Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Runaway Bully


That's "The Runaway Bully" from September 2, 2007. Again, I overdid the bridal motif.

One of Bush's daughters (Jenna) had announced she was engaged. That provided me with two solid ideas for comics. The first one was the first I did in the series (two posts down) and I liked it. That was followed by numerous comics of Bush in a wedding dress until we got to the pay off comic of him, Barney (the dog) and his mother. But, proving how faulty memory can be, I thought all the ones between the first and last were awful.

That's not the case, I actually like the one above. I laughed when I saw it. Bully Boy Bush was attempting -- in real life at the time -- to again play "turned corner in Iraq" and the events on the ground in Iraq were saying "NO WAY."

So that's what the comic's conveying. It's also helped by the two people present besides him: Karl Rove and Condi Rice. Condi was always my ace in the hole. Anytime I could include her in a comic, it made it better (to me, anyway). And I think that's because while it may have been Bush's administration (with Cheney calling the shots), no one better represented the 'logic' of the administration than Condi publicly.

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

Thursday, March 31, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch notes the closing of one Iraqi secret prison doesn't end the problems, the US military was on the ground in Tikrit Tuesday storming into a government building despite US military command claims otherwise, Iraqis call for the United Nation to intervene and protect them, more political parties in Iraq express displeasure with Nouri's leadership, NPR airs a factually incorrect and apparently biased (against the Kurds) 'report' that implies they no longer bother to check facts before airing anything, a new study finds burn pits put US service members and contractors at risk, and more.
Human Rights Watch declared today that the announced (March 14th) plan to close the secret Iraqi prison Camp Honor is "only a first step" and that Iraq needs to do much more. As January wound down, Ned Parker. reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the whilte Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq. Such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call the use of secret prisons out while Nouri continued to deny them. In the middle of this month, the world was supposed to forget all the denials and rejoice that (yet again) Nouri had been caught operating a secret prison and that he was saying (yet again) he would close one and saying that (yet again) secret prisons did not belong in the 'new' Iraq and would not be part of it. The lie would continue until March 15th.
Iraqi officials should establish an independent body with authority to impartially investigate the torture that occurred at Camp Honor and other sites run by the 56th Brigade, also known as the "Baghdad Brigade," and the Counterterrorism Service - the elite security forces attached to the military office of the prime minister. The investigating body should recommend disciplinary steps or criminal prosecution of everyone of any rank implicated in the abuse, Human Rights Watch said.
"Shutting down Camp Honor will mean little if detainees are shuffled to other facilities to face torture again," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "There needs to be a genuine, independent investigation and criminal prosecution of everyone, regardless of rank, responsible for the horrific abuses there."
The Justice Ministry announced on March 14 that it would close Camp Honor after members of a parliamentary investigative committee, consisting largely of parliament's Human Rights Committee members, found evidence of torture during a spot inspection of the facility five days earlier. Investigative committee members told Human Rights Watch that they had observed 175 prisoners in "horrible conditions" at the prison, in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone. They said they saw physical "signs of recent abuse, including electric shocks" and marks on detainees' bodies, including long scars across their backs.
Detainees described to committee members the torture they endured there and said that more than 40 other detainees had been hastily moved from the facility less than an hour before members of the committee arrived.
Iraq's Minister of Justice Hussein al-Shammari told Human Rights Watch on March 29 that all of Camp Honor's detainees - between 150 and 160 - had been moved to three other facilities under the control of his ministry. According to the parliamentary committee, however, the number of detainees held at Camp Honor was higher. The committee, established by parliament on February 8 after a Human Rights Watch report and a Los Angeles Times article documented the abuse of detainees at Camp Honor, said it had officially requested from prison authorities a list of all the detainees' names, but had received no information as of March 29.
In response to repeated allegations of serious abuse at Iraqi detention facilities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a statement on March 19 reiterating that "there are no secret detention centers, and all prisons and detention centers are open to regulatory authorities and judicial authorities, which must report any violations found, if any, and notify judicial authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators."
However, the February 1 report by Human Rights Watch described a new secret prison within Camp Justice, a sprawling military base in northwest Baghdad, run by the same forces in charge at Camp Honor - the 56th Brigade and the Counterterrorism Service - both of which report directly to the prime minister's military office. The Counterterrorism Service works closely with US Special Forces.
The issue of prisons and prisoners in Iraq is huge and a major motivator in the protest movement taking place there -- especially the ones featuring attorneys in three cities (Baghdad, Basra and Mosul). However, the shotgun marriage of xenophobia and lazy meant that the protests would be protrayed differently to the outside world which ran with the nonsense that Iraqis were just sitting around, unaware and uninformed until one day, sitting in front of their satellite TVs, they saw what was taking place in Egypt and said, "Hey, that looks fun, let's try that!" Iraqi protests were going on, unreported by the western media, in 2010. The same western media then flocking to Egypt had no interest in the protests taking place in Iraq -- possibly due to the fact that western reporters rarely go anywhere in Iraq other than Baghdad and the KRG. Basra and Mosul aren't spots they frequent let alone other hotbed areas. But the first Iraq protests in 2011 took place far from Baghdad and the issues were the prisons, the families being unable to see their loved ones, the denial of trials, the denial of rights. The calls against corruption and for reform include the prison and justice (or 'justice') system in Iraq. All one ever had to do was listen to the protesters but a narrative got imposed by the press and what was at stake to the Iraqi people mattered far less to the press than its own narrative.
Friday, in Baghdad's Liberation Square, protests again took place but were largely ignored by the western media. Among the groups protesting were the wives, mothers and sisters of prisoners. (See Sunday's "And the war drags on . . ." for some screen snaps of the women from videos which can be found at The Great Iraqi Revolution Facebook page). For those women to be present, they had to overcome physical hurdles such as closed bridges, barbed wire, a ban on traffic and a light rain. They joined with other women protesting to account for the largest female presence at a Baghdad protest so far this year. They carried photos of their imprisoned loved ones and cried out for justice.
Urgent Appeal to the United Nations, represented by the UN Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-moon because of the suffering of the IRaqi people and the demonstrators were killed, tortured and displaced by the government-proclaimed by the US occupation in 2003, and all participants in this campaign, asking for immediate intervention in the Iraqi situation now.
Among those joining the call is Nabeel Alnabeel who writes, "We are with you all, the heart, soul and body are one for Iraq and for support for the rights of Iraq." Sarah Adeeb adds her support to the campaign and wonders over the the assault in Salah al-Din Province Tuesday (Tikrit's provinical government offices), "Why parliament or provincial councils has not suspended its meetings, even for one day??? Why did not stand a minute of silence for the souls of all those that lost their martyrs in the provinces of Salah al-Din??? Is sectarianism?? Who died or are not Bhranyen??? [. . . .] [Ahmed] Chalabi, who collects donations for Baharain."

Aswat al-Iraq reports
that Osama al-Nujafi has led a moment of silence in Parliament this afternnon to remember the victims of the Tuesday assault on the Salahuddin provincial council building. Sarah Adeeb's point still stands because the Parliament took a ten day holiday (which they only concluded last weekend) to show solidarity with the protesters in Bahrain. Sarah Adeeb is correct to be offended that Iraqi politicians will take ten days off to show solidarity with non-Iraqis but make no time to demonstrate solidarity with the people they are supposed to be representing. The Economist notes the Parliament's response and shut down in a piece today:
Politicians from Iraq's Shia majority, including a former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, castigated the Saudi intervention. Some Sunni, Kurdish and Christian members of Iraq's parliament also condemned the Saudis, but the speaker, Osama el-Nujaifi, who hails from a leading Sunni family in Mosul, Iraq's strongly Sunni city in the north, decided to close parliament down for ten days. Some Iraqi politicians, including Iyad Allawi, a Shia who leads the main Sunni block in parliament, said that a hiatus was required to stop sectarian tension boiling over in parliament.
But it is still bubbling. Politicians and religious leaders have continued to respond to events in Bahrain along sectarian lines. Muqtada al-Sadr, a populist Iraqi Shia cleric with a big following who leads his movement from a temporary home in Iran, has castigated the intervention too. Members of his political party have called for Bahrain's embassy in Baghdad to be closed, whereas Haider al-Mulla, a Sunni MP, blames the uprising in Bahrain on Iranian interference and says that Iran's embassy in Baghdad should be shut.
No similar outcry from politicians followed the assault in Tikrit (this despite the fact that the assault can be seen as an assault on government itself). Alsumaria TV reports that AP released film of the Tirkit attack: "A soldier on the building's roof shows as pointing to the place of hostages while employees were seen going down the stairs to escape the building". Xinhua has posted video from CNTV of the assault and they note, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers."
Earlier this week, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported, "The American military did not participate in the retaking of the building but observed from nearby, according to a military spokesman." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quoted US military spokesperson Col Barry Johnson stating, "Our assistance has been limited to providing aerial surveillance of the scene and keeping our soldiers on site to receive further requests for assistance if needed."
Xinhua reports, "Iraqi security force surrounded the building and engaged in heavy fighting with the gunmen. Hours later, US and Iraqi SWAT teams stormed the building and killed the attackers." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "Witnesses said U.S. troops responded to the attack and entered the building with Iraqi forces trying to rescue the hostages. No U.S. casualties were reported, however, and it wasn't clear how many of the dead were hostages, gunmen or members of the Iraqi security forces. At least three of the gunmen were wearing explosive suicide belts, Iraq's Interior Ministry said."
So which is it? It's Hammoudi and Xinhua's version. The US military command has lied and a functioning press would be all over this story and how US forces -- well after Barack Obama's laughable claim that "combat operations" ended August 31st -- were rushing into a hostage situation with no knowledge of how many assailants were present in the building but knowing that the assailants had guns and bombs and had already demonstrated their willingness to use both. Combat didn't end, the Iraq War didn't end. If it ended, there'd be no need today for Hugh Fisher (Salisbury Post) to report, "Soldiers from Salisbury's National Guard aviation unit are preparing to deploy to Iraq in the coming weeks. About 80 members of C Company, 1-131st Aviation Regiment, will go to Fort Hood, Texas, where they will receive additional training before going overseas."
The Iraqi forces and the US military failed to save any hostage.
Nouri al-Maliki's been forced into promising an investigation -- most of his promised investigations never reveal anything. In fact, you could probably change that to "all of his promised investigations never reveal anything." Dar Addustour reveals the Ministry of the Defense is blaming the assault on the building's security guards. If true, that really doesn't explain the five hour standoff, now does it? And the investigation is not supposed to end with 'how it started' but, most importantly, why Iraqi forces were unable to save a single hostage. Online yesterday, The NewsHour (PBS) spoke with Jane Arraf of Al Jazeera TV and the Christian Science Monitor to get her take on the assault's meaning. (Starting with CNN before the Iraq War, Arraf has a long track record of covering Iraq and is not an insta-expert but someone who can speak with real authority on the topic.)

What's the security situation like in Iraq?

ARRAF: Since the protests started (in February), there actually has been a lull of attacks in Baghdad. Baghdad has traditionally been one of the more violent places -- it's a very target-rich environment with a lot of government ministries and basically all the symbols of not just the Iraqi government, but of the U.S.

One of the things we've seen evolve over the past year or so is a change in tactics. Al-Qaida and other groups seem to have moved away from things like bombings in marketplaces, where they indiscriminately kill civilians, because there's been a huge backlash against that. They're still specifically targeting Shias, because one of their aims appears to be to reignite the sectarian violence that led the country into civil war, and they're still targeting security forces: police, the army and government officials. Government officials are harder to get to in Baghdad because they're in the Green Zone for the most part, and it's very well-protected.

But certainly security officials are out there, and we've seen a lot of targeted assassinations -- things like gunmen using silencers and a lot of sticky bombs, or bombs placed under the carriage of a person's car that explodes when they get in.

The biggest one like (Tuesday's siege in Tikrit) that we've seen is the church attack in October. That was a similar incident -- a coordinated attack involving layers of attacks and then a response by Iraqi forces that led to further deaths. Al-Qaida in Iraq took credit for that one and said it would continue to attack Christians.

Returning to The Economist piece on the ten-day vacation Parliament took to show solidarity with people of another country and its effects within Iraq:
Iraq's parliament has now reopened but the row has weakened a coalition government that is in any case built on a fragile ethno-sectarian power-sharing agreement. More than a year after elections, no defence or interior minister has been appointed. Iran, it is said, has been promoting its own candidate for the interior ministry, whereas the defence ministry was promised to Mr Allawi's Sunni-backed block. But Mr Maliki has rejected several of Mr Allawi's nominees. Although the prime minister has a firm grip on the security services and has been trying to expand his own executive powers, he is looking more isolated as erstwhile allies complain that he has broken the promises he made when he was putting his ruling coalition together.

Today Al Mada reports that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) has declared, via a MP yesterday, that they feel they are being marginalized in the Iraqi government. Leaving Al Mada, to provide background. ISCI is headed by Ammar al-Hakim who took over when his father Abdul Aiz al-Hakim died in August of 2009. (Ammar al-Hakim assumed leadership after ISCI voted to make him the leader.) During the long stalemate, they sent conflicting messages before finally agreeing to back Nouri al-Maliki. They are a Shi'ite group and one that is frequently at odds with Moqtada al-Sadr and his backers as well as with Nouri al-Maliki. During the stalemate, although the White House had already decided to back Nouri, the administration was regularly lobbied by Americans (including the CIA) who felt ISCI would be a better bet and that al-Hakim would better represent America's interests in the region. Al Rafidayn carries the same story and notes that Iraqiya has also floated a trial balloon about withdrawing support from Nouri's government. Al Rafidayn reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujafi has noted the gulf between the people and the people's representatives in Iraq. He was speaking at a conference attended by the provincial council heads and governors and declared that the errors and doubts were "eating away at the body of this young nation."

Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa Party (not to be confused with his State Of Law slate) are behind the shutting down of many nightclubs, wedding lounges and alcohol stores, Al Raifdayn notes, and yesterday Nouri was forced into publicly insisting that Iraq was a civil state, not denominational or sectarian but "a civil society and people have the freedome to embrace demnomiations and religions of their choice." Dar Addustour explains the word is that today the Parliament will vote on Nouri's latest Cabinet nominees and that Ali al-Lami, in reference to the nomination of Khaled al-Obeidi, is insisting that Nouri doesn't have the legal power to grant exceptions to "Ba'athists" the Justice and Accountability Commission is investigating or lodging harges against. Ali al-Lami is the Miss Hathaway to Ahmed Chalabi's Mr. Drysdale. The two used the Justice Accountability Commission in 2009 and 2010 to weed out serious rivals with false charges of "Ba'athist!" Nouri didn't complain at the time because he benefitted from the actions.

In other Parliamentary news, Al Mada reports the legislative body is questioning the claim that Iraq has the ability to produce 12 million barrels a day of crude oil. The infrastructure of Iraq's oil industry is only one of the questions being raised. It's also noted that the International Monetary Fund is skeptical of the claim. Tuesday AFP reported that the IMF, citing "infrastructure constraints," expressed grave hesitation over the claim that Iraq could be producing as much as 13 million barrels of oil per day by the year 2017. Reaching 12.2 million barrels per day would be "the very best case scenario" and "huge investments" were needed "in port facilities, pieplines, desalination plants (for water to be injected into oil fields) and storage facilities." Jaafar al-Wannan (Zawya) reminds, "The Oil Ministry announced at the end of last year a five year plan to raise the country's oil production to 12 million bpd from the 2.7 million bpd currently produced."

Moving from Baghdad to the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, the region is claimed by Kurds and by Baghdad. The dispute is not new and, in 2005, Iraqis came up with a solution to resolving the conflict: a census would be taken of the region and a referendum held in the region to determine Kirkuk's fate. They were so comfortable with this decision that they didn't just endorse it publicly, they wrote it into the country's Constitution (Article 140). Approximately a half-year after the Constitution was ratified, Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister for the first time (May 2006 he moved from prime minister-designate to prime minister). Despite Article 140 clearly stating that the census and referendum must take place by December 31, 2007 and despite agreeing to the US White House benchmarks which included the resolution of the rights to Kirkuk, Nouri did nothing. He pushed it back and pushed it back and suddenly, during the long stalemate following the March 7, 2010 elections, when he wanted to remain prime minister, he brought out the issue of Kirkuk again in an attempt to sway the Kurds to support him in his bid for prime minister. He even (again) scheduled a start to the census. It would take place in December 2010! But in November, he became prime minister-designate and, no longer feeling he needed Kurdish support, he quickly announced that the December census was (once again) off.
Tuesday's snapshot dealt with the Kirkuk issue and noted International Crisis Group new report entitled [PDF format warning] "Iraq and the Kurds: Confronting Withdrawal Fears" which quoted an adviser to Nouri stating, "Some of the prime minister's promises will be delivered in two to three weeks, some in two to three years, and some will take ten years. There are lots of [unimplemented] promises left over from 2006 [when the first Maliki government was formed]. We still didn't finish Article 140, and this will take perhaps ten more years." Wednesday Mike Shuster (NPR's Morning Edition) reported on the issue and, possibly due to time constraints, he didn't do a very good job. He noted that, in February, the peshmerga (elite Kurdish security force) surrounded Kirkuk when they took positions in the east and south -- as well as their positions already in the north and west. It probably would have been a good idea to give the background on why they were already in the north and west because that would have made the report come off less one-sided. They have been there for some time and been there because Baghdad was unable (or unwilling some argued in the early years of the war) to provide security to the region. Does that mean the peshmerga are angels and the Kurdistan Regional Government salvation? No. But it does allow the basic facts to be noted. Shuster notes Arab leaders in the region (the region is ethnically mixed with one of the largest minority groups, the Turkmen, frequently voicing their displeasure at both Kurds and Arabs) felt there was no real compelling danger at the time which forced the peshmerga to take up positions in the east and south. Shuster notes:
Parts of Kirkuk are bristling with weapons. One of the most heavily armed spots in the city is the Kirkuk Provincial Council. The council building and surrounding neighborhoods are crawling with police carrying AK-47s. Each of the 40 members of the council has several bodyguards, and they are all carrying pistols prominently displayed. No demilitarization here. Not surprising, given the political maneuvering that dominated the news in Kirkuk last week. The second move in the latest Kurdish gambit. Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions. This gave more power to the Turkmen parties, with one of their own, Hassan Toran, promised the chairmanship of the provincial council.
That's more than a little confusing and it's because Shuster can't or won't call out Nouri al-Maliki who has been the obstacle in provincial elections since he became prime minister in 2006. But it's not accurate that no governors have been elected in Kirkuk and I'm really surprised that no one at NPR caught that. (Well, it's not like they have a functioning ombudsperson. But I meant the actual journalistic staff -- not a supposed watchdog who's forever napping under the front porch.)
Earlier this month, the provincial council chief and governor announced their resignations. Shuster's report aired Wednesday. Tuesday, the day before, Alsmaria TV reported, "Kirkuk Provincial Council elected on Tuesday a new governor from Kurdistan Alliance and appointed head of the council from the Turkman Front. Kirkuk Provincial Council voted by unanimity on Kurdistan Alliance member Najmddin Karim as the new governor and named Hassan Toran from the Turkman Front as head of the council, a source from Kirkuk Provincial Council told Alsumaria News." Reuters reported, "A new Kurdish governor and a Turkmen provincial council chief were elected on Tuesday in Iraq's northern Kirkuk, enraging Arab politicians in the disputed city who said they would boycott the council. [. . .] The provincial council elected Najimeldin Kareem, a Kurd, as the city's new governor and Hassan Toran, a member of the Turkmen ethnic minority, as provincial council head on Tuesday. The Arab bloc in the council boycotted the vote."
Again, someone needs to ask how and why NPR allowed Mike Shuster to report "Kirkuk has not held an election for governor and other positions since 2005. So a back room deal was struck between the Kurds and the Turkmen to divide up key positions."? Because that's not accurate. And they need to wonder why the report was filed one day after Kirkuk, in fact, elected a governor. Kirkuk is not California and if Mike Shuster can't understand the difference, NPR might need to send him back to California. I desperately want English-language reporting on Iraq but not so desperately that I'm thrilled with innaccurate and increasingly biased reporting. We've complained about Shuster before, I'd love to stop. But his reports are factually inaccurate before you even get to the slant that he's puts on them. That's nothing for NPR to brag about. A day after multiple outlets are reporting on Kirkuk electing a governor, Shuster takes to NPR airwaves to proclaim that Kirkuk's never elected a governor. Someone want to explain that? Someone want to poke (NPR ombudsperson) Alicia Shepherd in the ribs and tell her to wake up already?
We've covered Kirkuk here from the beginning and back then -- maybe Shuster has the same ignorance I suffered from -- I didn't realize its huge importance to so many or how easily some could assume you were taking a side. The only side I have ever taken is that Constitution needs to be followed or the Constitution needs to be amended. I have repeatedly stated that the US does not need to be involved in this situation which will be, once decided, like the issue of the "lost homeland" elsewhere in the Middle East and causing tensions for decades to come. The US does not need to make this decision both because it is not the US's decision to make and because the US doesn't need more animosity breeding over the coming years. Listening to Shuster's report, it's hard not to detect an anti-Kurdish bias. That goes beyond the fact that Shuster may truly be ignorant that governors in Iraq are not elected in the same manner that they are in California. That goes to this section of the report about the peshmerga moving to the south and east and, therby, encircling all of Kirkuk:
Mike Shuster: Kurdish officials claimed the move was necessary because of threats from Arab insurgent and nationalist groups, who intended to hold protests in Hawijah to the west of Kirkuk. Those protests, on February 25th, resulted in the torching of a government building and the deaths of three people.
But was there any connection in "those protests" -- outside of the city of Kirkuk but still inside the province of Kirkuk (does Shuster understand that) -- and Kirkuk itself? If so, Shuster should report it, right? Because, as it stands, his report makes the Kurds look like liars. They well may be, they well may not be. But Shuster failed to do the work required (and why do I feel that's been on every one of his report cards?). Reporting March 30th on Kirkuk's election of a governor, Hiwa Husamaddin (Zawya) explained:
Rizgar Ali stepped down from the chairmanship of the provincial council March 15, following a wave of public protests that swept through Iraq including Kirkuk. During the protests in the province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire.
Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. Article 140 sets a roadmap to resolve territorial disputes between Kurds and other ethnic groups in the country over Kirkuk and other disputed areas.

During the protests in the [Kirkuk] province, protesters in the predominantly Arab-populated town of Hawija set government buildings on fire. Protesters chanted slogans that called for the abolition of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution." That would appear to back up, at the very least, concern on the part of the Kurds. al Qaeda in Iraq is a blanket every official (US and Iraqi) appears to grab for security whenever anything goes wrong in Iraq. If the group is truly responsible for everything its credited with, then nothing's ever stopped it, let alone slowed it down. I don't know. My opinion is that it's an easy out, an easy source of blame, when things go wrong. My opinion. But if you're reporting on Kirkuk and especially on Hawijah, you might need to note the bragging at the start of February when Iraqi military -- not Kurdish peshmerga -- were bragging that they had arrested two al Qaeda in Iraq militants in -- where? -- Hawijah. Not doing so allows you to portray the Kurds as big fat liars and maybe that's why Shuster couldn't include that fact -- among many others -- in his report.
Turning to reported violence . . .
Wednesday Reuters reported a Mosul grenade attack which injured thirteen people, a Mosul bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and a Tuesday evening Baghdad roadside bombing which left five people injured. Today Reuters notes a Kalar clash in which five people were injured, 1 corpse discovered in Mosul (gunshot wounds), a Baghdad mortar attack which claimed 1 life and left three more people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured a college student, and, dropping back to Wednesday for both of the following a Baghdad home invasion in which an Iraqi officer was injured and 2 of his brothers were killed and a beheaded corpse (small boy) discovered in Baaj. Reuters also notes today a Tuesday home invasionin Baghdad in which a police officer was killed and three of his family members left wounded. This is not the incident from Tuesday's snapshot in which another police officer's home was invaded -- that one took place in Falluja: " Aswat al-Iraq reports a Falluja home invasion resulted in the death of 1 police officer and his wife and three children left injured."
I forgot to include violence in yesterday's snapshot, my apologies. Today, I had hoped to note . Kelly McEvers' All Things Considered (NPR) report. Didn't happen. We don't have room. And she's already got another report. We'll try to pick them both up in tomorrow's snapshot.
The American Chemical Society is concluding their National Meeting & Exposition in Anaheim, California today. At the conference, a presentation was made on a research study which found that Iraq War service members and contractors have been exposed to air pollution which "could pose immediate and long-term health threats." The multi-year study was explained by the research team's Jennifer M. Bell, "Our preliminary results show that the fine particulate matter concentrations frequently exceed military exposure guidelines and those individual constituents, such as lead, exceed U.S. ambient air quality standards designed to protect human health. [. . .] Coarse particles are large enough to get trapped in the hair-like fibers that line the nasal passages and the trachea preventing them from entering the lungs. Fine and ultra fine particles are so small that they bypass the body's natural defenses. When we take a breath, they travel into the deepest part of the lung where oxygen exchange takse place." She also stressed, "We are especially concerned about fine airborne particles that originate from motor vehicles, factories, open burning of trash in pits, and other sources." Karen Kaplan (Los Angeles Times) adds, "The study is being funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. A summary of the findings is available here. "

There's a summit planned for this issue later this month:

Burn Pit Summit
Monday, April 18 at 9:00am
Location: Washington D.C.

Reminder: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to

Read on ...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bully Boy Funds Terrorists


That's "Bully Boy Funds Terrorists" from August 27, 2007. As I noted before, when I got the motif last week, I ran with it.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. It really didn't hear but some people thought it was funny just because he was wearing a wedding dress.

I wish it were a better comic. It's probably my least favorite of every one I've done.

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

Thursday, March 24, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq still has no vice presidents, it still can't pull together a Cabinet, a prison riot takes place today, the faux peace 'leaders' emerge to . . . continue their silence on Iraq, and more.
Because she will forever be the little Piss Panties girl who kicked Elaine in the shin when Elaine asked if little Katrina (well, not so little then, old enough to be toilet trained) might have messed herself, Katrina vanden Heuvel soils her nest again, this time at the website of The Nation where the Peace Resister thinks she has a moral soap box to stand upon in "Wake Up! End the Silence on Afghanistan" which is the sort of weak ass, half-assed nonsense we've come to expect from Katrina. Before she gets pissy -- and I mean that in every way imaginable -- please note that Piss Panties vanden Heuvel is whining about others allegedly forgetting the Afghanistan War or being unwilling to speak out against it. This from the woman who is both editor and publisher of The Nation magazine which did nothing, NOTHING, to note the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War. The same war that once led her to pen an editorial claiming that the magazine would support no Democrat who didn't end the war. Katrina hopes you've forgotten that editorial. Let's highlight the main point of that November 28, 2005 editorial:
The Nation therefore takes the following stand: We will not support any candidate for national office who does not make a speedy end to the war in Iraq a major issue of his or her campaign. We urge all voters to join us in adopting this position. Many worry that the aftermath of withdrawal will be ugly, but we can now see that the consequences of staying will be uglier still. Fear of facing the consequences of Bush's disaster should not be permitted to excuse the creation of a worse disaster by continuing the occupation.
The illegal war continues and Katrina can't be bothered with it. In that same editorial, they trashed "Senators Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Evan Bayh, who continue to huddle for cover in 'the center.' They offer little alternative to Bush's refrain 'We must stay the course!'" Let's pretend for a moment US forces leave Iraq at the end of 2011 (it's not happening). Would some being sworn into office in January 2009 and keeping troops in Iraq in 2009 and 2010 and all of 2011 be "a speedy end to the war in Iraq"? Of course not. But The Nation refuses to call Barack out on that reality.
In the midst of her blog post today, Katrina wants to talk costs of the Afghanistan War but, having wasted her academic career fraternizing with professors, she never learned how to do her own calculations so she's left to raid the work of others which forces her to include Iraq for one paragraph:
You wouldn't know about all the real long-term costs from the sparse media coverage. For example, when taking into account caring for the physical and psychological wounds of returning soldiers, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard professor Linda Bilmes estimate the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will reach $4 trillion to $6 trillion. (This looting of our Treasury at a moment when people also say they would opt for cuts in defense spending over cuts in Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.)
Now watch what she follows that with:
But until people wake up, speak out, organize and mobilize to pressure their representatives and President Obama, the opposition numbers reflected in the polls won't mean much, and the staggering numbers describing the costs of this war will continue to climb.
"Wars" drops back to "the costs of this war." Maybe Katrina's the one who needs to wake up. February 1st, the US Ambassador in Iraq James Jeffrey and the top US commander in Iraq Gen Lloyd Austin appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to beg for more money -- specifically three billion to three-and-a-half billion for this year alone. As Wally noted in his report on the hearing, "We have a record number of US citizens on food stamps, if the ambassador doesn't know, and we can't even seem to keep unemployment payments going without repeatedly voting for extensions in Congress, but James Jeffrey is comfortable spending your money and mine in Iraq." The same day as the hearing, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee released a 20 page report entitled [PDF format warning] "IRAQ: THE TRANSITION FROM A MILITARY MISSION TO A CIVILIAN-LED EFFORT." The reports notes that "uncertainty about the nature of the U.S. military presence in Iraq after 2012 is complicating all other aspects of transition planning." From the report:
But regardless of whether the U.S. military withdraws as scheduled or a small successor force is agreed upon, the State Department will take on the bulk of responsibility for their own security. Therefore, Congress must provide the financial resources necessary to complete the diplomatic mission. Consideration should be given to a multiple-year funding authorization for Iraq programs, including operational costs (differentiated from the State Department's broader operational budget), security assistance, and economic assistance programs. The price tag will not be cheap -- perhaps $25 - 30 billion over 5 years -- but would constitute a small fraction of the $750 billion the war has cost to this point.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee estimates that the next five years in Iraq could cost US tax payers $30 billion dollars. Yet Katrina vanden Heuvel, who can't find the courage to call for an end to the Iraq War, wants to insist other people need to wake up? Seriously?
In May of 2007, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) called out Katrina's craven editorials and sorry excuses offered for Democrats who continued to support the Iraq War:
Treating the Democratic leadership's hollow pledge to "keep fighting" as good coin, the Nation writes, "Pelosi and Reid are right when they say this is not the end of the fight over money for Iraq." The only problem, it suggests, is that "there are still prominent Democrats who don't get it" -- Levin, Hoyer and Co. --and they "are slowing movement toward unity in support of withdrawal."
The "unacceptable votes" cast by these supposedly rogue Democrats "should raise the ire of antiwar activists and the American people," the Nation affirms, and those who cast them should be "held accountable for extending the war."
The editorial concludes, "Americans must make it clear that when the next chance comes to use the power of the purse, our representatives should follow the will of the people and call a halt to Bush's disastrous war."
Nothing could more clearly sum up the Nation's political function. It seeks to delude its readers into thinking that the ongoing complicity of the Democratic Party in the launching and continuation of the war in Iraq is a matter of a "razor thin" majority in Congress and the wayward votes of a few political miscreants. Thus, the perspective it advances is that these few politicians -- mere warts on an otherwise healthy political body -- should be shamed, and the public should wait for the Democrats to do better next time.
Everything here is reduced to the small change of party politics and petty maneuvers in the halls of Congress. It leaves unanswered the big and obvious questions of why the Democrats are incapable of mounting a genuine opposition to the war and why the party's congressional leadership has no intention of doing either of the two things that could force its end -- blocking all funds for the Iraq occupation or impeaching Bush for the war crimes and anti-democratic abuses that have been carried out under his administration.
The explanation is to be found not in the "razor thin" majority that the Democrats have in Congress -- that never stopped the Republican Party from forcing through its right-wing agenda when it held the leadership -- but in the class nature of the Democratic Party and the character of the war itself.
It's the craven nature that allows elected Democrats to think they can continue to fool their constituents into thinking they any any way stand for peace and/or rationality. It's what allows the always embarrassing Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer to do what they did today. No, not the hair. But please, please, let's get a rule in place. If you're not an entainer and you're over 70-years-old, you wear you real hair in public, not bad wigs that you hope make you look '40-ish.' And Barbara, after we can all agree on that, let's do something about the racoon eye-liner you favor, okay? Members of Congress should look age-appropriate, not as though they're aging sex pot left over from a 60s Matt Helm film. There is something truly sad about supposedly powerful, supposedly mature women who turn themselves into objects of scorn and ridicule in the mistaken belief that they can shave multiple years off. That self-deciption is probably in part why Carla Marinucci (San Francsico Chronicle) can report that Babsie and Nance came out today in favor of the unconstitutional attack on Libya -- it is an attack on Libya, not on the leader, get real, those bombs fall on people. As John V. Walsh ( notes today, "Partisan considerations should not impede the move to impeach Barack Obama. When George W. Bush was president, many on the Democratic Party Left called for his impeachment. They must do the same for President Obama who has more clearly violated the Constitution than President Bush since he did not even seek the dubious Congressional 'authorization' which George W. Bush asked for and received. If the Left cannot do this, its credibility will be in shambles, and quite deservedly so. On the other side clearly there is reason to indict Bush, and some on the Left are calling for that as are certain authorities in European countries where the former President dare not go. But at the moment Barack Obama is in charge and capable of greater damage if he is not stopped by impeachment. Impeachment of Barack Obama can no longer be avoided." Unless you're Katrina vanden Heuvel, a hopeless hypocrite who is unable to call out the continued Iraq War. Falls silent on the topic even on the 8th anniversary. Shameful.
Showing more courage on his own than Katrina, Nancy and Barbara combined could ever hope to have, Iraq War veteran Kevin Baker delivered an important and moving speech (March Forward!) at the LA rally Saturday for the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War:

On this day last year, Spc. Derrick Kirkland, who I served on a tour in Iraq with, hanged himself in his barracks room. He was found dead on March 20th.

This date also marks the date of the brutal invasion and occupation of Iraq by the United States. These two dates now mark two specific but not isolated atrocities committed by this government.

Derrick Kirkland was killed by this government -- for sending him to a war we had no reason to fight, then neglecting him when he asked for help.

He was in Iraq on his second tour and was sent home early because the pains of PTSD and other issues were to much to bear alone. Kirkland had tried three times before to kill himself. Despite 3 suicide attempts, Army psychologists labeled him a "low" risk for suicide. He was ridiculed and mocked by his chain of command, who then placed him in a barracks room by himself. He was there only 3 days before he took his life.

As someone who has battled though the Army medical system, I can tell you that it is not designed to help anybody. In fact, it sets up barricades to ensure soldiers stay in the military, despite seeking help. There are only a fraction of the number of psychiatrists that are needed. Appointments are months apart and treatment is reduced to nothing more than "checking boxes" to make soldiers legally ready for another deployment. Kirkland is not an isolated incident. In 2009 and 2010, more soldiers killed themselves than were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers are killing themselves on an average of one per day.

If you want to know how much our chain of command cares about us, just look at what our executive officer Major Keith Markham, in memos he sends to other officers: "We can accomplish anything we put our minds to ... with an endless amount of expendable labor." The "expendable labor" this officer is speaking about is Derrick Kirkland, and every other soldier who has lost their life to suicide, and in combat.

Officers build their careers off of the backs of enlisted soldiers. Officers like Major Markham, General Petraeus, and everyone in the Pentagon, don't care about its soldiers -- our friends, loved ones, husbands, daughters, sons and wives. If this government does not care about its own soldiers then why would we even begin to think it cares about "liberating" peoples of another nation? This is why we say 'this is not our war' and service members have an absolute right to refuse orders to Afghanistan and Iraq!

We can stop these wars, but we need each other to do it. Those of us who mourned Kirkland's death, those of us who were sent to die in these wars, we know that this government cares nothing about us; we're just the cannon fodder in their wars for the rich. Those experiences have woken us up, and we are fighting back, and we will fight back until we stop these criminal wars!

It's a shame that the all the real leaders are outside of Congress. But apparently it's an unwritten law that Congressional critters must be de-spined before taking their oath of office.
While they pretend otherwise, Iraq faces many problems as a result of the ongoing war. This month's Iowa Insights podcast offers a look at life for Iraqi Sabah Hussein Enayah who is attending the University of Iowa's graduate program. Excerpt:
Iowa Insights: Sabah Hussein Enayah dreams of a safer, healthier future for her war torn country. That's why the thirty-one year old boarded a plane and traveled more than six thousand miles from Iraq to Iowa. [. . .] Enayah is one of the first five Iraqi students who arrived in the fall of 2010 on the University of Iowa campus. She is part of an estimated 80 Iraqi students nation wide participating in an educational initiative funded by the Iraqi government. Enayah heard about the program from a friend while working as a lecturer at Thi Qar University [in Dhi Qar]. She lived with her husband and two sons in Dhi Qar City, Basra, a region in southern near the Iraq Iraq-Kuwait border with spotty internet access. It took Enayah a dozen tries to apply for the program. Then she traveled five hours by car twice for an English test and an interview
Sabah Hussein Enayah: I went to Baghdad to-to interview. I go to interview because my husband, official, and he can't come withme .And my kids stay home. Baghdad very dangerous, explosions, risk. I can't take my kids with me. I went alone. [. . .] I met interview in Baghdad Thursday. And go back to my city after two days.
Iowa Insights: Enayah waited and wondered for months. She became pregnant with her third child. And finally, the good news had arrived. She had been selected. She arrived on the UI campus in August along with four male students from Iraq. They have become good friends although none of them had met before arrving in Iowa. The students received scholarships from the Iraqi government which covers tuition, room and board, medical insurance and benefits. They were selected through a highly competitive, merit based process. The process ensured representation across ethnic, regional, religious and gender lines. No easy task in a country that has long been divided along these demographics. Enayah and her colleagues were conditionally accepted into different graduate programs. [. . .] This pilot program is designed to cultivate the next generation of Iraqi leaders to help stabilize the country and address the pressing issues facing Iraqis. In particular, Iraqis in the region where Enayah lives experience high rates of cancer. She'd like to use her expertise in histology, the study of the microscopic anatomy of cell tissues to change this.
Sabah Hussein Enayah: I hope to improve our situation in Iraq. I want to open the lab, special lab, to make the test of hormones, of blood, of anything to help my population in my city because in my city we have [. . .] suffering from cancer. We have every day some suffering from cancer. Each organ. Liver, and heart, lung, breast.
A cancer epidemic in Basra? Now how does that happen? Again, Kelley B. Vlahos explores the realities of what's been done to the land and future of Iraq in "Children of War" (American Conservative). Scott Horton discussed the article with her on Antiwar Radio. Excerpt:
Scott Horton: This is a very hard hitting piece there in the American Conservative magazine which is the flagship magazine of the anti-war right in this country and often times it's worth reading in depth but this article was really great and especially timely since it's now the 8th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. And primarily this article is concerned with the pollution of various kinds and the disastorous effects that this pollution has had for the people of Iraq. So that, I think as you even say in the piece, "Even though the American people would prefer to just pretend the Iraq War is ancient history or something, it's still going on for the people there." Can you tell us a little bit about the consequences and maybe some of the likely causes that we're talking about here?
Kelley B. Vlahos: Sure. I mean I -- I basically would call this if you're going to look at something that crystalized the US invasion of Iraq, I would say this is the greatest, you know, singular example of the tragedy of our invasion of Iraq -- if not the thirty year relationship we've had, the US has had with Iraq. This was a very difficult piece to write. But just to drill down a bit, basically it talks about the impact of, like you said, the pollution -- the impact of 30 years, really of war in Iraq beginning with the Iran and Iraq war in which we supplied monetarily and with weapons Saddam Hussein in the Iraq war and against Iran in which thousands and thousands of pounds of munitions were dropped, tanks and chemical weapons. Then you fast forward to the Persian Gulf War, another anniversary that was reached this week, the end of the Persian Gulf War 1991in which, again, we used heavy artillery and tanks notably with depleted uranium that still sits out in the deserts of Iraq. And then the more recent US invasion of Iraq and the last 8 years. So the impact of that on the landscape of Iraq has been devestating. And the greatest example we have right now is the increase of birth defects in places like Falluja, for example, and Basra which were very, very heavily hit -- both in this war, specifically Falluja, and in the Persian Gulf War, Basra. And what they're finding in a recent study that I -- that I mention in the piece, in Falluja they, scientists, have determined a 15% incident rate of birth defects among babies born in their General Hospital in 2010. And to sort of bring this into perspective, you know, an estimated 3% of every live birth in the US is effected -- is effected by birth defects and 6% worldwide. So we're talking a huge, auspicious number here. We're talking birth defects --

Scott Horton: Well hold on a second, Kelley. I was going to say if -- if people have young kids riding along in the back of the minivan right now, you might want to turn it to music before Kelley starts describing some of the birth defects we're talking about being found at the Falluja General Hospital.
Kelley B. Vlahos: Oh, yeah. I mean, as a mother, this is a particular difficult story for me to do because every time that I went to do research, Googling "birth defects Falluja" I would indiscriminately get photographs of these babies that were born and we're talking everything from congenital heart defects to what you would call skeletal malformations which could be pieces of the skull missing, missing eyes, missing limbs, additional limbs where there shouldn't be limbs, babies who are just lying there lifeless and limp because their heads are three, four times the size they should be. Things that you don't even want to see or ever hope to see, that will give you nightmares at night. And there are pictures and pictures and examples upon examples on the internet that, you know, I think most of us would probably -- not ignore, but never see unless we were investigating it ourselves. And this is sad because the evidence is there and we have basically, like you said earlier, have decided that the war is over but this is occuring. And they're looking for help and their own government isn't giving them help and we certainly aren't doing it. Now what are the causes? This is -- this is the big investigation that's going on. There's been -- There's many theories. One being that depleted uranium that I had mentioned earlier. Our depleted uranium basically is -- is a dense heavy metal that is used in both an armored plating on our tanks as well as in our munitions. Now the extent of how much we've used in this war is pretty much a secret because the military knows it's controversial. It's been controversial since the Persian Gulf War when it was used and our own soldiers were being exposed to it in friendly fire fights with tank battles. And they came home and complained of all sorts of illnesses but also birth defects in the babies that their wives were having. There had been many studies and many surveys done but the Department of Defense -- surprise, surprise -- has denied that depleted uranium has anything to do with incidents, increased incidents, of cancer birth defects among our soldiers so you can imagine that they don't want anything to do with anything that's happened among Iraqis. But anyway, so the use of depleted uranium is controversial but they're still using. The Air Force uses it, the Army, the Marines. And in places like Falluja which had been unbelievably pounded by US air power during 2004 and 2005 if you can remember, this was a big hot bed of Sunni resistance. They were the ones that hung the Blackwater contractors off the bridge, the Sunnis in Falluja. And so the Marines went in there and basically tried to basically restore order there, to take it out of control of the insurgents' hands. They managed to do that. They put -- They put the security in the hands of local uh-uh Fallujans and left and then they had to come back after George Bush -- the minute George Bush was re-elected in 2004. He -- He started another air campaign. So we're basically talking about large areas of the city just leveled. We're talking about GPS guided bombs just like plucking buildings out, plucking insurgents out. You know strafing going on. I mean, just -- you can imagine. Looking at pictures of Falluja today, it's a wasteland. But they managed to "pacify" them in the end. But anyway, so what's left there? And we can only imagine. So the babies that are being born today are, like I said, 15% of them in 2010 were being born with these birth defects. Is it the depleted uranium? Is it the fact that there's no sewage or clean water in Falluja? All sorts of -- I mean, the burning of the trash on the forward operating base, a little bit about that in the article. So we basically destroyed the ecology of Iraq. But we need to find out exactly what's causing the birth defects and also the high levels of cancer among Fallujans as well as the people in Basra which I mentioned earlier was also heavily hit too. The studies are there but they need the help not only to bring it to light and to do something about it. And we are-are so far ignoring the plight of these people. For all obvious reasons. It is -- It is an embarrassment and a humiliation. And it is anathema to everything we were told: we went into Iraq to save and to liberate these people.
Save the people we've condemned to live under the brutal puppet the US government installed? Lyle Boggs (Appleton Post Crescent) observes:
The much celebrated withdrawal of the last U.S. "combat" forces from Iraq has come and gone and yet 50,000 U.S. soldiers remain. It defies common sense to define elite units of Special Forces soldiers as "non-combat," but that's not stopping the Pentagon or White House.
Many of the departed soldiers have been replaced by private contractors and the cost of our occupation is shifting from the Pentagon to the State Department. The U.S. embassy is the same size as Vatican City and rivals any palace estate of the previous regime. It is our own unique symbol of power.
The Iraqi government we protect has recently turned to violence to put down protesters trying to exercise the political freedom that we claim our very presence provides. As they say in Iraq, same donkey, different saddle.
Meanwhile Raman Brosk (Zawya) reports, "The National Coalition (NC) said Wednesday that the delay in voting for the deputies of the president was due to political necessities that emerged from the previous stage, while the Iraqiya list headed by Allawi assure that it didn't cause any delay in voting for the deputies. The Iraqi parliament postponed last month voting for the deputies of the president of the Republic because of the dispute over Khudair al-Khuzaie who was nominated for the post by Maliki's coalition." The Constitution of Iraq is very clear that, should something happen to the President, the vice president (the Constitution allows for two vice presidents) replaces the president and Parliament then elects a new president within 30 days. If there's no vice president, the Speaker of Parliament becomes president while waiting for Parliament to elect one in thirty days. Thirty days appears to be the most Constitution waits for an office to be filled. That's Article 75. Article 138, Second, section A makes clear that the vice presidents are supposed to elected at the same time as the President. November 11, 2010, Parliament elected Talabani for another term as president. Four months and thirteen days later, they still haven't elected a vice president. Do you wonder why Iraqis are upset with their do-nothing government? And Iraqis voted March 7, 2010. It is one year and 17 days after the elections and their country still has no vice presidents. Meanwhile Jalal's 77-years-old, has serious heart problems (and has had heart surgery), regularly stops in at the Mayo Clinic to have his arteries 'cleaned' while binging on saturated fat rich foods at every meal. You think the country doesn't need vice presidents?
In Cabinet news, Dar Addoustour reports that Iraqi List MP Nahida Daini states Khalid al-Obeidi will be the nominee for Minister of Defense. Al Mada reports that the National Council appears dead. This was the body that Joe Biden and the Kurds pushed in an attempt to end the political stalemate. Ayad Allawi, whose political slate won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections, would be put in charge of the newly created security body in exchange for Nouri al-Maliki being allowed to continue as prime minister. Apparently everyone was willing to play stupid or else they honestly didn't suspect Nouri might not live up to his word. Allawi walked out of Parliament the day the deal was formally announced and was right to. When Nouri refused to address the National Council immediately, it was clear (check the achives) that he was not going to create the body. And so he hasn't.

Allwai washed his hands of it weeks ago and announced he would not seek to head the non-existent body. He's now been angling for the post of Arab League president. Tim Arango (New York Times) notes that the rotating presidency of the Arab League will go to Iraq and that has some in government excited about the mark Baghdad might leave. Arango observes, "Iraq, with a democracy imposed by American force, is still a volatile tableau from which to draw lessons about how to establish a democracy in the Middle East. Insurgent attacks occur daily. Its prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, has raised alarms recently with moves to consolidate power over the judiciary and the security forces. Transparency International ranked Iraq as the fourth most corrupt country in the world last year, just ahead of Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia. Iraq is still more violent for civilians than Afghanistan, and American soldiers still die here, as one did Sunday from a roadside bomb in the south."
Al Mada reports the announcement that militia groups will lay down their weapons. The announcement comes as a wave of assassination attempts plague Iraq and, the paper notes, as Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc attempts to install Ahmed Chalabi as Minister of the Interior. Which militia groups? It's not being announced. Alsumaria TV adds, "Representatives of armed factions who held an extended meeting with government representatives at the National Reconciliation Ministry affirmed that the reason for handing arms is the commitment to the agreement with the US that stipulates mainly the withdrawal of US Forces from Iraq. Iraq's National Reconciliation Ministry declined to name the armed groups for security reasons. None of these factions is related to the defunct Baath Party, the ministry said." BNO notes, "A number of armed groups inside Iraq, in its capital of Baghdad and other provinces of Salahaddin, Kirkuk, Diala and Mosul, have decided to throw their arms. They exceed five groups, which did not attack Iraqi citizens." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes Amer Khuzaie, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation, "The national reconciliation is only with armed groups who carried weapons against the occupiers and not against Iraqi people." So there you have it: Groups have laid down arms. We can't know which groups. It would endanger them. But take the Iraqi government's word for it, progress is being made. No doubt just like in 2007 when Nouri was claiming huge progress was being made on providing electricity. Al Rafidayn notes criticism that claims this is an agreement between Dawa (Nouri's political parties) and the Ba'ath Party.
Reuters notes that a Baghdad "temporary detention centre" was the site of a riot today requiring "30 anti-riot vehicles" and "13 ambulances". In addition, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured and that despite reporting yesterday that he had died, Maj Gen Ahmed Obeidi has thus far survived the assassination attempt. Aswat al-Iraq notes a 4-year-old girls corpse was found in Amara and, in Kut, a father and a brother killed a man.
There's much more to note -- I'll try to grab religious issues tomorrow -- but I want to note an upcoming radio program and we're trying to note one announcement every day until April 7th. First radio. Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan notes that she will interview US House Rep Dennis Kucinich on her radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox this Sunday:

I gave up on Robber Class politics a long time ago and I think that most politicians are motivated by cynicism and greed, and many of my supporters and comrades will tell me that Dennis is a shill to keep the antiwar segment of the Democratic Party tied to the party -- and I think they could be correct -- but Dennis will stand up for peace and against blatant power grabs no matter who is president. In fact, he and Ron Paul of Texas and Walter Jones of North Carolina (both R's) just co-sponsored a bill to have the troops out of Afghanistan by the end of this year -- it failed, but it got 28 more votes than last time. It might all just be a charade, but I also know that there is no great movement of civil society pushing hard to make Congress defund the wars to end them -- it's just not there. We are failing, too.

Of course, I would be thrilled if Dennis would leave the Democratic Party and become a Green, or Independent, like Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but we need his voice where it is, for now.


And what we need to be noting each day: If you served in the US military and you were stop-lossed, you are owed additional money. That money needs to be claimed. DoD announces the date to file for that additional payment has been extended:

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to

Read on ...
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