Friday, June 12, 2009

This and that and Bob Somerby

So end of the week. We spent a lot of time in DC in Congress and in talking with people in surrounding areas about the illegal war.

I don't know but it feels like slowly the ground is moving and people are awakeining from their cult like state. I expect it to continue for some time but there is a peeling off that's taking place.

And it's not something we have to initiate. Usually that's the case. But this week, it was being voiced before we could.

I think Barack has lost a bit of his luster and that people are waking up.

Betty just called. She posted and forgot to include something and wanted to know if I could put it in my post? Of course. This is from Bob Somerby's Daily Howler today:

In our view, Robinson wrote the appropriate column for him -- a fairly Standard Tribal Tract. Our tribe's the good tribe -- and their tribe isn't, the broad-brushed gentleman says:
ROBINSON (6/12/09): In April, a prescient Department of Homeland Security memo predicted that the election of the first African American president and the advent of economic hard times could worsen the threat from "right-wing extremist groups." In particular, the memo warned of an increase in anti-Semitic activity by extremists who buy into the whole Jewish-banker-secret-cabal paranoid fantasy--and would blame "the Jews" for engineering the global financial crisis, just as they blame "the Jews" for everything.
For days, some conservative commentators tried mightily to paint the memo as an underhanded attempt by the Obama administration to smear its honorable critics by equating "right-wing" with "terrorism." It made no difference to these loudmouths that the number of hate groups around the country has increased by more than 50 percent since 2000, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. It didn't matter that the memo was backed up by solid intelligence and analysis. For these infotainers, the point isn't to illuminate a subject with light but to blast it with heat.

There’s a great deal to discuss in all this, as Krugman’s piece makes much more clear. But here’s a question: Is “anti-Semitic activity” somehow “right-wing?” Obviously not, though you might get that impression from Robinson’s broadly-brushed work. (Reverend Wright piped up this week, presumably not from “the right.”) And how about this: If “the number of hate groups” has increased, are those groups necessarily “conservative?” In various ways, that ain’t obvious either. Except in the vague and broad-bushed logic of this particular column.
It’s interesting to see Robinson complain about “infotainers,” because he’s becoming a bit of a tainer himself. Many nights, he pockets his three hundred bucks from MSNBC, having inspired us rubes a bit more. On the programs where he stars, we rubes always belong to the good and true tribe. And then too, there’s always The Other.
Krugman discusses the same topic today (
just click here). But where he goes, rubber meets road. He largely skips blanket statements about "conservatives" and the "right-wing" (though he uses the latter term more directly than we would). Instead, he names the names of actual people and quotes the actual things they have said. No one can do justice to these critical topics in just 700 words, of course. But Krugman quotes actual statements by O'Reilly, Beck and Limbaugh -- and by the Washington Times. For our money, he's a bit too fair to O'Reilly today (more below) -- and a bit too hard on Mitch McConnell. But he largely moves past sweeping tribal portrayals. He lays the groundwork for a long-delayed discussion of the specific irresponsible, crackpot claims which have infested our discourse.
Crackpot claims have infested our culture for the past two decades. Citizens deserve to be told that this is happening -- deserve to be put on alert. Citizens need to hear these actual statements quoted; they need to read the actual names of the actual people who have made the claims. No one can do this in 700 words --but Krugman makes the start.
In our view, Robinson gets us pretty much nowhere today. Naming names and quoting their quotes, Krugman gives readers a start.

And I'll even pass it on to Elaine because I think there's a section she'll use.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, June 12, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, Newsweek explores Iraq, Congress puts out like a gumball machine for the White House, a Sunni MP is assassinated, Nouri stages a praise-a-thon, and more.

Starting with
Newsweek. Comedian Stephen Colbert took his Comedy Central show to Iraq and, as a tie-in, was the guest editor of Newsweek for the issue on sale now (with his photo on the cover). For four pages you get more lies from Fareed Zakaria, these are titled "Victory In Iraq." Liar Fareed wants you to know "the democratic ideal is still within reach." Oh really? How do you define "democratic ideal," you damn liar? Two centuries ago, if you lied in the public square the way Fareed has repeatedly, you would have found yourself whipped in the public square and maybe for pundits who put the lives of others at risk we should bring that policy back. Here's reality that liars like Fareed can never tell you about:

We are writing to urge you to call upon the government of Iraq to prevent the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and to protect the right of all Iraqi citizens to be free from all forms of cruel,inhumane or degrading punishment.
Deeply disturbing reports are enamating from Iraq with regard to the torture, beating and killing of LGBT people in that country. The increasing violence is being led by religious zealots who are targeting these individuals simply because of their sexual orientation. This year alone, 63 people have been tortured or killed as a result of religious decrees against gay citizens. A prominent Iraqi human rights activists has reported that Iraqi militia have deployed painful and degrading forms of torture and punishment against homesexuals that must be stopped.
The United States is spending trillions of dollars to fight a war that is based on bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. These unspeakable actions of violence on Iraqi citizens are in direct violation of our purpose for being in that country and of the stated policy of non-discrimination of the new administration.
Local police in Iraq have issued a statement that "the extra-judicial killing of any citizen is a crime punishable by law. No one has the right to become a substitute for judicial authorities or executive authorities, and if there are complaints against individuals, there is law and there are police and there are government agencies. No group or class has the authority to punish people instead of the state." The violence occuring against LGBT Iraqis is in direct contradiction to this statement.
As one of the signatories to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Iraqi government has an obligation to protect the right to life (Article 6) and the right of all its citizens "to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" (Article 7). Current actions belie this obligation.
To protect the lives of LGBT Iraqis, we urge you to please take immediate action to stop the violence. We believe that a strong public condemnation of these actions must come from you and our other national leaders, along with the necessary pressure on the Iraqi government to protect the life and liberty of all its citizens.

The [PDF format warning]
letter is signed by California state legislatures Mark Leno, Tom Ammiano, Christine Keho, John A. Perez, Jim Beall Jr., Julia Brownley, Sandre R. Swanson, Tom Torlakson, Marty Block, Mariko Yamada, Pedro Nava, ANthony Portantino, Jerry Hill, Hector de la Torre, Mike Feuer, Felipe Fuentes, Cathleen Galgiani, Curren D. Price Jr., Norma J. Torres, Jospeh S. Simitian, Elaine Alquist, Alan Lowenthal, Leland Yee, Gilbert Cedillo, Jenny Oropeza, Gloria Romero, Gloria Negrete McLeod, Lou Correa, Loni Hancock, Lois Wolk, Patricia Wiggins, Ellen Corbett, Carol Liu, Fran Pavley, Bonnie Lowenthal, William W. Monning, Isadore Hall III, Mary Salas, Mike Davis, Paul Fong, Warren T. Furutani, Jared Huffman, Bob Blumenfield, Alex Padilla and Paul Krekorian. The letter was sent this month to US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and US Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein.

The issue has been reported on by the Denver Post, the New York Times, the BBC, ABC and many other outlets. Newsweek has NEVER reported on it. Newsweek has never acknowledged the attacks and assaults on Iraq's LGBT community. And that falls on Fareed who decides what makes it into non-guest editorial issues and what doesn't. Fareed doesn't want to touch the subject due to his own apparent homosexual panic.
As SourceWatch notes, in October of 2006, War Hawk and Cheerleader Fareed was finally walking away from the illegal war declaring that the puppet government in Iraq "has failed" and calling the US venture/war crime a failure as well. He's back to selling the illegal war all over again. The Henry Kissinger wannabe infamously said as the illegal war on Iraq began, "The place is so dysfunctional any stirring of the pot is good. America's involvement in the region is for the good." Again, a few centuries back, he would have been flogged in the town square. These days he just feeds his own vanity which is how he ends up with an attention getting, four page spread which leads off the news section of the magazine. Vanity, thy name is Fareed.

On a better (and actual news) note, Gretel C. Kovach contributes "Canada's New Leaf" which zooms in on Kimberly Rivera, the Dallas - Fort Worth native and Iraq War veteran who self-checked out and took her family to Canada becoming, in February 2007, the first female Iraq War veteran to publicly seek asylum in Canada. Kovach notes Kimberly next appears before a Canadian court in July:

Now 26, Rivera has more problems than ever. Her mother hasn't spoken to her since she fled to Canada, although Rivera misses her terribly. And the Canadian government keeps trying to send her home to face desertion charges. She might end up in a military prison -- but says she has no regrets about her broken commitment to the service of her country. "At least I can say I never killed anyone, ever," she says. "I think that's a little more honorable."

Kovach demonstrates that Fareed doesn't know how to edit worth s**t. Jimmy Carter, as president, did not pardon deserters. He pardoned draft dodgers and only draft dodgers. He did that in the first month of his administration and there was hope among some (such as US House Rep Elizabeth Holtzman) that he would revist the subject but he never did. Before Jimmy Carter, President Gerald Ford offered a conditional amnesty for deserters and draft dodgers which required that they jump through hoops for a considerable amount of time and may or may not end up with amenesty. Very few attempted Ford's program. Near the end of Ford's presidency -- in November and December -- he considered proposing a pardon for draft dodgers and/or deserters, however, he was convinced (as were columnists at the New York Times) that Jimmy Carter would do this once sworn in. They were mistaken and only had to hear Carter's speech to veterans while campaigning for the presidency where he made clear that, if elected, he would pardon draft dodgers but not deserters. (Carter was booed during this speech.) We've covered this before and it's all public record. The inability of Newsweek and their fact checkers to get the story straight goes a long way towards explaining why all the whining about the death of Big Media is so much blah blah blah b.s. If you can't get damn facts right, you have no business charging anyone even a penny. I'm blaming the editors because I know where Gretel C. Kovach was fed the lies, the same place the lies are always fed up north. And, yeah, there little attacks on this site stemmed from the fact that we wouldn't let them lie in public without correcting the record. A
July 10, 2008 entry quoted Robert Trumbull, "Pardon Brings Cautious Response From Some War Exiles in Canada," New York Times, January 23, 1977:

Jeff Enger, a deserter from the Army and therefore excluded from the Presidential pardon, will be sworn in as a Canadian citizen next Friday, one of the many self-exiled American war resisters who "want to make our lives here." However, like other deserters, Mr. Egner would like to be able to travel freely in the country of his birth. The Presidential pardon covered nearly all draft evaders of the Vietnam War period. Mr. Carter postponed a decision on the men who entered but then deserted the armed forces. Jack Colhoun, a leader in the Toronto exile community, is one of those deseters who insist that they would fight in a "just war," or "if the United States were attacked," as Mr. Colhoun put it. The men interviewed, who rerpesent a cross section of the estimated 20,000 to 25,000 American war resisters living in Canada, have in common a yearning for recognition by Americans at home that their actions were an acceptable exercise of principle "in the American tradition," as one said. "We don't expect to be congratulated or anything," said Mr. Egner, a law student at the University of Toronto, "but we believe we acted correctly." They also share a deep conviction that the deserters, as well as the draft evaders, should be pardoned.

Because the lies from up north continue, we're apparently going to have to do a slow walk through.
David Postman (Seattle Times) outlined what Gerald Ford offered to war resisters: "a limited clemency for Vietnam draft resisters and military deserters." Here's Gerald Ford speaking in September of 1974 (and link has text and audio):

In my first week as President, I asked the Attorney General and the Secretary of Defense to report to me, after consultation with other Governmental officials and private citizens concerned, on the status of those young Americans who have been convicted, charged, investigated, or are still being sought as draft evaders or military deserters.
On August 19, at the national convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in the city of Chicago, I announced my intention to give these young people a chance to earn their return to the mainstream of American society so that they can, if they choose, contribute, even though belatedly, to the building and the betterment of our country and the world.

That's Ford and his jump through hoops program which a study by the New York Times found, before Ford even left office, was being utitlized by very few of the over 50,000 who had self-checked out. Now let's move to Jimmy Carter once he becomes president.
Here's how PBS's The NewsHour (then The MacNeil/Lehrer Report) reported Carter's program on January 21, 1977 (link has text, audio and video):

Just a day after Jimmy Carter's inaguration, he followed through on a contentious campaign promise, granting a presidential pardon to those who had avoided the draft during the Vietnam war by either not registering or traveling abroad. The pardon meant the government was giving up forever the right to prosecute what the administration said were hundreds of thousands of draft-dodgers. . . . Meanwhile, many in amnest groups say that Carter's pardon did too little. They pointed out that the president did not include deserters -- those who served in the war and left before their tour was completed -- or soliders who received a less-than-honorable discharge. Civilian protesters, selective service employees and those who initiated any act of violence also were not covered in the pardon.

Use the link and you can read, listen or watch the roundtable which includes then US House Rep Elizabeth Holtzman who states, "I'm pleased that the pardon was issued, I'm pleased that it was done on the first day and I'm pleased that President Carter kept a commitment that he made very clear to the American people. I would have liked to have seen it broader, I would like to have seen it extended to some of the people who are clearly not covered and whose families will continue to be separatedf rom them . . . but I don't think President Carter has closed the door on this category of people." I like Liz and I've known her for years but it was this b.s. attitude of praising Jimmy instead of pressuring him that allowed him to never revist the issue again. He never did another thing and its appalling that a magazine called "Newsweek" which wants $5.95 an issue for their 'factual' reporting can't get their damn facts straight. (Hint to other reporters, stop believing the lies you hear up north. It is your job to fact check statements if you present them in your articles.) Jimmy Carter did not offer an "unconditional pardon" to deserters. He offered nothing to deserters and just because an old man in Canada (a deserter) told you that Carter offered something doesn't make it true. It's also appalling because Newsweek covered some of this in real time so the magazine (wrongly) fabled for its fact checking should have caught these lies before they made it into print. Kovach is of the opinion (it's a popular one these days -- that doesn't mean it's accurate) that the resisters will all be deported (the decision by Canada's House to pass ANOTHER non-binding resolution on the issue demonstrates that they really won't stand with war resisters) and notes:

All of which means that the United States must now figure out what to do with the deserters who have already begun trickling back. No one expects Obama to issue them a pardon. They'll have to plead their cases before the military command. Prosecution rates of deserters have increased during the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts from 2 percent at the start to about 10 percent now (the remainder receive administrative punishments, like the loss of a stripe).

It's a real shame that 'helpers' up north wanted to refight Vietnam because of their own issues instead of helping today's resisters. (They lost their planned statue right before the resisters began pouring in and that apparently hurt a lot of feelings.) For the record, there are groups in Canada (and I give money to them) that have been successful in getting citizenship for resisters. They don't make a spectacle of themselves because the issue isn't them or what they did or didn't do during Vietnam. The issue is and has always been how to ensure that a resister doesn't have to return to the US. (
Elaine wrote about that group, which she also contributes to, in August of last year.) And resisters in Canada can forget about Barack, he will not help any returning deserters. He has taken the Carter position that if some had avoided the draft that was one thing but those who have left service will not be let off. No, we didn't have a draft but that is his position. It was the same position as Carter's which is boiled down as "It's not honorable to desert." [Carter referred to his actions as a pardon and not amnesty, he stated calling it amnesty would push the notion that their avoiding the draft was a 'correct' action and he did not believe it was.] Neither the assaults on Vietnam or Iraq were "honorable" and self-checking out was one of the bravest things anyone could do. Today's resisters deserve praise but they won't get from the White House and many believe they won't get it from the Canadian government.

Jessica Ramirez examines the effects of deployments on families in "Children Of Conflict" and finds that "roughly 890,000" parents have been deployed since September 11, 2001 and that "[t]he personal sacrifices of military kids can go unnoticed amid the grown-ups' struggles, in part because the scars they may sustain aren't necessarily the visible kind. But they are real and long-lasting, and they are not diminished by the fact that levels of violence in Iraq have dropped or that U.S. troops are no longer taking the lead on combat operations there." Christopher Anderson contributes a photo essay on Iraq and US forces in Iraq. Dan Ephron explores the War Porn Six Days in Fallujah. And an article by Daniel Stone, Eve Conant and John Barry on the effects at home for the returning:

Part of the trouble with long tours is the stress of holding together a normal life back home. "When you're gone o long, you put your whole life on hold," says Ohle. "You can't plan anything." That can be OK if you're single, but Ohle has been dating another Army intelligence officer who is in a different brigade. They met during a training exercise many years ago, and then in 2006 spent a few months together "downrange," as Ohle calls the combat zone. After that, the dating was long distance. They've been "together-together" only since February, and Ohle expects her boyfriend to deploy again sometimes this summer.
Whenever she comes back to the United States, Ohle faces culture shock similar to anyone who returns from a foreign land. She's overwhelmed by the food selection in the markets, and the number of people in the aisles. But unlike ordinary travelers, she also needs to keep her anger in check. "When someone with a shopping cart gets in your way, you can't just yell at them to get out of the way," she says. "Interacting with people requires a reset."

Most of the features are not available online. Fareed is but we don't link to trash. A West Point story is available online and we'll link to that. What does Colbert do in the issue besides 'guest editing'? He speaks to the readers on page five and contributes letters (the earliest from 1933) in his TV character complaining about Newsweek coverage over the ages (starting with 1933). He also does the Conventional Wisdom on page 15 and an essay on page 68.

Colbert's trip to Iraq resulted in Newsweek focusing on Iraq. It's not a great issue but it is attention to an ongoing illegal war and that is an accomplishment. I don't care for Colbert but I applaud him for that. It also got attention from the daily papers -- many of whom have also forgotten that the Iraq War continues to drag on. (
James Rainey (Los Angeles Times) covers Colbert's trip to Iraq.) AP reports members of Mississippi's National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team is preparing for its second deployment to Iraq and notes the previous deployment resulted in 14 deaths. WKYC reports 161 Ohians are deploying to Iraq ("part of the Ohio Army National Guard's 1192nd Engineer Company"). But because it's so very difficult for people to pay attention to Iraq, let's all pretend the war is over. That's how it works, right?

In Iraq today, a Sunni leader was assassinated. Ned
Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report Harith Obeidid "was gunned down by a teenager" in Baghdad. Obeid had been the leader of the Accordance Front. after shooting Obeidid twice in the head, the teenager than threw a grenade. BBC reports their correspondent "Jim Muir in Baghdad says the assumption will be that this attack was carried out by insurgents from Mr Obeidi's own Sunni community, who have often targeted Sunnis involved with the government." Michael Christie (Reuters) asks, "Could the killers be Shi'ites? Possibly, although suicidal attacks, as Friday's assassination appears to have been, are more often associated with Sunni extremists." Al Arabiya reports that Obeidid was one of 5 people killed in the attack and that twelve were left injured while the assassin was killed as he attempted to escape. KUNA notes that al-Maliki's government has declared 25-year-old Ahmed Jassim Ibrahim the assassin "in contrast to claims by Iraqi police who earlier mentioned he was only 15." In terms of possible motives, Al Arabiya explains, "Obaidi, born in 1966, was deputy chairman of parliament's human rights committee and on Thursday had called for an independent inquiry into torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq's prisons." Sahar Issa and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) observe that Iraq's President Jalal Talabani went on TV to urge calm following the assassination and speak with MP Shatha al Obusi who serves on the Human Rights Committee and states Obaidi leaves behind a wife and eight children, that "he was a fun-loving man with an easy smile" and "I believe that he was targeted for these qualities by people who would not have him succeed. He was, and will continue to be, a role model to us regarding the issue of human rights and defending those who have fallen under injustice."

In other reported violence . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing destroyed a US military vehicle, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured and, dropping back to Thursday, a Karbala roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left four people injured. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded six people.


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba home invasion in which 2 people (mother and daughter) were killed. Reuters notes 2 Sahwa members were shot dead in Mussayab by a police officer who claims "they were planting a bomb".

Rod Nordland and Marc Santora (New York Times) report on the puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki hosting a praise-a-thon for himself. Nouri fancies himself the new strong man of Iraq, the new Saddam. And Nordland and Santora capture that as they note he's now positioned himself as commander in chief despite the fact that the Iraqi Constitution does not give him that power and that he received toadies yesterday who called him their "master" and "commander in chief" (the Ministry of the Defense being among the toadies). An unnamed US military officer attempted to attend but was sent packing by the one of 'master' Nouri's thugs.Drunk on the smell of Nouri's cheap cologne (truly, he wears the cheapest cologne and over wears it, a detail that's yet to make it into domestic reports) the puppet's puppets engaged in a circle jerk where they self-praised and pretended they were running the country. And, insert laughter, runnig it well.If you automatically thought "air force," the reporters go there. There is no Iraqi air force to speak of and the reporters have Gen Anwar Hama Ameen later admitting that it will take more than the optimistic US prediction of "tow and a half years" for the air force to be built. The reporters note that this and other realities were left out of the circle jerk. The paragraph that should haunt reads: "The tenor of the meeting reminded many of similar ones between Saddam Hussein and his commanders, which featured fawning speeches praising him, the use of the word 'master' when addressing him, and a recitation by a nationalist poet. In Thursday's case, the poem was a recent one denoucning terrorism."

So Nouri's the new Saddam and the air force is nowhere ready.
Jack Dolan (McClatchy Newspapers) reports more problems. Despite all the praise going down in the meeting with Nouri, turns out things are not so great. Iraqi forces are apparently not ready to take over the security functions in Mosul and reveals that issues include lack of ammunition and weapons and the 'hope' that the people of Mosul will work with Iraqi security forces.
Last night at the Washington Post, Perry Bacon Jr. reported that the Democrats in Congress had found some mutual understanding that would allow Barack's war funding supplemental to move forward, "The agreement was reached only after a letter from President Obama to a congressional committee saying that his administration would appeal to the Supreme Court to keep the photos from becoming public, rather than try for a Congressional ban as part of the war funding bill. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Thursday stayed an earlier order that the photos be released immediately, so the government will now have time to appeal." Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) offers, "The measure does not include language allowing indefinite detention as President Obama has initially proposed. The White House also dropped a request for a provision imposing a congressional ban on the release of photos showing the abuse of prisoners at US jails in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama said he will continue to seek the photos' censorship through an appeal to the Supreme Court." With more on the reassurance on suppressing the torture photos, Carl Hulse and David M. Herszenhorn (New York Times) explain, "The deal was concluded after Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff, went to the Capitol to assure Senate Democrats that President Obama would use all admnistrative and legal means to prevent the photos' release. At the same time, a federal court issued a ruling effectively ensuring that the photos would not be released for months, if ever." Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal) quotes Rahm stating, "I talked to the Senate Democrats -- everything's fine." Amy Goodman breaks down 'fine': "The war funding bill includes more than $90 billion for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and is expected be voted on next week. In a letter to other House members who have previously opposed war funding, Congress members Lynn Woolsey of California and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio urged them to retain 'steadfast opposition' to the new bill. Speaking on the House floor, Kucinich said the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is based on 'aggression and lies'." Goodman goes on to quote some of US House Rep Dennis Kucinich's statement so those who need or prefer audio use the previous link but here's Kucinich's statement in full:

Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, had no intention or capability of attacking United Statess, had nothing to do with Al-Qaida's role in 9/11, and each and every statement made by the previous administration in support of going to war turned out to be false.
Yest here we are. A new administration and the same old war, with an expansion of the war in Afghanistan. We cannot afford these wars. We cannot aford these wars spiritually. They are wars of aggression and they are based on lies. We cannot afford these wars financially. They add trillions to our national debt and destroy our domestic agenda. We cannot afford the human costs of these wars, the loss of lives of our beloved troops and the deaths of innocent civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. So, why do we do this? Why do we keep funding wars when they are so obviously against truth and justice and when they undermine our military? These are matters of heart and conscience which must be explored. Our ability to bring an end to thse wars will be the real test of our power.

We'll note Kucinich and Lynn Woolsey's letters to their colleagues in part [PDF format warning,
click here for letter in full]:

Continued funding of war operations in Iraq ensures a continued occupation thereby undermining the stated U.S. goal for withdrawal by the end of 2010. Funds for Iraq should be dedicated to bringing all our troops and contractors home immediately. We must meet our moral obligation to rebuild Iraq and support viable solutions to the crises faced by the refugee and internally displaced populations. As such, the U.S. must maintain a continued commitment to the country of Iraq that does not include war or occupation.
Funding expanded combat operations in Afghanistan will not meet the security objectives of the U.S. Sending additional brave American service members to Afghanistan does nto increase security and it is not an act of diplomacy. This approach only encourages the Taliban and other insurgent groups to do likewise, while fueling their recruiting efforts. The bill ensured that the months and perhaps years ahead will be bloody. And the bill fails to present an exist strategy.
Voting down the funds for war honors the mandate to end the war in Iraq that was given to this body by the American people in November 2006. Futhermore, defeat of the War Supplemental sends a clear message about U.S. priorities at home and abroad.
Congress must use the power of the purse to end combat operations. When the War Supplemental conference comes to the Floor for a vote I urge you to continue to vote no.
Today the bufoons at CounterSpin yet again tried to pimp Barry O's Cairo speech. Reality on that speech via independent journalist
John Pilger via ZNet:

Naturally, unlike George W Bush, Obama did not say that "you're either with us or against us". He smiled the smile and uttered "many eloquent mood-music paragraphs and a smattering of quotations from the Holy Quran", noted the American international lawyer John Whitbeck. Beyond this, Obama offered no change, no plan, only a "tired, morally bankrupt American mantra [which] essentially argues that only the rich, the strong, the oppressors and the enforcers of injustice (notably the Americans and Israelis) have the right to use violence, while the poor, the weak, the oppressed and the victims of oppression must . . . submit to their fate and accept whatever crumbs their betters may magnanimously deign suitable to let fall from their table". And he offered not the slightest recognition that the world's most numerous victims of terrorism are people of Muslim faith - a terrorism of western origin that dares not speak its name. In his "reaching out" in Cairo, as in his "anti-nuclear" speech in Berlin, as in the "hope" he spun at his inauguration, this clever young politician is playing the part for which he was drafted and promoted. This is to present a benign, seductive, even celebrity face to American power, which can then proceed towards its strategic goal of dominance, regardless of the wishes of the rest of humanity and the rights and lives of our children.

Independent Peace Mom
Cindy Sheehan wondered recently:

I have integrity. I oppose war, torture, economic oppression and environmental degradation no matter who is in the White House or what political party he belongs to. I have been one of President Obama's earliest and most ardent critics, but where's the media coverage when I protest the carnage now that Obama is president? Where's Air America calling me to comment on the war crimes that Obama has already committed? Why won't most "progressive" online sites print my articles anymore (except, Oped News and

Cindy's on the road and heads to Nashville June 13th through 16th.
Click here for her full schedule for this month and we'll run the remaining dates next week. She was in Texas this week. Kimberly Kreitner (Daily Texan) reports on her stop in Austin where Cindy explained, "We have a Democratic party [in office], but nothing good is happening. It pays for war and coddles war cirminals. What's the difference between Democrats and Republicans? . . . People ask, 'How can peace be relevant during time of a peace president? Well, I don't like to go around and tell people there is no Santa Claus, but May was the deadliest month in Iraq [for U.S. Soldiers]." And apparently Lily Tomlin's Suzy Sorority attended Cindy's speech because an unnamed woman told Kreitner, "We already have enough negativity going on, and saying bad things about the Obama administration won't help anything." For those who don't remember Suzy Sorority of the Silent Majority, let's revisit one of Tomlin's Laugh-In skits:

Suzy Sorotiy: I'm a charter member of the YACF -- that's Young Americans for Connie Francis. Now there's a person with a lot of problems -- like what to wear to entertain the troops, things like that. But you don't see Connie shooting glue or smoking acid or getting low or smelling those LSMFT tablets. No sir! When something upsets Connie, she just sings her little heart out and the troubles of the world disappear.

In US military news,
Gina Cavallaro (Army Times) reports that the National Guard and Reserve fell short of their goals last month (623 short) but remain "comfortably ahead in their fiscal 2009 goals." Staffan De Mistura has always fallen short in Iraq and been an embarrassment for the United Nations. Alsumaria reports: "UN special envoy to Iraq Staffan de Mistura announced that he will leave his post shortly after a two years mission in Iraq. After meeting with Iraq's supreme religious authority Ali Husseini Al Sistani, De Mistura affirmed that the United Nations will pursue its work in Iraq as long as Iraq needs it noting that a good successor will take over." The United Nations work, under de Mistura, has been a joke for two years in Iraq. That goes beyond the cover for the occupation the UN has granted to include the blaming of the Iraqi women for the cholera outbreaks each fall, it goes to the refusal to address the Kirkuk issue, an issue that was supposed to be addressed long ago but which the UN has repeatedly given cover for and allowed to be sidestepped and postponed.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on many PBS stations (check local listings):The murder of Dr. George Tiller has reignited the abortion debate, and raised the question: should violence against medical doctors who perform abortions be viewed and prosecuted as domestic terrorism? This week NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa sits down with two of the remaining handful of doctors who publicly acknowledge performing late abortions, including Leroy Carhart, a fellow doctor in Tiller's Wichita, Kansas clinic.Carhart discusses his vow to carry on Tiller's mission and what it's like for him and his family to live as "targets". The show also investigates claims that law enforcement dropped the ball when it came to stopping Tiller's alleged murderer, Scott Roeder.Hinojosa travels to Colorado as well to talk with Dr. Warren Hern, another late abortion provider who says he's been living "under siege" for decades. Dr. Hern works behind four layers of bulletproof windows and is now under round-the-clock federal protection.NOW goes into the eye of the abortion rights storm to see how Tiller's killing and its ramifications are impacting doctors, free speech, and a civilized society.
Bill Moyers Journal begins airing tonight on mnay PBS stations and he and Michael Winship have an essay on gun control:

You know by now that in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, an elderly white supremacist and anti-Semite named James W. von Brunn allegedly walked into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a .22-caliber rifle and killed a security guard before being brought down himself. He's 88 years old, with a long record of hatred and paranoid fantasies about the Illuminati and a Global Zionist state. How bitter the bile that has curdled for so many decades.You will know, too, of the recent killing, while ushering at his local church, of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country still performing late term abortions. Sadly, this case was proof that fatal violence works. His family has announced that his Wichita, Kansas, clinic will not be reopened.You may be less familiar with the June 1st shootings in an army recruiting office in Little Rock that killed one soldier and wounded another. The suspect in question is an African-American Muslim convert who says he acted in retaliation for US military activity in the Middle East. Soon, however, these terrible deeds will be forgotten, as are already the three policemen killed by an assault weapon in Pittsburgh; the four policemen killed in Oakland, California; the 13 people gunned down in Binghamton, New York; the 10 in an Alabama shooting spree; five in Santa Clara, California; the eight dead in a North Carolina, nursing home. All during this year alone.There is much talk about hate talk; hate crimes against blacks, whites, immigrants, Muslims, Jews; about violence committed in the name of bigotry or religion. But why don't we talk about guns?We're arming ourselves to death. Even as gunshots ricocheted around the country, an amendment allowing concealed weapons in national parks snuck into the popular credit card reform bill. Another victory for the gun lobby, to sounds of silence from the White House.
Washington Week finds Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Bara Vaida (National Journal), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and John Harris (Hedda Hopper Lives!) joining Gwen around the table. Also tonight on most PBS stations, Bonnie Erbe sits down with Melinda Henneberger, Susan Au Allen, Avis Jones-DeWeever and Tara Setmayer to discuss the week's news on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings. And turning to broadcast commerical TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:The Man Who KnewHarry Markopolos repeatedly told the Securities and Exchange Commission that Bernie Madoff's investment fund was a fraud. He was ignored, however, and investors lost billions of dollars. Steve Kroft reports. Watch VideoFor Better Or WorseForeigners who marry Americans are entitled to become permanent residents of the U.S., but in a stricter post-9/11 world, hundreds of widows are being asked to leave the country because their husbands died – even some whose children were born in the U.S. Bob Simon reports. Watch VideoAlice WatersShe has been cooking and preaching the virtues of fresh food grown in an environmentally friendly way for decades. A world-class restaurant and eight cookbooks to her credit, Alice Waters has become famous for her "slow food" approach – an antidote to fast food. Lesley Stahl reports. Watch Video60 Minutes, Sunday, June 14, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

iraqthe new york times
robert trumbull
perry bacon jr.the washington post
marc santorarod norlandcarl hulsedavid m. herszenhornalsumaria
the los angeles timesned parkermcclatchy newspapers
democracy nowamy goodman
john pilger60 minutescbs newsbill moyers journalto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Thursday, June 11, 2009

House Veterans Affairs Strategic Forces Subcommittee

Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee met today for a mark up. Ellen Tauscher is the chair of the subcommittee and she offered a "thank you all for your hard work and long hours". This was the last subcommittee meeting that Tauscher is expected to chair. She is leaving the Congress.

Ellen Tauscher

She's going to be the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.

Ellen Tauscher is a centrist Democrat and that's upset many but she originally represented a highly Republican district in the Bay Area. (Gerrymandering has changed some of that.) She has consistently voted in support of abortion rights. She has not waffled, she has not quibbled. She has been strongly and unapologetically pro-choice and I will miss that. She also is among the few in the House who voted to impeach Bully Boy Bush over the Iraq War.

So today was her last time chairing and this was just a meeting to take proposed legislation out of the subcommitee and send it to the full commitee. Her members on the subcommittee surprised her by adding a motion to applaud her work in the Congress.

The Ranking Member Michael Turner noted that today comes with "some sadness" because Tauscher will leave to become the Undersecretary. Turner then went into a lengthy monologue about the ways he feels the current administration is moving in the wrong direction. This includes the missile defense program. I am not bothered by the shift on that but I would encourage the GOP to put Michael Turner on TV to advocate on this issue because the bulk of the people they trot out sound crazy. Turner was able to express his concerns in a way that you understood where he was coming from and he wasn't inflamatory in his remarks. People might agree with the GOP's concerns on this issue. I don't. But some might. If they do, I would guess they'd be more likely to do so if it came from someone like Turner who didn't appear to breathe fire once as he went over his reasons which included not only defense reasons but also economic ones.

He echoed an earlier remark she made to him and stated "we agree on far more than we disagree" and then congratulated her on her candor and openess while wishing her the best in her new position.

US House Rep Trent Franks spoke next and said he wished her the only real happiness, "to love and be loved" and noted that she would be missed. You could tell she was trying to keep it together. And then US House Rep Loretta Sanchez spoke and talked about, "I know having come to the Congress with you, and having know you before we came to the Congress on the same day, that your passion has been to rid the world of nuclear weapons and I hope that you will achieve that given now that you have a postion that we can -- working with the Congress and members of this committee particularly -- we can strive to do that."

She spoke of Tauscher's daughter and future generations and by the time she got to "Good luck and I'm going to miss you," you could tell her words had really touched Tauscher.

It was a nice moment and Michael Turner completely shot it out of the water stating that Barack Obama had done something so even thought amendments were frowned upon in subcommittees, he was going to have to offer one to go on the record. He maintained that hard nosed pose for about ten more seconds before revealing that the amendment was about Tauscher, "to honor our chariman who unfortunately is being taken by our president."

He had surprised Tauscher and tricked her the way he did some of us watching the proceedings. She laughed and said, "The staff will distribute this suspicious amendment." She didn't allow it to be read and some much needed laughter followed with objections.

Turner noted that the amendment was "laying out for the record some of the greatest accomplishments of our chair." Both in Congress and out. He noted that she had served "the House of Represenatives selflessly and with distincition and she deserves the sincere and humble gratitude of this Congress and the country."

I don't know how she kept from crying because my eyes were damp from the whole thing. (She did flick her tongue to the side which is a trick some use to avoid crying. Try it sometime, you'll see it works.) She declared, "If I could just make one comment because I find myself to be flummoxed. . . . I . .. When I was offered the position of Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, it was one of those bitter sweet moments where I found I could perhaps continue to serve my constitutents in work that has become my life's passion and -- but at a tremendous cost that would mean leaving my constituents and my colleagues in the House. It is a true cost. I love the House and I love my colleagues and I love my constitutents."

She concluded with, "I'll never forget the honor of working with each and everyone of you and, Mr. Turner, I really appreciate this amendment. It means more to me than I can ever tell you."

US House Rep John Spratt made the motion for a vote on the amendment. Laughing, Tauscher said, "All those in favor, say 'aye'; all those opposed, leave the room." And when the laughter died down, Spratt added that "we've enjoyed these 12 years more than I could ever express to you. You've been someone who's showed the rest of us that bi-partisanship can achieve things -- and knowing what you're talking about can achieve things too, which is what you've always done."

I live in Nancy Pelosi's district so Ellen Tauscher is not my represenative but a lot of us have appreciated her strong stance on abortion rights and I thought her last subcommittee chairing deserved to be noted. There will be a special election in her district to fill the seat, by the way. Don't quote me but I believe two gay men are among those running and one is also an Iraq veteran (one of the gay men). Don't quote me because it's not my district. Dak-Ho lives in that district and he was telling me about the people running but I may be confused. (My friend Dak-Ho is a huge supporter of Ellen Tauscher so this post can also be for him. I know he'll love reading it.)

We're all linking to last night's posts. Except for Cedric and Wally, the posts are theme posts on American Dad:

Cedric's Big Mix
Letterman the dirty old man
6 hours ago
The Daily Jot
6 hours ago
Mikey Likes It!
World Can't Wait, Kelley B. Vlahos, American Dad
8 hours ago
Oh Boy It Never Ends
William Blu, American Dad, Roger & Hayley
8 hours ago
Trina's KitchenRoger and 'Of Ice And Men'
8 hours ago
Thomas Friedman is a Great Man
American Dad
8 hours ago
Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude
'irregarding steve'
9 hours ago
Gloria Feldt, Bob Somerby, American Dad
9 hours ago
Ruth's Report
American Dad stem, stem, seed . . .
9 hours ago
Like Maria Said Paz
Deborah Vagins, World Can't Wait, American Dad
9 hours ago
Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills)
The do nothing Wartime Contracting Commission
9 hours ago

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 11, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US decides the best way to treat those who killed 5 US soldiers is to 'release them into the wild,' the DoD releases suicide data for the Army for last month, Iraqi refugees release a music album, and more.

"Our country has been in conflict for nearly eight years, service members and their families are bearing the brunt of multiple deployments, with no foreseeable end in sight. It is important that we uphold our responsibility to care for those who volunteer to serve our nationa in uniform and their families, given the sacrifices they are making in defense of our nation," declared US House Rep Susan Davis this morning as she brought the US House Armed Services Committee's Military Personnel Subcommittee to order. This was a mark up meeting -- mark up of HR 2647 -- and the legislation would create a 3.4% pay raise for the military (Barack has asked for a 2.9% increase) and it also includes monies for families such as spouse internships. Davis chairs the Subcommittee. Wilson is the Ranking Member and his big point was displeasure that the proposal was unable to address disabilities. Davis had noted that "we do not have the mandatory offsets to pay for this $5.1 billion proposal within the subcommittee. The Democratic leadership, however, is working with the committee and a resolution to the issue is expected." The mark was adopted by a unanmious vote. Mark ups are not hearings and we don't generally cover them but we're noting it for a few reasons including that Chair Davis has the nasty DC summer cold. (
Ava, Wally and I have it as well as Kat noted last night.) Second, some of her statements need to be noted and juxtaposed with what's going on in Iraq.

* Our country has been in conflict for nearly eight years, service members and their families are bearing the brunt of multiple deployments, with no foreseeable end in sight. It is important that we uphold our responsibility to care for those who volunteer to serve our nationa in uniform and their families, given the sacrifices they are making in defense of our nation.

* This is the Year of the Military Family, as such, we have included a number of initiatives that are focused on military families. These include a pilot program for spouse overseas area and a requirement for the Secretary of Defense to study the appropriateness of the current housing standards. These are just a few of the provisions that we have included to support our military families.

Those are Davis' statements and you can also toss in US House Rep Ellen Tauscher's remarks in the House Armed Services' Strategic Forces Subcommittee mark up this afternoon when Chair Tauscher thanked the Ranking Member for his work on HR 2647, "We don't agree on everything of course but we agree on more than we disagree and you are a great partner, Mike [Turner]."

To attend the mark up hearings was to see members of Congress working together to address the concerns of the military and, with Davis' Subcommittee especially, to address the concerns of the military members and their families. For a brief moment, you could almost believe that the families might be treated with respect and compassion. For a moment.

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) makes clear that whatever Congress does or does not do, military families will be spat upon by the US government. So that we're all on the same page and also to take care of correction, let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot:

"They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it." That's Danny Chism
quoted by Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) yesterday. We noted it in yesterday's snapshot and Danny Chism's son, the late Jonathan Bryan Chism, is in the news today. McClatchy Newspapers buries a major story by Richard Mauer entitled "Who was behind Karbala assualt, in which 5 Americans died." January 23, 2007 the Department of Defense announced that four US soldiers "died in Jan 20 in Karbala, Iraq, from wounds sustained when their patrol was ambushed while conducting dismounted operations." The four were identified as Jacob N. Fritz, Jonathan B. Chism, Shawn P. Falter and Johnathon M. Millican. Also killed in the attack was Brian S. Freeman. Bryan Chism was from Louisiana and WAFB reported January 31, 2007 that the military was "trying to cover up the details of an incident in Iraq," that the four "were actually abducted from a tightly-secured American compound by an insurgent commando team. The insurgents were driving American vehicles, wearing American uniforms and carrying American weapons. In fact, on eof the kidnappers is reported to have even had blonde hair." Over two years later, Richard Mauer has uncovered additional details. "The men inside were dressed in U.S. army camouflage and carried American weapons," he reports. "They knew enough English to bark simple commands and offer polite greetings. They knew exactly how the U.S. soldiers would defend the compound. They knew that the compound's most important room was the command and control center -- with its radio base stations -- and they knew that at 6 p.m., the soldiers in the room would be off guard and relaxing. They even knew that the two most senior American officers in Karbala would be in the room next door." Via a Freedom of Information request, McClatchy just obtained an investigative report by the military which was completed February 27th and which "put the onus for intelligence-gathering and ground support [in the attack] on Iraqi police, America's supposed ally. Not only were police negligent in surrendering their guard positions to the intruders without firing a shot or warning the Americans, the report says, but investigators found strong circumstantial evidence that police officials gave the attackers key intelligence and may have been complicit in allowing an advance force of attackers into the compound."

Now drop back to yesterday's news. The US military traded the Iraqi prisoner said to be responsible for the murders -- traded him for five British hostages. Laith al-Khazali was traded. Was freed. Which is why Danny Chism was asking, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

First the correction. Mauer's excellent report was published by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on Tuesday; however, it originally ran in 2007. Thank you to a friend at McClatchy who caught that and pointed it out to me. My apologies. With the basics above, we have five US soldiers who were killed in Iraq. The military's own study finds that the Iraqi police assisted in the attacks on the US military. If you haven't read Mauer's report, just to summarize quickly, various civilian Iraqis who worked on the base, often until ten thirty at night, failed to show up the day of the attack. All the Iraqi police, except for two, skipped out as well. The two who showed up? They made a point to unlock the gate that the attackers would come through. This was planned and it wa splanned with the help of al-Maliki's forces. It was planned and it was carefully carried out.

The US military believes that Laith al-Kahali and his brother orchestrated the assault. Over the weekend -- with no notice to the families of the five US soldiers killed in the attack -- the US military released al-Kahali. Today
Jane Arraf reports that Qais al-Khazali, the brother, is now expected to be released as well. An unnamed US official states, "This isn't about freeing the hostages" referring to the five British citizens held by the brothers' group for over two years now, "it's about getting Asa'ib al-Haq to stop its attacks."

I have no idea how that's going to play. In April of 2008, when The Davy Petraeus and Ryan Crocker Variety Hour played before various Congressional bodies, I would have thought there would be outrage over the 'strategy' Crocker and Petraeus spoke of and endorsed: Paying off Sahwa because that meant Sahwa wouldn't attack US troops or the equipment of US troops. Generally speaking, the appearance of strength doesn't come from forking over your lunch money to ensure you're not beat up on the playground. So maybe the above will again bother no one? But US soldiers were killed in an attack and the two thought responsible are being let out of prison, released to go free, and the US 'reasoning' is that "it's about getting Asa'ib al-Haq to stop its attacks"?

Okay, let's carry that 'logic' on out. I want
Leonard Peltier to be free (I really do want him to be free). So the message the US is sending is that I should drop advocacy within the system and instead begin launching attacks on US sites? (I don't believe in violence, before anyone fears I'm ab out to storm the Anna Sui Store in Manhattan.) That is the message that's being sent. And it's probably not the message an occupying power wants to send. Anyone who wants a prisoner freed in Iraq now knows how: Start launching attacks on the US military.

This little stunt was always questionable. It went against every basic in international relations theory but, as a one-off move, it could have been defended. The White House chose not to defend it (and reporters chose not to press on the issue). But now, as they release the second prisoner, and as they insist that the release is to get the brothers' group to stop attacking the US military in Iraq, this is an embarrassment that puts every US service member in Iraq in jeopardy.

It also says that US service members in Iraq are nothing but canon fodder. The illegal war was based on lies and there's no doubt about that at this late date. But the message being sent now, by the current administration, is that US service members are canon fodder and will be used and their deaths will be forgotten. The message sent is that they don't matter. While the military ranks are trained not to leave one of their injured or fallen behind, up in the brass the decision's been made that their lives don't matter and if they die and their killers can blackmail the US with continued attacks, their deaths will be dishonored in a rush to make their killers happy.

It's disgusting. And, again, it puts every US service member in Iraq at risk. (It also sends a larger geo-political message which is why it's so appalling that the press has refused to go after this story. Long after Barack is out of the White House, these moves will follow the United States.) The message is clear: "We will send you to Iraq. We will expect you to fight till your death. If you die we will honor your sacrifice up until the point that we can sell you out for our own benefit." That is the message sent to US troops when 2 killers -- who carried out one of the most well planned assaults on US forces in Iraq -- are freed because, a US official states publicly, "it's about getting Asa'ib al-Haq to stop its attacks."
And don't argue, as some may try, that getting Asa'ib al-Haq to stop attacking the US military means the US military will be safer. (A) They're not because they're now targets for anyone who wants the US to come to the negotiating table. And (B) anyone who wanted to the US military to be safe would have begun a full and total withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.

Arraf quotes an unnamed US State Dept official declaring of the moves, "This is what will have to happen. We did the same thing with Moqtada Sadr and the same thing with the SOIs [Sons of Iraq]." No, it is not the same thing at all. "Sons Of Iraq" and "Awakening" are the same thing as Sahwa.
We addressed this earlier this week and we'll note it again. "The United States doesn't negotiate with terrorists!" Of course they do. And they do it on a case-by-case basis and have always done so. The hard-line public stance is not, however, merely a face-saving device for whomever is president (it may or may not be that), it's also based on the belief that if it is known that the US negotiates with terrorists that puts every US citizen abroad at risk of being kidnapped in order to force the government of the United States to do as a group or organization wants it to.Sahwa are Sunnis who turned from resistance fighters (fighting all foreign forces in Iraq including the US) into allies because they were paid. And when that began happening, a number of people were outraged. Arianna Huffington was among the ones outraged and apparently didn't understand that for any war to end, all sides need to come to the table and begin negotiations.(That was a point Tom Hayden could make back before he became scared of his own shadow. In part because Laura Flanders attacked him, after he'd hung up the phone, on air for comments he'd made about who comes to the table and how. She viciously attacked him and then, realizing she'd gone way too far, she tried to blame it on her radio show's blog but none of the comments she made appeared on her show's blog.)Sahwa was willing to put down their arms (at least against the US) if paid. And they didn't propose that arrangement. The US military initiated that and it took approximately eight months of offers before there was any move from Sahwa in that direction.That's Sahwa. Asa'ib al-Haq is not a Sunni organization. It's a Shi'ite organization. Thought to be supported by some segment (government or otherwise) in Iran. Yes, there is humor to this considering that for years Michael Gordon preached war on Iran with the 'facts' that Iran was supporting Sunnis.That's only one difference.The other is that Sahwa wasn't holding anyone. By holding five hostages, Asa'ib al-Haq is different than Sahwa and whether or not the US should have released a prisoner or even had talks with Asa'ib al-Haq is a major issue and it's one that's going to remain long after Barack Obama leaves the White House.The US never addressed Nouri al-Maliki's disdain for the press nor his assaults on them. (US actions against journalists in Iraq, in fact, encouraged al-Maliki's own actions.) An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy shares what it's like to attempt to report from Iraq, where al-Maliki's thugs think they can make their own rules:

After one hour of suffering, I reached the place and the cars which picked the journalists moved to the place. We waited for about 15 minutes near the gate of the ministry. This short time was more than enough for a problem to happen. The guards of the ministry of displaced and immigrants which is near the defense ministry told us that we have to gatherr in one place and we are not allowed to spread in the street. That was enough to get everyone crazy. I told the guard that he doesn't have the right to say so because we are waiting for the permission to enter the defense ministry. he said "this is the gate of a ministry" I was really surprised but I quickly answered him "yes an Iraqi ministry for all Iraqis and we are Iraqis and you must realize that the ministry doesn't own the street." He ordered me to move but I refused and told him simply "Its an Iraqi street and I can stand wherever I like." The discussion got hotter but after some reporters involved, some of them asked me in a very nice way to ignore the guard and I did.

The US had just installed Nouri al-Maliki a little over a month before he began his first noted assault on the press (part of his 'crackdown' ideas -- the bulk of which, such as neighborhood watch militias, had already been set up but al-Maliki contributed the attack on journalism all by himself). Life was already deadly for journalists in Iraqi (both Iraqi journalists and foreign ones) before al-Maliki but the strong man has shaped the country more than most realize. (They also don't grasp that he's attempting to set himself up for life, to become the new Saddam.) The attacks include the daily abuses. For example, a gun pulled on a New York Times journalist and the trigger pulled . . . as a 'joke.' And no one gets disciplined for that. Nouri fosters and encourages the hostility towards the journalists. Nouri repeatedly threatens them. Time and again, like the Insane Rosa Brooks, he floats the idea that he will acredit them and determine who is and isn't a journalist or that he will bring punishment down on them. He's currently brought at least two lawsuits against journalists. He's been at war with journalism since the US installed him as prime minister. The Committee to Protect Journalists' "
CPJ, JFO cite press freedom abuses in Iraq" contains a letter they sent al-Maliki:Dear Prime Minister al-Maliki, The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO) would like to bring to your attention several issues that harm press freedom in Iraq. In recent months, our organizations have documented a number of assaults and instances of harassment committed by government officials against journalists in various parts of the country under the control of Iraq's central government. Since 2003, the press in Iraq has made significant strides as hundreds of independent, party- or state-run newspapers, radio and television stations have emerged. Unfortunately, along with that progress Iraqi journalists have paid a steep price. For the past six years Iraq has topped CPJ's list as the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. As of June 9, CPJ has documented the deaths of 139 journalists and 51 media workers in Iraq since March 2003. Three were killed this year. JFO's records shows an even higher number of killed journalists and media workers. In May, at the Iraqi Journalism Summit in Baghdad, you said, "We are proud that we don't have a single imprisoned journalist because of freedom of expression." CPJ and the Observatory commend your government for this, but call on you to press the U.S. military to release Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam, who has been held in a U.S. military prison since September 2008 without charge. In recent months many journalists have faced harassment and in some cases assault by Iraqi security forces. In other cases, high-ranking government officials have used lawsuits as a political tool to obstruct and silence the news media. In order to improve the working environment for journalists in Iraq, CPJ and JFO call on your government to take the following steps: Press the U.S. military to respect the decision of the Iraqi courts and immediately release Ibrahim Jassam. Publicly condemn violent attacks and acts of intimidation against journalists. Investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for killing, attacking, or harassing journalists. Direct government agencies to halt the filing of filing politically motivated lawsuits against journalists and publications. Direct all relevant security and military forces to end the use of force to harass or prevent journalists from doing their work. Suspend or amend articles 81, 82, 83, 84, 201, 202, 210, 211, 215, 225, 226, 227, 403, 433 and 434 of Law 111/1969, more commonly known as the 1969 penal code. These provisions criminalize and set harsh penalties for press related offenses.Ensure all other laws, present and future, are in compliance with international standards for free expression. Attached to this letter is a short report in which CPJ and JFO document with more specificity violations against journalists since the beginning of this year. Thank you in advance for your attention to these important matters. We look forward for your response. Sincerely, Joel Simon Executive Director, CPJ Ziad al-Ajily Director, JFO
While the press remains under attack, three US contractors have been released following the arrest of five over the weekend. Late yesterday,
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported, "The men had been freed on bail, but were forbidden to leave Iraq during the ongoing investigation into the death of Jim Kitterman, a 60-year-old construction contractor from Texas, said Rafae Munahe, a senior advisor to Interiot Minister Jawad Bolani." BBC observes, "The US embassy in Iraq has confirmed the release of only one man so far." Al Arabiya quotes Judge Abdel Sattar Birakdar stating, "The other two arrested are still in jail because it was discovered they committed another crime and investigations are ongoing with them." In other legal news, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) explained this morning, "The private military firm formerly known as Blackwater is facing a new lawsuit over the August 2007 killing of an Iraqi civilian in Hilla. The case was filed on behalf of the surviving relatives of seventy-five-year-old Husain Salih Rabea. At the time, Rabea's relatives said he had pulled over to the side of the road to let a Blackwater convoy pass. The last vehicle in the convoy allegedly opened fire when Rabea pulled back onto the road. The suit also alleges Blackwater employees are guarding employees of the International Republican Institute in Iraq despite an Iraqi government ban."
Back to al-Maliki. When not attacking the press, Nouri likes to terrorize and scare the Iraqi people.
Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports that Nouri's making more threatening noises, insisting that violence will likely increase between now and the elections (currently scheduled for January but they may end up pushed back). Between now and the elections? Yes, that would be over six months. Yes, that would be over half a year. He apparently figured (rightly) that the United Nations would be issuing the same warning shortly (as they did ahead of the provincial elections held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces last January 31st) and he wanted to get a jump on them. Chon notes national elections have now been merged with the referendum on the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Noting that again in case any Spency Ackerman's still haven't caught on that the vote on the referendum which was supposed to take place next month has been kicked back to January. Waleed Ibrahim, Daniel Wallis, Michael Christie and Angus MacSwan (Reuters) quote Jawad al-Bolani, Minister of the Interior, stating, "The referendum is a part of law and discussions are ongoing among the ministers and the council of representatives." al-Bolani, of course, does what Nouri wants and, more to the point, the statement was made after al-Bolani met with US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. The US government wants the vote delayed as well.

Turning to the topic of refugees,
Dalia al-Achi (UNHCR) reports that Iraqi refugees Salim Salem, Abdel Mounem Ahmad and Fadi Fares have released an album entitled Transitions (available on iTunes, Amazon, Npaster, etc.) which will raise money for refugees. The three teamed up in Damascus. The 15 track album can be downloaded at Amazon for $7.99 and includes such tracks as "Night In Baghdad," "Iraqi Sorrow," "Joy," "If Only We Could Leave" and "Where the Wind Will Take Us." Meanwhile New York Times employee and Iraqi refugee who came to the US Sahar S. Gabriel announced Monday (NYT's Baghdad Bureau Blog) that she had found a job "the old-fashioned way. The same way we find jobs in Iraq. You ask friends and relatives and see if they have an acquaintance or two who has a job to offer or a position to be filled."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Laith Hammoudi (McClathcy Newspapers) reports a Tikrit rocket explosion which killed two children (a boy and a girl), a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left one police officer and four people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded three and a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left four more injured. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which left one US soldier and one Iraqi civilian injured and a Mosul car bombing which injured three Iraqi soldiers and one Iraqi civillian. DPA reports a Kirkuk car bombing which claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers and left nine more wounded.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Tikrit.

Yesterday's "
Iraq snapshot" covered the US House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee and Kat's "The do nothing Wartime Contracting Commission" last night continued the coverage. Tuesday's "Iraq snapshot" covered the US House Veterans Affairs Health Subcommittee hearing and Kat's "Assessing CARES and the Future of VA's Health Infrastructure" continued the coverage. Tonight she's covering Congress again and it's an interesting thing which I don't think you'll find anywhere else because I didn't see any reporters present. So she'll capture something and I think it's fair to call it a rare emotional moment in Congress. And I don't mean that ("emotional moment") in a derogatory way. Moving on, in the markup of Susan Davis' Subcommittee today the issue of dwell time was noted for the US Army. Jeff Schogol (Stars and Stripes) reports that US Marine Corps Commandant Gen James Conway declared today that "almost all Marines [were] expected to leave Iraq next spring" and this will allow for more dwell time. Whether that ends up being the case or not is debatable. Marine leadership has repeatedly voiced their desire to leave Iraq and 'focus on' Afghanistan over the last years.

Today the
Defense Dept released Army suicide data for the month of May: "one confirmed suicide and 16 potential suicides among active duty soldiers." In the press release, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen Peter W. Chiarelli is quoted stating, "We have got to do better. It's clear we have not found full solutions to this yet. But we are trying ever remedy and seeking help from outside agencies that are experts in suicide prevention. There isn't a reasonable suicide prevention tool that the Army won't potentially employ."

jane arraf gina chonthe wall street journalthe los angeles timesned parkermcclatchy newspapers
democracy nowamy goodman
kats kornerthe daily jot

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The do nothing Wartime Contracting Commission

Okay, these are my thoughts on the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee. I have never sat through a hearing that was a bigger waste of time. And it was all the fault of the Wartime Contracting Commission.

Here's my tip for the next Congressional hearing: Don't let them tell you what they're going to do. If they start, stop them. Ask, "How about you tell us what you've done?" It appears they've done nothing but turned out a report which reads a lot like a GAO report. (Did someone copy their neighbor's work?)

Christopher Shays (or Shayes?) is downright irritating.

I have no faith in the Wartime Contracting Commission.

You could sense that the Congressional subcommittee was skeptical by many of their questions.

At one point Michael Thibault went on and on about the US military gear in Iraq (I'm tossing tanks, et al in that) and starts saying that it might cost more to leave it there and it might cost more to bring it out. No one asked him about it. He brought it up on his own. And he had no answers even on what he chose to bring to the table.

I honestly believe the Commission exists solely to run out the clock. If I see differently at another point, I'll be thrilled. But I heard a lot of plans and I heard no accomplishments.

The time for goals was when the Commission was starting. Not all these months later.

We're supposed to write about American Dad. Roger's my favorite character and my favorite episode is when he and the goldfish (don't know his name) are watching TV and the news is about the settlement a woman received in a sexual harassment lawsuit. Roger's impressed and determined to get a job and a sexual harassment lawsuit. It's very funny. He puts on a blonde wig and gives himself a name that's something like Chesty Va-room-room. That's not the name but it's similar. Then Roger does this slow walk shaking his ass in a dress. At the end of his walk, he turns around and no one's looking at him. He wonders if he hurt his chances by farting before he started down the catwalk?

It can be a funny show and I like it much better than Family Guy.

Now for the day. We're in DC so we're staying at a friend of C.I.'s. So we meet this morning in the dining room and oh my goodness. C.I. and Ava both look like crap. They're sick. They've got these nasty, nasty summer colds. (They and Wally were out last night doing a last minute speaking thing and probably got in after midnight.) C.I. told Ava she should skip things today and just get some rest. Ava argued for about ten seconds before she agreed. Wally was eager to go with and C.I. said, "You've been holding your breath and sitting rigid this whole time. What you hope to hide, your flushed face doesn't. You need to go upstairs and get back in bed."

Of course so did C.I. But not a chance. There was too much to do. C.I. told me I could skip if I was worried about getting sick. I wasn't. (And I'm not sick.)

But I was really amazed at C.I. She would hold a cough for hours. She would look so composed and so wonderful and then we'd hit the ladies room and as soon as we were in there, sweat would pour off her. I was like, "How are you doing that?" Because she was hiding the fact that she was sick. It was really amazing to see. Her voice was a little scratchy but that was the only give away. But when we'd go to a ladies' room, she'd start coughing and that was a scary cough.

She said she'd be fine and that it would cycle through quickly. And it appears to have. She's on the phone with Elaine, Mike and I don't know who else. Everyone's had a computer problem and C.I.'s been on for about an hour (on the phone) trying to get them to identify it. She's got Mike up and running but I'm not sure about the others.

Anyway. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:'

Wednesday, June 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, song-and-dance before Congress on corruption, the State Dept gets pressed on the persecution of Iraq's LGBT community, Iraq police apparently helped in the slaughter of 5 US soldiers (and, oh yeah, this relates to the prisoner the US just turned over to Iraq), and more.

A new bombing results in massive fatalities.
BBC Radio reported on the bombing earlier today.

Mike Cooper: A car bomb has exploded in southern Iraq killing at least 28 people around 40 others were wounded. Nicholas Witchell has more from Baghdad.

Nicholas Witchell: The explosion happened in a crowded market in al Bathaa about 30 kilometers west of Nasiriyah one of the main cities in southern Iraq. This is a Shi'ite area which has been relatively free from violence in recent months. No group has said it carried out the attack but Sunni insurgents aligned to al Qaeda will inevitably be expected. Iraq is more peaceful now but there are concerns that insurgent groups may be trying to take advantage of the current withdrawal of US troops from Iraq's towns and cities to try to provoke renewed sectarian conflict.

Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) explains, "The area has been the scene of violence between Shiite militias that have fought each other." Anne Barker (Australia's ABC -- text and a video clip from Lateline) reports, "The bomb ripped through a crowded market place in a Shiite Muslim town near Nassairya, in southern Iraq. Children are said to be among the dead." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the wounded number over seventy-five. BBC video shows the remains of a charred car and a street being hosed down as people cry and hug one another and an angry male waives a blood soaked cloth at the camera. Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) quotes survivor Abu Sara stating, "It felt as if there was an earthquake beneath me." Sky News reports, "The police chief in Bathaa, a predominantly Shia Muslim town 25 miles west of Nasiriyah, has been fired following the attack. Angry residents protested when he arrived at the scene of the explosion with the local governor." How angry? Rod Nordland (New York Times) reports the crowd "began stoning the police, blaming them for lax secuirty." Al Jazeera quotes eye witness Hussein Salim declaring, "The police neglected their job. How could the car enter the market? It was crowed with people." The Telegraph of London notes that "an inquiry has been launched to determine whether the police could have prevented the bombing." The United Nations' Staffan de Mistura has declared the bombing "a cruel crime against innocent civilians that aims to derail Iraq' stability." 35 is the numbr many outlets are going with for the dead (the UN is also going with 35). CBS News offers a video report here.

Charlie D'Agata: Iraqis tried to console each other after a violent bomb blast robbed them of the people they loved. Police say the car bomb tore through a crowded market about 200 miles south of Baghdad. Dozens are dead -- including several women and children. Many more wounded. 'People were just sitting there selling their goods,' he says, 'then the bomb went off.' The attack comes just weeks before the US forces are due to withdraw from major towns and cities in Iraq. It's the deadliest blast to hit the area in almost six years. Nobody has taken responsibility but a number of recent assaults have been blamed on Sunni militants linked to al Qaeda. Many fear as America pulls back its troops militants will step in and step up their attacks. Charlie D'Agata, CBS News.

"They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it." That's Danny Chism
quoted by Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) yesterday. We noted it in yesterday's snapshot and Danny Chism's son, the late Jonathan Bryan Chism, is in the news today. McClatchy Newspapers buries a major story by Richard Mauer entitled "Who was behind Karbala assualt, in which 5 Americans died." January 23, 2007 the Department of Defense announced that four US soldiers "died in Jan 20 in Karbala, Iraq, from wounds sustained when their patrol was ambushed while conducting dismounted operations." The four were identified as Jacob N. Fritz, Jonathan B. Chism, Shawn P. Falter and Johnathon M. Millican. Also killed in the attack was Brian S. Freeman. Bryan Chism was from Louisiana and WAFB reported January 31, 2007 that the military was "trying to cover up the details of an incident in Iraq," that the four "were actually abducted from a tightly-secured American compound by an insurgent commando team. The insurgents were driving American vehicles, wearing American uniforms and carrying American weapons. In fact, on eof the kidnappers is reported to have even had blonde hair." Over two years later, Richard Mauer has uncovered additional details. "The men inside were dressed in U.S. army camouflage and carried American weapons," he reports. "They knew enough English to bark simple commands and offer polite greetings. They knew exactly how the U.S. soldiers would defend the compound. They knew that the compound's most important room was the command and control center -- with its radio base stations -- and they knew that at 6 p.m., the soldiers in the room would be off guard and relaxing. They even knew that the two most senior American officers in Karbala would be in the room next door." Via a Freedom of Information request, McClatchy just obtained an investigative report by the military which was completed February 27th and which "put the onus for intelligence-gathering and ground support [in the attack] on Iraqi police, America's supposed ally. Not only were police negligent in surrendering their guard positions to the intruders without firing a shot or warning the Americans, the report says, but investigators found strong circumstantial evidence that police officials gave the attackers key intelligence and may have been complicit in allowing an advance force of attackers into the compound."

Now drop back to yesterday's news. The US military traded the Iraqi prisoner said to be responsible for the murders -- traded him for five British hostages. Laith al-Khazali was traded. Was freed. Which is why Danny Chism was asking, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it." At
Bryan's MySpace page, his brother Steve left this message May 25th:Sup bro? Well its memorial day and it sucks pretty bad to still not have you here. We miss you alot, dad says he misses you too and thinks about you all the time. Seems like people are starting to forget about you or something, wtf, the last comment you got was a month ago, i dk, maybe people are just busy these days. Well R.I.P. and remember your gunna be an uncle in a few more months. Love you bro and miss you alot. His brother remembers him. His family remembers him. The government that sent him to Iraq? They apparently don't give a damn. They didn't even have the decency to give his family a heads up before releasing his presumed killer.

Five US citizens were arrested in Iraq over the weekend allegedly as part of the investigation into the murder of Jim Kitterman in the Green Zone last month. The US government and the Iraqi government refused to identify the five. John Feeney told the press the five included his father Donald Feeney Jr. and his brother Donald Feeney III. John Feeney has repeatedly maintained to various news outlets that his brother and father were innocent.
CNN reports that one has been released today and the other four are due to be released shortly. Michael Christie (Reuters) identifies the released as Don Feeney Jr. and identifies those still held as Don "Buddy" Feeney (John's brother), Mark Bridges, Jason Jones and Micah Milligan. Christie does not report that the other four are due to be released.

Spency Ackerman -- the never-ending joke. The man The New Republic dumped (how bad do you have to be to get fired by The New Republic? Seriously)
showed up this morning at 10:18 thrilled with Alissa J. Rubin's article in the New York Times and excited over the July referendum. Poor Spency The Spazz, this morning (long bfore he posted) it was already known that the referendum had been moved to January. In fact, we'll just quote ourselves from this morning for the topic Rubin was reporting on. In this morning's New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin offers "Iraq Moves Ahead With Vote on U.S. Security Pact" and that's the problem with print, her article's already out of date. Alsumaria reports, "Cabinet spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh announced that the government plans to conduct a referendum on the security pact signed between Baghdad and Washington in parallel with general elections." Rubin's report rests on the vote taking place in July. The vote has been pushed back to January. (Presuming general elections are held in January. They were supposed to be held in December but got pushed back to January. Who knows if they'll be pushed back again?)Rubin's covering the Status Of Forces Agreement. The Iraqi Parliament voted on it Thanksgiving Day in 2008. 149 members of Parliament voted for the treaty. There are 275 members of Parliament. The treaty then went to the country's Presidency Council for the vote. The SOFA passed in the Parliament due to many members going AWOL and due to those present insisting on a national referendum to give the Iraqi people a voice on the issue. That referendum was supposed to take place next month. Rubin reports:But senior lawmakers appeared to think that a change in the date was unlikely. Under current law, the referendum would be held on July 30. In order to change the date, the cabinet would have to submit a new draft law on the timing of the vote to Parliament, which would then have to move it through the lengthy parliamentary process for considering legislation."The date was an essential part of the security agreement," said Ali Adeeb, a member of the Dawa Party, led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.The Parliament speaker, Ayad al-Sammaraie, a Sunni lawmaker from the Iraqi Islamic Party, held the same view. "No one can say they don't want a referendum, it is a law," Mr. Sammaraie said in a recent interview. Rubin refers to how a vote against the SOFA would mean that a year from now the US would be forced out of Iraq. She's referring to Article 30 The Period for which the Agreement is Effective, paragraph three: "This Agreement shall terminate one year after a Party provides written notification to the other Party to that effect." The parties are the US and Iraq. The 'binding' contract was never binding ( "This Agreement shall be amended only with the official agrement of the Parties in writing and in accordance with the constitutional proceudures in effect in both countries."). Only the first year could be seen as such and even then it could be altered in terms of details. 2009 was only binding in that it would cover 2009 (meaning that even if the Iraqi government declared January 2, 2009 "We are breaking this agreement!" they would be bound to it for one year). As Rubin notes there is hostility to US forces. She offers that only the Kurds might vote strongly in favor of the SOFA -- and that this expectation might result in increasing Arabic objection to the SOFA.

Yesterday Boston's The Edge offered Seth Michael Donsky's "
Life Only Gets Worse for LGBT Iraqis :: Part 2" (click here for the earlier part one):

Scott Long, director of Human Rights Watch's LGBT Rights Program, substantiates the claim that Iraqi government is tacitly encouraging the violence by ignoring the victims and overlooking the perpetuators. "It's true," he says, " that the government has been unable to restrain violence in the past, particularly during the virtual civil war of 2004-2007--but it has a vested interest in denying widespread violence directed at any group is returning in the supposedly 'stabilized' Iraq."In early April, the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, in response to questions from the Western media and from Western embassies in Baghdad, acknowledged that gays were being killed, but claimed that is was all the consequence of familial, or tribal, violence. "It was a pro forma acknowledgement," says Long. Long believes the acknowledgement was primarily meant to distract attention from the organized nature of the killings and the involvement of the militias. As recently as two weeks ago ABC news reported, in conjunction with the murder of the two young, gay men in Baghdad's Sadr City slum, that an unnamed Iraqi military source linked the killings to tribal violence and not militias. They quoted their source as saying that the men who were killed were "sexual deviants," saying that their tribes killed them to restore "family honor." "Unfortunately," says Long, "much of the Western press, as well as LGBT activists in the US and Europe, have bought the Ministry's version and have stopped asking systematic questions about the militia's involvement or even the government's own role."

The United Nations made a statement today on the bombings. In addition the United Nations
offered a statement on the death of reporter Alass Abdel-Wehab (he died last month, the UN offered their statement today). To date, they have offered no statement on any of the many gays, lesbians and transgendered Iraqis killed for who they were. They have not called out the targeting or the persecution of the LGBT community in Iraq. The US State Dept has offered lies and silence. They alternate between the two. US House Rep Jared Polis sent a letter to the then-acting US ambassador to Iraq asking that she follow up on the reports of persecution and targeting. Chris Hill is now the US Ambassador to Iraq and became it shortly after Polis' request. He has made no public statement. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) interviews him and the topic is not addressed (by either Chon or Hill) and you can click here for an edited transcript of the interview. The UK's Lesbian and Gay Foundation is calling for a march in Manchester this Saturday and they note: "There were 452 homophobic hate crime reports in Greater Manchester from 2008 to 2009. On a national level, last year alone we lost Michael Causer, Ronald Dixon and Gerry Edwards in alleged homophobic attacks. On a global scale we have seen anti gay campaigns in Iraq which have resulted in the deaths of over sixty men, Eastern European gay Pride demonstrations outlawed or broken up, and the passing of Proposition 8 in California has resulted in inequality for the state's gay population." But the UN and the State Dept remain silent as does Barry O and the White House. The White House that no longer pushes to overturn Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the White House which invites homophobes for inaugural events (just as Barry O put homophobes on stage repeatedly during his primary and general campaigns in 2007 and 2008).

Today Ian Kelly, State Dept spokesperson the BBC raised the issue: "The other week Muqtada al-Sadr said that the depravity of homosexuality must be eradicated. And while he went on to say that he was not advocating violence, there obviously has been a lot of rather gruesome violence directed at gays and lesbians in Iraq. So I was wondering if State has any reaction to that? And then off the back of that, is there any extra responsibility that the U.S. feels towards these groups who were, by their accounts, safer and more free to live their lives under Saddam?"

Ian Kelly: Well, let me say that, in general, we absolutely condemn acts of violence and human rights violations committed against individuals in Iraq because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This is an issue that we've been following very closely since we have been made aware of these allegations, and we are aware of the allegations. Our training for Iraqi security forces includes instruction on the proper observance of human rights. Human rights training is also a very important part of our and other international donors' civilian capacity-building efforts in Iraq. And the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has raised and will continue to raise the issue with senior officials from the Government of Iraq, and has urged them to respond appropriately to all credible reports of violence against gay and lesbian Iraqis.

Human rights traning is not, as the State Dept does it, LGBT rights training. That's covered in Seth Michael Donsky's "
Life Only Gets Worse for LGBT Iraqis :: Part 2" and Ian Kelly knows that and chose to use 'human rights training' as a smokescreen. It's a real shame that the press refuses to explore the issue and that when it's finally raised we get more tired questions on the same never-ending issues that have been asked at the US State Dept for over thirty years now. Truly appalling. Is the press corps on automatic?

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


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report a Baghdad mortar attack which left four people wounded, another Baghdad mortar attack which hit a home and also wounded four and a Kirkuk explosion which killed 2 people (possibly two people placing a bomb in the road for others to die from). Reuters notes a Falluja roadside bombing which left two police officers injured. Telegraph of London notes a Falluja motorcycle bombing which left five people wounded. Yesterday a Falluja motorcycle bombing left nine injured.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 police officer wounded by sniper fire in Mosul.


Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.

Today the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan released [PDF format warning] "
At What Cost? Contingency Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan Interim Report June 2009" which found:

** Neither the military nor the federal civilian acquisition workforces haveexpanded to keep pace with recent years' enormous growth in the number andvalue of contingency contracts. ** Contracting agencies must provide better and more timely training foremployees who manage contracts and oversee contractors' performance. Inparticular, members of the military assigned to perform on‐site performanceoversight as contracting officer's representatives often do not learn of theassignment until their unit arrives in theater, and then find insufficient time andInternet access to complete necessary training. ** Contract auditors are not employed effectively in contingency contracting. ** Contracting officials make ineffective use of contract withhold provisionsrecommended by their auditors, and many contract audit findings andrecommendations are not properly resolved. ** The government still lacks clear standards and policy on inherentlygovernmental functions. This shortcoming has immediate salience given thedecisions to use contractors in armed‐security and life‐support tasks for militaryunits.

Robert O'Harrow Jr. (Washington Post) observes of the report, "It's a sad reminder about just how bad the contracting system has been in recent years, and all the billions that have been wasted because of poor oversight, poor planning and plain old corruption." The report actually offers some blame as opposed to the usual pretend no one could have forseen the problems: "The Department of Defense has failed to provide enough staff to perform adequate contract oversight." US House Rep Stephen Lynch put it more bluntly today, "It's only happening because it's taxpayers' dollars." Exactly. The co-chairs of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Michael Thibault and Chistopher Shays, appeared before the the US House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee and that's where Lynch made his remark. The co-chairs reviewed the report in their testimony and classified as an "immediate concern" the possibility that waste will take place as US forces draw down in Iraq as a result of lack of oversight and the handling and disposing of property. In Iraq, there is also a shortage of US government employees who posses the qualifications to monitor and supervise private security and this is on top of the fact that the 'security' is often ill trained and ignorant of the Rules for the Use of Force. US House Rep John F. Tierney chairs the committee. In his opening statements, he outlined potential problems (I'd say they were problems):

US House Rep John Tierney: It is also important that the Commission break new ground. There is no sense in creating an oversight entity that merely duplicates work that is on-going by Inspectors General or the Government Accountability Office. Congress already receives those reports. I look forward to hearing what the Commission is finding that we have not already heard about. In short, I expect our witnesses this morning to ensure us that our investment in their activities was a worthwhile decision. We in Congress --as the sponsors of the Commission -- need to hear about any challenges or hindrances the Commission faces in conducting its work. For example, I am concerned that the Commission will not be able to fulfill its mandate without a semi-permanent presence in theater. I would note that, according to the report, the Commission has only made two trips to date to Iraq and Afghanistan. I am also concerned that the current one year mandate of the Commission might allow responsible government officials and culpable contractors to wait it out. The Commission's charge is too important to suffer defeat at the hands of obstruction. Furthermore, I do not want to see a lack of subpoena power deter the Commission from going after recalcitrant parties.

Two trips? December '08 was the first trip according to Chris Shays testimony to the Subcommittee today. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was just in Iraq last February (Feb. 26 through the first week of March). The Committee can send members there why can't the Commission? And why do their lengthy report seem to be a repeat of GAO reports? John Duncan pinned them down on the fact that they'd only visited three bases in Iraq. With no sense of awareness, let alone irony, Michael Thibault wanted to delcare that, "You have to spend the time in the country" to know what's going on in Iraq. Which leaves the Commission where?

Chair Tierney noted, "This Subcomittee stands ready to assist the Commission in this regard as appropriate." It's not as if the Commission is denied anything. But it really does appear to be a whitewash and an attempt to run out the clock. Jeff Flake, Ranking Member, would state in his opening remarks that "there's never too much oversight that can be done" and that may be true in theory but equally true is that the Comission was not set up to offer retreads of GAO reports. Tierney noted that the Committee points to suggestions that have not been enacted and pointed out that knowing why they weren't being implemented (legislation inaction, not enough hearings, etc) would be helpful. (Translation, Committee, that's your job.) Thibault noted there were 1200 plus recommendations and stated they do intend to trace each one, to start tracing each one. To start. Some day, I suppose. As The Mighty Mighty Bosstones once put it. Under questioning from Flake, Thibault admitted all the 1200 were from other bodies.

Along with the two co-chairs, Commission members Charles Tiefer and Grant S. Green also offered testimony on the first panel. Tierney had all the witnesses sworn in before any testimony was offered -- a detail many subcommittees and committees tend to skip (but shouldn't). Tiefer's response to the Subcommittee about wrapping things up as the US prepares to turn the lights off may go to the problems with the Commission. And it might help for someone to inform Tierney that the US will NOT be turning out the lights in Iraq when they leave (whenver that is) because Iraq is a country with its own population and Tiefer's remarks were as irritating as his deeply nasal voice.

"We're absolutely going to do that," said Tierney. About looking into contracts. They're going to do that. They're going to look into contracts. They're going to look into the recommendations and the status on each, they're going to . . . . What do they actually do? This wasn't a meeting to discuss projections, this was a hearing to discuss what they had done and what they'd learned and the reality was that they really had not done a great deal. And that may go to why so few members of the Subcomittee bothered to show up for the hearing.

Republican John Duncan noted that "very few people are willing to vote against anything the Defense Department wants" and that this reluctance appears to continue even in the face of revelations of contract abuse and more. And he is correct. He pointed out:

According to the Congressional Research Service, we're now spending, when we add in the regular budget, the supplemental bills and we're getting ready to vote on another supplemental bill here either this week or a few days and yet in the emergency appropriations and all the money that they throw into the omnibus -- according to the CRS -- we're spending more on defense than all the other nations in the world combined and it seems to me that a lot of it is generated because the defense contractors hire all the retired admirals and generals and then they caught the revolving door at the Pentagon. But somebody is going to have to -- I don't think we can just keep on wasting and blowing money in the way that we're doing.

Tierney also expressed puzzlement over why the report did not first go to the Subcommittee members and not released by the press until the hearing. AP had the report on Sunday.

On war spending,
Perry Bacon Jr. (Washington Post) reports US Senator Lindsey Graham states he will block the supplemental if a non-related provision isn't in it. [Graham and US Senator Joe Lieberman are attempting to force in a measure which would allow Barry O to refuse to release torture photos.] Graham states he will block the bill. Graham is threatening, pay attention, to do what US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed could not be done, claimed for the last two years could not be done. It could always be done. The Democrats could have blocked spending any time they wanted to.

Alsumaria reports on allegations that the US is preventing corruption investigations in Iraq: "Head of the integrity commission Rahim Al Ugaili criticized US authorities for not assisting in the investigations of probable corruption by US officials and companies in the wake of 2003. Al Ugaili considered that US officials and contractors' immunity from Iraqi law has prevented the commission from investigating into the spending of Iraqi funds by the coalition power. He added that Iraq is cooperating with the US inspector in exchanging intelligence; yet, the cooperation is unilateral Iraqi wise."

Quickly, Gloria Feldt offers her thoughts on the assassination of Dr. George Tiller
here. In addition, she's hosting a pre-Father's Day panel June 20th at Brooklyn Museum to discuss the women's movement and how it has changed men and women. The panel begins at 2:00 pm. Among those scheduled to participate on the panel is Susan Faludi. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! -- watch, listen or read) spoke with abortion provider Dr. Warren Hern about Dr. Tiller today and about the assault on abortion rights, democracy and more. Maria Hinojosa will speak with Dr. Hern and with Dr. Leroy Carhart to discuss terrorism and abortion rights on this week's NOW on PBS (which begins airing Friday on most PBS stations, check local listings).

the washington postanthony shadidthe new york times
rod norland
caroline alexanderbloomberg news
robert h. reidqassim abdul-zahrarobert o'harrow
perry bacon jr.npralsumaria
alissa j. rubin
gina chonthe wall street journal
susan faludi
now on pbs
amy goodmandemocracy now