Thursday, September 24, 2009
That's from November 20, 2005. Bully Boy and Alito face to face.
Bully Boy was fun to draw in that you never had to worry about a backlash. For example, I've clearly drawn him as a monkey -- specifically Curious George -- and it wasn't the source of anguish or trouble. Imagine if I'd done that to Baracak what I'd have to deal with.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, September 24, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, things get hot in a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee meeting today, a new report is released on Iraqi refugees, a family tries to raise money to travel to Iraq for the hearing of the men accused of forcing their son to take his own life, and more.
"From the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, American service member have given their lives for this country," declared US House Rep John Hall as he brought the US House Veterans Committee's Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs to order this morning. Among the problems Hall cited is that there's no space for needed cemeteries. At least 31 more cemeteries are estimated to be needed and 2015 is the soonest that for a location "that will meet the current criteria for the establishment of a new national cemetery." The requirement is that a region's population have at least 170,000 veterans before it can have a national cemetery. Subcommittee Chair Hall also noted that the VA's $300 for a funeral plot and $300 for burial does not begin to cover the costs.
There were three panels. The first panel included former US Senator and Vietnam veteran Max Cleland who is the Secretary of the American Battle Monuments Commission, Arlington National Cemetery's John C. Metzler , DoD's Lynn Heirakuji and Dept of Interior's Katherine Stevenson. The second panel was composed of American Veterans' Raymond C. Kelley, Ft Logan National Cemetery's John Nicolai, Gold Star Wives of America's Vivianne Cisneros Wersel, Disabled American Veterans John Wilson and National Funeral Directors Association's Lesley Witter. The third panel was the VA's Steve L. Muro (with VA's Ronald Walters). We'll cover the strongest moment of the hearing.
During the first panel, US House Rep Steve Buyer opened with a visual display showing various cemeteries. Normandy American Cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. These were "beautiful" and up to standard. He then went to a national cemetery run by the Department of the Interior, Andersonville National Cemetery. Pointing to the dingy, dirty headstones, "This should not matter that this is the marker of someone who died in the Civil War. It shouldn't matter. It shouldn't matter if it was someone who died in the Revolution or someone who died that's interned in Mexico City." He then "So when you said in your testimony that you gently, finely clean the markers, well that's going to take you a lot of time. This is not a standard for which we should have in America. I think Mr. Cleland, if you saw that in one of yours, you would just freak out." Buyer explained that he complained about the weeds and the result was they pulled out everything, including the grass.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Let me ask you something, Ms. Stevenson, tell the committee here, what are your needs? What do you believe your needs are to raise the standard within the Dept of Interior?
Katherine Stevenson: The report that I just mentioned [in opening statement] will have some recommendations for funding and it will have recommendations for increased treatment of, uh, cleaning and so on.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: What are your goals?
Katherine Stevenson: Our goals are the same as the goals set by the National Cemetery Administration. We have the same three standards, height and alignment, clean stones and level grave sides as they do.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: How many cemeteries did you go to in the review?
Katherine Stevenson: Four.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: How many do you have in your system?
Katherine Stevenson: Fourteen.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Why wouldn't you go to all fourteen cemeteries?
Katherine Stevenson: We wanted to do it as quickly as we could and get some sense of uh what was going on -- in the ones that you mentioned, for example, Andersonville was one of them. So we took ones that were fairly close to Andersonville.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Did you go to -- what are the four that you went to?
Katherine Stevenson: Andersonville, Andrew Johnson, Fort Donaldson and Stones River.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Andrew Johnson? Is that the -- that's the one in Tennessee? That's the one in Tennessee? [Stevenson nods.] Have you sent inquiries out to the other ten?
Katherine Stevenson: No, sir. No more than usual. I mean, we-we talk to them a fair amount.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Alright. You've got fourteen. Alright, there's a disconnect here. I'm not going -- I'm not in a fight with you here, okay? I want us to raise the standards, so when this review -- this report -- comes out, I'm going through it.
Katherine Stevenson: Good.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: The light's on you, okay? So what I -- what I -- My immediate sense here is is when I think the Secretary tells me he's going to do a review, that it's going to be of all 14 cemeteries. I don't want something done quick and easy. Alright? I want this to be done correctly. And if your sense is and your counsel to us is that four is going to be sufficient well [shrugs] that's fine but is what you're asking me is, "Steve, just pause here. When you get the report, you're going to be satisfied?"
Katherine Stevenson: [speaking very slowly] You know, you can choose a photograph in any of these cemeteries and [picking up speed] any, I bet, of the veteran cemeteries that are managed by other people and we will have some scenes that are perfect and some scenes that are not. And I know that that's true in the cemeteries that we manage. We are trying to do our very best for the veterans and for their burial places.
US House Rep Steve Buyer: Alright. Well your standard of very best doesn't meet the standards established by others. So we're going to take your standard of very best and we're going to raise it. We're going to raise your very best even higher. Okay? And, uh, I didn't go out and selectively choose to find what I think would be the worst photograph. It's easy to go out there and take that photo. And I was extremely upset the day I saw a veteran being buried in a cemetery like I saw. It's one thing -- it's one thing, you know, we've all been to cemeteries and we've seen the conditions of some of them but to think that this was an active cemetery under the stewardship of the federal government was extremely disheartening. I-I-I'm going to pause here, Mr. Chairman, give it back to you under the time.
Subcommittee Chair John Hall asked when the report would be finished and Stevenson stated it was complete but "it just needs to go through formal review." From the third panel, we'll note two exchanges. First up, an informative exchange between US House Rep Deborah Halvorson and the VA's Acting Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, National Cemetery Administration Steve L. Muro covering outsourcing issues and homeless veterans.
US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: I'm really concerned with something that just came up with the fact of this outsourcing of jobs. Can you explain to me what's happening with outsourcing of our jobs? Are they truly being taken away from veterans and going to other companies and not our veterans?
Steve Muro: Well, let me explain what we've done. As we open new national cemeteries, we keep certain jobs in-house: the internments, the rep work. And we do the headstone and mowing, we contract that out. We have increased FTEE [Full Time Equivalent Employee] in our system, we're up to 1600. So we're doing in-house work and some contract -- same thing at some of our closed cemeteries where it is more difficult to get employment. The gentleman spoke about south Florida, it actually took us two years to fully staff that cemetery with-with veterans, those that were willing to apply. We had a high turnover there because of the cost of living. So in many areas, the cost of living has forced us to look at other ways to get the work done. But we still, each year we've increased our FTEE, all our new cemeteries open with approximately 15 FTEE to manage the cemetery so we are keeping the-the internment work in-house, we're keeping the rep work and all of the public affairs type work in-house. The mowing, the trimming and the setting of headstones, we do contract out.
US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: Well because we're doing everything in our power to create opportunities for veterans, I don't want to be embarrassed when I hear that veterans' cemeteries and groups like yourselves are going outside of our veterans groups. So --
Steve Muro: And those -- those that we're hiring are disabled veterans companies. We are hiring with disabled veterans companies.
US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: Because?
Steve Muro: So we are giving the work to veterans. We work with VBA [Veterans Business Association] to hire OIF [Operation Iraqi Freedom], OAFs [Operation Afghanistan Freedom] instead of going through different training programs. Each network -- we have five networks throughout the system -- are required this year and last year to hire 5 OAF and OIFs. So we are hiring vets. You know, 70% of our employees are veterans.
US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: Okay, I just want to make sure that that's happening. I mean, as you know, we're doing everything to make sure that, because we're having more and more veterans come back, and I just want assurances that we're doing everything we can to make sure that we're hiring veterans, we're giving incentives to hiring veterans. I don't want to be talking about our Veterans Administration, of all people, aren't doing what -- We can talk all the time, but until we practice what we preach, you know, that's not doing us any good.
Steve Muro: And I understand that and we are.
US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: Great. One last question is one thing that I know that we're interested in exploring and something that the Secretary is very interested in, you know, is homelessness among our veterans. But also where you're concerned with, can you take us through some of the situations. What happens with burial issues with regards to those who are homeless veterans and what happens when a veteran doesn't have any family members? How do you deal with that situation?
Steve Muro: Our cemetery directors work closely with the different coroners' offices and they -- we try to determine eligibility, we work with the regional office to determine eligibility so that if we do find that they are a vet -- those that they find on the street, the homeless -- so that we can ensure that they can be buried in a national cemetery.
US House Rep Deborah Halvorson: How do you know that they're a veteran if they don't have --
Steve Muro: We get finger prints. So long as they haven't cremated, we can get finger prints. And as long as they have finger prints, we go to FBI with the finger prints and we can find files. And we've been really successful throughout the country doing that. Working with the coroner's office.
In the final minutes of the hearing, Subcommittee Chair John Hall would follow up to ask if Muro was stating that the contractors hired were all veterans and whether they used veteran workers? Muro replied that they are all veteran contractors and they are encouraged to use veteran workers. Next up, music. If a veteran's getting a burial, he or she is entitled to the send off expected. Instead, many are being buried without bugles.
Subcommittee Chair John Hall: I just wanted to ask you, Secretary Muro, in the -- continuing and following up on a comment that was made by the Ranking Member of the full committee, Mr. Buyer, when he was here earlier, talking about artificial or digital bugle machines. As the token musician on the panel, I [laughter] -- a French horn player and a decent, at one time anyway, a decent trumpeter and bugler, there are many very accomplished high school band bugle players -- or trumpet players who can play a bugle just as well -- does the, uh, is this in your purview? Is this something that the NCA in the process of working with the families handles? I just came from a 9-11 ceremony -- as did many of us recently -- where there were two buglers calling-answering backing and forth to each other, playing real bugles and it's a very moving moment with the Color Guard standing attention and the crowd and survivors in our -- in my, one of my five counties, 44 family survivors of 9-11 victims and I can only imagine how much less moving the moment would have been if someone had pushed a button on the tape or a CD, you know, had an artificial reproduction. So I'm just curious, have you contacted, do you work with local schools or find people who actually play the instrument?
Steve Muro: Yes, well, couple of things we're doing to get real buglers at the cementeries for not only services but for ceremonies. We worked closely the last three years with Taps Across America, Bugles Across America, to get more interest in buglers to come and volunteer. We work with the local school districts, the ROTC that may have buglers and we try to get them scheduled for our services so that we can utilize them to support the families. The artificial bugle? It's actually a real bugle with -- with an electronic device that goes in, instead of looking like a --
Subcommittee Chair John Hall: That's not a real bugle, I'm sorry.
Steve Muro: You're right. But it is better than the boom box.
Subcommittee Chair John Hall: Well it looks better. It's a boom box that's shaped like a bugle.
Steve Muro: But we are trying to get volunteers.
Subcommittee Chair John Hall: I understand, sir.
Steve Muro: And there are those that charge the families, unfortunately. You see the papers, people advertise, "I can do a bugle for this amount." We don't encourage it, but we can't stop the families from hiring them. So we try to work with the VSOs and the schools --
Subcommittee Chair John Hall: I appreicate that, sir. I used to get paid to pay organ at Mass when I was a teenager but it didn't mean that maybe I shouldn't have volunteered but they offered and I was mowing lawns and doing other things to. But anyway.
A funeral is not a spur of the moment elopement in Vegas. While you might endure a recording of a wedding march being played at your elopement ceremony, a burial isn't last minute and there's no excuse for using a recording. With the bases across the US, all the bases, there's no reason a veteran's funeral on a national cemetery or a private ceremony can't be supplied with a bugle player. High school (and middle school players as well) are very talented and can be used in a pinch but why, when the military has countless bugle players, they're not dispatching them automatically to ceremonies is a question that needs to be asked. And the word for using an 'electronic' bugle is tacky. It's tacky and it's beneath the service that's been given by the veteran. It'd be cheaper to use flag decals on the coffins instead of cloth ones. But the point of veterans funerals isn't do do them on the cheap. Survivors shouldn't have to hire a musician for a military funeral nor should they have to endure canned music.
"A loss in any family is hard to take," Shane Wilhelm, father of Keiffer P. Wilhelm, tells Cary Ashby (Norwalk Reflector). Keiffer Wilhelm died of "a gunshot wound to the head" in Iraq August 4th. It is thought he took his own life and that this resulted from abuse he suffered from other soldiers. The US military has charged four soliders in the matter and the military states a date has been set for the hearing, however, it isn't giving out the date. Ashby explains, "Shane and Shelly Wilhelm, Keiffer's stepmother, want to attend the hearing. The couple said Sept. 14 they're not sure if the military will allow them to attend or testify, but they want the chance to share their side of the story and the impact Keiffer's death has had on them." Marcia noted earlier this month that the First Merit Bank of Willard has set up a Memorial Fund for Keiffer Wilhelm to raise money for the family to attend the hearing (419-935-0191, Cari McLendon for more information and donations can be sent by mail to First Merit Bank, 501 Ft. Ball Road, Willard, OH 44890). Dropping back to the August 21st snapshot for details on the death:
Today the US military announced that Staff Sgt Enoch Chatman, Staff Sgt Bob Clements, Sgt Jarrett Taylor and Spc Daniel Weber are all "charged with cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates . . . The four Soliders are alleged to have treated Soldiers within their platoon inappropriately." CNN states they are accused of "cruelty and maltreatment of four subordinates in Iraq after a suicide investigation brought to light alleged wrongdoing, the military said Friday." Michelle Tan (Army Times via USA Today) reports, "The alleged mistreatment consisted of verbal abuse, physical punishment and ridicule of the subordinate soldiers, Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, spokesman for Multi-National Division-South wrote in an e-mail to Army Times."
Chris Roberts (El Paso Times) has reported that Keiffer Wilhelm "was abused by his 'first-line supervisors,' Sgt. Brandon LeFlor wrote in an e-mail. He is a spokesman for Multi-National Division-South in Basra, Iraq."
Turning to some reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad roadside bombings with no casualties reported.
Shootings?Reuters notes an attack on a Mosul police checkpoint in which two police officers were wounded.
AINA reports that Dr. Sameer Gorgees Youssif was released by his kidnappers following his August 18th abduction. The explain the fifty-five year-old man is at least the fourth doctor kidnapped in Kirkuk in the last two years.His family paid $100,000 for his release. His injurries include sever pressure uclers along the right side of his body, "open wounds around his mouth and wrists" (from being bound and gagged) and bruises all over his body.
The big news of the day? Prison break. Xinhua reports that 16 prisoners have escaped from a Tikrit prison after they "broke through a ventilation duct in the prison" -- five of the sixteen were on death row. Al Jazeera cites Maj Gen Abdul-Karim Khalaf claiming six "are considered dangerous." Reuters notes one of the escapees was captured post-escape. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) adds that Tirket is now under "complete curfew" and that "The facility from which the inmates escaped was a makeshift prison, built on the compounds of one of Saddam's former palaces. Inmates were housed in a former school of Islamic studies, surrounded by tall concrete blast wallas and guard towers." Sabah al-Bazee and Missy Ryan (Reuters) report, "Mutashar Hussain Allawi, governor of Salahuddin, said an investigation had been opened into the matter and that it appeared there may have been police involvement or negligence."
Negligence describes the Iraqi government's treatment of refugees. Alive in Baghdad's Omar has had to leave Syria and go to Sweden due to threats. Threats keep many refugees on the run. Minority Rights Group International has released a new report, written by Chris Chapman and Preti Taneja, entitled [PDF format warning] "Uncertain Refuge, Dangerous Return: Iraq's Uprooted Minorities." The 37 page report focuses on conditions in and out of Iraq for refugees. It notes the minority groups in Iraq: Baha'is, Black Iraqis (ancestors "believed to have migrated from East Africa"), Christians, Armenians, Chaldo-Assyrians, Cicassians, Faili Kurds, Jews, Palestinians, Roma, Sabian Mandaeans, Shabacks, Turkmen and Yazidis. Yes, that is a bit more complex than the Sunni-Shi'ite pimped by the media repeatedly. (Yes, sometimes they'll toss in Sunni-Shi'ite-Kurd and they really seem eager for Arab v. Kurd.) The minority groups are repeatedly targeted and have been since the start of the Iraq War: Many of Iraq's minority communities have been present in the country for more than two millennia. Others have made their homes there over generations. During the conflict that began in 2003, minorities had suffered disproportionate levels of targeted violence because of their religions and ethnicities, and have formed a large proportion of those displaced, either by fleeing to neighbouring countries or seeking asylum further afield. Today, the survival of Iraq's minority communities remains at high risk, even as the focus of international attention shifts from Iraq to conflicts elsewhere. Inside Iraq, the threat of violence against minorities is still very real. Across Kirkuk and the Nineveh Plains where Christians, Yazidis and Turkmen have historical roots, violence shows no signs of abating. Recent attacks have particularly targeted Turkmen villages. This is connected to the struggle over Kirkuk and Nineveh, which is escalating between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government. Minorities are caught between the two, and their relatively smaller numbers and lack of recourse to justice contribute to their vulnerability.The report notes the minority communities have left Iraq and "scattered across the world" -- a dispersion that puts the communities at risk of losing many traditions and rites as well as at risk of host governments with little grasp of the communities. Host governments also are feeling an economic pinch -- the report does not note that Nouri al-Maliki publicly boasted that Iraqi money would be sent to those hosting refugees and that it still hasn't happened -- which further leaves Iraqi refugees at risk. On the press loved but factually unsound Myth of the Great Return, the report notes:This has led some asylum countries to start deporting rejected asylum-seekers back to Iraq. Returns, however, must be viewed in the context of refugee situations. Many refugees find it difficult to afford to stay in the countries to which they have fled, not least if they have not been granted permission to work. Meanwhile, the Government of Iraq, in collaboration with host governments, is providing incentives for people to go back. But the United Nations HighCommissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other organizations, including MRG, do not yet consider it safe to return to Iraq. The verdict of minorities, according to testimony collected in Jordan, Syria and Sweden, three countries where the Iraqi minority presence is particularly high, is striking: despite incentives, none of those from minority communities interviewed for this report said they would ever return to reintegrate in Iraq. I know it's Thursday and that the US' manic depressive Ambassador to Iraq peaked some time ago, but could someone please consider reading the above paragraph to Chris Hill who continues to insist not only that Iraqi refugees must return but that the fate of Iraq hinges on their return. You have to wonder how Chris Hill would have handled Germany if he'd been the US Ambassador there post-WWII?If Hill still can't get it, read him this testimony from a 55-year-old Armenian now living in Damascus:"In Baghdad there was unlimited suffering -- fear of kidnapping, killing. When you go to work it's like going to fight in a war. I didn't get a mobile because I was afraid of receiving threats by mobile. On my son's birthday, I went to get a cake, I was surrounded by four people with masks, threatening me with a gun. They were from the Islamic parties. They told me that they are investigating me, my work with the Americans. They told me to pay $50,000 or be killed; my cousins paid $15,000. After they released me, I decided to leave Iraq; next time they might kill me. They also told me to leave the house because it wasn't mine. "First we came to Syria, then Armenia. There is a foundation that helps you settle in Armenia, but you have no rights there, they just give you temporary residence. Armenia is very poor. My salary was $250, working eight a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. It was better than Iraq, at least we could sleep well. "They put my daughter and son in classes two years below their age. I asked why; they said Maths is in English, they have to learn it from scratch. Then the support from the foundation ended, my wage was too little, so I came back to Syria. "The kids are confused. They were studying in Russian in Armenia, here in Arabic, possibly another language if resettled. They lost three years of studies. They will suffer in the future."The report notes that Iraqi's minority communities account for a large number of the external refugees and that this is due to "specific forms of persecution suffered by these communities". A table offers a look at some destinations for Iraqi refugees. We'll note the top five neighboring countries and then compare it to the US.Syria has 1.1 million refugees with 174,000 being Christians, 8,400 Yazidis, 9,500 to 11,000 Sabian Mandaeans and 742 Palestinians. Jordan is second ranked with 450,000 Iraqi refugees of which 56,000 are Christians, 900 are Yazidis, 3,100 are Sabian Mandaeans and 386 are Palestinians. Coming in third is Lebanon with 50,000 refugees -- at least 17,000 are Christians (only group ranked). Fourth is Turkey which houses 8,000 refugees and breaks down three groups: 5,000 Christians, 100 Yazidis and 100 Sabian Mandaeans. Fifth place is Egypt with 30,000 (600 of which are Christians).Of the ten countries listed, the two who have accepted the least number of Iraqi refugees are the US and Canada. Australia beats the two indidivually and Australia beats the US and Canada if you combine the two. Sweden and Germany also have accepted more Iraqi refugees. And all the five neighboring countries in the previous paragraph have accepted more (than the US and Canada). [For any wondering, about the numbers for Western countries, the endnote for the table reads: "Figues of total Iraqi refugees in Australia, Canada, Germany, Sweded and US from UNHCR, Statistical Online Population Database, http://www.unhcr.org/pages/4a013eb06.html accessed 18 August 2009.]Chris Hill appears to think Iraq's external refugees just decided, "Hon, let's summer in Syria!" A Sabian Manadaen couple in Amman, Jordan share their story. [Husband] "An American patrol came into my jewellery store for 10 minutes, and then said they would come back. After they left, three of the Mahdi Army came and called me a dirty Mandaean. They asked, 'Why did you let the Americans come into your shop -- why are you dealing with them? You must be a spy'."[Wife] "Afterwards, they sent a threat, then they broke into the house. They held my daughter with a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if I didn't tell them where my husband was. I didn't know what to do. They tore at my clothes, they were going to rape me. I said I was pregnant. They kicked me and said, 'This is what you deserve, you filthy Mandaean.' I bled, I fainted. I miscarried after the trauma. It is hard for me to talk about this. "We have lost hope here, but at least we are secure. When I hear loud voices I feel traumatized and scared. I wake in the night and I am afraid, even when someone just slams the door. This is reflecting on my daughter. I don't let her go out. She is always asking me, 'Why don't you let me go and play?' I embrace them even when I am sleeping." [Husband] "I pressurize my wife because I am so tired. When I go out she gets angry and I get upset. We have thought of separating because of the pressure we have been through. I am supposed to support her, look after her and the kids and prepare for her delivery. I see myself unable to do anything. Everyone has left. Why not us? We are stuck here." The report concludes: In the long term, the objective must be to maintain that diversity by ensuring that minorities, who said that they would not go back 'even if they beg' or 'even if I were President,' can learn to see the country as their home again. The Iraqi government must do more than make rhetorical gestures about safeguarding minorities in order to recreate a sense of belonging. It must pass laws guaranteeing minority rights, building on Article 125 of the Constitution, and set up mechanisms for minorities to participate effectively in decisions that affect them.Security must be provided, by involving minorities themselves in policing, and by strengthening discipline and accountability. As UNHCR notes, that stage has not been reached, and it is not an option to return Iraqi refugees, minorities or not. The international community must therefore provide genuine access to protection. Asylum procedures must be fair and asylum adjudicators must recognize the continued instability and uncertainty facing minorities in Iraq. The international community must therefore ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is respected. Resettlement must remain available for the most vulnerable Iraqi refugees in the region, including minorities. Additionally,the world community must give more support to the already overburdened countries in Iraq's neighbourhood that are home to the vast majority of the displaced. The report's release comes as Xinhua reports Asghar Abdulrazaq al-Moussawi, Deputy Minister of Immigration, states that "30,000 families have been displaced from northern Iraq's Nineveh province since the U.S.-led war in 2003". And for the tiny number of Iraqi refugees who are granted asylum in the US? Hannah Allam's "Web forums help Iraqi refugees adapt to America" (McClatchy Newspapers) explains: One of the best-known Iraqi forums is Ankawa.com, which draws about 30,000 visitors a day, or nearly a million a month. Ankawa, named after a small town in northern Iraq, began 10 years ago as an online meeting place for Iraq's Christian minority, said the site's Sweden-based manager, Amir al Malih. Malih, responding by e-mail to questions from McClatchy, said the site's popularity had soared with the exodus of Iraqis displaced by the U.S.-led war and sectarian violence. In the early days, Malih said, a volunteer legal adviser monitored refugee-related forums to ensure accuracy. Now, he said, so many resettled Iraqis of all backgrounds visit the site that the community is self-policing.
Joan Lownds (Wilton Bulletin) reports on one Iraqi refugee family that relocated to Connecticut, "The Wilton group worked with the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), a New Haven nonprofit group, which has sponsored 112 refugees from 19 countries in 25 years, according to the IRIS Web site. The families are carefully vetted under a U.S. government program 'for suitability and for the legitimacy of their refugee status as victims of persecution in their native land,' according to Stephen Hudspeth of Glen Hill Road, housing committee chair of the Wilton Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Committee. Both church and individual donations have helped to sponsor the family, and volunteers give them rides to lessons in English As A Second Language, medical appointments, and other activities."
Those who remain in Iraq face additional problems this summer. UPI notes that Iraq's water crisis not only continues but worsens and beyond the issues of the Tigris and Euphrates' natural flow being circumvented by dams to supply more water to Turkey, a new problem has emerged: "encroaching tidal waters from the Gulf that are poisoning vital farmland, the result of climate change." Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) focuses on the drought which is destroying farms as well as the fish, " Vast lakes have shriveled. River beds have run dry. The animals are sick, the birds have flown elsewhere and an ancient way of life is facing a new threat to its existence. The fabled marshes of southern Iraq are dying again -- only this time the forces of nature, not the hand of man, are to blame."
Meanwhile WUWM reports that the Wisconsin Air National Guard is en route to Iraq, this will be their fourth deployment and the WNG "currently has 32-hundred soldiers and airmen serving in Iraq." Delaware News Journal reports the state's Air National Guard's 261st Signal Brigade is scheduled to return on Friday after a year in Iraq (this is the brigade that Beau Biden, son of US Vice President Joe Biden, serves in). Bernie Quigley (The Hill) reports on a movement to get all National Guard troops home, "The Bring the Guard Home movement brings state-based opposition to the Cheney/Bush/Obama/Biden war now meandering through Afghanistan. Bring the Guard Home is a national movement of state campaigns to end the unlawful overseas deployment of the National Guard, their ewebsite states."
Socialist Workers Party notes a photo exhibit in Dublin running from September 25th through October 9th (Monday through Friday, 1:15 p.m. to 4;15 p.m.) at 55 Middle Abbey Street. The exhibit is on the futility of war and includes images from Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. "We plan touring with this exhibition in countries that have any involvement in any wars or the arms industry and also other Irish locations to highlight the use of Shannon Airport being used as a stopover by the American military." At Foreign Policy In Focus, Erik Leaver reviews IraqiGirl (Diary of a Teenage Girl in Iraq) and notes:
A new book now joins that list of must-reads, IraqiGirl. This compilation of blog posts stands out from the rest because of the age of the writer. Hadiya published her first post on July 29, 2004 at the age of 15. Her writing focuses far more on her family and school than on the politics and battlefield that consumed the writing of Riverbend and others. On one hand, it makes the book less useful for scholars of the war but on the other, it is an essential tool for activists and those teaching younger generations in the United States and around the world about what it's like to live with war surrounding you.The daily trauma of war is illuminated in nearly every blog post. Hadiya writes, "At the beginning of the war, when we heard an explosion we called all the family to make sure that they are fine. But now because the explosions don't stop all day, we stopped calling each other."
As the war goes on, the writing and story lines remain a constant. Hadiya worries about school, her family, and her friends. One keeps reading hoping to see a change on the ground. After all, President George W. Bush repeatedly assured the American public that we were "succeeding". But one of Hadiya's most oft-repeated phrases of the book is that "things are getting worse." Indeed, even in her final few posts in November 2007, she writes, "The basic fact is that we are still insecure and in danger even when we are in our own homes."
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Thursday, September 17, 2009
That's "Bully Boy and the Thirteenth Confession" from November 13, 2005. The quote is " . . . it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." That was Bully Boy himself speaking about the Iraq War.
It was so ludicrous that the big liar on Iraq would accuse others of lying that I wanted a comic of it but couldn't figure out what. Finally I decided to pair the quote down to that section and call it a confession, and liken it to Laura Nyro's classic album Eli & The Thirteenth Confession.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, September 17, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US targets the widow of a US soldier, Camp Bucca closes, face-to-face between Iraq and Syria, Blackwater (like the US) remains in Iraq, and more.
CNN reports that one US military prison in Iraq, Camp Bucca, has been closed. BBC Radio World Service notes that at one time the prison held many prisoners "some of whom were held for years without charge." Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) explains, "It grew into the military's largest prison in the world, and commanders used it as a closely monitored laboratory for studies in long-term detention. The results changed U.S. military doctrine on enemy prisoners of war, leading to new manuals on interrogation and detention practices, commanders told McClatchy in previous interviews. As Iraqi officials point out, however, the changes at Bucca came only after the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal exploded into the news, undercutting the U.S. military's perceived moral superiority and fueling support for insurgents." Martin Chulov (Guardian) observes it was the largest US prison and that "Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport -- will still be operating" and he quotes Mohaamed al-Janabi stating, "I was there for 18 months. I was arrested by the Americans at my uncle's house because one of their trucks had been blown up the day before. They fed me well and they trained me in woodwork and I only ever did four nights in isolation. But I should not have been there in the first place. My story was similar to almost everyone else I met there." The US military states that they now only run the prisons Camp Taji and Camp Cropper in Iraq and still holds 8,305 prisoners. Alsumaria explains, "US army will submit a list of detainees who might be released to Iraqi authorities which have 75 days to issue warrants before any release." UPI notes that the closing meant some prisoners were transferred to Camp Cropper. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports that "the U.S. military plans to transfer the Camp Taji detention facilities, which cost $5 million a year to operate and maintain, to Iraq control." Iran's Press TV provides the history of Camp Bucca, "The isolated Camp Bucca began as a small tent camp for prisoners of war just after the US-led 2003 invasion. Over the next six years, it grew into a 40-acre desert prison filled with row after row of watchtowers, barbed-wire-topped fences and metal trailers or plywood barracks to house detainees."
Muntadhar al-Zeidi (also spelled Muntadar al-Zaidi in some outlets) was released from a Baghdad prison (under Iraqi control) on Tuesday. AFP reports the journalist is now in Greece for medical treatment and "A family member said he suffers frequent headaches after being injected with unknown chemicals by jailers." An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy reports that before going to Greece, Muntadar first was first received by Muhsin Bilal, Syria's Minister of Information, in Damascus.
Tensions continue between Syria and Iraq. Xinhua reports Ahmed Davutoglu (Turkey's Foreign Minister), Hoshyar Zebari (Iraq's Foreign Minister), Walid Mualem (Syria's Foreign Minister) Amr Moussa (Arab League Secretary General) met in Istanbul today. The meeting follows the governments of Syria and Iraq withdrawing their ambassadors from each other's country after Nouri al-Maliki's government began making charges against Syria following the August 19th Baghdad bombings and demanding that Syria hand over 179 former Ba'athist members. BBC News notes, "Iraq says it has evidence that groups based in Syria orchestrated the bombings in Baghdad, a claim Damascus has dismissed."
AP reports the ministers for Iraq and Syria exchanged charges and counter-charges with Zebari insisting the country was "fueling sectarian issues" as well as "supporting terrorism and violence that threaten Iraqi unity" while Mualem (also spelled al-Moallem by some outlets) accused the Iraqi government of scapegoating Syria to cover up for its own failures. However, Hurriyet reports that the dominant issue of the talks was Iraq's drought issue: "Nearly all Iraqi ministers complained about the severe drought problem in their war-torn country, with the interior minister saying that the water shortage has sparked tensions among locals in central and southern Iraq. He said the shortages have become a security issue in the country."
Meanwhile, US Vice President Joe Biden has been in Iraq. Scott Wilson (Washington Post) reports that "Biden pressed Iraqi leaders Wednesday to approve as quickly as possible legislation that establishes rules for the planned January general election and to make the next round of bids to develop Iraqi oil concessions more attractive to foreign investors." Edwin Chen (Bloomberg News) adds, "In back-to-back meetings with top Iraqi officials while in Baghdad yesterday, Biden addressed issues such as job creation and regulations that he told them would lead to greater interest from companies that want to do business in the oil-rich nation, according to an administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity." David Rising (AP) notes, "Over his three-day visit, Biden's main focus was expected to be plans for January elections and the ongoing violence in Iraq's north. Biden last visited Iraq on July 4 to spend U.S. Independence Day with the troops. During that triGina Chon (Wall St. Journal) detailed Biden's agenda for today, "On Thursday, Mr. Biden is scheduled to travel to the Kurdish north to hold talks with regional president Masoud Barzani. Tensions between the semi-autonomous Kurdish government and Baghdad have worried U.S. officials, who fear the disputes could turn violent."p he also met with his son, Beau, who is an Army captain serving in Iraq."
The White House issued the following last night and we'll note it in full since there's been so very little press coverage of Biden's visit:PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (As Translated) In the name of God, most compassionate, most merciful, I welcome Vice President Biden in his visit to Baghdad. This is not his first visit. It is a continuation and a follow-up of previous visits and a follow-up on the issues of mutual interest to both countries. And as in each time, these were beneficial and positive discussions and that continue with the discussions held previously during our previous visits or also during my visit to Washington. And we -- he affirmed further the need to deepen the positive relationship between the two countries and taking them and advancing them. We have discussed the steps that has been -- have been taken so far with regards to the Status of Forces Agreement that are so far going on with a high credibility and taking their normal course. We also discussed the issues within the Strategic Framework Agreement which we have very high hopes and expectations. And within the Strategic Framework Agreement, touching that issue, we focused on all the aspects of cooperation -- economic, political, cultural, scientific and commercial -- and the ways to foster and to support further the political process, this political process that has cemented the democracy in Iraq. And we also talked about the various challenges that we face. And in steps on the implementation of the Strategic Framework Agreement, we had started discussions early on in Washington during the work and the proceedings of the high coordinating -- coordination committee between the two countries. We talked about that and we talked about -- through which there was this conference that will be held on October 20th and 21st in Washington. We discussed that and the need for this conference to be a success in order to provide investments, opportunities for the companies and also in order to provide -- and we spoke about how to advance the various legislative reform needed with regard to investments and so forth. In that endeavor, the National Iraqi Authority for Investments will be putting forth some lists -- lists about the needs for types of contracts and the type of investments that this conference would attract for the big corporations, the capital and the merchants to know what we need. And we ask also from the various relevant ministries in Iraq to put forth such lists to define other needs in contracting and opportunities. And we also focused on the way to fight terrorism, this threat that is threatening the security and the peace -- international security and peace. And we also talked about our ongoing efforts to pursue the terrorists who hit the lives of people and who hit the infrastructure. And once more I welcome Vice President Biden, thank him for his visit, and hope for further good relations -- mutual bilateral relations between the two countries. VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you once again for the welcome. I'm delighted to be back in Baghdad to discuss with the Prime Minister and his advisers issues of mutual interest. And I think we concluded some very productive talks. And once again, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for your hospitality as well as your leadership. And I want to assure -- I've assured the Prime Minister that the United States' commitment to strengthen our relationship with Iraq remains strong. President Obama emphasized that when the Prime Minister visited in July, and I repeat it again today: Our goal is to work in partnership with Iraq to help the Iraqi people build a country that's sovereign and stable and self-reliant -- and they're well on their way. I want -- we want a long-term relationship based upon mutual respect. And we look at the accomplishments of the last several years and in recent months -- I think we're making steady progress mutually toward that goal. We're determined to stand with our Iraqi friends as they address the challenges that remain and that -- PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.) VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I'm very tired. (Laughter.) (The interpreter translates.) My compliment to the interpreter. (Laughter.) At the end of -- at the end of June, we took a very important step by transferring security responsibility in Iraqi cities and towns to the Iraqi Security Forces. This transition was part of the security agreement concluded between our countries last November. And in accordance with that agreement, we will continue to provide training and support for Iraqi Security Forces. And we'll also move ahead in other aspects of the security agreement by removing all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August 2010 and all remaining U.S. troops by the end of 2011. As the terrorist bombings on August 19th so vividly demonstrated, the enemies of national unity in Iraq are ready to murder innocent civilians as they attempt to re-ignite sectarian conflict. Once again, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, we extend our condolences to the families of the victims, and condemn such attacks. And we are confident -- we are confident -- the terrorists will fail. The Iraqi people and security forces charged with protecting them have shown great courage, resilience and restraint in the face of this danger. And they'll continue to reject the forces of division and destruction. I'm confident of that, as well. We also discussed the Prime Minister's efforts of his government to strengthen national unity. The Prime Minister was kind enough to discuss with us several of the issues that are in need of resolution if the Iraqis are to achieve the bright future that they have fought so hard for and deserve. As the Prime Minister also mentioned, and mentioned just a moment ago, we discussed the status of the Strategic Framework Agreement. This agreement lays the groundwork for a strong and long-lasting relationship between our countries in cultural, educational, economic and scientific fields. And it will, in our view, allow us to partner in improving governance and delivering services and promoting the rule of law, as well. The Strategic Framework Agreement is the foundation of our relationship, and we look forward to joining our Iraqi friends in developing and carrying out programs that will benefit both our countries in the near future and the long term. We're expanding our economic partnerships, and we very much look forward to the Iraqi Business and Investment Conference that was also referenced that is going to be held in Washington next month and which we believe will help bring together American and Iraqi businesses for additional economic activity in Iraq. Iraqis as, as I might add, as well as Americans have made many sacrifices in the last six and a half years, and much hard work remains. But under the Prime Minister's leadership and the efforts of the Iraqi people, Iraq is on the road to a better future. And we remain committed to cooperating with the Iraqi government and people as they work together to create a peaceful and prosperous Iraq. Again, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your hospitality.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded a driver and a bodyguard for "the head of Islamic studies in the Sunni Endowment office," Baghdad mortar attacks which wounded four people, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two people, a Mosul truck bombing which claimed the life of 1 suicide bomber and 3 civilians (six people -- three police -- were wounded), a Mosul car bombing which injured four people, a Kirkuk sound bombing followed by a roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 members of Kurdish intelligence and left three more injured. Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib bombing claimed 2 lives and left a third person injured and, dropping back yesterday, a Baquba car bombing which left five people injured, a Baghdad car bombing which injured one person and a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two people.
Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in a Mosul drive-by and 1 more person wounded in a shooting attack on his store.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Correction to yesterday's snapshot noted, "Yesterday's snapshot noted the release from a Baghdad prison of Iraq journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi (also spelled Muntadar al-Zaidi in some outlets) where he'd been sentenced for throwing two shoes at Bully Boy Bush on December 14th. Today, another shoe thrower apparently emerged. The Telegraph of London reports Ahmed Latif was shot dead today by the US military in Falljua after he hurled insults and a shote at them." Sahar Issa reports today that the man was wounded. Nawaf Jabbar and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) add the man's name is Ahmed Abdul Latif and that Latif fell to the ground after being shot according to eye witness Ahmed Mukhlif who says that then "the four U.S. Humvees stopped and a man stepped out, his rifle pointing toward the wounded Iraqi, and a policeman intervened and prevented the American from firing again."
Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan hosts a weekly radio and online broadcast, Cindy's Soapbox. This week's first guest is independent journalist Dahr Jamail whose latest book is The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. We noted a section of the broadcast yesterday and we'll note another section today where Cindy and Dahr discuss his new book.
Cindy Sheehan: Dahr tell my listeners about your book The Will to Resist. I just I support soldiers who refuse to go to these illegal and immoral wars. I support them financially, I support them morally. My son didn't want to go but he thought it was his duty so he went and he was killed hours after he actually got to post. But the thing I support about these-these men and women is that they realize they're being used as tools of the US empire and they don't want to die and they don't want to kill anybody as tools. So tell my listeners about your book.
Dahr Jamail: And that is really the spirit of the book. It's about people in the military, most of which are Iraq and/or Afghanistan veterans, some of them are active duty folks. And it's about people that basically joined the military for various reasons whether it's for economic reasons or out of patriotism or wanting to serve their country and then realizing that being in Iraq or Afghanistan, it literally pushes them up against a moral crisis where they realized they're being asked to follow unlawful orders and so many of them understand that, for example, not only the situation in Iraq but the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan violates the Geneva Conventions as well which by definition given that the US is a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, violates the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution which then by definition puts a soldier in a moral crisis where they have to decide "Do I follow these orders which are actually illegal by both domestic and international law or do I stand up and refuse?" And to do the moral thing as well as the lawful thing, these people realize, well I'm going to have to take a stand and basically go up against against the US military and be court martialed and probably have to do some jail time and so I-I started running into people who were actually taking public stands against both occupations as well as other kinds of resistance against of which there's myriad types of resistance -- whether it's from doing fake patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan or coming back home and becoming very outspoken against it and having things like Winter Soldier events like Iraq Veterans Against the War sponsored. So really I started running into all these different types of resistance that veterans and active duty folks were involved in and realized "Wow, there's more than enough material here to write a book."
Cindy Sheehan: And so, um, most of my listeners know what Winter Soldier is, my listeners are very smart and they're very well informed. But for maybe a few that wouldn't know what Winter Soldier is, could you explain to my listeners what that was?
Dahr Jamail: Winter Soldier was a phenomena that began during Vietnam when similarly soldiers were coming back from Vietnam and realizing that most of the people in this country were not getting any real clear information about how bad it was over there and what was actually happening. So similarly a bunch of Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans associated with Iraq Veterans Against the War came back and held a big conference in Silver Spring, Maryland -- it was spring a year ago. And about fifty-six or so of them testified on different panels about what they did in Iraq, what they saw over there and showed photos and showed videos and really gave us a clear picture about what it was and the atrocities they were carrying out and how horrible the situation really was. It was a really shocking conference to be a part of and be there and was a very, very difficult weekend but a very necessary one and so it was all over the alternative media of course -- Pacifica outlets, some satellite stations, Democracy Now!, etc., Laura Flanders, but of course no big shocker corporate media in large part basically censored it.
We're stopping there. KPFA carried the first IVAW Winter Soldier starting Friday morning, continuing Saturday and Sunday. Aaron Glantz and Aimee Allison anchored the coverage. Pacifica Radio's webpage offered all of that coverage in a live stream and once offered it in full. Then it was decided that KPFA The War Comes Home was archiving, so it could be removed from the Pacifica site. It's a little over a year later. The War Comes Home? It's been history for months now. Click here for March 14th live coverage, here for March 15th live coverage, here for March 16h live coverage at KPFA. Now in real time, WBAI elected not to break away from their very pressing weekend schedule of repeats of dead Al Lewis programs and moldy-oldy records. Translation, they didn't broadcast Winter Soldier on Saturday or on Sunday. Democracy Now!? Click here and here for their broadcast (which is more of a mix). Iraq Veterans Against the War's Winter Soldier page provides a link to video of this Winter Soldier (other Winter Soldiers have been staged regionally since -- at least two in California). Click here for Sprouts coverage of it (one hour, audio, also a mix). Chris Hayes wrote about it for The Nation (which was tremendously appreciated and that's not sarcasm). Despite a promise from a publisher of an indy rag -- shall I start telling tales off the school yard? -- that he would write about it . . . he 'forgot.' Let's drop the pretense that anyone did a damn thing in Panhandle Media. The ones who did -- whether I like them or not -- are mentioned: Aimee Allison, Aaron Glantz, Christopher Hayes, Amy Goodman, Laura Flanders. The ones who didn't? Oh, I could make a list. Including the author whose book was cited at Winter Soldier, who swore he'd cover it and then . . . like ____ . . . forgot.
And all those promises
That you made me from the start
Were filled with emptiness
From the desert of your heart
Every sweet caress
Was just your second best
-- "All Those Promises," written by Janis Ian, from her album Folk Is The New Black
Sidebar, Janis is touring (always) and one show is in Dallas, Texas. A record producer friend asked that we get the word out on it. Tickets are priced from $25 to $75 for the October 22nd concert presented by the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce in cooperation with StraightOut Media & Marketing, SRO Artists and Revenge Touring, Inc. Click here for details and to purchase tickets. Back to the topic at hand . . .
No offense, but I'm not in the mood for this bulls**t. This bulls**t not being called out loudly in real time resulted in where we are today.
Little useless Jeff Cohen shows up a week after Winter Soldier presenting a pat-on-the-back column for Panhandle Media where he LIED that people could hear it on the radio and get it here and there and everywhere. LIES. WBAI did one damn day. That's NYC. That's a huge population center and it's the media center, THE, in the US. One damn day. More important to air repeats of Al Lewis' program -- in March 2008, more important to air repeats of Al Lewis' radio program, Al Lewis who died in February 2006.
We covered it in this community. This isn't empty finger-pointing. Community-wide, refer to "I Hate The War," "Iraq snapshot," "Jason Hurd (IVAW's Winter Soldiers Investigation),"
"IVAW's Clifton Hicks," "Kelly Dougherty at Winter Soldiers Investigation," "Corporal Eric Estenzo testifies at Winter Soldiers...," "Steve Mortillo at Winter Soldiers Investigation,"
"adrienne kinne reveals the v.a. system," "Nachos in the Kitchen (and Adam Kokesh),"
"Tantrum in the Oval Office" & " THIS JUST IN! INTERVIEW IN THE OVAL OFFICE!" (joint-post), "Katrina vanden Heuvel avoids Winter Soldier," "Saturday's Winter Soldier Investigation," "Truest Statement of the Week," "Editorial: Are you ready to listen," "TV: Nothing-ness," "Veterans Healthcare," "Roundtable," "Negative Critisicm of Winter Soldiers Investigation," "And the war drags on . . .," "Iraq snapshot," "Dahlai Wasfi: Rock Star," "Garret Reppenhagen at Winter Soldier," "Jesse Hamilton Winter Soldier," "IVAW, silence, Hillary," "CounterPunch never heard of IVAW?," "Common Dreams doesn't include Winter Soldier," "Iraq snapshot," "Jesse Hamilton Winter Soldier Investigation," "Iraq snapshot," "The Peter Pans of Panhandle Media refused to cover Winter Soldiers," "Jesse Hamilton, Hillary, Barack," "Video, Hillary's Iraq speech," "Jesse Hamilton Winter Soldier," "Iraq snapshot" and "Ron Cantu at Winter Soldier." I may have missed something but that's the coverage beginning the Thursday Winter Soldier started and continuing through the week after it ended.
There were tons of stories to be told, tons of thing to comment on or share. But people took a pass. And then after, people took a pass on calling out the silence. Whores like Jeff Cohen showed up to attack Real Media for not covering but he had nothing to say about the many, many in Panhandle Media who ignored it. (And Real Media did do some coverage by the way. We covered that in real time. I'm not in the mood to go through all that now.) (John Stauber critiqued the silence on Winter Soldier. To be clear, John Stauber did not and is not a whore. He and Cohen were both guests for a KPFA segment and I don't want anyone to wrongly think that he's being lumped in with Cohen.) FAIR, Coehn's brothel, showed up the Friday after Winter Soldier ended with CounterSpin where they found time to cluck over the lack of coverage . . . but forgot to include themselves because FAIR has a website and forgot to do a damn thing on Winter Soldier before it started or while it was going on. That's empty finger-pointing. Repeating, in this community, we covered it in real time.
This topic will come back up at Third this weekend. But for now, this nonsense of acting like Panhandle Media did something? It didn't do a damn thing. It's as pathetic as Green Party members being thrilled that Amy Goodman gives their national convention, where they nominate a presidential candidate, a mention in headlines. The Green Party gets a headline. The DNC convention gets ten hours of coverage from Amy Goodman. The RNC convention gets tens hours of coverage from Amy Goodman. But Greens want to pretend that getting tossed scraps is something wonderful. I'm not in the mood for scraps. Winter Soldier was a HUGE story and should have been the biggest story for anyone slightly-left-of-center all the way to the extreme end. Now The Progressive missed Winter Soldier. Completely. While it was happening, they took a pass. But the week after Winter Soldier, they're live blogging a multi-day DNC event. Don't forget that. Don't forget where their priorities were.
Good luck to Dahr with his book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan but I'm not in the mood for pretending what happened didn't happen nor am I dependent upon Foreign Policy in Focus, The Progressive or anyone else for good reviews or a paycheck. So I can and will call them out for their gross negligence and silence. And Ava and I went round and round with FPIF in real time. The refusal of others to do so, the refusal to hold them accountable? It's part of the reason why Iraq has fallen off the radar despite the fact that the illegal war continues.
In related news, which is also good news for Random House, George W. Bush is more popular than anyone could have guessed (Crown Publishing will be publishing Bully Boy Bush's memoir I Came, I Killed, I Giggled aka Decision Points). So says a new poll by Gallup which finds US President Barack Obama's highest job approval coming on the Iraq War with 56% under "approve." Since Barack's 'plan' is nothing but Bush's plan, 56% of the American people -- those polled by Gallup -- have just given George W. a big sloppy kiss.
Don't know just what I wanted
But I know I wanted more
Someone smooth, presentable
To blend with my decor
And now at night I think of how
You grinned when you undressed
And I find I miss you
More than I'd ever guessed
-- "The Carter Family," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, from her No Secrets album (Carly's new album, Never Been Gone, is released October 27th)
And apparently a large number of Americans just wanted someone "smooth, presentable" to continue the policies of George W. Bush because that's what Barack's done and, with regards to Iraq, that's all he's done. The Status Of Forces Agreement (a treaty masquerading as a SOFA) was pushed through by the Bush White House -- and prior to it being pushed through, Barack joined the chorus of US Congress members calling out the SOFA (Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, etc.). And Barack promised that, ten months after being sworn in, US forces would be out of Iraq! (Houston, Texas, speech given February, 2008. Check Tom Hayden's dresser for mash notes and fan fiction on the speech.) Sworn in and, golly, he decides the 'plan' for Iraq is . . . exactly what Bush mapped out. And 56% of Americans surveyed are fine and dandy with it. Barack Obama has not ended the Iraq War. Iraqis have not stopped dying, US forces have not stopped dying. Greenville Daily News reports that the 1073rd Maintenance Company of the Michigan Army National Guard "earlier served more than a year in Iraq is going back for 12 more months." They quote Sgt Amanda Cole stating, "We're not as comfortable with our mission. We've never done this before. A lot of the weapons we'll be using have never been used before by members of our unit." At The Hill, two comments on the polling results are worth noting. Jim: "Isn't it interesting that his highest approval rating is simply for the continuation of the Bush doctrine in Iraq . . . hmmm . . ." and Bob: "Exactly the point! He is doing best in the one thing he has not tried to change!!! America? Do you get it yet?" Do not think the right-wing hasn't noticed the hypocrisy of so many on the left. Paul Gottfried (Right Side News) went to town yesterday, "These days, as I walk among my formerly pacifist colleagues and read their preferred news sources, I don't hear a murmur of complaint about 'the president's strategy' for extricating our troops from military danger. It is as if we were living in messianic times, when the wolf is lying down with the lamb. This is all because we now have Obama in the White House and overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. Once I was naive enough to wonder why the critics of our war in Iraq on the right and on the left did not join hands in a common enterprise. The answer is that the Democratic Left, with few exceptions, was never opposed in principle to military entanglements overseas. While rightwing opponents of Bush's foreign policy were marginalized and vilified for their dissent by GOP commentators and the mainstream conservative movement, the Democratic Left engaged in griping as a means of taking power." The only 'change' has been the 'antiwar' movement packing it in after they whored to elect a Democratic president. Jeremy Scahill (The Nation via CBS News) asks, "Why Is Obama Still Using Blackwater?" and notes:
Two years to the day after the Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater remains in Iraq, armed and dangerous. As The Nation has reported, the Obama administration recently extended the company's contract there indefinitely. Blackwater has big-money contracts in Afghanistan as well, working for the State Department, the Defense Department and the CIA. As in Iraq, Blackwater forces are alleged to have shot and killed innocent civilians there. We now know that Blackwater was hired as part of the secret CIA assassination program that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered concealed from Congress and that the company continues to work for the CIA as part of its drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile Kristin M. Hall (AP) reports on military widow Hotaru Ferschke whose husband, Sgt. Michael Ferschke, died serving in Iraq August 10, 2008. He was shot dead during a house search. He and Hoatru had married a month before and she gave birth to their son, Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, eight months ago. They married by proxy which means a ceremony "on seperate continents" and with his dying a month later, immigration officials are insisting the marriage isn't valid because, get this, it was not consummated.A child would argue the relationship was. More importantly, immigration isn't supposed to be concerned with consummation. They're required to make sure that marriages are valid but as to whether or not a couple actually has sex? That's really none of the government's business. There are couples -- if you caught that bad 20/20 'medical' show, you know this -- who do not have sex. The article notes talk that the law needs to be updated but it actually needs to be tossed out and any judge worth his or her salt would move to do so quickly. It's creating a barrier that's not present in other legally recognized marriages in the US.Hall reports that Hotaru and Michael spent "13 months" together "before he left for Iraq in April 2008. He had proposed and they were trying to conceive a baby before he deployed, Hotaur Ferschke said." Approximately two weeks after he deployed, Hotaru discovered she was pregnant and the couple then moved quickly to have the proxy marriage. This was to be sure Michael's military benefits covered the pregnancy expenses and, you can be sure, this was also to be sure -- for both Michael and Hotaur -- that their relationship was legally recognized.Now immigration is threatening deportation. Her mother-in-law, Robin Ferschke states, "She's like my daughter. I know my child chose the perfect wife and mother of his child." US House Rep John Duncan has a bill that needs a sponsor in the Senate. Apparently Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander are too busy to sign on. (Tennessee is the family's state.)
We'll close with this from the last of the independents, the true independents, Chris Hedges (via Information Clearing House):
The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country's future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.The right wing is not wrong. It is not the problem. We are the problem. If we do not tap into the justifiable anger sweeping across the nation, if we do not militantly push back against corporate fraud and imperial wars that we cannot win or afford, the political vacuum we have created will be filled with right-wing lunatics and proto-fascists. The goons will inherit power not because they are astute, but because we are weak and inept.Violence is a dark undercurrent of American history. It is exacerbated by war and economic decline. Violence is spreading outward from the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan to slowly tear apart individuals, families and communities. There is no immunity. The longer the wars continue, the longer the members of our working class are transformed by corporate overlords into serfs, the more violence will dominate the landscape. The slide into chaos and a police state will become inevitable.The soldiers and Marines who return from Iraq and Afghanistan are often traumatized and then shipped back a few months later to be traumatized again. This was less frequent in Vietnam. Veterans, when they get out, search for the usual escape routes of alienation, addictions and medication. But there is also the escape route of violence. We risk creating a homegrown Freikorps, the demobilized German soldiers from World War I who violently tore down the edifice of the Weimar Republic and helped open the way to Nazism.
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Thursday, September 10, 2009
That's "Damn Alito" from November 6, 2005. As I've said before, when I did a cartoon featuring Condi Rice, I usually heard Janet Coleman (comedian and art critic on WBAI) in my head.
She is part of the CCCP and also hosts Cat Radio Cafe.
And I think that's why I did two comics that Sunday (I noted the other one last week). As I remember it, I was drawing the other one (which I hated then and hate now) and, while I was, in my head I heard Janet Coleman say, "He thought he was nominating Judge Ito." And because I could picture it, I knew I had to do a second comic.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, September 10, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill appears before Congress, election fears sprout in Iraq, Iraq's LGBT community continues to be targeted, and more.
US Ambassador Chris Hill appeared before Congress today. He last appeared before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on March 25th, back when Committee Chair John Kerry was explaining that, if confirmed as ambassador, he would depart for Iraq "within a day of his Senate confirmation. Tuesday April 21st, Hill was confirmed by the Senate. Three days later he showed up in Baghdad. Baby Hill's first broken promise since becoming ambassador.
This morning, Chris Hill appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and there wasn't a great deal to that hearing. Hill insisted that there was joy and wonder in Iraq because Sunnis and Shia had no "risen to the bait" of sectarian warfare. He avoided the issue of mounting tensions between Kurds and Arabs -- surprising when you grasp that outside observers and the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, have identified that mounting tension as among the most pressing problems facing Iraq today. In fact, "Analysts say tensions between Arabs and Kurds in northern Iraq is the major threat to the country's stability and security as the U.S. troops, which have mediated between the two sides, are prepare to withdraw from Iraq by 2012." That's Xinhua, we'll come back to that after discussing the hearing.
He acknowledged that "there is a risk of escalation in tensions between Arabs and Kurds around the disputed areas in nothern Iraq." A risk? It's taking place. Hill came off like an uninformed fool in March when attempting to speak on the issue of Kirkuk. He was no more convincing today discussing "the thorny dispute in Kirkuk." What is he doing on that issue? Apparently nothing but, he insisted, "The UN has an important role here." Then why are you appearing before Congress?
"There has been some good news," insisted Hill. "Iraq statged two rounds of successful elecitons this year -- the provincial council elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces in January, and elections for the Kurdistan Regional Government in July." Yes, he is that stupid. The KRG elections allowed for 3 more provinces to vote. And? What of Kirkuk? The oil-rich Kirkuk has not had its referendum -- promised in Iraq's Constitution ratified in 2005. There has been no promised census. There is no progress.
And that needs to be stated clearly. In 2007, a series of benchmarks were created by the Bush White House to measure 'progress' in Iraq. These were not 'longterm' benchmarks. These were benchmarks Iraq was supposed to meet within a year. And never did. And even now, as 2009 winds down, the benchmarks haven't been met.
Hill should not be allowed to cite 'progress' without defining it. He found time to slam the Iraqis comfort level with a Socialist economy, to preach the marekt economy as the only way for Iraq to find stability, to prep for a coming war with Iran (including climbing the drama cross about an Iranian rocket landing "in the front yard of my house") and more. James Morrison (Washington Times) reported this morning that Hillmight face questions today regarding why he more or less ignored ("downplayed") a letter from over "500 members of the British Parliament" warning that Camp Ashraf residents were in danger (the residents were assaulted July 28th). The issue was raised by the House Committee and Hill embarrassed himself and the country of the United States. The assulat resulted in 11 dead, many injured and at least 36 kidnapped/imprisoned. (Camp Ashraf residents call the 36 hostages.) Hill declared that Nouri has assured him the 36 won't be sent to Iran. The MEK are Iranian dissidents who have been in Iraq for decades now. Saddam Hussein welcomed them into the country. Following the US invasion in 2003, the US protected the MEK. Hill stated that they won't be sent back to Iran and seemed pleased with his statement. That's an ambassador? When Joe Wilson was Ambassador to Iraq, he stood up to the ruler. Hill's couldn't have been more ineffectual if he'd added, "Nouri and I text and i.m. all the time. And Hoshie Zebari is so dreamy!" He insisted that Nouri knew the US was interested in "the preservation of their human rights" but that appears only to apply to "Don't send them back to Iran!" Imprison them? Hey, fine and dandy with Chris Hill.
Due to the differences in time limits, we'll focus on the Senate committee. Individuals members of the committee have more time to ask questions on the Senate Committee. Equally true, Hill appeared fully awake for the afternoon session. His hair was in disarray and he had a food stain on his shirt (he is the Pig-Pen Ambassador), but he was awake.
We'll note a lengthy section of John Kerry's opening statement:
If the Iraqi public rejects the agreement, then I believe we have no choice but to withdraw all of our forces as quickly as we can. This would complicate our redeployment and severely curtail our ability to assist the Iraqi security forces and government. But at this point, I'm not sure how we justify asking our soldiers to stay one day longer than necessary after being formally disinvited by the Iraqi people.
In a sense, the security agreement that the Bush Administration negotiated with Prime Minister Maliki made moot the old "should we stay or should we go" policy debate. But even so, Iraq remains a Rorschach test for pundits and policymakers:
On the one hand, a person can look at the security gains since 2006 -- when sectarian violence threatened to tear Iraqi society apart -- and conclude that Iraqis have stepped back from the brink. And it's true that, since the worst days of 2006 and 2007, violence has dropped by 85 percent, even with the recent mass-casualty attacks. American fatalities are at their lowest rate of the war. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, while still deadly, is only a shadow of its former self.
There has been political progress, as well. In the January elections, unlike in 2005, sectarian and ethnic identification is unlikely to be the sole organizing principle of Iraqi politics. The leader of the Anbar Awakening, a group that evolved out of the Sunni Arab insurgency, has been talking openly about a political alliance with the Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Such an announcement would have been unthinkable just eighteen months ago. Other Sunni factions are exploring a coalition with the Kurds. Electricity production, which had long been stalled, quietly increased by forty percent in the last year.
That is the optimistic view. But one can look at the same set of facts on the ground and come to a more pessimistic conclusion: namely, that removing an American presence that has been the lynchpin of the security improvements of the last few years would lead Iraq back into a downward spiral of communal violence.
It's too soon to know whether the rise in violence since American forces withdrew from Iraqi cities in June is an uptick or an upswing. Whether it is a blip or a trend, recent violence has been troubling. August was the deadliest month for Iraqis in more than a year. And the devastating "Black Wednesday" bombings against the Iraqi Foreign and Finance Ministries last month were a stark reminder that forces opposed to reconciliation remain capable of devastating attacks that could alter the country's direction. The attacks were also a blow to the Iraqi people's confidence in their security forces. And of course, Iraq's problems don't end there: Arab -- Kurdish tensions remain unresolved, corruption is rampant; millions of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons remain far from home, waiting to be resettled; and Iraq's relations with its neighbors are volatile. These are a few of the many challenges Iraq will face in the coming years.
So which is it? Is Iraq beginning to unravel again, or are these just the inevitable bumps on the road toward returning responsibility for Iraq to Iraqis? What will happen after we leave? We don't have definitive answers to these questions.
Ranking Member Richard Luger stated they didn't need Hill to use a crystal ball and tell them about what would take place in 2011, that instead they need "your best sense of how things are progressing towards that date." And then the floor went to Chris Hill.
In the midst of reading his prepared statement -- the same prepared statement Senator John Kerry asked him to summarize and not read in full so that there could be more time for questions -- Hill looked around (so many rumors of meds, so many rumors) and asked,
"Is that my phone or someone else's? Good, it's not mine." Good. And did anyone else hear the ringing? Hill returned to reading his statement. Repeating, John Kerry told him the statement would be put into the record "as if you read it in full" and instructed him to summarize it so there would be more time for a discussion. Hill just doesn't grasp events around him. Maybe all those ringing cell phones he hears distracts him? Over three minutes into his word-for-word reading of the prepared statment, Hill was greeted by a loud throat clearing on the part of Senator Kerry. No, he didn't take a hint. Four minutes in, Kerry was visibly irritated. No, Hill didn't notice but went on about "we need to work closely with Iraq" . . . Some might think Hill was so dependent upon his prepared remarks because he stammers and stumbles when speaking without prepared text. Possibly. But he manages to screw up even his word-for-word reading. And, it needs to be noted, the prepared remarks he gave in the afternoon were pretty much the same ones he gave in the morning to the House committee. Kirkuk was "the thorny dispute" in both because they were the same damn statement. Four minutes later, Senator Kerry was again loudly clearing his throat and Hill was continuing to speak about "a very important day, more important than many . . ." Over ten minutes after he was asked to summarize and not read his statement, Hill finished reading it.
Senator Kerry noted Hill "mentioned in your testimony a strengthend civilian effort. What do you mean by that? We have one of the largest embassies in the world." Hill agreed that was true and then stated that the embassy "will need to get smaller." If you're confused, the committee appeared to be so as well as Hill began speaking of having to rent apartments in Baghdad for some staff members and putting in a partition/dry wall in one when the two people were not married. "But I want to assure mr chairman I want to see that embassy smaller," he declared firmly to the puzzled stares of the committee. Is Hill planning to rent out the embassy conference room for small parties? Sign lease agreements with some of the Subway sandwich shops losing spots on bases. [Marc Santora reported on bases yesterday, it was an article of interest but there was no room for it in the snapshot. Click here to read his article.]
Senator Russ Feingold asked whether the US military should provide security for embassies in war zone considering recent contractor scandals? "Incidents do happen," stated Hill, "everywhere." Thanks for that explanation, Chris. But, "I would rather not task the military with another mission." The US marines are the ones who are supposed to be protecting US embassies staff in foreign countries. If Hill's aware of that, he gave no indication. In replying to Senator Feingold, Hill fell back repeatedly on some variation of, "Maybe I can take the question and get back to you." Even for something as basic as his own role as supervisor as US troops draw-down. It was rather sad.
And what of 'progress'? Senator Kerry observed, "We've been sitting on this committee listening to this talk -- I can remember Senator Rice [. . .] testifying to us three or four years ago, saying the oil law is almost done." And it wasn't and it isn't.
"I went out there with the expectations that we would move on it," Hill declared of the oil law while painting himself as Hill of Arabia. But now? The issue's so much more complicated than he knew. (Over his head?) The law has many parts: "revenue sharing, institution building". And no luck on it. "We have tried to break it down," Hill shrugged. " I think that getting the economy there operating [. . .] is eseentital to the future of that country and frankly we cannot be funding things that should be funded by the Iraqis and would be funded" if the oil law was in place. Senator Corker wanted to know "how long as a country that we are supporting Iraq financially?" Hill agreed, "They should be able to pay their own bills. There's no question that they should pay their own bills." But?
They need financial support, Hill said, and pinned it on pre-Saddam era, going back to the British occupation (which he named and fingered) and Iraqis 'fear' of turning over assets "to foreigners to development. So they've got to get over that." Oh do they? They have to get over that. Hill said that Iraqis have to get over that? And he's the ambassador to Iraq?
The oil draft law (aka Theft Of Iraqi Oil)? "I think realistically speaking," Hill said indicating he had offered something other than realistic speaking to the committee previously, "it will probably not get done before the January elections. So our concern is that we cannot have Iraq's future held up or held hostage by this one particular issue."
The Ambassador to Iraq made statements blaming Syria and that may have been the most interesting of all. "They have rightly called for their return" declared Hill of former Ba'athists now living in Syria. Wow. What a difference from mere days ago. September 1st he appeared on WBUR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook (see Sept. 2nd snapshot for transcript of his remarks). From that broadcast:
Jacki Lyden: We are going to take a few calls here in just a moment but Ambassador, I would like to ask you, based on your intelligence, who do you think is responsible for the August 19th bombings which was the worst in a very long time?
Chris Hill: Well I you know the investigations are very much continuing I'm not sure I want to sort of give you a running tab of an ongoing investigation but there are certain usual suspects here that we are obviously looking at very closely and one of course is this al Qaeda in Iraq -- so-called AQI. Now the government has some theories that it's more complex that you have possible ex-Ba'athist elements You know these are also Sunni who feel disenfranchised from the system but they're not sort of these extreme Wahhabists Sunnis that al Qaeda draws its ranks from. Yet there is you know talk in the analytical community whether they're Ba'athist in al Qaeda or AQI -- I want to stress this is al Qaeda in Iraq, a sort of franchised operation. And there's a lot of you know talk that perhaps they have some know -- tactical putting, you know, putting this thing together. It's really hard to say. What is clear though is that for many people in this country when those terrible bombings took place out came the fingers and pointing at each other. And to be sure there's a time for finger pointing, there's certainly a time to investigate and see what failures there were in the system. But there's also a times, as the United States, as we know very well in the wake of 9-11. There is a time to come together and one hope that that call will be better heard in Iraq. Because, uh, it's a very rough political climate here.
Again, his tune changed and he sang it repeatedly, always off-key, today. But he found it "rather ironic" that the day before the August 19th bombings, Nouri al-Maliki was in Syria and they had "signed a number of agreements". That's "ironic"? Does Chris Hill know the definition of "irony"? Hill places tremendous faith in Nouri's assessment of Syria and Syrian involvement because, Hill explained, Nouri spent "18 years of his life in Syria."
The issue of the Status Of Forces Agreement was raised -- Kerry raised it first in his opening remarks -- and what would happen if it was changed in some manner or a new agreement was done? Hill felt he wasn't qualified to answer and stated he would defer to the State Dept attorneys but he was of the non-legal opinion that "we would not engage in changing the security agreement without official consulation" with Congress.
We may return to the hearing tomorrow. If so, we'll address the nonsense Hill offered on refugees. It was as irritating as Hill's mincing efforts to be cute such as replying to John Kerry's question about a power grab on Nouri's part with a rambling answer that began "In the privacy of this hearing room".
In terms of immediate concerns, it was pointed out that the elections are scheduled for January and that Barack Obama has stated his delay (broken campaign promise) in terms of drawing down troops is to keep troops on the ground for that. Hill declared, "I worry about developing the political rules of the game and what I don't want to see is an election that resutls in six months of government formation during which there is a loss of some of the progress made." He fears that following the election it will take some time time to set up a new government. That's not the only election fear being expressed currently. Catholic News Agency reports that Father Shlemon Warduni, Auxiliary Bishop of Baghdad, is stating the 2010 elections in Iraq have Iraqi Christians fearful of even more violence and noted of Zakho and Amadhiya, "The lack of work is noticeable and is made worse by the fact that many lands have been occupied by people who have come from other areas in search of refuge. The streets are not secure and neither are they in good condition, thus making it difficult for the people who need to find work or to transport the infirm to move about."
He could have grounded that fear in facts but, being Chris Hill, knew none. In the spring of 2006, when the US nixed the Iraqi's first choice for prime minister and Nouri was proposed as the accepted candidate instead, Nouri promised to quickly assemble his cabinet. He didn't do that. He was boasting that he would do so before the official deadline and gave himself a new deadline, an earlier one. He missed both. Hill was offering some nonsense during the hearing (re: power grab) about how Nouri's cabinet is people forced on him and blah, blah, blah. Nouri assembled his cabinet. Chris Hill seems as unaware of that as he is of every other Iraq-related fact.
During the Senate hearing, there were eight Camp Ashraf supporters (wearing yellow shirts) on the row behind him -- to the left of him (his left) -- with two on the right side of him. Kat, Ava and Wally have a piece on the Camp Ashraf supporters which will run in tomorrow morning's gina & krista round-robin.
In Iraq today, a village outside of Mosul was targeted. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports the attack was a suicide truck bombing that took place "after midnight" in Wardek village. Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "The bombing Thursday flattened 15 houses and damaged 40 others, trapping families under the rubble, police said. By late afternoon, authorities said they'd rescued all those pinned down by debris." 25 dead and forty-three wounded says Marc Santora (New York Times) who explains, "Wardak is a tiny village, with only about 300 houses, made mostly of mud with wood ceilings. Three sides of the village are protected by sand berms, with a shallow river providing a fourth barrier. Nevertheless, two sucide bombers drove through the river under the cover of night, arriving shortly after midnight, local officials said." The second suicide bomber was shot dead by the Kurdish peshmerga. AFP notes, "Police Captain Mohammed Jalal said a second blast was foiled when Iraqi security forces killed a truck driver before he could detonate explosives." Omar Hayali and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) quote wounded Hama Kaki stating, "This is the first time this has happened in our village and we do not know why, because we are far from areas of violence but I think that the political tensions in Mosul are the reason. It is the settling of accounts among the political entities, but at our expense." BBC observes of Mosul, "The city is also characterized by communal strife between Kurds and Arabs and violence targeting religious minorities. In late 2008, the UN refugee agency reported that 13,000 Christians had been driven out of the city by violence and intimidation." Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) offers, "The bomb seems to be well-designed to foment up already existing tensions between Kurds and Arabs, who are vying for land and resources. Nineveh province remains one of Iraq's most volatile area despite the dramatic drop of violence in Iraq over the past two years. Analysts say tensions between Arabs and Kurds in northern Iraq is the major threat to the country's stability and security as the U.S. troops, which have mediated between the two sides, are prepare to withdraw from Iraq by 2012."
In other reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings which claimed 4 lives and left twenty-nine wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing which targeted a police patrol and left two of them injured (and also injured six civilians) and a Baghdad roadside bombing aimed at a US forces convoy (no reports of any deaths or wounded).
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Wafa Natiqu was kidnapped on her Baquba college campus today and that she's the "daughter of the press liaison in the local government of Baquba".
Dropping back to yesterday, Reuters reports 2 Mosul shootings (one claimed the life of 1 civilian, the other left an Iraqi police officer injured and the police responded shooting dead two of the assailants).
Staying with violence, yesterday's snapshot included this: "Reuters notes 1 man shot dead in Mosul, the US and Iraqi military killed 2 males in a Baghdad 'pre-dawn raid' while 2 people were also killed by the US and Iraqi military in another Baghdad 'operation'." Today Ned Parker and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) attempt to make sense of the shooting deaths of Iraqis by US and Iraqi forces yeterday during a Baghdad raid and explain, "Relatives and neighors said troops set off explosives that knocked down the gates and doors to a home, where they detained an Iraqi military intelligence officer and killed two civilians. Their bodies were discovered with dog bites and gunshot wounds on a kitchen floor, which was streaked with blood, the witness said." Simply shooting someone dead doesn't generally result in a floor streaked with blood.
Noticeably absent from Hill's testimony today was any acknowledgement of the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community. At Foreign Policy, Human Rights Watch's Rasha Moumneh covers the issue Hill couldn't or wouldn't:
When my colleague and I sat down last April with Hamid, an Iraqi man from Baghdad, his trauma-induced stutter said as much as the words he spoke. Huddled inconspicuously in a dingy restaurant, Hamid recounted how militia members killed his partner along with three other men, two kidnapped from their Baghdad homes, two slaughtered in the streets. The next day, Hamid said, "they came for me. They came into my house and they saw my mother, and one of them said, 'Where's your fa**ot son?' My mother called me after they left, in tears. ... I can't go home."
As the world hails Iraq's supposed return to normality, the country's militias -- the same ones that spent years waging a sectarian civil war -- have found a new, less apparent target: men suspected of being gay. The systematic killings, which began earlier this year, reveal the cracks behind Iraq's fragile calm. Iraq's leaders may talk of security and democracy from behind barbed wire in the Green Zone, but the surge of murders against gay men is a stark sign of how far Iraqi society still has to go.
During a 10-day Human Rights Watch research trip to Iraq in April, we heard harrowing stories of torture, abductions, kidnappings, extortion, and murder. We listened to dozens of men who had faced violence at the hands of armed militias, attacked by youths with guns for violating the unwritten codes of Iraqi masculinity. A number of signs might implicate one as being not "manly" enough, from neighborhood gossip that a man is gay to looking somehow effeminate or foreign in the wrong people's eyes: wearing one's hair too long or one's jeans too tight, for example. There is no count available for the number of deaths since the killings began earlier this year, but one U.N. worker told us that the victims could number in the hundreds.
As noted in the hearings today, Iraq and Syria have been in conflict as Nouri al-Maliki's made one charge after another following August 19th's Baghdad bombings and demanding that Syria turn over two people to Iraq (Syria says there is no credible evidence of the two's involvement in the bombings). Yesterday at the Arab League meeting, the issue led to charges and counter-charges. But Xinhua reports:
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said on Wednesday that he reached an agreement with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari to stop media campaigns between Syria and Iraq, speed up returning ambassadors and form security committees.
Al-Moallem told a joint press conference with Arab League (AL) Secretary General Amr Moussa in Arab League headquarters that he reached this agreement during a quadrilateral meeting included Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Moussa.
The Press Trust of India adds Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa mediated the media and that he stated, "The league will maintain its good offices in coordination with all parties concerned, mainly the Turkish mediation, in order to contain this crisis." Bashar al Assa, president of Syria, will meet with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, next week and the issue is expected to be addressed then. There are also rumors that Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq, will travel to Ankara for the meeting as well.
We'll close with this from the Berkeley Daily Planet, World Can't Wait's Kenneth J. Theisen calling out counter-insurgency (attacks on a native people):
One reason that Obama is likely to approve an additional troop request is that the "successful" implementation of COIN strategy requires the introduction of many more U.S. troops into Afghanistan. COIN strategy is troop intensive as is indicated by the Army's new COIN manual, written in large part by General David Petraeus. To quote the manual: "No predetermined, fixed ratio of friendly troops to enemy combatants ensures success in COIN. The conditions of the operational environment and the approaches insurgents use vary too widely. A better force requirement gauge is troop density, the ratio of security forces (including the host nation's military and police forces as well as foreign counterinsurgents) to inhabitants. Most density recommendations fall within a range of 20 to 25 counterinsurgents for every 1000 residents in an AO. Twenty counterinsurgents per 1000 residents is often considered the minimum troop density required for effective COIN operations; however as with any fixed ratio, such calculations remain very dependent upon the situation."
In 2003 the U.N estimated the Afghan population at nearly 24 million. At 20 troops per 1000 Afghan residents that would require 480,000 allied troops to meet the minimum density recommendation of the COIN manual. At 25 troops it would take 600,000 troops. Obviously to reach these numbers would require a massive troop escalation.
Just like in Vietnam the rhetoric may claim the U.S. is "winning hearts and minds, but the reality is that the U.S. war of terror is killing and terrorizing people from Iraq, to Afghanistan, to Pakistan. In Vietnam 2-3 million Vietnamese died. Already there have been a million Iraqi deaths as a result of the 2003 U.S. invasion. Thousands more have died in Afghanistan since the October 2001 invasion. When do we say enough? What will you do to stop the U.S. wars? To see what you can do, please go to worldcantwait.org.
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