Friday, January 28, 2011

Parks and Recreation

"Egypt, Boobery, And The Price To Be Paid" (Hillary Is 44):

The revolution in the Egyptian streets is strong and growing stronger. It is doubtful the current government will survive. While we hope that this Egyptian revolution demonstrates Arab and Muslim population are sick and tired of the tyrannies they are oppressed by – and while change is desperately needed in the Arab/Muslim world and therefore the revolutionaries should be cheered on – we know that Hope is not a strategy and Change is not always for the best.

There are many lessons to be learned and the United States is not helpless. Lessons to be learned are that the Israel and Palestinian battles are a side show. The nonsense from many that the “settlement issue” is an obstacle to peace and needs to be resolved in order to achieve regional peace is bunk. Obama has been and continues to be wrong on the “settlement issue” as well as the entire Palestinian issue.

The United States is not helpless, but as we say, “if you elect a boob, expect boobery”. Thus far Obama has demonstrated he is not fit nor qualified to lead the United States.

We said the same long ago:

“To be an American president means having a world view. Hillary Clinton has a world-view. Hillary Clinton mocked Obama in her insightful “celestial choirs” speech. Hillary Clinton mocked Obama about his foolish “no preconditions, in the first year, anywhere, anytime” meetings with America’s enemies. Hillary Clinton mocked Obama as “naive”. Hillary Clinton was saying that Obama did not know or understand how the world works. Hillary Clinton was saying that Obama’s world view was not congruent with reality. Hillary Clinton has been proved right.

Today, Leslie Gelb begins a very polite and gentle narrative, saying pretty much that Obama better get a reality based world-view, quickly or we all face continued disaster with a boob in charge. Writes Gelb, “If the president wants to be more than a one-term wonder, he needs to have a vision.”[snip]

A world view is not a set of positions, it is a deep understanding which is in the bones of atavistic history. [snip]

Jimmy Carter was a man conflicted. He wanted to be Pope but settled for president. He reacted to events because he did not have a world-view from the outset which comported with reality. Wanting to be an honest man and a peacemaking leader he instead was forced to react to evil in the world and bumbled and stumbled badly. Iran is a great part of his sad legacy. [snip]

Obama is the problem. Obama is not qualified to be president. It’s like asking a chicken to soar with the eagle. It’s like asking Obama to be Hillary Clinton with her lifetime of experience. It’s like asking Obama to be Hillary Clinton with her lifetime fighting to make the world a better place even if she makes enemies while making things better. [snip]

Obama is the problem. Rahm Emanuel was successful in the Clinton White House because Hillary demoted him when he needed to be demoted, disciplined him when he needed to be disciplined, smacked him on the head when he needed to be smacked. All the Clinton era appointees in the world will not help Obama because the problem is Obama. Obama is not qualified to be president. Obama can’t be trusted by friend nor foe. Obama can’t be trusted.”

The United States is not helpless nor without great power. But that great power requires someone who knows how to wield it. It would not help if Barack Obama had as his top advisors all Republicans. It would not help if Robert Gibbs was not an advisor. It would not help if Barack Obama had all neocons as his top advisors. It would not help if Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich were Obama’s top advisors. It would not help if Henry Kissinger, Albright, Baker, Schultz, McNamara, Dulles were Obama advisors. It does not help that Hillary Clinton is supposed to be a top advisor. THE PROBLEM IS BARACK OBAMA.

None of this is to say that the United States nor the American President is solely to blame for the turmoil in the world generally and in Egypt particularly. There is opportunity in every crisis. But the opportunity has to have as the goal a better and stronger United States. Barack Obama however only looks for opportunity as a vehicle for personal celebrity and applause.

The United States is not the problem. The advisors are not the problem. The problem is Barack Obama. The problem is that the 3:00 a.m. calls continue to ring in the office of a man who is not qualified to respond or is either on vacation or at the golf course.

And that's why, Michelle Obama, people need to wait until they're ready. Barack is so unqualified. On the plus, we're half way through what I hope is his only term. Let's send Jimmy Carter back to Peanutville come November 2014.

I cannot believe my party wasted their chance at not just a real leader but at real leadership. Hillary as president? She'd be a shoe-in for 2014. She wouldn't be struggling for re-election. And she wouldn't need us to hold our tongues. If we thought she was doing something stupid, she's got thick enough skin and enough appreciation for democracy that she'd expect us to say so.

Parks and Recreation. It's back on NBC Thursdays. And it's gotten off to a strong start. I am, of course, eager to see Tammy's return for an episode this year. Leslie and the gang are back at work (as of last week's episode). Ann and April were at each other's throats Tuesday night because Ann kissed Andy last May (remember? she was drunk). They were at each other's throats at the hospital because the city was experiencing a nasty case of the flu and April caught it.

Andy came it at the end and told her he was sorry and he loved her and then kissed her on the forehead and then said that it was gross because she had sweat all over her forehead. Wiping his mouth, he left the room and then April opened her eyes and smiled so she was listening the whole time.

Leslie also had the flu but managed to rally long enough to give an important speech.

Ron and Andy bonded some more. (But this time without Ron's orgasmic groan. Last year, while Andy was shining his shoes, Ron groaned. He had been going back to Andy over and over for yet another shoe shine because it was helping his corns. But when he groaned, it was like he had climaxed and Andy didn't want him as a customer anymore.)

Chris was freaking out because everyone was sick. He got sick and that was good for Ann because she was saying she was afraid he was too perfect. He was anything but perfect in the hospital.

I'm not really into Chris. If he left the show, I'd be okay with it. I like Ben. Chris is played by Rob Lowe. Adam Scott plays Ben. He's in love with Leslie. I like them as a couple.

But Ann deserves so much better than Chris. I liked her with Mark last year (the actor has left the show). I just don't see her with Chris. Sorry.

But it was a very funny episode and you can watch it at Hulu. Check out the Parks and Recreation Hulu page.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, January 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi women get some press coverage, new numbers are out on Iraqi refugees, Nancy A. Youssef pens a new attack piece in her new role as Judith Miller of 2011, and more.
Starting with Iraqi refugees. Jacques Clement (AFP) reports that the number of Iraqi refugees -- internal and external -- returning fell in 2010. And other than that, you're going to have to ignore AFP. I have no idea why it so confusing to so very many and with Clement, he's reporting breaking news and has that excuse. But many others don't. The UN will be releasing a breakdown of the numbers and that's not going to help either. A number of outlets, even using the official UN breakdown, haven't been able to get it right. PDF format warning, click here to see the numbers for January 2010 through August 2010. External refugees -- Iraqis who left the country -- who came back to Iraq are listed under "Refugees" on the "Returning Iraqis 2010" graph. Furthermore, you're using the "IND" numbers (individuals) and not "FAM" (families). From January through August, 18,240 Iraqis refugees returned to Iraq. UNHCR says the numbers continued to drop in the last months of the year. If we've all followed that, let's return to the AFP article: "According to UNHCR figures, the number of Iraqis returning to their home country peaked in March, with a total of 17,080 returns in the same month Iraq held its second parliamentary polls since dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted." What does that sentence say to you?
It appears to say that 17,080 Iraqi refugees who had left Iraq returned in the month of March. That is incorrect. Go back to the chart. How many Iraqis returned from outside of Iraq? 2450. So where's the 17,080? Look at the number of internally displaced Iraqis (Iraqis in Iraq but not in their own homes) for the month of March: 14,630 were able to return to their homes. You add those two numbers and you'll get 17,080. 17,080 is not the number of Iraqis who returned to Iraq in March. Are reporters not understanding the figures or are they deliberately distorting them? I don't know. We dealt with this last November 28th but we've dealt with it over and over since the start of The Myth of the Great Return. If you're looking for an example of someone who has and does consistently grasp the numbers, Kim Gamel's AP report today is the usual strong work from Gamel who explains, "Most returnees were internally displaced people who had fled to other parts of the country. Only 26,410 returned from Syria, Iran and Jordan and other countries, down from 37,090 in 2009, according to the report."
Alsumaira TV reports, "With the participation of Iraqi and foreign organizations and in the presence of Ambassadors to Iraq and officials from Kurdistan and Baghdad, Arbil hosted a conference on the role of women in building peace and reconciliation in Iraq. The conference criticized the political parties in Iraq and the central government over 'marginalizing' women in the new government." The conference ends today, it was a two-day conference. It was an international conference. And it says a great deal about the English-speaking press, or rather, the lack of coverage does.

Were this a business conference, there would be the financial press covering it as well as write ups in the general press. Were it on cholera or any of the illnesses that so frequently plague Iraq, the health press would cover it and the general press would do a few write ups. Were it on 'security,' the entire press would be ga-ga over it 'reporting' with advertising copy. But when the conference deals with women, where's the press?

If you're late to it, we covered the conference in yesterday's snapshot. Today on Morning Edition (NPR), Kelly McEvers and Isra al Rubeii report on Iraqi women married to 'terrorists' -- dubbed terrorists by the government of Iraq, a government that itself terrorizes its own people. Whether they're forced into the marriage by families or not, it's the women's fault in the eyes of the 'government' of Iraq. Their husband takes an action, well, the women are responsible because they should have known. It's a real damn shame that the US-government installed so many exiles to begin with but it's even more surprising how grossly ignorant the exiles are. Excerpt:
Kelly McEvers: Um Salah says that with her husband now in jail and accused of being a terrorist, she has no money and no hope. While she talks, [her two-year-old son] Salah hangs on her shoulder.
UM SALAH: (Through translator) Sometimes, you know, when she is so much fed up with her situation, she would just pray for God: God, take my life. I mean, okay. I mean, let me die with my son, now.
MCEVERS: Aid groups say there are more than a hundred women like Um Salah in Diyala Province alone. With that in mind, the Iraqi government recently launched an anti-al-Qaida media campaign.
(Soundbite of a video)
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: A video showed authorities digging through a bomb-making factory, and it urged women not to marry insurgents. Marry a terrorist, and your children will have no rights, the campaign goes. Marry a terrorist, and you'll be shunned by society.
The program, broadcast on state TV, featured two women who said they were forced to marry foreign fighters.
Unidentified Woman #2: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: This woman says her uncle arranged a marriage with a Palestinian-born militant from Syria. The man was later killed in a raid by Iraqi troops. About 20 women who once were married to militants have recently been detained. Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammad al-Askari says he finds it hard to believe that any of them are totally innocent.
So they deny these women social services ensuring the women are punished for crimes they took no part in and the children are raised in situations that breed anger and create future strife -- which is a petri dish brimming with the potential for an endless cycle of violence. Again, it's a real shame that idiots were installed by the US government to run (and ruin) Iraq. In related news, Michael Grossberg (Columbus Dispatch) reports: on Heather Raffo's attempt to give voice to Iraqi women via her play Sounds of Desire:

An Iraqi-American actress and playwright developed an off-Broadway hit by creating nine diverse portraits of Iraqi women.
[. . .]
Raffo, raised in Michigan as a Roman Catholic with an Iraqi father and an American mother, created her characters as composites - culled from dozens of interviews she conducted with Iraqi women and their families. She met the women over more than eight years and on four continents.
"All of them have different points of view about the situation they're living in that are surprising to an American audience," she said.
Among her characters: a girl who wants to attend school but is stuck at home because of the military occupation of her country; a m ullaya, a woman who leads the call and response at funerals; a bedouin who ponders a move to London; an expatriate in London; a painter who seeks freedom amid the regime of Saddam Hussein; and a woman in America, with family in Iraq, who watches the war on television.

Manal Omar is the author Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos. Starting in the 1990s, she has done humanitarian work in Iraq. NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq interviewed her this week about the status of women's rights in the new 'democratic' Iraq. Excerpt:

NCCI: As the former Regional Coordinator for Women for Women International in Iraq, what do you feel are some of the greatest obstacles facing NGOs which operate in the sector of women's rights?

Manal Omar: The biggest challenge is when women become the negotiating chip. One of the titles of my chapters in my book is "Negotiating Chip," because I witnessed too often how women's rights were used during political or social bargaining. For example, you may have high-level Kurdish representatives that believe 100% in women's rights. However, during political debates, or when it's time to vote on a resolution, they will not vote pro-women. When I would challenge them, they often would say that their primary issue is federalization, and as a result, they would strike a deal on a resolution for women if more conservative parties would vote on the resolution of federalization. The second challenge is what I call the "not now" argument. This argument usually states that because of overall violence and instability, it is not an appropriate time to discuss women's issues. I have witnessed how the "not now" easily becomes the "not ever." Women must maximize the window of opportunity to push their rights forward.

NCCI: When was the last time that you were in Iraq? Did you notice any changes in women's status in the country at that time?

Manal Omar: The last time I was in Iraq was December 2010. Unfortunately, during my trip there was the announcement of the new government ministries. It was very sad to see that Iraqi women were not part of the list of ministries at all. Many of the women's organizations I have worked with for the last seven years called me and were in shock to see how Iraqi women continue to lose rights rather than gain them! After the previous elections, there were 6 female ministers; now there are none. Even the Ministry for Women's Affairs has an interim male Minister. This highlights that the challenge facing women is stronger than ever.

NCCI: Who do you consider as the most vulnerable groups of women today in Iraq? What special protection should NGOs and the government seek to provide them with?

Manal Omar: The most vulnerable groups would be women heads of households; this usually means widows, divorc├ęs, or unmarried women. They do not have the access or mobility than men generally have. They are often more vulnerable in times of limited security and have less access to income. A lack of security remains the primary obstacle limiting women's ability to attain economic self-sufficiency. Naturally, women in that category who are either internally displaced people (IDPs) or refugees in neighbouring countries are at twice the riskk. NGOs should focus on programs that are accessible for these women. The best programs will not be able to succeed if women are not able to come, and that is often the case with the vulnerable women. They have very limited mobility. The more the program is available with limited transportation time and costs, the more accessible it will be for these groups. Overall, the Iraqi government is still the primary duty bearer and should have programs targeting the most vulnerable groups. These programs should be easy to access, with minimum bureaucracy and clear application steps.

On the issue of Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet, from the December 29th snapshot:
There are also calls from the National Alliance for the process to be speeded up and for more women to be named with the latter calls being led by the Virtue Party's Kamilp Moussawi who notes that the last Cabinet had 7 women ministers. In addition, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has received a letter from female MPs formally protesting the marginalization of women in the Cabinet. As noted last Wednesday, among the female MPs protesting the inequality is Ala Talabani, Jalal's niece.
Nouri does not have a complete cabinet. There are 42 posts. 32 are filled. 29 if you're honest. Besides being prime minister, Nouri appointed himself to three posts -- Minister of Defense, Minister of the Interior and National Security Minister. Despite this, Noui had the nerve to claim, December 22nd, when he finally held his first Cabinet meeting, that security was one of "his three top priorities."
Last week and this week, Iraq's been slammed by bombings. Yesterday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings, the most violent of which appears to have targeted a funeral. AP notes that the death toll in that bombing has risen to 51 with one-hundred-and-twenty-three more people left injured. Liz Sly and Ali Qeis (Washington Post) report, "In scenes of chaos after the blast, enraged residents and mourners threw rocks at police to prevent them from reaching the site. When Iraqi army reinforcements arrived, a small group of gunmen hiding in a nearby building shot at them, prompting the soldiers to open fire over the heads of the crowd, according to an official with the army's Baghdad operations command, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media." War News Radio spoke to the New York Times John Leland about Monday's attacks. Excerpt:
John Leland: Well it's hard to draw too many conclusions on just a couple of days. The attacks of today were on Shi'ite pilgrims walking towards Karbala which they do every year and have for the last seven years, since the fall of Saddam Hussein because Saddam had banned that march and every year they're attacked. So the fact that there are these attacks on them -- and to an extent, yesterday as well -- you know, it is, to some extent, to be expected.
Aaron Moser: Although some violence can be understood as part of a cyclical sectarian conflict, Leland thinks that other types of new violence are more concerning.
John Leland: The attack of earlier in the week --- the several attacks earlier in the week on security forces are presenting a different kind of subtleties. If the insurgency or whoever is doing this, he is able to mount sustained attacks on security forces. That causes huge problems for the country and does bring back echoes of the bad old days of 2005, 2006, 2007.
As one attack after another continues, one would think Nouri would start appointing people for the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of the Interior and National Security Minister. However, Nouri's apparently comfortable going on and filling each one. A number of deals were made by Nouri to build a power-sharing coalition. The deals promised too much (if you only have 2x, you can't promise to provide 150x and even creating additional Cabinet posts out of whole cloth -- which Nouri has done -- won't allow him to honor all the deals made). Iraqiya, which received the most votes in the March 7th vote, was promised many things. They'd hoped to have a number of Cabinte posts. They'd hope to have Falah al-Naqib appointed as Minister of Defense. Barring that, they wanted Iskandar Wattout. Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Falah al-Naqib is out as a nominee and that everyone believes the post of Minister of the Interior will go to Aqil Turaihi (member of Nouri's Dawa political party).

Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured three people (two were police officers), a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, 1 "employee of the Public Integrity Commission" was shot dead in Baghdad and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured.
Moving to the topic of electricity, earlier this month the Ministry of Electricity's Undersecretary declared that Iraq's energy problem won't be solved until 2014 at the earliest. As with security, Nouri didn't address this issue in his previous four years as prime minister and hasn't addressed it thus far in his current term. Dropping back to the snapshot from January 18th:
Turning to news of basic services, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Yahya Barzanji (AP) report on Abdul-Rahman Mustafa, Governor of Tamim Province, and his decision to stop supplying Baghdad with electricity while his capital (Kirkuk) makes do with less than four hours of electricity each day. Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) adds, "Rizgar Ali, chairman of Kirkuk's provincial council, said the procedure of separating from the national grid was completed on Tuesday evening." An unnamed US embassy official expresses concern and remind, "We saw riots last summer . . . that's a concern." Al Rafidayn terms it a "secession" and notes local demonstrators ("dozens") protested between Kirkuk and Erbil over the fact that they have daily power outages in excess of twenty hours. Al Sabaah reports that Monday saw over 1,000 people demonstrate in Diyala Province's Khan Bani Saad over the poor services and the deterioration of edcation offered -- on the latter, specific complaints include that the sole school was so small and "built with mud" and has over 1300 students enrolled in it.
Today Lebanon's Daily Star reports, "Iraq's Kirkuk Province resumed power supplies to the national grid Friday, after a deal that ended a dispute this week over electricity provisions. [. . .] Electriciy Ministry officials agreed Thursday to immediately increase Kirkuk's quota by nearly 50 percent which still leaves the province woefully short of 24-hour power." An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers investigated the electricity issue and utilized stringers for various provinces to compile the following hard data at Inside Iraq:
Province Hours of Power in 24 hours Population
Wasit 10 - 12 Shi'ite majority
Amara 10 - 12 Shi'ite majority
Basra 10 - 12 Shi'ite majority
Thi Qar 12 Shi'ite majority
Muthanna 12 Shi'ite majority
Babil 12 Shi'ite majority
Diwaniyah 12 Shi'ite majority
Diyala 8 Mixed
Nineveh 2 - 4 Sunni majority
Kirkuk 4 Sunni majority
Anbar 4-5 Sunni majority
My neighbourhood 4
Meanwhile AFP reports that Sheikh Ahmed al-Safi declared today that "many MPs were falsely claiming tens of thousands of dollars as security expenses and pocketing the money."

"It was a genuinely joint group," Gus O'Donnell insisted to the Iraq Inquiry today as he attempted to paint a happy face on things and to take the committee members where he wanted. Next week, the Inquiry hears from Stephen Pattison, John Buck and, most interesting for the press, Jack Straw. Gus O'Donnell was Cabinet Secretary in 2005 and with the Treasury prior to that. BBC News reports:

Sir Gus told the inquiry that the Blair government had fewer Cabinet meetings than his immediate predecessors and his successors as prime ministers because he took a "certain view" about what could be achieved through collective decisions.
Asked why this was the case, Sir Gus said he believed the prime minister had concerns about how watertight discussions in Cabinet would be.

While O'Donnell wasted plenty of time talking about Afghanistan (it's not the "Afghanistan Inquiry"), he did offer a few revelations and sketch out that, hiding behind claims of 'the press will find out,' Tony Blair kept many key leaders uninformed and underinformed during the decision making process. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) notes that O'Donnell stated that Blair shouldn't have kept his Cabinet in the dark that the Attorney General had serious doubts that the Iraq War could be legal without a second resolution from the United Nations (there was no second resolution, for those late to the party) and emphasizes this quote: "The ministerial code is very clear about the need, when the attorney general gives written advice, the full text of that advice should be attached [to cabinet papers]." Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) adds, "Giving evidence before the Iraq Inquiry, Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, said that the former prime minister did not consider cabinet meetings to be a 'safe place' where disagreements could be aired in private."
The Iraq Inquiry is taking place in London. It is the latest examination by the British into the Iraq War. The US has not provided even one solid investigation. Nor has Australia. Those three countries were the primary players/criminals in the illegal war. Chris Doran (On Line Opinion) argues for an inquiry to take place in Australia:

The Howard Government's decision to not only support but to participate in the invasion was not, as we all vividly remember, without significant opposition. Howard was warned repeatedly that a military invasion of Iraq was illegal and would contravene the United Nation's charter. Countless experts refuted alleged intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and ties to Al Queda; many warned that invading Iraq would only inflame anti-western radical Islamic sentiment. And Australians took to the streets in mass protests not seen since the previous national debacle of following the US blindly into a brutal and unjust war in Vietnam. We now know of course that there were no WMD's or ties to Al Queda; even more importantly, we know that Howard, Bush, and Blair knew at the time that there was no evidence. Put simply, they lied.
The British Chilcot Inquiry has largely focused on the legality of the invasion, and what then British Prime Minister Tony Blair knew, and when he knew it. This is somewhat of a moot point; the leaked Downing Street memo of July 2002 established that Blair knew then that the US had already decided to invade, and that the UN Security Council debate and attempt to secure a new resolution justifying force was all theatre. But it is not nor should it be a moot point for Australia.
As revealed in the 2006 Cole Inquiry into the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) kickback scandal, in early 2002 John Dauth, then Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, told AWB Chairman Trevor Flugge that US military action to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein was inevitable, and that Australia would support and participate in such action. Flugge then dutifully reported this to the AWB Board of Directors on February 27, 2002. And so AWB was given advance notice of the Howard Government's intention to participate militarily a full year before the invasion took place and well before any sort of informed debate had begun. Issues of legality, justice, the rule of law, and innocent civilian lives clearly never entered into the decision making process, but Australia's wheat exports to Iraq did. That revelation alone should have prompted an Inquiry years ago.
An excellent starting question for John Howard testifying at an independent Inquiry would be why and how his Government had already decided a year in advance to participate in an invasion.
We support Bradley Manning. Who? Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say."
What does that mean?
It means we don't link to Nancy A. Youssef's article for McClatchy Newspapers. Why not? Go through our archives, do a search of this site with "The Diane Rehm Show" and "Nancy A. Youssef" and "Bradley Manning" as key terms. Nancy has been on a one-woman witch hunt with regards to Bradley. She has repeatedly convicted him on air on The Diane Rehm Show -- not just once, not just twice, not just three times. She has done this over and over and over. (Though a guest on today's show, she didn't discuss Bradley -- they were obsessed with Egypt -- which had already been an hour long topic on Thursday's Diane Rehm Show but still became the thrust of today's international hour.) Nancy is also very close to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
A number of outlets are putting the claims in Nancy's bad article out there and treating them as fact. Let's review it. (If you must read it, the title is "Probe: Army ignored warnings over soldier" and you can Google that.) Nancy knows about an Army report -- how? Her friends she leaves unnamed. (But I can name them.) This report is the result of an investigation, she says, and it found unflattering things about Bradley. She says. And she can say so, she says, because she has "two military officials familiar with investigation" (but not the report?) who talked to her. Once upon a time, you had to have three sources. Always wonder about unsourced claims with two sources. Though she hasn't seen the report, Nancy yacks on and on about the report -- when not -- FOR NO NATURAL REASON -- bringing in Major Nidal Hasan. That's your clue that Nancy's gone skinny dipping in a cesspool she wants to pass off as journalism. Hasan shot dead many at Fort Hood. So Nance just wants to bring him into the article for . . . local color? Extra seasoning? She knows what she's doing and she knows it's not journalism.
You've been repeatedly warned about McClatchy of late and about Nancy in particular who is sending off alarms at McClatchy. What she's done is write a smear-job, she has not reported. For her friends in the Defense Dept, she has attacked Bradley in an unsourced article that doesn't pass the smell test. There is a term for it, "yellow journalism." She should be ashamed of herself and everyone running with the claims she's making in this article needs to ask how they think they're helping Bradley?
They also should note that Nancy made no effort to get a comment from Bradley's attorney. While painting Bradley in an unflattering light throughout her article, she never tries for a quote, she only repeats what her Defense 'chums' and . . . tell her. She's becoming the new Judith Miller and that's her fault but also the fault of a lot of people who should have been calling her out months ago but let her slide and slide.
TV notes. Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Susan Davis (National Journal) and John Dickerson (CBS News). Gwen's latest column is " Date Night: Or Why the Best Part of the State of the Union Address Wasn't the Speech." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Sam Bennett, Cari Dominguez, Kristen Soltis and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. Online, it provides an extra segment, a discussion about Rick Santorum's remarks about Barack Obama. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, speaks to Steve Kroft about the U.S. attempt to indict him on criminal charges and the torrent of criticism aimed at him for publishing classified documents. (This is a double-length segment.)

In Search of the Jaguar
"60 Minutes" went in search of the most elusive of all of nature's big cats, the jaguar, and captured amazing footage of them in the Brazilian jungle. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video

Sunday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio notes. The Diane Rehm Show begins airing on most NPR stations (and begins streaming online live) at 10:00 am EST. The first hour, domestic hour, Diane's panelists include Chris Cillizza (Washington Post), Jeanne Cummings (Politico) and Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune). The second hour, international hour, her panelists include Michele Kelemen (NPR), David Sanger (New York Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Diane's broadcast are archived and can be streamed online at no charge.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Joni list

Tonight I write about Joni Mitchell due to all the e-mails on her since last night's post.

What is my favorite Joni song?

If you'll grasp that it does depend a great deal on my mood, I'll say that right now it's "For The Roses." But it does vary depending on my mood. Last week, I would have said "People's Parties." "And stone cold Grace behind her fan and me in my frightened silence pretending I don't understand . . ."

Favorite albums?

1) Shine
2) Court & Spark
3) Blue
4) Ladies of the Canyon
5) Turbulent Indigo
6) For The Roses

I can listen to each of those all the way through for enjoyment, for thinking, for any number of reasons.

Now my question for you: Did the nine of you get together and plan your e-mails?

I wrote about a great documentary last night, Joni Mitchell: A Woman of Heart and Mind.

And the e-mails argued I should have noted what songs and albums by Joni I enjoyed.

So there you have it.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, January 27, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, a conference is held focusing on Iraqi women, more bad news for Tony Blair out of the Iraq Inquiry, the US government's mistreatment (torture) of Bradley Manning does not go unnoticed, and more.
Today Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Three people were killed and 14 others injured Thursday morning when three bombs exploded in different neighborhoods in Baghdad, the Interior Ministry said." All three were roadside bombings and Hamid Ahmed (AP) also reported on those bombings. However, those bombings were soon dwarfed by another Baghdad bombing. BBC News reports a Baghdad car bombing "near a funeral ceremony" has claimed at least 30 lives and left approximately fifty more people injured. Last week, waves of bombings began targeting various cities in Iraq and that has continued this week (Baghdad, Tikrit, Karbala, etc). Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) provide this context, "The explosion was the fifth major attack in the last 10 days, leaving a death toll of nearly 200 people. The relentless pace of bombings was something the country has not seen in more than two years."
BBC, like many others, had to update the death toll throughout the day, including when it reached 37 and to note that, "Angry mourners attacked police who rushed to the scene, accusing them of failing to provide protection." Laith Hammoudi and Shashank Bangali (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Perhaps inspired by the protest movement that's sweeping the Arab world, demonstrators fired guns in the air, hurled stones and shouted curses at police officers who responed to the scene of the funeral attack, residents said." Al Mada notes that roads leading into that section of Baghdad (Shula) were immediately closed. Laith Hammoudi and Shashank Bangali (McClatchy Newspapers) note that before that happened the demonstrators made clear that their anger was "that Iraqi police had allowed the attack, because Shaula is relatively small and has only one entrance" and that the police, faced with the crowd, withdrew. Al Jazeera reports, "The military sent in soldiers to restore order." Jason Ditz ( adds, "Iraqi troops have since sealed off the area, and have ordered residents to stay in their homes. There is as yet no indication of the number of casualties in the post bombing clashes, nor any claim of responsibility for the bombing itself."
Of the funeral bombing, Reuters adds, "Iraq's deputy health minister Khamis al-Saad said 35 people were killed and 65 wounded. An official at a hospital gave the same death toll after the explosion in the Shula district, a former stronghold of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, but now thought to be controlled by a violent splinter group called Asaib al-Haq." Al Jazeera reports, "The military sent in soldiers to restore order." Ammar Karim (AFP) notes, "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the arrest of the area's security chief, army Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed al-Obeidi, in the immediate aftermath of the attack." Al Rafidayn calls it "the deadliest blast in the capital of Iraq for months" and they note, "Witnesses said the bomber blew himself up in a mourning tent filled with mourners and relatives [. . .] in the Shula district of Baghdad, which was formerly a stronghold of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is believed to be now under the control of the League of the Righteous splinter group that advocated violence." Al Mada states the Baghdad police released a press statement that the car bombing at the funeral had resulted in a death toll of 60 with ninety people injured.
Meanwhile Basaer News reports the "so-called Baghdad Operations Command" has declared that it will have completed construction on the Baghad security fence this year and that there will be "cameras and observation towers" throughout Baghdad. The newspaper notes the fence is constructed "under the pretext of control in a security situation which has remained uncontrollable" and is being rammed through "regradless of the problems it causes citizens." In other 'defense' news, Ahmed al-Zubaidi ( reports Nouri and his Cabinet have agreed to purchase 18 F16 fighter aircraft from the US in order to strengthen the air force fleet that they hope to be functioning within two to three years. The 18 are "part of a plan by the Iraqi Air Force to buy an estimated 96 F16 airplanes from the US over the next ten years."
Abdel Hamid Zebair ( reports that members of Iraq's Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament are taking part in an international conference in Erbil which started today and focuses on "the role of women in peace-building, reconciliation and accountability in Iraq." Aswat al-Iraq adds that the conference ends tomorrow and is being attended by "international female personalities and a number of world activists in women affairs and representatives of international organizations." No Peace Without Justice explains:
The International Conference, which is the culmination of a long programme of reconciliation and accountability related advocacy and research undertaken by the organisers, both in Iraq and abroad, will be a major international event and represent a significant step towards securing Iraqi women an equitable voice within their country's political, judicial, economic, and other public institutions. Achieving these aims, and thereby promoting and mainstreaming gender equality within Iraq's ongoing reconciliation and accountability process, is one of the preconditions of its success.
The Conference aims to provide a venue for high-level political discussions involving Iraqi politicians, policy makers, civil society activists, and other opinion leaders, as well as international experts from across the world with first-hand experience of promoting women's rights and organising women's organisations in the pursuit of positive social change.
Most importantly, the Conference will provide a wide range of Iraqi women's groups and participants with a very significant opportunity to work together and organise in pursuit of their common goals of protecting and promoting the rights of women in Iraq, and leading their country's ongoing accountability and reconciliation process. The recommendations for institutional, legislative, and organisational reform that will emerge from the Conference will provide a crucial foundation for future initiatives promoting gender equality, and consolidate progress towards securing an inclusive democratic future for Iraq on the basis of comprehensive accountability and reconciliation. The organisers aim to repeat this event in Baghdad next year.
Abdulla Sabri (AK News) notes that the conference comes as Nouri al-Maliki faces criticism over "the lack of women" in his Cabinet. Iraq Daily Times points out, "Only one woman was named to Maliki's 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women's rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq. Whether this fledgling nation becomes a liberal democracy or an Islamist-led patriarchy might well be judged by the place it affords its women."
Al Rafidayn reports on US State Department documents WikiLeaks has which state that the CIA helped officers of Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard leave Iraq via Turkey and resettle in the US in 2003. On the issue of WikiLeaks, John Wihbey (On Point with Tom Ashbrook, NPR) provides this news and link resource:
Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times and a past guest of ours, is publishing a detailed account in the Sunday magazine of the Times' relationship with Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange. The Times was one of several news outlets that reported on diplomatic cables given to them by Wikileaks.
It's all part of a controversial new chapter in the history of the First Amendment and its limits. Some U.S. lawmakers have called for Assange's prosecution. The real-world blowback from the leaked cables stretches all the way to the Arab world, where anti-government sentiment in places like Tunisia and Yemen has been fomented by cables that were damning of their leaders. (See our memorable show in which John Perry Barlow and John Negroponte debated issues around secrecy.)
Listen back to our interview with Keller; see his very interesting On Point blog debate over coverage of Catholic issues [. . .]
Bill Keller appeared on The Takeaway today and spoke with John Hockenberry and Celeste Headlee about WikiLeaks. Excerpt:
John Hockenberry: How has this relationship evolved to one of enough credibility for the Times and the Guardian to proceed?
Bill Keller: Uhm. Well, we -- We sort of knew from the get-go -- because WikiLeaks had already started to establish a profile -- that this was going to be a tricky relationship. You know, sources -- You don't get to pick your sources, they tend to come to you with complications, agendas of their own. So you -- You know what you really do is foces on the material. Is it -- Is it genuine? Is it legit? Is it newsworthy? And what he brought to the Guardian and the Times and Der Spiegel and a few other papers ultimately was the real deal. I mean -- And genuinely, I think, important.
Celeste Headlee: Bill Keller, there is a lot of talk -- and I imagine there will be studies to come over the motives and agendas of Julian Assange. This is a man who, obviously, seems to like privacy of his of his own in terms of his own address. But many people say he's motivated by an agenda against the US government. Does that change the motivations or the missions of WikiLeaks?
Bill Keller: I -- I mean, he clearly has a strong distaste for the US government, regards it as more a force for evil than for good in the world. And that's one factor in why he's developed such a kind of large, cult following -- particularly in parts of Europe where the United States is resented for throwing its weight around too much. And that's certainly added an extra layer of caution in dealing with WikiLeaks and the material. But you know I think he came into believing that one effect of all this transperancy would be to embarrass and compromise the United States. At one point he called for [US Secretary of State] Hillary Clinton to resign in shame. In fact, a lot of people have been surprised that particularly the documents that relate to the State Dept show diplomates behaving in pretty compentent and-and well motivated ways.
From WikiLeaks to Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." Amnesty International's Program Directo fo the Americas Regional Program, Susan Lee, sent the following open letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week:
I am writing to express concern about the conditions under which Private First Class (PFC) Bradley Manning is detained at the Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia. We are informed that, since July 2010, PFC Manning has been confined for 23 hours a day to a single cell, measuring around 72 square feet (6.7 square metres) and equipped only with a bed, toilet and sink. There is no window to the outside, the only view being on to a corridor through the barred doors of his cell. All meals are taken in his cell, which we are told has no chair or table. He has no association or contact with other pre-trial detainees and he is allowed to exercise, alone, for just one hour a day, in a day-room or outside. He has access to a television which is placed in the corridor for limited periods of the day. However, he is reportedly not permitted to keep personal possessions in his
cell, apart from one book and magazine at a time. Although he may write and receive correspondence, writing is allowed only at an allotted time during the day and he is not allowed to keep such materials in his cell.
We understand that PFC Manning's restrictive conditions of confinement are due to his classification as a maximum custody detainee. This classification also means that -- unlike medium security detainees -- he is shackled at the hands and legs during approved social and family visits, despite all such visits at the facility being non-contact. He is also shackled during attorney visits at the facility. We further understand that PFC Manning, as a maximum custody detainee, is denied the opportunity for a work assignment which would allow him to be out of his cell for most of the day. The United Nations (UN)
Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (SMR), which are internationally recognized guiding principles, provide inter alia that "Untried prisoners shall always be offered opportunity to work" should they wish to undertake such activity (SMR Section C, rule 89).
PFC Manning is also being held under a Prevention of Injury (POI) assignment, which means that he is subjected to further restrictions. These include checks by guards every five minutes and a bar on his sleeping during the day. He is required to remain visible at all times, including during night checks. His POI status has resulted in his being deprived of sheets and a separate pillow, causing uncomfortable sleeping conditions; his discomfort is reportedly exacerbated by the fact that he is required to sleep only in boxer shorts and has suffered chafing of his bare skin from the blankets.
We are concerned that no formal reasons have been provided to PFC Manning for either his maximux security classification or the POI assignment and that efforts by his counsel to challenge these assignments through administrative procedures have thus far failed to elicit a response. We are further concerned that he reportedly remains under POI despite a recommendation by the military psychiatrist overseeing his treatment that such an assignment is no longer necessary.
Amnesty International recognizes that it may sometimes be necessary to segregate prisoners for disciplinary or security purposes. However, the restrictions imposed in PFC Manning's case appear to be unnecessarily harsh and punitive, in view of the fact that he has no history of violence or disciplinary infractions and that he is a pre-trial detainee not yet convicted of any offence.
The conditions under which PFC Manning is held appear to breach the USA's obligations under international standards and treaties, including Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the USA ratified in 1992 and which states that "all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person". The UN Human Rights Committee, the ICCPR monitoring body, has noted in its General Comment on Article 10 that persons deprived of their liberty may not be "subjected to any hardship or constraint other than that resulting from the deprivation of liberty; respect for the dignity of such persons must be guaranteed under the same conditions as for that of free persons . . . .".
The harsh conditions imposed on PFC Manning also undermine the principle of the presumption of innocence, which should be taken into account in the treatment of any person under arrest or awaiting trial. We are concerned that the effects of isolation and prolonged cellular confinement -- which evidence suggests can cause psychological impairment, including depression, anxiety and loss of oncentration -- may, further, undermine his ability to assist in his defence and thus his right to a fair trial.
In view of the concerns raised, we urge you to review the conditions under which PFC Manning is confined at the Quantico naval brig and take effective measures to ensure that he is no longer held in 23 hour cellular confinement or subjected to other undue restrictions.
Sherwood Ross (OpEdNews) notes this on Bradley's treatment:
The corrosive, solitary confinement being inflicted upon PFC Bradley Manning in the Quantico, Va., brig is no exceptional torture devised exclusively for him. Across the length and breadth of the Great American Prison State, the world's largest, with its 2.4-million captives stuffed into 5,000 overcrowded lock-ups, some 25,000 other inmates are suffering a like fate of sadistic isolation in so-called supermax prisons, where they are being systematically reduced to veritable human vegetables.
To destroy Manning as a human being, the Pentagon for the past seven months has barred him from exercising in his cell, and to inhibit his sleep denies him a pillow and sheet and allows him only a scratchy blanket, according to Heather Brooke of "Common Dreams" (January 26th.) He is awakened each day at five a.m. and may not sleep until 8 p.m. The lights of his cell are always on and he is harassed every five minutes by guards who ask him if he is okay and to which he must respond verbally. Stalin's goons called this sort of endless torture the "conveyor belt."
Still on the topic of Bradley, we'll note this event announcement from Iraq Veterans Against the War:

We regard Manning as an American hero and will celebrate his alleged actions, raise awareness of his condition, and challenge his shameless mistreatment at the hands of the United States Department of Defense by dedicating a spring bicycle tour through the American South to honor Bradley Manning, tell his story, and raise funds for his legal defense.

March 21st - April 8th: The Rebel With A Cause Bicycle Tour

On March 21, 2011, we will embark on a 444 mile bicycle ride along the Natchez Trace beginning in Natchez MS and arriving in Nashville TN on April 8, 2011. We will be speaking and performing at dozens of places along the Trace, focusing on Manning's narrative and raising money for his legal defense.

The Ride is public, and we invite veterans, artists, and other supporters to join us for however long they wish. Potential participants should have a suitable bicycle, appropriate clothing, resources for food, a personal tent and sleeping bag, and the time. We will average 50 miles each day we ride and take a couple of days off in-between longer jaunts. We will be camping primarily between cities in the beautiful parks along the Trace.

April 9th & 10th: Bradley Manning Solidarity Weekend

If you are unable to ride with us, we encourage you to produce an independent event in your community on April 9th and /or 10th, the same weekend we arrive in Nashville, as part of Bradley Manning Solidarity Weekend (BMSW)!

BMSW is a call to socially conscious artists and organizers across the country and world to propel Bradley Manning to pop-culture status through artistic expression before he goes to trial.

The State of the Union address was delivered Tuesday night by Barack Obama, US President. We noted some reactions to it and coverage of it -- trying to stay focused on the war issue of the speech -- in yesterday's snapshot. In that speech just two days ago, Barack laughable spoke of 'progress' in Iraq and the claim that violence was down. Ned Parker and Salar Jaff (Los Angeles Times) observe today, "Violence has returned with a vengeance for the first time since November, when a deal was announced to form a new government ending months of political paralysis." Ruth Conniff (The Progressive) notes, "As the Media Consortium member Sam of GritTV pointed out on Twitter, Obama channeled Bush on Iraq and Afghanistan." Steve Lee Myers and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) weigh in on Barack's State of the Union speech sections that focused on Iraq and Afghanistan:

The war in Iraq occupied no more space in President Obama's State of the Union address than it has in his administration's foreign policy: not exactly a footnote, but no longer the contentious, consuming, convulsive center of all attention.

Iraq came up only briefly in the 46th minute of a speech that lasted just over an hour, but his five sentences and 72 words amounted to a declaration of victory, if a subdued one.

"Look to Iraq," he said, using the experience here under his presidency as an example of the restoration of American standing in the world, "where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high."

Nearly 50,000 troops remain, but American combat patrols have ended, he said, and violence is down, though the last week has seen a particularly bloody spike in bombings and violence that has killed scores of people across the country.

And Myers is taking Iraq questions from people leaving comments at the article. Military Families Speak Out's Sarah Fuhro weighs in on the speech in a letter to the Boston Globe:

When he finally got around to discussing the two wars that eat up billions of tax dollars and that have killed or maimed thousands of young men and women, he spoke as if these conflicts are just another wonderful American program for progress and peace.
He mentioned 100,000 troops returned from Iraq, but neglected to mention the 50,000 who remain. He mentioned how our civilians "will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,'' but did not explain that they can only move about the country in a military convoy. If, or when, we leave that devastated country, we will leave it with millions of unemployed, angry people who cannot possibly contribute to their own security, let alone ours.

On the issue of Barack and his wars, KPFA's Ann Garrison reported at Global Research that, "Two years ago, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama [. . .] invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo, the heart of Africa, on his Inauguration Day. Most Americans, including those who campaigned hardest for Obama, would have a hard time making sense of this, or of the military forces involved." Garrison filed a report for KPFA's Weekend News Sunday where she intereviewed Keith Harmon Snow and has provided an audio link of that as well as a transcript that goes beyond the broadcast segment -- they are at San Francisco Bay View and Global Research. Excerpt:
KPFA/Ann Garrison: So what sense does it make to say that Barack Obama invaded Congo, the heart of Africa, on his Inauguration Day?
Keith Harmon Snow: The U.S.-backed military invasion of Jan. 20, 2009, included U.S. military commanders, special forces, military advisers, technicians and other U.S. military personnel, and it involved weaponry supplied by the U.S. and Britain.
KPFA/Ann Garrison: Can you explain the CNDP militia and the significance of its integration into the Congolese army, the FARDC, on Jan. 20, 2009?
Keith Harmon Snow: First, the name CNDP -- Congress for the Defense of the People – couldn't be further from the truth. The CNDP was a Rwandan Tutsi-based militia that was created by Rwandan war criminals who had infiltrated Eastern Congo, infiltrated troops into Eastern Congo, and mobilized, armed and economically empowered Rwandan Tutsi civilians who had infiltrated Eastern Congo in recent years and in recent decades. There was a tripartite agreement between Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni, and the president of Congo -- another Rwandan, Joseph Kabila -- which worked behind the massive propaganda of "peace talks" to advance the military campaign to infiltrate and control Eastern Congo. By quote "integrating" these Rwandan militia elements into the Congolese National Army, the Rwandan program was advanced through a kind of Trojan horse operation.
And now we're moving over to England where the Iraq Inquiry continued to taking public testimony and heard today from Adm Michael Boyce who was UK Defense Chief from 2001 to 2003. The Committee members -- especially Usha Prashar -- hit upon a January 15, 2003 briefing repeatedly. As with 2002, he was led to believe that the plan for Iraq was not regime change and even March of 2003 -- shortly before the war began -- he didn't feel that was what Tony Blair was aiming for. He did plan for a possible invasion and testified that was drawn up as a possibility and he did so after Tony Blair and George W. Bush had their April 2002 meet-up in Crawford, Texas. This is in direct conflict with Tony Blair's testimony last week that his Cabinet knew the score.
In Iraq, Christians have been under assault throughout the war but the latest wave of attacks began October 31st with the attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. We'll close with this from US House Rep Frank Wolf's office:
Washington, D.C. - In the wake of increasing violence, targeted attacks and heightened discrimination against Christians in Iraq and Egypt, and persistent concerns in Afghanistan and Pakistan, among other nations, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today introduced bipartisan legislation calling for the creation of a special envoy at the U.S. State Department for religious minorities in the Near East and South Central Asia.

Wolf, co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, is long recognized as a voice for the persecuted around the world. He said threats against religious minorities have been increasing in recent months and that the United States has an obligation to speak out for the voiceless, to develop policies to protect and preserve these communities, and to prioritize these issues in our broader foreign policy.

"If the international community fails to speak out, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance in the region are bleak," Wolf said in introducing the bill. "President Ronald Reagan once said that the U.S. Constitution is a 'covenant that we have made not only with ourselves, but with all of mankind.'''

Last week, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a hearing on the recent spate of attacks and the ongoing persecution of Christians in Iraq and Egypt. Commission members heard testimony about the increasing sectarian tensions in the two countries and the need for greater U.S. attention to the plight of religious minorities.

Iraq and Egypt are not an anomaly, Wolf said. Other religious minorities, including the Ahmadis, Baha'is, Zoroastrians and Jews, are under increasing pressure in the region. Last year the Pew Forum released a report on global restrictions on religion which found that "nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities."

Wolf, along with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), also co-chairs the Religious Minorities in the Middle East Caucus, and they have long pressed the State Department to develop a comprehensive policy to address the unique needs of the ancient ethno-religious faith communities in Iraq, a policy which recognizes that these indigenous communities are not simply the victims of generalized violence in Iraq but are facing targeted violence which is forcing them to flee the lands they've inhabited for centuries.

In addition to numerous letters to the State Department seeking to elevate these issues globally and ensure that U.S. embassies are "islands of freedom" in the midst of repression, Wolf has also written church leaders in the West urging them to speak out on behalf of the persecuted globally.

sherwood ross