Friday, January 08, 2010

Those bad politicians

Is there a bigger idiot than Harold Ford Jr.?

"Ford staffs up" (Ben Smith, Politico):
Harold Ford's bid for Senate just got a little more serious: He's hired a spokesman, and — I'm told — brought on board Mike Bloomberg's campaign manager and pollster to help with his bid. Two sources close to the nascent campaign said the pollster, Doug Schoen, and Bradley Tusk, a top aide to Rod Blagojevich before he came to run Bloomberg's reelection campaign, are "on board," though it's not clear whether they'll take formal roles.

Harold Ford Jr. is a joke and if you don't know that, let's note a bit from Wikipedia about the DLC chair:

In Congress, Ford had an ideologically conservative voting record. He supported a ban on benefits for same-sex couples, as well as the Federal Marriage Amendment (which would ban same-sex marriage). He told Democrats they should be more supportive of the Iraq War and criticized Senate Democrats who attempted to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito. He was one of the few Democrats who voted for the Bankruptcy Bill, and he supported some restrictions on abortion, defining himself as a pro-life candidate, including supporting a ban on partial-birth abortion. He supported the Republican effort to intercede in the Terri Schiavo case.[15]
[. . .]
Also, Ford has joined the financial services firm Bank of America Merrill Lynch as a vice chairman and senior policy advisor.[35][1]

He has nothing to brag about. He's an embarrassment.

And what's the deal with "Harold Ford"? He's Harold Ford Junior. His father was "Harold Ford."

He's a creep and you'll find few Black women who'll defend him. Why? He did a big whine-a-thon about a commercial run in 2006. Little Harry wanted you to know it was racism to use a White woman. But Harry, you pursued women of what race?

A White woman was used because the commercial was mocking him for attenting a Playboy party and the streotypical image of a Playboy bunny remains a White woman with blonde hair (like the woman used in the ad). Equally true, if a Black woman had said the same dialogue and worn the same outfit, the commerical would have been attacked for that reason.

The commerical wasn't racist. That was a bunch of hogwash. But you can't wash a hog like Harry Jr. clean.

After Harold Ford Jr., the biggest joke in my community is Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (and, no, that wasn't the name used in college). But that's from the other end of the political spectrum and a tale for another time.
"A Trough Of Boobery, Bribes, Deals, And Loopholes" (Hillary Is 44):
It’s one full week into the new year and Americans have already been subjected to a decade’s worth of boobery.
In actual show business we have had the boobery of NBC and the
return of Jay Leno. On the actual sports business front, we have biracial celebrity boobery, with the Tiger Woods gay sex story growing like John Edwards’ turgid National Enquirer scandal.
But in matters of pseudo show business, pseudo sports, pseudo celebrity and real life flim-flam scams Barack Obama is truly “the one”. What vast talent for boobery this Chicago thug has!

Barack Obama claims he “takes responsibility” but Obama style “responsibility” is only in the sense of a teenager who steals a car, drives while drunk and high on drugs, rams the car into pedestrians and trees, gets arrested, “takes responsibility” then imperiously takes the family car keys from dad along with a bottle of Scotch. Barack Obama claims he “takes responsibility” as if words are enough - but where are the firings of the incompetents? Brennan and Napolitano should clearly go but they are protected.

Barack's real good about talking 'accountability' -- he's just never demonstrated it. C.I. was pointing out earlier this week that when the slur against the people of India took place in 2007 and the New York Times traced it back to Barack's campaign, he claimed heads would roll . . . but they never did.

And no heads ever rolled. Liar Jesse Jackson Jr. (what is about Juniors that makes them so slimey anyway?) got to trash Hillary and that was okay, he got to lie and that was okay. Barack doesn't give a damn about accountability. He just wants to change the subject. That's been his M.O. from 2007 to the present. No one is ever held accountable by him.

And he never takes accountability himself.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, January 8, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq Inquiry hears that a military coup is possible in Iraq, Nouri's efforts to remain the new Saddam continue, Iran plans to resolve an oil well dispute by . . . building a fence, and more.

John Jenkins: So on that basis, I would say that actually the professionalism of the armed forces is going up, and, to a certain extent, this must partly be because they have retained enough professional expertise and experience within their ranks to make that possible. You will also hear from people who say that this is a risk. It remains a risk by having people who have a Ba'athi background within the armed forces at senior levels, and I think one of the things we have seen since the -- the most recent spike in bombings in Baghdad, which started in August, have been renewed accusations that elements -- unreconciled elements of the Ba'ath Party, based externally, are deeply involved in these attacks and retain the will and the aspiration to re-emerge as a political force, as a sort of politically irredentist, a political force within Iraq. I find it very difficult to judge the force of those claims, but the conclusion I draw is that there is clearly a balance to be drawn between using professional competence and experience of former army officers under Saddam, to provide the backbone of the modern Iraqi security forces and dealing with the suspicions and fears of others, that this is the reintroduction of an element of the Ba'ath Party, unreconiclable elements of the Ba'ath Party, back into the security forces. I don't know how that balance is going to be struck. I don't know exactly what the balance at the moment is, what the reality of this is, but it is clearly a political issue inside Iraq and will remain a political issue beyond the national elections in March, I suspect.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Going beyond the military, we heard from earlier witnesses how a lot of teachers, doctors, civil servants, competent professionals, who had to be in the Ba'ath Party in order to do what they did, were excluded. Do you feel that that has now been corrected?

John Jenkins: I do not have a real sense of that.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Do you want to comment on that?

Frank Baker: If I could. I would comment more about government employees in Ministries across Baghdad where I think it is certainly the case that a large number of Sunnis, and, therefore, by definition, former Ba'ath Party members, are now being employed -- have been employed, in fact, for the last two or three years. If you look at, for example, the Ministry of Water, where a lot of them are technocrats, but the Minister for Water had made an effort to bring back a lot of the previous Ba'athist experience in order to try to get the Ministry up and running properly back in about 2007/2008. So I think the indications there are, yes, they have done so. I think, if I may, just to revert to your previous question about the democratisation, I think these two are related because on of the big changes we have seen since 2005 has actually been the re-emergence of the Sunnis as a political force in Iraq, with the Sunnis having essentially taken their toys out the pram and walked away. Back in 2004, not actually partaking in the 2005 provincial elections, not really being a part of the 2005 national elections, and, in fact, what we saw in 2009 was that they played a full part in that and they are going to play a full part in the national elections scheduled for March this year. In that sense, we are seeing the Sunnis now coming back and trying to play a full role -- a large part of the Sunni movement.

Witnesses offer their take. They may be lying. They may be honest. On the latter, even when honest, it is their view and may be limited or grossly uninformed. Grossly uninformed would probably best describe Frank Baker who apparently doesn't pick up a newspaper. (As noted in
yesterday's snapshot, Iraq is currently banning various political groups from participating in elections intended to take place in March). John Jenkins is England's current Ambassaodr to Iraq and Baker is their ambassador to Kuwait. Jenkins and Baker appeared before the Iraq Inquiry in London today offering joint-testimony and also appearing today was Peter Watkins (British Director of Operational Policy) (link goes to video and transcript options). We're done with Baker, obviously. Can't even read the morning paper, not much use in you. We'll instead note the following lengthy exchange:

John Jenkins: I think there was a risk with the national elections in March that the turnout will be lower. Because I think it is still fragile, because I think -- having the habit of mind which sees democracy as something you actually have to work at is difficult and is not common at all in the Middle East. But I think this -- the way that politics has emerged as an alternative to the violent settling of disputes seems to be something that most Iraqis actually want. I think one of the turning points, one of the key -- if you can pinpoint what changed when was when Ayatollah Al-Sistani essentially said to people, "Vote. It is important that you vote". I think one of the lessons that the Shia in particular drew from what happened in the 1920s in Iraq is that they didn't actually participate in the process of conducting a modern state with the British mandated authority at the time. They were determined not to repeat this mistake and they concluded that, as the majority community in Iraq, it was, and is, in their interests to have a system that reflects their weight of numbers in the allocation of power at the centre. They also know that they need to bring along the other communities with them, the Sunnis and the Kurds. They know, I think -- or at least a substantial portion of them know -- that they can't do this by violence. You cannot impose this on the Sunnis. I think that in itself is a guarantee of the sustainability of some sort of democratic system in Iraq. How exactly over the next ten years this system will evolve and what sort of democratic system or accountable responsive system we will be looking at in ten year's time, I still find it quite difficult to predict, but they do have the institutions. They have the Council of Representatives, which is actually functioning pretty well, it passes laws, it has debates, but it doesn't have endless debates without passing anything which happens elsewhere in the Middle East where you have similar assemblies. It is not a done deal. It is not a done deal. If you look at the history of Iraq and the history of military coups in Iraq, you have to think that is always a possibility, a real possibility in the future, but I think where we are at the moment is -- it is much better than we thought it was going to be back in 2004/2005.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Yes. I mean, obviously, if one goes back to early 2003, one of the stated objective of the leaders of the coalition was that, after Saddam Hussein, there should be democracy in Iraq, and there were people who argued, for precisely the reasons you have given, that this is a singular experience, unique experience in the Middle East and in Iraq's history, that this was simply not realistic. But what you call the democratisation agenda which is now being pursued, but with, as you say, some way to go and no certainty as to success, this is now a realistic agenda?

John Jenkins: Yes, I believe it is.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: In the circumstances of today?

John Jenkins: I believe it is.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Can I ask you about de-Ba'athification? Yesterday, General White-Spunner was telling us how some of the Iraqi generals and commanders he was working with were people who had, as it were, been de-Ba'athified and then had come back into service. To what extent over the last two years/three years, since 2009, has there been a corrective to perhaps excessive de-Ba'athification under the CPA in 2003? Are people being rehabilitated on the basis of their abilities and merits now?

John Jenkins: I'm told -- to be quite honest, I don't know how far this is true, but I am told that many of the senior officers, the generals in particular, in the Iraqi armed forces had -- have some sort of Ba'athi background or background in the Saddam armed forces. Now, of course, it is true that under Saddam, if you want to get on in the armed forces, you need to be a member of Ba'ath Party.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Not just in the armed forces?

John Jenkins: Not just in the armed forces. How far that is being done on the basis of merit, I don't know, is the answer to that. The people who deal most closely with the Iraqi security forces, which are the Americans, say that the standard -- the competence of the Iraqi armed forces is going up. They are getting better and there are elements within the security forces who are very good; elements who aren't so good, but elements who are good. [C.I. note: Next section is where we came in for this snapshot.] So on that basis, I would say that actually the professionalism of the armed forces is going up, and, to a certain extent, this must partly be because they have retained enough professional expertise and experince within their ranks to make that possible. You will also hear from people who say that this is a risk. It remains a risk by having people who have a Ba'athi background within the armed forces at senior leavels, and I think one of the things we have seen since the -- the most recent spike in bombings in Baghdad, which started in August, have been renewed accusations that elements -- unreconciled elements of the Ba'ath Party, based externally, are deeply involved in these attacks and retain the will and the aspiration to re-emerge as a poltical force, as a sort of politically irredentist, a political force within Iraq. I find it very difficult to judge the force of those claims, but the conclusion I draw is that there is clearly a balance to be drawn between using professional competence and experience of former army officers under Saddam, to provide the backbone of the modern Iraqi security forces and dealing with the suspicions and fears of others, that this is the reintroduction of an element of the Ba'ath Party, unreconcilable elements of the Ba'ath Party, back into the security forces. I don't know how that balance is going to be struck. I don't know exactly what the balance at the moment is, what the reality of this is, but it is clearly a political issue inside Iraq and will remain a political issue beyond the national elections in March, I suspect.

From the above section,
Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) emphasizes that a military coup is still "a real possibility". Alex Barker (Financial Times of London) also stresses that aspect. Surprisingly since this is what stood out to the press (those are just two examples), none latched upon Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's statements Wednesday. Huang Peizhao and Li Xiao (People's Daily Online) reported of Wednesday's remarks:

On Wednesday, a military parade was held in Baghdad "Green Zone" of the unknown soldier monument to mark the 89th anniversary of the Iraqi Army Day. President Jalal Talabani and top military officers attended a ceremony and parade. In his speech delivered on the occasion, President Talabani stressed the need "to build a new Iraqi army with a defensive ideology", and the task of the military is "to protect the population and enforce security within its borders", "to defend the territorial integrity and state sovereignty" and to "fight terrorism". So it is the precondition to reshape Iraqi military for national security, social stability and peaceful environment in its post-war reconstruction, some analysts noted.
According to regulations, a parliamentary election is planned for early March 2010, which represents a major part of the post-war reconstruction and a great event in the Iraq's political life. Whether this incoming national general election proceeds smoothly will determine whether or not Iraqi's future would be heading for stability. To this end, Talabani asked the armed forces to prepare for "escorting" the election at the same time appealing for general public to unite together to greet the election.
Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs the hearings on Twitter and we'll note this Tweet on today's hearing:

Good heavens - stenographer butts in and says she's been at it formore than two hours and she's had quite enough, thank you very much!
from TweetDeck

Iraq Inquiry Blogger also explains, "Almost all the witnesses to date -- be they diplomatic, military or civilian -- were people charged with carrying out policies and intructions that had been decided upon by their political masters. From next week we'll also begin to start hearing from the politicians (and members of their innermost circles, eg Alastair Campbell next Tuesday) who took those decisions and created those policies."

The issue of Iraqi women was raised by the committee. We'll note the following exchange:

Committee Member Usha Prashar: My second question is about progress on issues to do with women because it was part of the constitution in 2005. Has there been any progress on that area or not?

John Jenkins: In terms of representation of women nationally, I think there is quite a good story to tell actually. In terms of violence against women, I think this is a national issue in Iraq. We have seen, particularly in the north, in the KRG, a government which is prepared to do what it says it wants to do, which is to take action against honour killings, for example. I think you are dealing with -- and I think in Basra as well the intimidation of women by militias has stopped, and I think other people have said, you know, that actually one of the things the Charge of the Knights [Basra assault in 2008] did was reveal what we all thought, which was that most Basrawis didn't want this to happen, didn't want their lives disrupted, didn't want to be intimidated, didn't want their wives and daughters to be intimidated by the militias. I think -- and there were some very feisty Iraqi female members of Parliament, many of whom I have met. All have very distinctive ideas about how this should be pursued. Sustaining this, of course, is going to be -- like most things in Iraq is going to be a challenge, particularly when there are such strong counter-cultural currents.
Committee Member Usha Prashar: So are you saying there has been a steady progress of women in the political process, in representation?

John Jenkins: There has been progress. Whether this is -- steady? There has been progress. There has been progress, but I think now it will be -- the trick will be to make sure this continues. I think it is patchy, the way this has happened around the country. I think it is certainly easier to achieve -- to achieve progress in urban areas than it is in rural areas on this.

On the subject of Iraqi women and Parliament,
NPR's Quil Lawrence examined their participation as candidates in the expected elections on last Sunday's Weekened Edition (link has text and audio).

Peter Watkins testimony focused primarily on the 2007 and beyond role for England in Iraq which includes the British military "providing naval assets alongside the Americans to help protect the oil platforms fromterrorist or whatever threats" and "which is providing officer training at the Iraqi military academy in Al Rustmiyah". Asked by Committee Member Martin Gilbert about Iraqi opinion of the continuing British role, Watkins responded, "My impression was the Iraqis were very keen for us to continue with both the naval training and the oil platform protection and, indeed, the officer training. I imagine the Iraqi military was keener on it than other, but there was not a strong divergence of views across the Iraqi system. They wanted us to continue with those roles." Defining the "Iraqi system" wasn't touched on (except by Committee Member Roderic Lyne much later), nor the populace's long expressed desire to have all foreign occupiers out of Iraq. The UN mandate -- authorizing the occupation, not the invasion (no UN mandate authorized the invasion) -- was touched on. It's still not understood clearly by a number of people (Raed Jarrar for example) which is why the US Status Of Forces Agreement is not understood. The chief player that didn't want the UN mandate (again) extended was Nouri al-Maliki.

Peter Watkins: Basically, this was the part of the pattern of Iraq recovering its sovereignty. The Iraqis did not want UNSCR -- the UNSCR mandates to be extended beyond the end of December 2008. I think Prime Minister Maliki made that clear in his letter, which is attached to UNSCR 1790. They wanted to move to the position of a normal state.

Watkins revealed that the government (Nouri in his counsel by the context of Watkins statement) wanted to do a blanket agreement for other countries continuing their role in Iraq after the SOFA passed the Iraqi Parliament November 27, 2008 and this was proposed; however, this lacked the support of "a number of Iraqi Parliamentarians, members of the Council of Representatives, that they should have been presented with an agreement which they would have seen as binding on both sides. [. . .] There was an increasing feeling that they wanted to have distinct agreements with each country, reflecting the specific roles of those countries." The British went with a Memo Of Understanding and, in Watkins discussions of that, he details how, without a new agreement (the ventual MOU), when the mandate ended, the British would have had to depart. That's basic but since the issue's been confused by the likes of Raed Jarrar, let's point out again that the US SOFA is a contract and can be terminated, can be extended or can be replaced with a new agreement. The same was true of the UN mandate. It could be extended (and was repeatedly), terminated (it was at the end of 2008) and replaced with something else (it was replaced, for the US, with the SOFA at the end of 2008).

Iraqi objection to a foreign presence has long been documented. Roderic Lyne was the only committee member to raise the issue.

Committee Membmer Roderic Lyne: So we wanted to do it, they want us to do it -- I suppose when you say "Iraqis", you mean particularly the leadership of the Iraqi Government, because clearly there are different points of view on the Iraqi side?

Peter Watkins: The Iraqi Government wanted us to do it. It was clear, when Simon MacDonald and I went to Baghdad on 1 June to finalize the text, that they wanted to reach agreement.

Turning to Nouri's attempts to ban political rivals,
Nada Barki and Anthony Shadid (New York Times) note, "An Iraqi parliamentary committee moved Thursday to bar a Sunni Muslim lawmaker from national elections in March, outraging his supporters and threatening to worsen sectarian tension here. The lawmaker, Saleh al-Mutlaq, a prominent Sunni politician, and his group, the National Dialogue Front, were among those disqualified on the grounds of promoting the banned Baath Party of former President Saddam Hussein." Leila Fadel and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) observe, "The decision by the Justice and Accountability Commission, in charge of cleansing high-level Baathists from the ranks of the government and security forces, seemed to be an attempt to purge candidates with links to the old political order, many of whom are popular among secular nationalist voters. The move is a blow to hopes of bringing opposition figures -- who turned to violent resistance over the past seven years -- into the political fold, part of the U.S. strategy to bolster the government."But that's not really true. It's true for Sunnis -- "a blow to hopes of bringing opposition figures . . . into the political fold" -- but not of Shi'ites. Moqtada al-Sadr's militias were the focus of Nouri's ire in 2008, leading to the assault on Basra. They've been brought in. Nouri's worked overtime to bring the League of Righteous into the system. It appears that only the Sunnis are unwelcome. The League of Righteous, for example, not only attacked a US base and killed 5 US soldiers, they also kidnapped 5 British citizens and one remains missing. But that's not apparently a reason to keep them out of the political process. They still get face time with Nouri and his staff. Afif Sarhan (Islam Online) quotes Saleh al-Mutlak stating, "The government move just show how democracy is far from Iraq and clearly demonstrates a persecution from some other parties. The government will be surprised with the reaction they will get from Iraqis at the country's streets who are our supporters and conscious voters." Nada Barkri (New York Times) reports attempts to protest in the streets of Baghdad today were prevented by Iraqi security forces and quotes Diyala Province's Najim al-Harbi stating, "There is a great popular resentment toward this decision, which lacks any legal justification. The Iraqi street is now boiling."Doubt that it's just Sunnis being targeted? From Liz Sly's "Iraq bars major Sunni party from election" (Los Angeles Times):The Justice and Accountability Committee charged with checking that candidates don't have ties to Baathists has named Saleh Mutlak, a prominent lawmaker, among those disqualified from the elections, according to the panel's executive director, Ali Lami. That means that Mutlak's Iraqi Dialogue Front also will be barred, said Lami, who was detained by the U.S. military for a year on suspicion of ties to Iranian-backed militias.
So you can be a Shi'ite, like Ali Lami, accused of ties to Iran and decide who will participate or not. You just can't have full participation if you're a Sunni. This isn't new and it's really not surprising. When a foreign government (the US) occupies a country and sets up a puppet government staffed with exiles from the country, the exiles are going to seek revenge. That's all that's happened in Iraq, that's the only real 'progress.' The Shi'ite exiles have extracted blood and vengance on various Sunnis -- some of whom wronged them previously, some of whom didn't. And they've made this extraction with US guns, tanks and air power to support them. The occupation was never supposed to be peaceful. That's why thugs were chosen to head the puppet government. You don't put blood thirsty exiles in charge of a country you want to 'heal.'
You put thugs in charge so the entire populace lives in fear with the hope that they will be too cowed to object to the dances the puppets do for the occupying power. And, if you're Nouri, when the populace appears to have moved away from sectarian divides, you work to eliminate your political rivals who might do better than you in the upcoming election. Little Nouri is the new Saddam. He was put in charge by the US and he seeks blood and revenge. This was obvious in
yesterday's public hearing of the Iraq Inquiry where BritishLt Gen Barney White-Spunner explained that Nouri jumped the gun on a planned Basra operation by several months apparently due to the fact that the governor of the province was a political rival. Not only did that take place, but Nouri had no concern about the civilian population and wanted the British to willy-nilly bomb from the air which would have resulted in massive deaths. That's Little Nouri, the US thug chafing at his leash, ready to kill as soon as he's let off it.Al Jazeera notes of the move, "This year many Sunni Muslim political parties are expected to take part in the vote. But if al-Mutlaq is barred from the vote, it could lead to widespread Sunni unrest and disillusionment with the political process." Jason Ditz ( explains, "Analysts warned that the move could lead to a broader boycott of the election among Sunnis and raise doubts about the nation's political stability."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Shirqat car bombing which injured seven people.


RTE News reports that 5 suspects were killed by US forces "in prolonged gunbattle that began Friday morning on the Mosul-Baghdad road, south of Mosul" and that another armed clash in Nineveh Province claimed 3 lives and leaving five injured.

Last month, the world attempted to sort out competing claims (as oil prices soared) that Iran had or was occupying an Iraqi oil field. Iran denied the occupation and/or insisted that it was Iran's oil field anyway. Iraq insisted the occupation was taking place and that it was Iraq's oil fields. Some residents of neighboring areas stated that the occupation had taken place weeks before the press reported it and that it was now over.
Alice Fordham (Times of London) reports that Hoshyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister) met with Manouchehr Mottaki (Iran's Foreign Minister) in Baghdad to address the Fakka oil field: "Both ministers indicated after the meeting that they had not been able to resolve the ownership of the parts of Fakka oil field disputed since the 1988 end of the Iran-Iraq war, nor had they agreed on a version of what happened in the incursion. Mr Zebari said that after 'direct action' was taken by the Iraqi Government the Iranian flag was lowered at the site, while Mr Mottaki said that the Iraqi side might have been partly to blame." The Tehran Times reports that the two reached "important agreements for resolving the disputes over their borders" and that Iran would build a fence to settle the Fakka oil field dispute. UPI observes today, 'If Iran took control of the southern fields it, rather than Iraq, would surpass Saudi Arabia, its Sunni-dominated regional rival." Mike noted the meeting of the two ministers yesterday and how Jalal Talabani, Iraqi president, appeared to be going strangely out of his way to suck up to Iran.

In the US, despite three callers raising the issue of Iraq on today's second hour of
The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Iraq was not a topic for discussion. Martin Walker jumped on one issue raised by a caller for sentence or two to take the conversation where he wanted (Pakistan). He did not, however, address Iraq. He did float, wrongly, the notion that there is uproar in the Arab World (however that's defined) over Judge Ricardo Urbina's decision in the recent Blackwater case. Naturally, Walker couldn't explain the decision because his who point of existance is apparently to inflame. Judging by the callers, MSNBC's night time talk show hosts are among the ones putting out this talking point. Reality, none of those three are reporters, none of the three speak Arabic. The Arab speaking world, judging by Arabic publications, is not 'inflamed' at the US over the decision. To believe that requires a lot of ignorance and bigotry on the part of the person making the assumption.

The Arab speaking world is not a dunce or an idiot. They are as highly intelligent as any other society, they have the same number of less than on the ball people. They're not 'the other' or strange or stunted. The Baghdad shooting took place in September 2007. Over two years later, a decision is not going to 'inflame' them. They're not going to be up in arms because there was never a strong feeling that, if proven guilty, Blackwater would be held accountable. The Arab speaking world is not unaware of the close governmental ties Blackwater had with the previous administration and the current administration. There's anger expressed at the US and anger expressed at Nouri al-Maliki whose grandstanding on the issue has not gone over well (due to the fact that Nouri did nothing on this issue and contractors still remain in Iraq). As someone who can read Arabic, the 'inflamation' allegedly being seen today was present . . . when Steven D. Green received a life sentence and not the death penalty. That outrage was due to the fact that Green didn't deny raping and killing Abeer or killing her parents and her younger sister. His 'defense' was all about not denying the charges. So when he walked -- on a charge that would have resulted in death in many MidEast countries -- it did create an outrage. That outrage was more akin to the outrage over Abu Ghraib (though it never reached the same intensity), the Blackwater decision, judging by Arab language media, is not like either and much of the anger is aimed at Nouri.

In the US, Philip J. Crowley handled today's State Dept briefing. He gave lip service to "respect the rule of law" but mainly bobbed and weaved. One such moment was when he was told that the State Dept was late in responding to an incident that took place last year -- referring to Urbina's verdict. Crowley appeared dazed and not to grasp the word play there -- the decision was announced December 31, 2009. So while it was 'last week,' it was also 'last year.' But he was taken aback and apparently unable to process that fact. He was given the following numbers: 120,000 military contractors in Iraq and 130,000 to 132,000 US troops as of summer 2009. He was asked if this said anything about Iraq's so-called sovereignty?

Philip J. Crowley: I don't have -- I can't verify those numbers. I think there have been some GAO numbers more recently, I think, that puts your numbers well below. I mean, contractors play an important role in any significant operation anywhere in the world, whether it's a military operation, whether it's a humanitarian operation. And it is something that we are going to see in the future. The real issue is -- is what are they doing, how are they doing it, how are they integrating. In the case of Iraq, how well are the operations of the contractors integrated within military operations. In other cases, how well are they integrated within the institutions within specific countries.

November 2, 2009, the Commission on Wartime Contracting was told by the GAO's William Solis that, as of the end of August, there were 128,700 US service members "spread aong 295 bases throughout the country." This despite the fact that the US press had reported 115,000 and 110,000 for the bulk of 2009.

Philip J. Crowley: But nonetheless, I think it's safe to say that in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in other places, contractors will have a role to play and a valuable role to play. But we are looking to make sure that not only their role is appropriate but that where they are there, they have effective oversight, they're fulfilling the terms of their contract, and they're held accountable when things go wrong.
Asked whether or not US contractors might remain in Iraq even if a US withdrawal (of "armed forces") took place, Crowley responded:

It could be a little bit of both. I mean, you have a transition here where, in fact, once we get through the election in early March in Iraq, we will -- working closely with the Government of Iraq and following the strategic agreement that we have with Iraq, we'll begin to transform our relationship. Military forces will withdraw over time. That will have some impact on contractors who are there to primarily support our military presence in Iraq. More of the effort will shift from the military component to the civilian component. We may well have contractors at the State Department, for example, who will continue to function in Iraq to help Iraq itself build institutions of government. But over time, more of this activity will shift from being a U.S. responsibility to being an Iraqi responsibility.

Back to
The Diane Rehm Show. As Ruth's "E.P.A. pressures Diane Rehm not to cover mountaintop mining" explained last night, Diane's attempt to cover mountaintop coal mining on Thursday's first hour resulted in objections from the governmental agency.
Diane Rehm: And before we begin, let me tell you that we did contact the E.P.A., invite them to take part in the show. A spokesman said that their work with Hobet mine resulted in Hobet being able to gather more coal, it resulted in 50% less impact on the streams. The spokesman stressed that the E.P.A. does not have the power to stop the practice of mountaintop mining. The spokesman also expressed annoyance with our covering the subject of mountain top mining without giving the E.P.A., whom we contacted yesterday morning, sufficient time to respond. And let me be sure to say to all of our listeners, our subject matters for the next day's show are always decided 24 hours in advance.

TV notes,
NOW on PBS begins airing on most PBS stations tonight (check local listings) and this week's program explores the Afghanistan War:President Obama is sending as many as 30,000 more troops to combat Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan this year, but are we missing the true target? On Friday, January 8 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW reports directly from Pakistan's dangerous and pivotal border with Afghanistan, where Pentagon war planners acknowledge many of the enemy fighters and their leaders are based. The U.S. has been relying on Pakistan to act against Taliban militants there, but the Pakistani army's commitment is in question. NOW takes you to the true front lines for an eye-opening, inside lookyou haven't seen before, and won't soon forget.And NOW on PBS has posted video online of Pakistan forces fighting the Taliban as a preview for Friday's show. Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Peter Baker (New York Times), James Barnes (National Journal), Ceci Connolly (Washington Post) and Tom Gtelten (NPR) who fortunately won't be able to laugh at listeners who call in since this isn't a radio show. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Debra Carnahan, Avis Jones-DeWeever and Leslie Sanchez 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:Watching The Border Steve Kroft reports on the status of the multi-billion-dollar "virtual fence" being built at the U.S.-Mexican border, which is years behind schedule and so far covers only about one percent of the border.Revelations From The Campaign Authors of a new book, "Game Change," and John McCain's former top campaign strategist reveal behind-the-scenes issues from the Republican and Democratic camps during the presidential campaign. CNN's Anderson Cooper reports. Watch VideoResurrecting The Extinct Scientists believe they can sustain endangered species - maybe even one day resurrect some that have died out - using DNA technology. Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Barack needs his beauty sleep

Barack did nothing.

The December 25th attempt to kill a plane filled with passengers took place and the minions were under orders not to disturb Barack's beauty sleep. So for three hours after the attack, Barack snoozed.

Finally waking, he would not speak to the issue publicly until three days after. Before rushing off to a golf game.

The first part of the above is so similar to George W. Bush sitting in the classroom on 9-11 (though at least W was awake). The last part is like George H.W. Bush rushing off to play golf during the Gulf War.

And the above is based on a Michael Goodwin piece noted by Hillary Is 44.

"Barack Obama At War With Hillary Clinton (And Thank You Andrew Breitbart)" (Hillary Is 44):

The increasingly wounded animal which is Barack Obama and his Dimocrats are waging a secret war on Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton is more popular that Barack Obama and his sleeve yanking wife. Dimocrats are terrified of what the voters will do in November 2010.

The fear of Hillary Clinton is growing. Hillary Clinton is increasingly viewed as a threat because she can be the 44th person to take the oath of office (Grover Cleveland had two non-consecutive terms, so Hillary can be the 44th person to take the oath of office and be 44 still). The secret war has begun.

And if you doubt that, I'll steer you to something Hillary Is 44 missed. This morning, on NPR's Morning Edition, a State Department employee gave an interview that very much fits with the war on Hillary. I wondered exactly why that man was speaking? I wondered who gave him authorization? I thought, "A terrorist attack? And he's going 'rogue'? Why would he do that?" Indeed.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Thursday, January 7, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, another US service members is dead, bombings rock Iraq, Nouri goes after political rivals, Blackwater agrees to pay victims, and the Iraq Inquiry in London hears from a military officer who states, "We were asked at time in those very chaotic early days to do some things by the Iraqis, which, if we had agreed to, I would be sitting in front of a very different tribunal now, and the American -- American rules of engagement were slightly easier, not hugely, slightly, which meant they were able to do some things that we weren't. "
Starting in London where the Iraq Inquiry continued public hearings. Today the committee heard from Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner, Nigel Haywood and Keith Mackiggan (link goes to video and transcript options). The news came during White-Spunner's testimony. He focused on Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Basra (which began in March 2008) and, as has previously been noted (including by Gen David Petraeus to the US Congress), Nouri gave the US and the UK little-to-no heads up when he started the assault. The British call the assault the Charge of the Knights. He testified that, as was reported in real time, many Iraqi security forces ended up fighting with militias (not against them). White-Spunner stated that, prior to the assault, Moqtada al-Sadr's influence was declining (and that he believed al-Sadr was in Iran during this time). He estimated that "the population of Basra is but 2.5 probably 3 million" -- an important point to remember. White-Spunner declared at one point, "Now, far be it for me to divine Prime Minister's Maliki's motives, but I have described the political situation in Basra at the beginning" -- and he did. The governor of the province was of another party and was of the opinion (a popular opinion in the province) that the province should split away (in a way similar to the KRG and less under the control of Baghdad). Nouri jumped the timeline for the assault and it was likely due to political reasonings on his part.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: Let's just pause and be clear where we are. What you have described is a situation in which there was evident tension between Baghdad and Basra politically --
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: Yes.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: -- and a degree of urgency, therefore, that attached to that situation with Prime Minister Maliki.
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: Yes.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: That the Americans were -- had different priorites elsewhere still, that they were looking at Mosul and Baghdad and that the general agreement, which included the Iraqi military contingent or military leadership was for June.
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: Yes.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: So that was the assumptions. So now, all of a sudden, Prime Minister Maliki decides that this timetable is presumably too relaxed, too gradual.
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: Yes.
The US-installed thug Nouri likely jumped an attack by months due to political reasoning, in an effort to quash a political rival. That's especially pertinent today when Nouri's launched an assault on political rivals. What else did Nouri do in that assault?
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: We were asked at time in those very chaotic early days to do some things by the Iraqis, which, if we had agreed to, I would be sitting in front of a very different tribunal now, and the American -- American rules of engagement were slightly easier, not hugely, slightly, which meant they were able to do some things that we weren't. I have to say which I think quite correctly we weren't.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: I think it would be helpful to have some examples of what you are talking about, I think we can guess.
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: We were invited to drop aerial ordnance on areas which we considered not to have been throroughly enough vetted and which could have caused considerable civilian casualties.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: This was both from the Iraqi commanders, but the Americans somewhere in between where we --
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: No, it is too far to say the Americans somewhere in between. This is the lack of planning, because you know, we had done the planning throroughly for this. If we had had the time, we would have known what the targets were, we would have studied them and we had very clear rules as to the amount of acceptable damage. They are very, as you would expect, in an operation like that, extremely restrictive in a city like Basra. But it is inaccurate to say the Americans were somewhere in the middle. The American rules were very similar to ours. There were occasions when they could use aerial weapon systems when we could not, but it would be going too far to say --
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman: This was quite an important issue in terms of the potential tensions, going back to what I was asking before about civil/military relations. In all Multi-National operations these issues arise, but we have encouraged the Iraqis to be in the lead and in control, but that you don't -- you don't want to be seen to be attacking civilians. So how do you handle these releations with the Iraqis?
Lt Gen Barney White-Spunner: It causes some misunderstanding and there are some -- there are some moments when the Iraqis are irritated with us because we haven't done exactly what they ask, but, as we got this [. . . C.I. note: He does not finish that thought and we're jumping ahead in the testimony, still on this topic] There was no western media in Basra at the time. Indeed, there wasn't for some months afterwards. There was the odd -- one visit. But there was very -- we were aware that the Iraqis were asking us to do some things, as I have described, we didn't want to do and wouldn't do, but generally, on the ground, the sort of -- the relationship between us and the corps and General Mohan's headquarters was incredibly close, as indeed it had to be, because we were prosecuting daily operations with all our soldiers in danger.
Nouri is being allowed to stockpile weapons -- spending billions on them while doing nothing to improve Iraqi lives -- and the Inquiry is informed he wanted areas of Basra targeted and was not concerned with civilian deaths? That was probably the most important revelation because Nouri has no plans to step down as prime minister and today began outlawing various political parites prior to the expected elections.
Tomorrow's the last day of the 'narrative' session of the Inquiry, wherein the panel have tried to patch together what happened. From Monday we move onto why -- the then-PM, his inner ring and the upper echelons who actually formulated the policies these soldiers, diplomats and civil servants then had to enact. Chilcot's team took a knocking back at the start for being insufficiently inquisitorial (I mentioned in the Tweets but spotted a particularly good piece yesterday by top barrister Michael Mansfield QC on this). It'll be interesting to see if there's a change of style with with the new witnesses.
From Michael Mansfield's "Iraq inquiry: we have every right to know why we went to war" (Times of London) referred to above:
The Iraq inquiry has resumed this week, promising crucial witnesses -- Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Lord Goldsmith and possibly Gordon Brown.We have been told repeatedly what it is not: a trial, an inquest, an inquisition, a court, a statutory inquiry. Nevertheless, however its investigative format is described, none of this fancy terminological footwork can evade the central expectation for a thorough, transparent and impartial quest for the truth about the way decisions and actions were carried out.
What remains is not clear. Neither a judge nor a lawyer is on the panel, which is bizarre given that one of the main questions raised by most victims and their families relates to the illegality of the war.
In Iraq, Nada Barki (New York Times) reports an al-Anbar Province bombing which has claimed multiple lives and "struck the houses of an anti-terrorism official and his relatives" -- with three being planted in around the homes and a fourth hitting "a police convoy" attempting to take the wounded to a hospital. Hamid Ahmed (AP) identifies the official as Lt Col Walid Sulaiman al-Hiti (his father's home was also targeted). BBC News counts 8 dead and six wounded in four exposions. Fadhel al-Badrani, Ali al-Mashhdani, Jim Loney and Andrew Dobbie (Reuters) count seven dead including the father and mother of Waleed al-Hiti, his two sisters, 1 brother and sister-in-law and attorney Qais Hamoodi. Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 dead and identifies them as Lt Col Waleed "Hammoudi's wife, children, his brother (and his wife), sister and other members of the family". Anne Tang (Xinhua) informs, "Authorities in the town imposed traffic ban and blocked the entrances of the town, as dozens of Iraqi security forces were deployed on main streets and intersections while dozens others were carrying out search operations in the town, he added. " From yesterday's snapshot:

Meanwhile Uthman al-Mukhtar (Asia Times) reports that al Anbar Province residents are "alarmed" by the recent increase in violence in the province and quotes Noor Saadi stating, "The police can't even protect themselves." The violence is causing her to keep her son at home and not let him attend school while other people are refusing "to return to their businesses or open their shops."
Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) notes last week's bombing in Ramadi resulted in at least 23 deaths. Leila Fadel and Uthman al-Mokhtar (Washington Post) explain, "After last week's bombings, police chief Tariq al-Aasal -- widely viewed as incompetent -- was forced out and replaced with a temporary commander from the Iraqi Army in Baghdad. The appointment of Bahaa al-Azzawi was made directly by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, angering tribal chiefs who saw the move as an affront to their power." Karadsheh, Fadel, al-Mokhtar as well as BBC New's Jim Muir note that violence in Anbar really only decreased when the Sahwa movement took hold "Sahwa" also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" -- Sunnis put on the US payroll so they would stop attacking US military equipment and US service members. In 2008, Nouri was supposed to take over the monthly payments (US tax payers were paying approximately 92,000 Sahwas $300 a month) but he couldn't get it together. Still couldn't in Februrary. In the summer he reported finally managed to absorb all the payments (unless the rumors are true that CERP funds have been partially paying for Sahwa). In addition, Arab media last month was reporting Nouri planned to drop Sahwa from the payroll in the new year. Michael Gisick (Stars and Stripes) reported attacks on Sahwa are on the rise with the US military estimating an average of ten attacks a week in the last two months which "has underscored the increasing weakness of groups widely credited with helping turn the tide of the Iraq war." Monday Karim Zair (Azzaman) reported mass arrests were taking place "in Sunni Muslim-dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad and towns and cities to the north and west of the capital".
In other reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home bombing which claimed the lives of 2 children and left a third injured, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two police officers, a Mosul car bombing which left four people wounded, a Mosul grenade attack which wounded five people and a Khaniqn roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left thirteen more wounded. On the last bombing, Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports that 3 people died in the bombing and fifteen were injured in the bombing apparently targeting a Shi'ite mosque. Reuters drops back to yesterday to note a Balad suicide bomber who took his/her own life and left eight Sahwa wounded and a Tuz Khurmato roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 child and left four more injured.

AP reports the 1 American soldier "has died in northern Iraq" and since USF can't do their job (which is to announce deaths, DoD identifies the dead) there may be confusion but northern Iraq is not Baghdad so this is not the death in Baghdad reported yesterday. ICCC's count is 4374 for the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the Iraq War. CORRECTION TO SNAPSHOT E-MAILED A FEW MINUTES AGO. USF announces: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- A Soldier assigned to United States Division-North died of non-combat related injuries, Jan. 6. The incident is under investigation and release of the Soldier's identity is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. The name of the deceased service member will be announced through the U.S. Department of Defense Official Web site at Task Force Marne is deeply saddened by this loss and will provide more information on this incident following next of kin notification." They posted that late today and missing that announcement is my fault for not returning a phone call until after I dictated the snapshot. My apologies. They did announce today's death this evening. Again, my error, my apologies. And my apologies to a friend at USF who left a voice mail for me that I didn't return until after dictating the snapshot.
War is big business. Turning to Blackwater (now known as "Xe") and KBR. Last week Judge Ricardo Urbina handed down a decision (announced last Thursday) to toss out the case against Blackwater for the September 2007 massacre as a result of the Justice Department basing much of their case on statements the contractors gave to the US State Dept -- statements given after the men were told anything they said would not be used against them -- has the Baghdad based government or 'government' enraged. Al Jaezeera reports that Blackwater has agreed to settle with the victims and their families which has led Burke O'Neil LCC to drop their cases against Blackwater, "Susan Burke, the lawyer for the firm, filed for the cases to be dismissed in court late on Wednesday." Chris McGreal (Guardian) adds, "Today's legal settlement amounts to an implicit admission by the highly secretive company that some of its guards were responsible for a series of unjustifiable killings. Blackwater appears to have reached the deal to avoid a court hearing that threatened to force the company to lay bare what critics contend was a policy of shooting first, as well as the involvement of its employees in an array of criminal activities." (Blackwater has new charges related to Afghanistan, read McGreal's article for more on that.)
Burke LLC is also representing US soldiers and contractors in 22 lawsuits filed against KBR. And doing so a time when the American people feel the US government is not doing enough for US service members. Brian Montopoli (CBS News, Political Hotsheet) reports on a new CBS poll which finds, not surprisingly, that respondents say the US military is spread too thin and: "They also say the U.S. is not doing enough for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed say the government has fallen short when it comes to addressing the needs and problems of troops returning from those conflicts. Just 22 percent say the government is doing enough." Dionne Searcey (Wall St. Journal) reports on the National Guard members in Indiana who are suing for their exposure to a known cancer causing agent while serving in Iraq:

In a lawsuit filed in federal court in Indiana, the Guardsmen allege that oil company KBR Inc. "disregarded and downplayed" the fact that the site at Qarmat Ali was coated with the hazardous chemical sodium dichromate. They were exposed, they say, to the chemical that is used as an industrial anti-corrosive agent to protect pipes.
As a result, the soldiers suffered "unprotected, unknowing, direct exposure to one of the most potent carcinogens and mutagenic substances known to man," alleges the suit, which seeks monetary compensation for health problems the soldiers say they have suffered.

The lawsuit was filed last month and has to do with the Qarmat Ali water plant. December 3rd, Sgt Mark McManaway told Scott Bronstein and Abbie Boudreau (CNN), "The worst part is that the military has only just recently advised us that the stuff we were exposed to was much worse than they thought while we were out there. It's in our bodies, but we don't know how bad it is. Maybe within the next five years cancers could start showing up. You've got a ticking time bomb in you -- and when's it going to go off?"

Evan Bayh is one of Iraq's two US Senators. Bayh has introduced a bill that would create a federal registry similar to the one for Agent Orange exposure during Vietnam -- the bill, if passed, would allow those exposed to avoid the long struggle Agent Orange victims had to go through attempting to establish their exposure at a time when the US government was denying exposure and minimizing it. The bill was referred to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee months ago and is currently buried there. (Bayh does not serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee.) Today the Wall St. Journal reports KBR is predicting its stocks will be at $1.60 to $1.80 a share in Fiscal Year 2010. As Kat's noted last night and Tuesday ("Not a good day" and "Thoughts on Byron Dorgan and more") and Mike noted last night ("Dems retiring, NOW wants action, Ann Talbot gives a warning"), Senator Byron Dorgan has decided not to run for re-election in 2010. Kelley Beaucar Vlahos ( observes:
What I do know is that Sen. Dorgan held over 21 hearings in the Senate on private contractor fraud and abuse, including war profiteering, the physical and mental harassment of whistle-blowers in-theater, and most recently on Nov. 6, the constantly burning open-air pits of waste in Iraq and Afghanistan that have made countless veterans sick and looking to the Pentagon for answers. Kellogg, Brown and Root, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, is being charged in 22 different class action lawsuits with purposefully burning toxic waste in the open-air pits to save a buck on not installing incinerators. There are now more incinerators at U.S bases today than there were a year ago, but the alleged victims contend that KBR, which has the contract for waste management services, plus practically everything else in its multi-billion LOGCAP contract, could have installed more incinerators years ago (a charge KBR officials vociferously deny).
But even aside from burn pits, Dorgan was one of those rare members of Congress who actually gave a flying fig about exposing not only the abuse that private contractors were perpetuating in the war zone, but the over-use of private contractors in the war zone, period. Aside from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-CA, on the House side, Dorgan, as chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee, was the only one to use his leadership post as a bully pulpit against abuses -- even when there weren't cameras on to report it -- from very early on in the post-invasion occupation(s).
Turning to Iraqi politics. Elections were supposed to take place in December 2009 but Nouri kicked it back with the promise they'd take place in January 2010 which . . . didn't happen. Now elections are supposed to take place in March. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports: "The speaker of the Iraqi parliament urged the heads of the political blocks to push the members of their blocks to attend the parliament sessions in order to approve some important laws that deal with the daily life of Iraqis. The meetings came after the parliament failed in approving any law during many sessions because of the non sufficient quorum. That means more than 138 out of 275 lawmakers were absent and they did not do their national duties, which they were elected for." Today Inside Iraq reports:
Iraqi De-Baath commission banned Sunni politicians and their political blocs from participating in Iraq's national elections due in March.
Ali Al Lami, head of the De-Baath commission, told Arab news televisions that Saleh Al Mutlak is banned from participating in the next elections and said this decision is "final".
The commission name was changed to justice and accountability commission and its main job is to ensure that high ranking or active Baath party members will not be part of Iraq's new political regime or military.
The ban included Nihro Mohamed, Saad Al Janabi and Saleh Al Mutlak, a lawmaker and a former Baathi and to include 14 political blocs and its 400 candidates. The commission said that banning the head of a political bloc will extend to his bloc and its members.
Are we still pretending on behalf of Crazy? Are we still pretending he's a 'leader' or anything but the new Saddam -- who, like the previous one, was US installed?
In the US, it seems more and more the only coverage most newspapers carry on Iraq takes place in the how-to. Martha Stewart joins Hints for Heloise in awarness on the Iraq War -- an awareness lacking in the bulk of the national press corps. From her latest nationally syndicated column Ask Martha (link goes to Boston Globe):

Q. I'd like to send cookies to my nephew, who is serving in Iraq. What types will survive the journey, and how should I package them?

A. Home-baked cookies are a wonderful way to give your nephew (and undoubtedly his friends) a taste of home. Transit time may take more than two weeks, so look for cookies with a long shelf life. Shortbread is a good bet, and you can add variety with flavors such as chocolate or lemon. Oatmeal-raisin also has staying power, because dried fruit helps the cookies stay moist. Gingerbread men are a sturdy choice around the holidays. Steer clear of chocolate chips, which are likely to melt; candy-coated M&M's are a good substitute. Also, label any baked goods that contain nuts.

For maximum freshness, freeze the cookies until the day you're ready to send them. An efficient and economical way to mail them is in a Priority Mail Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office flat-rate box, which is 12 by 12 by 5 inches; it costs $11.95 to ship. Wrap the cookies individually if you like, for easier distribution. Place them in a cushioned airtight container, and fit that inside the flat-rate box. (You can pad the space between the two containers with extra socks for your nephew.) Then seal the edges with packing tape.

If you want to send a package but don't have someone in mind, skip the baked goods: Soldiers are required to throw away homemade foods unless they know the sender. But prepackaged treats, as well as magazines and toiletries (packed separately), are certainly welcome. For soldiers' requests and addresses, go to For more nonprofit organizations that help those in the armed services, visit

Lastly Friday night on most PBS stations, NOW on PBS begins airing (check local listings) and this week's program explores the Afghanistan War:

President Obama is sending as many as 30,000 more troops to combat Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan this year, but are we missing the true target? On Friday, January 8 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW reports directly from Pakistan's dangerous and pivotal border with Afghanistan, where Pentagon war planners acknowledge many of the enemy fighters and their leaders are based. The U.S. has been relying on Pakistan to act against Taliban militants there, but the Pakistani army's commitment is in question. NOW takes you to the true front lines for an eye-opening, inside lookyou haven't seen before, and won't soon forget.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Three more years . . .

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The 2010 Plan"

The 2010 Plan

No, Barack, your man boobs just aren't enough. I'm so very tired of Barack. Three more years. Three more years.

I used to do that with Bush. I can't believe after he's finally out of office I'm left doing it again. I thought, once upon a time, when Bush was gone everything would be better. Instead, it's getting even worse.

Joke at work today: Barack wouldn't produce the birth certificate because it reveals his real father is George H.W. Bush.

I laughed so hard at that one. A friend came over and told me that this morning. And it just took me by surprise. Partly because she did it so seriously that I didn't realize she was setting up a joke.

"Assassination Laughs, Gaffs, and Pratfalls" (Hillary Is 44):
On Three Stooges Day we have Dimocrats dropping like flies, from the stench of their deeds. As filing deadlines loom, more and more Dimocrats choose retirement rather than face angry voters. Last night began with Senate Dimocrat Byron Dorgan announcing he will not run for Senate from North Dakota in 2010 – score one for the Republicans. This was a shocker.
Almost immediately, Dimocrat Governor
Bill Ritter of Colorado called it quits. It was a shocker. Fear not comedy fans, the Ritter shocker means that top billing in Colorado will likely go to the joke name, Hickenlooper.
After that shocker, came another shocker. Moe decided to quit. No more waitress sandwiches for
Chris Dodd. Dodd took a hammer to the head for the good of the show. We laughed so hard we cried. Our ShamWow was soaked. We laughed and laughed:
The grim outlook for Democrats in the 2010 midterm elections just got a little worse. [snip]
Dorgan’s announcement was accompanied Tuesday by Michigan Democratic Lt. Gov. John Cherry’s decision to end his floundering bid for governor, and by the revelation that both Dodd and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter would announce Wednesday that they would not seek reelection. [snip]

In the meantime, President Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s poll ratings have slipped across the board, generic polling is now generally more favorable to Republicans and a handful of promising Democratic House candidates have abruptly ended their campaigns.
We tried to stop laughing but could not. Late night became midnight and the laughs continued. We read hard hitting “news” to try to stop the laughter. But things got worse. We read of Obama stomping his feet and repeating at every occasion he would “not tolerate” this or that. Instead of conveying the fake sense of purpose and direction, all Obama induced with his “not tolerate” statements, was laughter. “
That’s not acceptable, and I will not tolerate it” whimpered Obama and we fell to our sides with aching laughs. The “system did not work” and “that is not acceptable” Obama wheezed. Way to go tough guy – too bad you’re not in Chicago with your thugs – because terrorists just don’t believe you – they laugh at you.
By the time we got to the Obama ban on “finger-pointing” we could barely breathe. From “blame the staff” or “blame Bush” Obama, the very notion of no “finger-pointing” is a cue for the pies to start flying and the banana peels to incite slipping.

The article goes on to note the media's attempts to drum up support for Barack by repeatedly (and falsely) claiming he's under threats. That reminded me of Saturday night when MSNBC's main story was that the December 25th terrorist was connected to a group plotting to kill Hillary last year when she visited an African country.

You'll notice Amy Goodman didn't include that in her headlines.

She did act alarmed and about to cry as she recounted that a doll was 'hung in effigy' that was supposed to be Barack.

You know what, I don't give a damn.

I really don't.

He's president. (He's also bi-racial.)

Quit trying to act like he's a victim. If it had been George W. Bush and it was 2005, Amy Goodman would be going on and on about freedom and the need for lively exchanges and blah blah blah. But it's Barack and it's time for us to fret and moan and groan.

I don't give a damn. They've played the little boy who cried wolf one time too damn many.

Three years, America, we just have to get through three more years.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, January 6, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, a US soldier has died in Iraq, 5 Iraqi women are killed in a collision with the US military, the British deal with 'insurgents' is discussed, and more.

When you make a deal with opposing forces, a cease-fire, it's news.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Mr Day, I wonder if I could now turn to the very specific question of the ceasefire by the JAM, which -- I mean a national ceasefire was announced on 29 August by Moqtadr Sadr and I understand that there was a separate ceasefire negotiated locally in Basra. Were there contacts between British Government and the Sadrists in Basra about this?

Jon Day: Yes, I mean, I can confirm that there were contacts between the UK and the Sadrists in Basra from the spring of 2007, and that as a result of this continuing dialogue, a series of -- I think I prefer to use the word "understandings" were reached with core elements of the Sadrist JAM militias in Basra. These understandings ran from mid June 2007 and they therefore pre-dated and were separate from the national JAM ceasefire in late August.

Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Can you say what the motives were for the British Government in talking to the JAM in Basra?

Jon Day: I think the government had a number of motives for authorising this dialogue. First of all, it was part of the coalition's outreach to groups involved in violence consistent with, though separate from, what was happening with Sunni groups further north. Second, we wanted to encourage the mainstream JAM to move from violence towards a commitment to democracy and to demonstrate to them a path to that goal, especially in the context of local government elections, which were then expected in early 2008, although in practice didn't happen until early 2009.

Yes, we're on the Iraq Inquiry taking place in London and never have so many words been used to say so little. The British negotiated a cease-fire in Basra in 2007. Why? What led up to 2007? From the
November 22, 2006 snapshot:

In England,
This Is London reports: "Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett this afternoon surprised MPs by signalling the countdown to a withdrawal from Iraq. She told the Commons that Basra, where the bulk of the UK's 7,200 personnel are stationed, could be handed over from British military control to Iraqi forces as early as next spring." Basra has been a violent area for British soldiers (and for Iraqis). Earlier this month, on England's Rememberance Sunday, four British troops were killed while on a boat patrol in Basra and three more were wounded. The four killed included Sharron Elliott who was "the second British female servicewoman to die in action." The other three were Jason Hylton, Ben Nowak, and Lee Hopkins. Mortar attacks have been common in Basra and, in August, a British soldier died as a result of wounds received from mortar rounds. In October, a British soldier died in Basra from road traffic. The end of October was also when the British consulate in Basra was evacuated after it was decided it was no longer safe after two months of mortar attacks. (In August, British troops 'evacuated' from their base in Amara due to repeated mortar attacks.)

And to zoom in on their being forced off their base, from the
August 24, 2006 snapshot:

Meanwhile British troops of the Soldiers of the Queen's Royal Hussars are . . . on the move.
Ross Colvin (Reuters) reports a lot of talk about how they're 'stripped-down' and mobile (in Landrovers) but the reality is that they're also homeless -- they've "abandoned their base in Iraq's southern Maysan province on Thursday". Though the base was under "nightly attack" and though it has, indeed, been abandoned, British flack Charlie Burbridge disagrees that "the British had been forced out of Amara".

Why did the British negotiate a cease-fire? Because they were getting their asses kicked and being forced to close consulates and flee their own base. In fact, let's stay with the base a second more because it was such an embarrassing moment and the Inquriy does not appear to be prepared to tackle that issue. From the
August 25, 2006 snapshot, the day fater the British military fled their base:

In other violence, despite the British military flacks that were so eagerly allowed to
spin in this morning's New York Times, Haidar Hani (AP) reports: "Looters ravaged a former British base Friday . . . taking everything from doors and window frames to corrugated roofing and metal pipes". As Ross Colvin (Reuters) reported yesterday, the base, which had come under nightly, heavy attacks, was abandoned. The AP story today notes: "Iraqi authories had complained that the British withdrawal had caught them by surprise" and allows flack Charlie Burbridge to holler Not-true-we-gave-them-24-hours-notice! Well, Charlie, on a rental, you usually have to give a minimum of 30 days notice. But it is good to know that as they packed up everything they could carry, someone did think to make a quick call saying, "Hey, we're about to split. If there's anything you want, better grab it quick, dude!"

Reporting on Day's testimony today,
AP observes, "Britain has been accused of being too passive in the Basra region and leaving it without a proper post-conflict strategy that left it vulnerable to militias." David Brown (Times of London) reports:

There were persistent reports at the time that the British military had struck a deal with the al-Mahdi Army including transferring 60 prisoners to Iraqi custody in return for safe passage out of the palace. The Ministry of Defence at the time denied that there was any deal.
Mr Day said yesterday: "I can confirm that there were contacts between the UK and the Sadrists in Basra from the spring of 2007. As a result of this continuing dialogue I think I prefer to use the word 'understandings' were reached with core elements of the Sadrist JAM militias in Basra.
"These understandings ran from mid-June 2007 and they therefore predated and were separate from the national JAM ceasefire in late August."
Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the inquiry, said on Monday that he would hold a session in private about the British deal with the al-Mahdi Army.

Today the Inquiry heard from
Gen Peter Wall, Mark Lowcock, Christopher Prentice as well as Day (link goes to video and transcript options). While Day was less than truthful, Wall was a bit more truthful. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports that Wall declared that British troops were "sitting ducks" and "the focus of the violence." Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger continues to live blog the hearings and we'll note this from one entry:

We aim for at least two entries a day here at the
Iraq inquiry blog but someone much web-savvier than me (which, admittedly, could be almost anyone) recently suggested that less is more when it comes to the quieter days – and this was certainly one of those.

With the exception of Day and Wall, it was a very slow day. If you e-mail to state that something should have been noted on one day's hearings -- feel free to do so -- please note that (a) I can miss something (very easily, very often -- which is why the day after a hearing, most days, the next morning's entries will include some coverage of that hearing), (b) I'm speaking to friends in England about the hearings to make sure we don't miss the 'big talking point' and (c) I'm making a call. My call may or may not be right. And if a friend or friends is/are adament that something is the story, I'll let them overrule my own call. (They insisted John Chilcot's lengthy statement at the end of the last public hearing in December was the story, for example, and we went with that.) But a number of visitors are e-mailing about the US slowing the British withdrawal.
Andrew Hough (Telegraph of London) and David Brown (Times of London) are among those who reported on that development. We didn't lead with it and didn't inlcude it in the snapshot because I made a call that it wasn't news. It may be new to some people but in October 2007, we repeatedly noted Kim Sengupta and Anne Penketh's "US 'delayed' British withdrawal from Basra" (Independent of London) on this issue. That's what the testimony was about -- what the two had already reported. You can disagree with my call and you may very well be right but I did not (and do not) feel that we have to spend time going over points from the hearing that were already established years ago. The only real exception is the NO WMD and that we will go over and over because so many were led to believe that there were or, after the invasion, that they were discovered. There were no WMD in Iraq. But other than that, we'll go for things that are new or at least "newish."

While we're dropping back to
yesterday's snapshot, we noted the latest episode of The Progressive Radio Show where Matthew Rothschild speaks with Sami Rasouli and that Sami Rasouli is with Muslim Peacemakers Team in Iraq and also a part of the Reconciliation Project. I meant to include links to both organizations but forgot. So the links are now there.

Outside of the Iraq Inquiry, we will repeatedly note other topics. Such as the League of Righteous. Dropping back to the
June 9th snapshot:
This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "
U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Timothy Williams and John Leland (New York Times) report that Interior Ministry spokesperson Alaa al-Taei states that Qais al-Khazali was "released two days ago" by the Iraqi government (he is the "Iraq accues of being behind the killings in 2007 of five American soldiers"). Ned Parker and Saad Fakhrildeen (Los Angeles Times) add:The release followed the complicated transfer of Khazali and 450 of his supporters from U.S. to Iraqi custody, which began in June when his brother Laith and a senior aide were given their freedom. Since then, the League of the Righteous has handed over to the Iraqi government the corpses of three of the abducted British hostages, and the kidnapping's one known survivor, Peter Moore, a computer technician. Moore was freed last week after the Americans transferred Qais Khazali to Iraqi custody. The fate of the fifth hostage remains unknown, although he is believed to be dead. The U.S. military has backed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government in its effort to bring Khazali into the political process and has said the League of the Righteous halted its attacks against the Americans early last summer. Khazali had been held since March 2007 in the kidnapping and killing of five U.S. soldiers in the southern city of Karbala in January of that year. His supporters kidnapped the Britons to bargain for his release. At the time, the Americans accused Khazali of working in direct collaboration with Iran's Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard.

Laura Rozen (Politico) did a brief write up yesterday. To be clear, the British government has every right to ask for help with their hostages -- in fact, as the Iraq Inquiry has demonstrated, if they didn't ask for help constantly, the British government would have no 'plan' when it came to freeing hostages. It is their obligation, not just their right. The British government is supposed to represent their citizens. The United States government is supposed to represent their own citizens' best interests. There will be trade-offs and one-offs and various deals made between governments.

There were no American interests in this trade, there was no benefit to the US in making this trade. The British are already allies, they can't get any closer short of gene-splicing and they can take a "no" as easily as any other country. So it did not win over support from a lukewarm ally or recruit a new ally. No American citizens had been kidnapped and were being freed as a result of the trade, so no benefit arrived that way.

All Barack Obama did was embarrass the United States. 5 US soldiers are killed. The US military has the suspected ringleaders in custody. To force their release, the League of Righteous kidnaps five British hostages. The US allowed itself to be blackmailed into a release that it had no business making. America did not benefit from the release and, in fact, the US suffered and suffers. The US military that is being sent in harm's way now knows that their lives matter very little to their commander in chief and any nut job in the world now knows if you want your leaders freed, kidnap British citizens and the US will cave. There was no benefit and it is a very disgraceful moment. Barack is desparately trying to portray himself as Mr. Security with his never-ending announcements about fighting terrorism but for all the speechifying, he let go two terrorists who are the ring leaders of the group claiming responsibility (bragging about it, not merely claiming) for the deaths of 5 US soldiers in an assault on a US base. It is not a proud moment for Barack Obama, nor is it a proud moment for the United States of America.

Today a US soldier died. Did the newly christened "USF" (United States Forces - Iraq) post a release?
No, that would be actual work. (Note, USF also apparently doesn't plan on posting the briefings the way M-NF did.) David Culter (Reuters) reports 1 US soldier died "while on patrol in Baghdad" -- other than that, we'll wait for the official statement which may or may not include "The incident is under investigation." The death brings to 4373 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Violence claimed Iraq lives today.
Anne Tang (Xinhua) reports 5 women are dead and either other Iraqis injured after an accident with a US military vehicle outside Hilla and the bulk "of wounded people were women and children". Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) reports one of the injured, Badriya Hussein, was "dazed and blood-spattered" and crying, "Why? Why?" and the Iraqi media is reporting the US military vehicle was traveling on the wrong side of the road when it hit the women's mini-van. Reuters notes that three US soldiers were also injured in the accident and they report a Mosul roadside bombing left two police officers wounded and a Mosul bombing reaulted in the deaths of 2 children with a third left injured.

Uthman al-Mukhtar (Asia Times) reports that al Anbar Province residents are "alarmed" by the recent increase in violence in the province and quotes Noor Saadi stating, "The police can't even protect themselves." The violence is causing her to keep her son at home and not let him attend school while other people are refusing "to return to their businesses or open their shops." To the south east of Anbar Province is Nasiriyah (of Dhi Qar Province) where Katharine Houreld (Scotsman) reports a number of artificats were discovered before they could be carried across the border out of Iraq and sold on the black market.

Also on the move is Nouri al-Maliki, US-installed thug of the occupation, whom
UPI reports journey to Najaf yesterday in order "to discuss election preparations with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani from whom Nouri was seeking a blessing as evidenced by his trip and groveling. Nouri told the Ayatollah that "his State of Law coalition would join forces with the Shii'te National Alliance slate to compete in March elections." Missy Ryan and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) report that Saleh al-Mutlaq, the Iraqi National Movement, calls Nouri's efforts false noting, "It's not possible for a party that has been sectarian from its beginning for dozens of years, to suddenly become nationalist." Tariq Allhomayed (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) notes Nouri's long, long sildence while Iran occupied an Iraqi oil field last month (Iran denies it) and compares Nouri's remarks when they finally came to a popular saying:

The following popular saying applies to Mr. al Maliki's comments: 'We destroyed a house last year, and its dust came this year,' as he made his comments way after the lines have been drawn and the positions of all Iraqis became apparent. However what's strange is that after the occupation of the Iraqi Fakka oil well by Iranian forces, I, like many others, wrote about the danger of what happened. The article was called 'The Iranians Have Done Good in Iraq,' based on the consideration that the occupation will help Iraqis, or let us say the Iraqi voters, discover who are Tehran's men in Baghdad, because they will not dare say a word about Iran, even if it was occupying an Iraqi oil well. Some comments were made about us in some Iraqi media affiliated to the government that can only be described as insults and accusations, as the media affiliated to the Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council launched a violent attack on me and other colleagues at our newspaper, and they cast the worst accusations against us, as well as insults and instigations, whilst Mr. Nuri al Maliki comes out today to say that Iraq "will not remain silent" in the face of any violations against his land!
The question here is: why the tension, and why the media campaigns when al Maliki is coming out today to defend Iraq, its "land, sea and air," in his own words.
Why are we thought of as sectarian and as traitors? Most importantly, the main, real reason for the recent speech in defense of Iraq, after a long silence, is the fear of the results of the upcoming Iraqi elections -- the preparations for which are in full swing today.

Bernard Gwertzman (Council on Foreign Relations) interviews Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) and the subject of Iraqi elections is raised:

[Bernard Gwertzman]: Talking about politics, the national elections for a new parliament that were originally supposed to take place in January will now take place on March 7. Who are the main contenders for power?

[Jane Arraf]: The most prominent of course is Prime Minister Maliki, who has done quite a lot of things right in the view of people in the streets. After all the suicide bombings, you would think people would be incredibly angry at him. But when you ask people in the street, he doesn't get a lot of the blame. What he hasn't done so well is enforcing his alliances with the political players he needs. He was basically the compromise candidate, and that's how he came to power. Now the Kurds say that he came to power because they decided to back him. That's in part true. Right now, the Kurds are not showing their cards. They're waiting to see, as everyone is waiting to see, who gets the most votes after the elections. That's when we'll see the coalitions forming. Unlike the previous election, when we pretty much knew who was going to head these coalitions, it's still all up in the air. There are even some players from 2003. Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who has been backed by the United States, is back. There are various Shiite candidates who have split from the coalition that Maliki had been part of, so there is a division in the two main Shiite parties, each with competing candidates. But again, that might change after the election results are in. As you know, politics anywhere, especially in the Middle East, are full of surprises so we could see alliances that we hadn't predicted.

[Bernard Gwertzman]: Is this a different kind of election? Will people be voting for individuals or for parties?

[Jane Arraf]: They will be voting for both. For the first time in national elections, Iraqis are able to choose and vote for the candidate of their choice, not just for the party of their choice. This was one of the big debates in Parliament and one of the reasons for the delay in passing the election law. There are a lot of really unpopular members of Parliament. There's a lot of dissatisfaction in the country with Parliament, and a feeling that a lot of these members of Parliament probably won't win this time, so they were pushing for a closed slate where they were running on the coattails of the more popular parties. But in the end, they passed an election law that allows people to actually vote for the candidates themselves as well as the parties, which is seen as somewhat more democratic.

Iraqi refugees have their own opinions about the intended March vote.
Julian Barnes-Dacey (Syria Today) reports on the mood in Syria among the refugee population where a large number appear determined not to vote because they do not feel the 2005 vote made any difference for their lives and and political analyst Fadel al-Rubaie declares, "Not even 10 percent of refugees will vote because of their dissatisfaction with the political process. Today Iraqi refugees feel change is hopeless. They voted in 2005 and it made no difference." UPI reports a large number of Iraqi Parliamentary members are not expected "to run for re-election" and that a huge turnover is being predicted. Meanwhile John Leland (New York Times' At War Blog) reports on the press conference Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain held in Baghdad in which they never even mentioned the elections and Leland observes Lieberman was "taking stock of an Iraq that has yet to emerge" with statements such as "We have together made history here, but more important than making history, we changed history." Yesterday the White House issued the following statment regarding the elections:

The Vice President [Joe Biden] met today with the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative for Iraq Ad Melkert, to discuss developments in Iraq. The Vice President offered continued U.S. government support for the indispensable role of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq and thanked Mr. Melkert for his leadership, highlighting his recent support for Iraqi efforts to approve an election law. They discussed preparations for the upcoming national elections and pledged to help the Iraqis resolve outstanding national unity issues. To view a photo of this meeting please click

Tuning to the US where little whiners are up in arms over Andrew Tyndall's latest 'study'.
Tiny Eric Deggans (Tampa Bay Tribune) huffs that he can't find a person of color but Andrea Mitchell is "top of that heap" -- Andrea Mitchell's a woman. If, IF, the 'study' is correct and she had the most air time on the network news of any correspondent, good. About damn time. Women make up over half the US population. Deggans is not at all distressed by women's low representation (Andrea's not even in the top 20 for 2009). He just wants to play his Pig Boy games. That includes citing the Ultimate Pig Boy Andrew Tyndall as gospel. Who is Andrew Tyndall? Andrew Scott (AOL's Inside TV -- and Outside Sanity?) is clueless: ". . . Mitchell clocked in the most minutes on camera during the last decade. Her total a staggering 2,416 minutes. Andrew Tyndall, also of NBC, finished in second, with 2,328 minutes." Can we get a reading workshp for Andrew Scott?

Andrew Tyndall is not a reporter and he did not receive 2,328 minutes of time on NBC news or on any news. He is a media 'expert.' He has a stream of data he's releasing (he's still posting it at his bad blog as I dictate this) and no one ever checks it out, they just run with it. They should try checking it out.

Let's address Tyndall's bonafides, shall we?
He explains:

Sawyer's decision to lead ABC's newscast with
Kate Snow's story on the ban on military cancers in the warzone displayed a morning show sensibility. It is the type of story that sparks plenty of debate around the watercooler [. . .] yet affects very few people. Only four cancer diagnosis have occurred in defiance of Cucolo's order; those people have received no punishment more severe than a reprimand; and they have been sent home from the battlefield just as they would have been had cancer not been forbidden.

What? The military's targeting cancer patients? Proposing to possible court-martial them and Tyndall says it's "watercooler" and "affects very few people"?

No, he didn't say that. I've changed pregnancy to cancer. This is why Tyndall's hyped Tyndall Report needs to be ignored (if not called out). He does this all the time -- issuing reports that he claims are objective and they aren't. He did that repeatedly with Katie Couric, labeling something "soft news." That's not "soft news." He didn't care for it -- women were involved -- and he hissed "soft news." (We covered this topic in December. If you're late to the party,
check out this at Feminist Wire Daily. And I will again say thank you to Gen Ray Odierno for eliminating the policy.)

The pregnancy issue? What an idiot Andrew Tyndall is. Tell it to the women in the miltiary e-mailing this site outraged by the policy. Tell it to the 4 US senators lodging a complaint about the policy. The government wants to court-martial for pregnancy -- even, get this, married pregnancies -- and Tyndall says it doesn't matter and is just "watercooler." Tyndall thinks he judges by a "universal" standard. No, he judges by a sexist standard where issues effecting women are "watercooler" and don't matter as much. His crap needs to be called out.

He's released a ton of numbers -- they aren't accurate. They never are. He can't back it up and he knows he won't be checked. There are categories in there on Iraq. When PEW releases a study on media coverage of Iraq? We'll take it seriously as we always have. Andrew Tyndall? We're not interested.
September 2006 at Third we quoted from a Tyndall 'study':

CBS' enthusiasm for features includes Exclusives. Lara Logan's scoop took us behind Taliban lines in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province and David Martin landed a one-on-one with Richard Armitage, the leaker who told columnist Robert Novak that Valerie Plame, wife of diplomat Joe Wilson, was a spy. "I let down the President. I let down the Secretary of State. I let down my department, my family. And I also let down Mr and Mrs Wilson." "Do you feel you owe the Wilsons an apology?" "I think I have just done it."We then explained that 'analyst' Tyndall labels both reports as "features." Lara Logan is doing a report not a feature. Media 'analyst' Andrew Tyndall doesn't know the first thing he's talking about -- as usual. We don't trust him, we don't trust his 'findings' and we don't trust his numbers so we'll ignore the Iraq aspects of his 'study.'

Back here on earth, Francis A. Boyle is an international law expert and a noted professor. We noted that Iraqi members of Parliament may not be running for re-election earlier in the snapshot. Professor Boyle weighs in on the decision in the US by Chris Dodd not to run for re-election to the US Senate:

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Senator Dodd's retirement from the Senate will be no loss for the Irish or this country. During the past two decades, Senator Dodd has sold out the Irish and Irish Americans and Irish America on two separate occasions. In 1986, he sold us out to Margaret Thatcher and her Diplock Courts by means of supporting the U.S.-U.K. Supplementary Extradition Treaty. Then again in 2006 Senator Dodd sold out us Irish to Tony Blair and Britain's still extant Diplock Courts by means of his decisive support for the U.S.-U.K. Extradition Treaty. This first sell-out was because of Dodd's craven capitulation to President Ronald Reagan. The second sell out was because of Dodd's craven capitulation to his own presidential ambitions. As a veteran of both treaty battles, I can assure your readers that Senator Dodd alone could have stopped both treaties if he had really wanted to. Instead Senator Dodd greased the way for the two most totalitarian extradition treaties in the history of this proud American Republic going all the way back to our War for Independence against the British Monarchy. When conjoined with his own financial and banking scandals , Senator Dodd finally decided to throw in the towel on his latest re-election campaign. Bon voyage!

Caro of MakeThemAccountable adds:

"BREAKING: Democrats Hoping To Take Control Of Congress …
… From Republican Minority In 2010"
Why was
that tweet from The Onion so funny?
Because it's so true.
Despite a Democratic president, a Democratic majority in the House, and 60 members of the Senate caucusing with the Democrats, the corporate lobbyists' agenda continually prevails.
If you want to force that situation to "change", if you'll pardon the expression, read on.

Lastly Friday night on most PBS stations,
NOW on PBS begins airing (check local listings) and this week's program explores the Afghanistan War:President Obama is sending as many as 30,000 more troops to combat Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan this year, but are we missing the true target? On Friday, January 8 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW reports directly from Pakistan's dangerous and pivotal border with Afghanistan, where Pentagon war planners acknowledge many of the enemy fighters and their leaders are based. The U.S. has been relying on Pakistan to act against Taliban militants there, but the Pakistani army's commitment is in question. NOW takes you to the true front lines for an eye-opening, inside lookyou haven't seen before, and won't soon forget.
iraqthe new york timestimothy williamsthe los angeles timesned parkersaad fakhrildeenpoliticolaura rosen
anne penkethkim sengupta
the christian science monitorjane arraf
the times of londondavid brown
the guardianrichard norton-taylor
francis a. boyle
pbsnow on pbs