Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bully Boy Makeover

That's "Bully Boy Makeover" from June 11, 2006.

Zarqawi was killed in Iraq -- or someone they labeled as him. And they kept showing this photo -- the one I've drawn next to Bully Boy over and over in the news. It was more than grotesque. You kept waiting for the news that Bush had him stuffed and mounted on a wall in the Oval Office.

It was supposed to be 'big' news and great news and the end of that pesky war. As you should know, the Iraq War didn't end then. It still continues today.

The other thing about this cartoon. Sometimes Bully Boy Bush was such a priss that it was fun to draw him. In this one, I was going for a little bit of Disney and a little bit of demonic for the way I drew Bully Boy.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 25, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, an inquiry is told that England's JFIT participated in torture and abuse, a Congressional committee is told Eli Lilly disguised suicide attempts in anti-depressant clinical trials, the draw down appears to be moving towards "slow down" at present, a political leader announces he wants to end a boycott, 3 Iraqi women are informed they will be hanged before elections take place and more.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs held a full committee hearing whose purpose, Chair Bob Filner explained at the start, was "to look at the potential relationship between psychiatric medicines and suicides. Not a lovely topic but one that I think we have to address." Filner noted that the suicide rate within the military "continues to increase at an alarming rate, far exceeding the comparable suicide rates among the general population." The committee had four panels. The first panel was composed of Dr. Peter Breggin (Ithaca, NY) and Andrew Leon (Weill Cornell Medical College), the second of Drs. M. David Rudd (University of Utah) and Annelle Primm (John Hopkins School of Medicine) and retired Commander Donald J. Farber, panel three was composed of the VA's Iraq Katz with other VAs as background singers and panel four was Dr. Bart Billings.

Dr. Breggin detailed Eli Lilly's efforts to disguise suicide as related to anti-depressants. He first came across paperwork of the German government's equivalent of the US FDA "in the late 80s" where they expressed their concern to Eli Lilly over suicide rates and asked the drug maker to check their clinical trials.

Dr. Peter Breggin: Lilly found, depending on how you count it, a 6 to 12 to 1 ratio of suicide attempts -- not just thinking, attempts -- in the control group compared to placebo. Lilly never made it public. They never gave this report that I found to the Germans, they never made it available to the FDA. I also found memos inside Lily explaining guilt and shame on the part of some German investigators for Lilly that the company was classifying suicides and suicide attempts reported by doctors to them as "no drug effect." or other harmless kinds of entities; thereby disgusing the suicide attempts and the completed suicides. In one of these memos, the gentleman declared, uhm, 'How am I going to explain this to my family?' It was a genuine shame.

Dr. Breggin testified about various reactions and various ways of monitoring in clinical trials where a great deal more monitoring will take place than in real life use. As he was detailing some of these, the chair asked a question.

Chair Bob Filner: Dr. Breggin, I don't want to interrupt but if an active duty soldier is given these medications, they may not even see that warning, right? I mean --

Dr. Breggin: Well, my experience, last year I spoke at the oldest military stress conference given -- Bart Billings, whom you know, retired army officer and psychologist, runs that -- and I talked to generals and I talked to mental health professionals and they all agreed that these warnings were hardly ever presented to the soldiers and that the army was, in a sense, acting as if it was unaware. And some of these people gave me estimates, not of the 15% on pyschiatric drugs that we often hear but up to 30% of soldiers in some sections -- marines in particular, was one that was mentioned to me.

Chair Bob Filner: So they're not even informed of the risks?

Dr. Breggin: No, no. And as we go on further, we'll see that the FDA tells doctors you should -- and the word "should" is in the label -- you should share this information with the patient and the family and make sure they understand it. It's not just you repeat it to them. You sort of, "Hey, this is, I want you to understand, this is what may happen to you." It's what I do in my clinical practice. I don't say, "By the way, the drug may cause this or that," you know, I just make sure over a period of many sessions that the person understands the risks.

We're not interested in Leon's testimony which was inaccurte in many parts. He was urged to come to a point by the Chair but couldn't or wouldn't, he and Breggin were asked questions by House Rep Ciro D. Rodriguez and Leon jumped all over Breggin for answering and implied that the question was only for him when Rep Rodriguez was not only asking them both, Rodriguez has made clear he was asking them both the same question by using "you both" in his question.

At one point, Leon insulted Breggin in what may end up the rudest moment in Congress for the year. "You don't know what you're talking about," Leon snapped at Breggin. Rodriguez redirected with another question. He also snapped at Rodriguez. Not concerned about tone here but including his rudeness to convey just how unprofessional Andrew C. Leon was. And to be clear, he attempted to give 'expert' testimony on psychiatry when he is not a psychiatrist. Myself, I prefer psychologists to psychiatrists (for historical reasons including the ingrained sexism to be found in psychiatry). So I don't say that as a sneer or to suggest the Leon, being a psychologist, is not a real doctor. But he is not a psychologist either. Translation, he's not a doctor. But he is not qualified to speak of what psychiatry does or does not do. (Breggin, for any wondering is a psychiatrist.) He was so offensive in his remarks that Chair Filner felt compelled to note, "Just your last sentence, Dr. Leon, I don't think anybody was ever suggesting not to treat people. I mean, you're setting up a false straw man there."

I'll leave our focus on the first panel or we'll get lost in this hearng. Yesterday's snapshot covered a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Iraq chaired by Russ Carnahan. Kat covered it last night in "Subcommittee on Oversight hears about Iraq," Wally filled in for Rebecca and covered it in "Congress advances technology today via Carnahan" and Ava filled in for Trina and covered it in "The 'powerless' Stuart Bowen." Kat will be emphasizing some aspect of the Veterans Affairs Committee hearing at her site tonight. And Rebecca's just invited Wally to blog at her site tonight on the hearing so he's grabbing a rare moment that took place -- one that should take place in every hearing.

Well over a million Iraqis have died since the start of the illegal war. One is Baha Mosua whose 'crime' was going to work. The 26-year-old was arrested in a dragnet at the hotel -- arrested by British forces and he went on to die in their custody. As Adrian Shaw (Daily Mirror) reminds, Baha died of 93 injuries -- all while in British custody -- in September 2003. The ongoing inquiry into Baha Mosua's death is taking place in England. Today is day 66, we last noted it in the November 16th snapshot when Donald Payne testified that he and others repeatedly kicked and hit -- for over 48 hours -- a hooded and restrained Baha and Payne pinned some of his previous lying down to "self-preservation."

Today the inquiry heard from a retired British military colonel (retired in April 2006) who is identified as witness "S009." Gerald Elias began the questioning by noting a statement S009 signed August 17, 2009 and reviewing some basics from it such as S009 was "commission in 1981," immediately "attached to the Queen's Dragoon Guards," "served in Northern Ireland and in Bosnia . . . Kosovo," etc. Among 2009's duties in Iraq were building and running a Theatre of war Internment Facility (TIF).

He was asked about the "shock of capture."

S009: My understanding of "shock of capture" is that feeling of dislocation, of -- I think it is a spiritual thing more than anything else. You have just been captured by the enemy, you feel profoundly uncomfortable, you feel dislocated from your normal systems and hierarchies and processes and, as a result, my understanding is that produces a vulnerability in you. I mean a bit like me sitting here today, I wish you to like me to remove some of my stress. I would put it in those terms.

Gerald Elias: Were you given any training prior to your deployment to Iraq in relation to the maintenance of the shock of capture, for example?

S009: No. My understanding of the maintenance of shock of capture is really all about speed. You know, there is a window when the human psyche wishes to be loved and wanted and cosseted and, after a while, most people get used to new circumstances reasonably quickly. So the point of maintenance of shock of capture is to get the person that you have detained to the person who is going to question them as fast as possible -- no more than that.

Gerald Elias: So speed of delivery. But you didn't understand that there were any other techniques that might be used to maintain the shock of capture?

S009: No, and indeed if you are referring to things like sleep deprivation and all that, I would say that those would be inappropriate.

S009 testified that interrogations took place at the camp he was in charge of (April 2003) but he was prevented from observing them when they were carried out by Joint Forward Intelligence Teams (JFIT). JFIT is a mixture of military and civilians and is considered part of military intelligence.

Gerald Elias: Mr S009, may I move on, please, to your concerns about what was going on in the JFIT. First of all, in general terms, can you tell us briefly what it was that you saw or experienced which concerned you?

S009: Yes. I witnessed a number of prisoners of war, kneeling in the sun with what I believed to be plastic hoods over their heads and with their hands handcuffed behind their backs, in two rows, facing each other.

Gerald Elias: You considered that treatment to be wrong?

S009: Yes.

Gerald Elias: Unlawful?

S009: Yes.

Gerald Elias: Just before going into the detail of that and what you did about it and the conversations you may have had about it, was that the extent -- the full extent -- of what you saw that concerned you in the JFIT?

S009: Yes, pretty much. I mean I felt that the organisation was not running well, so I had concerns about the general efficiency of that unit and its effectiveness as well.

Staying with violence, Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) notes that Muslim Woman Org has announced that three Iraqi women -- Wassan Talib, Zainab Fadhil and Liqa Muhammad -- are now scheduled to be hanged on March 3rd. On the latest installment of Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) Shatha al-Obosi -- deputy chair of the Iraqi Parliament's Human Rights Committee -- declared to host Jasim al-Azzawi, "We want to delay the execution orders after the elections because I receive many claims from people that they take their speech, their -- and they sign them under the torture. So many of them are innocent. We are afraid if there is a few number of them are innocent so we must protect all of them and make another investigation with them to guarantee if they are innocent or not." Apparently, the three women won't be protected. In some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes, dropping back to Wednesday, a Mosul grenade attack which injured two people. An Iraqi corresondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports that "1.5 ton of TNT" was seized before it could enter Falluja today and that Falluja police also detonated a car bomb and a roadside bomb. The police are claiming the seized bomb material was to be used March 7th (during the elections).

Shootings and other?

Reuters notes 2 people killed in a Mosul "car workshop," 1 woman killed in a Mosul home invasion (killed apparently by blows to the head), 1 man killed in a Mosul drive-by.


Alsumaria TV reports a young woman's corpse was discovered in a Khales orchard.

Iraqis are gearing up for another election -- March 5th to March 7th. Yesterday's snapshot included:

Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) explains today, "So you thought that Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami's Accountability and Justice (De-Ba'athification) Committee had done all they could to wreck Iraq's elections and advance their political agendas? Not even. Yesterday, in what al-Hayat calls a surprise move, Lami announced that the AJC had named 376 military, police and intelligence officers for de-Ba'athification. The list includes a number of important people in senior positions."

Xinhua (link has text and audio) reports
the newly banned "included 58 officers from the Defense Ministry, 10 of whom held senior posts, including Aboud Qanber, former commander of the Baghdad operations. [. . .] The list also featured 125 officers from the national intelligence agency, including 10 high-ranking officers who were in charge of political assassinations and tracking down the opposition". This week's banning comes as Nouri al-Maliki announces he's bringing some people back into the government. Marc Santora (New York Times) reports that Nouri's mouth piece announced 20,000 officers who served in Iraq's army during the Saddam Hussein era will be brought back into the military. The National Dialogue front's spokesperson Mayson al-Damalogi states, "This is purely a means of trying to gain more votes" on the part of al-Maliki. In other election news, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports that Saleh al-Mutlaq and Ayad Allawi held a press conference today in which al-Mutlaq retracted his announced boycott. al-Mutlaq is not running. He remains banned and he is part of the National Dialogue Front. Rebecca Santana and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) express the belief that this "effectively lifts the lingering threat that minority Sunnis would boycott the vote". No, it doesn't. That's a belief but it's not based in any reality. It's a hope, maybe. It's not factual. A leader of a political party can call a boycott or not. It's the people who boycott though. al-Mutlaq can call a boycott and no one may go along with it. The people decide if there's a boycott or not. An individual doesn't make the decision -- not even with a call for a boycott or a call not to boycott. You can say al-Mutlaq withdrew his call for a boycott and be factual. You can even say this may erase the threat of a boycott. You cannot, however, be factual and also declare that the threat of a boycott is now gone. You can't do that unless you're a pyschic and I was under the impression that the "P" in "AP" stood for "Press," not "Psychics." Middle East Online explains of the announcement that the the bloc "urged its followers to turn out in numbers." The urging is needed because people will decide what they want to do and what they don't want to do. If that weren't the case, the bloc would have only announced, "We're back in." Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) gets it correct: "The announcement by National Dialogue Front leader Saleh al-Mutlaq could ease fears voiced by U.S. officials that a Sunni boycott would sap the vote of legitimacy and possibly lead to violence after the poll, as happened after the previous national elections in December 2005."

Watch Ahrar Party Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin on al-Baghdadiya tonight
On the back of polls showing a surge in support, Ahrar Leader Ayad Jamal Aldin will take to the airwaves tonight to make the case for radical, popular change in Iraq.
He will use a prime time interview on Baghdadiya at 10:00pm AST to take questions on Ahrar's comprehensive plans on delivering water, jobs, electricity and security under the next Iraqi parliament.
Speaking from Baghdad tonight, Jamal Aldin said, "The people want change - real change. The corrupters and outside agents can use all the tricks they like, we are strong enough to prevail. One group has the power in Iraq right now, and that is the Iraqi people."
Watch the interview here.

For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

On the elections and the targeting, Rhonda Shafei (Columbia Spectator) offers:

America cannot afford the fallout that is bound to result from the injustices being committed by the Iraqi government.
The most notable injustice is the disqualification of 511 candidates by the Iraqi Accountability and Justice Commission, a subset of the Iraqi Elections Committee. The board is run by two dubious politicians, Ahmad Chalabi and Ali al-Lami, both prominent Shiites who have been accused by top U.S. commander Raymond Odierno of having intimate ties with Iran. But their suspect backgrounds don't end there: Al-Lami was arrested in 2008 for alleged ties to a Baghdad bombing that killed four Americans and six Iraqis, and Chalabi is the man accused of providing the Bush administration with faulty information on Iraq's weapons program.
It's no surprise, then, that the commission would bar the 500-odd candidates, the vast majority of whom are Sunni politicians with former ties to the Baath party of Saddam Hussein. Both Chalabi and al-Lami acted as key figures on the 2003-2004 Supreme National De-Baathification Commission created by Paul Bremer. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the current justice commision is a continuation of the McCarthyite de-Baathification procedure -- McCarthyite for its arbitrary firing of 30,000 ex-Baath politicians, thousands of intelligence officials, and all military officers above the rank of colonel. There exists no constitutional basis for the disqualification of candidates by the election board. If the elections are to move forward with a substantial number of Sunnis missing from the ballots, how could results possibly be representative of Iraqi society?

Monday Gen Ray Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, declared at a DC press briefing that the rate of draw down could be slowed. Patrick Martin (WSWS) words it this way, "In an apparent effort to prepare US and Iraqi public opinion for a change in policy, the top US commander in Baghdad announced Monday that he had briefed the Pentagon on plans to keep combat troops in Iraq after an upcoming August 31 deadline for their withdrawal." Martin goes on to note "Stratfor [Global Intelligence] noted that Odierno's appearance at the Pentagon was carefully choreographed by the Obama administration. Odierno 'came to Washington publicize the plan: He did not do this without direction, authorization and coordination with the White House'." David Riedel (CBS News) reported that former journalist (current counter-insurgency cheerleader) Thomas E. Ricks announced today -- in a scoop worthy of Hedda Hopper which is apparently Ricks' new online role -- that the possibility of slowing down a draw down was in fact an official request submitted to the administration by Odierno. Dahr Jamail (via CounterCurrents) notes that the US government appears to be using the election unrest as an excuse to prolong the war and he provides this background on the players who now concern the US government:

The US government and corporate media prefer to focus on Iran's "meddling" in Iraq; yet, the key players responsible for most of the political discord in Iraq are US-installed and -backed men who have always had clear links to Tehran.

Maliki is a case in point.

Maliki was an Iraqi in exile in Tehran from 1982-1990, and then remained in Syria before returning to Iraq after the US invasion of 2003. Maliki worked as a political officer for the Dawa Party while in Syria, developing close ties with Hezbollah and Iran.

The Dawa party backed the Iranian Revolution, as well as backing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the Iran-Iraq War. The group continues to receive financial support from Tehran. Maliki is the secretary general of the Dawa Party.

In April 2006, then US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her UK counterpart, Jack Straw, flew to Baghdad in order to replace then Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari with Nouri al-Maliki. There was no democratic process involved in the decision.

Another US-backed Iraqi ex-patriot with ties to Iran is Ahmed Chalabi.

Recently the US Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill, along with General Odierno, referred to Chalabi as Tehran's leading agent in Iraq. Chalabi, who leads Iraq's Justice and Accountability Committee that has been banning certain candidates from the upcoming vote, was said to be "clearly influenced by Iran" last week by General Odierno.

Chalabi played a major role in providing the Bush administration with information it wanted in order to justify invading Iraq. He is responsible for having Mutlaq, along with hundreds of other candidates, eliminated from the election on the mostly fraudulent grounds that they are or were loyalists of Saddam Hussein's Baath party.

Along with Sunni leaders, his targets also include secular nationalists, and the two most important candidates who have been banned are leading members of cross-sectarian alliances, which raises fears that Iraq could be drifting toward a Shiite autocracy.

Tunring to the US . . .

Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down

Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down

Spiral down
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down
Now it all begins
Or continues to
Spiral down
Spiral down

Look upon the self
Look upon the other
We need a better understanding
Or we'll spiral down

Spiral down
Continue to spiral down
I'm no where near my peace
As you spiral down
-- "Spiral Down" written by Michael Timmins, recorded by the Cowboy Junkies on their album at the end of paths taken

Peace takes action and A.N.S.W.E.R. and other organizations are sponsoring March 20th marches in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The march is to demand the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Students for a Democratic Society are another organization that will be participating and they note:
While the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan is growing ever larger, the occupation of Iraq is still raging, nearing its seventh anniversary. With over 4,300 US soldiers and over 1.3 million Iraqi civilians estimated dead, something has to be done to stop this senseless slaughter.
This year Students for a Democratic Society will hold a national week of action March 15th to 20th where students will organize protests and direct actions at campuses across the country in opposition to the ongoing, brutal occupations.
The need for a vibrant anti-war movement has rarely been felt more than this very moment, while the United States drops trillions of dollars into unjust wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, during the worst economic crisis in 80 years. Students are struggling to pay for school while tuition skyrockets, and states lose billions of dollars to two continuing occupations.
On Saturday, March 20th, SDS will participate in a massive National March & Rally in D.C. hosted by A.N.S.W.E.R. to finish the week of action with tens of thousands of people in the street!
We're calling on students and youth from across the country to join us the week of March 15-20th in demanding: Fund Education, Not Occupation!
For more information visit:

Radio, radio, as Elvis Costello once sang. Lila Giggles? Elaine covered her in "Lila Giggles and her worthless Connect the Dots." Chris Hedges is a guest on this week's Law & Disorder and Mike covered that in "'Health' 'care' 'reform' and Law & Disorder." Cindy Sheehan Soapbox is the radio program Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan does and her guest this week is John Pilger. They discuss many topics including Brand Obama and his war machine. In addition, Pilger offers that there was more than one gunman at the RFK assassination. Next week, Cindy interviews FBI whistle blower Colleen Rowley, FYI. (Hugo Chavez is her guest March 14th.) Remember that Ann is covering NPR's Fresh Air and her posts this week so far are "Miss Terry (Gross) 'forgets,' "Realities about Barack's Big Pharma Give Away" and "Fresh what?". Lastly, TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
In 1995 and 1996, 66 gray wolves were relocated from Canada to
Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho to help recover a wolf
population that had been exterminated in the northern Rockies. The
wolf relocation
is considered one of the most successful wildlife
recovery projects ever attempted under the Endangered Species Act; today
there are more than 1,600 wolves in the region. But a debate has erupted
between conservationists and ranchers over the question: how many wolves
are too many?

Last year, the Obama Administration entered the fray by removing
for some of these wolves, paving the way for controversial
state-regulated wolf hunts. The move has wolf advocates fuming, with
more than a dozen conservation groups suing the Interior Department to
restore federal protections. On February 26 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW reports on this war over wolves and implications for the

Read on ...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Bully & Tony Review

"The Bully & Tony Revue" from May 28, 2006.

Tony Blair and Bully Boy led the world into an illegal war.

Were they in the news that week? I had to think about it. Bully Boy was always in the news back then, of course. But Tony and Bully were doing a hard press on lying about the Iraq War and claiming it was worth it and blah, blah, blah.

If you're 13 or so today, it may be hard to believe it but as late as 2006 there were still near weekly attempts to sell the illegal war as 'needed' and 'good.'
Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 18, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Ramadi is slammed with a bombing, the UN offers 'hopes' for the upcoming elections, Chris Hill spins as well, Basra sees a increase in childhood leukemia, and more.

"After eight long years of bloodshed, and who knows how many more to come, we're still not sure why we fight, and our understanding of war is only growing more blood-dimmed and confused,"
writes Stephen Marche (Esquire). Marche's point is a solid one. Why did the US go into Iraq, the truth not the many discredited lies? Why does the US remain in Iraq? Those are questions that are never answered and really aren't even raised by the bulk of the press these days.

Today Ramadi was slammed with a bombing.
Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reports it was a suicide bombing and that the death toll has reached at least 12. Ali al-Mashhadani, Waleed Ibrahim, Mohammed Abbas, Jack Kimball and Louise Ireland (Reuters) note twenty-one are wounded, that a hospital source says 13 corpses have been received with 26 people injured, and "A restaurant worker in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, said that bodies littered the scene, close to a complex housing provincial government buildings. Blood stained the ground, and gutted police and army vehicles smouldered nearby." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) quotes Khalaf Mahmoud who was wounded in the bombing, "I was heading to the government compound when the blast took place some 50 meters away from me. I remember I saw one of the civilian cars with two men inside approached to the checkpoint and blew up. It was a terrible blast, thanks God, I am lucky to survive." Al Jazeera adds:Mohammed Dulaimi, the owner of a restaurant that was badly damaged in the blast, said the attackers were "trying to undermine the political process and prevent us from taking part in the election"."They want us to miss the opportunity to vote, as we did before," he said, referring to a boycott of 2005 general elections by Sunni-led political parties.Yousif Bassil and CNN report that the attack took place at a security checkpoint "close to the provincial council office." In addition, Reuters notes a Mosul bombing injured "a former police officer and a tribal chief" and a Mosul car bombing left twenty-four people injured.

Turning to the elections, Swarthmore College's
War News Radio is a weekly show and the most recent program (first began airing last Friday) covered the elections. From the headlines, we'll note this for background.

Emily Hager: One day before campaigns are due to start, Iraqi judges released a list of previously banned candidates who will be allowed to run in next month's elections. But two of the most prominent Sunni candidates, both current Parliament members, still haven't been cleared to campaign. In January, Iraq's de-Ba'athifcation committee banned more than 500 candidates from competing for seats because of alleged connections to Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. The decision was appealed to an Iraqi court where judges have been considering the issue. At first, the court announced that all of the challenged candidates would be able to run and that they would be reviewed after they won seats. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pushed to have the review before the elections. Official campaigning begins this week for the March 7 vote.

Earlier today at the United Nations in New York,
Ad Melkert (the Secretary-General's Special Representative to Iraq) declared, "Generally speaking, I should say that the elections are on track in terms of their technical preparation. Still a lot needs to be done. Security remains a big challenge to all, to the Iraqis in the first place, but also to the international community." Melkert sounds a great deal like US spinner Chris Hill. He went on to add, "Elections is not only about politics but requires a lot of hard work on the ground. The UN electoral team has continued to play a key role in advising and technically support the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC). As a result of a huge collective effort the infrastructure is in place in order to allow approximately 18.9 million Iraqi voters to visit 48,000 polling stations on election day." Today the Los Angeles Times offered the editorial "Baath-bashing in Iraq."

Iraq's upcoming parliamentary elections should be about jobs, public services and government competence. Candidates should be focused on the country's security and on reconciliation among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. Instead, the national vote once again is turning into a sectarian brawl in which Shiite parties jockeying with one another for dominance are stirring populist fears of a return of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led Baath Party. Never mind that Hussein was executed in 2006 or that the discredited Baath Party already is outlawed. The Accountability and Justice Committee, led by Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite politician and onetime darling of the George W. Bush administration, has been purging candidates who were members of the Baath Party and, in the process, fueling minority Sunnis' suspicions that the real motive is to further reduce their power.

Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "Although a significant number of Shiites as well as Sunnis have been barred from running because of alleged Baathist ties, the move has been seen as furthering a Shiite agenda because the heads of the commission are prominent Shiite members of parliament. Adding fuel to the controversy over the ban, the top US general in Iraq, Ray Odierno, and other US officials, have accused the two men, Ahmed Chalibi, and Ali Faisel al-Lami of ties to Iran" Along with the bannings, many political parties are finding their candidates Yesterday's snapshot noted Michael Hastings (The Hastings Report, True/Slant) report on the attacks on the Ahrar political party -- Saturday, four were held for 24 hours in Sadr City where they were attempting to put up campaign visuals and Tuesday a group of worker were attacked leading up to today where an Ahrar Party candidate was attacked in Maysan Province with at least one body guard killed in the attack. The Ahrar Party has released the following statement on the attacks:

Amid increasing signs that the Maliki government has completely lost control of the security situation in Iraq, violence and sectarian intimidation have increased in spite of a non-violence pact, signed by some parties. As a non-sectarian party, Ahrar has been singled out for special treatment.
Over the past five days, Ahrar has had campaign workers shot at, captured and even killed, for the 'crime' of putting up our election posters.
In Maysan on Wednesday, an Ahrar candidate was the victim of a carefully-planned ambush, narrowly escaping capture. One of his team was murdered at gun-point.
Ahrar Party leader Ayad Jamal Aldin said: "These politicians are all talk. It is their weakness that has allowed outsiders and corrupters who are intent on dividing and destroying Iraq to take control of our country. Ahrar stands for a united and peaceful Iraq. For jobs, security and electricity for the Iraqi people."
"Now ask yourself, who would oppose this? These corrupt outsiders are scared because they know that the people of Iraq can make a change for the better. Ahrar will not be intimidated because Ahrar is the party of Iraq's people, and on March 7 it is they who have the power to end this intimidation."
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942

About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

Robert Dreyfuss (The Nation) declares Iraq "once again on the brink of a civil conflict" and offers this:

Starting last spring, at the urging of top officials in Iran--including Ali Larijani, the conservative, Iraqi-born speaker of the Iranian Parliament, and Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps--a group of sectarian Shiite religious leaders patched over their differences to establish the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), linking ISCI with the forces of rogue cleric Muqtada al-Sadr; former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of a renegade Dawa faction; and Ahmad Chalabi, the former darling of US neoconservatives, who has long maintained close ties to Iran's hardliners.
The creation of the INA was widely seen, inside and outside Iraq, as an Iranian project. Reidar Visser, a close observer of Iraqi affairs at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, says efforts to rebuild the Shiite sectarian alliance began last spring, after a visit to Baghdad by Larijani. Soon afterward, a stream of Iraqi officials made pilgrimages to Tehran, where a deal between the Hakim family (the founders of ISCI) and Sadr was brokered by Iran. "Part of the Iranian strategy has been to put politics in Iraq back on the sectarian track," says Visser. Both Iran and the new Shiite alliance pressured Maliki to join, but at that time the prime minister felt strong enough to run independently.
Then, this past January 14, Iraq's electoral overseers ratified a decision by the so-called Accountability and Justice Commission, an unelected body controlled by Chalabi and one of his cronies, Ali al-Lami, to ban more than 500 candidates for Parliament. They were barred from running, said the commission, on vague charges of ties to the deposed Baath Party. Among those banned were current members of Parliament and Iraqi officials, including Defense Minister Abdul-Kader Jassem al-Obeidi and Mutlaq, who'd joined forces with Allawi. The commission's action was a bomb thrown into the center of Iraqi politics and sparked talk of a boycott and even a new antigovernment insurgency.

Chris Hill is the US Ambassador to Iraq. We'll note
this exchange between him and CNN's Elise Labott from yesterday at the State Dept (link has text and video): Elise Labott: Can we go back to the idea of the Ba'athists and the election -- on the banned candidates? You spoke earlier this morning about the sensitivities about the Ba'athist issue, but more from the kind of whole Iraqi population. I was wondering if you think that there's any danger of not a resurgence of the Ba'athists, but a kind of backlash by pro-Ba'athists in terms of, you know, more violence or anything like that as a result of this. Chris Hill: Well, the country, there's no question there are Ba'athist elements in the country and there's no question that some of these Ba'athist elements are very unhappy with the current state of affairs. I will say that the -- in terms of violence, we have a government that is increasingly capable of handling violence, and we did not see any signs of insurgency of the kind that we saw back in the wake of the '05 -- Elise Labott: Right. Chris Hill: -- elections. So what we see are acts of terror that are – have already happened; in many cases, in our judgment, happened because of al-Qaida elements. But we don't see that this issue of excluding Ba'athist candidates is one that is leading to violence. Frankly, they were able to come together and work out a solution, and I think it's a solution that most people are living with. Elise Labott: But-but if I could just quickly follow up, I mean, some of these banned candidates were, if I'm correct, previous -- some of them were even in parliament previously; is that right? Chris Hill: Yeah. Elise Labot: And so, I mean, do you think that there's a danger that they feel like they used to have the political process and now they feel disenfranchised and -- Chris Hill: Well -- Elise Labott: -- and that's a kind of, you know, formula for, you know, being bored and not having a lot to do and being kind of bitter and, you know, turning back? Chris Hill: Well, being bored is not a formula for getting elected, but -- Elise Labott: Well, you know I'm being -- well, but you know what I'm saying. Chris Hill: I think it's important to understand that there are candidates who are unhappy at having been on the list, but there was a process by which they were able to appeal, there was a sequestered panel of judges from the cassation court that looked at these cases. In some cases, they ruled that the people should be able to stand for office; in others, they ruled against it. We know that some of the candidates who were disallowed or not permitted to run, they have accepted the result and they've called on their -- on people to vote. So we don't see a sign that this type of dissatisfaction is of the quality that would cause an outbreak of an insurgency. But obviously, we track these issues very closely. We're in very -- we really follow these things. We're in touch with all the politicians. And this is going to -- this is, to be sure, a rocky road, but I think we can -- we have every reason to believe that we'll get through this election process. For those paying close attention, the US has thrown in the towel re: elections. They word now is that it doesn't matter if some candidates are excluded or not, it's not big deal. And with that nonsense, the US attempts to paint a pretty picture. Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) notes that elections might take place but . . . "Another scenario is that the elections will be called off altogether, due to rising violence and Sunni resentment with Maliki's handling of the pre-election process. The controversy of disqualifying candidates, which has rocked the Iraqi scene for more than three weeks, is ongoing as 145 candidates are now officially confirmed as ineligible to run for office, due to their alleged ties to the outlawed Ba'ath Party." Mohammed A Salih (Asia Times) adds, "The ban on high-profile Sunnis who have been part of Iraqi politics after the war is considered a significant blow to Washington's efforts to bring back the moderate elements of the mostly Sunni-led Ba'ath Party into Iraq's political process and reintegrate Sunnis into the country's politics."

Chris Hill delivered a lengthy opening statement before taking questions ('or abuse' he joked). We'll not note it all. On the elections, he stated:We're here really to report on where things stand with three weeks to go. I think anyone who follows Iraq knows that there are twists and turns to any destination in Iraq. Certainly, de-Baathification was a major issue and a very tough issue, a very emotional issue, but I think we've gotten through that issue. The campaign has really started in earnest. There are campaign placards all over every surface in the country, it seems, right now. There are some 6,172 candidates. There are 18.9 million registered voters. There are 300,000 poll station workers. There are 50,000 polling stations spread over 9,000 polling centers. There will be out-of-country voters and they're prepared to handle that in 16 different countries, voting that will actually start on March 5th. We are working very closely with the UN and with the U.S. forces to help secure having 26 four-person monitoring teams. These are actually just U.S. monitoring teams to be spread out over 18 provinces, including four in Baghdad and 22 in other provinces. We'll have extra teams in some of the sensitive areas in Anbar, Basra, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninawa. There will be nine diplomatic missions who are represented in the overall monitoring, including from -- those from Turkey, UK, Denmark, Canada, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Poland. The European Union will have five or six journalistic embeds. We'll also have special needs voting that begins on March 9th -- March 4th, rather. And our teams will be deployed about March 1st and return March 9th. So this is a major undertaking. It is an election that in many respects will determine the future of Iraq, the future of the U.S. -- and also the future of the U.S. relationship with Iraq. For us, this is a very important election because it's an important election that will enable us to continue to develop what we see as a long-term and very important relationship, strategic relationship, with the Republic of Iraq.He wanted to talk about many things in his opening statement and oil was at the top of his list. Oil and 'progress'. Chris Hill insisted, "Iraq has made important strides in its economy in recent months. They've reached some oil lease deals with many of the major oil companies in the world. So if all of these go well in the next some 10 years, we will see a country producing some 10 million barrels of oil per day. I mean, this is a substantial amount. This will put Iraq in the category of or in the sort of orbit of a country like Saudi Arabia. It will make Iraq an oil exporter to the tune of some four times what Iran is currently exporting. So all of these developments are happening as we speak. There are more and more oil infrastructure companies coming in to get ready for this, and I think we can see that Iraq is really taking its rightful place on the world stage.""Ten years," Chris?"Ten more years"?
Geoff Kelly (Art Voice) interviews US House Rep Brian Higgins who states, "In Iraq, do you remember [President Bush] said he was going to do the surge in late 2006? The war wasn't going well. He puts Petraeus in charge and they commit 20,000 more troops. The surge was supposed to give breathing room for the political parties -- Shia, Sunni, and Kurd -- to resolve their differences. The surge succeeded militarily by tamping down the violence, but all the existential issues, all the standout issues, are still unresolved -- and will very likely be resolved violently. The sharing of oil revenues, the disputed areas in the north, Kirkuk, political reconciliation between the three major factions -- they're still not resolved."They're still not resolved, says Higgins.Important strides, crows Hill . . . before adding . . . ten more years.

Can Iraq survive the damage of ten more years?
US News and World Reports notes that in Basra the rate of childhood leukemia has doubled in the last 15 years and offers that one reason for this may be due to chemical exposures as a result of fires. The University of Washington issued a news release today noting the study and that there of their professors wrote it:

The study documents 698 cases of leukemia for children aged 0-14 during the 15-year period, with a peak of 211 cases in 2006. Younger children had higher rates than older ones.
"By using a hospital cancer registry, we were able to measure a jump in leukemia rates from 3 per 100,000 youngsters in the first part of our study period, to a rate of almost 8 and a half in the final three years," said UW Department of Global Health faculty member Amy Hagopian, the paper's lead author.
By comparison, Hagopian said, the European Union and the United States report rates of 4 and 5 per 100,000, respectively. She also noted Kuwait reports a rate of approximately 2 per 100,000 and Oman reports rates between 2 and 3, depending on the gender of the child (boys typically have higher rates, as do children from higher socio-economic classes).
"Studying childhood diseases in war situations is difficult," Hagopian noted. "Aside from the normal difficulties of controlling for referral patterns changes caused by war-time conditions, the political situation is also challenging. We were constantly worried about the political risks our medical colleagues were taking by collecting and reporting these data."

One way chemicals are exposes is the use of burn pits to burn off left overs -- medicine, trash, waste, military equipment -- and they have been used in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times) tackles the issue of the burn pits:The noxious smoke plumes that wafted over the military base in Balad, Iraq, alarmed Lt. Col. Michelle Franco. The stench from a huge burn pit clung to her clothing, skin and hair. "I remember thinking: This doesn't look good, smell good or taste good," Franco said recently. "I knew it couldn't be good for anybody." She wheezed and coughed constantly. When Franco returned to the U.S., she was diagnosed with reactive airway dysfunction syndrome. She is no longer able to serve as an Air Force nurse. Other returning veterans have reported leukemia, lymphoma, congestive heart problems, neurological conditions, bronchitis, skin rashes and sleep disorders -- all of which they attribute to burn pits on dozens of U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. Burn pits are not safe. Everything is burned off in them including medicines. These toxins are released into the air and get into the soil and water supply. There are many people quoted in the article saying the military needs to step up but it's not just the military. Congress needs to. Zucchino notes that US House Rep Carol Porter-Shea has introduced legislation in the House for a federal registry (as there is with Agent Orange). That's great. But there's similar legislation in the Senate. Evan Bayh introduced it last year. Since October, when he appeared before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, that legislation has been held up by the Committee which should have long ago released it for a floor vote.

Dennis Bartok (Variety) observes, "The year 2009 was the one that saw Iraq War-themed movies finally connect with Academy voters, as Oscar-nominated scripts The Hurt Locker [Mark Boal] and The Messenger [Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman] resonated in ways that earlier efforts didn't." It's a shame that film interest increases as the interest from the news media decreases. But at least some people are paying attention.

We noted Marc Hall in the
February 9th snapshot, Pamela E. Walck (Savannah Now) reports that Hall was in Chief Federal District Court yesterday where Judge William T. Moore Jr. refused to grant his appeal to remain in the US and he is expected to be sent to Kuwait shortly for a court-martial:
"The more I worked on this case, the more persuaded I am that we were right on the law," said David Gespass, Hall's civilian attorney. "... There is no one else to appeal to at this point. The intent of the Army is clear. They could have tried him any time between July and December, before anyone left here (for Iraq)."And the idea that all of a sudden, it's imperative they try him over there, outside of the light of day and the scrutiny of the public, shows they are so resistant to trying him here. It reinforces the idea they don't want the case to be scrutinized."Gespass said it wouldn't be fiscally possible for him to travel to Iraq for the court-martial proceedings and that his client would have to rely on the military-appointed attorney."I have confidence in his military lawyer," Gespass said. "But ... the problem with getting witnesses there is a more serious one."The civilian attorney said one witness stepped forward, but said she wouldn't travel to Iraq for a court proceeding.Why is Marc Hall facing a court-martial?
Russia Today interviewed Iraq Veterans Against the War and World Can't Wait's Matthis Chiroux about the case.Matthis Chiroux: Marc Hall has demonstrated (a) a lot of courage in-in writing this song. I mean the army suppressing soldiers is so widespread, the stop-loss policy destroys so many lives anyway. The fact that Marc Hall had the courage to-to speak up and to address that in his rap song in the first place is quite impressive. Second, I think very important, something that we need to call attention to in this case, is Marc Hall is not being jailed for writing the stop-loss song, Marc Hall is being jailed because he expressed to his command that he would not deploy to Iraq with his unit. And this happened during the time he wrote the song in July and he wasn't jailed until December. He was, in fact, undergoing counseling and serving with his unit. It wasn't until Specialist Hall told his command that he wasn't comfortable deploying to Iraq that they took these measures against him. IVAW's updates page for Marc Hall is here. Asked if the military is concerned that the song might bring attention to the stop-loss policy, Matthis responds, "Well, ma'am, I think there is already enormous attention on this policy and, in fact, this is one of the many Bush era policies that Obama has failed to make good on his promises to end. Obama said he would end stop-loss, yet it continues. Marc Hall is a victim of that. His song is an expression of-of what it's like to feel robbed by the military, what it's like to be the victim of a backdoor draft. And he put that out there and subsequently told his unit that he wasn't going to abide by those orders to deploy to Iraq and that's when they took these measures against him. There's a clear, clear history of resistance within the units in the military history spreading and we in Iraq Veterans Against the War are convinced that the command recognized this and sought to remove Marc Hall using this rap song as an excuse before others in his unit could find out that he wasn't going to deploy and could do the same thing. I mean in recent history at Fort Hood, we have Victor Augusto who refused to deploy to Afghanistan and then, after he did that, other soldiers stood up. One, in fact, flat out refused as well and also was tried by the miltiary for it. This jailing of Marc Hall is clearly the military's attempt to shut down any resistance in this unit that could come from Marc Hall's courageous stance, not just in opposing stop-loss but in opposing the war."

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

From the raucous tea party rallies to the painful sacrifices families are making behind closed doors, voter angst and anger are sweeping the country like a storm. Directly in its path: the 2010 midterm elections. On February 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW examines the strong impact this groundswell has already had on electoral politics, and what we can expect in November. Our investigation uncovers what motivates people who've come together under the tea party banner, and how a larger dissatisfaction among voters spells trouble for incumbents in both parties, some of whom have decided to avert the storm by leaving Congress altogether.

iraqthe los angeles times
cnnelise labott
the asia timessami moubayedmohammed a. salihxinhuaal jazeeracnnthe new york timessteven lee myersyousif bassilart voicegeoff kelly
the christian science monitorjane arrafsavannah nowpamela e. walckrussia todayiraq veterans against the warmatthis chirouxthe world cant waitdavid zucchino
pbsnow on pbs

Read on ...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Don't Spook the Spook

Some people are like animals.

With Michael Hayden, I thought as I saw him on TV, "He's like a turtle." So I grabbed some lines he really said and drew him as a turtle.

When people remind you of animals, it can be easy. Unless it's an aligator. I'm lousy drawing those.

That's "Don't Sppok the Spook" from May 21, 206.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, February 11, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the press thinks they've caugh Joe Biden in an embarrassing moment, the press ignores a public lie told by Robert Gibbs, the US military announces a death, Saleh al-Mutlaq is announced banned, and more.

In one of the more suprising domestic war developments, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has called out the apathy on the part of the peace movement.
WBEZ provides audio clips.

We always believe America is number one. If you start the first World War, the Second World War, then you take Korea and Vietnam and Iraq I and II and Afghanistan -- just think of all the money that we spend on wars to save the world. Today we can't save America. What is this? Why do we always have to go to war continually? Why can't we rebuild America? Why is it we have to take three hundred, four hundred billion dollars and tell people we're only going to be there for a year and we're coming home and we declare victory. What is it? What is it about America? How did we start this century of ten years of war? Ten years of war. We started it and we continue to move forward. Where are the anti-war people? "I looked down at the [. . .] center" -- where are they? Where are they? They've disappeared. What happened? I thought war was evil. Where are the people who believed in their heart against George W. Bush? 'We have to organize and walk down Michigan Avenue and Clark Street.' What happened? I thought they believed in their heart. Oh! It became a political issue. 'Barack won the election, now we go home.' What happened to America?

Cate Cahan (WBEZ) notes "that his son Patrick is being redeployed in the U.S. Army. War looms large when it looms close." Earlier this week, Fran Spielman (Chicago Sun Times) quoted Daley stating, "My son had a responsibility. He served four years in the military, and he's re-deployed. He will serve his country just like evry other son and daughter in this country does the same thing." And Spielman added, "The mayor made it clear that his son did not re-enlist, but was summoned back to active duty."
Staying with US politicians, Jake Tapper, you're sleeping on the job. Robert Gibbs pulled his usual song and dance today. Suprisingly Jake Tapper fell for it. The most recent start point is last night when US Vice President Joe Biden appeared on
Larry King Live (CNN -- here for transcript). Asked by Larry about Pakistan, Biden included the following in his answer:

I am very optimistic about -- about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You're going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You're going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government. I spent -- I've been there 17 times now. I go about every two months -- three months. I know every one of the major players in all of the segments of that society. It's impressed me. I've been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences.

Andrew Malcolm (Los Angeles Times) noted (this morning, one of the first) that Biden was calling something a 'success' that may not have been what he originally advocated for with Malcolm reminding that Biden advocated for the region to split into three areas -- Sh'ite, Sunni and Kurds. In fairness to Biden (I know Joe but I'm not playing 'rescue' here), he saw it as federaslim and also he dropped this before he dropped out of the Democracy Party primary (in his bid for the presidential nomination). This came to the Senate floor and he had stated publicly before the vote that if it didn't pass, it didn't pass. When it didn't pass, he was done advocating for that plan barring some change and he's made no public statement of any change taking place. Malcolm notes Barack pushed a measure to end the Iraq War -- a meaningless measure and Barack knew it, which Malcolm leaves out -- and that Barack opposed the so-called 'surge' -- Barack opposed it so did many Democrats. Malcolm gives the surge credit for ending the genocide but the surge didn't do that -- not in any helpful way. By the time the surge starts, you already have a refugee population of 4 million and many, many dead. The surge backed up the Shi'ite government. It didn't end the genocide (popular known as a civil war). Malcolm observes, "Now, the Obama-Biden pair that opposed the Iraq war and its tactics and predicted their failure is prepared to accept credit for its success." Joe made a dumb statement. I think of the world of him and I do understand where he's coming from when he says that. I happen to disagree with the statement but it was a dumb statement just because so many would seize upon it. And should. Andrew Malcolm and others in the press aren't behaving unfairly or cruel. And they are asking about the statements.

Now let's go to
Jake Tapper's take. Tapper covers what Malcolm has -- including a link to this statement from about Barack being opposed to the 'surge' (and I'm not a Barack fan, by any means, but Barack was correct in 2007 and it's too bad that, in 2008, he wasn't able to stick to that and explain why the surge was a failure when interviewed by Katie Couric). Now here's Tapper on the White House press briefing today by Robert Gibbs and community members should grasp what Tapper doesn't:

Gibbs said the achievement was "putting what was broken back together and getting our troops home, which we intend to do in August of this year."
A reporter pointed out that the Status of Forces Agreement to bring troops home was signed before the president took office.
Gibbs called that agreement "something I think that the political pressure that the president, as a then-candidate, helped to bring about."

Did you catch it because Jake Tapper didn't. And it's the sort of thing that really makes me scream but we'll be kind. Gibbs said Barack's campaign "as a then-candidate, helped to bring about" the SOFA. (So-called SOFA.) For that to be true, candidate Barack would have had to have supported the SOFA.

But Barack didn't support it. Barack opposed the Status of Forces Agreement as a senator and as a presidential candidate. So did Joe Biden. So did every, EVERY, senator on the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee. This is public record and should be well known. Should be.

Robert Gibbs is a damn liar. Robert Gibbs damn well knows Barack opposed it and CAMPAIGNED on his opposition to it. We can go through all of this if the press can't do their own work but hopefully they'll catch their error and we can just note
November 18, 2008 -- after the US presidential election -- when Barack suddenly changed his mind:

During the election, the Obama-Biden campaign website revealed their stance on the so-called SOFA in "
Plan for Ending the War in Iraq:"["] The Status-of-Forces-AgreementObama and Biden believe any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. Obama and Biden also believe that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval--yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq. ["]

Post election, was set up as the official website for the Barack-Biden transition and if you pull up "The Obama-Biden Plan," you will find:["] The Status-of-Forces AgreementObama and Biden believe it is vital that a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) be reached so our troops have the legal protections and immunities they need. Any SOFA should be subject to Congressional review to ensure it has bipartisan support here at home. ["]

I like Joe so I'll stop there (and also note that Joe didn't refer to the SOFA on Larry King). But Barack opposed the SOFA -- the SOFA doesn't end the illegal war and it should have been opposed, it was another move by Bush to do an executive power-grab and render the legislative branch obsolete.

Robert Gibbs lied to the press and claimed candidate Barack allowed the SOFA to come to be. No, he didn't. He opposed the SOFA as it was rammed through by Bush (and he was right to oppose it). Only after the election did the SOFA suddenly become 'okay' with Barack. Had Barack campaigned in 2008 honestly and stated, "We want to end the war now! But I'm going to follow Bush's plan" you can rest assured that even some of his whores -- maybe even Tom Hayden -- would have either rejected him or have to learn to kiss their own asses a little deeper. Tom-Tom, of course, can toss his own salad and does so frequently. The difference between Bush's 'plan' and Barack's is why
Jennifer Loven and Liz Sidoti (AP) can note Barack's "big calls for change are unfulfilled in almost every way. . . . America is still at war in Iraq. U.S. combat troops are supposed to be out by this August by the latest presidential deadline -- later than candidate Obama had planned."

Ryan Grimm made an ass out of himself on MSNBC insisting that the right-wing was being a hypocrite for refusing to give Barack credit on Iraq while insisting he was responsible for the economy, unemployment, deficits and the Big Business bail out. Ryan Grim's a damn fool and a damn liar. He works at Huffington Post which pretty much tells you all you ever need to know about his 'qualifications.' Barack is responsible for the Big Business bail out -- after the election, he strong-armed the Black Caucus into supporting it. He is president, that makes him responsible for the unemployment rate, the deficit and everything else. Sorry if that's too damn hard for little Ryan to grasp. As for Iraq? Bush implemented the 'plan' and Barack's following it. It's not a good 'plan' and if you're going to praise it, you better explain why all the sudden George W. Bush is the man to praise on Iraq? Ryan Grimm's a damn idiot -- and a smelly one at that. (Note to Arianna, speak to your people about public hygiene.)

Things are not wonderful for Iraqis.
World Focus offers a video report by Charity Tooze:

Ali Katheem: All those who are hearing me, I wish you could remove me and my family from the situation. I can't sustain this and I hope this year something happens.

Charity Tooze: Ali Katheem and his family live in Syria. There one of the thousands of Iraqi families that have been displaced by violence. Ali said he would have been killed if they'd stayed in Iraq. In 2006, a milita group moved into the Katheen's neighborhood and began threatening the family.

Ali Katheem: They said you're sectarian, you're Shi'ite, you're done, you cannot live near us. This week, if you don't leave, we'll kill you.

Charity Tooze: After the initial threats Ali said gunmen began trespassing on his property. He said they heard gunshots all the time.

Ali Katheem: When this happened, I would put my children and wife in a closet and lock them in. I would sit with two machine guns on either side of me in case they came in, so they wouldn't kill my family.

Charity Tooze: When the family decided to flee to Syria, their quality of life quickly went from comfortable to poor and Ali, like all Iraqi refugees, is not legally allowed to work. This is not the first time Ali has experienced adversity. As a young man, he fought in the Iran-Iraq War. When a bomb hit him, he lost his left forearm. Yet Ali went on to become a champion. He trained as a professional runner and in 1990 was the first Iraqi to win a Gold and Silver medal in the Holland . . . [Olympic Festival].

Ali Katheem: Champion of the world. In handicap. Gold medal, 400 meter. Silver medal, 200 meter.

Charity Tooze: But now Ali feels powerless. The country receives the equivalent of 200 US dollars monthly in cash assistance from the UNHCR. Their rent alone is approximately $250. In order to make the rest of their rent, they sell half their food rations. Not only are the Katheen's living in poverty but their children continue to struggle to make sense of their past.

Daughter: Once we were traveling, someone died. Me and my mother went and saw him. He was dead in front of us, so I still remember it and I kept dreaming about it.

Charity Tooze: In addition to psychological trauma, the children have struggled with school. This year Hussein dropped out to help the family pay the rent.

Things are not wonderful in Iraq. Today the
International Press Institute released their latest report on press freedom and they found the first decade of the 21st journalist had claimed the lives of 735 journalists with 170 of those having been "killed in Iraq, making it the most dangerous country in the world for journalists in the last ten years." This comes as Iraq continues to crack down on journalism. Alsumaria TV reports that the Ministry of Industry and Minerals is insisting it did not shut down a paper in Basra.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Mosul roadsdie bombing claimed 1 life, a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured


Reuters notes an attack on a Mosul security checkpoint resulted in the death of 1 police officer and, dropping back to Wednesday for both incidents, an armed clash in Haditha resulted in three police officers and two assailants being injured and 1 imam was shot dead in Baghdad.

Today the
US miltiary announced: "A United States Forces-Iraq Soldier died Feb. 10 of non-comabt related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incidnet is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4376 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) writes:

Yesterday, 10th February 2010 in various districts of Baghdad, 25 Baathists have been gunned down with silencers, silent guns by the Badr Brigades of Ammar Al-Hakeem (ISCI) of Iran.Sunni areas in Baghdad are being evacuated.: Amiriya is practically empty now, people are getting very scared because a lot of the men are being arrested.Again yesterday at 6.30 pm, 12 Baathists have been arrested in Sammara by Badr Brigades.Warning : A massive campaign of liquidation and/or arrest has started by the Iranian trained, backed and funded Shiite death squads. As promised by Nouri Al-Maliki.when he said " any Baathist will be meeting his/her black fate ". We are expecting more bloodshed of Sunnis/and seculars under the pretext of a Baathist witch hunt.

UPI reports, "The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission moved forward with preparations for March parliamentary elections by printing ballots in January despite the objections. IHEC has now released the names of 6,172 approved candidates for the March elections, reports, a Web site devoted to Iraqi analysis." Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports the list does not include Sunni's Salah al-Mutlaq and Dhafir al-Ani. Quoted in the article is Ali al-Lami who never admits to being Ahmed Chalabi's lover, boyfriend, boytoy, sexpot or friend with benefits. Thus far.

al-Mutlaq was running as part of the nationalist party the National Dialogue Movement, a non-sectarian party and a strong rival to Liltte Nouri.
Tom McGregor (Dallas Blog) informs that neocon Michael Rubin is a strong cheerleader for Chalabi. Ali al-Lami, watch your back. The UN today issued a statement which included:

The top United Nations envoy to Iraq today called on the country's political leaders to step up their efforts to ensure that next month's Council of Representatives election is free and fair, with campaigning for the polls set to start tomorrow.
Calling on them to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process, Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, underscored that each institution involved in the 7 March elections must operate free of political interference.
"The consolidation of democracy in Iraq will depend on the willingness of Iraq's political leaders to collective ensure a transparent, peaceful election," he

It's a little late in the day for that announcement.
Trudy Rubin (Post Bulletin), whom no one could ever accuse of flying off the handle or jumping to conclusions, offers, "Iraq is holding elections in March that will test whether it has moved beyond the vicious sectarian divisions of the past. Prime Minister Maliki claims that is what he wants. U.S. officials are holding their breath." Meanwhile at Gulf Daily News, Finian Cunningham observes:

While Obama makes a big deal about earmarking $100 billion to tackle unemployment, a much understated but much bigger deal is the allocation of $160bn for America's wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Combined with the regular Pentagon annual budget, that puts US total spending on "defence" (meaning aggression) at $710bn over the next year - 700 per cent more than what it will spend on creating jobs.
To put this largesse in another perspective, US military spending compares with a federal education budget of some $220bn - that is, three times more of the taxpayers' money is spent every year on invading countries, expanding global bases, blowing up villages, testing missile interceptors etc, than developing the talents of young Americans.
What these figures show is not just that the infamous US military-industrial complex is alive and well; they show that the American economy is fundamentally a war economy. While its people are struggling to maintain some modicum of livelihood - jobs, homes, healthcare, education - what is evident more than ever to them is that the year-on-year inordinate US government spending on its military is far from "discretionary". It is compulsory.

Radio notes,
Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio interviews professor Francis Boyle:

Francis Boyle, Professor at the University of Illinois College of Law, discusses his legal Complaint demanding the prosecution of Bush administration officials for crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court's (ICC) jurisdiction over crimes committed by the US in ICC-member countries, the "Marty" report that catalogs the US practice of "extraordinary rendition" and how a less-desirable international prosecution is the result of the Obama administration's failure to uphold the rule of law.
MP3 here. (20:59)
Francis Boyle is a Professor and scholar in the areas of international law and human rights. He is the author of
Tackling America's Toughest Questions: Alternative Media Interviews, BREAKING ALL THE RULES: Palestine, Iraq, Iran and the Case for Impeachment and many other publications.
Professor Boyle received a J.D. degree magna cum laude and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in political science from Harvard University. Prior to joining the faculty at the College of Law, he was a teaching fellow at Harvard and an associate at its Center for International Affairs. He also practiced tax and international tax with Bingham, Dana & Gould in Boston.
He has written and lectured extensively in the United States and abroad on the relationship between international law and politics. His Protesting Power: War, Resistance and Law (Rowman & Littlefield Inc. 2007) has been used successfully in anti-war protest trials. In the September 2000 issue of the prestigious The International History Review, Professor Boyle's Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations (1898-1922) was proclaimed as "a major contribution to this reinterrogation of the past" and "required reading for historians, political scientists, international relations specialists, and policy-makers." That book was translated into Korean and published in Korea in 2003 by Pakyoungsa Press.
As an internationally recognized expert, Professor Boyle serves as counsel to Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the Provisional Government of the State of Palestine. He also represents two associations of citizens within Bosnia and has been instrumental in developing the indictment against Slobodan Milosevic for committing genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Professor Boyle is Attorney of Record for the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, conducting its legal affairs on a worldwide basis. Over his career, he has represented national and international bodies including the Blackfoot Nation (Canada), the Nation of Hawaii, and the Lakota Nation, as well as numerous individual death penalty and human rights cases. He has advised numerous international bodies in the areas of human rights, war crimes and genocide, nuclear policy, and bio-warfare.
From 1991-92, Professor Boyle served as Legal Advisor to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations. He also has served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, as well as a consultant to the American Friends Services Committee, and on the Advisory Board for the Council for Responsible Genetics. He drafted the U.S. domestic implementing legislation for the Biological Weapons Convention, known as the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, that was approved unanimously by both Houses of the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. That story is told in his book Biowarfare and Terrorism (Clarity Press: 2005).
In 2001 he was selected to be the Dr. Irma M. Parhad Lecturer by the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary in Canada. In 2007 he became the Bertrand Russell Peace Lecturer at McMaster University in Canada. Professor Boyle is listed in the current edition of Marquis' Who's Who in America.
Currently Professor Boyle lectures on international law at the
University of Illinois College of Law.

TV notes.
NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

Even with the recent outpouring of support for earthquake victims inHaiti, Americans' attention span for global crises is usually veryshort. But is there a way to keep American audiences from tuning outimportant global issues of violence, poverty, and catastrophe far beyondtheir backyards? On Friday, February 12 at 8:30 pm (check locallistings), NOW talks with filmmaker Eric Metzgar about "Reporter," hisdocumentary about the international reporting trips of New York Timescolumnist Nicholas Kristof. In the film, Metzgar provides fascinatinginsight into how Kristof breaks through and gets us to think deeplyabout people and issues half a world away.

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