Friday, August 14, 2009

40 years later

Richie Havens performed his legendary song Freedom Friday at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, on the original Woodstock site, kicking off a weekend celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Havens may be 40 years older, but he came across as no less passionate than he was in 1969.
Watch a live stream of Havens performing 'Freedom'
PHOTOS: Check out scenes from Havens' performance

That's from John W. Barry's article from The Poughkeepsie Journal. So Woodstock is 40 and what have we learned?

Not real much, if you ask me.

They learned how to make a profit. Big Business learned how to co-op.

I wasn't at Woodstock. But I did follow the lead up and some people may not know it but originally the tickets would be sold. Yes, there were going to be tickets.

For the rock festival. (Not the first one, the first was Monterey Pop.)

But they expected too many people and it would also look better to make it a free event.

So it was a free, multi-day festival.

And now they charge. And if they're worried, they'll find a cause to farm it out under, "We wouldn't charge but the Rain Forest needs the money!"

If you missed Woodstock and want to groove on the tunes, this is Randy Lewis reviewing the new 6-disc release. I don't think it was all that in terms of music (it was a sociological event). It may have been one of those "You had to be there" moments.

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

Friday, August 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military releases some suicide data, journalist protest in Iraq, Iraqi women get some press attention, and more.

Starting with US military suicides which are increasing by the DoD's own figures. The
June figures for the army were released July 9th and they were "no confirmed suicides and nine potential suicides." Yesterday, the Defense Department released the July figures and noted that "four of the nine potential suicides [for June] have been confirmed and five remain under investigation." For July they are investigating eight possible suicides. They also state, "There have been 96 reported active-duty Army suicides during the period Jan. 1, 2009 - July 31, 2009. Of these, 62 have been confirmed, and 34 are pending determination of manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 79 suicides among active-duty soldiers. During July 2009, among reserve component soldiers not an active duty, there were four potential suicides. During the period Jan. 1, 2009 -- July 31, 2009, among that same group, there have been 17 confirmed suicides and 28 potential suicides; the potential suicides are currently under investigation to determine the manner of death. For the same period in 2008, there were 32 suicides among reserve soldiers not on active duty."

Independent journalist
Dahr Jamail (at CounterCurrents) observes, "Soldiers are returning from the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan destroyed mentally, spiritually, and psychologically, to a general population that is, mostly, willfully ignorant of the occupations and the soldiers participating in them. Troops face a Department of Veterans Affairs that is either unwilling or unable to help them with their physical and psychological wounds and they are left to fend for themselves. It is a perfect storm of denial, neglect, violence, rage, suffering, and death." Dahr's latest book was released last month month and is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. July 31st on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, a caller, Pamela, phoned to discuss a family member in the service who took his own life:

Yes. Good morning, how are you? Thank you for taking my call. I am responding to a comment I heard earlier and it really just like shot me in my heart. And the comment was that the suicide rates [in the US military] are skyrocketing and how this has to be addressed. And I literally like I said stopped dead in my tracks. I . . . lost my brother in service due to suicide. He was home on a leave and, uh, about to be, pardon me, to go back and to serve and, uh, was, uh -- the difficulty in getting the mental health services I believe that he needed -- I mean he was married with two children -- was most, most difficult and delayed and a long wait and this and that. And then the unfathomable happened and, uh, when I, uh, at times decided to share how he died rather than just say he died in the war and I would say he died by suicide the remark I would hear unfortunately was, "Oh my goodness, he didn't die a hero then." And-and I continually hear this and I guess I want to make a statement that how someone dies, um, should not be -- that -- that is not a definition of how they lived their lives. And here was a good man who gave and did so much for the community and yet because of how he died -- which you know is a mental illness health related, etc. etc. -- he is now being defined as -- not -- as a zero. And not being defined. And I think you know this-this suicide issue is getting way out of control and for every person that dies by suicide there are at least six to ten people that are horribly effected as well to the point where their mental health also, uh, you know, begins to fall apart and the whole mental health, how to get help, starts all over again. And I should say that the support groups for those that lose a loved one by suicide are now separated from regular grief groups and while attending one and sharing how my loved one died, people were going around the room, people said to me, "Oh my God, why is she here?" I've been asked to leave meetings because -- grief support meetings -- because of how my brother died and I don't think that's fair or correct or right and, um, so the issue goes far beyond the pain of losing a loved one and is extremely complicated. And, um, I wanted to share all that. And if ever anybody hears of someone that dies of a suicide please just say "I'm sorry for your loss" and ask about the person. And don't say anything cruel or unkind because, again, how one lives their entire life for 38 years should not be defined by a, you know, a irrational moment that effects -- that became a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

A caller named Mary also explained some of the stressors she sees (she's married to a service member) on that program (and there's transcripts of both calls in the
July 31st snapshot). Moving to today's broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show. The second hour found Diane discussing the international news with Aljazaeera's Abderrahim Foukara, CNN's Elise Labott and McClatchy Newspapers' Warren P. Strobel. We'll come in on the Iran section where Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal -- the three American citizens being held by Iran -- come up.

Diane Rehm: And Elise what is the fate of the Newsweek journalist who strayed apparently into Iran?

Elise Labott: Well you have a couple of detainees. You have a Newsweek journalist,
Maziar Bahari, whose been working in Iran, who's been licensed by the Iranian government to work and whose coverage frankly of the regime hasn't been all that critical and he's been caught up in this post-election crisis. He's-he's one of forty -- more than forty journalists that are being tried as part of hundreds of opposition leaders -- some of the most well respected people of the country like Shirin Ebadi, noted Nobel laureate. And there's been a large campaign by Newsweek to-to free him. And then you have three American hikers --

Diane Rehm: Hikers. Right.

Elise Labott: Three American hikers that were hiking in northern Iraq in the Kurdish area in the mountains and it seems as if they strayed into uh, strayed into Iran and were detained by the authorities. And after a kind of week or so of no news whatsoever, the Iranians finally confirmed that they do have them, they are in custody, there's been no consular access, no visits to them at all. What US officials are saying is it's prob -- they don't think that Iran is irrational in these situations and that eventually it will probably shake out like it did in 2007 when Iran picked up these three British -- several British soldiers, held them, milked them for all they were worth and then when the costs -- international outrage and costs of them were too high, they had this ceremony and let them go. So they kind of think that after these hikers, they find out that they've satisfied themselves that they really didn't pose any risks -- the Iraqi government now is getting involved saying, 'They were really just guests of our country and they strayed in, please let them go' -- that eventually, as they did with Roxana Saberi journalist, they will let them go.

Warren P. Strobel: Yeah I think that's probably the case You did have one sort of hardline -- I think it was a member of Parliament, I hope I'm not wrong on that -- say --

Elise Labott: No, it was a member of Parliament, yeah.

Warren P. Strobel: -- that the only reason these three people could have strayed across the border is because they are part of a Western plot to keep things unhinged in Iran. But by and large, I think Elise is probably right that they will be released.

Elise Labott: They just couldn't --

Warren P. Strobel: The costs are too high.

Elise Labott: -- have done it at a worse time. I mean there should be some sort of a warning on your passport not to go into these countries.

Diane Rehm: Yes, you bet. You bet.

Abderrahim Foukara: Yes, I mean regardless of this ball being kicked back and forth between the Iranian government and the United States government as to the nature of what actually happened when those hikers went into Iranian territory, I mean in these situations you inevitably have a new card to play if you're the Iranian government when it comes to negotiations. It just puts one added step on the road to negotiations between the Iranian government and the US government instead of cutting straight to the chase and talking about pressure regarding the nuclear issue, now the US government has this extra hurdle of the three hikers to actually clear before they can talk about any other substance.

Diane Rehm: And speaking of hurdles a new wave of violence in Iraq this week, Warren Strobel?

Warren P. Strobel: Yes, indeed. I think yesterday there was two suicide bombings in the Mosul area targeted against an ethnic minority -- religious minority called the Yazzidis, 21 people killed. That's the latest on a string of these ever since US combat troops left the cities June 30th.

Diane Rehm: So since last Friday, we've had 150 people killed.

Warren P. Strobel: It's, it's a lot. And it's -- though actually, you talk to American commanders they think -- they predicted even worse once -- in other words, it's terrible, I'm not trying to minimize it in any sense of the word but there was a concern that there would be an even larger wave of violence.

Diane Rehm: So how is the Iraqi security handling this?

Warren P. Strobel: You know they -- they're doing better. You had this
memo from the American colonel (Timothy Reese) that was published in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago saying the Iraqi security forces were just barely good enough and it's time for us to leave. Iraq is still very unstable and the big concern now is the fault line between the Kurdish areas and the Arab areas and the concern about a full scale ethnic conflict there which we have not seen yet, thank God, but it's a possibility.

Elise Labott: And also there-there, as Warren said, there really trying to fuel an already existing tension between the Arab and the Kurdish government in the north but also up until recently when we've seen these bombings in the north the bombing campaign has really been directed at the Shia and to -- and the bombings have just been horrific, they've been on food lines, you know, school buses, hospitals, funerals, really aimed at the Shia and trying to drag them back into a sectarian war. And the Shia by and large have been very patient. Their spiritual leaders like Grand Ayatollah Sistani have uh told them listen 'No retaliation, renounce violence' and this -- by and large they've been patient but I think people are waiting to see how long that patience will last and whether we'll see the militias come again.

It's really interesting how the media continues to congratulate the Shi'ite dominant population on not publicly going on a violence tear. I don't recall, do you, when the Iraqi Christians have been under attack -- pick any time, it never ends -- any congratulations to them for not responding with violence. What a sad media which repeatedly strokes the Shi'ites as so wonderful for not breaking the law. The same media, it should be noted, which treated the genocide as a civil war. One group controlled the Iraqi government, the Shias. One group had all the power, the Shias. But back then, 2007, it was a civil war -- they covered up for what the dominant group was doing to eradicate a minority. Now they praise that same group for 'restraint.' And what's so amazing is that Elise got close to reality for a moment and then decided to walk it back, "And also there-there, as Warren said, there really trying to fuel an already existing tension between the Arab and the Kurdish government in the north but also up until recently when we've seen these bombings in the north the bombing campaign has really been directed at the Shia". As everyone has yet again rushed to stroke and fawn over the dominant population in Iraq, no one's considered what's going on. Disputed areas erupt in violence? Disputed areas under Kurdish control?

This could very well be a Shi'ite effort to destabalize the area in order to weaken any claim the Kurds may have on the territory. We saw that before. Repeatedly. We saw it with the attacks on Iraqi Christians from the summer of 2008 through November 2008. And we saw, if we paid attention, that the ones blamed originally were the Kurdish peshmerga. The Shi'ites started a whisper campaign that the always-eager-to-please press ran with. But the peshmerga wasn't responsible for the attacks nor would it ever make sense for them to be responsible for the attacks on Iraqi Christians. It was the Shi'ites in that region with indicators that they were being fed/fueled from elsewhere in Iraq.

The Yazidis are not Shi'ite. If they were Shi'ite, they'd be part of the dominant culture and not a minority. More importantly, as per usual, the press can only see the big attacks. There have been attacks for the last two weeks. And those attacks have included attacks, again, on Iraqi Christians in that region. It's interesting how the press only seems to give a damn when the victims are Shia. It's interesting that they then pretend they give a damn because of the violence when the reality appears to be that Shia thugs controlling the government get press appeasement. Out of fear? I have no idea. I only know that Shia thugs have conducted genocide and not been called out by our allegedly free press and now when violence is being conducted in nothern Iraq against Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, Kurds and a host of others, the press can only see Shi'ite victims. It's very strange and very telling. Notice how
Mayada Al Askari (Gulf News) covers the hundreds of deaths: "Kurdish villages, with mixed populations of Sunnis and Shiites, were targeted heavily. Nearly 3,000 kilogrammes of explosives went off near a small coffee shop in the forgotten village of Khazna, where poor labourers were killed." And the Shia are not monolythic. Frequently here we refer to the Shi'ite thugs (or the Sunni ones). We're referring to the government and militias. (Which are often the same thing for the Shi'ites.) And within the Shi'ite thug grouping, you have various divisions that can and do go to war with one another. A point that the Western media forgets as it renders the division it's helped to create (Shia v. Sunni) as a hard line that easily divides and which finds only one of two groupings.

Last Friday, Abderrahim Foukara hosted a discussion on the United States exiting Iraq on Aljazeera's Inside Iraq (link is video). The panelists were Thomas E. Ricks, Rend al-Rahim and Scott Carpenter. Rahim is an Iraqi and an American and she was the US ambassador to Iraq immediately after the Iraq War. Rahim was a very loyal supporter of George W. Bush and she got in some attacks on Joe Biden. Not a surprise. Rahim was among the exiles agitating for the illegal war. Long gone are the days when she could sit with Laura Bush at State of the Union addresses. Carpenter is with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Abderrahim Foukara: Tom, is President Obama in a pickle now having promised that -- during his campaign -- that he would end the war and withdraw US military forces from that country at a time when, on the ground, the situation seems to be somewhat deteriorating?

Thomas E. Ricks: I think it is deteriorating. I think security will worsen throughout this year and probably into next year. The fewer American troops you have, the less influence you have. The American troops have been pulled out of the easier parts first. Later, when the troop numbers start coming down -- they really haven't come down much at all, we're really at the same level the Bush administration had for most of the last six years -- when you start pulling troops out of the difficult areas that are less secure or where Iraqi forces are considered less reliable, I think you're going to see even more violence, more of an unraveling of the security situation.

Ricks went on to note that Barack "threw out a major campaign promise," noting that Barack promised to take a brigade of troops out a month from the time he took office and "if that were the case, he would have taken out 40,000 troops already. He hasn't. So he's thrown away a major promise and he's paid no political cost for that." Of Barack's alleged 'withdrawal' plan (it's not withdrawal and it's George W. Bush's plan), Ricks it wasn't the first one he'd covered, it was "the sixth one."

What will happen in the near future in Iraq?
Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) notes one development, "The 1920 Revolution Brigades issued a statement on Thursday in response to a Babylon and Beyond blog item last month about two meetings in Istanbul, Turkey, last spring between U.S. officials and a coalition of Sunni insurgent groups in Istanbul. In the group's statement Thursday, the 1920 Revolution Brigades said that it had not participated in the Political Council for the Iraqi Resistance's talks with the Americans and described the previous blog post as 'mistaken'." They feel their goal is to expell the foreign forces (US) from Iraq.

Today on
Aljazeera's Inside Iraq devotes the program to the status of Iraqi women. The program misidentifies Zainab Salbi's organization. She is not with Women to Women (a health organization for women). She is with Women for Women.

Zainab Salbi: I would say when it comes to the marginalized population -- and it is a huge percentage of the population -- this can be generalized. I was in other provinces, for example. Interviewing women in Karbala and Najaf and Hilla, the gist of it is what they're saying. They're saying, "America gave us freedom but took away from us security. And if we have to choose between freedom and security, we would choose security." But then the question became when I asked them about the freedom they're-they're talking about. Can you criticize Moqtada al-Sadr? Can you criticize [Abdul Aziz] al-Hakim? No. Can you criticize militia so-and-so? No. And so eventually that -- even that freedom shrank back into the old patterns of behavior. We're afraid of saying anything. So that's very much actually and not only with the marginalized population. I would say still very much among the whole population. There is still a level of fear. Both from the backgrounnd, the history of the country. Remember this is only seven years ago people were very scared of Saddam Hussein's regime but also because this is a real fact: Militias as well as governments are taking revenge and this is a fact that people are afraid of expressing their political opinions because they don't know what's going to happen to them.

Abderrahim Foukara: Well obviously a lot of people were afraid of expressing their opinions even after Saddam Hussein, to what extent do they feel marginalized today post-2003 and how does that compare with this situation prior to 2003?

Zainab Salbi: So let me ask -- answer it this way, Saddam Hussein's regime, or Saddam Hussein's time, gave and took away from Iraqi women, gave them massive campaign of illiteracy [C.I. note, she means a literacy campaign] for example, education access was very much promoted among women, promotion in the public sector as working women very much was promoted particularly in the seventies and the eighties. Took away from them the sense of security in a government controlled way in other words any woman was vulnerable to government torture or rape or whatever but it was what I call a vertical violence by the government against the population. Took away from them many other issues for example multiple marriages were encouraged by Saddam particularly the nineties. Took away from them mobility to travel the country without a companion. So it gave and it took away.

Asked what most surprised her in her visits and interviews with Iraqi women, Zainab Salbi responded, "They are very strong."

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


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a bombing outside Falluja which claimed 1 life, a bombing outside Baquba which left three Iraqi soldiers wounded and a Mosul mortar attack which injured three police officers.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 merchant shot dead in Mosul (had "received threats by phone few days ago").

From the physical violence to attacks on the Iraqi press. Yesterday, Billie noted a story written up in the Dallas Morning News' "
Update: War report" which is an AP item about the $87,000 judgment against Al-Sharqiya by Iraqi 'courts' which, the item says, was "falsely reporting that orders had been issued to arrest ex-detainees released by the United States." I haven't read the verdict -- has anyone? I know AP hasn't. And I know that's not AP's understanding of the verdict or wasn't yesterday. I think, in squashing things into news briefs, something got lost. The case was over an Iraqi official speaking on the record to the TV station for their report. They quoted him. In addition, they spoke with other officials who did not go on the record. One such official's statements were wrongly -- according to the TV station -- credited to the one who went on the record. The lawsuit was over that issue: Who made the statement with the official who went on the record stating he had not done so (the TV station admitted that) and stating his name had been defamed by the broadcast. The court was not being aske to rule on the report itself. Nor was the court in the position to. The verdict is yet another assault on journalistic freedom in Iraq. And the sum is outrageous for a country that repeatedly tries to scrap their meager rations programs for citizens and thinks a few hundred dollars given to the (small number) of returnees should be enough to tide them over for a full year. Today the International Press Institute released the following:

Just days after the Iraqi government published a draft law that appears to pave the way for government interference in the media, a 100 million Iraqi dinar (€60,000) fine levied on Wednesday against Iraqi satellite broadcaster Al-Sharqiya for "misquoting" a top military spokesperson is another ominous signal that press freedom in Iraq is deteriorating, the International Press Institute (IPI) warned on Friday. An Iraqi court ordered the fine against Al-Sharqiya for slander, according to media reports, following a complaint filed in April by Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi, the Iraqi military's main spokesperson in Baghdad. Al-Moussawi claimed that the broadcaster misrepresented him by quoting him as stating that ex-detainees released by the United States would be rearrested by Iraqi authorities. The major-general claims to have said only that ex-detainee files would be reviewed as part of an investigation into complicity in recent bombings. The court decision comes amid growing fears of an increase in state pressure on the media in Iraq. On 31 July, the Iraqi government presented a draft law ostensibly aimed at protecting journalists, but containing as well worrying provisions that could have a negative impact on media freedom. Vague wording in the draft prohibiting journalists from "compromising the security and stability of the country" could be used to stifle criticism, and the right to protect sources is annulled if "the law requires the source to be revealed." The bill also stipulates that freedom of the press can be suspended if a publication threatens citizens or makes "provocative or aggressive statements." Local Iraqi media freedom organisations, such as the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory (JFO), have expressed concern over the draft law, which they see as "the beginning of the imposition of restrictions on journalists, as well as the government's reorganising control over information." "Whatever this law gives in the left hand it seizes back with the right," Ziad al Ajili, JFO manager, told IPI. "Best for us as journalists is to have the right of access to information, and laws guaranteeing freedom of expression, not laws surrounding us with any kind of restriction." IPI Deputy Director Michael Kudlak warned Iraq against taking a step backwards by restricting media freedoms.
"We again urge Iraq's judiciary and legislature to be mindful of the vital role played by media freedom while nurturing democracy," he said. "Legislation that pushes journalists into self-censorship is a step backwards, not forwards. At this stage, it appears as though the Iraq government is taking a step backwards." IPI's latest warning came as Iraqis including journalists, writers and booksellers demonstrated in Baghdad on Friday against what they allege is state censorship.

Today in Baghdad, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets carrying banners and protesting. BBC has video
here. Aljazeera explains they were protesting "against government censorship and intimidation" and notes a threatened law suit, "Jalal Eddin Saghir, a leader of the SIIC, has threatened to sue Ahmed Abdul-Hussein, a journalist with the state-run Al-Sabah newspaper, for suggesting that the party could have staged the robbery to raise money for national elections in January 2010." The SIIC, returning to our earlier conversation, would be "thugs." AFP notes journalist Emad al-Khafaji speaking at the demonstration, "Journalists and media workers have lost 247 of their colleagues over the past six years because of attacks and violations. The participants in this demonstration have confirmed they will not back down in the face of intimidation and threats."

British citizen Danny Fitzsimons is facing a trial in Iraq and could be sentenced to death. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He is
accused of being the shooter in a Sunday Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. Eric and Liz Fitzsimons spoke to the BBC (link has video) and noted that they are not asking for Danny to 'walk.' They stated that he has to take responsibility. But they want a fair trial and do not believe that is possible in Iraq. His legal defense team doesn't believe he can get a fair trial either stating today that the British military's presence in Iraq during the war means that Fitzsimons will be used as scapegoat. Haroon Siddique (Guardian) spoke with the family and reports on Danny's PTSD and reports, "His borther Michael said Fitzsimons would cray as he told of finding a child's head in Kosovo, picking up bits of his friend's brain in Iraq, and the faces of enemies he had killed in combat." Terri Judd (Independent of London) quotes Danny's father Eric stating that his son is a victim in the shooting as well, "We do feel very, very sorry for these two men and their families. But Daniel is also a victim." Liz Fitzsimons, Danny's step-mother, has made similar remarks and noted the pain those two families are going through is immense and natural and their own efforts, the Fitzsimons' efforts, are not about preventing accountability for Danny but about getting him to stand trial in a country (England) that has a working legal system as opposed to Iraq which does not.
In the US
Zachary Abrahamson and Eamon Javers (Politico) report: "He may be presiding over two wars and facing a terror threat at home and abroad, but you'd hardly know it from listening to President Barack Obama speak.Obama has uttered more than a half-million words in public since taking office Jan. 20 -- and a POLITICO analysis of nearly every word in this vast public record shows that domestic topics dominate, so much so that Obama sounds more like a peacetime president than a commander in chief with more than 100,000 troops in the field." Yes, Barack has avoided Iraq in his speeches, the reporters are correct. Guess what though? The press has avoided it too. Following a March press conference, Steve Padilla (Los Angeles Times) pointed out that 13 reporters asked Barack questions and Iraq "Never came up. Isn't there a war going on?" The the New York Times' live blogged that press conference:

Helene Cooper 9:01 p.m. I'm still slackjawed over the shocking lack of national security issues raised. This is a new world we're living in, after seven years of Al Qaeda, Iraq and Afghanistan. Hard to imagine a Bush press conference focusing so singularly on the economy, but then, these are clearly different times.Jeff Zeleny 9:00 p.m. The second prime-time press conference for Mr. Obama is in the books. Thirteen questions, but not one about Iraq or Afghanistan. That would have been impossible to imagine during his presidential campaign. So what's the headline? "Hang on Americans, We'll Get Through This."
The Washington Post live blogged as well (Ben Pershing, Alec MacGillis, Glenn Kessler, Frank Ahrens and Michael Fletcher live blogged for the Post).

TV notes.
NOW on PBS rebroadcasts a show from March of this year on what happens to your health care if you lose your job? You can go on COBRA . . . if you can afford it. (A community member writes in today's gina & krista round-robin about paying approximately $250 a month and now, to get COBRA, she'll have to pay over $750 a month -- and you have to decide in the very brief window of time.) The program examines Las Vegas where "the only public hospital" closed the doors on "cancer patients and pregnant women". On Washington Week, Gwen sits around the table with Michael Duffy (Time magazine), Janet Hook (Los Angeles Times), James Kitfield (National Journal) and Janine Zacharia (Bloomberg News). Bonnie Erbe and her guestsEleanor Holmes Norton, Melinda Henneberger, Leslie Sanchez and Sabrina Schaeffer explore population growth on this week's edition of PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, all four PBS shows begin airing tonight on many PBS stations. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
Coming Up On 60 Minutes
Michael Vick The former pro quarterback speaks in his first interview since he admitted to participating in the illegal dogfighting that resulted in a prison sentence and his suspension from the NFL. James Brown is the correspondent. Watch Video
America's New Air Force Increasingly, the U.S. military is relying on un-manned, often armed aircraft to track and destroy the enemy - sometimes controlled from bases thousands of miles away from the battlefront. Lara Logan reports. Watch Video
Coldplay The British rock group that has taken its place among the most popular bands in the world gives 60 Minutes a rare look inside its world that includes a candid interview with frontman Chris Martin. Steve Kroft reports. Watch Video
60 Minutes Sunday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

dahr jamail
nprthe diane rehm show

60 minutescbs newspbsto the contrarybonnie erbenow on pbs

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lina Thorne, Hillary Clinton

Dr. George Tiller’s Wichita clinic, which cared for tens of thousands of women over thirty-six years, was closed a week after he was assassinated on May 31, shot in the head at close range. One of his colleagues, Dr. Leroy Carhart, an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, has asserted that he will care for Dr. Tiller’s patients and continue the provision of late-abortion services, stepping forward to fill the great need left by Tiller’s absence. He had worked at Dr. Tiller’s clinic, as well as his own clinic in Bellevue, Nebraska. In 1991, his home and barn were burned to the ground in an arson claimed by anti-abortion activists. This spurred Dr. Carhart to devote more of his practice to providing abortions, and to challenge laws restricting abortion access. This brave stance on the part of this 67 yr. old doctor was Operation Rescue’s cue to turn all attention to him as their next “target #1.” To that end, they have announced their “visit” to Dr. Carhart’s clinic the weekend of August 28 and 29 for “rescue outreach” and a “rally for victory,” with the aim of closing down his clinic also. They have years of practice conducting this “rescue” outside Dr. Tiller’s clinic, using giant grotesque images of gore to harass patients, throngs of hysterical zombies throwing themselves in front of cars, and “counseling” women entering the parking lot by screaming at them, lying about what kind of help they would offer, and doing all this in the name of a hateful brand of Christianity.

That's from Lina Thorne's "Come to Nebraska to Defend Women’s Rights & Protect Dr. Carhart" (World Can't Wait). That's an important article and you should read it in full.

We are under attack and we know Barack's not going to save us. We're going to have to save ourselves.

It's going to take a lot of guts and a lot of strength. Docile's not going to fix it. Dainty's not going to preserve our rights.

That's reality.

Reality can be very ugly. Look at 2008. Barack, the Corporatist, to the right of Hillary Clinton, ends up being portrayed as a 'liberal' by a bunch of men and women who aspire to be men or aspire to serve them. Hillary's still in the game. They can't defeat her, they never will.

This is the State Department's "Secretary's Remarks: Address to Joint Session of Liberian National Legislature:"

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you for this great honor of having the chance to address the democratically elected legislature of Liberia. (Applause.) Thank you, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, President pro-tem, all of the members of this legislature in joint session, other dignitaries who are with us today, and especially the people of this country, a country that was engulfed in war just a few years ago.
I know that some of you in this chamber bore arms against each other, but the people of Liberia demanded peace, stability, and a better future. (Applause.) And (inaudible) your being here, committed to the peaceful resolution of dispute, is a great message that the people of Liberia have representatives of a unified government in a parliament and in a presidency entrusted to serve the Liberian people, to help rebuild the nation, and to realize the goals of development that will once again give every boy and girl in this country a chance to fulfill his or her God-given potential. (Applause) That 14 years of bloodshed and lawlessness could produce peace, free elections, and a democratic government is not so much a triumph of might, but a triumph of the human spirit.
And that is what I would like to talk with you about today – how to keep that spirit alive, how to build strong, democratic institutions, honest and competent leaders, engage citizens on a foundation of human dignity.
I bring greetings from President Obama. (Applause.) The President considers himself a son of Africa, and in his historic speech in Ghana, he said much about what he hoped for (inaudible) on his heart. Remember that he said that the future of Africa is up to the Africans. The future of Liberia is up to the Liberians. (Applause.)
But it is also true that there are paths toward that future which will lead in a positive direction, and there are others that will lead in a negative direction. The choices that are made every day will determine which path Liberia chooses.
When President Johnson-Sirleaf gave her inaugural address to this assembly just three-and-a-half years ago, she identified the core ideals that have guided Liberia’s democracy movement through this nation’s darkest days – peace, liberty, equality, opportunity, and justice for all. The challenge for every democratic government, whether it is three years old or 233 years old like ours, is how to translate those ideals into results in the lives of people.
Democracy has to deliver, and both President Obama and I believe that dignity is central to what is at the core of successful democracies: a voice for every citizen in the decisions that affect your life, your community, and your country; the opportunity to earn a decent wage and provide for your family and live without fear; an equal chance, no matter what your background, your gender, your faith, ethnicity, or station in life; to combine your motivation and ambition with the opportunity that every society should present to its people; and a government elected freely and fairly, accountable to the people it serves.
This vision of a democratic society is at the root of the democracy that began to flourish just those three-and-a-half years ago. It is still the vision that should guide not only presidential leadership, but parliamentary leadership as well.
Now, I have been on both sides of the street, so to speak. I have been in the White House when my husband was president. I have been in the Senate for eight years in both the majority and the minority for most of the time. (Applause.) And now I am back in the executive branch, working for President Obama. So let me tell you that sometimes it appears to be from both sides of the street. When I have been in the executive branch, I have wondered what the Congress was up to and worried about the Congress. When I was in the Congress, I wondered what the President was up to and worried about the President. (Applause.) Where you stand is often determined by where you sit.
But what I know is how important it is, especially in the beginning, to have a level of cooperation toward meeting the common goals to serve the people, and that no matter where that service finds you, to be resolved, to try to constantly ask yourself what I think is the most important question for any of us in public service: Is what I am doing today – the decision I’m making, the bill I’m writing, the vote I’m casting – likely to make life better for the last and the least among us? (Applause.)
In just three years, there are encouraging signs of progress. Your nation has adopted sound fiscal policies with the support of this legislature. That was not easy, and it is noted around the world. We encourage your legislature to continue developing your budgetary oversight role. You have begun to attack corruption and promote transparency. Liberia has made progress on debt relief, and the economy continues to grow despite the global economic crisis. (Applause.) Land tenure issues that remained persistent impediments to economic progress have resulted in the legislature taking the important step in passing the Land Commission Act. Your president is working hard to build a competent and professional security sector, and all of Liberia can take pride in the fact that this nation now has free and compulsory education for primary school children, including your girls. (Applause.)
So you have been climbing up that mountain that sometimes looks like there is no end in sight. But you still face huge challenges, and we stand ready to help you in partnership and friendship. There are forces at work trying to undermine the progress and fuel old tensions and feuds. Many Liberian people still need jobs, electricity, housing, and education. Law enforcement is still inadequate, and after years of war and lawlessness, institutions have been left crippled, unable to function properly or serve the public efficiently or effectively.
So it is, I think, important to note that given the progress you’ve made, you must hold on to that and continue up that mountain together – (applause) – because there is no guarantee that the progress remains. Change is inevitable; progress is not. We live with change every day. What each of us has to do is to master the forces and winds of change to make sure that it results in real, tangible progress for this country.
Now, there are no magic wands or I would have brought one for every one of you. There are no quick-fixes for countries making the transition from violent conflict to lasting peace and stability. But one thing I know for sure – Liberia has the talent, the resources, and the resilience to succeed if everyone works together on behalf of the common good. (Applause.) And Liberia also has the opportunity to be a model not just for Africa, but for the rest of the world.
There is an agenda ahead of us that I stand ready on behalf of our government to continue to offer our assistance to achieve. First, (inaudible) build strong, democratic institutions that work and are accountable and deliver results. If you remember President Obama’s speech, he said something which I’ve heard throughout my travels in Africa, that what Africa needs is not more strong men, but strong institutions, institutions that will stand the test of time, that will, frankly, survive good leaders and not-so-good leaders, but which are strong enough to engender the faith and confidence of the people of Liberia.
Ending corruption is necessary to growing and sustaining such institutions and restoring the public’s trust. I have been to countries that are far richer than Liberia. These democracies have been in existence far longer, but because they never tackled corruption, their future is repeating before their eyes.
I will say to you what I said in two days in Nigeria, a country that has the fifth-largest supply of petroleum and gas, so many riches, and yet the number of people living in poverty is growing. Nigeria is now further away from achieving the Millennium Development Goals than they were ten years ago. That is a travesty. That does not have to be either Nigeria’s future, and it should not be Liberia’s future.
So how do we recognize the importance of ending corruption? I think steps are being taken with the Anti-Corruption Commission. But this legislature should also decide to pass a code of conduct. It is something that – (applause) – allows you to hold not just yourselves but each other accountable. We have over the years in our Congress realized that human nature being what it is – and I’m a Methodist so I know human nature gets us into most of the trouble we get into – we have to have codes of conduct, regulatory frameworks, ethical standards that guide the pursuit of the common good. It is also critical to have an electoral system that is credible, that will produce free and fair elections in 2011. (Applause.) The world is watching, and we take a personal interest in the elections to come in Liberia because we know that this election, where there will be a peaceful transition of power from one civilian authority to another, will set in motion the future legitimacy of elections for years to come.
The legislature can and must do its part by acting on the threshold bill so that the process can move forward. (Applause.) You’ve already taken steps in rebuilding effective institutions, and I congratulate you. Conducting a census in the last three years was a very important accomplishment, registering voters, ensuring that the three branches of government are both competent and independent, demonstrating a unity of purpose.
And I think too that as a famous former governor of the state I represented for so many years (inaudible) and I know a place that many of you know well and even lived in from time-to-time, Mario Cuomo once said, “Politics is poetry, but governing is prose.” (Laughter.) You go out and campaign as I have. It’s easy to say all kinds of things. You get into this chamber, the job becomes harder. (Applause.)
That’s why it’s important not to let politics, which is a noble and critically essential profession, overwhelm governing. As you prepare and gear up for the upcoming election, keeping in mind that hard, contested elections are part of a democracy, but then to (inaudible).
Now, I’ve been, again, on both sides. I’ve won elections, and I’ve lost elections. (Laughter.) In a democracy, there is no guarantee you’re going to win. I spent two years and a lot of money running against president Obama, and he won. And then I went to work to elect him. And then, much to my amazement, he asked me to be his Secretary of State. (Applause.) And I must say that one of the most common questions I’m asked around the world, from Indonesia to Angola, is: How could you go to work for someone you were running against? I said, because we both love our country. (Applause.) And I would argue that it is that love that every successful country has to inculcate in its people and its leaders so that the political process of a democracy doesn’t break apart the country, doesn’t create so much bad blood and ill feelings that people won’t accept the outcome of an election, or not believe that they could have lost or refuse to move forward under those circumstances. And that is what we know Liberia can do.
We also know that there must be more done to enhance security for the people of Liberia. Later, I will visit the National Police Academy, where I will announce additional and accelerated U.S. support for the police. (Applause.) As you know, our government is also training the Liberian Armed Forces, and in my meetings with the president and ministers of your government today, we talked about additional ways we could provide security, particularly maritime security, so that the coastline of Liberia, one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, one of the – (applause) – treasures of this country, will be protected.
We are committed to supporting you as you move forward on this positive, progressive agenda. W e supported you for many years, but now our support is really grounded in our confidence in your capacity, your competence to deliver. (Applause.) Since the peace accords in 2003, we have provided over $2 billion in assistance. We have supported the United Nations security effort. We are committed to helping lift Liberia by building a stronger economy that can spread opportunity and prosperity to more people.
Right now, only 15 percent of the Liberian people work in the formal sector. So job creation and raising incomes is a critical task before you. So we will work with you to strengthen the private sector, enhance trade opportunities, and rebuild infrastructure, including roads, electrification, and information technology. (Applause.) We are assisting your government with natural resources management, food security, education for children, and adults who missed the opportunity to go to school because of the war. And this country is a focus for our Malaria Initiative.
I want to congratulate Liberia for recently gaining eligibility for the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I started my trip in Africa in Nairobi at the AGOA conference, and I and the U.S. Trade Representative and our Secretary of Agriculture emphasized that we want to do more to help countries access and utilize AGOA, and we want to help Liberia to work to achieve more products that can be exported duty-free into the United States market. (Applause.)
I also applaud your efforts to qualify for the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative that will complement the progress that you have made in bringing greater transparency to the management of natural resources. This will improve the business climate, attract investment, and stimulate the creation of jobs. And I want to add that if done right, if you create the legal framework for the exploitation of your natural resources, you will see a revenue stream that will help to build the roads and the infrastructure and the jobs that you’re seeking.
There are examples of this around the world, but let me use one example from Africa: Botswana. When diamonds were discovered in Botswana, the Botswana Government, the then-president and the legislature, decided that they were not going to let outsiders or corrupt insiders exploit what was the natural right to the riches of their country of the people. So they created a legal framework, and they required that any company wishing to do business in the diamond industry had to provide significant revenue for the Government of Botswana. They then put that money into an airtight fund. And if you have ever been to Botswana, you can drive anywhere. The roads are in excellent shape. You can drink cool water anywhere, because every time you buy a diamond from DeBeers, some of that money you spend goes to pave roads in Botswana. That’s what I want to see for Liberia. (Applause.)
But before I leave this afternoon, at the airport I will present equipment to help make the airport fully operational again. (Applause.) In addition, our Transportation Security Administration through its ASSIST program is working with the Liberian Civil Aviation Authority, the airport, and the Bureau of Immigration to ensure that the airport can meet international safety standards. This will increase domestic and international flights, including those from the United States. And I look forward to that day. (Applause.)
It’s a particular honor for be to be addressing you, because I remember when President Johnson-Sirleaf addressed our joint session of Congress when I was sitting where you are sitting. (Applause.) (Inaudible.) Thank you. I love that. I want to take him with me wherever I go. Thank you. Excellent.
And I remember when the president described Liberia as a land rich with rubber, timber, diamonds, gold, iron ore, fertile fields, plentiful water, and warm and welcoming sunshine. That paints a really beautiful picture. But even more beautiful are the people of Liberia – (applause) – hardworking, resourceful, and resilient, but damaged by years of conflict.
We can’t mince words; you know that. In the briefing that I and my delegation received from the minister of agriculture, I was stunned when she said there are no livestock left. At the end of the conflict, anything that could be eaten was eaten. People (inaudible) rebuilding agriculture, rebuilding the tools that are needed for each individual to pursue his or her destiny is what this is all about. The talent and resources exist here (inaudible) overcome division, expand opportunities, and ensure that prosperity is more broadly shared across society.
Some of you have seen a film that tells the story of a Liberian woman’s efforts to end the war. Tired of the killing and the conflict, she organized women at her church and then other churches and in mosques until thousands of Liberian women had joined a vocal, public movement demanding peace. I remember meeting some of those women years ago. These were women who woke up one day and said, “Enough, enough. We’re better than that.”
Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He could have been talking not just about these Liberian women, but about everyone in this chamber who have determined to make Liberia’s story be one of hope and opportunity.
I know that the suffering of the people of Liberia has been broad and deep. But now, you each have a chance, both personally and publicly through your service here, to make a stand against the past and for a future that is worthy of the sacrifice and the suffering that went on too long. The United States is proud to support you. We are proud to be your partner and your friend, and we are proud to work with you to realize the full potential of Liberia and its people. God bless Liberia. (Applause.)

And that's it. Am I on vacation? E-mails are asking. Well we're home in California for a change. But I'm actually working this week. I had Monday off so I did the speaking thing. But I'm taking photos and, honestly, am trying to do that for the rest of this month. I'll make enough to cover bills for a few months. And I want to take care of it now because I do enjoy it when we catch Congressional hearings. So with Congress in recess, this is the best time. I'm mainly doing portraits and that's pretty easy work. Anyway, Adam and Lauren both e-mailed asking and in case anyone else was wondering, there's the answer. Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, August 13, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US State Dept blows off Camp Ashraf, Danny Fitzsimmons legal team states they fear their client will be scapegoated if tried in Iraq, US and Iraqi officials try to lie (again) to the world, and more.

Today two bombers launched an assault outside of Mosul.
Jamal al-Badrani Yara Bayoumy and Tim Pearce (Reuters) report that they "detonated vests packed with explosives" at a Sinjar cafe. Iran's Press TV describes it as "a popular coffee shop in an outdoor market". BBC News counts 21 dead and thrity injured and notes a curfew has been imposed on Sinjar. Al Jazeera states the village's "inhabitants are from the minority Yazidi sect". CNN reminds the Yazidis were targeted in August 2007 when over "400 people died and at least 300 were injured" from "suicide truck bombers". Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) explains the official word: The bombings are an attempt to decrease confidence in Nouri al-Maliki prior to the elections currently scheduled for January. We're all supposed to buy that crap when the only thing more amazing is that US and Iraqi officials manage to say it with a straight face.
Point of fact for the Iraqi officials and US officials, we're not as stupid as you think we are. You do not start assaults in August to influence elections in January. Especially not in Iraq. If you want to influence elections scheduled for January, you start no sooner than the end of November and you do that, as anyone who knows one damn thing about revolutions or rebellions, because to start sooner is to risk being caught and derailed. So starting in August risks the entire operation being shut down in October and giving the impression that Nouri's god-like. "Oh look, we had bombings, but Nouri, bless Nouri, he stopped them! I'm voting for Nouri!!!!" You don't do it and everyone knows that. The United Nations did not come out six months ahead of the elections held at the start of this year and state violence is going to start spiking! No. They waited until the immediate time before which is roughly six to eight weeks ahead of an election. That's whn you can influence an election with violence and not have to worry that you'll be caught and your entire operation shut down before the campaigning even begins.
What's the reason for the violence? No one knows at this point. But apparently they've exhausted phoney targets to blame so now they're pretending to be interested in "why." What may be happening, what MAY be happening, is that we may be seeing dry runs, tests for areas of weakness prior to a wave of violence intended to influence elections. That's a possibility especially since the targets largely remain out of Baghdad. (Baghdad is seeing and has seen violence. Including some mass fatalities from bombings; however, the bulk of the most recent of the deadliest attacks have been outside of Baghdad. Some -- though apparently not all -- the Bremer walls in Baghdad are supposed to be coming down and that could be another reason for not attacking Baghdad as heavily. Wait until those walls come down to launch a spectacular attack.) The resistance could be attempting to locate soft spots, weak ones, and measuring response time with the hopes of attacking the most vulnerable areas immediately prior to the elections. That's just a possibility and it could be 100% wrong. No one knows. But it makes no sense for a 'wave of violence proves Nouri's unable to secure the country' to be launched in August if elections are taking place in January.

In other reported violence today,
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings which clained 1 life and left eight people injured, 1 bicycle bombing which claimed 2 lives and left thirteen injured, four home bombings in Mosul, a Baquba suicide bomber who took his/her own life (no one else reported dead or injured).

Adam Ashton and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Tempers are cool in Iraq despite a string of bombings that's killed more than 125 people in the past two weeks, fueling hopes that the attacks won't trigger retalitory killings, at least for now." See that's what real reporters can do. As opposed to Rod Norland's "Shiites in Iraq Show Restraint as Sunnis Keep Attacking" (New York Times) which apparently operates under the belief "Real Journalists Take Sides and Hand Out Gold Stars." As Elaine noted Tuesday night of Nordland's article, "Now here's reality, 2006 the genocide began and the New York Times didn't tell you about it. They underplayed it. It continued through 2007. They covered it a little better but didn't use 'ethnic cleansing,' let alone genocide. But catch any of those reporters when they're giving their speeches in this country and listen as they explain to you that ethnic cleansing took place. They just won't put that in the paper. Tomorrow Rod Norland and the paper attack Sunnis. The same Sunnis they refused to defend during the genocide." Equally true is that the New York Times is saying, "Good Shi'ite thugs armed by Nouri" (that's who is being congratulated by the paper, not the average Shi'ite in Iraq) "for not responding." How the hell does Rod Nordland know what's going on? Mass graves turn up in a month is he going to retract? Hell no, they never do. He doesn't know what the hell is going on but anyone reading that garbage this morning grasps that the paper trying to re-sell the illegal war is in bed with Nouri.
Shane Bauer (Mother Jones) offers some reality on the leaders of Sahwa aka "Awakenings" aka "Sons Of Iraq". The US military created insta-sheiks, tossing around CERP funds:

Eifan is a beneficiary of what some American personnel call the "make-a-sheikh" program, a semiofficial, little discussed policy that since late 2006 has bankrolled Sunni sheikhs who are, in theory, committed to defending American interests in Iraq. The program was a major part of the Awakening, which the Pentagon has touted as a turning point in reducing violence and creating the conditions for an American withdrawal. It was also a reinstitution of a strategy started by
Saddam Hussein, who picked out tribal leaders he could manipulate through patronage schemes. The US military didn't give the sheikhs straight-up bribes, which would have raised eyebrows in Washington. Instead, it handed out reconstruction contracts. Sometimes issued at three or four times market value, the contracts have been the grease in the wheels of the Awakening in Anbar--the almost entirely Sunni province in western Iraq where Fallujah is located.
The US military has never admitted to arming militias in Iraq--or giving anything more than $350 a month to Anbari tribesmen to fight alongside Americans against Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda. But reconstruction payments, sometimes handed out in shrink-wrapped bundles of $100 bills, have left plenty of extra for the sheikhs to "help themselves as far as security goes," as one Marine officer describes it, or "buy guns," as Eifan's uncle, Sheikh Talib Hasnawi, puts it.
[. . .]
Most of these kinds of projects are funded through the Commander's Emergency Response Program, which allows batallion commanders to hand out reconstruction contracts worth up to $500,000 without approval from their superiors or Washington. CERP was founded in 2003 by then-Coalition Provisional Authority head
Paul Bremer, who took its initial funding from a pool of seized Iraqi assets. Over the next five years, the program disbursed more than $3.5 billion in American taxpayer dollars. A Pentagon manual called "Money as a Weapon System" broadly defines CERP's purpose as providing "urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction." The guideline has been interpreted liberally: CERP recently funded the development of a $33 million Baghdad International Airport "Economic Zone" with two hotels, a remodeled VIP wing, and a $900,000 mural depicting an "economic theme."
CERP regulations explicitly prohibit the use of cash for giving goods, services, or funds to armed groups, including "civil defense forces" and "infrastructure protection forces"--Pentagonspeak for militias. But Sam Parker, an Iraq programs officer at the United States Institute of Peace, says it's "no real secret" among the military in Iraq that CERP contracts are inflated to pay off sheikhs and their armies. Austin Long, an analyst with the Rand Corporation who has been studying the Awakening, says it is not unusual for contracts to go to sheikhs who, like Eifan, had little or no construction experience before the 2003 invasion. "Contracts are inflated because they are only secondarily about the goods and services received," explains Parker. "It's very problematic. You are rewarding the guys with the guns."
Shane Bauer is one of the three Americans currently in Iran. Sara Shourd and Joshua Fattal are the other two. They allegedly were hiking in northern Iraq and allegedly wandered into Iran.
New England Cable News (link has text and TV) notes that the three have been moved to Tehran. The three were discussed on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, last Friday (noted in that day's snapshot):

Diane Rehm: And what about the three Americans who were arrested for apparently crossing the border from Iraq into Iran, Nancy?

Nancy Youssef: That's right, that's right. These are three hikers in Iraq in Kurdistan who somehow crossed the border and we learned this week and again there's a question of what their fate is and what-what --

Diane Rehm: But they were warned. That's what bothers me. They were warned by Iraqis that they were getting close to the border.

James Kitfield: Can we -- can we put out an all points bulletin now: "Please American hikers don't go into the Kurdistan mountains near the border with Iran because that's not helpful. It's not helpful to you and it's not helpful to our diplomacy with Iran."?

Susan Glasser: And it's not helpful to Iraq which is so trying to change its image and saying that this is a place you can come to and this is a safe place and trying to revamp it's image and, um, this does not help it.

Diane Rehm: So what happens next or is there some ongoing communication, Susan?

Susan Glasser: Well, I think, unlike in dealing with North Korea, there is a much more established, you know, track record of Americans being able to engage with Iran through back channels. Europeans, of course, several countries actually have relations with Iran. So, you know, there's a much more filled out relationship that's ongoing even in times of stress than with North Korea for example. One question and I didn't see what the follow up was, I think these hikers actually were still being kept in Iranian Kurdistan which probably bodes well for their fate. You know, if they're trucked all the way to Tehran --

Diane Rehm: I see.

Susan Glasser: -- and they're put on trial as spies and that sort of thing, then they're going to -- you might need another President Clinton mission at that point to get them out. If it remains at that level, I think you're dealing with something, once the Iranians verify these do indeed seem to be semi-clueless students who were language students in the region in Syria, at least, a couple of them were. So perhaps they can still be handled at the level of clueless interlopers.

James Kitfield: History suggest they'll use them as pawns in whatever game in whatever diplomatic game they decide to play with us and eventually let them go. What-what I will say about this is interesting to me right now is that the clocks that are ticking on the Iran issue are almost out of sync. We -- Obama has set for next month, as a deadline for Iran to-to-to respond to his offer of engagement. A lot of people are saying we should have a tactical policy because you don't want to be engaging with a regime that's lost significant legitimacy because of these elections. On the other hand, the Israelis who are trying to sort of push them to peace negotiations are saying "You have got to at least put a deadline on your dealings with Iran and your sanctions because we think they're going to get the bomb sometime in the next year to sixteen months." So it's very difficult right now this-this problem, these internal problems with Iran, although interesting have really sort of skewed the diplomatic schedule that Obama has set for Iran and it's difficult to know how you put it back in sync.

By Susan Glasser's judgment last Friday, if they were moved to Tehran, things changed. They have now been moved to Tehran.

Will the US be moving out Iraq anytime soon? Over 130,000 US troops remain in Iraq, still more than were in Iraq at the start of 2007.
T.J. Buonomo (Foreign Policy In Focus) explores the potential possibilities:

Under the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), President Barack Obama is currently bound to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. Three
factors, however, make it probable that the president will attempt to renegotiate the terms of the agreement as it approaches its conclusion: Iraqi security forces will continue to be logistically dependent on the U.S. military. The United States will be increasingly dependent on oil from Iraq and the wider region. And the American left will be unable to exert significant electoral pressure on the legislative or executive branch, given the U.S. foreign policy establishment's calculation of the strategic consequences of a complete withdrawal.
Given their continued dependency on the U.S. government and despite their resentment of the occupation, Iraqi leaders might be inclined to agree to a SOFA extension. This would likely entail, at a minimum, continued close air support and logistical assistance to Iraqi Security Forces, as well as a continued advisory mission within the Iraqi defense and interior ministries. It would probably also include continued access to airfields in Iraq to serve as a deterrent against Iran. The Senate would not likely require ratification of a SOFA extension, given its prior decision to accept the Bush administration's claim that the SOFA isn't a treaty and therefore doesn't require Senate approval. A less conspicuous U.S. military mission of perhaps fewer than 50,000 troops would also generate less public opposition, thereby reducing pressure on the Senate to exercise such oversight.

The US military needs to withdraw from Iraq immediately. They remain on the ground while Nouri insults them publicly and while they are sitting ducks, easily picked off targets. The illegal war should never have started and there is no reason to keep them on the ground in Iraq to prop up Nouri's puppet government. They did not sign up to be targets on a shooting range. They signed up willing to defend the United States which, for the record, has not been attacked by Iraq. They are of little to use to anyone in Iraq as is demonstrated by recent events at Camp Ashraf. At the US State Dept today, the issue of Camp Ashraf was raised. July 28th, Nouri al-Maliki launched an assault on the camp despite promising the US earlier this year that he would take no such action. Human rights activists and lawyers have called for the US and the United Nations to step in. "Obviously as we have said many times," declared assistant spokesperson Philip Crowley, "we regret the -- uh, what happened at Camp Ashraf and the loss of life and injury that occurred even as we understand the government of Iraq desiring to extend it's sovereignty into that camp. Uh. We're still in conversations, you know, through [US] Embassy Baghdad, you know, with the Iraqis, and we hope that the-the interests of, uh, the people of the camp will be respected and, uh, that conversation continues. [. . .] Well, obviously we have, uh, a relationship with Iraq. It is moving towards, you know, you know, from a military dominant relationship to a-a partnership. We're in dialogue with Iraq on a variety of issues. Human rights is one of them. Uh. We have, uh, you know, have understandings with Iraq about how the people in this camp will be treated We are continuing to pay attention to that and this is -- this is one among many issues on which we will continue to have significant dialogue with our Iraqi counterparts." Asked if it were true, as the MEK states, that the US had gone back on promises to support them, Crowley responded, "Well there's an inherent contradiction in that this was an attempt for the Iraqis to establish, I think, a police station in the camp and bring, uh, officials into the camp which we completely understand. It is -- it is, we had a small contingent of-of forces nearby. It was not necessarily their purpose to protect these people. We have received assurances from Iraq that, uh, that they will respect, uh, this particular group, uh, and-and their rights, uh, and we continue that dialogue. But as I said yesterday, uh, it is regrettable that in trying to do something that was understandable, it was not executed well, uh, and I think that the Iraqis understand that as well. This is not an issue that we're, you know, we're ignoring. We remain in active discussion with Iraq about Camp Ashraf and will continue to, uh, talk to them and to focus on this issue but it is this is fundamentally about Iraq and it's ability to govern its own countries and the people who are within its soverign boundaries."

Asked after that non-answer if the US had made promises to Camp Ashraf regarding their safety, Crowley hemmed and hawwed through, "I-I-I, we-we received assurances that they would be well treated and we understand that what happend, uh, you know, was a mistake --". He got a few more almost sentences in before he was stopped and asked whether or not he could answer the question regarding whether the US promised residents of Camp Ashraf anything. He will get back with the answer for that.

The US did make promises and that includes the current administration. The response to the assault is not coming from the US State Dept, the US State Dept is not 'over' Iraq. But that's no excuse for the nonsense Crowley spewed in the press conference today.
Girish Gupta (Guardian) reports that the London protests in support of the residents of Camp Ashraf include a hunger strike and Fatemeh Khezrie is "seriously ill" and on day 17 of her hunger strike, "After seven days with neither food nor water, Khezrie was taken to St Mary's hospital where doctors put her on a fluid drip, but she removed it and returned to the embassy on hunger strike. However, yesterday she announced that despite her deteriorating health she would stop taking fluids again as she feels the British and US governments, as well as the media, are taking no notice." We'll again note this press release from US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents:

In a news briefing today at the National Press Club, international and U.S. lawyers of residents of Camp Ashraf presented documents of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Iraqi government during the July 28 attack on Camp Ashraf. They also made public the agreements signed between the U.S. government and every resident of the Camp Ashraf for their protection. Camp Ashraf is home to members of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Its residents had signed an agreement with the Multi-National Force-Iraq in 2004, according to which the US agreed to protect them until their final disposition. "The official U.S. government response to the events at Ashraf is that all issues concerning the Camp are now matters for the Iraqis to determine, as an exercise of their sovereignty. But that is a red herring: no one contests the sovereignty of the State of Iraq over Ashraf. Sovereignty does not provide an excuse for violating the human rights of the residents. Nor does it justify inaction on the part of the United States," said Steven Schneebaum, Counsel for U.S. families of Ashraf residents. He stressed: "The U.S. was the recipient of binding commitments by the Government of Iraq to treat the Ashraf residents humanely, and we know that has not happened. Moreover, it was the United States with whom each person at Ashraf reached agreement that protection would be provided until final decisions about their disposition have been made. And the United States remains bound also by principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law that make standing by during an armed attack on defenseless civilians unacceptable, and that impose an obligation to intervene to save innocent lives." Francois Serres, Executive Director of the International Committee of Jurists in Defense of Ashraf, which represents 8,500 lawyers and jurists in Europe and North America, added, "This [assault] is a manifest of crime against humanity by the Iraqi forces, attacking, with US-supplied weapons and armored vehicles, unarmed residents of Ashraf. The Iraqi government cannot be trusted in protecting the residents of Ashraf. The U.S. must undertake efforts to protect them until international protection is afforded to the residents." "We will pursue this matter before the International Criminal Court and courts in France and Belgium. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki is fully responsible for these atrocities and he will be held to account," he added. Zahra Amanpour, a human rights activist with the U.S. Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents also spoke at the news briefing. Ms. Amanpour, whose aunt is in Ashraf, said: "Why are the Department of State and the White House stone-walling us, the families of Camp Ashraf residents? Thirty-five people have been on a hunger strike outside the White House for 13 days, and we still don't have any reply by the administration."

The US military can't protect the residents of Camp Ashraf. They are allowing the assualts to continue by being present and we all need to grasp that. It's the point Joe Biden was making in April 2008 when he was a US Senator and not the vice president of the United States. His point was that their very presence means they are taking sides (Nouri's) in a civil war. I think it's ethnic cleansing and not a civil war, but whatever. By being on the ground, they continue to shore up Nouri's puppet and illegitmate government. Nouri only returned to Iraq, after decades out of the country, once the US invaded. Like so many 'leaders' (installed by the US), he doesn't represent Iraq, he's not the average Iraqi. He's an exile who was too cowardly to fight for his own country but more than willing to drag the US into an illegal war. As
Mike pointed out last night, "In Iraq, AFP reports that there is a bill that's won approval from Nouri's cabinet which would mean that the president of Iraq, the prime minister, speaker of parliament, their underlings and ministers and commanders would have to be Iraqi citizens and only Iraqi citizens. No more dual citizenship. That would eliminate many. Has Nouri denounced his dual citizenship?" The first ambassador Iraq had to the US was, of course, someone who also held US citizenship. We'll address her tomorrow. But the point is that the puppet government is largely staffed with these exiles. Now if you buy that Iraqis lived in brutality prior to the invasion, you need to ask why they would want to be represented by a bunch of cowards who fled the country, by bunch of chickens who didn't have the guts to stay and fight? And you need to ask yourself if you'd tolerate that? You probably wouldn't. The puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki is an illegitmate one and that's why he's forever making 'consoldiation' attempts that are nothing but empty promises prior to an election. (As demonstrated by his campaign promises last January.)

"They gave me a gun" he said
"They gave me a mission
For the power and the glory --
Propaganda -- piss on 'em
There's a war zone inside me --
I can feel things exploding --
I can't even hear the f**king music playing
For the beat of -- the beat of black wings."
[. . .]
"They want you -- they need you --
They train you to kill --
To be a pin on some map --
Some vicarious thrill --
The old hate the young
That's the whole heartless thing
The old pick the wars
We die in 'em
To the beat of -- the beat of black wings"
-- "The Beat of Black Wings," words and music by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Chalk Mark In A Rainstorm.

Danny Fitzsimons is facing a trial in Iraq and could be sentenced to death. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He is
accused of being the shooter in a Sunday Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. Eric and Liz Fitzsimons spoke to the BBC (link has video) and noted that they are not asking for Danny to 'walk.' They stated that he has to take responsibility. But they want a fair trial and do not believe that is possible in Iraq. His legal defense team doesn't believe he can get a fair trial either stating today that the British military's presence in Iraq during the war means that Fitzsimons will be used as scapegoat. We'll come back to his legal team but first Deborah Haynes and Richard Ford (Times of London) report on Danny Fitzsimon's legal problems prior to going to Iraq (going apparently last week):Last November Mr Fitzsimons was given a one-year suspended sentence for robbery and possessing prohibited ammunition, the Crown Prosecution Service said. The Greater Manchester Probation Service said that it was conducting a review to establish whether the quality of supervision he was given met the required standard. Early findings indicate that he had complied with the terms of his supervision, which required him to report to his probation officer every two weeks. His last appointment was at the end of July and he is understood not to have voiced his plan to accept the security job in Iraq, which would have meant breaking the terms of his supervision. That could have resulted in Mr Fitzsimons being brought to court. He was due to return to court in Bolton on August 24 for sentencing over a public order offence.Danny's mother, father and step-mother have been very clear about their belief that he was suffering from PTSD. The article explains how the arrest should have raised some flags. The arrest may or may not stem from PSTD but it does not appear he was receiving treatment for that condition and it does appear treatment was needed.If he's already on probation, that's another reason to move the case to England because he appears to have potentially broken the rules of his probation. The Guardian of Manchester has a podcast titled Guardian Daily podcast. We've linked to it before. Today Jon Dennis speaks with John Tipple who is part of Danny Fitzsimon's legal team.John Tipple: We would need to go back a long way if we were going to remedy the situation as it is in Iraq today, wouldn't we? Because this has been an illegal war and the mess that that's left behind it is incredible. And the very idea that a British subject would get any kind of justice out there -- especially given our client's history with the British armed forces -- is also incredible. We do not trust the Iraqi authorities and we want to see our client back in the UK instead tried here so he can answer to his peers.Jon Dennis: But nevertheless, the very serious offenses that Mr. Fitsimons is accused of did happen on Iraqi soil. Shouldn't they have the right to try a suspect under their own system?John Tipple: Well we challenge whether it is a viable system in any case. But "no" would be my answer to that. Since 1861 there's been a statute in this country that makes provisions to try people here. And we have established a legal system in this country by serious effort and by making sure that the law is as sound as possible. None of that process has taken place in Iraq. It's in this country that the law has been tested and it's in this country that Daniel should be tried.Jon Dennis: You've spoken to Mr. Fitzsimons. What's his mood at the moment?John Tipple: As you might imagine, he's a very concerned and somewhat confused man. He's being processed and that process is not only intimidating, as you might imagine, because he clearly knows the consequences. Everybody saw Saddah Hussein strung up and the farce that that was and for those of us who do not believe in hanging or capital punishment looking at what goes on Iraq is aberrant.Jon Dennis: What sort of assistance are you getting from the security company that employed Mr. Fitzsimons?John Tipple: I can tell you that I consider that that company has a duty of care. And if they look past their corporate image than they should show humanity and a duty of care to Daniel Fitzsimons and they should facilitate his defense including the case that we've made to the request that we've made to them directly which is to be flown out of Baghdad today because clearly my client is in a state of confusion and he's getting legal advice from who knows and what qualifications these people have? We need to get professionals out there to help him properly. Jon Dennis: Does-does Mr. Fitzsimons' family believe that he was in a fit mental state to take what must have been a very stressful job working for a security company in Baghdad ?John Tipple: When Daniel Fitzsimons was in the Parachute Regiment is when he was damaged there through effectively Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and he-he clearly had that when he was in the British Army.Jon Dennis: And so you think that possibly not, that possibly he wasn't in a fit mental state really to take such a stressful job?John Tipple: I think that is a serious question that you have asked there and I think the answer to it is according to the information that's before me is no he's not.Jon Dennis: Are you getting much assistance or any assistance from the British Foreign Office in your attempts to get him tried in the UK?John Tipple: I'm getting -- I am actually having some very good contact with the Foreign Office and I've expressed my concerns to them and they have concerns themselves But we've handed over to the Iraqi authorities -- whoever they are and whatever credibility they may have It certainly is not a satisfactory situation. But they've handed over to them and this is a consequence of the whole debacle of the Iraqi War. And our client is going to be used as a scapegoat. That is our real fear: that he gets -- he gets treated because of the hatred that the British army and British forces in general have clearly earned themselves.

Turning to the US, the Wartime Contracting Commission held two hearings this week. Yawn. I'm not going into DC for their crap. They're a do-nothing commission.
Free Speech Radio News covered them yesterday:

Matt Pearson: As military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed since 2001 the need for military translators has increased And as government spending for translation services has increased so too has competition among intelligence corporations to receive government contracts. Pratap Chaterjee, author and managing editor of the watchdog group
CorpWatch, says the rapid growth and the need for translators has created problems.

Pratap Chaterjee: The United States employs upwards of 10,000 translators in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay today and this is something that has, you know, grown, expanded considerably over the last seven years starting in 2001. Originally they had one tiny little contract for a company called BTG to provide a dozen or so translators in Kuwait. Now this is over 10,000 people, the military needs a lot of translators and so they say we'll take as many as you can get and because they themselves, as they have admitted in this testimony, had no expertise. Nobody at INSCOM Intelligence and Security Command, speaks Arabic or Dari Pashto. So they'd relied heavily on these translators, these companies like Titan and L3 to bring in the translators.

Matt Pearson: In 2006 a company called Global Linguist Solutions of GLS took over the government linguist contract for $4.6 billion and has been the primary contractor ever since. They have retained L3, the previous contractor, as a sub-contractor for the hiring and development of translators in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two corporations are at the center of the Wartime Commission investigation this week with so much government money going towards GLS the commissioners on Wednesday pried for answers regarding waste, incompetence and in some cases minor fraud.

Charles Tiefer: This contract and the tax payer became a cash cow. So the great big juicy steak the two companies were cutting thick slabs out of this cash cow. Poor taxpayer.

Matt Pearson: That was Charles Tiefer one of the commissioners and a professor of law at the University of Baltimore. He and the other seven members of the commission grilled the executives from GLS and L3 for explanations on certain expenditures in the face of salary cuts for translators.

Charles Tiefer: $5 million in spending that was overspent because of private housing for vendor management and administrative personnel, private 3-bedroom apartments for individual employees, an isolated incident of a contractor with deployed dependents at government expense, automobile densities of 1:1 ratio for management personnel, loss productivity due to less than expedient translative linguists into Iraq. Is that what your experience got us?

Matt Pearson: Some observers say that GLS could provide translators for the war efforts without subcontracting L3 and others. In 2006 and 2007, L3 protested the rewarding of the contract [to] GLS on three separate occasions eventually getting a $1 billion subcontract from GLS as a concession. The GLS executive says they would not have awarded L3 with a subcontract if they had not protested on multiple occasions. Still Tom Miller representing L3 at the hearing said the company provides much needed expertise to the staffing of translators in the Middle East

Tom Miller: By becoming a part of the GLS team we became a part of their management we grafted onto them our experience our lessons learned, you know, our abilities and then we didn't stop at that we literally handed over proprietary intellectual property because that was the best thing for the contract. You're looking for an altruistic sort of action on the part of an American corporation? There it is right there. Because we had a greater concern about the performance of this contract we wanted it to go very well.

Matt Pearson: The commission will release a report this year based on its findings from these hearings and research. Matt Pearson, Free Speech Radio News in Washington.

I'm not wasting my time own that 'commission.' If FRSN covers it or someone else worth noting, we'll cover it that way. But I've already set through their faux hearings. The commission is a joke and we've covered that here before. We gave it a chance until it's first hearing. We attended that hearing, see the
February 2nd snapshot, and Kat rightly ripped it apart in June when we learned at a House hearing that the commission was going to start setting some goals. Start setting some goals? It's a two year commission. It's mandated to issue an interim report (it has and that was a joke) this year and then a full report next. And yet, in June, they're working on defining goals? It's a joke because of the commissioners: one commissioner was announcing less than 4 months ago that he was $300,000 in debt (doesn't scream confidence to the American people) and of course you have the lovely Dov S. Zakheim, PNAC signers, George W. Bush's foreign policy tutor in 1999 and 2000 and went to work for the Defense Dept under Bush. Now the commission is supposed to be investigating contracting abuses? Hmm. Dov was the Defense Dept's chief financial officer. Conflict of interest much? You'll get more information (not to mention honesty) in Pratap Chetterjee's article written Tuesday than in both days of the commission's 'hearings'.

Independent journalist
David Bacon wonders "Can Labor Get Out Of This Mess?" (In These Times):For anyone who loves the labor movement, it's not unreasonable today to ask whether we've lost our way. California's huge healthcare local is in trusteeship, its leading organizing drive in a shambles. SEIU's international is at war with its own members, and now with UNITE HERE, whose merger of garment and hotel workers is unraveling.In 1995, following the upsurge that elected John Sweeney president of the AFL-CIO, the service and hotel workers seemed two of the unions best able to organize new members. Their high profile campaigns, like Justice for Janitors and Hotel Workers Rising, were held out as models. Today they're in jeopardy.This conflict has endangered our high hopes for labor law reform, and beyond that for an economic recovery with real jobs programs, fair trade instead of free trade, universal health care, and immigration reform that gives workers rights instead of raids. The ability of unions to grow in size and political power is on the line.Bacon is the author most recently of latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) a wonderful book and an award winning one, having just received the C.L.R. James Award. He recently discussed the book at Against The Current.

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