Thursday, September 15, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri is still out to get his political opponents, more on NPR's blame-the-public-for-us-not-covering-the-wars, John Walsh and Mike Ferner exchange words, Iraqi women remain under attack, the UN is concerned about outsourcing to contractors, and more.
John Walsh has a set of ethics that he sticks to. Good for him. And because of that we're opening the snapshot with him. Yesterday's snapshot included an excerpt from his report about the Veterans for Peace resolution on impeachment and praising the grassroots while calling out leadership. Leadership now wants to attack Walsh. Mike Ferner responds to Walsh here and Walsh has the first two replies in the comments. Here's John Walsh replying to Fener's attack (I'm using the term "attack" and that's what it was):
Let us look at them one at a time. Ferner's first contention is that the resolution passed in 2004 was not aimed at Bush but the incoming president whoever he might be. Thus the impeachment rally at which Ferner spoke in 2005, he implies, might have been an Impeach Kerry rally. But we will never know that since Kerry, who was like Obama pro-war, did not get elected. We do know that when a Democrat, Obama, was elected, the Board of VFP opposed an impeachment resolution in 2009 and 2010 until the rank and file rebellion was successful in 2011. So for Ferner to say "We owe no allegiance to party -- none," does not fit the facts -- unless the allegiance is to Obama and not the Dems in general. But it amounts to the same thing. To imply that he and others were as enthusiastic about an impeachment resolution aimed at Obama as one aimed at Bush is disingenuous at best. In a similar vein, Ferner points out that he did not speak on the floor of the convention against the resolution in 2011 but he neglects to mention that he opposed such a resolution for over two years. And he does not even make clear where he stands on it now. Are you for it now or against it, Mike? And why do you neglect to state your position?
That's the section I want to focus on in order to add a bit too. To me, the thing that stands out is Mike Ferner's lack of honesty regarding 2004 and today. If you're not familiar with what was voted on, click here for Mike Ferner's 2004 piece at Antiwar.com. You'll see that the resolution passed demanded "the next president announce, within 10 days of taking office, that he will withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days" -- excuse me, did Barack do that? No, he didn't. Did VFP do anything about it? No. And I believe that the "within 60 days" was a national resolution passed and remains a standing national resolution for VFP. So leadership failed to carry out the resolution membership passed. How did that happen?
It happened because VFP national leadership wanted to play footsie with the Obama White House. And they still want to. John Walsh is right to question the issue of allegiance especially when today at Antiwar.com Ferner writes:
But more importantly, what he made no mention of was the spirited debate, before and at the convention, about why to vote yes or no. It cannot be simplified into a debate between principled members who campaigned to "do the right thing" and those who didn't want to offend Democrats or were afraid of looking like racists. It was this: in order to live up to our Statement of Purpose, how can we strategically join forces with those most likely to be our natural allies so we can gain the political power needed to stop war? Viewed in that light, the story of this resolution looks a little different.
First off, Ferner himself writes he "was not present for the debate" earlier in his attack. So if he wasn't present, he probably shouldn't be characterizing it as "spirited" or not. Second, those against war do not "strategically join forces" with anyone not willing to end wars. Ferner's justifying playing footsie. If you're an anti-war group, the one thing you can't compromise on, the one thing you can't 'finesse' is your anti-war stance. If you do so, you're no longer an anti-war group. It was an issue, indeed, of doing the right thing or the wrong thing as defined by the stated goal of the movement: Ending the war. To pretend otherwise is to indulge in lying and expecting everyone to humor you.
Finally, Phil Restino, who submitted the impeachment resolution, has also written thus to me about the history of the votes on impeachment which provides some insight into the thinking and behavior of the leadership: "As far as I know personally, the only member of Veterans For Peace's national leadership during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 votes on the impeachment of Obama resolution to vote in favor of it was current national president Elliott Adams who told me on the telephone a couple-few months ago that he voted for the resolution at the 2010 convention but would vote against the resolution at the 2011 convention out of concern that VFP's passage of an impeach Obama resolution would risk VFP being labeled as racists. If there were any others in the national leadership who voted in favor of the impeachment resolution in any of those years, then Mike Ferner himself would have to be asked to tell you that information."
Instead of nitpicking, Ferner should be proud of his organization for taking a step that others have not. There are many "leaders" in the peace movement who have been similarly hypocritical when it comes to Bush versus Obama. Ferner should simply admit his error and say he has changed -- if indeed he has. And if so, he should express gratitude to the rank and file who have saved him from continued hypocrisy and dragged him into a principled position on Obama's impeachment. That is better than trying to weasel out of a two-year record of hypocrisy. Again as I said in the article in praise of VFP, "much to its credit VFP has led the way" -- out of a swamp of blindness when it comes to war making by Obama and the Dems.
That really says it all. Moving from one denial to another, today the US embassy offers its official response to an item in Wednesday's news cycle. Yesterday, we noted:
The big story in Iraqi newspapers today is on the US withdrawal or 'withdrawal.' Supposedly all US forces would leave Iraq at the end of December 2011. Al Rafidayn is one of the papers reporting that a meeting at the United Nations Mission in Baghdad a few days prior found the UN being informed by Iraqis and the US (James Jeffrey, US Ambassador to Iraq, is said to have represented the American side) that the US would pull soldiers due to leave Iraq because their tour of duty was up but that was it and it was a "formality" because, in fact, the US and Iraq had entered an agreement allowing US forces to remain in Iraq. This alleged agreement is a temporary one that would allow the US and Iraq more time to negotiate the details of a US presence beyond 2011. It would last six months. Dar Addustour also reports on this alleged temporary agreement that's been made.
Dar Addustour reports that a denial was issued by the US Embassy in Baghdad's spokesperson Micahel McClellan who denies the existence of an agreement and notes that discussions are ongoing. Aswat al-Iraq also quotes from the statement and they note, "Different Iraqi political forces have not expressed clear positions towards the said cause, but some politicians have expressed support for the presence of some American troops, till the completion of the potential of the Iraqi security forces for few more years." As negotiations continue, the US government's backup plan is the weaponization of diplomacy, shoving any remaining soldiers and contractors (remaining and new) under the State Dept umbrella. Yesterday the Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group, Faiza Patel, declared that reliance on contracting security tasks puts human rights at risk:
The three countries present different aspects of the problem, with Iraq a major theatre of operations by private military and security companies; South Africa a major source of people with extensive military skills and experience unwilling or unable to find jobs since the end of apartheid in 1994; and Equatorial Guinea the scene of a 2004 coup attempt involving mercenaries.
The panel, whose full title is the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, noted in its report on Iraq that incidents involving private military and security companies there had dropped since the killing of 17 civilians and wounding of 20 others in Nissour Square in Baghdad by employees of the United States security company Blackwater in 2007.
The immunity issue (immunity granted) also continues to present problems. At Dar Addustour's home page currently there is a poll regarding US troops and immunity. Greta Van Susteren (On The Record with Greta Van Susteren, Fox News) anticipates a White House announcement noting US troops are leaving Iraq with a small number remaining and imagines this receiving applause:
While he draws down the troops…he is, per the AP, ADDING 8000 PRIVATE SECURITY CONTRACTORS to do the job done that would be done by our leaving military.
Do you have any idea how much MORE EXPENSIVE it is to send private security contractors than to have our troops do the job? If the President thinks we need 8000 people there to provide continued security, why not use our military (cheaper) instead of hiring private contractors? You and I both know why…
When the President makes his announcement about troop withdrawal, listen very carefully to see if he tells you the whole story and that includes how many contractors doing security work (military) are already there, how much it costs, how many more we are sending with the drawdown and that cost.
In Iraq today, diplomats, military officials, and Washington busybodies are involved in a complex game of maneuvering into place American troops meant to remain in Iraq long past the previously 12/31/2011 negotiated deadline for full withdrawal. Iraq will eventually agree, probably in some semi-passive way, such as calling them trainers, or visiting students, or temps. There will be endless argument over numbers -- should it be 3000 soldiers or 10,000? The debate over whether troops should stay on, or how many should stay, begs the real question: What will all those soldiers do in Iraq?
Will the White House be forced to provide real answers at any point or will silly fools like continue to run interference for them allowing them to be left off the hook? Not everyone gives War Criminals and their enablers a pass. Linda Greene interviews Cindy Sheehan for the Bloomington Alternative ahead of Cindy's visit to speak, October 5th, 7 p.m., at the First United Church in Bloomington. We'll note this section:
BA: What were your politics like before you got involved in peace and justice activities?
CS: If you had asked me this before my son was killed, I would have said that I was very liberal, very left-wing, but that's just because of the community I live in, where being a Democrat is thought of as liberal and left-wing. I always voted Democrat because I believed that was the right thing to do. After my son was killed and after these Democratic politicians in Congress betrayed the antiwar movement, betrayed the working people over and over and over again, and even though I was uninformed and undereducated about these things before Casey was killed, I realized the two-party system really is just a fraud, and people invest all their time, energy and money where we the people have the least amount of effects. It's the corporations, it's the lobbyists, it's the robber class that really control politics in this country, and we can actually have a political system in this country that's responsible to the people. We have to start from the bottom up, not the top down.
On this week's Cindy Sheehan Soapbox radio program, Cindy spoke with Iraqi-American activist Dr. Dahlia Wasfi. They caught up at the start of the interview with Cindy noting Dahlia had gotten married since they'd last seen each other and Dahlia observed that "in the midst of all this madness, I found a soul mate who has the same conviction that I try to have." And Cindy noting she now had three grandkids (a fourth was born over the weekend).
Dahlia Wasfi: This is the same thing I observed with my family overseas in Iraq is that this is what -- they -they continue to live their lives. If they waited for things to get better, to move on, they would never stop waiting. And so the next generation is being born and they do the best they can for their families and they as well trying to make a better future for those kids. That's what comes to mind as you talk about sort-of rebuilding your own life.
Cindy Sheehan: Well also it is the anniversary, the tenth anniversary of 9-11, I'm like fed up to my eyebrows with how the US was attacked on 9-11 and we were attacked because the terrorists hate our freedom and our democracy and our way of life and they want to attack our way of life. Well, you know, if that was true, they did a really good job. There's very little talk about the people outside the US whose lives have been destroyed by whatever happened on 9-11and you don't hear their stories and how needlessly and tragically their lives have been effected by what happened on that day so that's why I wanted to invite you on because you're a very eloquent critic of US policy but you're also very eloquent in describing your Iraqi roots and what's happening to the people in that country so I just want you to today talk about that. Talk about the connection between 9-11 and Iraq and what the US did ostensibly there but what really happened there and what's still happening. Iraq has basically fallen off the face of the earth. It might as well not even exist because we don't talk about it at all.
Cindy Sheehan: And Dick Cheney said it's better, it's a better place, you know, they have a democray now and blah, blah, blah. And you know, I wish I believed in hell so I would know that Dick Cheney was going there soon but, you know, I don't think that's happening. So Dahlia, give us the Iraqi perspective on this.
Dahlia Wasfi: Well I so appreciate, I too, I really, I promise I'm not going to forget what's happening on Sunday, I'm not going to forget the anniversary, I don't need any more reminders, but I know more are coming. But, absolutely, I can tell from my personal experience. And I was born in New York, we lived in Iraq when I was little and then we left when I was five-years-old. So except for a few years in there, I'm born and raised here, I don't even speak Arabic. I know from the few months I spent with my family what they have to endure on a daily basis which is really something that I could not consistently deal with. They're much stronger than I think I'll ever dream to be. But what happened on September 11, 2001, once it was clear sort of what was being built up and I knew no matter who was responsible that Arabs and Muslims were going to be blamed in this country because that's just par for the course. It happened after the Oklahoma City bombing and pretty much anytime. It happened recently with what happened in Norway, that the first suspect was and must be a Muslim suspect. This is -- we're the go to people. And while there still needs to be a genuine investigation [into 9-11] as far I'm concerned and many others -- we still don't know exactly what happened that day -- I knew that the next hits coming were going to be racists. And I certainly didn't face what others faced in this country. I mean a lot of people, a lot of people died in this country after 9-11 because they were seen to be, they looked Muslim, they looked Arab. And then what came afterwards was our assault on Afghanistan the people of Afghanistan had nothing to do with September 11th. And the assault on Iraq which started -- the planning for that began on September 13, 2011 --
Dahlia Wasfi: 2001! Thank you. Two days after 9-11, 2001. And this was, it's very clear. I think the number is 965 times the Bush administration lied about numerous things including supposed ties between Iraq and 9-11. And the outcome today for Iraqis is their lives will never be the same. There's over a million people dead. Over five and a half million refugees. And that's 20% of Iraq's 27 million population. From what my cousins have told me, there is no one who has been untouched. Everybody knows somebody who has been killed -- either a victim of the violence that we brought to Iraq or a victim of the destruction of the infrastructure and the health care system. And then, on top of all of that, which returning veterans are suffering the consequences from as well, is our use of depleted uranium which is -- basically it's radioactive metal that vaporizes into dust and this contaminates the air and the sand and the water supply for Iraqis and it's in the air that occupying forces are breathing in so this is a gift of cancer for the next four and a half billion years. And still with that knowledge, in spite of being keenly aware of the weapons we've used and the effects on the future generations which is most vividly being demonstrated in the city of Falluja after two major seiges in 2004, Iraqis, they continue forward. Again, like, you know trying to do day to day things, put their lives back together. But what the sense that I get to this day is that they want an end to the occupation. It's very simple.
They were discussing the radiation and Aswat al-Iraq reported September 11th, "A woman has given birth of a 'distorted' child, with one eye and no nose in a Karbala hospital coming from district, where several cancer cases were register, the Director of Women and Delivery Hospital in Karbala city said on Saturday." Reuters notes a Falluja car bombing claimed 1 life and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of a police officer.
ELEANOR HALL: Just how fragile is Iraq?
LYDIA KHALIL: Iraq is fragile right now. It's not as unstable as it was in 2006 and 2007 but its government, the Maliki coalition, is really being held by a string. The situation is very tenuous, there's opposition parties in parliament who are opposed to Maliki and right now it's very difficult to get legislation past, major legislation is needed in order to move the country forward. So the Iraqi government can't really handle a series of major attacks like we saw in August.
When a middle-aged mother took a taxi alone from Baghdad to Nasiriyah, about 300 kilometres south earlier this year, her 20-year-old driver stopped on the way, pulled her to the side of the road and raped her. And that began a telling legal struggle.
"She is not a simple case," says Hanaa Edwar, head of the Iraqi rights-based Al-Amal Association, established in Baghdad after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
"She came from an affluent family, held a professional job, and told her family about the rape. They had the police arrest the driver," Edwar says. "Then she came to us for legal help. She said, 'I want my rights back, and what he has done to me, he will do to others. I want this perpetrator punished'."
The rape victim lost her case. "The judge had a male mentality. They think you should not make a scandal, but be silent. He prompted the accused with questions like, 'You did this when you were drunk -- yes?' This is how they intimidate," Edwar said. "Now we are making an appeal."
The Al-Amal Association is one of a handful of women's advocates in Iraq fighting for female equality in marriage and divorce, and opposing a draconian penal code that favours perpetrators of domestic abuse and of honour killings within households.
And Iraq continues to face serious problems regarding government -- not that you'd know it from listening to NPR which can condemn listeners for not knowing what's happening in Iraq but can't actually provide coverage from Iraq these days (see yesterday's snapshot). Al Mada reports on the continued tensions between Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi with Nouri going on Alsumaria TV to repeat his charge that Allawi is not fit to be part of the government process. State of Law then parrots their leader (Nouri) and asserts claims that Nouri, as commander of the armed forces (that's what they cite), can determine who and who is not fit to serve in the government. It's a bit like the purges in the name of de-Ba'athification done by the Justice and Accountability Commission on Nouri's behalf in 2010 to knock out Nouri's political opponents only this time Nouri's claiming (and State of Law's agreeing) that he has the right himself to ban whomever he wants. Alsumaria TV quotes Nouri stating, "Head of Al Iraiqya list is no longer a tolerated participant in the political process." Stop for a moment and grasp that Ayad Allawi represents Iraqiya and that Iraqiya, not State of Law, came in first in the March 2010 elections, that Iraqiya (not State of Law) should have had first crack at the prime minister post. And now Nouri's saying the leader of the most popular (judging by votes in the most recent election) party's leader can't be part of the political process.
Next up, he may start banning Kurds. Al Rafidayn reports that the Kurds continue to object to the oil and draft bill he's proposing and to the refusal to follow the Erbil Agreement. They've now declared that they won't even send a delegation to Baghdad for discussions until he indicates that they will be received well and participants in the Kurdish meeting state that the meeting was to send a message to Nouri about the need to implement the Erbil Agreement. Today's Zaman runs an unsigned and unsourced article about an article another Turkish paper (Taraf) ran which claims the KRG has granted approval to the Turkish government "for a cross-border operation" and states this follows meeting where "Kurdish officials gathered with US and British officials, as well as with the PKK." I am neither fluent nor functional in Kurdish so I asked a friend who is and she notes that Today's Zaman article is much, much longer than the "article" in Taraf which she states is a single paragraph of nine sentences. She also notes that details in Today's Zaman which are implied to be in the Taraf article are not in the Taraf article "including the assertion about helicopters being used."
And as a reminder of how bad things remain in Iraq, Dar Addustour reports the country's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari wants the Arab Summit to be held in Baghdad. And though that stated desire may distract a few, for most it will just remind that the Arab League was supposed to hold their summit in Iraq last year and did not. Due to the lack of safety. Despite Zebari claiming it would take place. Despite Zebari insisting it was just postponed.
Meanwhile Aseel Kami (Reuters) reported yesterday on the stop-gap measures Nouri al-Maliki used over the summer to give the appearance that issues were being addressed. The measures are described as "short term fixes" and scapegoats with the fired Minister of Electricity being an example of the latter. Tomorrow Iraq's First Lady Moqtada al-Sadr is scheduled to hold his pro-government stroke-fest. Dar Addustour reminds that Moqtada wants you to support the demands of government. It's good to know that Moqtada's no longer wasting his time on the people and now focused solely on his man Nouri al-Maliki. Now come on, is it going to take a pregnancy scare to get these two love birds properly hitched?
During Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister, his deputy prime minister was Dr. Rozh Shaways (also spelled Ruz Nuri Shawis and Roz Nuri Shawis). The Kurdish politician remains his deputy prime minister today. This may change. Dar Addustour reports US State Dept cable from June 2005 released by WikiLeaks reveal that the brother of hte deputy prime minister joined with Iraqi business people in smuggling hundreds of millions of dollars out of Iraq and into Jordan. Al Rafidayn reports on it at length here.
Eight years after the fall of Saddam, Iraq has yet to pass a hydrocarbons law, let alone come up with a coherent spending plan for its oil wealth. Meanwhile neoliberal Todd Moss writes at The Huffington Post:
So how could Iraq manage its oil? One idea (and readers of this blog will be shocked to hear) is a universal dividend paid to all Iraqis. Colleagues Nancy Birdsall and Arvind Subramanian proposed just this idea back in 2004 as a way to try to create accountability. The idea of an Alaska-style dividend for Iraq was starting to catch on, for example, this NY Times oped by Steven Clemons, proposals from Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), and even former Alaskan governor and dividend godfather Jay Hammond tried to export his grand experiment to Baghdad. Given the political and security climate of the time, the idea was thought too radical.
Is it time to think again about an Iraqi dividend? In a new CGD working paper, "Iraq's Last Window: Diffusing the Risks of a Petro-State," Johnny West asks precisely this question. West, a longtime journalist in the Middle East and founder of OpenOil, identifies a new opportunity for direct distribution of Iraqi oil rents in the planned production expansion over the next five years: [blah, blah, blah]
You know what, Todd? Iraqis have had oil longer than you've dreamed up ways to steal it. So why you don't you sit your tired ass down and let the Iraqi people decide what they want to do? It's not your right to decide for them. If you find a proposal that Iraqis are making and want to champion it, go for it. But otherwise take your big nose back to American business and quit trying to 'suggest' (tell) Iraqis what they need to do. It's their oil. It's not your oil. Your wants and hopes don't really mean a thing and it's a real shame that you and your Center for Global Development (a neoliberal lab of rape and theft) have been wrongly encouraged to believe anyone needs your 'help.' Why is Todd so 'concerned' and 'helpful'? Because the theft of Iraqi oil hasn't happened yet. And Todd knows his proposal of throwing a few pennies at a population in crisis might sell better now than earlier. Al Rafidayn notes that the White House has warned big oil to hold off on bidding currently as a result of "ambiguity" in Iraq's oil policies.
All of those stories and so many more and none of them aired on NPR. But, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, All Things Considered managed to blame Americans for the lack of Iraq coverage. We're dropping back to it (a) for transition to another topic and (b) because I was limited yesterday as I rushed to dictate the snapshot before the report aired. In addition to yesterday's criticism, we'll note these problems with the report or 'report.' Jackie Northam, at the top, declares, "Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, says support for the invasion of Afghanistan was sky-high, around 90 percent, and developments were closely followed by a large number of people. Kohut says since then, the public has been slowly disengaging from the war." And he offers some figures and says it's the same with Iraq.
Since when has news ever been what the public supports? The public didn't support BP's Gulf Oil Disaster but it was news. It doesn't matter whether the public supports a war or not, it's news. I've never supported the Iraq War but we manage to cover it every day, don't we? At the top, Pew and Northam are blaming the lack of coverage on the fact that Americans don't support the war. Wow. If that were the basis for the judgment, I don't believe the world would know the names Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Outside of a mental case like G. Gordon Liddy, who in the world would support Watergate?
Apparently Jackie and Pew have confused "popularity" and "hot topics" with what is actually news and that may be the saddest thing about Northam's report.
Then she moves on to West Point's Army Col Matthew Moten who insists "that the public has other issues on its mind" such as the economy, the federal deficit, etc. You mean the issues on the public's mind are the ones -- novel concept here -- that the news media actually reports on?
Then CATO's Christopher Preble declares that there's no "heroic victory" to the current wars and there's no "skin in the game" -- really? The United States is billions and billions of dollars in debt. Largely due to these wars. I think there's plenty of "skin in the game" -- but Jackie Northam ignores that in her report, never mentions it.
As for the media -- the ones actually responsible for what the public can follow and can't? Jackie gives them a single sentence in the last seconds of her report: "Many cash-strapped news agencies have pulled back on their coverage." Really, Jackie?
Have they? Didn't ABC News shut down their Iraq operation at the end of 2008? Didn't other networks follow suit? Wasn't the claim that they were going to focus on Afghanistan?
One single sentence notes that the public has less reports on Iraq because the "news agencies have pulled back on their coverage." Jackie Northam should be ashamed of herself. And we're not done.
CATO's Christopher Preble is brought on because -- well ask Jackie. A pollster, a right-wing (CATO) and a military historian at West Point. I'm not seeing anybody for peace in this report and maybe that's the point.
It's not that the war became "unpopular," is it, NPR? It's that the peace movement was winning. And when you couldn't whore and Steve Inskeep couldn't puff out his chest with on air bravado nobody really gave a damn about the wars that they whored so hard to sell. Isn't that the actual closer to the reality of why the wars vanished from the coverage?
In her report or 'report,' Jackie Northam declares after that single sentence on the media, "And the two conflicts barely cause a ripple on the campaign trail, especially among Republican presidential candidates, says the CATO's Preble."
As opposed to who, Jackie? Democratic presidential candidates?
And the reality is that the GOP candidates do talk about the war. They're not asked about it very often by reporters and certainly not by moderators in debates. Again, that's a media issue.
I think we need to try to move our men and women home as soon as we can. Not just in Afghanistan, but in Iraq as well. And we've got to continually reassess our objectives. We need to make strategic decisions based on consultation with our military leaders on the ground, rather than just some arbitrary political promises.
Our objective should be clear. We've got to support the Afghan national security forces as they transition into the role of being the stable and appropriate force to sustain that country. Our overall objective has to be to serve that process and to drive out those who would do harm to our country. I think we've done that in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have substantial ways to continue to put the pressure on the bad guys, if you will, and I don't think keeping a large force of United States uniform military in Afghanistan for a long period of time is particularly in the interest of the U.S., or for that matter, in Afghani interest.