early stage work, being authorised to be sent to the Permanet Joint Headquarters and that is what happened. Soon thereafter, there was a high level team visit led by General Sir Anthony Pigott, which I was invited to join and he spoke to that this morning, when they closed in Washington and then came down to Tampa. So the first -- it is almost a defining moment this, in a way. This is when, not just we, the British, but also, I understand, the Australians, were made privy to the planning that had gone to that point by the US.

Committee Member Martin Gilbert: In addition to being made privy to the planning, at what point were you asked by the United States, what questions of the possibility of integrating British forces into the overall American plan, when did this become, if it did become, a question of discussion?

Maj Gen David Wilson: That comes later, and we can -- I will certainly speak to that, of course, and that takes us into the beginning of August, when we had -- when the United Kingdom had received an invitation from Central Command to attend the whole, as opposed to half, which is what we had done previously, of the two-day programme. This -- I can't remember exactly when the invitation went out, some time in July, and the -- after debate -- whatever discussion in London, I was instructed that -- I pulled a long straw, or the short straw, depending on your perspective, and I was going to step up as the representative and I was going to say words that were produced for me, helpfully, which I received the day before I was due to get on my feet.

Wilson went on to testify of things he learned later such as that US Gen Tommy Franks came up with "a commader's concept for military action in Iraq" at "the end of November 2001" and had done that at the request of the then US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. There was a 1998 plan that Rumsfeld was not happy with because it called for a large number of US forces.

Maj Gen David Wilson: What General Franks determined very early, as I understand it, was that whatever he and the team at CentCom came up with, it needed to have three dimensions to it. It needed, if you like, a robust option; in other words, all the enablers fell into place within the AOR. The countries that were required provided the staging, the basing, the overflight, the three critical enablers that he needed to project force. So a robust option. Reduction option, as it would sound: they didn't all sign up; and then his worst case option was the unilateral 'go it alone'. He did see that was the worst case option.

Half-way into the testimony, an important question was raised.

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: What I'm interested in is, as you are having these discussions, if I was an American planner, it could get a bit irritating after a while to say, "Well, hypothetically, this is the sort of thing the Brits might do." At some sense you would want to firm this up. How was that happening? Were we able to go a little bit beyond a hypothesis or was it, "This may well happen, although we can't actually confirm it at the moments"?

Maj Gen David Wilson: I understand your question. I said, in answer to an earlier question, that the Americans were pragmatic, accomodating and very flexible. I was never put on the spot, if I can put it as crudely as that. I was never brought in at any level and they said, "Look, what's going on?" They know what's going on, they knew what was going at that level because it was my job to make sure they did, that we were in a process, we were in permissions and authorities, and they knew very well indeed that no commitment could be made until the process moved forward.

That was a less than complete answer as anyone paying attention grasped. Minutes afterwards, he would explain, regarding the US hopes that the British might be able to provide support in northern Iraq, "As I mentioned to you, on 2 August I spoke to the northern option and I, under direction, floated the notion that if everything was to fall into place, there might be a tract or we might be . . ." He wasn't put on the spot because he was always providing that reassuring float.
Matthew Taylor (Guardian) covers Lt Gen Anthony Pigott's testimony noting that he stated that "Britian committed a large land force to the invasion of Iraq in an attempt to buy influence with the United States."

Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: Well, you know the US/UK, Mil/Mil relationship, you would enhance that no end by offering this sort of option that eventually was selected. You would enahnce it no end, and that's a pretty important relationship politically -- I'm talkin gon the Mil side -- where we have enormous access and enormous say in a whole range of things, not just to do with Iraq, but with other things, because they know you are a serious player and they know you have got . . . I put that right up at the front of -- at the heart of the UK/US Mil/Mil relationship, required from a military perspective a -- hence it coming through from the military perspective, something meaty to do, and if there wasn't anything meaty, then we weren't really -- it was a long way to go to do nothing -- you know, meaty.

Commitee Member Roderic Lyne: So it was good for our standing, it was good for our relationship, but they didn't actually --

Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: Good for future links on future operations, it's good for sharing intelligence --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So it has some broader benefits --

Lt Gen Anthony Pigott: -- it helps with logistics --

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: -- but they didn't actually pay attention to our advice on how these big issues should be handled in the campaign? They didn't put in enough boots on the ground, they didn't plan properly for the aftermath, as Lord Boyce told us yesterday, despite our advice to the contrary.

Back to Taylor who quotes the coldest comment by Pigott, "You buy that on your contribution and your willingness to put ‑ not just boots on the ground ‑ [but] people in danger." Lives were traded for influence, to be 'let in the game.' It's cold blooded and you got your tip off on that yesterday. We noted this exchange in yesterday's snapshot:

Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Can you say something a bit more about this question of influence as a factor in British military planning? Because it is assumed that if we had just gone for the package 2, which would not have been a trivial thing, which would have been quite a substantial commitment by the UK, that that would not have brought influence? After all, the Australians didn't provide that much, but they seem to have got a certain amount of influence and kudos with the Americans from what they did. We're a different sort of power to the Australians, but is there a direct relationship between the size of force and the amount of influence?

Michael Boyce: I am not sure the Australians did have any influence. They certainly got a lot of kudos from the Americans and we were very grateful for their contribution. I don't think they were as heavily involved in the planning process as we were. Also -- although you might say the final outcome didn't indicate it -- we had quite a lot of influence with regards to what was called Phase 4, all the aftermath planning as well, as a result of the size of our contribution.

Freedman whines, "We did! We did! We did this! But the Australians didn't do anything! Why didn't we have more influence!!!!" That exchange was telling yesterday and it only became more so today. As Tony Blair's foreign advisor, Freedman's singing his own blues. He apparently isn't pleased with the arrangement he advised on -- the one that sent British soldiers into an illegal war so that the UK could get a closer to the US.

Mark Stone (Sky News) reports:

The third witness to appear revealed perhaps the most interesting lines today. Dominic Asquith was the director for Iraq at the Foreign Office from 2004 to 2006 before becoming ambassador to Baghdad during 2006 to 2007.
He said that inter-departmental co-ordination within the UK was good but that the funding given to the post-invasion effort in Iraq was not.
"The direction was that this was a high priority but we weren't being given the extra resources to deliver..... It was left to Whitehall departments to put the case to the Treasury for resources to cover this to which the answer was 'There are no resources'."

Michael Savage (Independent of London) adds to that, "Political tensions were so great in the years following the invasion that Iraqi politicians told him that only the heavy presence of international troops stopped the newly formed government in Baghdad from being toppled." Opinions on the inquiry vary. We'll note two, one pro and one con. Richard Ingram (Indpendent of London) observes:

It's supposed to be an inquiry but there's not much sign of any inquiring going on. I have been studiously following reports of the current investigation into the Iraq war and have even seen bits of it on television and I have yet to read or see a single case of any of the five-strong panel asking a question of those giving evidence. One by one the civil servants and the army generals queue up to say their piece and that's about all there is to it.
The lack of probing questions ought not to surprise us given the composition of the panel, all of them with close links to the political establishment. One of them, our old friend Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, pictured, of King's College London, provided further evidence of this when during Tuesday's session he volunteered the information that he had "instigated" a pre-war seminar for Blair to discuss Iraq because, he said, "I was aware of misgivings among some specialists in Iraq about the direction of policy". He added that this was "my only direct engagement in Iraq policy making". We were not told how a professor of history came to be in a position to organise such a seminar for the Prime Minister, nor, for that matter, whether there might have been some indirect engagements subsequently on the part of Freedman.
This hitherto unreported seminar is further proof of Sir Lawrence's close links to Blair. We already know that he provided the bones of a speech Blair made in Chicago in 1999 justifying the military intervention in rogue states. Later, in a TV interview, Freedman spoke of the "rather noble criteria" which lay behind the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
In a more scrupulous society than that in which we nowadays live there would be calls for Professor Freedman to resign from the inquiry.

While Peter Biles (BBC News) argues, "The Iraq inquiry has produced another week of compelling evidence. We are beginning to understand how and why Iraq ended up in such a parlous state after the 2003 invasion. A number of witnesses have pointed a finger of blame at the United States for the chaos that ensued." Biles go on to insist upon a coherent war plan being needed before the war started. A few snapshots back, I noted how a number of British government witnesses were hiding behind Condi Rice's skirt and, in some cases, distorting her. This week, they've moved on to Donald Rumsfeld. Now Conid and Rumsfeld need to be answerable for their actions, no question. But, help me out here, because I guess my history is rather loose.

As I understood it, the American Revolution was fought with the British so that what is now the United States would not be under British rule. As I understood it, that meant that Americans were free from British rule but I did not understand the American Revolution to mean that British was under American rule.

Did I miss that? Did I fail to grasp reality?

Point: This is embarrassing. British government officials and now military persons are testifying over and over about how they wish Donald had done this or Condi wanted that and blah, blah, blah. The US does not rule Great Britian. Tony Blair's government made its own decision to get into the Iraq War. There's no point in blaming the US for that and it is past time that the inquiry got serious and started correcting witnesses who want to push blame for decisions made by the British government off on the US government. Bush's administration was nothing but War Criminals. I don't deny it. But Tony Blair's a War Criminal as well and it's really interesting to watch all these War Criminals in England insist that the Holy Doofus Bush managed to outwit and enslave them. They have yet to take accountability for their own actions which led England into an illegal war.

In related news,
Tim Shipman and David Jones (Daily Mirror) report, "Tony Blair and George Bush were orchestrating a witch-hunt against Saddam Hussein that ended with the Iraq War, according to a former UN weapons inspector. Hans Blix said the two leaders behaved like 17th century witchfinders in their willingness to oust the dictator." The Daily Mail notes the Iraq Inquiry has not called Blix to testify which is rather strange and adds, "Most alarmingly, Dr Blix reveals that, after he made a speech to the UN asking for more time to complete his work, he received a phone call from Mr Blair. The Americans had been deeply disappointed by Dr Blix's contribution, the Prime Minister said, in a clear attempt to bounce him into backing the war."

Staying in London a bit more,
Amnesty International (UK) issued the following earlier this morning: 17 women among those set to die with fears government is 'playing politics' Iraq is preparing to execute hundreds of prisoners, including 17 women, warned Amnesty International today, as it issued an 'urgent action' appeal to try to prevent the deaths. The 900-plus prisoners have exhausted all their appeals and their death sentences are said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council, meaning that they could be executed at any time. Amnesty supporters are contacting Iraqi embassies around the world, including that in London, in a bid to stop the executions. The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are likely to have been sentenced after unfair trials. The 17 women are thought to include a group known to have been held on death row at the 5th section (al-Shu'ba al-Khamissa) of Baghdad's al-Kadhimiya Prison. Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: 'This is a staggering number of people facing execution and the fact that the government may be playing politics over these cases is truly frightening. 'Wholesale use of the death penalty was one of the worst aspects of Saddam Hussein's regime and the present government should stop aping his behaviour. 'Instead of sending nearly a thousand people to a grisly death by hanging, the Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and impose an immediate death penalty moratorium.' Iraqi media reports suggest that the Iraqi government is currently trying to present itself as 'tough' on crime ahead of national elections scheduled for January. Iraqi opposition politicians have expressed concern that executions may be carried out to give the ruling party a political advantage ahead of the elections, and there have been calls for the government to temporarily suspend all executions. Amnesty is warning that Iraq's use of capital punishment is already spiralling. At least 120 people are known to have been executed in Iraq this year, greatly up on the 34 executions recorded during 2008. Iraq is now one of the world's heaviest users of the death penalty. After the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, Iraq's subsequent reintroduction of capital punishment led to a rapid acceleration in death sentences and executions. Despite this, and contrary to some claims made by the Iraqi authorities, use of the death penalty has not seen a drop in crime levels in the country, with rises and falls in insurgency violence having no discernible relation to execution rates.

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


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing which left five people wounded and a Mosul bombing in which 1 person was killed and a second was wounded.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Turkman Hazim Akbar was shot dead by unknown assailants in his Salahuddin Province home. Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Kirkuk.


Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk.

Turning to TV,
NOW on PBS debuts its latest episode tonight on most PBS stations and this one examines: As Congress hammers out legislation that will determine the future of health care in this country, NOW travels to the nation's heartland to see what reform could mean for the middle class. On Friday, December 4 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa meets two tight-knit Oklahoma families whose problems with private health insurance left them unable to get proper medical care -- and on the brink of financial ruin. One of those families - the O'Reillys -- grapples with the issue of how to cover needed respiratory therapy treatment for their eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who was denied coverage for what the insurance company labeled a "pre-existing condition.""People pretty frequently say, 'Oh, you know, my plan works great for me'," says Sophie's mother Natalie O'Reilly." And my answer to that is -- insurance works really well until you need it. Until you really, truly need it." Washington Week also begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the roundtable are Michael Duffy (Time), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Martha Raddatz (ABC News). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Irene Natividad, Tara Setmayer and Wendy Wright 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: The Zone Geoffrey Canada's remarkable experiment in inner-city education, the Harlem Children's Zone, has helped put historically low-achieving students in New York City on academic par with their grammar-school peers. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports. Watch Video [here] Personal Foul Disgraced ex-NBA referee Tim Donaghy speaks for the first time about betting on pro basketball games, his Mafia involvement and subsequent prison term. Bob Simon reports. (This is a double-length segment.) Watch Video 60 Minutes, Sunday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

That's it. We'll try to grab Iraqi press issues next week along with other issues. Thank you to the Iraq Study Group at
Trina's (put together sometime ago by Mike and his friends) who gave an hour tonight for me to go over the Iraq Inquiry and then thirty more minutes stating what they felt should be emphasized from that. There was a great deal to cover and without their help, I wouldn't have been able to narrow it down. Thank you.

iraqsky news
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bbc newsthe guardian
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Thursday, December 03, 2009

NOSW -- the National Organization for Some Women

Two days ago Barack Obama exploited U.S. Military Academy at West Point cadets as stage props for a publicity stunt. As of today confusion reigns over Obama’s escalation to retreat speech. Yesterday, testifying before the Armed Services Committee, Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates (as well as Admiral Mullen of the Joint Chiefs) stated that the troop draw down Obama proclaimed to start on July 2011 was less definite than advertised. Hillary Clinton specifically stated “I do not believe we have locked ourselves into leaving.”
Senator Lindsey Graham stated after the hearing, “Secretary of State Clinton said we’re not locked into withdrawing, which is music to my ears and I think will be bad news for the enemy. I hope that’s the final answer.” Senator Graham’s hopes were immediately dashed.
Chip Reid of CBS News, having heard the testimony by Hillary Clinton and Bob Gates as well as the “not locked in” that Senator Graham heard, asked Robert Gibbs at a White House briefing “if senators were incorrect calling the date a ‘target’”.
After the briefing, Gibbs went to the president for clarification. Gibbs then called me to his office to relate what the president said. The president told him it IS locked in – there is no flexibility. Troops WILL start coming home in July 2011. Period. It’s etched in stone. Gibbs said he even had the chisel.
Lindsey Graham will not be happy.
Two days after a major speech and confusion reigns supreme. Obama needs to lose his job.

Mr. Pretty Words, pretty empty, if you ask me.

I'm so tired of Barry O and his Celebrity Voyage.

And I'm tired of 'helpful' e-mails from people who think I 'missed' something. Such as ___ who e-mails to tell me NOW is having a sale to benefit their organization.

Oh goody!!!!

Why the hell would I give a damn?

I was willing to give NOW the benefit of the doubt. They had gotten rid of Kim Gandy. Her hand picked successor had not been installed.

But the new president refuses to call out the sexist treatment against Sarah Palin and wants to say that there's sexism everywhere.

Well duh.

And it's not going away until you call it out.

Remember it's really NOSW -- the National Organization for Some Women.

So, no, I didn't miss their sale and I'm not highlighting them.

I'm sick of this s**t. It is not okay when women are targeted with sexism.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, December 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the inhumane and criminal counter-insurgency suffers a highly public rebuke, the election stalemate continues in Iraq, the Iraq Inquiry in London brings lots of chatter about Donald Rumsfeld but very little about John Howard, All Things Media Big and Small gets spanked by the Secret Service but watch everyone pretend that didn't happen, and more.

Starting with the topic of counter-insurgency, war on a native people, Monday, David Price explained in "
Human Terrain Systems, Anthropologists and the War in Afghanistan" (CounterPunch):

Today, in Iraq and Afghanistan, anthropologists are being told that they're needed to make bad situations better. But no matter how anthropological contributions ease and make gentle this conquest and occupation, it will not change the larger neocolonial nature of the larger mission; and most anthropologists are troubled to see their discipline embrace such a politically corrupt cause.Human Terrain Systems is not some neutral humanitarian project, it is an arm of the U.S. military and is part of the military's mission to occupy and destroy opposition to U.S. goals and objectives. HTS cannot claim the sort of neutrality claimed by groups like Doctors Without Borders, or the International Committee of the Red Cross. HTS's goal is a gentler form of domination. Pretending that the military is a humanitarian organization does not make it so, and pretending that HTS is anything other than an arm of the military engaging in a specific form of conquest is sheer dishonesty.

American Anthropological Association's annual meeting started yesterday in Philadelphia and continues through Sunday. Today the association's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities issued their [PDF format] "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program." The 74-page report is a blow to War Criminals and their cheerleaders who have long thought that the social science could be abused or that the social sciences were psuedo sciences. It was in December 2006 when Dumb Ass George Packer raved over Dumb Ass Montgomery McFate and her highly imaginative and fictional retelling of both her childhood and her current work which Packer identified as "Pentagon consultant" working on Cultural Operations Research Human Terrain. Packer was jizzing in his shorts and not even warnings from other anthropologists ("I do not want to get anybody killed") could sway him.

By the time she showed on up the
October 10, 2007 broadcast (link goes to October 11, 2007 snapshot) of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Monty was being billed as "senior advisor to the US Army." Monty lied throughout the broadcast and most infamously when she insisted that Afghans or Iraqis can tell the difference between "a lethal unit of the US military and a non-leathal unit of the US military". David Price of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists offered reality during the broadcast by raising the issue of David Rohde's "Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones" (New York Times) and explaining it "talks about an anthropologist I think named Tracy and that's the only name that's given. So anthropologists need to be transparent about who they are and who they're working for. . . . But I worry how transparent the program is if the people who are doing it aren't being self-identified? Now the story says it's being done for security reasons and so on. But if you go to the New York Times story and look at the nifty, little video they have -- you know backing the story, it's very strange because they don't show the anthropologist -- they intentionally withhold the person's identity. Yet they show all these people who are talking to the anthropologist which of course they're doing so at some personal risk, one would assume, in Afghanistan. And I worry about any sort of program where there's a one-way mirror that's going on."

Susan Page: . . . there was a New York Times article last week which actually prompted us to do this show today. And it did talk about this anthropologist named Tracy, but it wasn't clear to me, Montgomery McFate maybe you know, whether her [full] name was just not disclosed to the New York Times article, or if her full name is not being disclosed to the people she's interatcing with in Afghanistan. Do you know -- do you know the answer to that.

Monty [quick intake and slow first word -- always a clue Monty's inventing -- seriously, that was evident when she was a child]: Her name was held from the New York Times story and in other media that's come out of Afghanistan at her own request.

Susan Page: But does she give her [full] name to the Afghanis that she's talking with.

Monty: Yes, she does.

Remember that moment in Annie Hall when Annie (Diane Keaton) and Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) are in line for movie tickets and the man behind them can't shut up about Marshall McLuhan and Alvy confronts him? And pulls McLuhan over? And McLuhan declares, "I heard what you were saying. You know nothing of my work. You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything it totally amazing."? Well a moment like that happened to Monty with her being the blowhard who got corrected. Monty was swearing that the woman identified herself and gave her full name and did this and did that and blah blah blah. And then David Rohde, who wrote the New York Times article, joined the conversation.

David Rohde: Um, she was transparent with them. I don't think she gave her full name, I think she does identify herself as an anthropologist. I saw her briefly, but I don't know what she does at all times. She personally, um, actually chose to carry a weapon for security that's not a requirement for members of the team, I've been told. And she wore a military uniform which would make her appear to be a soldier, um, to Afghans that she wasn't actually speaking with.

Susan Price: And so you think Aghans knew that she wasn't a soldier even though she was wearing a military uniform and carrying a weapon? Or do you think that they just assumed that she probably was?

David Rohde: I would think that they assumed that she was.

Poor stupid Monty. Counter-insurgency is war on a people. It has been used in many wars and it is not a tactic of peace nor is it anything an ethical person should take part in. That is not a controversial statement to anyone old enough to remember Vietnam or any war further back. But, in the US, whether you want to cite Spengler or make comparisons to Sisyphus, we are a culture put together each dawn with very little historical recall. Which is how Monty McFate and others have been able to market their inhumane acts as a 'science.' Others include A Problem From Hell: Samantha Power. And, of course,
Sarah Sewall who played Peppermint Patty to Monty's Marci on Charlie Rose in 2007. For the record, those three and many other counter-insurgency gurus advised Barack Obama during his presidential campaign and/or advise him today. (Yes, despite the fact that Monty's sister was a government spy who spied on peace groups. Or maybe because of.) These War Criminals use their training and the science but do not adhere to any of the ethics of their profession which does include, but it not limited to, full disclosure.

The report released today notes, "Responding to concerns raised about this program, in the fall of 2007 the AAA's Executive Board released a statement on HTS [Human Terrain Systems], in which it expressed its disapproval and concluded the program to be 'an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise'." The report states that by April of this year there were 417 HTS employees. (There have been some reductions since then.) Of that group, only six had PhD in anthropology and only 47 others had masters in the field. The report notes, "It is important to indicate, based on this, that despite the attention given to the central role of anthropology in the program, the great majority of present HTS employees have been trained and hold degrees in other fields of the social sciences and elsewhere." The report notes:

Training in "research methods" for HTTs is notable insofar as it combines what appears to be field-based social scientific data collection (e.g. use of ethnography of the anthropological sort) with instrumental or soft power goals of "shaping the environment." This raises a number of concerns regarding the separability, and so ethics, of the research component from the strategic, tactical, and operational goals of military decision-makers, and the role of HTT activities with respect to the goals of these decision-makers. Such an emphasis upon "rapid ethnographic research," too, suggest an apt comparison of HTTs with other anthropological modes of data collection of the rapid appraisal and assessment sort, which are typically carried out over weeks or months, and which are commonplace in the world of international development, among other applications.

The report explains that the social science methods to increase knowledge of people and cultures are used instead to push military objectives and that is not independent research nor is it what the social sciences exist for. Nor do the social sciences exist to provide targets for the military but some speaking to HTTs may be targeted by the military. This is especially a concern when HTTs turn over raw data to the military but it is a concern regardless especially due to the devices the military issues them.

Some anthropologists voiced criticisms that assert the inherently political nature of HTS as a facilitator of counterinsurgency. These critiques connect HTS to historical instances in which anthropological field techniques and theories were used to subjugate native peoples in colonial and neocolonial campaigns. Identifying participants in HTS with such terms as "technicians of power," these critics pointedly situate the activities of HTS in the context of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, often described as neo-colonial wars of occupation "in the service of empire." Ethical and political critiques are sometimes kept distinct and sometimes made together. If CEAUSSIC's 2007 Report distinguished ethics from politics, and focused on the former, the political character of many critical reactions to HTS has to be acknowledged. If HTS advocates stress the "reduction of harm" by the use of embedded HTS social scientists, anthropological critics reject such arguments, instead focusing on the political context of what can become of anthropology as a discipline, if used as a tool for problematic military occupations, even if designed to reduce violence.

Patricia Cohen (New York Times) explains, "The panel concluded that the Pentagon program, called the Human Terrain System, has two conflicting goals: counterinsurgency and research. Collecting data in the context of war, where coercion and offensive tactics are always potentially present, 'can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology' the report says." Trina was weighing in on counter-insurgency Monday: "Counter-insurgency is a War Crime. It is an abuse of the social science. It breaks all the ethics. And Tom Ricks doesn't know that because he's not a social scientist. He's nothing but a keyboard jockey who sniffed the skivies of a few grunts and generals and decided he was an expert on war. He's not an expert on anything. He's not even an expert on how to be a successful reporter because those days ended some time ago for Ricks. He is an ass and he is a War Criminal." Well said.

Turning to England where the
Iraq Inquiry heard public testimony. And it was not a good day for John Howard, former prime minister of Australia. Like the mistress showing up at the funeral, Howard's been repeatedly ignored as the special relationship between George W. Bush and Tony Blair has been touched on non-stop. Today, John Howard got a brief mention . . . or at least was alluded to.

Committee Member Lawrence Freeman: Can you say something a bit more about this question of influence as a factor in British military planning? Because it is assumed that if we had just gone for the package 2, which would not have been a trivial thing, which would have been quite a substantial commitment by the UK, that that would not have brought influence? After all, the Australians didn't provide that much, but they seem to have got a certain amount of influence and kudos with the Americans from what they did. We're a different sort of power to the Australians, but is there a direct relationship between the size of force and the amount of influence?

Michael Boyce: I am not sure the Australians did have any influence. They certainly got a lot of kudos from the Americans and we were very grateful for their contribution. I don't think they were as heavily involved in the planning process as we were. Also -- although you might say the final outcome didn't indicate it -- we had quite a lot of influence with regards to what was called Phase 4, all the aftermath planning as well, as a result of the size of our contribution.

For video or transcripts for witnesses,
click here. The Inquiry, chaired by John Chilcot, heard from Boyce and Kevin Tebbit (Permanent Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence) today. Of Boyce, Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) observes, "It's been the turn of Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, former chief of the defence staff, at the Iraq Inquiry today -- and it's striking how closely what he told Sir John Chilcot mirrors what we reported in the Telegraph, using leaked papers, before the inquiry even started. Notice any similarities between this story -- 'Hoon stopped me buying essential kit for troops, says Forces chief' -- and this one -- 'Troops rushed into battle without armour or training'? You read it here first." Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports, "Boyce said the defence chiefs 'ramped up' planning for possible war after a key meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush at the US president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002, 11 months before the invasion." Which appears to be the point all witness who've given public testimony in the nine days the panel has heard testimony can agree on. Mark Stone (Sky News) feels that today was "a drip-drip of evidence" with former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's name repeatedly coming in and him being seen "as the architect of the war" and quotes Boyce stating, "I could not get across to them [US] that the coalition would not be seen as a liberating force and that flowers would be stuck on the end of the rifles and we would be welcomed and it would all be lovely." Reflecting on all the testimony given since last week, Stone offers, "Perhaps all the witness are playing a fine game of passing the buck onto the Americans or perhaps the UK never really had any leverage over the Americans at all." David Brown (Times of London -- link has text and video) reports, "Lord Boyce said he had warned Tony Blair and the Cabinet that there must be a proper legal basis for military action before he could send British forces into Iraq. He said that he was given a certificate by Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General, although he indicated that he would have preferred a second Security Council resolution, which would have 'really nailed it'."

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Within these frank conversations, were there times when you had to express serious reservations or warnings to the Prime Minister about the course we were heading down?

Michael Boyce: I would certainly, on a number of occasions, have expressed views about, for example, the holding up decisions to get reserves mobilised, the decision to go overt or to start allowing the preparations to be made, and whatever other problems as I saw them, as they came up, you know, which we would then go about solving. I certainly never had any hesitation in making those known, and, indeed, was taken aside from time to time to say, "Can't we make it more of a half-full rather than a half-empty assessment?", but my view was what I had to do was provide as realistic an appraisal as possible, which was what I was being asked to do and I never felt I was being shut out from doing that.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Lord Butler's report --

Michael Bryce: Not by the Ministry anyway.

Who had the power? Who had the power to stop the Iraq War?
Ruth Barnett (Sky News) notes Boyce stated the Parliament could have stepped in at any time to prevent the war and Tebbit agreed but added that stopping late in teh game could have done "serious damage to the bilateral relationship" between England and the US. Peter Walker and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) report that Boyce stated, "No matter how many times you said to senior American officers, and indeed Mr Rumsfeld, that we were not committing our forces until we had been through the proper UN process, and had been through parliament as well, there was a complete reluctance to believe that." BBC News' Peter Biles offers this analysis: "The inquiry's committee missed an opportunity to pursue this in greater detail. As earlier witnesses have pointed out, the situation was further complicated by the different groups, and divergent views, within the US administration."

On yesterday's NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, audio and video options), Judy Woodruff observed, "In other news today: A top U.N. official in Iraq said elections will have to be delayed by more than a month. The voting had been set for January, but Iraqi lawmakers have not agreed on reforming the election process." Alsumaria reports that Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, and Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister and thug of the occupation, met late last night to address the issue of elections: "After the meeting Talabani stresses that it is necessary to pass the law fast adding that delaying elections is unacceptable since it is necessary to hold the same according to Iraq constitution. The President, Prime Minister and Speaker have the right to extend the parliament's term for one month only, Talabani added." January 31st, Parliament's term expires (as does Nouri's -- Nouri was elected by Parliament). If Tariq al-Hashimi wants to veto the latest election law alterations, he allegedly has until the end of today to do so. Al Jazeera (link has text and video) reports: "The High Judicial Council ruled that the deadline would be extended to Sunday, because the 10-day period would legally end on Friday, and a decision could await the subsequent working day, Abdul-Sattar Birqdar, a court spokesman said. In Iraq, the weekend is Friday and Saturday." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports that Ayad Allawi (the prime minister immediately before Nouri) was also visited last night by various "leaders of several political factions" to explore the elections issues and quotes an unnamed "parliamentary source" stating, "The meeting discussed how to reach a consensus over the election law, and some proposals were made during the meeting." Hadi al-Ameri is one of the leaders identified in the article and is quoted stating, "There was an agreement among the politicians in the meeting that seats for the provinces would remain as it is before the veto to the election law by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, but the Kurds would be granted two more seats and then number of parliament seats will increase to 325 instead of 323."

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


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing which claimed 1 life and left six people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left two people injured, a Mosul bombing which left a child injured and 1 Tirkrit suicide bomber who took his own life and claimed the lives of 1 "commander of the anti-riot force in Tikrit" and 3 of his bodyguards with fifteen other people injured. Sabah al-Bzee, Michael Christie and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) report that the commander in Tikrit was Lt Col Ahmed Subhi al-Fahal who had been shopping when he was attacked. Ernesto Londono and Muhanad Saif (Washington Post) explain, "The bomber ran toward Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Fahal, who heads the city's anti-terrorism and anti-riot force, as he was walking in a crowded market, according to Lt. Ibrahim al-Duir, a police spokesman in Tikrit."


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer wounded in a Mosul drive by and 2 Iraqi soldiers killed in Mosul clashes. Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Baghdad yesterday and an attack on a Baghdad cafe in which 1 man was shot dead.

Today at World Can't Wait, Mathis Chiroux shares his thoughts on Barack Obama's Afghanistan War speech:

So it's come to this. Obama's gotta wage his war, and I gotta sit in the street.
It's not that I like blocking traffic or getting arrested or dealing with the fall-out when I could be reading a book. It's that I can't live with endless war and I must end it or surely die.
I'm not leaving this country. This is my mess, so help me, and I'll scrub it till my fingers bleed. I will not compromise with genocide. I will not run from those behind it.
Endless war is the promise of our time, signed in blood and sealed with death's own kiss. Its stench hangs around us heavy smog. While I dare not breathe for fear of intoxication, I cannot hold much longer.
This is the American nightmare, and it's shattering my heart like glass.

Yesterday on
KPFA's Flashpoints, Dennis Bernstein, Robert Knight and Nora Barrows-Friedman tackled the realities so much of the media ignores regarding the speech and its meanings. (Barrows-Friedman gets Palestinian reaction to the speech). Guests included A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Richard Becker, Iraq Veterans Against the War's Michael Kern (who speaks of being unable to sit passively through the speech and also speaks of resistance), Military Families Speak Out's Lisa Lietz who discusses what it means in terms of her husband and others in the service, Georgia Stillwell Bissomette who offers both the perspective of a mother and of a Native American (don't miss her comments regarding colonization), Rami al-Meghari and Dahr Jamail (who speaks of military suicides, in addition to other topics, and we'll hopefully have time to highlight that tomorrow). At Amped Status, they explore "Af-Pak War Racket: The Obama Illusion Comes Crashing Down." Noted professor and attorney (international law is his specialization) Francis A. Boyle, at ZNet, provides a walk through on the issues of legality re: the Afghanistan War:

War of Aggression Against Afghanistan

Bush, Jr. instead went to the United National Security Council to get a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Afghanistan and Al Qaeda. He failed. You have to remember that. This war has never been authorized by the United Nations Security Council. If you read the two resolutions that he got, it is very clear that what Bush, Jr. tried to do was to get the exact same type of language that Bush, Sr. got from the U.N. Security Council in the late fall of 1990 to authorize a war against Iraq to produce its expulsion from Kuwait. It is very clear if you read these resolutions, Bush, Jr. tried to get the exact same language twice and they failed. Indeed the first Security (OOTC:FRCT) Council resolution refused to call what happened on September 11 an "armed attack" - that is by one state against another state. Rather they called it "terrorist attacks." But the critical point here is that this war has never been approved by the U.N. Security Council so technically it is illegal under international law. It constitutes an act and a war of aggression by the United States against Afghanistan.

No Declaration of War

Now in addition Bush, Jr. then went to Congress to get authorization to go to war. It appears that Bush, Jr. tried to get a formal declaration of war along the lines of December 8, 1941 after the Day of Infamy like FDR got on Pearl Harbor. Bush then began to use the rhetoric of Pearl Harbor. If he had gotten this declaration of war Bush and his lawyers knew full well he would have been a Constitutional Dictator. And I refer you here to the book by my late friend Professor Miller of George Washington University Law School, Presidential Power that with a formal declaration of war the president becomes a Constitutional Dictator. He failed to get a declaration of war. Despite all the rhetoric we have heard by the Bush, Jr. administration Congress never declared war against Afghanistan or against anyone. There is technically no state of war today against anyone as a matter of constitutional law as formally declared.

On the subject of Iraq, there is a
National Geographic special set to air December 13th (9:00 pm EST) entitled Inside the Iraq War:

A controversial war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of civilians. A war with countless stories of bravery, triumph, sacrifice and tragedy. Even as six years of news coverage and policy debate have framed our understanding of the war in Iraq, what have our service members really experienced? And what can their up-close insight teach us about this war?Transporting viewers to war-torn Iraq, National Geographic Channel (NGC) provides an unflinching, personal and in-depth look at the last six years in Inside the Iraq War, premiering Sunday, December 13, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. From the producers of Inside 9/11, Inside the Iraq War opens a window into the first-person experiences of the men and women who live this war on a daily basis the dangerous missions, the interrogations, the life-or-death situations and the ongoing battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. The film avoids the policy debate that raged in the United States and around the world and opens a window into the soldier's battlefield perspective through a complex tapestry of video shot by the troops themselves, news footage from embedded journalists, rare photos and compelling personal accounts from those on the front lines.

Staying with TV,
NOW on PBS debuts its latest episode Friday on most PBS stations and this one examines:

As Congress hammers out legislation that will determine the future of health care in this country, NOW travels to the nation's heartland to see what reform could mean for the middle class. On Friday, December 4 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa meets two tight-knit Oklahoma families whose problems with private health insurance left them unable to get proper medical care -- and on the brink of financial ruin. One of those families - the O'Reillys -- grapples with the issue of how to cover needed respiratory therapy treatment for their eight-year-old daughter, Sophie, who was denied coverage for what the insurance company labeled a "pre-existing condition.""People pretty frequently say, 'Oh, you know, my plan works great for me'," says Sophie's mother Natalie O'Reilly." And my answer to that is -- insurance works really well until you need it. Until you really, truly need it."

Turning to something non-Iraq related. Today in the Committee on Homeland Security hearing, US House Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton got a refresher in how blind trust in the media can leave you with egg on your face. Sounding very sure of herself, she repeated the claim that always sounded false but was so pleasing to so many: Barack Obama is receiving more death threats than anyone ever has!!!! Eleanor's not the first person to repeat that nor did she originate the false assertion. She just had the misfortune of repeating it to the Director of the Secret Service Mark J. Sullivan who quickly corrected her and explained that Barack had not received more threat at this point in his presidency than had Bill Clinton or George W. Bush at the same time in Clinton's presidency or Bush's whatever you want to call it. (I have never used the "p" word to refer to Bush and never will.)

Eleanor's a smart woman (except when it comes to films) and she's not a liar. She didn't create the claim. She read it, she heard it. It was all over the media.
By October, Bryan Bender was asserting in the Boston Globe -- though careful readers may have noted that he had no source for it in his article. The false claims -- it felt so good to so many! -- first surfaced in an article by Toby Harnden (Telegraph of London) where he clearly identified it as appearing in a book by Ronald Kessler. That's August 3, 2009. It just felt so good and so righteous! to so many freak shows. By August 12, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) was repeating it. The same Rothschild, it should be noted, who spent the bulk of this decade explaining how one 'threat' against Bush after another was in fact not a threat but an overreaction which led to an innocent person being targeted. But that's when a Republican's in the White House. When it's a Democrat, Matty's no longer concerned about examining alleged threats, he's too busy rushing forward with bad columns. Why? Because he feels so good thinking everyone wants to get Barack. He feels so wonderful. It makes him feel special and, yes, superior. And if you've ever seen Matthew Rothschild then you know feel superior to anyone isn't something he's often been able to pull off. But there was Matty in August insisting that Barack was getting 30 death threats a day! A 400% from Bush! And who was the source? Toby's source. Ronald Kessler. It's curious that Matty, writing for The 'Progressive,' didn't feel the need to identify Kessler who allegedly did interviews with unnamed Secret Service agents to get his 'facts'. Kessler publishes with what outlet? Oh, yes, Newsmax. Newsmax. Not an unbiased publication. Matty knew his readers -- all three -- would laugh like crazy if he explained who Kessler was or his Newsmax ties. So he just left that out. Conservatives, Matty will invite you into his bed but, remember, in the morning you'll need tip-toe down the hall. So that's the source and has always been the source -- a single source -- Ronald Kessler. Kessler's always played loose with the facts and it's often bitten him in the butt. For anyone other than right-wing partisans to take him or his sensationalistic and gossipy books seriously is rather surprising. But Matty did. Because it said what he wanted to hear. It said what he needed to hear in order to feel special about himself and to feel like he was so much better than the country he lived in. In fact, I think I hear the first sentence of The Matthew Rothschild Story: "From an early age, he was driven by a need to feel better than the country he lived in and better than its people. He was of them, yet he was never for them."

Testifying to Congress today, the head of the Secret Service corrected the falsehood. Wait and see which of the many (Amy Goodman also repeated the nonsense claims) freaks will come forward and say, "OOPS!" It was a pleasing tale to tell for many, it just wasn't true. By the way, Kat attended the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Afghanistan and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the same topic Wednesday and wrote about it last night in "
Depressing time in the House and Senate." And, again, we didn't open with Iraq. But this lie about the threats has been repeated over and over and we'll open with the facts. Unless Sullivan retracts or 'clarifies' his statement, that is now the public record and liars are on notice. The hearing was this morning. For those who'd like to see it, click here to stream and it may not be posted until Friday morning.

Danny Schechter been reporting on the Congo this week -- here, here and here [I join Marcia in recommending those reports -- see Marcia's "Recommended reading" and "Not one word from me on the War Hawk (promise)"].

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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bob Somerby & the Corn Princess

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "I Am The War Hawk You Have Been Waiting For"

I am the war hawk you have been waiting for

I love the comic. I love clueless Alice Walker, self-deceptive Tom Hayden, sexually frustrated Phyllis Bennis and John Nichols and, best of all, ego maniacal Amy Goodman.

"OLD MEDAL OF FAUX! Salahi pretended to be a cheerleader. But Dowd’s a pretender too" (Bob Somerby, The Daily Howler):

Increasingly, modern journalistic culture is built around twin pillars: The inability to explain sh*t. And the accusation that The Other is lying, or is perhaps psychiatrically impaired. (Their limbic brains may not be working.)

In that passage, Schultz gives a bungled account of what the CBO said. Then, he accuses others of “lying” when, in many cases, they have made accurate statements.

In fact, premiums will rise for those who buy their own insurance, according to that CBO report. According to the CBO, those premiums will rise even faster than they will rise if we pass no “reform” bill at all! For people who get government subsidies, the amount they themselves have to pay for those premiums will come down, in many cases. But the cost of the premiums themselves will go up, at an even faster rate than will obtain if we pass no bill at all.

Meanwhile, consider the following statement by Schultz: “For people with good employer coverage, premiums will stay the same.” In fact, the CBO said something quite different: For employer-based coverage, premiums would continue rise under the Senate bill, just as fast as they will rise if we pass no bill at all.

And why is it Bob Somerby can say it but the usual liars (Amy Goodman among them) can't? Bob's handing out medals today. Maureen Dowd takes the gold but you'll have to read to find out who gets the bronze and who gets the silver.

C.I. knows my daughter better than I do. She was all excited, "Mommy, what did she write about me!" In today's snapshot, C.I. calls her "very young and very pretty." My daughter giggled when I told her that. I said, "But last night, I called you beautiful." "Mommy, beautiful's an old people's word. I'm pretty, like a princess."

Which led me to snap, "Corn princess!"

She did not like that. I think I've told this story before. I'll tell it again. I was a tom-boy. I played every sport in the world. I continued to play them all through high school. If I wasn't playing sports, I was climbing a tree or something. I was not a girly-girl. My daughter is. And she loves her Barbies. And she loves dressing all 52 up for a party. (I know she has fifty-two because C.I. told her she could have ten new ones -- on C.I. -- if she could count them up all by herself. She did it. I was surprised. So this weekend, C.I.'s taking her out to pick out ten more Barbies.) She can sit down in the same spot all day -- getting up only to go to the bathroom -- and play with her Barbies. If you'll play with her, she's even happier.

C.I. will play with her. I always feel bad because C.I.'s usually getting home from the plane ride, tired and I'm sure not wanting to play Barbies. But she'll just say, "Let me grab a quick shower and I'll play." And she does.

And they have these intricate stories they've worked out -- stories no one else can follow! Some of the Barbies are sisters. Some are enemies. Some are best friends. Some are dating Kens, some are not. Some are this and some are that. "That's Lovey Dreads, Mommy! Not Alanis!" C.I. knows the names of all the Barbies (52) and all the Kens and all the Barbie children.

So I got some Barbie with rainbow hair one time. And I'm playing with her and they're having a big fancy dinner and I'm not playing nice and am making all these little jokes which my daughter does not find funny. At some point, I ask where the corn is?

My daughter has her Barbie in her hand inform me this is Crystal Sunshine's pizza party and there is no corn. (My daughter names all of the Barbies.)

I say, "You gotta have corn!"

My daughter does not like corn. And she's about to let me have it (her, not the Barbie) when C.I. makes her Barbie say, "Corn eater!" At my Barbie. And then my daughter tosses Crystal Sunshine back and forth to have her hair toss and laughs, "Corn eater."

So that's the worst thing you can be in my daughter's Barbie universe. And the Barbie I always get stuck with (I'm told I don't know enough to play the other Barbies) is a corn eater. So I grabbed one of the crowns for her once and said, "Well she's a corn princess! And Crystal Sunshine's not a princess." My daughter stuck her bottom lip out and it was trembling like she was about to cry. C.I. had her Barbie say, "Corn Princess. That doesn't count for anything." To which Crystal Sunshine snapped, "Yeah!"

So Corn Princess is the worst insult in my daughter's universe.

I love that story. And I need to add a detail. All week long, my daughter's playing and having new things happen in Barbie universe. C.I. will get home Saturday and my daughter will immediately expect C.I. to absorb every twist and turn that's taken place since the Sunday before. We all marvel over C.I.'s ability to keep up with my daughter.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, December 2, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military is mistaken for 'insurgents' in Iraq, Barack Obama wants more war all the time on all the channels to make up for his own miserable life, Congress examines VA care, those intended January elections may take place in February . . . or March, and more.

Last night
Barack Obama gave a speech at West Point in which he flashed every last one of his War Hawk feathers. It was so outrageous that Democratic Party boot licker and professional party girl Tom Hayden insists he's taking the Obama bumper sticker off his car. (Or at least off his wife's car.) It's outrageous, fumes Pock Marks On His Soul, but not that outrageous apparently since he goes on to insist: "I'll support Obama down the road against Sarah Palin, Lou Dobbs or any of the pitchfork carriers for the pre-Obama era." The pre-Obama era. One year is now an era? Well, Tom was never smart or informed. Tom's on the prowl (women, watch out) and ready to 'organize' and 'fight' as he insists on "no bumper sticker until the withdrawal strategy is fully carried out." Then he boasts, "the fight is on." Yes, he truly is a limp dick and that's been a fortunate thing for many a woman. Kisses, Tom-Tom, kisses. Remember back in April 2008 when Doug Henwood (at ZNet) rightly pointed out of Barry O, "And despite the grand claims of enthusiasts, he doesn't really have a movmeent behind him -- he's got a fan club. How does a fan club hold a candidate accountable?" As Tom-Tom always demonstrates, they don't.

Unlike the eternal bobby-soxer Hayden,
Justin Raimondo (Antiwar) doesn't feel the need to stroke Barack to climax:

Those who were hoping for some real change in our rhetoric, if not our foreign policy, with Obama in the White House are no doubt sorely disappointed right now, because George W. Bush could just as easily have spoken these very same words – and,
indeed, he did utter endless variations on this identical theme when justifying our actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the truth of the matter is that there are barely one-hundred al-Qaeda fighters in the whole of Afghanistan – so what are we doing there?

Rebecca never drank the Kool-Aid and she weighed in last night noting, "there is no difference between bush and barack. none. and that realization is making my stomach feel awful. ulcers, i'm sure." Cindy Sheehan (Cindy's Soapbox) explains, "Obama is just another coward that has risen to the highest office in the world and I am tired of having to be shoved by crazy people, chased and shot at by police, tear-gassed, arrested, called names that make even me blush, scrimping for every penny to stay afloat in this peace business, traveling and protesting to the point of exhaustion, etc. Not only did Obama condemn 30,000 troops to horror, with just one speech, he also condemned the real anti-war movement that was opposed to his policies from the beginning, to many more years of our sacrifices." Betty's very young and very pretty daughter got it, "Mommy, I'm sorry. I know it's wrong to hate but he's sending more people to die." Mike shared, "I had to get up every few minutes during the speech. He's such a damn liar. I couldn't take him for too many minutes straight. He such a liar and he revealed that tonight. Let's see who has the guts to stand up and call him out? I bet it'll be the same group of us who always have. And the usual Kool Aid drinkers will find a way to suddenly be in love with war." Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) would fall into "the same group" category since he's long exposed Barack's War Hawk nature -- on last night's speech he notes, "Barck Obama's speech, and the policies embraced in it, and the sinister implications underlying it, are all abysmally awful. They are a death warrant not only for the thousands of Afghan and Pakistani civilians who will be killed in the intensified conflict, but also for the countless thousands of innocents yet to die in the coming gnerations of a world roiled and destabilized by an out-of-control empire." Floyd references Arthur Silber's take which opens with:

To all those who repeatedly claimed that, no matter what "mistakes" he might make and regardless of the scope of the devastating effects of those errors, Obama had to represent a markedly better choice than McCain, take note: in certain respects, Obama is far more dangerous than McCain could have been. For the same reasons, Obama is also more dangerous than Bush was. I remind you that I have written numerous essays damning Bush for almost every single one of his policies. It is hardly the case that I viewed Bush in anything approaching a positive light, however remotely. In large part, the danger represented by Obama arises from the fact that Obama's election gutted whatever effective opposition might have existed. To their eternal shame, the Democrats never opposed Bush in any way that mattered -- but at least the possibility of opposition had not been obliterated entirely. In the near term and probably for longer, that possibility now appears to have been extinguished.

Cedric's "
Barry's boo-boos" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BARRY BOMBS!" had the herculian task of attempting to fact check the wily Barack who insisted April 9, 2009 that he was asking Congress for the last war supplemental but last night acknowledged he'd be asking them for another one (for at least $30 billion) and who self-stroked last night by declaring he "will close Guantanamo" -- uh, after being sworn in, he said Guantanamo would be closed by the end of this year. As of today, he has 29 days before 2009 is over. He might want to forgo yet another trip out of the country this month and instead sit his ass down and get to work. Back to Justin Rainmondo who especially found interesting Barry O's fact-free comments on the Iraq War:

"Then, in early 2003, the decision was made to wage a second war in Iraq. The wrenching debate over the Iraq war is well-known and need not be repeated here. It is enough to say that for the next six years, the Iraq war drew the dominant share of our troops, our resources, our diplomacy, and our national attention -- and that the decision to go into Iraq caused substantial rifts between America and much of the world."
Yes, the bad thing about the Iraq war wasn't that it needlessly killed thousands --
many thousands of Iraqis, and a far lesser number of Americans. Oh no: the really really bad thing about it was that it diverted attention and resources away from the battle Obama wanted to fight, the one in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That all happened in the bad old days of Republican rule, however, before the invention of "hope":"Today, after extraordinary costs, we are bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end. We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011 ... We have given Iraqis a chance to shape their future, and we are successfully leaving Iraq to its people."
What a crock: we have given Iraqis eight years of
utter horror, including hundreds of thousands of dead, countless wounded, a sectarian civil war that still rages, and a government just as tyrannical and unaccountable as the one we overthrew, if not more so. If that's "success," then I'd hate to see what failure looks like.

Iraq? As we noted Sunday at Third in "
Editorial: Barack The Never Ending Liar," Barry O promised to pull a brigade out of Iraq each month after being sworn in. But never lived up to that promise, now did he? Trivia question: Who said this in response to Barack's promise to end the Iraq War in 2009: "But these were words worth holding the candidate to. The astonishing thing is that antiwar sentiment among Obama's base is running strongly enough to push the candidate forward to a stronger commitment."??????????? Why it's Tom-Tom Hayden. And just as soon as he gets done peeling his bumper sticker off his latest wife's car, maybe he can explain how he thinks he ever held Barack to those words? World Socialist Web Site's editorial board weighs in today on the speech:

The most glaring contradiction in a speech shot through with contradictions was Obama's attempt to disentangle the war in Afghanistan from the war in Iraq. "I opposed the war in Iraq," he said, "precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force ..." But he was unable to establish any essential difference between that criminal enterprise and his war in Afghanistan.
Obama's escalation is yet another flagrant violation of the will of the American people. In one election after another, they have gone to the polls to express their hostility to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In every case, their will has been ignored and the wars have been expanded.
Obama won the presidency by running as an opponent of the Iraq war and appealing to popular opposition to militarism. Once in office, he quickly increased the US deployment in Afghanistan by 21,000, while reneging on his promise to carry out a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. Now he is increasing the total US troop level in Afghanistan to 100,000, more than double the level under Bush.

Staying in the US, we'll move over to Congress. "I think all of us over our time of service on the committee," US House Rep Bob Filner declared today, "hear about issues that suggest that sometimes federal funds may not be flowing to the local VA facilities in the way that we had envisioned -- either efficiently or effectively -- to best serve our veterans." Filner was chairing the House Veterans Affairs Committee's hearing on VA Health Care Funding: Appropriations to Programs. Chair Filner noted that there is currently a hiring freeze at the VA medical centers in his district "which my be linked to the growing queues that our veterans face for medical health care appointments." Chair Filner represents the 51st House District in California which can be summarized as southern half of the county of San Diego and Imperial County.

US House Rep Steve Buyer is the Ranking Member. In his opening remarks he addressed the allocation process. Following the hearing,
his office released the following statement which covers that topic as well as what's been done since the hearing:

Today, Ranking Member Steve Buyer said he will request an independent review of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allocation process to help ensure that each VA medical center is able to provide timely treatment for veterans.
Buyer pointed to the need for the study during a full House Committee on Veterans' Affairs hearing on the resource distribution process that occurs between VA's Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) and its 153 medical centers.
Chairman Bob Filner and members on both sides of the aisle, including Subcommittee Chairs Mike Michaud and Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, and Subcommittee Ranking Members Dr. Phil Roe and Henry Brown, agreed to join Buyer in a joint letter requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of the process.
Members on both sides of the aisle also expressed special concern about how the allocation process affects veterans in highly rural areas. Michaud, Herseth-Sandlin, and Roe all inquired how VISN directors ensure that facilities affiliated with medical centers, such as outpatient clinics, are afforded proper consideration in funding requests.
"Over the past twelve years, VA has relied on a decentralized funding model for the VISNs to fund their respective medical centers," Buyer said. "VA provides general guidance but permits a substantial amount of flexibility to allow for a more patient-centric process at the local level."
"I believe this requires clear delineation of responsibility, careful planning, and performance measures to gauge coordination and accountability. Therefore, it is prudent for us to ask the key questions such as whether the allocations should be formula-driven or standards based with real-time analysis."
"It has been five years since GAO has placed its eyes on VA funding allocation issues, so I will request that it perform a review of the criteria and process VA has established for VISNs, how VA ensures that VISNs comply with those criteria, and how VA centrally tracks and assesses the distribution and use of the funds at the medical center level."
"Accurate assessment of these measures is critical to VA's ability to provide timely access to quality veterans' care, and prevent delays that could be detrimental to veterans with critical conditions and those with special health care needs."

The hearing was composed of two panels. The panel was Clyde Parkis who has many credits including being a Vietnam veteran, many years with the Department of Veterans Affairs as well as the former director of Veterans Integrated Service Network. The second panel was composed of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Rita Reed and Michael S. Finegan (Finegan was accompanied by William Schoenhard and W. Paul Kearns III).

Parkis's prepared statement is posted
here (if that doesn't work go to the Committee's hearings page and select it -- but I'm told the bugs have been worked out and that link will work). Chair Filner said the statement would be entered in full into the record and encourage Parkis to utilize his opening five minutes hitting additional topics. We'll note this from his opening remarks where he's speaking of his time working for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Clyde Parkis: As a Vietnam veteran, I sometimes have trust issues and it took me a long time to figure out who to -- who to trust in the process as we move through the budget cycles. I was aware that OMB liked to screen VA testimony before it came to the committees and I thought sometimes that prevented us from asking for what we thought we really needed. I was told to say, 'We don't have our budget official yet so I can't speculate on the impact of that.' That made it difficult to answer my local Congressman in terms of what was going on with the VA. And I thought some of that was actually coming from this Committee but maybe that was not the case. As I gained some trust over time, there are some things I wished I had spoken up about a little -- a little earlier.

OMB is the Office of Management and Budget and falls under the executive branch of the federal government. That statement, an important one, wasn't an issue in the questioning. Despite the fact that this committee and every other one has heard that answer repeatedly "no final budget, can't speculate." Instead, there were questions regarding the counting of veterans, US House Rep David Roe praised the VA outpatient clinics (CBOCs) and wondered how they were determined? Parkis explained, "It was a combination of where the veterans are -- you look at your demographics spread out by zip code or by county -- and in addition to that where are you experiencing the demand?"

US House Rep Harry Teague noted how, in New Mexico (his state), "the number of people who have to travel five, six hours" to a VA "is pretty large." And he also wanted to drop back to Roe's questions and know about the outpatient and how New Mexico might qualify so that "people don't have to drive five, six hours" to get care? Parkis began stressing tele-care (health care over the phone). Since many of the veterans Teague is speaking of (we speak to veterans groups in New Mexico quite often) are complaining about the lengthy drives to Alberquerque for check ups or to diagnose new issues, it's not really clear how tele-care would assist them in that.

US House Rep Ann Kirkpatrick worried that "demand" qualification might hurt rural areas where many factors effected how many veterans in an area utilized a VA facility. This includes some veterans, including Native American veterans, who do not access care because they aren't aware of the care that is available. Parkis identified Prescott, Arizona as one such area and Kirkpatrick agreed it was. He suggested outreach, "talking to the tribal leaders" and insisted that "most health care these days is actually chronic not acute." Kirkpatrick's concerns really weren't addressed by Parkis who admitted rural areas really weren't his expertise; however, Chair Filner said that in "January we're going to be concentrating on rural -- access for rural veterans because everything you say is right."

Moving to Iraq, Saturday barriers around the US base in Basra collapsed.
Steven Edwards (CANWEST News Service) reports that the US military is insisting the collapse was not a result of mortar attacks or any other attack but a result of "rainfall". Because Iraq is infamous for rainfall. In fact, dust storms are a thing of the long ago past. Right? Right? (No.) In other news, Li Xianzhi (Xinhua) reports armed clashes between US forces and Iraqis "guarding their own homes" in Baquba today which resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi and three more injured. Xianzhi quotes a police source who states, "The gunmen thought the [US] soldiers approaching their homes were insurgents." Xianzhi quotes the source explaining a US helicopter was called and it "bombed a house and totally destroyed it".

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


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Monday grenade attack in Kirkuk which left twenty-six people wounded.


Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 civilian shot dead in Baghdad and, an hour later, 1 soldier shot dead in Baghad.

In other news,
Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie and Matthew Jones (Reuters) report, "Iraqi politicians have 24 hours to resolve an impasse over a law needed for next year's election to take place, otherwise the country's Sunni Arab vice president will veto the legislation again, a spokesman said on Wednesday." If Tariq al-Hashemi chooses to veto the legislation, he must do so tomorrow according to Reuters. Meanwhile the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq released a statement on the elections: "UNAMI strongly supports the efforts undertaken to clarify voting for Iraqis abroad, as well as the inclusion in the law of the distribution of seats among the governorates, and the announcement of a final election date, with 27 February 2010 as a feasible option for practical and constitutional reasons." BBC News notes that the United Nations is saying February 27th is doable as an election date for the former January elections but that "Iraq's Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told the BBC that the election could be pushed back to the end of March." Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports Ayad Allawi (prime minister immediately prior to Nouri al-Maliki) says there's a call for February 27th or March 1st.

The latest
Inside Iraq began airing Friday on Al Jazeera and joining Jasim al-Azzawi were Saad al-Mattalibi of Iraq's Ministry of National Dialogue and Abdelbarri Atwan, editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi. The issue was the continued conflict between the US-installed exile government and Ba'athists in Iraq. Saddam Hussein headed the Ba'ath Party. It's a political party. It had many, many members (the majority of Iraqis participating in politics). Since the exiles were installed, and with the help of Paul Bremer, Iraq has been 'de-Ba'athified'.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Saad al-Mattalibi, excluding the Ba'ahtist from running for power, to some people smacks nothing more than vengance, to others, it's a fear of a well organized party [which] given the chance, it might come back for political as well as social influence.

Saad al-Mattalibi: Many people see differ -- have a different view to that, to that introduction because the Ba'ath Party -- without talking about persons, personalities or individuals -- as a thought, as a school of thought, believes in attaining power through coups and through conspiracies. Once they're in power, they believe in excluding everybody and dictating their way or their vision upon society. This, in itself, cannot be accepted in New Iraq, where we have a multiple political ideologies and multiple political views and they can compete in a peaceful manner and allowing the voters to be the decider on who is elected and who is not.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Abdelbarri, the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has warned of upcoming Ba'athist Parliament. He said, "And I'm going to use all my constituional powers to stop them." Are these scare tactics or he is generally scared that they might come back?

Abdelbarri Atwan: You know Dr. Saad talked about exclusion and he accused the Ba'athists of excluding other ideology or other thoughts in Iraq during their rule. And al-Maliki and Dr. Saad are applying the same in democratic Iraq. So what's the difference here? I believe if you're looking for initial reconciliation, if you're looking at rebuilding the country again, I think you need everybody, you need all the color of the shade. We know some Ba'athist were dangerous -- they are locked, or executed or tried. But the rest of the Ba'athist people are Iraqis and they have the right to be part of the New Iraq like everybody else. It is true there are some side of the Ba'ath or Ba'athist ideology which is bad. For example, the dictatorship. But there are other sides which I believe are very bright. For example, secularism, the equality between men and women, the actually -- education, the scientific achievement, universities, good health service --

Jasim al-Azzawi: Let me run this by Saad, Abdelbarri

Abdelbarri Atwan: We cannot exclude all of this.

Jasim al-Azzawi: Saad, you're a practicing what Saddam Hussein practiced against other political parties. You're excluding just as much he did.

Saad al-Mattalibi: I don't think that really applies here, looking at the history of the 35 years the Ba'ath Party ruled in Iraq. We are not excluding individuals. We are trying to prevent a particular school of thought from entering and wrecking the political process. If you look at today's Iraqi Parliament, there are many Ba'athists who are actually serving today as members of Parliament. The difference is that those people believed in the national -- in the new national principles of Iraq. They believe in democracy. They believe in peaceful transition of power. They believe in elections and so on. They believe in the institutions. They believe in the freedom of the press. All these ideas that the Ba'ath Party refused generally. Now the other thing I would like to say to my, uh, good colleague, uh, Mr. Abdelbarri is that the achievement -- the scientific achievement or medical achievement in Iraq was not done by the Ba'ath Party. It was done by the individual Iraqi -- men and women and scientist. And by the way we uphold the same, aaah, values --

Jasim al-Azzawi: That particular point, Saad, let me just remind you that hundreds if not thousands of Iraqi scientists, as well as professors and even university presidents, they have fled the country. Some of them simply because they were targeted because they were Ba'athists. So there is a measure here that a brush --

Saad al-Mattalibi: That's not true

Jasim al-Azzawi: -- which has touched --

Saad al-Mattalibi: That's not true.

Jasim al-Azzawi: -- everybody.

Saad al-Mattalibi: No, no, no. That is not entirely true. What has happened is there was a vicious attack against scientific development and all walks of life really in Iraq. Many people fled the country. I mean, mechanics and simple carpenters fled the country. I mean, were they Ba'athists? No. There was a huge attack on all development in Iraq. This led a vast sector in Iraq to leave Iraq.

Abdelbarri Atwan: I'm surprised. Dr. Saad is a highly educated person and I believe he is not actually reflecting what's happening on the ground in Iraq. There are at least -- at least -- 500 scholars assassinated in the New Iraq. That middle class which is supposed to rebuild Iraq? Actually non-existent. Most of them left the country. They are working now in the Gulf or taking refuge in Europe. And you know secteraianism splitting in Iraq now. You know 4 million displaced, a million widows, about four million orphans. I think this is -- Is this the achievement of the New Iraq which the New Iraqi rulers are proud of? When we talk about accountability, who shall we actually judge here? Who shall we charge here? When the whole country dismembered under the pretext of de-Ba'athification which is a very ugly word. So I think we should -- we should admit, you know, the Ba'athists will be seen as angels in comparison what's happening in Iraq now. I've never been a Ba'athist, I will never be a Ba'athist but actually, the whole of a country dismembered, destroyed, sectarianism, women actually in a very bad situation and democracy. What kind of democracy if people cannot have water or electricity? Or education? Or they are not safe in their houses?

Saad al-Mattalibi: Well they didn't have electricity, they didn't have education. They had only war and mass graves in Saddam's time, in the Ba'athist time. What we are trying to say is that what started 35 years ago, we today pay the price for it. Democracy is not about only getting clean water and getting good health to people. Democracy, of course, include this, but also include the freedom of speech, including the right to choose our leaders. We -- I can today criticize my own government and not be punished or executed for it. And I refuse to accept everybody left Iraq is a Ba'athist. This is a very dangerous accusation. Many people, one of them is my uncle, left the country because the environment in Iraq was very dangerous. Gangs were roaming the streets in 2006, 2007, killing people. And those scientists you're talking about, many of my very, very good friends who are professors Baghdad University, they were killed and they were not Ba'athists and they were not even from that sect, they were from this sect.

Abdelbarri Atwan: Dr. Saad, you know, democracy is good governance.

Saad al-Mattalibi: Of course.

Abdelbarri Atwan: If we see the situation in Iraq, there is no good governance.

Saad al-Mattalibi: Correct.
Abdelbarri Atwan: When Iraq is the second most corrupt country on the -- on earth according to the International Transpancy Organization, it means there is no good governance. And democracy did not produce what the Iraqi were waiting for: to have a good government, to have accountability, to have actually transparancy, to have good services, to have the middle class there. Yes, when you say not everybody who left Iraq is a Ba'athist, this is affront to the new regime in Iraq because it means neither the Ba'athists or the non-Ba'athists are accepting the situation and they are deserting the country -- four million actually displaced in Iraq and it is a fact so there is nothing to be proud of to be honest. You know, I believe the new regime should admit they did not produce the good example for the Iraqi people.

In the US, Colleen Murphy searches for answers to her daughter's death. Staff Sgt Amy Tirador was serving in Iraq when she was killed at the start of last month, shot in the back of her head.
Russell Goldman (ABC News) reports Murphy has many questions including, "How could this have happened on a secure American base? I don't know why they can't rule some things out. This can't be a suicide. But there are so many probabilities and prospects and guessing games. They've given me no hints, and I can't stop thinking about all the different scenarios. Am I aggravated? Absolutely. Thursday will be a month. I want the truth. I will be patient and I will wait. But I want the truth." Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Lt Col Jim Gentry was buried yesterday after dying of cancer which was most likely the result of his exposure to toxins in Iraq. Melissa Swan (WHAS11 -- link has text and video) reports on the funeral and notes, "Veterans from several wars held the stars and stripes as members of Jim Gentry's family, both by blood and by military arrived for a final, formal goodbye." Eric Bradner (Evansivlle Courier & Press) reports: "Gentry, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed in 2006 with a rare form of lung cancer. Military doctors say it most likely was caused by exposure to sodium dichromate, which contains hexavalent chromium, a known carcinogen. The dustlike toxin littered the desert facility. It was yellow in some places, orange in others. It stuck to soldiers' boots and blew into their faces during Iraq's many windstorms. For months, no one wore protective gear. They were told they didn't need it." In yesterday's snapshot, we noted Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a federal registry for US service members exposed to toxins. Brander quotes Bayh stating, "The circumstances of his death are tragic, but the quiet courage with which he lived his life, served his country and advocated for justice for those exposed at Qarmat Ali inspired everyone who knew him. I will continue to do everything in my power in the United States Senate to honor his life and improve the medical care of those who served at his side." As noted in yesterday's snapshot, that bill is currently buried in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which has no hearings (not even mark-ups) scheduled for this month. January starts a new year meaning the bill would have to be reintroduced then. None of that is meant as a criticisim of Bayh (who introduced the bill in October) but it is a criticism of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee which desperately needs a new and healthy chair -- something it does not have at present.

Well close with this is from Tom Eley's "
US Supreme Court suppresses torture photos" (WSWS):The US Supreme Court on Monday nullified an appeals court order that would have obligated the Obama administration to release photographs depicting US soldiers subjecting prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq to horrific acts of torture.In an unsigned three-sentence decision in the case, Department of Defense v. ACLU, 09-160, the Supreme Court granted an Obama administration petition vacating the order and sent the case back to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, telling the lower court it must review the case in light of a law passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in October.The law in question was written as a specific response to the circuit court's ruling in October 2008 requiring that the photos be released. Attached to an appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security and signed into law by Obama, it gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates the power to suppress the torture photos if he determines they may threaten US military operations. Gates invoked the measure on November 13. It is now anticipated that the circuit court will side with the Obama administration and rule against the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.)

iraqcindy sheehan
chris floyd
doug henwood
jenan husseinmcclatchy newspapers
al jazeera
inside iraq
jasim al-azzawi
eric branderevansville courier and pressmeliss swan
tom eleywsws