Friday, September 03, 2010


"Kat," an e-mail from yesterday states, "don't you forget that you promised us two reviews over this long Labor Day weekend. Don't you dare try to wimp out." The e-mail serves to prove how thin the line between fan and stalker is. (That was a joke.)

Yes, I plan to have two reviews up at The Common Ills this weekend. (Most likely Sunday and Monday or just Monday.)

If I don't? Blame Stan.

Last week, Stan got DSL at his home.

Net tips
  • Calling it quits with AOL
  • Kryptonite

  • You can read those posts for more on that topic. Stan's excited and who can blame him?

    But he's finding all this great stuff and a lot of silly stuff and he'll tell me about it on the phone or in an e-mail and I'll be on the computer hunting it down.

    It's almost like being new to the net myself because his excitement is so catching. I've watched music videos, animated clips and you name it. Stan finds some really great stuff.

    But on music, this is from D.R. Scott's "Amy Winehouse: Will she be on the short list with Joni Mitchell, Tina Turner, Ani DiFranco . . . Janis Joplin?" (Culture Mob):

    Here’s the list:

    Joni Mitchell.

    Tina Turner.

    Kate Bush.

    Ani DiFranco.

    Patti Smith.

    Janis Joplin.

    These women were real singers, not one-hit wonders who cashed in their fifteen minutes of fame and disappeared. They were giants who left behind landmark songs that cast long shadows: The Hissing of Summer Lawns (Joni), Private Dancer (Tina), Hounds of Love (Kate), Not a Pretty Girl (Ani), Horses (Patti), and I Got Dem Ole Kosmic Blues Again, Mama! (Janis.)

    It’s a short list, and you have to earn the right to belong on it. You have to be a visionary. Unique, stubborn, brave, opinionated, and willing to challenge your audience.

    I’m sorry, Rhianna. Uh-uh, Ke$ha. Go away, Lady Gaga.

    Amy? Amy Winehouse?

    Hmmm. Maybe.

    So what do you think? (And read the whole column, that's just the opening.) I don't know about the list offered. Tina? Sure. Joni? Absolutely. Janis? Uh-huh, right on. But I'm soured on Patti Smith for her refusal to stand up for Ralph Nader in 2008. She really wimped out and acted like a little bitch in my opinion. I haven't listened to her since the summer of 2008 and I may never listen to her music again. Ava and C.I., at Third, pointed out that her support for Barack because he could win (she said) could be turned back on her and in 1977 record buyers could have said, "Let's buy Hasten Down The Wind and not Horses because Linda Ronstadt can really sell records!" For someone like that, someone like Patti, to hop on the popularity train is just disgusting. She's supposed to be the rebel, the outsider. Ani?

    Ani's double disc 'hits' began my separation with her. The 'maverick' and her refusal to call out Barack and his drone attacks makes it very difficult for me to listen to her anymore.

    Maybe they belong on the list. Maybe they don't? I would put Cass Elliot on the list. I would put Carly Simon on there, Stevie Nicks and a few others. I'm sure that there are people you would place on the list.

    But be sure to look at the column because there's a real point to it.

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

    Friday September 3, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Tony Blair lies to the world about donating 'royalties' (that will most likely not exist) to wounded British soldiers, AP takes a stand for the facts, the political stalemate continues, Iraqis weigh in on Tuesday's speech by Barack Obama, and more.

    Today Poynter publishes an internal AP memo written by Tom Kent, the AP's Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production,

    Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.
    To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.
    As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."
    However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.
    In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
    Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
    Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.
    We're opening with that because it is news and it is important. To be clear, not every journalist has jumped on the Iraq War over ball. For every idiot on MSNBC or John Nichols, there have been cautious voices who have refused to play along. Diane Rehm has repeatedly noted that 50,000 troops and the claim of an end make no sense, Michael R. Gordon has offered perspective as well, as has Steve Inskeep, Matthew Rothschild, Chris Floyd, Sonali Kolhatkar, Jane Arraf, Margaret Warner, Scott Horton, Jason Ditz, and Kelley B. Vlahos among others. But they have been the exception. (Scott Horton is the journalist, not the attorney. To be clear on which one, he gets a link.) More commonly, American news consumers have been repeatedly greeted with blind repetition of White House spin and, especially for so-called 'independent' media (Katrina, we're especially talking about The Nation, the magazine you've ruined), a desire not to contradict Blessed Barack.
    We wanted an independent media -- in terms of the advertising-backed as well as the donation dependant -- when the build up to the Iraq War was beginning. We attacked and bemoaned corporate media but where has Panhandle Media been the last two years? They've had no independence. Let's not kid that you can be part of Journolist and be independent. Let's not kid that you can be exposed as a part of Journolist -- as the bulk of The Nation writers were -- and get away without issuing a public statement of apology to your readers. It doesn't matter that you're an "opinion writer" -- in fact that's even worse because people reading Katha Pollitt, Chris Hayes, Eric Alterman, Richard Kim and the other Nation writers who were on Journolist thought they were reading independent thinkers, unaware that they joined with other like-minded writers to determine what to cover (Chris Hayes and Spencer Ackerman issued the edict not to cover Jeremiah Wright -- even to object to him -- because it could hurt Barack). Whores. That's who staffs independent media and that's only demonstrated all the more when they refuse to apologize for their backroom dealings, their hidden agreements and instead carp about Tucker Carlson and the outlet (Daily Journal) which exposed them.
    The other reason is that Tom Kent notes that the media can't "predict" the future. We've noted that here for nearly two years as outlets have repeatedly insisted that the SOFA means the Iraq War ends at the end of 2011 when it doesn't mean that at all. Tom Kent and AP deserve serious applause for doing what we say we want to see: An independent media that questions, an independent media which doesn't just repeat the spin of government officials.
    Today on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane spoke about Iraq with Youchi Dreazen (National Journal), Adberrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera) and Kevin Whitelaw (Congressional Quarterly).
    Diane Rehm: Let's talk about the president's comments on the US combat mission in Iraq officially over. Kevin, what does that mean for the role of the remaining 50,000?
    Kevin Whitelaw: Well that's right. The-the combat phase of the war is over according to-to the Pentagon and according to President Obama. That doesn't mean that US troops will not engage in any combat anymore. We still have a-a sizeable portion, ten, fifteen percent of the force, that really is part of a Special Forces component that is stationed in Iraq. Still, remember, 50,000 troops. So you take about ten, fifteen percent of that. These are troops that will still go out on missions here and there to captue and kill --
    Diane Rehm: With Iraqis?
    Kevin Whitelaw: In most cases. We don't know for sure, keep in mind, whether or not there might still be some unilateral missions but in most cases that's correct, they'll go out with Iraqis to-to do certain targeted missions and they'll also -- in the various training mission, the larger training mission -- there will be US troops that accompany Iraqis on various missions and you can expect that if they find themselves under fire they will certainly defend themselves. So there is still combat capability with this force that is in place. Having said that, what it does mean is that the Iraqis are-are, you know, in the front lines, they're the ones that are expected to do-to do the bulk of the security work and to make the bulk of the security decisions about where to target, where to go, how to defend and how to proceed.
    Diane Rehm: What about NATO forces still in Iraq, Abderrahim?
    Abderrahim Foukara: Well, I mean, if I may comment on the - the broader issue first of all?
    Diane Rehm: Sure.
    Adberrahim Foukara: It all harks back to democracy obvivously. In a democracy, when you make a pledge, you have to live up to it. President Obama made the pledge that, you know, he would get the US forces out of Iraq and obviously now that we uh-uh-uh closing up to-to the November election, he has to be seen as living up to his word. Now leaving -- withdrawing 50,000 combat troops and leaving several thousands more in Iraq at this time when there isn't even a government in place in Iraq, when despite all pronouncements to the contrary, security forces -- the Iraqi security forces are still not up to snuff, it is -- It may be a little controversial calling this phase, combat phase, over because, it seems to me that, US forces will remain in Iraq, will continue to be combat forces, in one kind or another, in one situation or another. So I hark back to my opening statement in this show which is that in the same way that it is managing the crisis situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Iraq will remain a crisis and the United States will keep on managing that crisis for a long time to come.
    Diane Rehm: Youchi.
    Youchi Dreazen: You know the war in Iraq has been a war of semantics from the very beginning. "The Coalition of the Willing" which didn't exist. I mean, there was a coalition of the US and a small number of allies, in some cases absurdly small. The one Icelandic female soldier who I met who was, excuse me, who was Iceland's entire military contingent in Iraq. You had five Dutch. You had a Costa Rican bomb dismanteling team who didn't want to leave any of its bases so, if the bomb was brought to them, they would dismantle it but otherwise they wouldn't go. So you had the "Coalition of the Willing" which of course didn't exist, you had "Shock and Awe" which neither "shocked" nor "awed." Now you have this transition from combat mission over to advise-and-assist mission beginning and the previous points were exactly right. You have 50,000 troops which is a considerable number. They are still having the same equipment they had before. They still have the same armored vehicles. They will still be out on patrol. It's a semantic difference but that's been the case with Iraq from the very beginning. The key difference to my mind is there's no government. The second key difference from what the president said, the president's speech sounded very much like "We are out the door." The feeling within the Pentagon is that this will be renegotiated and that, by the end of next year, there will still be troops there.
    Diane Rehm: David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post yesterday that, "One of the mysteries of U.S. policy is why Washington keeps pushing a formula that will allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep his job (or another top post) at a time when he is rejected by nearly all Iraqi political parties. America's silent ally in this peculiar gambit is Iran. After so much pain, Iraqis deserve better." Youchi?
    Youchi Dreazen: There is a very short and simple answer to the first part of the question. It's that American officials have come to like Nouri al-Maliki and to trust him which is remarkable if you remember a memo leaked out a few years ago, which had been written by Stephen Hadley who was then the National Security Advisor for the Bush administration, raising questions about Maliki and making clear that, if you read the memo carefully enough, that he was under some sort of American surveillance because they didn't trust him. Now they do. And the reason why there willing to keep him in power -- even as a caretaker, let alone post as a caretaker -- is that there's a feeling that he's a person you can do business with, a person you can trust and who has some measure of control with the security forces.
    Diane Rehm: But how much trust is there, Kevin, that they can finally get a government put together?
    Kevin Whitelaw: You know, we've been down this road. Every time there has been one of these elections, there's been a lengthy transition. This one's been even longer than the other ones but all the other ones did result in a government that was able to exercise some amount of control. At this point, it has dragged out even more, it's a sign of how little trust still exists between the parties over there and I think you also have a sense of while, while, there's a lot of Iraqis who are not big fans of Prime Minister Maliki, he's still something of a known entity to them whereas any new member -- any new potential leader , particularly from a different party will be a gamble, a roll of the dice. And so you have a real difficult question there for these Iraqi politicians to decide: Do you go with -- Which guy do you go with? The devil you know? The devil you once knew, which is a former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose party, whose coalition did well in the election? Or do you bring in yet again somebody else? And then, obviously, all of the political jockeying below that level. It's-it's --
    Diane Rehm: And considering all of that, how realistic is it that the US will pull out at the end of 2011?
    Adberrahim Foukara: I think militarily they will. My sense is the President Obama will be able to live up to his pledge to get all or most of the military out of - out of Iraq and by the end of 2011. Now what will that remain for the role of the United States in Iraq? I think the role of Iraq in the United States will, in different ways, continue to be very strong, for different reasons. One of them is obviously the fear although [US Vice President] Joe Biden actually trashed it but the fear that the Iranians are playing an increasing role and therefore for the United States to handover, if you will, Iraq to the Iranians or to anybody else, for that matter, in the region, it's not going to happen. Having said that, there's nothing that the United States, I think, they current state of play being what it is in Iraq, there's nothing that the United States can do in Iraq to actually increase its influence beyond what the -- beyond the influence that's actually attributed to-to the Iranians. You have to remember that the United States, the Americans have built a huge embassy, it's probably one of the largest embassies in the world in terms of its physical size and in terms of its staffing and that gives you an indication as to the transformation of the role of the United States in Iraq post-2011. But there's no doubt that the United States has lost influence in Iraq.
    Diane Rehm: There is also transformation of opinion about the United States as a result of the war in Iraq. Youchi?
    Youchi Dreazen: Well that was something that President Obama tried to address in his speech earlier this week. You know the multiple facets of that, obviously, the war began in tremendous, tremendous controversy which has never really gone away. It was a measure of original sin in many ways. It was seen as illegitimate, it was seen as under false pretenses. In Iraq, you've seen opinion on the United States really vary, almost like on a sign [sound?]wave. There was the initial, what Gen [David] Petraeus referred to as "the man on the moon" feeling of "Hey, US, you put a man on the moon. Why can't you restore our electricity? Why can't you restore our water or our sewage?" Then during the civil war, there was the feeling of the US is at least less of an evil than the Shi'ite death squads or the Sunni death squads. Now again, there's a feeling of -- my Iraqi staff are e-mailing from Iraqi daily, my fromer Iraqi staff when I was at the Wall St. Journal, there's still no power, it's a 125 [degrees] and they have three hours of electricity a day. So there's again the feeling of, 'We know you spent all this money, we know that it enriched a lot of corrupt officials, but why can't you fix these very, very basic issues?' One point on the speech that I thought was very interesting, if you think back to how politicized this war has been from the start -- Did Bush lie? Did Bush tell the truth? Was Saddam containable? Etc. I thought it was remarkable that, on the end, in the speech, that basically was our "We're departing" -- President Obama couched the cost of the war primarily as an economic issue. I mean, in his reasoning for why it's good we're getting out, he paid tribute to the troops, he paid tribute to the sacrifice and then said, 'We need to spend that money here at home.' And I just found it very interesting that a war that began with so much high level debate about honesty and lying and torture and deception and all these grand issues, in the end, comes down to 'we can't afford it.'
    The conversation continued. We'll stop there. If Adberrahim Foukara crotch nuzzling of Barack got on your nerves, Marcia's addressing that tonight at her site. Again, FYI, Diane has a new book that was just released today Life With Maxie -- Maxie is her chichuahua and the book's being called a must for dog and pet lovers.
    Before we go to any other topics, let's go to some Iraqi voices. Thursday Leila Fadel (Washington Post) offered the views of some Iraqis:

    Outside the heavily fortified Green Zone, where many of Biden's meetings took place, Iraqis expressed fear and frustration.
    "We wanted change, and nothing's changed," said Mohammed Imad, 21, leaning against a wall covered with old election posters.
    [. . .]
    "Whose celebration is this?" said Ibrahim Abdul Wahab, 57, a resident of Haifa Street in downtown Baghdad, where Sunni insurgents were in control more than two years ago. "It's his, not Iraq's. Where are the promises of the planned democracy?"
    Yahiya Haji: I did not hear the speech and do not care about it. It is all a lie. The American troops will stay in Iraq without a withdrawal, and who knows whether 50,000 or 1,000 soldiers will remain. No one can tell, not a security agreement or the prime minister. They will keep a force ready in case there are any security problems."
    Qasim Daoud, 44, Engineer: "Why should I listen to him? What will he say? All the words are known and have been said before. This is all a lie, the talk about withdrawal. Yesterday, there was a U.S. patrol in my neighborhood. Withdrawing, and leaving 50,000 soldiers?"
    Muhammed al-Shaliji, 43: " I did not hear the speech and I am not interested in what he said."
    Ayad Muhammed, 52, Unemployed: "I did not hear the speech because I do not think that the U.S. will ever leave us alone."
    Omar Walid, 40, Unemployed: "Half the speech was a lie, because they will not leave Iraq. If they were going to leave us why did they build 93 military bases. As for what he said -- that they will stick with the security agreement and be responsible for Iraq' borders -- say to him, 'here were you when the Iranian forces attacked Iraq? Where were you when the Iranians took over Faka oil field? Where were you when the Turkish forces attacked us?'"
    McClatchy Newspapers' Iraqi correspondents offer the views of some Iraqis. Army Officer Qaswar Abu Tariq states: "People have a right to be afraid. It (what the US has done in Iraq) is not a job well done. No one in his right mind, only perhaps a politician would like to see occupation forces extend their presence. But look around you – what do you see? The country's borders are open on all sides, open for any who wish to enter and do their will inside Iraq, whether Iran, Syria or any other of the neighbouring countries. Was the decision to withdraw come at a time when they (US) left a force able to secure our borders? No. There is no such thing - whatever the politicians say.. Believe me, if we were able to secure our borders the terrorist attacks would fall to one half – at least. So they (US) failed to provide Iraq with secure borders. And how sovereign can a country be if it needs the air-force of the U.S to protect it's air-space? In seven years, why have no steps been taken to revive our air-force? " 70-year-old, retired school teacher and grandmother of seven, Widad Hameed is interviewed:
    (Will violence escalate when the USF pull out??) (Long pause..) "I am torn between two considerations answering this question. Firstly -- I am strongly opposed to the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi sovereign soil -- and therefore hope to see them leave as quickly as possible -- This is on principle. But on the other hand, I am afraid of what might happen after they leave. I have no great faith in the abilities of the ISF and feel that the chaos in our political situation will be reflected upon the security scene as the politicians slug it out and violence will rise and the people will pay. As for the Americans -- The chaos we are witnessing is a result of their failed plans, and I don't think there is anything they could do at this late date to make a difference. Had they wanted to achieve better results, they should have been more serious about training and arming the ISF -- commanders and ranks alike – Seven years should have been long enough".

    (Should the USF interfere if violence rose to unbearable levels?) "Though I hate to say it -- But, yes, they should interfere. They have a moral duty to the citizens of Iraq. It was because of their intervention (the occupation) that security has disappeared from our lives. The chaos now present in Iraq is their doing – and they must protect us from the dangers that they brought with them when they invaded Iraq. They must protect us from al Qaida, the militias and the political violence. It is their moral duty.
    Leila Fadel (Washington Post) continued to report on Iraqis reactions today and noted the Kurds:

    "They decided to finish it, but they know it's not over," Othman said Thursday. "War with terrorism is here, and Iranian intervention is here. They are lying to tell their people that they left behind a government that is capable and Iraqi security forces that are capable. . . . There is no government, the people don't have confidence in the Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi suffering is increasing."
    Many people here say that they did not expect Obama's declaration to sound so final or that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates would acknowledge that the war is over, albeit "clouded" by its start in a U.S.-led invasion based on a false premise.
    "I'm disappointed by this new administration," Othman said. "They want to run away from Iraq."
    He also criticized Vice President Biden's trip to Baghdad this week to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission, questioning why Biden did not hold a news conference while he was here. "This is America - it's supposed to be transparent," he said.

    Arab News also reports
    on Iraq reactions: "Biden called on Iraqi leaders to speed up the process of forming a government. 'They said they have withdrawn, but they are still controlling us. They are the ones who make the decisions in Iraq,' Um Ahmed, a 42-year-old housewife, said."
    The political stalemate was noted by Diane and her guests. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 27 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
    Today Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that Adel Abdul-Mahdi's name has been officially tossed into the ring by the Iraqi National Alliance. He is currently Iraq's Shi'ite vice president and the INA has long pushed him for the post. ICG's Joost Hiltermann tells AP, "This is all really an attempt by INA to put pressure on State of Law to throw al-Maliki under the bus. That will only happen when State of Law has no other choice."
    Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which targeted security forces (Iraqi police and Sahwa) and injured four bystanders, 2 Sahwa and 1 police officer, 1 corpse (Christian male) discovered in Mosul, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left another person wounded and, dropping back to Thursday night, a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting police Lt Col Mohammed Riyadh which left him injured and claimed the life of his brother and a Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three Iraqi sodliers.
    I'm Matt Rotschild the editor of The Progressive magazine with my Progressive Point of View which you can also grab at our website at Yeah, I watched Obama's speech on Iraq and I can't say I was bold over or blown away. First of all, to refer to the US invasion and occupation as "this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq," as Obama did, is to really cake on the make up. And was it "a war to disarm a state," as he asserted, or was it instead a war to secure oil, or a war to project US power, or a war not of necessity and not of choice but of therapy for George Bush to overcome his little Oedipal complex? By the way, I could have lived without Obama's saluting of his hapless and criminal predecessor, couldn't you? And I know every president, every politician and now, it seems, every citizen must bow down to all the soldiers who serve in our military, but was it accurate of Obama to say that "at every turn, America's men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve"? I'm sure the vast majority did but what about those who followed Rumsfeld's brutal interrogation orders? What about Abu Ghraib? What about the two dozens or more Iraqis our soldiers murdered in detention? I'm glad Obama is ending combat operation sin Iraq and getting most of our troops out of there. But he didn't need to rewrite history in the process. I'm Matt Rothschild and that's how I see it.
    You can read Matthew's commentary in text form here. He leaves out one aspect in terms of crimes -- there are many, he had to select which to note -- that we are going to tackle at Third so I'll bite my tongue. The only War Crimes resulting in any real convictions. And if you're a TCI community member, you're already saying the name and know what I'm referring to.
    Barack is the Ghost of Illegal War Present and Future. Bush is the Ghost of Illegal War Past. He's far from the only illegal war past ghost popping up.
    In an effort to rehabilitate himself and land a big advance for his next book, one-time British prime minister Tony Blair's promoting his latest book Go Down Tones: Confessions Of A War Hawk. And as he attempts to make like the giddiest Gabor but comes off more like a dazed and disoriented Dame Edith, Blair described to Steve Inskeep (Morning Edition, NPR) yesterday a chapter of his book which must be entitled: "At Least She Died In A 'Democracy'."

    Tony Blair: Yes. This is someone who came to see me before the Iraqi conflict. And I remember sitting in Downing Street, up in the drawing room in Downing Street, and her explaining to me how her family had been tortured and killed by Saddam and how the country was crying out for release from Saddam. And then, after May 2003, when Saddam was toppled, she went back to Iraq, and then a few months later sectarians killed her.

    If you think/hope this led Blair to examine his War Hawk motives and actions, you don't know Tony Blair. Instead, he obsesses over what she might say now ("What would she say now?" he repeatedly asks like a Dane in a Shakespeare play) and wondering what a dead person might say is probably a great deal easier on the mind than taking accoutability for the death you caused. He's also obsessed with comparisons to Communism and the USSR (read or listen to the interview, you'll see it) so apparently the dead woman's a variation, in Tony's mind, of "Better dead than Red." Regrets, he has a few. But the illegal invasion isn't among them.
    Robert Marquand (Christian Science Monitor) explains Blair would gladly do the illegal war again; however, he would consider giving Gordon Brown the axe. (Gordon Brown is not pleased.) Not everyone is taking Blair's multitude of claims at face value. Alexander Chancellor (Guardian) observes:

    Tony Blair says in his memoir that the bloody chaos that followed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 came as a complete surprise to him. "I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded," he writes. "The truth is we did not anticipate the role of al-Qaida." Odd that, when all and sundry were warning him about it, including former president of France Jacques Chirac and Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5, who only a few weeks ago testified to that effect to the Chilcot inquiry. She said she had warned the government that an invasion would increase the terrorist threat to Britain and pave the way for an al-Qaida jihad in Iraq. That Blair should have imagined that all would go smoothly after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein suggests both a remarkable lack of foresight and a stubborn resistance to any unwelcome advice.

    While some offer reality, the Miss Hathaway to Tony's Milburn Drysdale, John Rentoul attempts yet again to rewrite history and deny that Tony is a War Hawk. John's not just a spinner, he's demented. Back in October 2009, it wasn't that he was wrong (it was already over for Labour -- as their own polling demonstrated, Gordon Brown needed to step down by Labor Day 2009), it was that he spun the polls intentionally. He intentionally deceived the public. And who benefited? No one. Those who bothered to believe John Rentoul never saw the Liberal-Democrat and Conservative wins coming. But it was all there in the polling, John just ignored it to continue to serve Tony. Robert Fisk (Independent of London) isn't falling for it or spit-shining Tony's knob:

    Has this wretched man learned nothing? On and on, it went during his BBC interview: "I would absolutely...","I definitely...", "I believed absolutely clearly...", "It was very, very clear that this changed everything" – "this" being 11 September 2001 – "Let me state clearly and unequivocally", "The Intelligence picture was clear...", "legal justification was quite clear", "We said completely accurately... "Because I believed strongly, then and now...", "My definitive view in the end is..." You would have thought we won the war in Iraq, that we were winning the war in Afghanistan, that we were going to win the next war in Iran. And why not, if Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara says so.

    At The Progreesive, Amitabh Pal takes on Tony and his bad book:
    He glibly asserts that "the full array of experts were consulted" before he made his decision, blithely omitting how his government distorted the input. But then, the honesty and/or judgment of a man is seriously in doubt when he lists George W. Bush "near the top" of any list of political leaders with the "most integrity."
    Speaking of whom, it will be interesting to see how the less eloquent of the pair handles the Iraq fiasco in his memoir, coming to a bookstore near you in November. Unwilling to wait that long, Republican leaders are already engaged in a rewriting of history. John McCain, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell all criticized President Obama for allegedly not giving Bush credit enough in his recent Iraq speech for the supposed success of the surge.
    No amount of memoir writing or bloviating will nullify the central truth about the Iraq War: It was a folly based on deceit and lies that brought about unconscionable suffering. Blair, Bush and their supporters can spin all they want.
    Okay, Pal repeats one error that the media's glommed on and it needs to be corrected. Tony Blair can't sell books. Tony Blair is hated in England. As well as around the world. As he realized how hated he was -- when his literary agent was attempting to shop Tony's next book -- a p.r. campaign was begun: Tony would donate his ROYALTIES from the book sales to help the British soldiers injured in Iraq.
    Pay attention, that's BULLS**T. Tony's gotten some favorable comments from some idiots who either don't know what they're talking about (one British soldier) or lackeys who don't care about the truth (a number in the press). Pal doesn't praise Blair for that announcement but does repeat it.
    It's a LIE. The book isn't expected to sell in big numbers. It's hoped that it will have a run on the bestseller list (four to six weeks is the big expectation). That hope would allow Tony to pocket a big advance for his next book -- which, his outline explains, will be on the peace process between the Israelies and the Palestinians (something he might need to tell participants engaged in it currently since he's planning to write about all of them). The sales for this book will determine furture advances.
    Now, PAY ATTENTION, Tony's offered to donate royalties from the sales of the books. Tony's not offering anything from the huge advance he got for writing this book. The HUGE ADVANCE, PAY ATTENTION, means that the book must be on the best seller list for six months for any royalties of any real significance to be credited to Tony. In other words, he pocketed at least six figures (some say seven) for this book and will keep that advance. He's not donating it. That huge advance means that there is little chance of a profit (even before you add in how unpopular he is) and the royalties are profits from the book sales after the publishing company, AFTER, deduct the costs of printing, promoting and, yes, his advance. There will probably be little-to-no royalties from this book. Also in the air is where the 'promise' applies. Tony's American publishing company states they're unaware of any alteration in the contract they signed before Tony made his current promise to donate royalties.
    It's a scam. Tony The Liar Blair is lying again. He's using the wounded British soldiers in an attempt to sell his bad book. He's hiding behind them. He is not handing over that big advance to them. He's not donating that to them. This should have been explained from the very start when the spin began that Tony was being charitable. You've got a lot of whores in the press who are not doing their job. (I'm not calling Pal a whore. This should have been explained in the British press.)
    To include that (and thank you to friends at Blair's British publishing house for their input), we have to pull out other things; however, that's really important because he's being declared "Saint Tony" for doing nothing. We can't note this article by Atul Aneja because we don't have the room. or Cindy Sheehan's commentary We'll pick it up tomorrow. I don't like liars and pressure needs to be put on Blair to turn that advance he pocketed for the book over to the British soldiers because, otherwise, they're not getting any money of significance (as he's well aware).
    TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Dan Balz (Washington Post), John Dickerson (CBS News, Slate), Doyle McManus (Los Angeles Times) and Deborah Solomon (Wall St. Journal) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is "Why We Love It When the President Goes Away." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Karen Czarnecki, Cari Dominguez, Melinda Henneberger and Eleanor Holmes Norton on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is about gay Republicans coming out of the closet. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations -- but check local listings -- and it explores the money behind and in the 2010 mid-term elections. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
    The $60 Billion Fraud
    Medicare and Medicaid fraudsters are beating U.S. taxpayers out of an estimated $90 billion a year - $60 billion of it from Medicare - using a billing scam that is surprisingly easy to execute. Steve Kroft investigates Medicare.
    Watch Video

    The SEED School
    There's a unique school that's giving kids from an inner-city neighborhood that only graduates 33 percent of its high school students a shot at college they never had before. Byron Pitts reports on SEED School, the first urban, public boarding school.
    Watch Video

    Tennis Twins
    Pro tennis' leading doubles champions are identical twins who are so coordinated on the court that their opponents actually suspect they have twin telepathy. Lesley Stahl reports.
    Watch Video

    60 Minutes, Sunday, Sept. 5, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

    Thursday, September 02, 2010

    Brian De Palma

    John Lithegow used to be young! Who knew.

    Of course, he was young once, we all were. But the first thing I remember him in is World According Garp. He played Roberta and did a great job in that role. So imagine my shock when I turn on the TV tonight and a movie's just started and there's Lithegow.

    I'm so tired, I didn't care what the film was or that it had started. It had a seventies look to it and I quickly realized it was Brian De Palma -- his style is immediately recognizable. I recognize Cliff Robertson and realize it's Obsession which I remember from the drive-in. I don't think I've seen it since then. And there's John Lithegow. I thought his first film with De Palma was Raising Cane but there's Lithegow in this 1976 film. And he's got a head of blond hair.

    Raising Cane is a film I fault De Palma for. It has such a rich look. And De Palma loves to show us gore and blood and flesh. So far so good. But it has Steven Bauer in it and he was so hot at that time. But even though he's got a bed scene, you really don't get anything, not even a nice tracking shot of Bauer's fine, fine chest.

    De Palma, you let me down on that one!

    When you have someone that sexy, you run with it.

    I can't narrow down a favorite film by DePalma. I love them all. And I think he's one of the country's finest directors.

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

    Thursday, September 2, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US encourages people to take business into Iraq, Joe Biden discusses the possibility of the US staying in Iraq after 2011, and more.
    Tuesday night US President Barack Obama gave a ridiculous speech declaring (again declaring) the end to 'combat operations' in Iraq. Bill Van Auken (WSWS) weighs in to note, "President Barack Obama's nationally televised speech from the White House Oval Office Tuesday night was an exercise in cowardice and deceit. It was deceitful to the people of the United States and the entire world in its characterization of the criminal war against Iraq. And it was cowardly in its groveling before the American military. The address could inspire only disgust and contempt among those who viewed it. Obama, who owed his presidency in large measure to the mass antiwar sentiment of the American people, used the speech to glorify the war that he had mistakenly been seen to oppose." Sharif Abdel Kouddous (Democracy Now! -- link has text, audio and video) asked journalist Nir Rosen for his reaction to Barack's speech:
    Well, I was offended by it. He spoke mostly about American soldiers and their suffering and their sacrifice, and the only time he came even close to mentioning that Iraqis had a hard time these last seven years is when he mentioned their resilience. He said that the US has paid a high price, a huge price. Not as huge as the Iraqis have paid. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed. Tens of thousands of Iraqis who were rendered in American detention, their lives ruined for years, children who didn't know where their fathers were. A couple of million displaced internally and abroad. Iraq is a shattered country. He said we persevered because we share a vision with the Iraqi people. Most of the Iraqi people, their vision has been, for the last seven years, that the Americans would withdraw. Now, really, nothing has changed, obviously, from one day to the next. You have 50,000 troops who remain here. When Iraq occupied Kuwait, the Americans said that as long as there's one Iraqi soldier left in Kuwait, Kuwait remains occupied. So the presence of 50,000 troops in Iraq forecloses many options, precludes many options for the Iraqis, with the implied threat. At the same time, the Iraqi security forces, I think, would like to have a continued relationship. And while Iraq is sort of occupied, it's also sort of sovereign. You don't see -- you haven't seen really for the last year in most parts of the country American soldiers on the ground. So, nothing changed today. The big change, you could say, was a year ago, when the Americans withdrew from cities and mainly stayed on bases. And we've had a test since then of the Iraqi security forces in their ability to handle the situation. And I'd say they, more or less, can handle it.
    Arab News observes, "But in reality US forces, about 50,000 personnel, are still in Iraq and will continue to be there for an unspecified period of time. They are distributed in over 90 military bases throughout the country. They are there to support and assist Iraq forces, when needed, but they will stay out of the cities. Meanwhile, private American security firms are being handed multi-million dollar contracts to carry out odd jobs and assignments in Iraq. Iraqis still remember the killings that Blackwater agents were responsible for. There are no figures on how many US mercenaries will be dispatched to Iraq to carry specific security assignments. But the issue is contentious and the majority of Iraqis are suspicious of their role. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has expressed doubts about the wisdom of the latest American pullback. Last week he said that the stalled government, combined with the American troop withdrawal, created ideal conditions for insurgents to attack. Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki echoed the same sentiments few days later and warned of a surge in militancy and attacks by Al-Qaeda members and Baathist operatives." On the ending, yesterday Democracy Now! aired a report by Jacquie Soohen:
    US SOLDIER: Good job, guys! Way to go!

    JACQUIE SOOHEN: But with 50,000 combat-ready American troops still in country, the occupation seems far from over.

    ANDREW BACEVICH: The Obama administration will insist that those are not combat soldiers engaged in a combat mission. But if you've got twenty or thirty or forty thousand foreign troops stationed on your soil, I mean, if it looks like an occupation, and it smells like an occupation, and it sounds like an occupation, it's an occupation.

    JACQUIE SOOHEN: The current Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq requires a full US withdrawal and an end to the occupation. And the US military and State Department are busy planning for what they call an "enduring presence" after the treaty's deadline on December 31st, 2011. But on bases like this one in Balad, Iraq, the military continues to invest hundred of millions in infrastructure improvements, and it is difficult to imagine them fully abandoning everything they are building here.

    COL. SAL NODJOMIAN: Joint Base Balad is approximately ten square miles, which equates to about 6,500 acres. To put that in relative terms, Andrews Air Force Base, which is right outside DC, is about 20 percent smaller than that. And we don't even have golf courses here, so that kind of puts it in perspective of how big that is. We have about 28,000 people who call Joint Base Balad home.
    Wednesday on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane explored the Iraq War with her guests Phyllis Bennis (IPS), Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post, author of Imperial Life In The Emerald City), and retired Gen James Dubik. At the end of the hour, the issue of the SOFA and withdrawal came up.
    Diane Rehm: Now next year, when those 50,000 troops come home, are we going to have the same discussion again, Rajiv?
    Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Well I'm not sure that it's assured that all of the 50,000 troops are coming home.
    Diane Rehm: The president said he's going to stick to his own timetable.
    Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Yes, but there's a caveat in all of that and that is if the government of Iraq requests US forces to stay on to continue to train or to do other advisory-and-assisting tasks that will be something that the US govenrnment will seriously consider.
    Diane Rehm; You know it's been fascinating to me that, on the one hand, you hear Iraqis say: 'Get out! We don't want you here! It's you who are creating the problems.' And then as we get ready to leave, they're saying, 'Oh no, we need you --
    Phyllis Bennis: The question --
    Rajiv Chandrasekaran: There's a deep conflict among the Iraqi people. It's not -- it's not an overwhelming view, 'Hey, just get out!' There was that view early on and then when they slipped into depths the sectarian fighting over there, both sides, both principal parties of the conflict came to see for differening reasons the United States as some degree of at least --if not and honest broker, sort of a buffering force. So they still to some degree look at the America and say, 'Hey, we sort of need you here a little bit to help us fight." And they also look at the Americans and say, 'Hey you made us a lot of promises you need to stick around and fulfill some of them..'
    Diane Rehm: Do you think those 50,000 will come home when the president said?
    Gen James Dubik: I think we must plan for this withdrawal because that's the negotiated agreement we're under right now. But the agreement can be renegotiated and I don't think all 50,000 will leave.
    Diane Rehm: Phyllis, very quickly.
    Phyllis Bennis: I think they will be renegotiated and I think many of them will stay and it depends on who you ask. The military leaders in Iraq have every interest in keeping them there.
    On The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, audio and video) last night, Margaret Warner asked US Vice President Joe Biden, "Now, if this new government says, we would like to talk about a more longer-term arrangement and keeping some U.S. troops here as a sort of guarantor, are you saying that is a nonstarter?" Biden replied, "No, we're not saying that. We're saying we're going to keep the committment that we made, that George Bush made, President Bush made, to the Iraqi people and to the then-government of Iraq." And he then went off topic. Leading Margaret Warner to restate the question, "But you're not saying that -- that the Obama administration would absolutely refuse, if six months from now, a new Iraqi government said, it would be helpful for us to keep some . . ." Biden cut in, "It would be highly unlikely that we would even consider the idea of maintaining 50,000 troops indefinitely here in Iraq. But we have committed -- and we will keep the commitment to the Iraqi people and the government -- that all troops will be out by the end of next year. If they come forward and say, we don't want you to do that, we want you to leave some troops to help us on a specific item, we would, obviously, consider that."
    Biden also stated, "The truth of the matter is, they're taking too long to form this government. But the second piece of this is, the Iraqi went and voted. But guess what? No clear -- not only no clear majority, barely a plurality. So, in a parliamentary system, this is not unexpected. But I am confident that they are now -- all have run the course of what other options they have, and it's getting down to the point where, in the -- in the next couple months, there's going to be a government." At some point. The political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 26 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.

    While Iraq's Parliament has only met once (and for less than 20 minutes then), DPA reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government's Parliament begins its fall session next week. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports that, along with the Pariament meeting only once, the Baghdad "caretaker government has stalled on projects aimed at improving people's lives" and quotes the director-general of Baghdad's electricity plant Ghazi Abdul Aziz Essa stating, "There are no decisions. We are just hanging now and we have stopped everything. We are waiting for the government to make decision. The delay affects the system very badly. It's not good for us." Today David Ignatius (Washington Post) reports on the stalemate in Baghdad:

    Talking with Iraqis in recent days, I've heard foreboding about what lies ahead as U.S. military power declines. "Frankly speaking, we are not moving ahead," said former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose party won the largest number of seats in the March parliamentary election but so far has been unable to form a government.
    "There is going to be a vacuum in the country," Allawi said in a telephone interview. "I don't think the U.S. should dictate things, but they should continue to be engaged." American officials keep insisting that "engagement" is indeed the new watchword, but their involvement in recent months, led by Biden, has been episodic and mostly unsuccessful.
    One of the mysteries of U.S. policy is why Washington keeps pushing a formula that will allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep his job (or another top post) at a time when he is rejected by nearly all Iraqi political parties. America's silent ally in this peculiar gambit is Iran. After so much pain, Iraq deserves better.
    US Senator Richard Lugar (Republican) is against the drawdown. Scott Sarvay (Indiana's News Center) quotes Lugar stating, "For the moment they don't have a parliament that's meeting. They don't have an oil law with the Curds in the north that gives them the revenue for their treasury, and there were 13 different attacks in provinces last week, which Iraqis were killed by terrorists." Maybe the prime minister issue will get resolved sooner than later? Nayla Razzouk and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that investors are avoiding Iraq due to "its weak business laws" and quotes Hayat Su's Ahmed Jamal stating, "We don't have factories or warehouses or anything like that. The investment laws are not suitable." Max Blenkin (AAP) adds that the US State Dept is attempting to get Austrlian companies to start working in Iraq. The violence is among the reasons many corporations are reluctant to go to Iraq. The violence?
    Reuters notes the Higher Education Ministry's Jameel Shihab Ahmed was shot dead today in Baghdad, assailants attacked a Sahwa check point in Tuz Khurmato killing 1 Sahwa, "municial officer Farouq al-Gertani" was injured in an attack on his car which claimed the lives of 2 bodyguards, a Mosul roadside bombing injured one Iraqi service member, 1 Mosul kidnapped taxi driver was kidnapped, killed and his corpse dumped and, dropping back to Wednesday, assailants attacked a Sahwa checkpoint in Baiji injuring five and claiming the lives of 2. In addition, Reuters notes a bus carrying pilgrims overturned killing at least 10 Iranians on a pilgrimage to Najaf and injuring 33 more.
    To Margaret Warner last night, Joe Biden denied that 2006 and 2007 were being used as the benchmark (Warner noted how Iraqis told her the use of such a benchmark is offensive) but the reality is that is what they point to in order to declare a 'calmer' Iraq. On All Things Considered (NPR -- link has text and audio) yesterday, Melissa Block spoke with Iraq's one time legal adviser to the United Nations Zaid Al-Ali.
    Melissa Block: You spent time traveling all over Iraq, and I'd like to start with you in the south of the country, the largely Shiite south, an area with huge oil reserves. What are conditions and security like there, for example, in the port city of Basra?
    Zaid Al-Ali: Well, I mean, today, the conditions are very poor throughout Iraq, the south included. But comparably, if you're comparing it to, for example, 2007 or 2006, they've improved somewhat, especially from a security point of view. You can, you know, go from one place to the other without being certain that you'll be killed on the way or kidnapped. However, regularly, there's demonstrations and riots over poor quality of public services, particularly electricity and the state of hygiene. Basra used to be called the Venice of the south because it's a city that's made up of a large network of canals, and those are now filled with garbage, completely chock-o-block. It's really amazing. You have this sense of a very poor country despite all the wealth of natural resources.
    Melissa Block: Right, so the people in the south aren't reaping the rewards of those oil riches that we mentioned?
    Zaid Al-Ali: No, they aren't. And that's really the amazing thing is we often hear that Iraq's ruling elite is sectarian in the sense that the Shia only care about the Shia and the Sunnis only care about the Sunnis. Well, it turns out that that's not even true. If that were true, then there would be improvement on the current situation because in fact they don't render any services to anyone.

    It's a sovereign Iraq -- or that's what we're told by Barack. South African Press Association reports:
    But for Fadel, the supposed sovereignty of Iraq is also contradicted by the "preponderant" US role in the country, particularly on security issues, and UN sanctions which give the New York-based institution considerable power here.
    "Baghdad is still under Chapter 7 of the UN charter," he said, which means that 20 years after the invasion of Kuwait, Iraq is still the target of drastic sanctions of the Security Council.
    Chief among them is the requirement to pay 5% of oil revenues into a UN special fund which handles war reparations, and to which Iraq has paid $30bn so far.
    "Iraq still needs the American umbrella. It is unable to protect itself from external attacks," Fadel added.
    Barack's Tuesday night speech included his 'sharing the limelight' with his pal Bully Boy Bush. Marcia refers to it as "Barack goes down on Bush," Cedric and Wally saw it as proof that Barack's got a crush on Bush, Mike argued it was proof positive that Barack was both a fraud and a putz, Elaine fact-checked the little liar on his claim that Bush loved veterans and backed them and dreamed of them and Elaine fact checked him by noting what John Kerry argued in 2004 debates against Bush, and Rebecca went after War Hawk Tony Blair and his claim that "military action was justified" by noting that if it were justified why would it require lying. On Free Speech Radio News yesterday, Norman Solomon shared the following evaluation of Barack's Tuesday night speech, "The speech really wasn't so much about Iraq except as a segueway to glorify a war based on lies, and then by contrast, at least inferentially, declaring the Afghanistan war as even more glorious, ostensibly." Meanwhile Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) reports Barack Tweeted his own speech. Meanwhile the Center for Constitutional Rights' Bill Quigley and Laura Raymond observe:
    Another false ending to the Iraq war is being declared. Nearly seven years after George Bush's infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Obama has just given a major address to mark the withdrawal of all but 50,000 combat troops from Iraq. But, while thousands of US troops are marching out, thousands of additional private military contractors (PMCs) are marching in. The number of armed security contractors in Iraq will more than double in the coming months.
    While the mainstream media is debating whether Iraq can be declared a victory or not there is virtually no discussion regarding this surge in contractors. Meanwhile, serious questions about the accountability of private military contractors remain.
    In the past decade the United States has dramatically shifted the way in which it wages war -- fewer soldiers and more contractors.
    Last month, the Congressional Research Service reported that the Department of Defense (DoD) workforce has 19% more contractors (207,600) than uniformed personnel (175,000) in Iraq and Afghanistan, making the wars in these two countries the most outsourced and privatized in U.S. history.
    According to a recent State Department briefing to Congress's Commission on Wartime Contracting, from now on, instead of soldiers, private military contractors will be disposing of improvised explosive devices, recovering killed and wounded personnel, downed aircraft and damaged vehicles, policing Baghdad's International Zone, providing convoy security, and clearing travel routes, among other security-related duties.
    The death of trust is what Tim Dunlop (Australia's ABC's The Drum Unleashed) explores, noting the undermining of both trust in the government and in the media as a result of their selling of the illegal war. He also notes how the empire responded to being called out:
    Inevitably, the empire(s) fought back. A million articles appeared that sought to brand "bloggers" as know-nothing kids in pyjamas living in their parents' basements. They were ridiculed and lampooned, even as their complaints about false information on WMDs, the role of al Qaida in Iraq, the death toll, were vindicated.
    Politicians attacked too. Dissenters were labelled as unpatriotic or useful idiots or whatever other insults could be found to cover their own culpability.
    Who could forget
    John Howard piously declaring, "If there's a demonstration, it does give some encouragement to the leadership in Iraq," and that "People who demonstrate and who give comfort to Saddam Hussein must understand that and must realise that..."
    Governments even attacked public servants they deemed enemies. In the US, CIA undercover agent
    Valerie Plame was outed after her husband criticised the Bush administration, while here, the Howard Government dishonestly smeared former intelligence analyst, Andrew Wilkie.
    In his Tuesday night speech, Barack lied that the US was 'safer' as a result of the Iraq War. Interviewing War Hawk Tony Blair today on NPR's Morning Edition (link has text and audio), Steve Inskeep pointed out, "A little bit earlier this year, a former head of MI-5, British intelligence service, gave testimony about the war in Iraq in which she said that that war, or perhaps we should say the narrative of that war, radicalized many Muslims inside Britain and outside Britain to turn against the West. Did the decision go to war in Iraq, the inevitable decision to have Westerners killing Muslims, with the inevitable propaganda that would be made of that, turn out to be counterproductive?" Blair's promoting his new book What I Did For Bush: It Takes A Sex Slave. Steve Inskeep is referring to Eliza Manningham-Buller who testified to the Iraq Inquiry July 20. From that day's snapshot:
    Committee Member Roderic Lyne: So you're saying you had evidence that the Iraq conflict, our involvment in the Iraq conflict was a motivation, a trigger, for people who were involved in the attacks in London in July 2005, who were going to Afghanistan to fight. Were there other attacks or planned attacks in which you had evidence that Iraq was a motivating factor?
    Eliza Manningham-Buller: Yes. I mean, if you take the video wills that were retrieved on various occasions after various plots, where terrorists who had expected to be dead explained why they had done what they did, it features. It is part of what we call the single narrative, which is the view of some that everything the west was doing was part of a fundamental hostility to the Muslim world and to Islam, of which manifestations were Iraq and Afghanistan, but which pre-dated those because it pre-dated 9/11, but it was enhance by those events.
    Immediately prior to her testiomny that day, a [PDF format warning] letter she sent to John Gieve (Home Office) was declassified [though some parts remain redacted]. Gieve was the Permanent Secretary of the Home Office at that time and the position provided oversight to MI5 (which is Military Intelligence, Section 5).
    We have been giving some thought to the possible terrorist consequences should the US, possibly with UK support, seek to topple Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. I thought that you might find it helpful to see our current assessment, together with an outline of our own preparations.
    2. Since the end of the Gulf War Iraq has been implicated in a small number of murders of Iraqi oppositionists in the Middle East but only one terrorist plan directed against a Western target -- a planned car bomb attack on ex-President Bush in Kuwait in 1993. There is no credible intelligence that demonstrates that Iraq was implicated in planning the 11 September attacks.
    3. We judge that the current period of heightened tension between Iraq and the US is unlikely to prompt Saddam to order terrorist strikes against Coalition interests. Even limited military action (for example, cruise missile attacks such as the those in response to the attempted murder of ex-President Bush) would be unlikely to prompt such a response. We assess that Saddam is only likely to order terrorist attacks if he perceives that the survival of his regime is threatened.
    In the UK
    4. If Saddam were to initiate a terrorist campaign, we assess that Iraqi capability to mount attacks in the UK is currently limited. We are aware of no Iraqi intelligence (DGI) officers based in the UK. There are up to DGI agents here who report on anti-regime activities. But most of these agents lack the inclination or capability to mount terrorist attacks. So if the DGI wished to mount attacks in the UK it would need to import teams from overseas. It is possible that some Palestinian groups based outside the UK might be willing to mount attacks in support of Iraq,
    5. Nonetheless, in case Iraq should try to co-ordinate action by existing UK-based agents, or to import its own or a surrogate terrorist capability, we will be taking a number of steps over the coming months, including:
    reviewing our knowledge of past and present DGI visiting case officers to identify and disrupt any increase in DGI activity;
    putting in place arrangements to deal with (and capitalise on) any increase in defectors, volunteers or callers to the Service's public telephone number who might have relevant information. Experience during the Gulf War leads us to expect an increase in such contact with the public in the event of conflict;
    with the police, maintaining coverage of the Palestinian community, some of whom, as during the Gulf War, may react adversely to any threat to Iraq.
    6. You may recall that, at the time of the Gulf War, a number of suspected Iraqi sympathisers were detained pending deportation on grounds of national security. These included members of Iraqi support organisations, as well as individuals believed to be associated with Palestinian terrorist groups, such as the Abu Nidhal Organisation. We currently assess that the number of individuals in the UK who potentially pose sufficent threat to be subject to deportation or detnetion is small. We are currently reviewing the cases of those who could pose a threat to establish whether there might be grounds for action.
    7. We believe that Middle Eastern countries would be the most likely location should Saddam order terrorist attacks on Western interests. Other locations, for instance SE Asia featured in attempted DGI co-ordinated attacks during the Gulf War and are thus also a possibility. We will, of course, continue to liaise closely with FCO colleagues to ensure they are in a position to brief missions if the situation develops.
    Chemical or biological (CB) threat
    8. There were media stories during the Gulf War suggesting that Iraq planned to mount CB terrorist attacks in Western countries, and a 1998 scare (arising from a tale put about by Iraqi emigres) that Saddam planned to send anthrax abroad in scent bottles. Given Iraq's documented CB capabilities, we can anticipate similar stories again.
    9. Most Iraqi CB terrorist attacks have been assassination attempts against individuals, often emigres.
    Iraq used chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war and also against civilian Kurds in 1988, but there is no intelligence that Iraq has hitherto planned or sought mass-casualty CB terrorist attacks. As with conventional terrorism, we assess that Saddam would only use CB against Western targets if he felt the survival of his regime was in doubt. In these circumstances, his preferred option would be to use conventional military delivery systems against targets in the region, rather than terrorism.
    10. There have for some years been reports of contact between the Iraqi regime and Al Qa'ida about CB. But we have yet to see convincing intelligence that useful co-operation developed, or that Iraq provided genuine CB materials.
    11. I am copying this letter to Stephen Wright, John Scarlett, Julian Miller and Tom McKane.
    E L Manningham-Buller
    Deputy Director General
    The Iraq War did not make England safer, it did not make the US safer. Barack lied.
    One-time reporter Thomas E. Ricks (Foreign Policy) provides his take on Tuesday night's speech:
    I thought it amounted to a defense of his presidency. He continues to strike me as a guy who thought he was elected for domestic reasons and so seems to resent how foreign affairs intrude on his time. His rhetoric on the two subjects has the feel of two different men -- on foreign policy, kind of tired and clich├ęd, written by a committee, but on domestic affairs, kind of zingy.
    As he said in the speech, he was fulfilling a campaign pledge to get all combat troops out of Iraq by today. Unfortunately, it was a phony pledge -- the mission of the U.S. troops still in Iraq is, if anything, more dangerous today than it was yesterday. And so the core of the speech was hollow.
    Meanwhile Xinhua reports on US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speaking in Iraq yesterday and notes Gates claiming it is for history to determine the call on the Iraq War. Talk about kick the can. No, it is for us to determine. It is amazing that Barack bastardized "Que Sera Sera" in his speech Tuesday night and yet, while claiming the future belongs to "us," they won't to kick any evaluation far down the road. There's a reason for that and any good defense attorney can explain it to you. Let's say your client gets picked up for a DWI. If you have the trial quickly, you can get a judgment. It probably won't be one in favor of your client. If, however, you can postpone and postpone and postpone, your client can 'reform.' (As in, "Yes, two years ago my client was arrested for driving while intoxicated; however, since that time s/he has gone into rehab, joined a church s/he regularly attends and had no more run ins with the law.") The War Hawks -- that includes Robert Gates -- are really hoping that, between now and history's judgment, they can do something -- anything -- to mitigate their actions. Nothing will mitigate it. Laws were broken. The Constitution was shredded. Whatever happens to Iraq in the future, the US government broke laws and there is no happy spin for that. The US government launched an illegal war of aggression and that's not something you can wipe away. Jason Ditz ( weighs in on Gates here.
    Dropping back to August 26th for this: " Ann Rubin (KSDK) reports some soldiers in Iraq are afraid their pay is going to be cut as a result of the creative terminology the spin is pushing. US House Rep Russ Carnahan tells Rubin, 'The bottom line is they're in a dangerous part of the world, but we've got to continue to do everything we can to be sure they get that support'." And again noting this from Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times):

    (One soldier did ask if the end of combat operations meant the end of extra combat pay. Mr. Gates said that as far as he was concerned, combat pay still applied in Iraq, where troops are still being killed by homemade bombs, sniper fire and mortar attacks.)
    This is a concern both for those serving in Iraq (and their families) and for some of those who have served who have been expressing dismay that service members might be left in Iraq -- an area they know themselves to be dangerous -- and not receive the higher pay (combat pay). In other news, we'll note this from labor journalist David Bacon's "With Papers Or Without - The Same Life In A Labor Camp" (New American Media):

    On a ranch north of the Bay Area, several dozen men live in a labor camp. When there's work they pick apples and grapes or prune trees and vines. This year, however, the ranch has had much less work, as the economic recession hits California fields. State unemployment is over 12%, but unemployment in rural counties is always twice what it is in urban ones. Unemployment among farm workers, however, is largely hidden.
    In the case of these workers, it's hidden within the walls of the camp, far from the view of those who count the state's jobless. Because they work from day to day, or week to week, there are simply periods when there's no work at all, and they stay in the barracks.
    In past, the ranch's workers were mostly undocumented immigrants. In the last several years, however, the owner has begun bringing workers from Mexico under the H2-A guest worker program. While there are differences in the experiences of people without papers and guest workers, some basic aspects of life are the same. For the last several weeks, all the workers in the camp have been jobless, and neither undocumented workers nor guest workers can legally collect unemployment benefits. Everyone's living on what they've saved. And since the official total of the state's unemployed is based on counting those receiving benefits, none of the men here figure into California's official unemployment rate.
    The camp residents share other similarities. Poverty in Mexico forced them all to leave to support their families. Living in the camp, they do the same jobs out in the fields.. All of them miss their families and homes. And that home, as they see it, is in Mexico. Here in the U.S. they don't feel part of the community that surrounds them.

    David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).