Friday, October 14, 2011

Mean girls

President Obama's remark to Ed Henry of Fox News on Thursday that, "I didn't know you were the spokesperson for Mitt Romney" set off heated discussions this week around the White House briefing room.

Henry declined comment on the matter. But reporters were left wondering — is this how the administration is going to respond to criticism from Republican opponents going forward — by casting aspersions on journalists who ask questions?

Julie Mason (POLITIO) reports the above. In my lifetime, the only thing that came close in mean spiritedness was the Nixon White House.

I really never stop being appalled by the way the White House attacks the press.

They had a full on war on Fox News that would still be going on if their denials hadn't been exposed as lies. They're rude and vindictive to reporters and Barack is obsessed with every article written about him.

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

Friday, October 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a member of the US press decides he's in Iraq to mock Iraqis, Political Stalemate II continues, a new political movement issues a statement, withdrawal and 'withdrawal' of US forces continues to be explored, Camp Ashraf residents remain under assault, and more.
Starting with small and tired. The Washington Post's Dan Zak Tweeted:
Dan Zak
MrDanZak Dan Zak
Fave complaint at small, tired Tahrir protest today: Group of high schoolers want Maliki to let them retake their exams bc they failed.
You know what's small and tired?
Journalists who think they're better than the beat than they're assigned to cover.
A reporter for the Style pages who is fortunate enough to get a break into real reporting needs to lose the snark and snide about the subjects they're covering.
The high schoolers may or my not have been amusing -- this wasn't their first appearence at the protests. They really aren't my concern. A "small tired" protest? Well aren't you just above the people protesting because their loved ones have disappeared into what passes for a legal justice system in Iraq? Aren't you above all those women crying in public for their sons, their husbands and their fathers that they haven't seen in months or years, that they don't even know if they're alive.
The Disappeared.
That's what they are but apparently journalists whose experience comes via the Style pages, lack not only reporting chops but any real sense of value or perspective or, if nothing else, the instinct to know what plays as a good story. The snark goes a long, long way towards explaining why Zak's coverage has been at, best, disappointing and, at worst, superficial to the point that actual attempts at news stories read like clip jobs.
Videos of the protest -- here, here and here -- show at least 52 adults. At least. And I'm not arguing that's all of the protesters. I'm saying there are at least 52 different adults on video and there's never an establishing wide shot of the crowd to demonstrate that that's all of those present or that there's a lot more present. Dar Addustour reports "hundreds" were participating.
Let's assume it was just 52. Other than WWD and possibly In Style 'magazine,' does Dan Zak read? Does he read the Washington Post? The Post was the only print outlet to nail down what was happening with the protests in real time. (The only broadcast outlet to get it right was NPR.) Intimidation, arrests, torture. Is Dan Zak familiar with what has happened to activists taking part in the Friday protests?
He doesn't seem to be. That's a large number in the midst of war zone with a new Saddam watching over and taking retribution against those who speak out. While Dan Zak was demonstrating just what a little bitch he can be, the Great Iraqi Revolution reported, "A number of brave Iraqi women attended Tahrir square demonstrations today wearing coffins to represent the government repression and to express their challenge to the government. " And they noted, "The government forces attacked the female activist -Shahrazad- in Tahrir square today, they have beaten her up , dragged her on the street after the demonstrations ended and stole her camera, 2 mobiles and money "
But what does violence against activists matter when Dan Zak's more concerned with announcing to the world that his parents raised a little bitch. What a wonderful moment for them, for the US and for journalism. And, in fairness to Zak, whomever was foolish enough to judge him ready for actual reporting should have stepped in a long time ago and told him, "You are blowing it and your career with it." The crap he's turned out is not sufficient for hard news reporting. He deserved to be told that so he could try to make adjustments. Instead, he's just been allowed to embarrass himself with no support and guidance.
Turning to the topic of withdrawal, Al Mada reports that, while in London, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaif told the BBC that the Parliament would not grant immunity to US soldiers in Iraq after the end of this year. The newspaper also notes that US officials are pressing Nouri to grant the immunity himself but Nouri continues to state immunity would have to be referred to Parliament. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reviews some of the options which might allow the US military to remain on the ground in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011: "The US government plans to maintain a sizable presence in Iraq, where it has its largest foreign embassy. This already has US military trainers attached to it, and uniformed military personnel could receive diplomatic protection. NATO, which has a training mission in Iraq that will stay through 2013, is providing expertise in logistics and policing. Iraqi lawmakers are also discussing an extension of the NATO mission, which would allow trainers in many cases to come under their own country's legal jurisdictions for certain crimes." Dar Addustour notes that US Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Iraqi shortly Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's first deputy Parliament Speaker, Qusay Al Suhail, expected on Thursday a surge in armed attacks as US forces are close to withdraw from the country. Suhail urged security forces to double efforts and carry out preventive operations to prevent gunmen from carrying on with their suspicious agendas." Jordan Michael Smith (Salon) weighs in on why pulling all US troops is the thing to do:
Just as withdrawing from Vietnam enabled the United States to concentrate on its only true foe in the Cold War, so leaving Iraq will permit us to focus on the anti-American terrorists that should always have been our only targets after the 9/11 attacks. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges argues in his new book, "The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda," that the terrorist organization is effectively decimated, its leadership destroyed and operational abilities devastated. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior military officials have made similar claims.
Even if they are too sanguine, withdrawal from Iraq will aid efforts against al-Qaida. Iraq has always been at best a distraction from campaigns to defeat those who attacked America on 9/11, and the war there continues to consume precious American resources, attention and, of course, human lives. Redirecting these against bin Laden's few remaining followers is the wisest course of action.
None of this is to say that leaving Iraq will be completely painless. Leaving Vietnam was not, either. Ultimately, however, keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops only delays the inevitable. Americans and Iraqis will be better off if the United States learns the most important lesson the Vietnam War teaches: Once you get into a losing venture, getting out as soon as possible is the only way to win.
Today, Aswat al-Iraq reports that a new political movement in Iraq has announced itself -- the National Rectification Movement -- which, supposedly, will "express the aspirations of the people and get rid of the accumlated mistakes." In the meantime Political Stalemate II continues in Iraq. The Kurdish officials (minus Goran) and Nouri have been at loggerheads over (a) the failure to implement the Constitution's Article 140, (b) the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement (agreement which allowed Nouri to have a second term as prime minister) and (c) Nouri's proposed oil and gas bill. Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) interviews Kurdish official Arif Tayfur about the recent trip to Baghdad:

Rudaw: Did your visit to Baghdad achieve anything?

Arif Tayfur: The Kurdish delegation was very pleased with the meeting with Shiite National Alliance. There was a great deal of understanding. The Kurdish delegation was representing all of the Kurdish parties and movements in Iraqi Kurdistan. It expressed its concerns to the Shiites about the current situation in Baghdad and the attitudes towards the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The Kurdish delegation will present the results of the meetings to Iraqi Kurdistan's President (Massoud Barzani) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in order to determine whether a KRG delegation will be sent to Baghdad or not.

Rudaw: Did Baghdad make any promises to the Kurdish delegation?

Arif Tayfur: The Kurds were satisfied with their meeting with the Shiite alliance, as they promised the Kurds that all matters will be dealt with via agreements and mutual understanding. The Kurdish delegation met separately with the Dawa Party and our delegation has conveyed all of their grievances in a straightforward manner. We also expressed our willingness to solve all the issues, but it appeared that the core issues are between KRG and the Iraqi federal government.

Al Mada reports Parliamentary attendance rarely reaches two-thirds. Meanwhile the Iraqi Justice and Reform movement, Alsumaria TV reports, is claiming Iraiqya has a secret deal with the Kurds on Article 140 of the Constitution (which outlines how the dispute over Kirkuk will be resolved). If it's not true (no proof is offered), it may be a response to the revelation that Nouri's attempted to enlist the League of Righteous into the Article 140 issue. (The League of Righteous is a merry band of thugs who have targeted and killed Sunnis, Americans and Brits throughout the Iraq War.) Aswat al-Iraq reported Thursday, "An al-Iraqiya MP announced today that his bloc currently has no intentions of withdrawing trust from the government, because it will create a state of 'chaos' in the country. MP Ahmed al-Jubori told Aswat al-Iraq that his bloc called on the government to solve all pending questions, particularly the security and services, as well achieving national partnership. Earlier, MP Ahmed al-Alwani said that there are alternatives to prevent the government to reach the status of one party and one leader by leaving the government to weaken the role of the prime minister." Yesterday Al Mada noted that some members of Iraqiya are launching an effort to convince political slate leader Ayad Allawi to rethink his decision to give up the post heading the (not yet created) security council. The Erbil Agreement allowed second placed Nouri al-Maliki (his State of Law came in second in the March 7, 2010 elections) to stay on as prime minister provided (among other things) an independent security council was created that would be headed by Allawi (whose political slate came in first).
Still on the political parties, Al Mada quotes State of Law MP Ehasn Yassin al-Awadi declaring that Iraqiya and State of Law are not speaking. He maintains that Iraqiya has been inflexible in their stand and that the two political slates had reached a brick wall. State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's political slate. Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi's political slate. Iraqiya came in first in the March 2010 elections. Also noting State of Law is the Great Iraqi Revolution: "The Ministry of Higher Education accepts the deputy of State of Law Coalition Abbas Al-Bayati for higher studies, though he failed the competitive evaluation tests , he's above the allowed age and he didn't get the required qualifications after graduation . This is not strange since the Secretary of Higher Education Ali Al-Adeeb belongs to the same party ( State of Law Coalition) !!" In other State of Law employment news, Al Mada reports that Nouri's made some new appointments. As they note, Allawi has long accused Nouri of waiting until Parliament goes on vacation to make replace people he wishes to be rid of (thereby bypassing Parliament). Iraqiya's calling attention to Nouri pulling State of Law members and replacing them with people he can presumably have more faith in. Iraqiya calls it yet another attempt by Nouri to "crack down on democracy."

On the topic of violence, Reuters notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul, 1 suspect was killed in Mosul by the Iraqi military, a Baquba roadside bombing left six people injured, and, dropping back to Thursday night, a clash in Hilla led to 1 person being killed and two more injured.
Over 3,000 Iranian dissidents, welcomed into Iraq prior to the start of the Iraq War, reside in Camp Ashraf. Mehran Bahramian (New Zealand's Scoop) explains, "Camp Ashraf was established 26 years ago in north of Baghdad by the members of the Iranian opposition movement, the People's Mujahidin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The PMOI is an Iranian democratic secular political force opposed to the theocracy of the mullahs of Iran. The PMOI renounced the use of force in 2001 and voluntarily gave up their arms to the American forces in 2003. In return the American and the Multi National Forces recognized the residents of the camp as protected persons under the 4th Geneva Convention." In yesterday's New York Times, former FBI director Louis J. Freeh had a column in which he wrote, "The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamel al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, has brazenly murdered members of the Mujahedeen Khalq. Mr. Maliki justifies his attacks by noting that the group is on the United States' official list of foreign terrorist organizations. In April, Iraqi forces entered Camp Ashraf and fatally shot or ran over 34 residents and wounded hundreds more. Mr. Maliki has now given the Mujahedeen Khalq until Dec. 31 to close the camp and disperse its residents throughout Iraq." Earlier this month, Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that the residents had "applied to the United Nations for refugee status." While that's decided, we'll note what the International Committee of the Red Cross stated (last spring) were the obligations to the residents:
The authorities have the obligation to respect the rights that Ashraf residents enjoy under national and international law. In particular, the authorities must preserve the residents' physical and mental well-being at all times, and must allow families to remain together as far as possible.
Furthermore, the ICRC has regularly reminded the authorities of their obligation to respect the principle of "non-refoulement," which is a principle of international law that prohibits a State from transferring people to another State or authority if there is a risk that they may be subjected to any kind of ill-treatment, or that they may face persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
We have also reminded the authorities of their obligation to ensure that civilians in Camp Ashraf -- as elsewhere in Iraq -- have access to such basic necessities as food, water and medical care.
September 13th, the United Nations High Commissionor for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a guide on the status of Camp Ashraf residents applying for asylum to various countries which led with:
Camp residents who have submitted requests are accordingly now formally asylum-seekers under international law whose claims require adjudication. International law requires that they must be able to benefit from basic protection of their security and well-being. This includes protection against any expulsion or return to the frontiers of territories where their lives or freedom would be threatened (the non-refoulement principle).
As Swiss News has noted, the immediate impact of the guide was for Switzerland which "is considering whether to take in refugees" from Camp Ashraf. Trend News Agency noted at the end of last month, "Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, announced today that she has appointed Jean De Ruyt to advise on the European Union's response to Camp Ashraf, EU website reported." AFP added, "A spokesman for Ashton said Monday that Jean De Ruyt, Belgium's former ambassador to the EU, will act in Brussels 'as an advisor on the European Union's response' to Camp Ashraf, located near the border with Iran and home to some 3,4000 Iranian dissidents."
Al Mada reports Speaker of Parliament Nujaifi has declared that Sunnis in Iraq believe they are treated as second-class citizens. Nujaifi is quoted stating that Iraq's house is for all but is in a trainstion currently as the people realize their rights. Sunnis are targeted in Iraq. Many groups of Iraqis are targeted. Al Rafidayn reports on Iraq's dwindling Jewish community which has fallen throughout the war from "tens of thousands" to seven in Baghdad. The article cites an AFP report on Jews who had left and quotes one stating, "We were reluctant to leave Iraq, it was the only home we knew." However, throughout the war, Jews have been targeted with kidnappings, threats, and murder. For example, in 2007, a Jewish man (the husband of a dentist) was kidnapped from his Baghdad home. A Jewish man shares that his Muslim neighbors treated him with "affection and love" but that it became harder to live there and harder to conceal his religion because it is noted on the national ID card that Iraqis must show when traveling through the many checkpoints. His family home was illegally seized and turned into a space for livestock despite the fact that they have the documents that go back to the 1920s proving they own the property.

All of Iraq's religious minorities have been targeted and live under the threat of violence. Compass Direct News reports on a family in Iraq that converted from Muslim to Christian:

"When our relatives come from Baghdad, we need to move everything that is Christian," Nuria's mother said. "In short, we are living two lives. It is very hard on children. We are adults, and it is hard for us to live double lives, but for children it is worse. Even their personality will be affected."
Nuria and her family, whose names must be withheld for their safety, are Iraqi Arabs who converted from Islam to Christianity. Whereas Assyrian Iraqis are accepted as Christians by ethnic identity, Iraqi Muslims believe Arabs have no business becoming Christians; it is not possible, according to society and the constitution.
Nuria's parents, like many converts in Iraq, struggle to raise their children as Christians in a society that will only accept them as Muslims. If the children say they believe in Jesus, they face beatings and scorn from their teachers. Because their identification cards say they are Muslims, they cannot enroll in Christian schools, and they must take Islamic religion classes. Likewise, because of their identity cards they later would only be able to marry another Muslim under Islamic rites.
Today Iraq War vetern Adam Kokesh's program Adam vs The Man returns. They're calling it AVTM 3.0 and the first episode, today's episode, is here. Iraq Veterans Against the War notes:
Service members who experience PTSD, TBI, MST, and combat stress have the right to exit the traumatic situation and receive immediate support, and compensation. Too often, service members are forced to redeploy back into dangerous combat, or train in situations that re-traumatize them. We say, individuals suffering from trauma have the right to remove themselves from the source of the trauma. Service members who are not physically or mentally healthy shall not be forced to deploy or continue service. Learn more about what Operation Recovery is fighting for here

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Netflix, NPR

Stan covers Netflix and does a great job of it. I was asked my take on Netflix in an e-mail so I'm going to weigh in.

I was a Netflix subscriber back in 2005. I'm on the road so if I'm a year off, forgive me.

Being on the road, I had little use for the DVD aspect. It was just too much of a hassle to keep up with a DVD I carried on the road. So I just stream and when they did their price hike, I dropped the DVD effort. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. But if you're on the road like I am, streaming's a good choice.

If I wasn't, it wouldn't be. But we can be anywhere and I can stream.

The selection's not that great if you've got the time to stream all the time. But if you grab a movie or TV show on the go the way I do -- I probably stream a film from Netflix no more than twice a week -- it's worth it. There are times when we're at a hotel where the cable goes out and that's not fun. Or there's nothing on worth watching. Or I just want to go to sleep and want a movie on in the background. (I can write about that if anyone's interested.)

Right now I'm watching Damages, the third season. I wouldn't have been able to enjoy that series (Glenn Close stars) without Netflix. I couldn't have followed it because I can't watch a program every week at the same time. My schedule's in too much flux. But instead, I've been able to discover the show via Netflix. I'm only on episode three currently. Again, I don't have that much time to watch. Episode three of season three.

As for the NPR story I put on hold, I'm all for Congress defunding them. The way they've screwed over listeners, they can kiss my ass. I enjoy Cokie Roberts' analysis (I'm serious) and that's more and more about it. Sorry. I can't believe how they've walked away from Iraq coverage. That, more than anything else, is why I will be firmly on the side of "Defund NPR."

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, negotiations continue to keep US troops in Iraq, how many troops Gen Lloyd Austin wanted is "classified," will Dennis Kucinich be the only Democratic member of Congress to seriously address the Iraq War, the US military announces another death, three US soldiers are wounded, Sadr City is bombed, and more.
Houston Chronicle reports, "Cheif Warrant Officer James B. Wilke, 38, of Ione, Calif died Oct. 10" in Operation New Dawn. David Burge (El Paso Times) speaks to his wife of fifteen years, Moia Wilke, who states, "We don't know for sure what happened. [. . .] There are no words to explain the love we had. It was way too good to be true. He was the love of my life and I was the love of his, soul mates. We always thought we would be together. Now, nothing makes sense."
Independent Online News reports, "A rocket attack on a United States military base in Iraq's southern Maysan province wounded three American soldiers on Wednesday, a US military spokesperson and an Iraqi security official said." Press TV adds, "According to the reports, emergency vehicles were sent to the military base and helicopters flew overhead. [. . .] The rocket attack comes as two Iraqi soldiers were gunned down at an army checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul late on Wednesday."
For the second day in a row, Baghdad was slammed with bombings. Reuters reports, "Two bomb blasts killed at least 16 people in a mainly Shi'ite Baghdad district on Thursday in the latest in a series of large attacks to hit Iraq's capital in less than a week." It was the Sadr City section of Baghdad, Moqtada al-Sadr's power base. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quotes barber Hassan Rahim stating, "We rushed outside the shop and we saw fire and smoke near the houses. I saw dead people on the ground and several burning cars. We helped take the wounded to the hospital until the arrival of the ambulances." Salam Faraj (AFP) adds Iraqi officials state, "women and children were among the casualties, while the interior ministry official said six policemen and three soldiers were among the wounded." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) updates the death toll to 18 (forty injured) and quotes Sadrist MP Hakim al-Zamili stating, "The security officials don't really care about people and their lives because they live in the heavy protected green zone and they never feel the danger."
Again, this follow's yesterday's Baghdad bombings. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) covers them in "If you think Iraq's secure, read this about Wednesday's violence" in which she notes at least 22 people died and another seventy-four were injured in Baghdad alone. A security official tells Issa, "Amred groups are choosing their targets very carefully. They are targeting members of the security forces and government officials. It is not as random as it used to be. And the way they were able to coordinate so many targets all over the capital indicates one of two things: either they are much more organized than they used to be, with the high possibility of having inside help. Or our security forces are sleeping. And in either case that Maliki has failed to provide security for the people."
In other violence today, Reuters notes a Falluja roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left five people injured, a Shirqat shootout led to 1 suspect being shot dead, a Shirqat roadside bombing claiming the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and, last night, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghdad.
With the deadline for the withdrawal all U.S. troops from Iraq less than 100 days away, nobody seems to know whether troops will be allowed to stay, how many, and under what conditions. Even the basic parameters of a possible Iraqi request for a follow-on U.S. military training presence remain largely unknown and caught in the labyrinth of local politics. This uncertainty is snarling planning efforts and has certainly irked Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who famously exhorted Iraq's political leaders to "dammit, make a decision" during his first trip to Baghdad this summer.
Why exactly is a troop decision taking so long? It is certainly a highly sensitive matter, but the deadline was set in 2008 and has hardly sneaked up on anyone.
Why is it taking so long? That's one question. Another is why the American people are kept in the dark on it. Yesterday's snapshot noted a Congressional hearing that was pretty well attended by the press for a Subcommittee hearing. I really haven't seen any reporting on that outside of this community. It was a pretty important hearing with State and Defense represented and the focus being on Iraq (for the last 20 or so minutes, the focus shifted to Iran -- the hearing lasted about one hour and nine minutes). We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot and last night Wally covered it in "US House Rep Jason Chaffetz (Wally)" (at Rebecca's site), Kat with "House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations" and Ava, at Trina's site, with "DoD says it can't talk about Iraq in an open session." And on the topic of the American people being kept in the dark, we'll note this exchange, US House Rep Jason Chaffetz is the Subcomittee Chair and Alexander Vershbos is with the Defense Dept.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Ambassador Vershbos, let's talk about the number of US troops, what the Iraqis are requesting or authorizing. How many is the president authorizing?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Mr. Chairman, no decisions have been made, uh. Discussions are still ongoing, uh. On the nature of the relationship from which would be derived any --

Chair Jason Chaffetz: So the number of 3,000 to 4,000 troops that we here, is that accurate or inaccurate?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: As I said, there's a lot of things going on in these discussions which predate the announcement of October 4 when the Iraqi leaders took the position they're taking regarding no immunities so obviously the discussions now have taken on a different dimension so beyond-beyond that I really can't say because nothing's been decided. The shape of the relationship will be determined in part by how this issue of status protection is-is addressed. So it's a work in progress. Even as we speak discussions are taking place between our ambassador [James Jeffrey], uh, the commander General Austin, and Iraqi leaders. So it's really difficult to give you more than that today.

Chair Jason Chaffetz: Now there was a report that General Austin had asked for between fourteen and eighteen thousand troops. Is that true?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Again, I-I can't comment on internal deliberations. A lot of different ideas have been

Chair Jason Chaffetz: Wait a second, wait a second --

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: --tossed around in the last few

Chair Jason Chaffetz: -- do you know what the actual request was?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: Uh -- the military leadership was asked to provide a range of options and they've done that and that was the basis on which we engaged the Iraqis and now the discu --

Chair Jason Chaffetz: Do you know what General Austin requested?

Ambassador Alexander Vershbos: I can't talk about that in an open session, Mr. Chairman. It's classified.

As Ava observed, "The number that Lloyd Austin, the top US commander in Iraq, wanted is classified? Classified is supposed to be something that would endanger national security." The American people aren't even allowed to know the numbers tossed around. The White House is completely unresponsive and were the useless gasbags on my side (the left) paying attention at all, they'd be calling out the White House.
Barack got the nomination lying to the American people. He was never the anti-war candidate or even the anti-Iraq War candidate. He was a trashy operator in a boy's style suit to give him a child-like innocence that the current gray hair won't let pull off next year. And because he was such a little boy in grown up clothes, the press couldn't ask him hard questions, like, "Hey, Wet Behind The Ears, why don't you tell us, if you're against the Iraq War, why didn't you ever vote against in the Senate?" He didn't vote against it because before he got to the Senate, he'd decided that the US had to stay. He said that to Elaine and I at a fundraiser when he was running for the Democratic Party nomination. But the press fawned over him -- treating him not unlike Joe Biden's infamous remark that was greeted with such shock and disdain. At what point does the liar get held accountable? "We want to end the war and we want to end it now!" he hollered at one tent revival after another in 2008 to the wild applause of the Cult of St. Barack. He misled the public and not only has he not ended the Iraq War as they believed he promised to do, now he's working to expand it. At what point does he get pressed on that?
With the Iraqi press, it's a rare day that you can't find articles in several papers about the possibilty of the US extending its military stay. But in the US, the press distracts non-stop.
Again to Sean Kane:
The final area of complexity on the troop extension relates to the main schism in Iraqi domestic politics, that is the competition between Prime Minister Maliki's Shiite National Alliance and former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's mainly Sunni Iraqiyya coalition. Virtually every major government and legislative action is now filtered through the prism of which man gains and which loses, including the decision on a U.S. military presence. Such zero-sum politics make compromise difficult, nuanced public discourse based on national interests unlikely, and a major legislative accomplishment such as parliamentary endorsement of a new security cooperation agreement even more challenging (especially since the Parliament just went into recess for six weeks).
This is important because U.S. officials have concluded that parliamentary approval is legally required under the Iraqi constitution for privileges and immunities to be conferred upon any U.S. soldiers acting as trainers.

That's an interesting interpretation (the Nouri and Allawi aspect); however, that second part about parliament? Uh, no. US officials have not concluded that. Defense and State are not in agreement on whether or not a memo of understanding, for instance, signed by Nouri and Barack, would require Parliament's approval. And that's even before you get into the debate about powers as written or powers by custom.

But that's not why we went back to Kane's article. We went back to it because of the very premise of the article. Can you summarize it? "Why won't Iraq agree right away to US troops on their soil?"
That's the standard question and the way the US press reports it. Why isn't the question, "Why is the White House insisting US troops stay on the ground in Iraq?"
If Bush were in the White House, the press could argue (as they're so fond of doing) that reporters don't take positions and they could pretend that was somehow opinion journalism. But Bush isn't in the White House. Barack is. Barack who ran pretending to be against the Iraq War. Barack who pretended he would bring home all US troops from Iraq.
It's not opinion journalism to ask why the candidate is not living up to his promise on the issue that generated so much support for his campaign.
The US press has ignored the White House efforts to extend the US military presence in Iraq as much as it could. When forced to cover it, they will with an article that tosses the question to the Iraqi side when what needs to be asked is:
1) Why is the campaign promise being broken?
2) If it was a "dumb war," why has President Barack Obama continued it for years now?
3) At what point are the American people and their desires going to be factored into any decision on Iraq?
4) How is the US secured by US soldiers remaining in Iraq?
The US press had a million and one excuses for their coverage that sold the war. They swore it would be better someday. We're still waiting for an adult press to emerge in the United States when it comes to Iraq.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Hi. I'm Congressman Dennis Kucinich, To my brothers and sisters with Occupy Wall Street and around the nation who are fighting for economic justice, let's not forget the wars. Nine years ago, the House of Representatives authorized the war on Iraq based on lies. Those who would rewrite history today would have us believe that we were fooled into thinking that Saddam Hussein was a threat and had something to do with 9-11. That's not true. We were not fooled. We were lied to. Lied to by those who wanted the war for their own personal financial gains. Nine years ago, I analyzed the authorization for military force in Iraq and it was obvious based on information freely available that it was based on lies. I'll put a link to that analysis below. We were not fooled. We were lied to. It's now obvious to even the most fervent war profiteer that the war in Iraq was a mistake. Iraq was not pursuing Weapons of Mass Destruction, had nothing to do with 9-11, was not a threat to the United States, so why have we stayed in Iraq so long when we know it's a lie? Why did we see an estimated a million Iraqi civilians die? We know war profits have soared. Wall Street favorites like Haliburton, KBR, Bechtel, DynCorp, Northrup Grumman, General Electric and General Dynamics do very well when we spend money on war. Halliburton's stock price rose 600% between October 7, 2002 and June 30, 2008, the end of the quarter before the financial crisis. The war in Iraq may end up costing as much as $5 trillion dollars, and we have sacrificed the lives of 4,473 brave Americans and tens of thousands of our troops have been injured. The money spent for war could have spent on education, creating green jobs and rebuilding our infrastructure. It's time to end these wars. It's time we got some of our money back. We should implement an excise tax on the profiteers who have gained so much from a war based on lies. Keep Occupying Wall Street and I will keep occupying Congress.
With all the money wasted, with all the US lives wasted, with all the Iraqis murdered, and with no functioning government and Little Nouri as the new Saddam, exactly why should US tax payers support another day of this illegal war?
At what point does that question get asked? Maybe if Helen Thomas were still in the White House pool but, of course, the whole point of running her out of the pool was to avoid those important questions and instead to banter with the White House like, this week, when Jay Carney apologizes for showing well after the press-conference-in-two-minutes, he declares something came up and the alleged best and brightest in DC quickly shout out 'jokes' about was it his lunch they came up?
It's good to know that while they fail to inform the American people and while the US is still engaged in endless war, the DC press corps does find time to get their yucks on.
The Palm Beach Post pretends to ask the important questions about the US military remaining in Iraq. Pretends because their 'on the one hand' for staying is that if Iran takes over Iraq, "it would be bad for him [Barack] politically -- not to mention any actual increased risk of global terror." Yes, those are the stakes, Barack's image. In that case, let's kill another one million Iraqis (is it up to two million yet?) and send another nearly 5,000 US troops to their death because what really matters is not what Barack does, but how he looks. That really is why the United States was created, right? To ensure that one day Barack's image would be protected. The paper's readers are smarter than the journalists who work for the paper as evidenced by the poll -- 80% say no to US troops staying in Iraq. Yes, it's a small poll but maybe the paper doesn't have a lot of readers?
If you're not getting how dysfunctional the government in Iraq is, the United Nations press office notes:
More than 550,000 children in some of the most vulnerable districts of Iraq will benefit from a United Nations-backed school feeding programme that seeks not only to improve their nutrition but also to encourage poor families to send their children to school in the first place.
The joint programme launched by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Iraqi education ministry will provide a fortified midday snack to primary schoolchildren at some 1,800 schools in 24 districts over the 2011-2012 academic year.
Yes, that is good on the part of the UN. Good for the UN! Yea, for them. But what about Iraq? The press office notes that nearly 8 million Iraqis live below the poverty line.
What's the current government scandal in Iraq?

Jalal Talabani's visit to New York to speak at the UN and how it cost the Iraqi government $2 million dollars. If they've got two million dollars (and they do) to spend on Jalal's visit, then they should have enough money to feed all the children in Iraq without help from the UN (which would allow the UN to focus their resources on other countries -- countries that aren't awash in oil billions each year).
That's how corrupt the government is. They will spend $2 million dollars for the ceremonial president to travel to NYC and back but when it comes to feeding their own, they want the UN to provide assistance. Everyone's benefitting from the Iraqi oil billions . . . except the Iraqi people.
Moving over to the topic of journalists in Iraq, Aswat al-Iraq notes that their own Adil Fakhir Farhoud and Ali Nakeel Ila'wi "won prizes in the Open Eye Tournament of 2011." The honors come as the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers and others opened the World Press Summit in Vienna today with a call for press freedom in the Middle East. World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers president Jacob Mathew declared, "While the world's media scrambled to cover these epochal events, it was libertaion time for journalists and news media in these countries." Tara Conlan (Guardian) reports the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers review of the last ten years finds that Pakistan is the most dangerous country for journalists with 36 killed this year so far and Iraq pulls right into second place.
In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and her office issues the following:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office

Wednesday, October 12, 2011 (202) 224-2834

Chairman Murray's Statement on Passage of House Veterans Employment Bill

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, released the following statement on House passage of the VOW Act, a bill to address veterans unemployment sponsored by House Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Jeff Miller. Chairman Murray first introduced legislation in this Congress to help put veterans to work with the Hiring Heroes Act, which passed Senator Murray's Committee unanimously on June 29th and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.

"I look forward to working with Chairman Miller to build around both of our efforts to start putting veterans to work. This is an issue that should transcend partisanship and remind us that doing right by our veterans always comes first. We have made tremendous investments in training and supporting those in uniform and simply patting them on the back for their service and sending them into the working world alone isn't good enough. We must improve the opportunities and resources available to our veterans to help them find the dignity and financial security that a job helps provide."


Matt McAlvanah

Communications Director

U.S. Senator Patty Murray

202-224-2834 - press office

202--224-0228 - direct

News Releases | Economic Resource Center | E-Mail Updates

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations

We attended the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations hearing today. They heard from the State Dept and from the Defense Dept and the topic was Iraq.

Jason Chaffetz is the Chair of the Subcommitee. The Ranking Member is John Tierney.

And the biggest embarrassment in today's hearing? The Ranking Member.

He was a wind-up doll spewing, "Bush, Bush, Bush."

Bush thankfully left the White House three years ago.*

The Iraq War has not continued these last three years because of George W. Bush. Spc Adrien Mills, who was buried yesterday, did not die in Iraq because of Bush. They're Barack's wars. John Edwards and Bill Richardson both promised to have all US troops out of Iraq by the end of their first year in the White House.

That's Barack's war.

Not only was partisan Tierney playing that game he was also kind of rude if you paid attention. His opening remarks and questions, really were a slap to the Chair's statements.

Tierney also wanted to pretend that it was the GOP who started the Iraq War. Uh, many Democrats in Congress were happy to go along with it as Tierney damn well knows.

I'll also add that it's 'cute' that Tierney's allowed to serve on the Oversight Committee -- Tierney whose wife Patrice entered a guilty plea last year (as reported by the Boston Globe's Shelley Murphy and Matt Viser) after being "charged with four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns by her brother".

Did you notice my "*." Bush is out of the White House. This community wishes he was out in 2005 and that he didn't get in in 2001.

We'd love for him to be in prison.

But he's gone and we're not promoting his books are waiting to type about his latest remark. We don't give a damn. We live in a Bush-free world and are thankful for that.

In other words, we don't cover him anymore and are so glad not to have to. Yes, there's a move to arrest him. It won't succeed. If others want to cover it, have at it. But in this community, we'll continue to ignore Bush's latest remarks and actions.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, October 12, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, US House Rep Jason Chaffetz declares, "When President Obama tells the American people that forces will be out of Iraq, I'm not sure the average American understands that the troops will be replaced with a private army of security contractors," State Dept testimony today may mean State Dept employees refuse to go to Iraq, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, Turkey thinks they have a say in disputed Kirkuk, and more.
"I'd like to begin this hearing by stating the Oversight Committee's mission statement," declared US House Rep Jason Chaffetz this morning. "We exist to secure two fundamental principles. 'First, Americans have the right to know that the money Washington takes from them is well spent. And second, Americans deserve an efficient and effective government that works for them. Our duty on the Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee is to respect these rights'." Chaffetz is the Chair of the
Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations which heard from the State Dept's Patrick F. Kennedy and DoD's Alexander Vershbow and Alan F. Estevez this morning on the topic of Iraq and the US presence beyond 2011.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: To fill the void left by the Defense Department, the State Department will hire thousands of private contractors to complete the mission. In all, the State Department's footprint will balloon to approximately 17,000 personnel. And, according to the Government Accountability Office, the GAO, nearly 14,000 will be private contractors. These contractors will perform a wide range of tasks including life support services and logistics. They will also recover downed aircraft and personnel, dispose of ordnance and tranport personnel. State Department will also hire a private army of nearly 7500 security contractors to do everything from guarding the walls and gates to guarding VIP convoys and flying UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles]. While they will have the abilities of sense and warn of incoming ordnance, they will not have the ability to shoot it down. I find this puzzling. I'd like to discuss this further. So as the Defense Department winds down, the State Department is ramping up in what may be more of a political shell game than a drawdown of forces. When President Obama tells the American people that forces will be out of Iraq, I'm not sure the average American understands that the troops will be replaced with a private army of security contractors.
That was some of Chaffetz' opening remarks regarding the State Dept and now will note some of his comments with regards to the Defense Dept.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: On a related manner, I'd appreciate it if the Defense Department would clear up some of the confusion surrounding it's drawdown. There have been numerous reports that President Obama may order thousands of combat troops to remain in Iraq at the Iraq government's request to conduct training of Iraqi military. While I understand negotiations are ongoing with the Iraqi government, I believe the American people have the right to additional clarity on how many troops will remain and what their mission and legal status will be?
John Tierney is the Ranking Member and a public embarrassment. Wally's covering Tierney's nonsense at Rebecca's site tonight. Wait. Kat's grabbing it at her sight. Wally's going to rank Chaffetz as a chair in his post at Rebecca's site. Opening (prepared remarks) by the witnesses aren't worth noting. And Kennedy's remarks sounded exactly like they did in February when he was appearing before the Senate. There were two key exchanges in the hearing. I'll note one and if Ava doesn't grab the other at Trina's tonight, I'll note it here tomorrow.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Mr. Ambassador, first of all, I'd like to start with you. McClatchy Newspapers in an article that came out yesterday [Sahar Issa's article] in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the headline is "US Military Trainers Can Stay, Leaders Say." But I'm troubled by what President [Jalal] Talabani said. "We have agreed to retain more than 5,000 trainers without giving them immunity. We have sent them our agreement to retain this number and are awaiting their response: Yes or no." I find it deeply troubling that there's the prospect of our troops being in Iraq without immunity. I think this is totally unacceptable Can you please give us an update on the situation?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: Yes, Mr. Chairman, I'd be happy to, uh, to respond. Uh, indeed there's some important issues raised by that article. First of all, Iraq's political leadership has indicated that they are interested in a training relationship with the United States after 2011 and we very much want to have an enduring partnership with the Iraqi government and people and a relationship with the Iraqi security forces would be a very important part of that relationship. I think, as you know, we have long been planning to have the Office of Security Cooperation Iraq -- OSCI -- which would be under chief admission authority -- serve as the cornerstone of a chief security partnership and it would be the hub for a range of security assistance and security cooperation activities. So that, of course, is the baseline. We've been reviewing the official statement issued by Iraqi leaders on training assistance on October 4th and discussing with them how this fits into the principle of security cooperation under the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement. Uh, I should add that we appreciate the democratic spirit represented by Iraqi leaders in debating this important subject and we will continue our discussions with our Iraqi counterparts in the days ahead. So these negotiations are ongoing and it's, uh, premature to discuss what any --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: What --
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: -- potential training relationship will look like --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Well will our troops have immunity, yes or no?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: Yeah, well I'll get to that issue, Mr. Chairman. As we work to define the parameters of what it will look like uh-uh the issues raised yet again in this article regarding status protections will of course be important issue. And again I don't want to get into the specifics of the negotiations but we will always ensure that our forces have the appropriate protections that they need when they're deployed overseas. There's a number of different --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: When you say appropriate protections is that -- is that immunity?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: [Long intake of breath] I think there's different terminology.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: That's why I'm seeking a little clarification here. I'm not feeling too comfortable at the moment. Will our troops have immunity?
Ambassador Alexander Vershbow: They will -- we-we --They will have status protection which has been defined under the Strategic Framework -- under the security agreement, excuse me, the Status Of Forces Agreement that now applies as indicating that our forces would be subject to US law rather than Iraqi law. So we'll be looking for something going forward that provides the comparable level of protection. Exactly how that will be achieved again is a subject of ongoing negotiations. Some of the personnel as I mentioned under the OSCI will be covered under chief admission authority. The question that's still being asked whether any additional personnel would be involved and how they would -- how they would be protected. We certainly take very seriously the concerns that you have expressed.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Let me move on. I think that this is the major, major point of concern. It's obviously a major point of difference. It's something that obviously must be resolved. And it's totally unacceptable to think that our troops would be there without immunity as they've enjoyed currently. Ambassdor Kennedy, let me go back to these loss functionalities. Last time we gathered together, we were referred to this July 12, 2010 Commission on Wartime Contracting special report. It talked about the loss functionalities. This is on page four of that report. There were fourteen specific security-related tasks now performed by Department of Defense that State must provide as the military draws down. I know there's been progress on at least seven of those but could you give me an update as to those fourteen specific ones, what are you not prepared to take care of? [Kennedy's speaking. Microphone's not on.] If you could hit that [button].
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: My apologies. Mr. Chairman, as we outline in my -- in my June 8th letter, to, uh, to the Committee, we believe that we have covered the functions that are absolutely essential to our operations there. We will have the abilitiy through the --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Would that be all fourteen of these?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I think -- I think you can say we will have the ability to do everything except, for example, the recovery of downed aircraft. Should an aircraft go down, we will be able to move to recover the personnel from those aircraft but but whether -- because we don't have quite the heavy lift as the Department of Defense, we might not be able to recover the airframe itself.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: So of the fourteen, that's the only one that you're concerned about?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I am concerned about everything possibly go wrong.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Right.
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: I cannot -- I cannot --
Chair Jason Cahffetz: But functionality?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: But functionality, going if I could, Mr. Chairman, to your earlier, in your opening statement, you asked about counter-battery neutralization. We will have the-the ability thanks to my colleagues in the Pent -- the Defense Department with the system that is called GIRAFFE [Radar] which is an [air defense] early warning system that tracks incoming rockets or mortars, give us sufficient warning to deal with that, we'll be able to sound the alarm. And in the construction activities that we are undertaking and all the sites that our personnel will both work and live. We are constructing overhead cover that means should one of the, uh -- those missiles or mortars strike our facilities -- and this has happened in Baghdad and the construction techniques we've been using in Baghdad have proven very, very effective -- There is no penetration of the building itself. The, uh, the --
Chair Jason Chaffetz: But can we or will we fire back?
Ambassador Patrick Kennedy: We will not -- Sir, the State Dept has no howitzers and no counter-rocket fire. We will not fire back. That is not a diplomatic activity. We're not of a diplomatic mission in Iraq, not a military mission but -- if I might add -- we are partnered extensively with the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police who have been assisting us during the last few months. We have been without such a -- such a counter-battery fire ability and the Iraqi police and the Iraqi military have been great assistants of disrupting the attempts of uh, uh, forces to attack our, uh, our, uh, facilities via rockets and mortars.
Chair Jason Chaffetz: Well God bless the men and women who are going to be there because if it's the policy of the United States not to fire back I have -- I have deep concerns.
Again, that was one of the two key exchanges. In addition to possibly noting another exchange here tomorrow (if Ava doesn't grab it -- she's welcome to it, by the way), I've also got to talk late tonight to a friend who attended the hearing and I'll check with him to see if something different stood out. If so, we'll note that.
As for Kennedy's testimony? I think a lot of people are going to feel what the Chair did and I wonder if it will be a repeat of the second Bush term when Condi Rice had trouble repeatedly as she attempted to fill diplomatic slots in Iraq? In addition, to Kennedy's testimony about GIRAFFE, unless it's changed, that's a bit like connecting to the internet via a mobile attenna -- it'll work but if you're planning to use the internet consistently and from the same spot, why not just get DSL as opposed to something that's really designed as a temporary measure? GIRAFFE gets its name from the fact that the radar equipment is on the end of this long arm that rises in the air when in use and folds down when you don't feel the need to use the radar system. So where I'm confused is, GIRAFFE is really designed for temporary use. Why is the State Dept staking lives on the use of a temporary device as opposed to monitoring equipment that would sense incoming rockets or mortars? A wealth of military equipment is being handed over to the Iraqi military -- that's fine, it's really not worth the financial cost to carry it back to the US and it will soon be out of date. This was known and factored in long ago. But was there not better equipment protecting US military bases in Iraq -- radar equipment -- that could have been handed over to State at a time when the US military -- as planned -- is discarding equipment like crazy in anticipation of the re-ordering of equipment which was always planned? Seems there should be something better than GIRAFFE especially when you consider how long the State Dept intends to stay in Iraq.
Again, Chair Jason Chaffetz' concerns are going to be concerns a lot of people will have though, granted, some may not have them unless something horribly wrong takes place and a State Dept worker is injured or killed under this new program.
Injured or killed? Baghdad was slammed with bombings today. Muhaimen Mohammed and CNN report, "A string of six explosions killed at least 22 people and wounded more than 70 in Baghdad on Wednesday, Iraq's interior ministry said." Other reports count five bombings. However, Reuters gives a detailed rundown of each Baghdad bombing today and they also count six. Rebecca Santana and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) noted this morning that officials state the death toll has risen to 25 and that's the number most outlets run with this afternoon; however, AGI noted the death toll this morning had risen to 28. Global Post states officials are saying eighty-three were injured. BBC News notes their correspondent Rami Ruhayem says "The resurgence of suicide attacks inside the capital is a worrying development even by Iraqi standards." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes that the dead and wounded include police officers and Iraqi soldiers. Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) adds, "Children at a school close to one of the police stations were injured by shattered glass." Reuters quotes police Lt Nadeer Adel stating, "A car approached... the driver smashed through the checkpoint and exploded the car when he hit a concrete barrier. Smoke was everywhere, we all took cover. Minutes later we found a crater and some of our police were dead."

Dan Zak and Asaad Majeed (Washington Post) state, "It was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since Aug. 28, when a suicide bomber killed 28 and injured 30 at the city's largest Sunni mosque." KUNA explains, "An Iraqi police source told KUNA here that the explosions targeted police stations in the towns of Al-Watheq Square, at the entrance of the Ministry of Interior's building, Al-Hurriya, and Al-Baya'a ." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds, "Major General Adel Dahham, the spokesman of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told reporters that guards of the attacked police stations had opened fire on the suicide car bombers and managed to blow up the car bombs at the concrete barricades and prevented them from entering the buildings of the police stations." EuroNews (link is video) states, "The police are a vulnerable taget for militants because they lack the sophisticated weaponry that the Iraqi army has. " Salam Faraj and Ammar Karim (AFP) report of the Alwiay station bombings, "Human remains and shrapnel from the bomb were scattered for about 100 metres (yards), and security forces cordoned off the scene, an AFP correspondent said. Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi condemned the attacks in a statement released by his office." The Washington Post has compiled several photos for an essay here.
Besides bombings in Baghdad, Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured, a Kerbala drive-by claimed the life of Shiek Muhanned al-Meaamar and his driver (the Shiek was "a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani), an attack on a Mosul checkpoint which claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers, an attack on a Mosul real estate office in which 2 people died, an attack on a Baghdad police checkpoint (shooting attack) that left two police officers injured, 1 Diwaniyya city employee shot outside his home, and, dropping back to Tuesday night for all that follows, 1 Iraqi military colonel shot dead in Baghdad and a Daquq roadside bombing injured two Iraqi soldiers.
On Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton speaks to David Enders who probably wishes most people weren't streaming it on a day when Iraq was slammed with violence. Brief excerpt.
David Enders: The situation In Iraq at the moment is that the Americans appear to be indeed withdrawing combat troops. I think that's a fact. It does not appear that there is anyway that the Iraqi government will approve a presence of combat troops following the end of the year. Obviously there will still be uh a military presence and a CIA presence. I mean the Americans are still very much involved in counter-terrorism on the ground here and that will probably continue to be the case. Uh we'll also be heavily involved in training uhm and supporting the Iraqi military which -- which is essentially, you know, become a client of the US. Uh the situation on the ground for the average Iraqi I think has changed very little. The government still remains essentially a dictatorship. Iraq still is a police state. I was arrested uh this afternoon or this morning rather for filming on the highway. I was actually filming a convoy of Americans sort of, you know, packing up to go. And I got arrested for filming on the highway. Uhm, I was detained for a few hours. Nothing-nothing serious. And let go. But that gives you an idea the amount of personal freedom one-one perhaps has in Iraq. Uh, electricity is still on 12 hours a day at best. Right now uh it's October. This is a -- This is a time where electricity demand is the lowest. It's before it gets cold and people turn on their heaters, it's after the, you know, super-hot summer months so people aren't running the ACs quite as much and I'm living a stone's throw from the presidential compound and this neighborhood has 12 hours of national power a day. Uh, so I think that gives an idea of-of how the quality of life has improved for the average Iraqi. Security is much better than it was. I-I haven't been here since 2009. Uhm, but that comes with-with a-a-a soldier-to-person ratio of -- that-that must be one of the highest in the world. I mean the-the number of check points, the number of -- Security presence on the streets is just kind of incredible. Uhm and that still does not mean that there's not violence. Uh but compared to 2007, 2008, it's considerably reduced. So that's the situation in Iraq.
Is it? It's certainly all the nonsense I can endure from David Enders who has to be the Baghdad correspondent we've noted least in all the time since 2004. (And noted him little for good reason. KPFA friends warned me off his reporting early in the war.)
"The situation In Iraq at the moment is that the Americans appear to be indeed withdrawing combat troops." Where does it seem that way? From the public baths?
US President Barack Obama claims combat troops were removed by August 31, 2010. September 1st, when the combat is over, according to Barack, the war is renamed "Operation New Dawn." Now the plan is for US soldiers to be called "trainers." Back before Thomas E. Ricks went nuts and became a counter-insurgency addict, he was fond of making the point that US soldiers are trained for combat. That is what they're trained for. Let's drop back to the March 10, 2009 snapshot to note Ricks and NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro on the day prior's Talk of the Nation (NPR).
Thomas E. Ricks: I think that Obama and the people around him are repeating the optimisim of the Bush administration. It's not a departure from Bush to say you want to get out of Iraq. George Bush didn't invade Iraq saying, "I have a great idea. Let's go get stuck in a quagmire for ten years." The original war plan had us down to 30,000 troops by September 2003. Well here we are seven years later. We have more than four times that number of troops and the new president is saying "I want to get us out of Iraq, out of fighting in Iraq by August of next year." Well just because you hang a "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED" banner doesn't mean the war ends, just because you say it's a non-combat mission doesn't mean the war ends. The war ends when American troops stop dying. And I was over at the White House the day of the president's speech [Feb. 27th] and I said, "Does this mean American troops will stop dying in August of 2010?" And a military official there said, "No, it does not mean that."
[. . .]
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: I'd just like to speak to something that Thomas Ricks just said. Um, it's kind of interesting, the war ends when no US soldiers are killed here. You know, it's -- through all of this, you tend to forget the Iraqi narrative. We're talking about the Obama administration, what they think, what they believe. Of course there is a sovereign, now, Iraqi government who also has a say in what happens here and what kinds of, you know, US forces remain here and what the war will look like for them. It's not only US soldiers who die but of course Iraqi civilians, Iraqi army, Iraqi police and that also has a -- that characterizes what will happen here in the coming years and months.
Thomas E. Ricks: That's a good point. I should have said "our war ends when US troops stop dying." I think the war goes on for decades.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: It's just -- possibly. And it's certainly a sobering thought for the Iraqis I speak to here. I do spend -- you know, when you're living in Baghdad and covering it -- I've been covering this since 2002 actually -- we have to deal with the US military and, of course, the Iraqis as well. And we -- you know, it's a balancing act. And our staff monitors six [Iraqi] papers a day, three Iraqi channels, and, of course, we go out. Now the security situation is better, I travel all over the country. Tomorrow I'm going into Anbar Province, up near Haditha. I've been pretty much everywhere now days in Iraq and that, of course, allows you to do reporting as you would in any other country, which means getting on the ground, talking to people and seeing exactly what's going on for yourself. Before we had to rely on the US military. They're the ones that had to take us places, we had to embed, we had to see things through their prism. Now that has changed dramatically and we can really go out in a way that we've never been able to since the early days of the war to see for ourselves exactly what's going on.
Neal Conan: And let me quickly follow up again on something Tom Ricks said, decades, Tom?
Thomas E. Ricks: Yeah, I think there will be people fighting and dying in Iraq for decades.
Neal Conan: And Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, do you agree with that?
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro: Well, I think that may possibly be true. As I try and point out in many of my reports, I think the -- for many Americans, they believe that the war is over. I mean there's a lack of interest now that President Obama has said they will be withdrawing US forces in great numbers in the coming year -- not this year, but next year. I think people have sort of thought, 'Well, the war is over in Iraq.' But people die here every single day. There are many simmering conflicts. It might not look like the conflicts that we saw before during the sectarian violence but there are other things that are going on here that could presage many bad days to come. I don' t know, I'm not a prognosticator but certainly Iraq is not stable yet.
Thomas E. Ricks: I think it's a good point that the war has changed several times. It started as a blitzkrieg invasion, then it was a botched occupation, then it was a slow rising but durable insurgency, then it was an American counter-offensive. The war is changing again. It kind of feels like a lull right now. But just because it's changed doesn't mean it's ended and a lot of Americans have stopped paying attention because I think they wrongly think that it's over.
I would argue that David Enders comments also stripped Iraqis out of the equation. The war has not ended -- not for the Iraqis and not for the US. Just yesterday the most recent US soldier to die in combat in Iraq (Spc Adrian Mills) was buried. And for an Iraqi take on Enders claims regarding no more combat soldiers, let's go to the Great Iraqi Revolution commenting on an Al Jazeera article, "Extending the American occupation in Iraq under a new name i.e (NATO Trainers), and the "Trainers" have full immunidty despite all the untrue statements of the Green Zone Government!"
The Al Jazeera article (in Arabic) states Iraqi MPs are willing to consider allowing "trainers" to conduct their mission under NATO which would not only allow US soldiers to stay beyond 2011 but also provide "the legal protection Washington is seeking." Being under NATO, the article notes, would allow the US government to have jurisidiction over any crimes US soldiers committed in Iraq. State of Law (Nouri's political slate) pops up in the article via Sami al-Askari (State of Law MP) who says that option is being debated and that there is another one (getting trainers from other countries) but al-Askari says that it's better and more practical to rely on NATO due to the fact that there's already an agreement in place. That's what someone from Nouri's own political slate is stating publicly and on the record.
"I think that's a fact," Enders insists. Generally speaking, a fact is or isn't a fact. Opinion really doesn't have a lot to do with whether or not something's a fact. "It does not appear that there is anyway that the Iraqi government will approve a presence of combat troops following the end of the year." Really? Did you get the SOFA right? Was your analysis correct on that, David Enders? If he's too 'modest,' I'll answer for him: No, he was wrong on that. But we're supposed to believe his judgment now?
David Enders is not speaking to Nouri al-Maliki and, were he to do so tomorrow, he'd still be an American journalist and not anyone in Nouri's inner-circle. Nouri -- as with the UN mandate, as with the SOFA -- will make the decision on the Iraqi side. He may or may not toss any decision before Parliament. But he will be the one -- barring his being removed from the post -- who will make the decision.
Now maybe David Enders is sleeping with Nouri and privy to pillow talk? Were that the case then I would trust his unsourced and unreliable opinion a little more. Unless or until I learn that's the case, I'll continue to take him about as seriously as KPFA friends do. (In other words, not real much.)
"Obviously there will still be uh a military presence and a CIA presence." Special-Ops have never left Iraq and are not counted in the estimated 45,000 troops still in Iraq. (I believe that 47,000 is still tossed around by some outlets -- not all -- we're going with 45,000 because that's the number a friend at the State Dept was using when we spoke yesterday.) It would be interesting to know the plan for them. (It would be interesting for the press to explore what has legally allowed them to continue operating in Iraq since the end of 2008. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.)
"I mean the Americans are still very much involved in counter-terrorism on the ground here and that will probably continue to be the case." That may be Enders acknowledging Special-Ops. "I mean the Americans are still very much involved in counter-terrorism on the ground here and that will probably continue to be the case." Really? Americans on the ground in Iraq "very much involved in counter-terrorism" would sound to me like combat. I think it would strike many as combat. "Uh we'll also be heavily involved in training uhm and supporting the Iraqi military which -- which is essentially, you know, become a client of the US." Training and supporting the Iraqi military? Sounds again a lot like combat. We'll stop there to pick up from yesterday's snapshot. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) wrote, "The statement, which appeared in most Iraqi newspapers Tuesday, is the first by any American or Iraqi official to detail the size of the U.S. training contingent that the Iraqis have requested. It seemed to make clear that there were no further discussions likely on the thorny issue of immunity, something U.S. officials have always said was a non-negotiable condition of leaving American troops in Iraq."
For those who objected to Sahar being critiqued, first, if you missed it, that article was raised in today's Congressional hearing. It matters if it was reported incorrectly. Second, search the archives, she's never been critiqued before. Even if a co-writer on a story that got critiqued. I don't critique Laith Hammoudi or any of them. I applaud their work and all it takes is a call from a McClatchy friend to say, "___ has a story" that they wrote or co-wrote to get a link. If I disagree, I usually bite my tongue and have done that for how many years now? I have called out Leila Fadel (no longer with McClatchy), I've called out Roy Gutman and any number of others who were raised in the US and are Americans. I have walled off Issa, Hammoudi and the other Iraqi correspondents from criticism.
Yesterday was different. I'd already seen three of those articles on Jalal Talabani that morning -- over eight hours before I got the call about Sahar's piece -- and linked to one here. The articles I saw were in Arabic. There's probably some in Kurdish. I don't read Kurdish (nor do I speak it). A lot of people in the US can't read Arabic.
The Arabic article I linked to (like the other two I read) reviewed Jalal meeting with editorial boards and holding court -- holding court. Jalal's not only saying that it will be 5,000 US soldiers, he's declaring that the decision was arrived at after he, as High Commander of the Iraqi military, reviewed the situation and their capabilities and blah, blah, blah.
I don't like Nouri al-Maliki. He's a thug and he's a danger to the Iraqi people -- based upon his repeated use of secret prisons alone but it's so much more than that. And that is the opinion of the bulk of the Democrats in the Senate though they bite their tongues publicly now that a Democrats in the White House. It's also the opinion of several NGOs and if you've missed it, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has not been biting its tongue about Nouri this year.
But while I don't care for Nouri, I'm not going to lie about him. He's prime minister. I wish he wasn't. I think it slapped Iraqi people in the face after they turned out to vote in 2010 and, despite Nouri getting 'new votes' after the voting and despite his abuse of office during the elections, they voted for something other than Nouri. And yet their voices were ignored and the US government supported ignoring the voice of the Iraqi people. I think that decision did more than just harm for the next four years, I think it was a huge setback for Iraq's future.
Having said all of that, Nouri, as prime minister, is the commander of the military. Why would I deny that? Why I would pretend otherwise? And, as reported over and over in the Iraqi media (and we noted it in real time), the political blocs gave the negotiations over to Nouri (on US staying or going) and members of the Parliament repeatedly noted that they were waiting on Nouri's appraisal of the military which he was conducting as commander-in-chief. It is not Jalal Talabani's job or role. He has nothing to do beyond parade work and awards ceremonies. That's why I made a point to quote the Iraqi Constitution on the role of the president of Iraq with regards to the military, Chapter 2, Article 70, Section I, "Perform the duty of the Higher Command of the armed forces for ceremonial and honorary purposes."
So, as he entertained editorial boards, Jalal declared not only that 5,000 was the number but that, as the High Commander of the Iraqi military, he had conducted an extensive review of force strength and -- No, he hadn't. He was being a braggart yet again. Once again, he was inflating his role and purpose. Since he was doing that as he held court, that really made everything he said suspect including the 5,000 figure. Someone who feels the need to lie about their role to the press, someone who needs to paint themselves as having more power than they do, is generally someone who tends to inflate all their statements. Translation, everything he said while entertaining the press was worthy of skepticism.
Most US readers are not going to be able to read Iraqi media in Arabic. So when Sahar Issa reports that, in these reports, it 'seems' one way, yeah, I will slap it down. I'll do it again, I'll do it every day if necessary. Sahar Issa did not include Jalal's false claims about that military review he'd conducted (he conducted no review; Nouri al-Maliki conducted that review and did so due to his being the commander in chief of the Iraqi military). If that or any other fantastical claim Jalal had made had been included in Sahar Issa's report, I wouldn't have criticized it. But they didn't make the report. What made the report implied that Jalal Talabani was just talking and in the process -- No, he was bragging and on a mission to improve his own standing.
Also not in Sahar Issa's report -- though I don't believe any US outlet has covered it -- Jalal's facing strong criticism from Iraqis. That trip to the US last month cost the Iraqi government $2 million dollars. When The Great Iraqi Revolution got ahold of those documents and released them to the press, there was (and remains) real outrage. And since he returned, he's twice attempted to address the issue with the press and both times made it worse. So it's not at all surprising that someone prone to bragging in the best of circumstances would really go to town inflating their image at a time when they're under fire. We've noted that $2 million repeatedly (including in yesteray's snapshot) but let's turn to the Great Iraqi Revolution to get a take (not "the" take, a take) from Iraqis, "Now this is hilarious! Talabani confirms that he returned 500 thousand dollars of the cost of his trip to New York to Iraq budget, explaining that the plane fare to New York was one million dollars, while the delegation housing and transportation and gifts cost half a million dollars. Talabani added: The amount that was taken ONLY two million dollars. OMG! Is he serious? or does he think that we are naive? Or did Musailema the Liar i.e Maliki taught him this lie?" Is that really the same way Talabani was portrayed by Sahar Issa? No, not at all. Jalal's being publicly mocked for good reason and that's a detail that should have made the report. (And for an amusing illustration the Great Iraqi Revolution did of Nouri al-Maliki, click here. They don't have one of Allawi but they're not fond of him either.)
Moving on to Iraq and one of its neighbors, Aswat al-Iraq noted yesterday, "Turkish artillery resumed its bombing of Kurdish border areas in Seedkan, east Arbil, border control sources said today. [. . .] Kurdistan border areas are under periodical Turkish and Iranian shelling under the pretext of chasing PJAK and PKK parties member, which led to a number of killings and material damages."

The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."

And if you doubt the presumptions Turkey believes it can make regarding the KRG, Dar Addustour reports Turkish officials met in Baghdad with US officials (meet-up took place at the Turkish Embassy) to declare that they would not allow -- they would not allow -- Kirkuk to become part of Kurdistan and that they are alarmed by talk of implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution (Article 140 outlines how the disputed area of Kirkuk will be resolved -- a census will be held, followed by a referendum, leaving the issue up to the inhabitants of Kirkuk). Trend News Agency reports Nouri announced yesterday that Iraq's forces should be used "in northern areas of Iraq." The Journal of Turkisk Weekly notes, "Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday that Turkey and Iran had extensive cooperation in combting terrorism." He is quoted stating of Nouri's announcement to send Iraqi troops to northern Iraq, "We have already demanded it. When Iraq preserves its own territories and borders, there is no need for Turkey to stage cross-border operation." AFP notes Iraq's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, is in Turkey today for discussions with Turkish officials. Today's Zaman adds, "Turkey and Iraq have agreed to open two new gates along their common border to boost trade and accommodate increasing traffic between the two neighbors, Today's Zaman has learned. The issue was discussed during a two-day visit by Iraqi Foreign Affairs Minister Hoshyar Zebari in Ankara on Wednesday. According to the information obtained by Today's Zaman from Customs and Trade Ministry officials, the formal agreement for the opening of the first border gate will be signed towards the end of the year, and the gate is expected to be in operation by the end of 2012." Hurriyet adds that "Zebari held meetings with President Abdullah Gül and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu" and they note Turkey's Deputy Foreign Minister Labeed "Abbawi said they would take extra measures against the alleged PKK presence at the Makhmour refugee camp, a United Nations-camp in northern Iraq that Ankara claims is a prime recruiting ground for the Kurdish militants."