Friday, April 01, 2011

ReelzChannel, 238

Katie Holmes was on Ellen today. I didn't catch it, I read about it at Politico.

Background, a few years back there was a miniseries with Judy Davis that I was so eager to see. It was going to air on CBS. Judy Davis was going to play Nancy Reagan. James Brolin was going to play Ronald.

They made the mini-series. But it never aired on CBS.

People tried to censor it. CBS caved. It ended up on Showtime. I'm sure Judy Davis was great but the whole thing was ruined for me.

Katie Holmes plays Jackie Kennedy in a miniseries. It was supposed to air on the History Channel.

Instead, it's airing on a channel most have never heard of.

Because supposed 'liberals' like Robert Greenwald worked overtime to ensure the History Channel would drop it.

It's appalling when the right does what they did to get the Reagan mini-series off CBS. But I don't expect much more from them. From my own side?

I expect that we don't participate in that sort of nonsense.

Its the ReelzChannel and it's 238 on DirectTV.


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


Friday, April 1, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Diane Rehm continues to ignore Iraq for the tenth straight week, protests continue in Iraq with at least 50 injured in the KRG, a woman attempts to set herself on fire in Baghdad, and much more.
The Great Iraq Revolution reports Iraqi security forces attempted to disperse protesters. As usual and, as usual, barbed wire is roped around to stop mobility and hinder access and the press are being harassed. Alsumaria TV reports that they were "calling for the release of detainees and urging to end unemployment and corruption in Iraq mainly in governmental institutions. Protestors urged to provide them with ration cards." Chanting and carrying banners (video here) what appeared to be thousands occupied Liberation Square. Al Mada reports that many more attempted to join the protesters but Iraqi forces surrounded the scene of the protest and blocked access. As with last Friday, those protesters who had family members imprisoned carried photos of their loved ones. They were easy to spot amongst the crowd with their photos and generally clad in black. On his album . . . Nothing Like the Sun, Sting has a song for the wives and daughters in Chile whose husbands were imprisoned, tortured and murdered under the terrorist reign of Augusto Pinochet and the song, sadly, fits so many regions including Iraq.
Why are there women here dancing on their own?
Why is there this sadness in their eyes?
Why are soldiers here
Their faces fixed like stone?
I can't see what it is that they despise
They're dancing with the missing
They're dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They're dancing with their fathers
They're dancing with their sons
They're dancing with their husbands
They dance alone
They dance alone
-- "They Dance Alone" written by Sting
Kitabat has multiple videos on their home page of today's protest in Baghdad. One woman holds photos of four missing men. She yells out for Allah to help her while others around her note that [Nouri al-] Maliki does nothing. In another video, twenty-one women dressed in black and holding photos gather together chanting while one woman wipes her tears with the back of one hand, displaying the photo of her missing family member with the other hand. A woman, Um Ahmed attempted to set herself on fire, the Great Iraqi Revolution notes. They explain she is "the mother of a detainee" and the other protesters prevented the fire and rescued her.
The two main groups behind this protest were the Youth Movement of Liberty and the Coalition of the Revolution. The Youth Monument of Liberty states, "We are not asking, we are calling for the immediate trial of all detained Iraqis who were not brought before a judge within 24 hours of their arrest because that is a violation of the Constitution's Article 19's thirteenth paragraph." That paragraph reads:
The preliminay investigative documents shall be submitted to the competent judge in a period not to exceed twenty-four hours from the time of the arrest of the accused, which may be extended only once and for the same period.
And they report protests took place in Falluja and in Sulaymaniya. Alsumaria TV notes of the Sulaimaniyah Province demonstration in Kaler (or Kellar) that eye witnesses say Kurdish security forces threw stones at members of the Change Political party. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that the protest in Kellar "started peacefully but then the Kurdish Militias and Assayesh brought in their thugs and fighting started." AFP reports, also in Sulaimaniyah province, but in the city of Sulaimaniyah, approximately 4,000 protesters gathered and chanted slogans agains the two main Kurdih political parties -- the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party -- and that police used batons on protesters who used stones on the police resulting in 35 people being injured. MaximumEdge.com News notes, "City health official Rekard Rasheed said at least 38 of the injured were policemen in the melee of protestors demanding better government services, ending corruption and more jobs in the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq's north." Press TV reports that "at least 50 people" were injured. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) also notes "at least 50 people were wounded". Yesterday on All Things Considered (NPR), Kelly McEvers reported on the protests in northern Iraq, especially in relation to the disputed Kirkuk:
McEVERS: In recent protests that were part of a larger wave of demonstrations around Iraq and the region, intellectuals like Farouk Rafiq said the Kurdish success story is a myth.
Mr. FAROUK RAFIQ: This is a myth that there is economical opportunity. Do you know why? Because political parties, they captured the market. They have their own companies for themselves, for politicians, for those who are on the top.
McEVERS: So far, those politicians don't show any signs of relinquishing power. In fact, it's support from the Kurds that helped Iraq's incumbent prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, recently secure a second term. In exchange for this support, the federal government in Baghdad recently agreed to let Kurdistan proceed with agreements to pump and sell its own oil. Now, says analyst Jutiar Adel, the Kurdish leaders see economic growth as a way to continue asserting their autonomy.
Mr. JUTIAR ADEL: (Through translation) The economical presence, the economical strength is very important, and they want to guarantee that there is an economical power for Kurdistan.
McEVERS: That means in addition to ignoring protesters' demands for a bigger piece of the economic pie, other issues might be on the back burner, issues like who will control the area around the city of Kirkuk, where Kurds were the majority until Saddam sent Arabs to settle there.
Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking foreign language).
McEVERS: At a recent conference, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani told followers it's likely his grandson will still be fighting for Kirkuk.
For those who would like more audio of past protests in Iraq, Hamzoz has filed audio reports at Alive in Iraq on the March 11th protest in Baghdad. Rania El Gamal (Reuters) observes, "Iraq's protests have not reached the critical mass of those in Tunisia and Egypt, but Iraqis are tired of shortages of food rations, water, power and jobs, and widespread corruption, eight years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein." At the Los Angeles Times, the Carnegie Endwoment for International Peace's scholar Maria Fantappie weighs in on Iraq noting:

While the protests in Iraq may not threaten an entire leadership, they could shift the balance of power within the ruling coalition. With both promises and targeted public policies in southern Iraq, the Sadrists could infiltrate Maliki's strongholds -- especially Basra and Baghdad -- consolidate their popular support there, and increase their pull within the new government, most likely at the expense of Maliki's State of Law coalition. As a result, the Sadrists could regain politically what they lost militarily in the 2007 Battle of Basra to Maliki-affiliated armed forces and emerge as a key player in the government.
During the protests, the Sadrists lobbied for the resignation of several State of Law governors and high-ranking officials in Baghdad and Basra, accusing Maliki's administration of being lax in combating corruption. This move may turn the Sadrists from an indispensable ally for Maliki's reelection into his chief competition. Maliki already seems to be avoiding alienating the Kurds over the issue of Kirkuk, possibly to secure them as an alternative ally.
The winners of this period of social unrest will be those who heed the call of the Iraqi street, and hold the potential to respond at the local level. The Sadrists have a golden opportunity to overshadow their past as a sectarian militia and recast themselves as populist policy makers who are receptive to the people's demands. Whether they do so remains to be seen.
And whether Nouri al-Maliki and the other puppets controlling Iraq can stop torturing, remain s in doubt. Wally slid the following over from MADRE:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
MADRE: Rights, Resources and Results for Women Worldwide
CONTACT: Stephanie K√ľng, MADRE (212) 627-0444, media@madre.org


Pro-Democracy Youth Activist in Iraq Tortured and Threatened

Monday, March 28, 2011 -- New York, NY -- Last week, a youth activist organizing pro-democracy protests in Iraq was kidnapped, detained and tortured. MADRE learned of the attack on Alaa Nabil from our partner organization, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI). Alaa Nabil and OWFI believe the men who carried out the attacks to be Iraqi security agents. Today, MADRE and OWFI sent an official letter to the Iraqi government condemning the attacks and calling for action to protect Iraqis against such human rights violations.

On March 23, Alaa Nabil was kidnapped from the area around his residence by men who transported him to an unknown location. They forced him to face a wall, and they beat, kicked and whipped him with hoses and cables on his back and his arms. Before releasing him, the men issued direct death threats against him and against his activist colleagues, saying, "We will cut your tongues, you and your organizing colleagues, Firas Ali, Suad Shwaili, and Falah Alwan, if you dare to reach Al Tahrir Square. And if you insist on continuing this work, we will shoot each one of you and throw you where your bodies cannot be found."

Yanar Mohammed, Director of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, said today, "The kidnapping and torture of Alaa Nabil are a violation of his human rights and a violent attack on legitimate calls for democracy in Iraq. Through weeks of protests, I joined Alaa in our demonstrations calling for jobs, for justice and for our human rights, and I stand with him now."

Yifat Susskind, MADRE Executive Director, said today, "In organizing pro-democracy protests, Alaa Nabil exercises internationally recognized human rights that the Iraqi government is legally obligated to uphold, yet he has been tortured and his life threatened. Iraqis have joined with people across the region calling for democracy, and they have been met by repression at the hands of their government, which is heavily supported by the US. We join with our partners in Iraq in raising our voices to denounce the attacks and death threats against Alaa Nabil."

To read the letter submitted by MADRE and OWFI to Iraqi officials, click
here.

The following people are available for comment:

Yanar Mohammed, Director of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI), co-founded OWFI after the US invasion in 2003. She set up a series of shelters that served as an underground railroad for women escaping the violence and death threats that escalated dramatically during the occupation.

Yifat Susskind, Executive Director of MADRE, an international women's human rights organization. Yifat has worked extensively with women's human rights activists from the Middle East, Latin America and Africa to create programs in their communities to address violence against women, economic development, climate change, and armed conflict.

###

For more information about MADRE, visit our website at www.madre.org.
Meanwhile Denise Natali (Foreign Policy) also weighs in on the ongoing protests:
Nuri al-Maliki also assured that the opposition would remain localized by keeping the protestors away from each other. During the demonstrations, for instance, he controlled communication services and set up road blocks so that protestors had to walk about five kilometers to reach the central square in Baghdad. These measures may not have deterred the demonstrations, but they shifted them to outlying localities. Residents in Basra, Fallujah, and Ramadi overthrew their provincial governments and burned down public buildings. Gunmen in Tikrit attacked their local government and took hostages. In Anbar, the sheikhs seek to remove the governor, provincial council chairman and operations centers commander.
The unrest has had political fallout in Baghdad. Maliki's power base has been further undermined as Ayad Allawi and Moqtada al-Sadr have threatened to withdraw support from the government. Even some members of Maliki's State of Law party have distanced themselves from the prime minister by forming a 'White Block" in parliament and calling for Maliki's resignation if the situation does not improve in 100 days. Developing alongside these political rifts is the strengthening of the position of Ayatollah al-Sistani, who has taken credit for the non-violent nature of the demonstrations without really having been involved in them.
As expected, Maliki has responded by trying to control and appease his challengers. While clamping down on protestors, he has promised political reforms and strengthened the state's distributive function through increased allocation of revenues for public goods and services. Furthermore, he has attempted to co-opt western Sunni Arab tribes by negotiating an amnesty with the "Jihad Reform Group", an ensemble of five Iraqi resistance groups based in Syria. The tribe's perception (and distrust) of Maliki as a Shi'a with Iranian backing, as well as its lucrative trade along the border area, will hinder Maliki's effort to draw Sunni Arab tribes back into the state and to undermine Ayad Allawi's tribal support base. And even though Maliki has licensed the Sadrists' "Sit in against Occupiers" demonstration planned for April 9, he needs to assure that the event does not become violent or further erode his fragile government.
At the New York Times, the paper can't find the protests already noted today; however, they can go to town for Ahmad Chalabi. Maybe Tim Arango's attempting to show how Chalabi continues to attempt to spin. Chalabi wants to be Minister of the Interior. So many people don't want him to be. He's using unrest in Bahrain to try to make himself appear in touch with 'the people.' And insisting -- as Arango sketches out -- that a near 100% Shi'ite is a mixed turnout. Arango is incorrect when he refers to the Parliament's ten day vacation/holiday as "Parliament briefly suspended its work to protest the Bahrain's crackdown" He's incorrect because ten days is significant. The ten days off came after the body had grandstanded that they were going to put Iraq first and therefore were cancelling their April vacation. It also came when Nouri's one-hundred days 'till reform kicked off. Using a tenth of those reform days is not "briefly." The Speaker of Parliament, Osama al-Nujafi has repeatedly denied it was a vacation or holiday.
In rather striking news, Reuters reports that the number of people killed in Iraq (Iraqi "civilians, police and soldiers") "rose in March" and uses a Ministry of Health count of 136. However, that number is a huge undercount.
Let's review, March 1st 1 person was reported killed. March 2nd 5 people were reported dead and twenty-nine injured. March 3rd 11 were reported dead and twenty-six injured. March 5th 5 people were reported dead and nineteen wounded. March 6th 21 were reported dead and twenty-six wouned. March 7th 2 were reported dead, two were reported wounded. March 8th 4 dead and seven wounded. March 9th 5 were reported dead and ten wounded. March 10th 10 were reported dead and twenty-two injured. March 11th 7 dead and eleven injured. March 12th three were reported injured. March 13th 17 were reported dead and seventeen injured. March 14th 14 were reported dead and forty-two injured. March 15th 1 was reported dead and seventeen injured. March 16th 1 person was reported dead and thirty-three injured. March 17th 5 were reported dead and fourteen injured. March 18th 2 dead and one injured. March 19th 11 were reported dead and twenty-four injured. March 20th 2 were reported dead and fifteen injured. March 21st 7 were reported dead and fifteen wounded. March 22nd 4 were reported dead and thirteen injured. March 23rd 6 were reported dead and twenty-five injured. March 24th 2 were reported dead and three were reported wounded and -1 on dead because Maj Gen Ahmed Obeidi was reported dead the day before but was alive. March 25th 9 were reported dead and thirty-four injured. March 26th 3 were reported dead and five injured. March 27th 12 were reported dead and sixteen injured. March 28th 20 were reported dead and fifty-two injured. March 29th 60 were reported dead and one-hundred-and-three injured. March 31st 7 were reported dead and thrity-one injured. Check my math but that comes to 251 reported dead and 615 reported injured. Those deaths include everything but US service members. So 251. And that's an undercount. All the deaths are not reported and all deaths reported don't get noted in the snapshot.
Alsumaria TV reports the death toll given by the Ministries of Defense, Health and Interior is 247 with 370 injured. Iraq Body Count does the numbers and finds "287 CIVILIANS KILLED" in the month of March. Reuters publishing 136 is laughable. It's all the more laughable when you note this sentence from the report: "Many of the deaths in March were the result of an attack on Tuesday on the provincial council of Salahuddin in Tikrit" -- we counted 58 for that (some counts were 60 and higher but for our 251 for the month, we only counted 58). Subtract 58 from 136 and you end up with 78. Reuters, which does a daily count of violence, seriously thought only 78 people were killed on all the other days this month? Seriously?
If you think that means Iraq gets attention from the media, you don't know Diane Rehm. Each Friday, The Diane Rehm Show offers an hour of discussion on domestic news in the first hour and an hour of discussion on foreign news in the second hour. If you set aside Nadia Bilbassy's two brief sentences on February 25th ("There was demonstration in Iraq. There was two people dead in Iraq today, in Baghdad and in Basra.") as she went over demonstrations in the Middle East, current events in Iraq have not been discussed since January 21st when CNN's Elise Labott was asked about Iraq by Diane. Today continued Diane's pattern of silence.
Grasp, please, that TEN FRIDAYS IN A ROW have found Diane and her guests (or substitute host Susan Page and her guests) ignoring Iraq on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show. Violence has increased, US service members have died in Iraq during this time. Protests have taken place. Journalists have been beaten by Nouri's security forces. This week alone provincial council offices in Tikrit were turned into a hostage scene in which US forces and Iraqi forces stormed in but didn't manage to save anyone and at least 58 people died. Nouri spent all of February denying Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) Human Rights Watch's documentation of the secret prison forces under his immediate command were in charge of. That lie would continue until March 15th -- at which point, oops-we-do-have-a-secret-prison! None of that was news to Diane and her guests. None of it merited discussion.
To listen to The Diane Rehm Show's international hour for the last ten Fridays was to think Iraq must have fallen off the face of the earth and, certainly, the war had ended. Those who sold the Iraq War probably should be working overtime to pay their debt off.
March 3, 2003, Diane could talk about the financial cost of a potential Iraq War, but not about the human costs. Gordon Adams and Loren Thompson were her guests. And Loren Thompson -- of a think tank that's really a lobbyist for the defense industry -- sure did pop up a lot as a guest on Diane's show during the lead up to the Iraq War, didn't he? Such as January 21, 2003. She'd return to "economic implications" February 3rd. Or how about the laughable January 13, 2003 episode billed as an hour on the anti-war movement but included David Corn who was Red-baiting A.N.S.W.E.R. and countless others during that time period. Corn -- opposed to the illegal war but more strongly opposed to the peace movement -- got to be a guest many times -- March 7th, for example. March 17th, she had Robert Kagan as one of her guests. Making the case for war. Somehow, Diane 'forgot' to inform her listeners that Kagan's wife was working for Dick Cheney. Conflict of interest? Not to Diane. How about February 6, 2003 when Colin Powell's lies (The Blot) to the United Nations was 'analyzed' by War Hawk Ruth Wedgwood (Johns Hopkins University, of course) and cave-boi David Corn who insisted, "I give him credit, a very good case from a p.r. aspect." "Far more concrete evidence about these deceptions," Corn insisted were provided by Powell. He couldn't call it out. He could raise a few questions but he couldn't (try "wouldn't") call it out. So you had a weak and uninformed David Corn making a weak, kind of case sort of against the war and War Hawk Ruth Wedgwood insisting that the case was made. Thanks, Dave, you really went out on a limb there, didn't you? Ruth Wedgwood can declare the case has been made and David Corn's idea of offering a 'rousing' refutation was to say, "The question still is what do you do about it?" He repeatedly accepted the premise in his own remarks. (He cited, for example, one person who questioned Powell's presentation in the Washington Post. But in his own remarks he found Powell convincing. Again, thanks, David Corn, for nothing.) Contrast Corn's weak-ass garbage with Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! of the same day Phyllis Bennis "there were no smoking guns, but a lot of smoke and mirrors." Even in headlines, the spin wasn't being accepted the way Corn did on The Diane Rehm Show (which airs several hours later than Democracy Now!). From that day's opening headline.
Amy Goodman: But much of the Powell -- much of the evidence Powell presented is impossible to verify. Powell's speech was peppered with assertions like "Our sources tell us" or "we know that . . . " Defectors and detainees were not named.
Goodman's first segment after headlines was the seventy-plus minute speech Powell gave to the United Nations. Phyllis Bennis and James Paul were the guest offering analysis. (From Iraq, Jeremy Scahill offered the response from Iraq's government.) Via telephone, As'ad Abukhalil noted that the original Arabic recordings -- which Powell was translating to the UN -- "the translations are not really that good." the original Arabic is far more general and could mean a lot of things. By contrast, for Diane and her guests, the original Arabic meant only what Powell said it did.
The Iraq War hasn't ended. And every Friday, US citizen Diane Rehm has a whole hour to discuss world events but doesn't feel that the US war in Iraq is worthy of discussion -- for ten weeks now (that includes today), she's felt that way. It's going to be fun to watch Ann monitor the show to point out Diane's huge gender imbalance among guests.
In some of today's reported violence, which Diane also couldn't be bothered with though it was all in the news cycle before her show went live, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Falluja suicide bombing has claimed the life of the bomber plus that of "at least three Iraqi soldiers." Bushra Juhi (AP) reports that at least six people were injured (and identifies one of the dead as "a passer-by" as well as 2 Iraqi soldiers) and that the suicide bomber passed for "a street cleaner". Reuters states all 3 dead are Iraqi military and notes one man was shot dead in Mosul and a Mosul grenade attack injured two people.
Meanwhile Al Mada reports rumors that Nouri al-Maliki is planning to alter the political scene in Iraq and create "a majority government." What is public is that Sabi al-Issawi attempted to resign as the Secretary of Baghdad but Nouri al-Maliki refused to allow it, Al Mada reports. Al Rafidayn adds this was the second time al-Issawi has attempted to resign.
Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Walsh on Taylor


One might consider Elizabeth Taylor’s body of work in the 1950s and 1960s as a single, long-running melodrama about American life (of which her own participation in “real life” in various romantic scandals formed a subplot). No single work stands out as brilliantly insightful or entirely successful, but watching the various movies gives one a picture—granted, a one-sided and distorted, overly “psychological,” picture (i.e., it is missing the real driving forces in economic and social life)—of a society.
The inhabitants of this social universe are lively and not afraid to express themselves, or reticent to complain, but they are beset by corruption, greed, anxiety, conformism, racism, phony piety, status seeking, unsatisfying and corrosive personal relations. And they respond, in the only fashion apparently open to—or permitted—them, with extravagant and disordered personal behavior for the most part: alcoholism, various addictions, sexual promiscuity, escape into fantasy, violence, even madness. If the portrait is not a happy or entirely coherent one, the fault doesn’t lie with the films or filmmakers, or leading performers such as Elizabeth Taylor, but with the social order itself.

That's from David Walsh's "Elizabeth Taylor and the melodrama of American life in the 1950s and 1960s" (WSWS). I found it to be an interesting overview of Taylor's career and agreed with much of it.

However, -- Yes, I have a however.

I find it real hard to believe that if WSWS had been around (maybe it was) in the 1970s. It was. It's been around since 1938. Sadly the online archives only go back to 1998.

Walsh argues that after Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, Taylor makes no more major films. I disagree with that for one reason: Where were the major films?

She was a product of the studio system. In the sixties, that system implodes. She made many interesting films (he doesn't like Secret Ceremony, I do) that are very much part of their times. And was she the first big name actress to play a lesbian love scene? She and Susannah York have one in 1972's X, Y and Zee also starring Michael Caine as Taylor's husband and York's boyfriend. I also enjoy 1972's Under Milk Wood with her, Burton and Peter O'Toole and Ash Wednesday from 1973 with her and Henry Fonda.

But it is a 1976 film that I would guess WSWS covered extensively in real time. Probably more than they covered any film in the 70s. I wouldn't be surprised if they even gave it a positive review -- despite the fact that most reviewers savaged the film.

This was a major film. It was so major that Taylor was in the cast with Jane Fonda, Cicely Tyson and Ava Gardner, among others. The director was George Cuckor. And it was the first (only?) US and Soviet Union film production: The Blue Bird. It was filmed in the Soviet Union and I'm guessing WSWS covered it in real time. It got a ton of press before it was released and it was slammed in nearly all reviews once it was.


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


Thursday, March 31, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch notes the closing of one Iraqi secret prison doesn't end the problems, the US military was on the ground in Tikrit Tuesday storming into a government building despite US military command claims otherwise, Iraqis call for the United Nation to intervene and protect them, more political parties in Iraq express displeasure with Nouri's leadership, NPR airs a factually incorrect and apparently biased (against the Kurds) 'report' that implies they no longer bother to check facts before airing anything, a new study finds burn pits put US service members and contractors at risk, and more.
Human Rights Watch declared today that the announced (March 14th) plan to close the secret Iraqi prison Camp Honor is "only a first step" and that Iraq needs to do much more. As January wound down, Ned Parker. reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the whilte Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq. Such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call the use of secret prisons out while Nouri continued to deny them. In the middle of this month, the world was supposed to forget all the denials and rejoice that (yet again) Nouri had been caught operating a secret prison and that he was saying (yet again) he would close one and saying that (yet again) secret prisons did not belong in the 'new' Iraq and would not be part of it. The lie would continue until March 15th.
Iraqi officials should establish an independent body with authority to impartially investigate the torture that occurred at Camp Honor and other sites run by the 56th Brigade, also known as the "Baghdad Brigade," and the Counterterrorism Service - the elite security forces attached to the military office of the prime minister. The investigating body should recommend disciplinary steps or criminal prosecution of everyone of any rank implicated in the abuse, Human Rights Watch said.
"Shutting down Camp Honor will mean little if detainees are shuffled to other facilities to face torture again," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "There needs to be a genuine, independent investigation and criminal prosecution of everyone, regardless of rank, responsible for the horrific abuses there."
The Justice Ministry announced on March 14 that it would close Camp Honor after members of a parliamentary investigative committee, consisting largely of parliament's Human Rights Committee members, found evidence of torture during a spot inspection of the facility five days earlier. Investigative committee members told Human Rights Watch that they had observed 175 prisoners in "horrible conditions" at the prison, in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. They said they saw physical "signs of recent abuse, including electric shocks" and marks on detainees' bodies, including long scars across their backs.
Detainees described to committee members the torture they endured there and said that more than 40 other detainees had been hastily moved from the facility less than an hour before members of the committee arrived.
Iraq's Minister of Justice Hussein al-Shammari told Human Rights Watch on March 29 that all of Camp Honor's detainees - between 150 and 160 - had been moved to three other facilities under the control of his ministry. According to the parliamentary committee, however, the number of detainees held at Camp Honor was higher. The committee, established by parliament on February 8 after a Human Rights Watch report and a Los Angeles Times article documented the abuse of detainees at Camp Honor, said it had officially requested from prison authorities a list of all the detainees' names, but had received no information as of March 29.
In response to repeated allegations of serious abuse at Iraqi detention facilities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a statement on March 19 reiterating that "there are no secret detention centers, and all prisons and detention centers are open to regulatory authorities and judicial authorities, which must report any violations found, if any, and notify judicial authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators."
However, the February 1 report by Human Rights Watch described a new secret prison within Camp Justice, a sprawling military base in northwest Baghdad, run by the same forces in charge at Camp Honor - the 56th Brigade and the Counterterrorism Service - both of which report directly to the prime minister's military office. The Counterterrorism Service works closely with US Special Forces.
The issue of prisons and prisoners in Iraq is huge and a major motivator in the protest movement taking place there -- especially the ones featuring attorneys in three cities (Baghdad, Basra and Mosul). However, the shotgun marriage of xenophobia and lazy meant that the protests would be protrayed differently to the outside world which ran with the nonsense that Iraqis were just sitting around, unaware and uninformed until one day, sitting in front of their satellite TVs, they saw what was taking place in Egypt and said, "Hey, that looks fun, let's try that!" Iraqi protests were going on, unreported by the western media, in 2010. The same western media then flocking to Egypt had no interest in the protests taking place in Iraq -- possibly due to the fact that western reporters rarely go anywhere in Iraq other than Baghdad and the KRG. Basra and Mosul aren't spots they frequent let alone other hotbed areas. But the first Iraq protests in 2011 took place far from Baghdad and the issues were the prisons, the families being unable to see their loved ones, the denial of trials, the denial of rights. The calls against corruption and for reform include the prison and justice (or 'justice') system in Iraq. All one ever had to do was listen to the protesters but a narrative got imposed by the press and what was at stake to the Iraqi people mattered far less to the press than its own narrative.
Friday, in Baghdad's Liberation Square, protests again took place but were largely ignored by the western media. Among the groups protesting were the wives, mothers and sisters of prisoners. (See Sunday's "And the war drags on . . ." for some screen snaps of the women from videos which can be found at The Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page). For those women to be present, they had to overcome physical hurdles such as closed bridges, barbed wire, a ban on traffic and a light rain. They joined with other women protesting to account for the largest female presence at a Baghdad protest so far this year. They carried photos of their imprisoned loved ones and cried out for justice.
Urgent Appeal to the United Nations, represented by the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon because of the suffering of the IRaqi people and the demonstrators were killed, tortured and displaced by the government-proclaimed by the US occupation in 2003, and all participants in this campaign, asking for immediate intervention in the Iraqi situation now.
Among those joining the call is Nabeel Alnabeel who writes, "We are with you all, the heart, soul and body are one for Iraq and for support for the rights of Iraq." Sarah Adeeb adds her support to the campaign and wonders over the the assault in Salah al-Din Province Tuesday (Tikrit's provinical government offices), "Why parliament or provincial councils has not suspended its meetings, even for one day??? Why did not stand a minute of silence for the souls of all those that lost their martyrs in the provinces of Salah al-Din??? Is sectarianism?? Who died or are not Bhranyen??? [. . . .] [Ahmed] Chalabi, who collects donations for Baharain."

Aswat al-Iraq reports
that Osama al-Nujafi has led a moment of silence in Parliament this afternnon to remember the victims of the Tuesday assault on the Salahuddin provincial council building. Sarah Adeeb's point still stands because the Parliament took a ten day holiday (which they only concluded last weekend) to show solidarity with the protesters in Bahrain. Sarah Adeeb is correct to be offended that Iraqi politicians will take ten days off to show solidarity with non-Iraqis but make no time to demonstrate solidarity with the people they are supposed to be representing. The Economist notes the Parliament's response and shut down in a piece today:
Politicians from Iraq's Shia majority, including a former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, castigated the Saudi intervention. Some Sunni, Kurdish and Christian members of Iraq's parliament also condemned the Saudis, but the speaker, Osama el-Nujaifi, who hails from a leading Sunni family in Mosul, Iraq's strongly Sunni city in the north, decided to close parliament down for ten days. Some Iraqi politicians, including Iyad Allawi, a Shia who leads the main Sunni block in parliament, said that a hiatus was required to stop sectarian tension boiling over in parliament.
But it is still bubbling. Politicians and religious leaders have continued to respond to events in Bahrain along sectarian lines. Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Iraqi Shia cleric with a big following who leads his movement from a temporary home in Iran, has castigated the intervention too. Members of his political party have called for Bahrain's embassy in Baghdad to be closed, whereas Haider al-Mulla, a Sunni MP, blames the uprising in Bahrain on Iranian interference and says that Iran's embassy in Baghdad should be shut.
No similar outcry from politicians followed the assault in Tikrit (this despite the fact that the assault can be seen as an assault on government itself). Alsumaria TV reports that AP released film of the Tirkit attack: "A soldier on the building's roof shows as pointing to the place of hostages while employees were seen going down the stairs to escape the building". Xinhua has posted video from CNTV of the assault and they note, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers."
Earlier this week, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "The American military did not participate in the retaking of the building but observed from nearby, according to a military spokesman." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quoted US military spokesperson Col Barry Johnson stating, "Our assistance has been limited to providing aerial surveillance of the scene and keeping our soldiers on site to receive further requests for assistance if needed."
Xinhua reports, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Witnesses said U.S. troops responded to the attack and entered the building with Iraqi forces trying to rescue the hostages. No U.S. casualties were reported, however, and it wasn't clear how many of the dead were hostages, gunmen or members of the Iraqi security forces. At least three of the gunmen were wearing explosive suicide belts, Iraq's Interior Ministry said."
So which is it? It's Hammoudi and Xinhua's version. The US military command has lied and a functioning press would be all over this story and how US forces -- well after Barack Obama's laughable claim that "combat operations" ended August 31st -- were rushing into a hostage situation with no knowledge of how many assailants were present in the building but knowing that the assailants had guns and bombs and had already demonstrated their willingness to use both. Combat didn't end, the Iraq War didn't end. If it ended, there'd be no need today for Hugh Fisher (Salisbury Post) to report, "Soldiers from Salisbury's National Guard aviation unit are preparing to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks. About 80 members of C Company, 1-131st Aviation Regiment, will go to Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training before going overseas."
The Iraqi forces and the US military failed to save any hostage.
Nouri al-Maliki's been forced into promising an investigation -- most of his promised investigations never reveal anything. In fact, you could probably change that to "all of his promised investigations never reveal anything." Dar Addustour reveals the Ministry of the Defense is blaming the assault on the building's security guards. If true, that really doesn't explain the five hour standoff, now does it? And the investigation is not supposed to end with 'how it started' but, most importantly, why Iraqi forces were unable to save a single hostage. Online yesterday, The NewsHour (PBS) spoke with Jane Arraf of Al Jazeera TV and the Christian Science Monitor to get her take on the assault's meaning. (Starting with CNN before the Iraq War, Arraf has a long track record of covering Iraq and is not an insta-expert but someone who can speak with real authority on the topic.)

What's the security situation like in Iraq?

ARRAF: Since the protests started (in February), there actually has been a lull of attacks in Baghdad. Baghdad has traditionally been one of the more violent places -- it's a very target-rich environment with a lot of government ministries and basically all the symbols of not just the Iraqi government, but of the U.S.

One of the things we've seen evolve over the past year or so is a change in tactics. Al-Qaida and other groups seem to have moved away from things like bombings in marketplaces, where they indiscriminately kill civilians, because there's been a huge backlash against that. They're still specifically targeting Shias, because one of their aims appears to be to reignite the sectarian violence that led the country into civil war, and they're still targeting security forces: police, the army and government officials. Government officials are harder to get to in Baghdad because they're in the Green Zone for the most part, and it's very well-protected.

But certainly security officials are out there, and we've seen a lot of targeted assassinations -- things like gunmen using silencers and a lot of sticky bombs, or bombs placed under the carriage of a person's car that explodes when they get in.

The biggest one like (Tuesday's siege in Tikrit) that we've seen is the church attack in October. That was a similar incident -- a coordinated attack involving layers of attacks and then a response by Iraqi forces that led to further deaths. Al-Qaida in Iraq took credit for that one and said it would continue to attack Christians.



Returning to The Economist piece on the ten-day vacation Parliament took to show solidarity with people of another country and its effects within Iraq:
Iraq's parliament has now reopened but the row has weakened a coalition government that is in any case built on a fragile ethno-sectarian power-sharing agreement. More than a year after elections, no defence or interior minister has been appointed. Iran, it is said, has been promoting its own candidate for the interior ministry, whereas the defence ministry was promised to Mr Allawi's Sunni-backed block. But Mr Maliki has rejected several of Mr Allawi's nominees. Although the prime minister has a firm grip on the security services and has been trying to expand his own executive powers, he is looking more isolated as erstwhile allies complain that he has broken the promises he made when he was putting his ruling coalition together.

Today Al Mada reports that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) has declared, via a MP yesterday, that they feel they are being marginalized in the Iraqi government. Leaving Al Mada, to provide background. ISCI is headed by Ammar al-Hakim who took over when his father Abdul Aiz al-Hakim died in August of 2009. (Ammar al-Hakim assumed leadership after ISCI voted to make him the leader.) During the long stalemate, they sent conflicting messages before finally agreeing to back Nouri al-Maliki. They are a Shi'ite group and one that is frequently at odds with Moqtada al-Sadr and his backers as well as with Nouri al-Maliki. During the stalemate, although the White House had already decided to back Nouri, the administration was regularly lobbied by Americans (including the CIA) who felt ISCI would be a better bet and that al-Hakim would better represent America's interests in the region. Al Rafidayn carries the same story and notes that Iraqiya has also floated a trial balloon about withdrawing support from Nouri's government. Al Rafidayn reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujafi has noted the gulf between the people and the people's representatives in Iraq. He was speaking at a conference attended by the provincial council heads and governors and declared that the errors and doubts were "eating away at the body of this young nation."

Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa Party (not to be confused with his State Of Law slate) are behind the shutting down of many nightclubs, wedding lounges and alcohol stores, Al Raifdayn notes, and yesterday Nouri was forced into publicly insisting that Iraq was a civil state, not denominational or sectarian but "a civil society and people have the freedome to embrace demnomiations and religions of their choice." Dar Addustour explains the word is that today the Parliament will vote on Nouri's latest Cabinet nominees and that Ali al-Lami, in reference to the nomination of Khaled al-Obeidi, is insisting that Nouri doesn't have the legal power to grant exceptions to "Ba'athists" the Justice and Accountability Commission is investigating or lodging harges against. Ali al-Lami is the Miss Hathaway to Ahmed Chalabi's Mr. Drysdale. The two used the Justice Accountability Commission in 2009 and 2010 to weed out serious rivals with false charges of "Ba'athist!" Nouri didn't complain at the time because he benefitted from the actions.


In other Parliamentary news, Al Mada reports the legislative body is questioning the claim that Iraq has the ability to produce 12 million barrels a day of crude oil. The infrastructure of Iraq's oil industry is only one of the questions being raised. It's also noted that the International Monetary Fund is skeptical of the claim. Tuesday AFP reported that the IMF, citing "infrastructure constraints," expressed grave hesitation over the claim that Iraq could be producing as much as 13 million barrels of oil per day by the year 2017. Reaching 12.2 million barrels per day would be "the very best case scenario" and "huge investments" were needed "in port facilities, pieplines, desalination plants (for water to be injected into oil fields) and storage facilities." Jaafar al-Wannan (Zawya) reminds, "The Oil Ministry announced at the end of last year a five year plan to raise the country's oil production to 12 million bpd from the 2.7 million bpd currently produced."

Moving from Baghdad to the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, the region is claimed by Kurds and by Baghdad. The dispute is not new and, in 2005, Iraqis came up with a solution to resolving the conflict: a census would be taken of the region and a referendum held in the region to determine Kirkuk's fate. They were so comfortable with this decision that they didn't just endorse it publicly, they wrote it into the country's Constitution (Article 140). Approximately a half-year after the Constitution was ratified, Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister for the first time (May 2006 he moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister). Despite Article 140 clearly stating that the census and referendum must take place by December 31, 2007 and despite agreeing to the US White House benchmarks which included the resolution of the rights to Kirkuk, Nouri did nothing. He pushed it back and pushed it back and suddenly, during the long stalemate following the March 7, 2010 elections, when he wanted to remain prime minister, he brought out the issue of Kirkuk again in an attempt to sway the Kurds to support him in his bid for prime minister. He even (again) scheduled a start to the census. It would take place in December 2010! But in November, he became prime minister-designate and, no longer feeling he needed Kurdish support, he quickly announced that the December census was (once again) off.
Tuesday's snapshot dealt with the Kirkuk issue and noted International Crisis Group new report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq and the Kurds: Confronting Withdrawal Fears" which quoted an adviser to Nouri stating, "Some of the prime minister's promises will be delivered in two to three weeks, some in two to three years, and some will take ten years. There are lots of [unimplemented] promises left over from 2006 [when the first Maliki government was formed]. We still didn't finish Article 140, and this will take perhaps ten more years." Wednesday Mike Shuster (NPR's Morning Edition) reported on the issue and, possibly due to time constraints, he didn't do a very good job. He noted that, in February, the peshmerga (elite Kurdish security force) surrounded Kirkuk when they took positions in the east and south -- as well as their positions already in the north and west. It probably would have been a good idea to give the background on why they were already in the north and west because that would have made the report come off less one-sided. They have been there for some time and been there because Baghdad was unable (or unwilling some argued in the early years of the war) to provide security to the region. Does that mean the peshmerga are angels and the Kurdistan Regional Government salvation? No. But it does allow the basic facts to be noted. Shuster notes Arab leaders in the region (the region is ethnically mixed with one of the largest minority groups, the Turkmen, frequently voicing their displeasure at both Kurds and Arabs) felt there was no real compelling danger at the time which forced the peshmerga to take up positions in the east and south. Shuster notes:
Parts of Kirkuk are bristling with weapons. One of the most heavily armed spots in the city is the Kirkuk Provincial Council. The council building and surrounding neighborhoods are crawling with police carrying AK-47s. Each of the 40 members of the council has several bodyguards, and they are all carrying pistols prominently displayed. No demilitarization here. Not surprising, given the political maneuvering that dominated the news in Kirkuk last week. The second move in the latest Kurdish gambit. Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions. This gave more power to the Turkmen parties, with one of their own, Hassan Toran, promised the chairmanship of the provincial council.
That's more than a little confusing and it's because Shuster can't or won't call out Nouri al-Maliki who has been the obstacle in provincial elections since he became prime minister in 2006. But it's not accurate that no governors have been elected in Kirkuk and I'm really surprised that no one at NPR caught that. (Well, it's not like they have a functioning ombudsperson. But I meant the actual journalistic staff -- not a supposed watchdog who's forever napping under the front porch.)
Earlier this month, the provincial council chief and governor announced their resignations. Shuster's report aired Wednesday. Tuesday, the day before, Alsmaria TV reported, "Kirkuk Provincial Council elected on Tuesday a new governor from Kurdistan Alliance and appointed head of the council from the Turkman Front. Kirkuk Provincial Council voted by unanimity on Kurdistan Alliance member Najmddin Karim as the new governor and named Hassan Toran from the Turkman Front as head of the council, a source from Kirkuk Provincial Council told Alsumaria News." Reuters reported, "A new Kurdish governor and a Turkmen provincial council chief were elected on Tuesday in Iraq's northern Kirkuk, enraging Arab politicians in the disputed city who said they would boycott the council. [. . .] The provincial council elected Najimeldin Kareem, a Kurd, as the city's new governor and Hassan Toran, a member of the Turkmen ethnic minority, as provincial council head on Tuesday. The Arab bloc in the council boycotted the vote."
Again, someone needs to ask how and why NPR allowed Mike Shuster to report "Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions."? Because that's not accurate. And they need to wonder why the report was filed one day after Kirkuk, in fact, elected a governor. Kirkuk is not California and if Mike Shuster can't understand the difference, NPR might need to send him back to California. I desperately want English-language reporting on Iraq but not so desperately that I'm thrilled with innaccurate and increasingly biased reporting. We've complained about Shuster before, I'd love to stop. But his reports are factually inaccurate before you even get to the slant that he's puts on them. That's nothing for NPR to brag about. A day after multiple outlets are reporting on Kirkuk electing a governor, Shuster takes to NPR airwaves to proclaim that Kirkuk's never elected a governor. Someone want to explain that? Someone want to poke (NPR ombudsperson) Alicia Shepherd in the ribs and tell her to wake up already?
We've covered Kirkuk here from the beginning and back then -- maybe Shuster has the same ignorance I suffered from -- I didn't realize its huge importance to so many or how easily some could assume you were taking a side. The only side I have ever taken is that Constitution needs to be followed or the Constitution needs to be amended. I have repeatedly stated that the US does not need to be involved in this situation which will be, once decided, like the issue of the "lost homeland" elsewhere in the Middle East and causing tensions for decades to come. The US does not need to make this decision both because it is not the US's decision to make and because the US doesn't need more animosity breeding over the coming years. Listening to Shuster's report, it's hard not to detect an anti-Kurdish bias. That goes beyond the fact that Shuster may truly be ignorant that governors in Iraq are not elected in the same manner that they are in California. That goes to this section of the report about the peshmerga moving to the south and east and, therby, encircling all of Kirkuk:
Mike Shuster: Kurdish officials claimed the move was necessary because of threats from Arab insurgent and nationalist groups, who intended to hold protests in Hawijah to the west of Kirkuk. Those protests, on February 25th, resulted in the torching of a government building and the deaths of three people.
But was there any connection in "those protests" -- outside of the city of Kirkuk but still inside the province of Kirkuk (does Shuster understand that) -- and Kirkuk itself? If so, Shuster should report it, right? Because, as it stands, his report makes the Kurds look like liars. They well may be, they well may not be. But Shuster failed to do the work required (and why do I feel that's been on every one of his report cards?). Reporting March 30th on Kirkuk's election of a governor, Hiwa Husamaddin (Zawya) explained:
Rizgar Ali stepped down from the chairmanship of the provincial council March 15, following a wave of public protests that swept through Iraq including Kirkuk. During the protests in the province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire.
Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. Article 140 sets a roadmap to resolve territorial disputes between Kurds and other ethnic groups in the country over Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

During the protests in the [Kirkuk] province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire. Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution." That would appear to back up, at the very least, concern on the part of the Kurds. al Qaeda in Iraq is a blanket every official (US and Iraqi) appears to grab for security whenever anything goes wrong in Iraq. If the group is truly responsible for everything its credited with, then nothing's ever stopped it, let alone slowed it down. I don't know. My opinion is that it's an easy out, an easy source of blame, when things go wrong. My opinion. But if you're reporting on Kirkuk and especially on Hawijah, you might need to note the bragging at the start of February when Iraqi military -- not Kurdish peshmerga -- were bragging that they had arrested two al Qaeda in Iraq militants in -- where? -- Hawijah. Not doing so allows you to portray the Kurds as big fat liars and maybe that's why Shuster couldn't include that fact -- among many others -- in his report.
Turning to reported violence . . .
Wednesday Reuters reported a Mosul grenade attack which injured thirteen people, a Mosul bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and a Tuesday evening Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured. Today Reuters notes a Kalar clash in which five people were injured, 1 corpse discovered in Mosul (gunshot wounds), a Baghdad mortar attack which claimed 1 life and left three more people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a college student, and, dropping back to Wednesday for both of the following a Baghdad home invasion in which an Iraqi officer was injured and 2 of his brothers were killed and a beheaded corpse (small boy) discovered in Baaj. Reuters also notes today a Tuesday home invasionin Baghdad in which a police officer was killed and three of his family members left wounded. This is not the incident from Tuesday's snapshot in which another police officer's home was invaded -- that one took place in Falluja: " Aswat al-Iraq reports a Falluja home invasion resulted in the death of 1 police officer and his wife and three children left injured."
I forgot to include violence in yesterday's snapshot, my apologies. Today, I had hoped to note . Kelly McEvers' All Things Considered (NPR) report. Didn't happen. We don't have room. And she's already got another report. We'll try to pick them both up in tomorrow's snapshot.
The American Chemical Society is concluding their National Meeting & Exposition in Anaheim, California today. At the conference, a presentation was made on a research study which found that Iraq War service members and contractors have been exposed to air pollution which "could pose immediate and long-term health threats." The multi-year study was explained by the research team's Jennifer M. Bell, "Our preliminary results show that the fine particulate matter concentrations frequently exceed military exposure guidelines and those individual constituents, such as lead, exceed U.S. ambient air quality standards designed to protect human health. [. . .] Coarse particles are large enough to get trapped in the hair-like fibers that line the nasal passages and the trachea preventing them from entering the lungs. Fine and ultra fine particles are so small that they bypass the body's natural defenses. When we take a breath, they travel into the deepest part of the lung where oxygen exchange takse place." She also stressed, "We are especially concerned about fine airborne particles that originate from motor vehicles, factories, open burning of trash in pits, and other sources." Karen Kaplan (Los Angeles Times) adds, "The study is being funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. A summary of the findings is available here. "

There's a summit planned for this issue later this month:

Burn Pit Summit
Monday, April 18 at 9:00am
Location: Washington D.C.

Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Barry and the groupies


President Barack Obama has secretly authorized U.S. officials to advise Libyan rebels, and some CIA agents may have already been deployed to assist the anti-Qadhafi opposition, according to published reports.
The moves, while representing a significant shift from supporting the U.N. no-fly zone to backing a side in Libya's civil war, come as Obama's aides debate whether or not to provide military assistance to the insurgents – a group that includes both secular and militant Islamic fighters.


That's from Glenn Thrush (POLITICO) and how does that make you feel?

I am really shocked at the number of people who are speaking up in favor of the Libyan War. I'm not talking about the ridiculous Juan Cole. But there are a number of women online who are going ga-ga over it.

They're Hillary supporters. I supported Hillary in 2008. I'm not supporting the Libyan War. I'll give her credit for explaining to the American people what Barack was too chicken s**t to, but that's it.

The war is wrong.

I can't believe that for some people they just have to cheerlead everything Hillary does.

Fortunately the Cult of Hillary is smaller than the Cult of St. Barack. Most Hillary supporters in 2008 knew that they might disagree with her on any number of things. It was an adult relationship. But some people aren't able to have maturity and they didn't all back Barack.

And then there's the website (pro Hillary) where women are going on trashing people who spoke out against the illegal Iraq War. I mean they really have no clue. They need to get their house in order PDQ.

They make themselves look ridiculous. As ridiculous as Barack's groupies.

If Hillary stands for anything it's standing by your convictions. I'm not going to trash her because I disagree with her. I don't see her as craven (Barack is). She believes in this. I don't. She needs to make the best case she can and I need to do the same and we're both adults and the world will keep turning.

Certain blogs in the PUMA sphere need to grasp that we betray the maturity we showed in 2008 when we sell out our own beliefs.



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


Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a hostage situation took place in Iraq yesterday with well over 50 dead and which broadcast network news told you about (yes, it is a trick question), Samantha Power flutters in on her War Hawk wings, Tom Hayden finds his voice, and more.
Yesterday evening in the US, viewers of Al Jazeera English got many reports but let's zoom in on just one.
Shiulie Ghosh: To Iraq now where at least 55 people have been killed in Saddam Hussein's former home city, the provincial government headquarters in Tikrit was stormed by gunmen wearing military uniforms. Three council leaders were shot in the head. They included an outspoken critic of al Qaeda in Iraq. Journalists and government workers also died. The five hour long hostage seige ended when attackers blew themselves up after government forces moved in. Our Baghdad correspondent Rawya Rageh has more.
Rawya Rageh: The brazen and highly sophisticated hostage situation in Tikrit ended in a rather unfortunate manner. None of the hostages escaped alive. All of them were killed. Some in a rather horrific manner, we were told, including the three council men who were shot at point blank range and their bodies set on fire after they were killed. The assailants, all of them were also killed in the gun battle, some of them blew themselves up, they were wearing suicide vests and they detonated themselves before security forces were able to apprehend them which is why it's difficult to determine exactly how many there were though estimates say between eight and twelve attackers. There was no claim of responsibility so far. Authorities saying the attack clearly however bearing the hallmark of al Qaeda in Iraq. Authorities have been unable to establish any communication with the hostage takers. The attack comes as Iraq remains mired in political uncertainty months after the Iraqi politicians managed to finally form a cabinet.. The government, the country, remains without a Minister of Defense and [a Minister of] Interior. The attack a grim reminder of times Iraqis had hoped they had put behind them.
Shiulie Ghosh: Laith Kubba is Director of Middle East and North Africa programs at the National Endowment for Democracy. He says he expects more attacks but Iraqis will have to take over security from the US.
Laith Kubba: There has been an improvement in security in Iraq but not the point that they can prevent such an action. I think more importantly that the group behind it is very closely linked to al Qaeda. They rely on these suicide fighters and I think this is not the first time and it will not be the last time. I think there has been maybe one case a week ago, similarly, they attacked a military checkpoint. So I would not be surprised if more of these incidents would happen in the near future. [. . .]
What of Americans interested in the news who don't have Al Jazeera on their TVs? Presumably if you watch one of the big three commercial network's evening news, you are at least semi-interested in the news, right? The few viewers CBS Evening News has left aren't actually sitting through the whole show just for those crappy last five minutes of pure fluff are they?
If they are, they got what they wanted yesterday. But Erica Hill (filling in for Katie Couric) didn't have time for Iraq. Flip over to NBC Nightly News and there was a lot less fluff than what you got on CBS and ABC -- and a consistent newscast (I am not a Brian Williams groupie but he and his team do know how to do a cohesive news cast and the same cannot be said for CBS and ABC). By expanding that first segment, CBS has been better able to handle transitions but Diane Sawyer cares about as much for transitions as she does for full sentences -- in other words, not at all. It's a jerky, where-are-we style of viewing. All three anchors interviewed US President Barack Obama (who had something on his right sock in all three interviews -- you'd think one of them would have pulled him aside and pointed it out) which was fluff in and of itself. And although Diane may have said Barack Obama has to deal with Iraq (in a long laundry list she ticked off) each day but apparently she and the anchors didn't -- as all three made clear. And word to Diane, years have passed but don't think your royal interview when you were with another network is forgotten -- or rather what happened offscreen. So next time you want to fluff, don't go with one of England's princes, it only reminds everyone in the know of that sad moment.
"Wait!" I hear you crying. "A hostage situation in Iraq with well over 50 dead! I'm sure PBS covered it on their award winning and hard hitting Newshour!" What PBS do you get at your home? Not even during the 'news wrap' -- when headlines are read -- did the assault get covered. Again, Diane was making such a big deal about all the things on Barack's plate and maybe it seems to big to her because she does so damn little. But Americans, we know about the toast a British prince may give his brother, don't we feel smarter? And we know about "twin talk" and wasn't that informative -- and scientific. So scientific that their 'scientist' wasn't in the studio. They had to resort to Skype to find a 'scientist' who could fit their story's angle.
They laughed. They laughed about the silly of princes and twins on ABC and, over at CBS, they worked in Neal Sedaka (a reference to his "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" -- which they were too stupid to play on air -- it would have given the lifeless and still born segment something memorable) and 'hard hitting' questions about romances ending like "how did that feel?" all in their effort to 'break the news' that break ups, gosh, hurt. Who knew? America, stop breaking up! It hurts! Sure it looks sexy and exciting and fun but it hurts! That's what all those Eat-Alone specials don't tell you and our culture so obsessed with everyone never marrying . . . Oh wait, that's not our culture. Our culture attempts to dictate that we all make like we're boarding Noah's Arc. And even in our couple-obsessed culture, that segment didn't qualify as news.
People died. But Diane was busy telling her Harry from her Willie and couldn't be bothered. Mohammed Tawfeeq, Yousuf Basil and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) remember journalist Sabah al-Bazee who died in Iraq yesterday.
Jomana remembers a trip to a U.S. military base in Tikrit in 2008, where she met up with Sabah.
Because this was in his province, Sabah displayed the renowned Iraqi hospitality.
After lunch, he grabbed some fruit and put it in Jomana's bag. She did not find it until hours later, when she got back to Baghdad.
Like most Iraqis we know and we work with, Sabah has hesitated for years about leaving Iraq to escape the threats and the violence - because he loved his country.
But a few weeks ago, Sabah asked Mohammed for his help and finally applied for asylum in the U.S., saying:
"I don't want to live in Iraq ...at least not in the next five years... It is going to be very difficult."
They noted he had freelanced for CNN since 2006. Chris Cheesman (Amateur Photographer) notes that the 30-year-old who "died after suffering shrapnel wounds" was also a freelancer for Reuters beginning in 2004. Cheesman notes this online portfolio of some of Sabah al-Bazee's work. His death was first noted by Al Arabiya TV -- where he also worked -- and then picked up by AFP. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement yesterday which mention that he left behind "his wife and three children" and quoted CPJ's Middle East and North African program coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem stating, "We extend our deepest condolences to Sabah al-Bazi's family and his colleagues. We urge Iraqi authorities to do their utmost to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice." Peter Graff (Reuters) has a piece remembering Sabah al-Bazee which also includes several photos al-Bazee took for Reuters:

Like many of our Iraqi colleagues, he was young. Just 23 or so when he started taking pictures of war for a living. He had boundless energy, constantly pestering our reporters, photographers and cameramen for tips at how to hone his skills. How do you square that boisterousness with the bone-chilling images he photographed over the seven years he worked for us?
"Sabah was an enthusiast, always on the phone, keen to get the news and to tell it," writes Alastair Macdonald, Baghdad bureau chief from 2005-07. "He had an energy and courage that meant he thought nothing of driving the 100 dangerous miles between Tikrit and Baghdad at any hour to deliver video and pictures. I recall that his work rate could sometimes exhaust colleagues, and yet Sabah never seemed to stop smiling."

He was killed in Tikrit yesterday when unknown assailants (wearing Iraqi security forces uniforms) attacked the provincial government building. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "The assault turned into a hostage standoff that lasted for hours on Tuesday afternoon, until Iraqi security forces retook the building in the early evening using grenades and small arms fire, with American warplanes overhead, according to a witness. The American military did not participate in the retaking of the building but observed from nearby, according to a military spokesman." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quotes US military spokesperson Col Barry Johnson stating, "Our assistance has been limited to providing aerial surveillance of the scene and keeping our soldiers on site to receive further requests for assistance if needed." Meanwhile on the ground, Mohanned Saif and Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) report, "Over several hours, the attackers went room to room, tossing grenades down hallways and through doorways and killing local politicians and government workers with shots to the head, according to Iraqi security forces and two witnesses who escaped by jumping out of a second-floor window." Dar Addustour notes the death of al-Bazi (their spelling) but also notes that "a number of other journalists from local TV channels were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) explains at least one other journalist died (unnamed) and includes this: "Al-Bazi was a freelancer who worked with Reuters, CNN and Al-Arabiya, according to his cousin Mahmoud Salih, also a freelance journalist. Salih -- who said al-Bazi died in the car bombing -- told CNN his cousin contacted him 30 minutes before he died, asking him whether he wanted to film ammunition seized by security forces." Reporters Without Borders notes al-Bazi's death and that Al Fayhaa camera operator Saad Khaled was wounded and identifies the other journalist killed as Muammar Khadir Abdelwahad:

It is not clear exactly how Abdelwahad, who worked for Ayn (Eye Media Agency), died. The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory quoted Ayn as saying he was in permanent contact with the agency while in the building. "We lost contact at the moment of the assault by the security forces. We later learned that he was dead."

"We firmly condemn this indiscriminate slaughter in an operation deliberately targeting a public building," Reporters Without Borders said. "We offer our condolences to the families of all the victims of this act of terrorism, including the two journalists. We urge the authorities to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice."

The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory paid tribute to Al-Bazi's professional dedication and personal qualities. Aged 30, he was married and the father of three children. Abdelwahad, 39, had worked for Ayn for two years.

The Journalistic Freedom Observatory notes the deaths of al-Bazi and Muammar Khudair Abdul Wahid and that al-Bazi was a JFO associate since 2006. JFO's Director Ziad Ajili notes that al-Bazi was always professional and did his work for variou soutlets while also volunteering with JFO. JFO expresses it sorrow and condolences to the families of the two journalists and calls for prosecution of those involved in the latest killing which bring to 256 the number of journalists -- Iraqi and foreign -- killed since the start of the Iraq War in March 2003.
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Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that yesterday evening the Director of Health in the province stated that "most of the bodies that have arrived at hospitals recently were charred and the majority of those killed were Iraqi forces who stormed the building to free the hostages." Al Rafidayn also notes the "charred bodies" (citing Tikrit General Hospital sources) and reports 65 people died (citing Iraqi security sources) and "approximately one hundred others were wounded."
To the evening news on ABC, NBC, CBS and The NewsHour (and remember the last one has an hour and not a half hour and is also 'commerical free') none of the above was news. Don't think that message isn't being received. March 22nd DoD issued the following: "The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation New Dawn. Cpl. Brandon S. Hocking, 24, of Seattle, Wash., died March 21 in As Samawah, Iraq, when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 87th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga. For more information, the media may contact the Fort Stewart public affairs office at 912-435-9879 or after 4 p.m. call 912-767-8666." Hal Bernton (Seattle Times) reported, "He died just 10 days before his scheduled return home" and speaks with his sister Brianna and his grandmother Delores Pitts who says Hocking "enjoyed fixing up old cars, sketching and playing the acoustic and electric guitar." Washington Governor Chris Gregoire's office ordere flags to be flown at half-staff yesterday "in memory of U.S. Army Corporal Brandon S. Hocking of Seattle." Brandon Hocking's family spoke to Eric Wilkinson (KING 5 News) yesterday. His father Kevin Hocking said, "We were counting down the days not only for him to bet back but for him to be moved up here for his family to be around him." He worries that Iraq has become the forgotten war and stated, "I don't want him forgot. I don't want any of them to be forgot." Again, the message is being received. The US media's careless and cruel withdrawal from Iraq, it's refusal to cover the ongoing Iraq War is registering. Don't whine about it when polling finds the media's image at an all time low just be glad that those aren't open-ended surveys because the language I hear from military families about the US media's withdrawl is (rightly) blistering.
The NewsHour now tries to play catch up by speaking with Jane Arraf about the attack.
Al Rafiayn reports that women are being targeted in Mosul an the targeting includes everything from so-called 'honor' killings, to accusations of collaboration with secrity services, to accusations that they walk the wrong way. Remember Monday's snapshot when we called out Tim Arango (New York Times) for repeating unverified (an malicious) gossip in his 'report' about the six women who were killed in Mosul (one man was also killed but Arango apparently had no gossip on him)? Al Rafidayn explains the six women lived with their grandfather and that an Iraqi military officer has been arrested (not convicte, arrested, he was in a relationship with one of the six women killed). The paper explains that the six women were "the grandmother, her daughter and the daughter of her daughter and the other three were sisters."
Yesterday Tareq al-Hashimi, Iraq's Sunni vice president, was explaining how he and Shi'ite vice president Adel Abdul Mahdi remain the vice presidents of Iraq having promised Iraqi President Jalal Talabani they would stay in their positions (on December 26th)until new vice presidents were secured. At that time, it was expected that the two would be picked and that a third person would join them, possibly a fourth. The idea of a fourth was shot down and now the idea of a third seems iffy as well. Today Ali Hussein (Al Mada) offers a piece calling al-Hashimi out (insisting al-Hashimi either believes Iraqis are crazy or al-Hashimi himself is crazy, plagued with hallucinations and delusions while he plays in the political arena like a buffoon in a comedy). Hussein begins winding down his essay stating that it is ridiculous for al-Hashemi to claim that the survival of Iraq and its stability depends upon al-Hashemi remaining vice president. Another Al Mada piece argues that the "conterversial" issue of vice presidents (said to be "controversial" to Parliament) needs to be addressed and notes an editorial expressing shock that al-Hashemi is traveling to foreign countries and presenting himself as a vice president of Iraq. It's called "impersonation" and the Constitution and various laws are noted which require anyone guilty of impersonation be imprisoned (for no more than ten years). At the heart of the conflict is al-Hashemi and Adel Abdul Mahdi's 'arrangement' with Talabani which is not thought to be legal meaning Iraq has no vice presidents currently (if you agree that the deal is not legal, I haven't read the laws cited -- according to the Iraqi Constitution only, which I have read, there's nothing in it that allows Talabani or any president to extend the terms of vice presidents).
Moving over to Europe, Andre Shepard is a US war resister in Germany. After serving in Iraq, he self-checked out of the military. Russia Today interviewed him for a segment they aired last Friday:
Andre Shepherd: The American cuisine. For example, Outback Steakhouse was really good for me. A personal favorite was the roller coasters. I can't find any place in Germany that even comes close to that.
Ekaterina Gracheva: But for Andre Shepherd, his life has become one giant roller coaster. Four years ago he deserted the US army, cutting off the way to his native Cleveland forever. His mom cried with pride when he volunteered for the army, but after a six month tour of duty in Iraq, Andre walked off a US base in Germany and never returned.
Andre Shepherd: Anything that anyone could possibly imagine in terms of War Crimes that were committed throughout world history, the American forces have done this and are continuing to do this on a daily basis. The soldiers were being attacked from somewhere but they didn't know where, so they just shot off randomly in different direction.
Ekaterina Gracheva: After hiding out for more than a year, Andre Shepherd surfaced. He married a German, secured himself support from a number of human rights organizations and is now officially seeking asylum. Tucked away on the border of Germany and Austria, Lake Chiemsee has long been popular with holiday makers but now the idyllic spot may go down in history as the home of the first US Iraq War veteran granted political asylum. To become this first is not going to be easy though. Germany is the main staging post for the US military with around 60,000 US troops stationed there. Each year, some of those soldiers go AWOL and get picked up by the police.
Jacqueline Edith: The pressure is very high on Germany and Andre often said in his speeches he's so sorry about that, you know, putting so much pressure on the German government. Also he really loves this country so much.
Ekaterina Gracheva: Andre will argue in court that the war in Iraq was a complete fraud but lawyers say he has little chance of winning this legal war with the US.
Douglas McNabb: It's particularly uh more difficult if it's a war such as the war in Afganistan, for example, or the Iraqi War where it was not a popular war. And if we just started having droves of soldiers deciding on their own that they were no longer going to be a member of the United States military apparatus, we'd have a problem. And so, uh, there are very harsh penalities, up to life, and including the possibility of death.
Ekaterina Gracheva: Mainstream media in the so-called coaltion countries are not in a hurry to give Andre a say either.
Andre Shepherd: The major corporations, like the BBC, CNN, what would happen is that if I would say anything that was controversial or would go against the government line, it would be completely censored.
Ekaterina Gracheva: Andre says he's ready for the battle of his life, claiming there was no justification for the war in Iraq. But he admits he is on a slippery slope.
You can refer to the April 20, 2009 snapshot for a transcript of an interview he did with BBC World Service.
Samantha Power should never have left Europe. But Ireland's gain is America's loss. The War Hawk has landed . . . and taken a big dump on the pages of The New York Review of Books. A surprise only to those who didn't know NYRB founder Jason Epstein is married to Judith Miller of faux reporting fame. Not a historian and not old enough to have lived through an era she wants to write about, Power gets as creative as she did as a 'reporter' (see the work of Keith Harmon Snow and check out the work Edward S. Herman did documenting the Cruise Missile Left for more on A Problem From Hell Samantha Power). At NYRB, she flutters her War Hawk wings and tells you Dems are viewed as "weak" on national security. Which she somehow defines as aggressive wars of choice. She's a complete idiot and, like most idiots, the harms she does will last forever. Reading her nonsense, you can hear her advocating, "Libya! War on Libya! It will get you re-elected!!!!!" She's such a dumb ass.
Doubt it?
She writes, "This faith in Republican toughness has had profound electoral consequences. Since 1968, with the single exception of the election of George W. Bush in 2000, Americans have chosen Republican presidents in times of perceived danger and Democrats in times of relative calm." What?
Okay, who did they choose in 2008? Sammy's man: Barack Obama. Now he acts like a Republican but he did lead the Democratic Party's presidential ticket. And in 2008, the US was in two wars: Afghanistan and Iraq. That's "relative calm"? (What was her relationship to the IRA? Club mascot?)
None of her examples make sense. The 1976 election was going to go to the Democratic Party. That was a given. Gerald Ford being the Republican nominee did not help his ticket (due to his being Nixon's vice president) but due to Watergate, 1976 was the Demcoratic Party's race to lose and it doesn't fit her "calm" nonsense. Even from someone as stupid as she is, that's pretty dumb. Internationally are we forgetting all that happened? Doemstically? How about for starters the conviction of Patty Hearst for armed robbery as part of the terrorist group Symbionese Liberation Army. You've got the IRA bombing England, you've got riots in Soweto, you've got a dam collapsing in Idaho, the mafia killing journalist Don Bolles, US Ambassador Francis E. Meloy was murdered in Syria that year (three years after US Ambassador Cleo Noel was murdered in Sudan), in July hijackers are holding 103 hostages at Entebbe Airport in Uganda, Son of Sam serial killer gets started in California, Legionellosis (two strands, the most well known is referred to as Legionnaires' disease) has its first outbreak (Pennsylvania), there was the Gang of Four in China, the Thammasat University massacre in Bangkok and so much more. And back then, Samantha, when you weren't in the United States, the network evening news actually had reporters in these countries covering these events.
1976 was a national security years as much as any other. But it doesn't fit Samantha Power's little narrative. One thing she likes to leave out of her own narrative is that she championed the Iraq War in real time. She tries to pretend that's not the case but it is. In her essay, she writes of the war she once was a cheerleader for (not head cheerleader, head cheerleader has to be pretty):
Further, with al-Qaeda on the run, the administration spent 2002 mobilizing support for its March 2003 invasion of Iraq, which required it to divert precious units from eastern Afghanistan. According to many observers, this allowed the Taliban and the al-Qaeda leadership to snatch survival from the jaws of defeat. Violence has spread to once-peaceful pockets of territory, and the number of suicide attacks has increased from two in 2003 to 137 in 2007. In June 2008, forty-six American and allied forces died in Afghanistan, more than during any other month since the war began nearly seven years ago, and more than the thirty-one Americans who died in Iraq that month.
As for Iraq, the war has taken the lives of more than four thousand American soldiers, created another front for US forces in combating al-Qaeda, and eroded US army readiness to such an extent that US commanders concede that the army is at its "breaking point." Since 2001, Congress has appropriated about $640 billion for the "Global War on Terror," most of this for operations in Iraq. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in June found that the United States still lacked a strategy for meeting its goals in Iraq. The GAO found that violence had diminished somewhat; but according to the Pentagon, the number of Iraqi units capable of carrying out operations without US assistance continued to hover around 10 percent.
While the Iraqi authorities passed legislation readmitting some lower- level Baathists to the parliament, legislation was stalled on oil-sharing and the holding of provincial elections. Between 2005 and 2007, the GAO report found, the Iraq government spent less than a quarter of the $27 billion it budgeted for its own reconstruction efforts. And when it came to essential services, water supplies had improved, but electricity shortages persisted, meeting only about half of Iraqi demand by early May 2008. Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank found in 2007 that the Iraq war had brought about a 600 percent increase in the average number of annual jihadist terrorist attacks throughout the world. Even if one didn't count attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan, the incidence of terrorism increased 35 percent worldwide.
Now supposedly she's writing about national security but she cites a number of things that we could see, at best, as 'influencers.' Here's one she leaves out: Abu Ghraib. Here's another: Dead Iraqis. All of those words above and, true to her War Hawk self, she still forgets the dead victims.
And it's the dead that will always tell on her. It's the dead that will haunt her in the same way it does Henry Kissinger. It's the dead she will have to take accountability for -- especially those who died via counter-insurgency because she's a counter-insurgency cover girl -- having gone so far as to blurb the US military's counter-insurgency manual. Samantha and her gal pals Monty McFate and Sarah Sewall have gotten huge passes because many of the left in front of microphones and working for magazines are too damn stupid to know what's what and another portion is too scared to tell you. This piece by Ava and I has resulted in non-stop pleas -- organized according to two who participated in 2007, by Sewall and Power, -- that the article be deleted. Not one round of please, but continuously, four years later and still going. It starts up each semester. Why? Because it's one of the few pieces that provides the context for those three and what they're up to. It's a far cry from Davey D. on air at KPFA talking to Rosa Clemente about how great and peaceful Samantha Power is. (At what point do Davey and Rosa plan to apologize for that disgraceful moment?) Tom Hayden called out Sewall in 2007 but then refused to do so again. Today he finds his voice at The Nation (though he's still fawning over Power in parts -- she's a lousy writer, she has no style unless you consider The Perils of Pauline to be complex and not just more episodic trash to divert attention):
I remember wondering why, like the U2's Bono, another Irish human rights activist, Power has been less preoccupied by the human rights abuses inflicted by the British during the 30-year war in the northern part of her own country. If she wasn't willing to take sides at home, so to speak, why was it easier to take sides in civil wars abroad? Wasn't the creation of a "more perfect union" at home the foundation of any intelligent foreign policy abroad? A note from her promised more discussion on that, too.
[. . .]
The last I remember speaking to her, Power had gone from supporting Gen. Wesley Clark's 2004 presidential campaign to volunteering in the Washington office of a new US Senator, Barack Obama. According to her account, she
bonded with Obama in a three-hour policy conversation, worked in Obama's office in 2005-6, and became a close collaborator. As Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope "Samantha Power deserves special mention for her extraordinary generosity; despite being in the middle of writing her own book, she combed over each chapter as if it were hers, providing me with a steady flow of useful comments even as she cheered me up whenever my spirits or energy were flagging."
[. . .]
But the agenda of the humanitarian hawks seemed off the radar as the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan deepened. Bringing human rights and democracy to the Middle East with bombs and bayonets was increasingly seen as a delusional folly. Foreign policy realism, not human rights, ascended in mainstream thinking. Power gained prominence as a national security strategist nonetheless, writing a comprehensive 2007 New York Times review of current books on military doctrine. While carefully separating herself from President George W. Bush's policies in Iraq, she endorsed the Army and Marine Counterinsurgency Field Manual associated with Gen. David Petraeus and co-produced with Power's close colleague Sarah Sewall at the Harvard Center for Human Rights. Power believed that counterinsurgency provided greater protection for civilians, despite mounting evidence of Iraq's secret prisons, torture chambers, thousands of civilian casualties, and top-secret assassination operations carried out by Lt. General Stanley McChrystal in 2006, described in Bob Woodward's The War Within. Liberal interventionists cringed at the outcome in Iraq, but Power apparently thought the counterinsurgency doctrine was a step towards greater emphasis on human rights.
Good for you, Tom Hayden, maybe you have something still worth saying after all.
Samantha Power's essay exists to justify war, specifically to justify Barack's war actions. The Libyan War is an illegal war. The US was not attacked. We are not allowed (legally) to go to war with a country to take out a leader we don't like just because we don't like them. (For example, Hugo Chavez didn't try to invade the US when Bush occupied the White House.) This is not a 'protect people' mission. You don't carpet bomb from the sky when you're trying to protect civilians. This is an illegal war of choice and Power's been pushing for it for weeks. Tom forgets that Power also pushed for US forces to go into Sudan. She wasn't so much silent in the Bush years as she was silenced because nobody listened to her -- except Barack Obama. And that's why it's so appalling that so many on the left stayed silent about the people Barack had behind him. (If you've forgotten how many lied and whored, please reflect on that time period via "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally.")
Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.