Thursday, June 30, 2011

Lame Duck Turkey


From November 22, 2007, that's "Lame Duck Turkey" -- it was Thanksgiving and Bush was a lame duck. And, of course, he was always a turkey.

This was surprisingly popular. I had a fleeting thought and sketched it only because I knew most community members wouldn't be checking out the site on Thanksgiving and figuring the few who did would be happy to have a new comic.

But somehow this became really popular. I can't tell you why because it surprises me to this day.

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, 3 more US soldiers are announced dead in Iraq, the Christian Science Monitor doesn't get a lot of Iraq 'hits' and wonders why (we explain it for them), the Libyan War goes on, Human Rights Watch documents the attacks on peaceful demonstrators and notes that "It's not every day that thugs with clubs flash their police IDs at us," and more.
Yesterday US President Barack Obama held a press conference. It was rather creative. Calvin Woodward, Nancy Benac, Erica Werner and Matthew Lee (AP) noted many 'errors' in Barack's remarks such as:
OBAMA: "Moammar Gadhafi, who prior to Osama bin Laden was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people."
THE FACTS: Gadhafi's history of supporting terrorist acts lethal to Americans did not stop the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, from cultivating a relationship with him after he renounced terrorism. Gadhafi's government shared information on its nuclear program, tipped Washington about Islamic militants after the 2001 terrorist attacks and persuaded Western nations to lift sanctions.
Elaine took on the lies of the administration noting, "They know what they're doing is wrong. But they have contempt for the law, contempt for democracy and contempt for citizens. [. . .] As awful as that is, has anyone explained to you why the US went to war with Libya. Excuse me, Barack doesn't call it war. Has anyone explained to you why the US is heavy petting with Libya? No, because there's no reason for the war. Did Libya attack the US? No. There's no reason for the war." Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) calls out the nonsense Barack was spewing yesterday:
Calling it a "limited operation" doesn't render the War Powers Act null and void.
Nor does saying the action is against one of the "worst tyrants in the world."
And Obama's insistence that we send "a unified message" is the same undemocratic claptrap that we hear from every war President who wants the Congress and the citizenry to shut up and keep silent and not dare question his royal judgment.
Madhi Nazemroaya: This war has not only hurt Libya, it's hurt the rest of Africa because Libya is a major investor in the rest of African and a pan-African leader. So many agricultural and development projects have been abandoned or frozen in the rest of Africa. And there's going to be famine underway in other parts of Africa because agricultural programs have just been frozen and stopped. And tens of thousands of people, tens of thousands of people in different countries have become unemployed. Like in Mali a huge agricultural project has ended because of this war and this was directly has to do with British, French and American -- specifically American interests in the rest of Africa. What they've done by attacking Libya and putting sanctions on it and stopping all of these development projects is they've blocked -- they've blocked Libya from developing these countries and have kept them in a position of dependence on the European Union and the United States. I was clearly told by their Minister of International Cooperation whose specific area is Africa because Libya is in Africa and most of their projects are in Africa, I was specifically told by him that the United States, France and the countries were not happy about what Libya was doing in Africa.
Kevin Pina: That's the voice of our special correspondent Madhi Nazemroaya who's speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. He's also a research associate with the Center for Research and Globalization, I should say. Madhi, what you're describing isn't just effecting Libya although it's having a devestating effect on the Libyan people, this bombing campaign that continues by NATO but also it's having a regional effect in Africa because of the role Libya has played in funding other projects throughout the region.
Madhi Nazemroaya: Exactly, Kevin, exactly. You hit it right on the bull's eye. That's exactly what it's doing here. And there's a lot of Africans from other places who've come here to show their support by working in NGOs and by trying to help the world see that Africa, the African people, stand behind Libya. Libya is an African country as well as an Arab country and a country of the Mediterranen. And I've even talked to them about the devestating effects it's having on the rest of Africa. Another thing the war has done, it's stopped a pan-African railroad that was going to go north across North Africa and through Libya to the south. They stopped this and it's going to have a longterm devestating effect on Libya if the war does not stop. And everybody in Libya has just heard that in the United States, Senator [John] Kerry and a group of senators are talking about providing funding or support for the war to go on another year. So that is very dire news
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi let's talk about on the ground, the face of the so-called resistance or opposition to Libya. Is there a clear indication that they're being funded, that they've been built by the international community, specifically the US and Britain and Canada? That they built this opposition this resistance against Muammar Gaddafi's regime?
Madhi Nazemroaya: First of all, the rebels here, the resistance, the revolutionaries, the transitional council, whatever you want to call them, terrorists, whatever you want to call them, they have a lot of different names to a lot of different types of people. They're not a monolistic body. They are ecletic. They're a group of different people together. And fighting each other. We know that they're fighting each other. They've been fighting each other. Just like how, during the Chinese civil war, The Nationalist and the Marchists fought each other but they were also fighting the Japanese. These guys, they're also fighting their Libyan government in Tripoli, Col Gaddafi's government and they're fighting each other at the same time. In fact, they're -- they found out that they're giving each other's coordinates to NATO saying that these are enemy forces to have each other bombed. Now --
Kevin Pina: Wait, wait. Madhi, Madhi, you mean there's indications that the resistance or whatever you want to call them that they're actually targeting each other to get NATO to wipe out the other so that they can be the lead force?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Yes. I've been told that by numerous people, that they're fighting, yes, there's inter-competition. If these people take over Libya don't think -- Let's say, hypothetically for argument sake, that the transitional council in Benghazi takes over Libya which I doubt will happen. There will be another blood bath and another civil war. They're already fighting with each other in Benghazi, they're separate militais. This is not a monolithic body. They're fighting each other. They're kiling each other. There's actually more than one government. In Darnah they've declared an Islamic emierate, okay ? In Misrata there's another group which has tense ties to the groups in the east. They're all fighting each other. There's also even Communists involved in this. There's Islamists, Communists and former regime members as well and the -- specifically speaking about the Islamists, there's the Libyan Fighting Group which is a well established and old group and most people refer to it as al Qaeda because it is al Qaeda-like and has ties to al Qaeda as well as the CIA, it has ties to the CIA. Now a lot of these people have been caught and they've been giving explanations of foreign support and foreign funding. Yes, there's foreign funding because they're talking about how they've been helped from abroad. And these indigenous forces? There's a lot of foreigners fighting. I'm not talking about security forces or NATO forces, I'm talking about the jihadists coming in from other parts of the world. We have people coming in from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, people who used to be in Afghanistan. And they're part of these forces that are fighting the Libyan military right now.
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi, let me remind our listeners that you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that's the voice of Madhi Nazemroaya who is speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, I guess what I'm getting at is that there was a point where these forces were called "rag tag forces" and then suddenly we heard that there were advisors going in by Britain. We heard that there were advisors coming in from the United States that were assisting them to get their act together. And then there was talk that there was a lot of funding and assistance that were going to these groups. And I'm wondering, can we say that they're really indigenous or is most of this happening because of foreign funding and assistance?
Madhi Nazemroya: Okay, most of this is happening -- This wouldn't have happened without foreign funding and assistance. That's -that's very clear on the ground here and by talking to people who've come from Benghazi and by talking to Libyans in Tripoli, okay? This could -- This would have never been possible. They without even NATO air support without the political support without the financial support without any of that without the media support, this would have never happened. Col Gadhafi's support's gone up in this country. Call him a dictator or not, his support's gone up in this country. And it's very evident when you walk the streets of Tripoli and the district around it that his support has grown. And that's the bulk of the country's population, just to inform your listeners. My sense of the situation, and I also spoke to the pope's envoy in Tripoli days ago, the Bishop of Tripoli. His sense is the same as mine that this country's probably going to be Balkanized and divided in two cause NATO has no way of winning the war and neither do the transitional council forces based in Benghazi. They have no way of winning this conflict. The only thing they can do is make a settlement where the country is divided. Right now, they're pushing to get as much territory as possible and as much oil fields as possible. They're not going to come to Tripoli, I highly doubt it. Unless you see a NATO invasion. And if there's a NATO invasion, there will be a worse blood bath here than there was in Afghanistan or Iraq, that's very sure. The people's spirits are up, they're getting ready, they're training and they have contingeny plans for a ground invasion.
That's an excerpt. Those who don't benefit from streaming options (due to computer operating systems or hearing issues) can find more from Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in this article, published yesterday, that he wrote about Libya for Global Research.
Out of Iraq this morning comes the news of more US soldiers killed. Ed O'Keefe and Tim Craig (Washington Post) report that 3 US soldiers were killed yesterday making 15 for the month. The reporters tell you 39 US troops have died in Iraq this year. We'll do hard numbers but first, George Prentice (Boise Weekly) notes, " Fifteen American soldiers were killed in June, the highest number of combat fatalities since June 2008, when 23 soldiers and Marines were killed."

4469 is the number of US military deaths in the Iraq War as yesterday at ten a.m. So add three and you have 4472. (The DoD number does not increase until after DoD announces names of the fallen, FYI.) But the number is "48" (and, again, add 3 to get the current number of 51).

What is that number? What is 51? Well it's not a prime number. But it is the number of US service members killed in Iraq during "Operation New Dawn" you're soaking in it, as Isaiah's September 6th comic noted.
Operation New Dawn began September 1st. Remember why? Barack declared combat over on August 31st. His own little "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." Barack show boated and, yes, LIED. Since his little photo op, 51 US troops have died in the Iraq War. That would be the war he falsely and wrongly has received credit for ending.

Tim Arrango (New York Times) notes that 15 is the sort of "monthly toll not seen since 2008." Arango notes 14 of the fallen were killed "in hostile incidents." That may be 15. One of the three killed on Sunday was killed, according to what the military told his family, while he was doing a house sweep. That's Sgt Matthew Gallagher and his death is under investigation, according to the military. The Boston Channel (link has text and video) reports Cheryl Ruggiero, his mother, is asking that US Senator John Kerry help the family find out what happened because the military's changed their story, "We're getting bits and pieces from different people and I don't know what to believe. And when it's your child, you want to know." John Basile (Fall River Herald News) cites Capt Matthew Merrill stating that the statements about Matthew Gallagher doing a home sweep were mistaken and that he died "inside the wire".

Again, the Iraq War is not over. Many people wrongly believe it is and not just due to the pretty words of Barack but due to a media that's refused to cover Iraq. We'll come back to that but let's yet again note the memo AP Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production Tom Kent sent out at the start of September 2010 (following Barack's 'combat's over, boys and girls!' speech):

Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.
To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.
As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."
However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on. In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.

It's a shame more outlets couldn't follow the AP's lead.

Most can't even follow Iraq. Like Diane Sawyer. Long before ABC World News Tonight airs this evening, the news is 3 US soldiers die in Iraq. Will Diane cover it? Not likely. When 5 US soldiers died in a single attack on June 5th (the death toll rose to six when a soldier injured in the attack died days later), World News Tonight couldn't tell you because they just don't give a damn about Iraq (they were all over Anthony Weiner that night and George Steph had to inform the world that Katie Couric would be joining ABC News in the not-to-soon future -- either of those stories could have been trimmed to allow time to note the death -- and to be clear, Katie didn't participate in the in-house announcement George tried to pass off as news). Will she continue her month long pattern of ignoring Iraq this evening? You could turn into a drinking game, I suppose, but if you're wanting news this evening on the deaths, you're better off tuning into CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley or NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams -- both anchors have made a point to cover the news out of Iraq this month while Diane Sawyer's spent June attempting to turn World News Tonight into The View: Almost Prime Time. Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) pens something that I'm having a difficult time characterizing as anything other than a whine. Supposedly writing about the Iraq War he offers:
The war itself feels all but ignored by the general public here at home. On the desk at the Monitor, Internet traffic is our lifeblood and we follow how many "hits" individual stories receive. For at least a year now, it's felt like all our Iraq stories – whether features with strong, unique reporting; analysis pieces on the security situation; or simply straightforward accounts of a major bombing or political meeting – can't get any traction at all.
Let me break the news to Dan: Your paper and website do a lousy job. Lousy.
We get stronger reports from Jane Arraf via Al Jazeera than from the Christian Science Monitor. I doubt that anything in the last year from the paper has gotten anywhere near the hits that Arraf's occassional piece for the paper has. The Monitor has a lousy reputation when it come to Iraq and that didn't happen yesterday or last year. That has been throughout the Iraq War.
Sam Dagher made a name for himself at the New York Times (and then went on to the Wall St. Journal where I don't think he's done a good job at all). Long before the Times, Dagher was writing for the Christian Science Monitor. They do not know how to play their Iraq stories, writers have to write down when writing about Iraq, it's pathetic. Throughout the Iraq War that's been the case. Now once upon a time -- before the last ten years -- the Christian Science Monitor prided itself on having no bias in its reporting. Some of the watering down required for Iraq reporting results from that and that can be seen as a good thing. But it's clear that a writer like Anthony Shadid would never become Anthony Shadid at the Christian Science Monitor. They don't build stars or names at the paper.
When they ended up with one by accident, Jill Carroll, they showed how easily they could destroy a reporter. Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq at the start of 2006. She was held hostage for about three months. She did strong reporting for several outlets (she was a free lancer) and her work for the Christian Science Monitor had sparkle but not like her writing for other outlets (her work for the San Francisco Chronicle during this same period was far superior to her work for the Monitor). But she was kidnapped. And when she was released she had a story. Only the Christian Science Monitor could screw up her story. No one else would have been that stupid. At the very least, a backward publication would have thought, "Lifetime movie" (woman survives!). But instead it was play Carroll up as a victim and pathetic and pitiful. That's how that coverage came across. And part of the reason she's not a reporter now has to do with her having to take part in that covergae. Jill Carroll is and was a strong woman. Was what happened to her terrifying? Yes, it was a nightmare. And she survived it. None of the other journalists kidnapped in Iraq was turned into a victim by their outlet. And Jill Carroll wasn't the only woman kidnapped. The Committee to Protect Journalists counts 44 male journalists kidnapped in Iraq from 2003 through 2009 and 12 women. The most famous female kidnapping was that of Italy's Giuliana Sgrena who was kidnapped in 2005 and held for a month (her country negotiated her release). She was injured in a shooting . . . by the US military. There was no attempt to portray Giuliana as a victim. Even when she had trouble speaking early on (due to being shot and it effecting her breathing), she presented herself and was presented by others as a strong, brave journalist. There was something creepy and sick about the way the Christian Science Monitor portrayed Jill Carroll (again, Carroll is a strong woman and I am not insulting her, I am referring to the way the paper presented her). Rebecca called it out in real time. And good for her. I should have but felt like I was drawing attention to it if I did. As Rebecca observed of the paper's 'coverage' of Carroll:
this is the sort of thing you go on oprah and talk about it. it's not really what a reporter who wants to be known as a reporter writes about. when you are the story, you become a personality.
[. . .]
i think she got some bad advice and i thinkher paper (christian science monitor) felt this was a way to drive up interest. i don't know that it does anything for her as a reporter.
Now not only was the paper reducing her to a victim -- "Tuesday's victim, come, witness the tragedy" -- but she was also being attacked and the paper was no help there either. John F. Burns (New York Times) wrote a piece basically blaming her for the kidnapping and whining about how it requires so much work to free a kidnap victim in Iraq. (As we noted at Third, no work on the part of the US military appears to have been required for Carroll's release and if it had been, oh well.) John F. Burns never went anywhere in Iraq without armed bodyguards unless he was embedded with the US military. Jill Carroll was a freelance writer who didn't have the luxury of bodyguards -- armed or unarmed. The treatment of Jill Carroll, by the paper, did a lot to further decrease interest in anything the Christian Science Monitor could publish on Iraq.
Jill Carroll is the paper's most famous Iraq reporter and it's not for the work she did, it's for the way the paper portrayed her (a negative portrayal in my mind). Ellen Knickmeyer, Thomas E. Ricks, Damien Cave, Alissa J. Rubin, Sabrina Tavernise, Nancy A. Youssef, Leila Fadel, Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Ned Parker, Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman, Deborah Amos, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Stephanie McCrummen, Anna Badkhen, Robert Collier and many others built up a reputation as a result of their Iraq work. Does no one else notice that you don't have a Christian Science Monitor discovery on that list? Again, Sam Dagher did work for them but he only made a mark when he was working for the New York Times. Jane Arraf's reports lift the paper but if they gave her more freedom and didn't force her into "Christian Science Monitor style," she'd be doing a lot stronger work (as she currently is for Al Jazeera and PRI's The World).
Equally true, the Christian Science Monitor runs with whatever Barack Obama says. There's not Tom Kent at the paper saying, "Things are still dangerous in Iraq, just because the president says . . ." And that makes their articles laughable including Dan Murphy's. You don't know that US forces are all withdrawing on December 31, 2011. It hasn't happened yet. The paper should be an independent voice. Instead, it's seen as a play toy for the editorial staff that wants to feel part of the beltway.
Here's a little story the Christian Science Monitor doesn't like told, their daily paper? They killed it. Their own actions. Their own business model. They were aware of the problem in 2003 and ignored it. In 2003, with the Iraq War impending or just starting, people were looking for independent news sources. Many contacted the Christian Science Monitor -- by phone, by e-mail, by letter -- about how to subscribe. Specifically, how much was the weekly rate. From January through April 2004, these people were repeatedly informed of a special rate (I believe for six weeks -- and I first heard this story from a friend with Knight-Ridder but heard it from other outlets as well and have seen some of the e-mail replies due to a friend -- editor NYT -- hearing about the issue and e-mailing them near daily as a private joke). Okay, but after the special rate, how much will it cost?
That's a fairly easy answer. Or it should be. But the Christian Science Monitor couldn't provide it, wouldn't provide it. Repeatedly. Over and over for four months. They lost a ton of potential subscribers. People knew the paper would be mailed to them (by snail mail) and would arrive after the news was 'dated' but they were interested in an independent resource. Instead of using that moment to build the paper's base, the circulation staff refused to answer the question and people went elsewhere. That's what killed the daily print version of the Christian Science Monitor and it was no one's fault but their own. They could have seen their circulation soar; however, they were repeatedly unable to tell potential subscribers how much it would cost to subscribe to the paper (after the six week 'special' offer expired).
And if Dan Murphy wants to increase "hits" for Iraq stories at CSM, he might try having more stories like the one he wrote this evening -- in fact, the paper could carve out its own niche just by covering the protests. Human Rights Watch remains the best non-Iraqi source for coverage of the protests due to HRW's coverage of all the violence that the protesters experience. (The Great Iraqi Revolution remains the best Iraqi source for coverage of the protests.) Today HRW issues a finding which includes:
Iraqi authorities should order a prompt and impartial inquiry into the role of state security forces in attacks by pro-government gangs against peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad on June 10, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The groups of mainly young men, armed with wooden planks, knives, iron pipes, and other weapons, beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.
In the days following the attack, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 25 demonstrators who said they were punched, beaten with sticks or other weapons, or stabbed during the June 10 assault. Human Rights Watch observed and witnesses said that security forces stood by and watched in several instances. Several organizers told Human Rights Watch that the attacks have had a severe chilling effect on people exercising their right to peaceful assembly. In the two Friday demonstrations since then, on June 17 and 24, many regular protesters and organizers have stopped attending the demonstration, mainly because of fear of attacks, they said.
"Instead of protecting peaceful demonstrators, Iraqi soldiers appear to be working hand in hand with the thugs attacking them," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The Iraqi government needs to investigate why the security forces stood by and watched as thugs beat and sexually molested protesters - and take action against those who did so."
Two separate Defense Ministry sources told Human Rights Watch that a ministerial order authorized more than 150 plainclothes security forces from both the police and army to infiltrate the June 10 protests. The sources indicated that the government was worried about increased numbers of demonstrators on that date because the 100-day period for improvements that Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki had promised in February would have ended.
During the attacks, four government supporters, some carrying planks and chasing after demonstrators, identified themselves to Human Rights Watch as members of Iraqi security forces. Two others showed Human Rights Watch concealed Interior Ministry police ID badges.
"It's not every day that thugs with clubs flash their police IDs at us," Stork said. "The government needs to find out who was responsible for the assaults and punish them appropriately."
It's amazing how HRW has had to stand alone on this issue. In part because few paid attention but it's also true that a number of people and outlets did and they chose -- and continue to choose -- to be silent.
As noted yesterday, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, just back in Baghdad after a diplomatic visit to the US, allegedly floated the idea of a Sunni region in Iraq. It has created a firestorm. Al Mada runs a descriptive or charged headline proclaiming Nujaifi "set off a bomb" and they rush to quote State Of Law which is in such a tizzy they don't even have time to pimp prepared statements on the murder of Ali al-Lami's brother yesterday. (Remember how State Of Law tried to turn Ali al-Lami's death into a week-long tragedy?) State of Law's Abdul Ilah Naieli not only attacks the notion of a Sunni region, he insists that it could cause instability resulting in the US keeping troops in the country "longer". He calls Nujaifi's statement's strange but that would apply to Naieli's own statements. Hadar Ibrahim (AK News) adds MP Izzat al-Shabandar has collected signatures ("over 110," he says) to demand Nujaifi answer questions before Parliament. Aswat al-Iraq runs with the Ninewa Province rejects the proposal -- really? The whole province? A proposal floated yesterday? It was determined the entire province rejects it how? That's some polling. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Nujaifi denies having floated the idea and they quote him stating, "I can't accept the establishment of Regions on sectarian basis, but they can be set up on geographic basis, but not now; and I did not call for that during my visit to Washington."

Turning to Iraqi oil and, no, we're not interested in the "in two years, we'll meet . ." storylines. Iraq's pimped that claim every year of the war. But Iraq is leaving UN receivership status which Caroline Alexander and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) leaves open new issues: "The expiration today of United Nations protection of Iraq's oil revenue from creditors seeking damages stemming from Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait may make the assets vulnerable to seizure, exacerbating tensions between the two countries." Kuwait is owed millions and would be the most obvious challenge; however, it is far from the only country claiming to be owed money. The US cancelled Iraq's debt in 2004 (over $4 billion) as did many other Western nations. Today the United Nations Security Council's President Alfred Moungara Moussotsi issued the following statement:
The members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq's assumption of full autonomy over the proceeds of the Development Fund for Iraq as of 1 July 2011.
The members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq's establishment of a successor arrangement for the transition of the Development Fund for Iraq, consistent with resolution 1956 (2010).
The members of the Security Council noted that, in this regard, oversight of the full proceeds from the Development Fund for Iraq has been transferred from the International Advisory and Monitoring Board to the Government of Iraq's Committee of Financial Experts, which will exercise authority, in accordance with its terms of reference approved by Iraq's Council of Ministers.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their welcome of the ongoing efforts and commitment by the Government of Iraq to ensure that oil revenue is used in the interests of the Iraqi people, and to ensure that transition arrangements remain consistent with the Constitution and with international best practices in respect of transparency, accountability and integrity.
The members of the Security Council underscored the importance of Iraq's continued compliance with relevant resolutions, including paragraph 21 of resolution 1483 (2003) and resolution 1956 (2010).
Meanwhile Hemin Baban Rahim (Rudaw) reports on the oil industry:

In an interview with Rudaw, Iraqi member of parliament and former head of the parliamentary committee for gas and oil, Nuraddin al-Hiyali criticized the Iraqi oil policies, describing it as "unclear". Al-Hiyali also said that the Iraqi government has failed in running the country's oil sector properly.
"It is an unclear policy," he said. "The Iraqi government has failed to manage the oil sector of Iraq."
Regarding Kurdistan's oil contracts, al-Hiyali said that the oil companies benefit from those contracts more than anyone else.
"A big portion of the oil income goes into the pocket of the foreign companies," said al-Hayali.
Up to now, the Iraqi parliament has not ratified its oil and gas law and al-Hiyali attributes this to huge disputes over the details of the draft law. He admitted that neighboring countries are also a cause for this delay.

Al Rafidayn notes that the town of Nasinriyah is facing a large influx of counterfeit dinars. Also facing a large influx is Iraq's beleaguered health care system. Dahr Jamail reports for Al Jazeera:

"The hospital is crowded, the medical staff are overloaded, and we are deficient of medical staff because doctors continue to leave Iraq," Dr Yehiyah Karim, a general surgeon at Baghdad Medical City, told Al Jazeera, "There is still the targeting of doctors."

Dr Karim said that many Iraqi doctors are continuing to flee the country because kidnappings and assassinations are ongoing problems. Since the US invasion in 2003, doctors and other professionals in Iraq have been targets of these crimes in staggering numbers.

According to the Brookings Institute, prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq had 34,000 registered physicians. It is estimated 20,000 of those have left the country, and between 2007 and April 2009 only 1,525 had returned.

"Many doctors are still leaving the country because we are in danger," Dr Karim, whose hospital is the largest medical center in the country, added. "Last week we had three doctors kidnapped in Kirkuk. Following this, doctors there didn't go to work for two days. We always feel insecure about our safety."
Prolonged violence in a country tends to create a health crisis all by itself. Reuters notes today's violence includes 1 police officer shot dead outside his Kirkuk home and 1 "North Oil Company employee" shot dead in Kirkuk with another person left injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports 1 Iraqi military officer and a police officer were attacked (shooting) in Baghdad and left injured, a luggage train bombing (train had left Baghdad and was headed to Salahal-Din Province) resulted in two people being wounded, a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with four more left wounded, and, dropping back to last night, 1 Ministry of Sciences and Technology employee was killed in a Baghdad bombing and his son was injured.

Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports that Ali Khamenei's criticism of an alleged deal in Parliament (already made) to keep US forces in Iraq beyond 2011 has resuled in an MP stating that some leaders of political blocs have already promised the US that they will support the extension and Tareq al-Hashemi (one of Iraq's vice presidents) is quoted stating that the focus on the agreement is taking attention away from more serious matters such as the continued lack of ministers to head the security ministries (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of National Security). Basra had a local council resolution last week that it would not house US forces beyong 2011. How binding that decision is or isn't is probably something Nouri will refer to the Supreme Court. But Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the al-Sadr bloc is now targeting 10 provincial councils to do as Basra did.

Read on ...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Canada in Distress


From November 18, 2007, that's "Canada in Distress." Those are War Resisters Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey. They're still War Resisters and still fighting for the right to stay in Canada.

I like them, I respect their decisions. However, I think Canada's 'left' is useless. They've done a lot of useless actions and told people like Hinzman and Hughey that any day now. Meanwhile, it's been years and years. And here's the kicker, if their Parliament ever did pass a real law (not a non-binding motion) granting the War Resisters asylum, it would have to be approved by Queen Elizabeth. And you really think she's going to sign off on that while, in England, they've put War Resisters on trial?

Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June 23, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, Nouri wants to stop the Electoral Commission, Nouri wants to complain about Parliament, Osama al-Nujaifi meets with the White House, a US civilian dies in Iraq today, the War Hawk Barack's bad speech, talks between the US and Iraq on the US military staying continue, and more.
Last night US President Barack Obama gave a speech. (We covered the speech in yesterday's snapshot.) The reaction outside of the Cult of St. Barack has not been pretty.
Jason Ditz ( observes, "On the ground in Afghanistan, however, it doesn't seem like a drawdown, and the troops aren't expecting any major change. Rather, they are expecting long deployings and a long occupation in an already decade-old war." Speaking this morning on The Takeaway, John Hockenberry shared, "I guess what escapes me from the speech last night is a real strategy. I mean, people may call it a strategy, but I don't see a strategy here." Yesterday on the Pacifica Evening News (KPFA and KPFK), anchor John Hamliton discussed Barack's speech with Phyllis Bennis. Excerpt:

John Hamilton: We've just heard the president promise troop reductions by the fall of 2012. interestingly, just in time for elections. Of course, we should remember that the much ballyhooed surge of 30,000 troops that Obama ordered into the country in December of 2009 was actually the second major increase in troop levels. On taking office, he immediately ordered an increase of 17,000 soldiers. With that in mind is it fair to call this the beginning of the end of the Afghanistan War?

Phyllis Bennis: No, it made clear that the continuation of a huge number of US troops, NATO troops and US-paid mercenaries is going to continue for an indefinite period. This announcement of what amounts to a really token withdrawal leaves in place a huge component of the current 250,000 US and allied military forces. This is not going to change that. The fact that 33 [33,000 by September 2012] out of 250,000 military forces are going to be pulled out in the course of a year and a half is hardly the beginning of an end.

John Hamilton: And of course, in the past when we've seen troops removed from Afghanistan, we've often seen them a concurrent escalation in the number of contractors sometimes by a ratio of 2:1 or even higher --

Phyllis Bennis: It's very unlikely we're going to see that now. Most [audio goes out . . .] Already 100,000 private contractors in Afghanistan. I don't know that they can even absorb significantly more than that.

John Hamilton: Well Phyllis Bennis, as the old song goes, "One-two-three-four, what are we fighting for?" In the case of Afghanistan, that remains a difficult question to answer.

Phyllis Bennis: It remains a very difficult question and what we're seeing is that there is no strategy that's been determined here. There's no definition of a military victory. The announcement had been made at the very moment just after President Obama had first been inaugurated, when he first sent 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, he said, 'We're going to send these troops and then we'll decide on a strategy.' Rather backwards logic but nonetheless what didn't happen was any decision about a strategy. We've heard lots of discussions about counter-insurgency versus counter-terrorism, boots on the ground versus small groups but none of that has been a real strategy for what everybody agrees will never be a military solution to this conflict in Afghanistan but will have to have political solutions. That political solution remains as far away tonight as it has ever been.
Noting some other reactions, US Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:
"Tonight President Obama took a step in the right direction by outlining a drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan over the coming year. I have called for a sizeable and sustainable drawdown because I believe the human, economic and military resources we are spending in Afghanistan are unsustainable. The President's announcement is a step forward, but I will continue to push the President to bring this war to a close and redeploy troops out of Afghanistan while providing the support they and their families deserve.
"Our brave men and women in uniform have done everything we've asked of them -- including finding Osama Bin Laden. But we need to make sure our military operations are targeted to meet the threats of today.
"Our terrorist enemies are not bound by lines on a map. Leaving tens of thousands of troops in Afghanistan is not the best use of our resources --especially as we work to tackle our debt and deficit. It's time to redeploy, rebuild our military and refocus on the broader war on terror. I was glad to see President Obama take a step in that direction today.
"But as Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, I know that the costs don't end when our men and women leave the battlefield -- for so many troops and their caregivers, that is just the beginning. This must be a consideration for the President and our entire nation whenever we make strategic military decisions. I will continue to push to make sure our veterans and military families are one of the foremost concerns during this drawdown and that they get the care they need and deserve."
US Senator Bernie Sanders's office issued a statement as well:
This country has a $14.5 trillion national debt, in part owing to two wars that have not been paid for. We have been at war in Afghanistan for the last 10 years and paid a high price both in terms of casualties and national treasure. This year alone, we will spend about $100 billion on that war. In my view, it is time for the people of Afghanistan to take full responsibility for waging the war against the Taliban.

While we cannot withdraw all of our troops immediately, we must bring them home as soon as possible. I appreciate the president's announcement, but I believe that the withdrawal should occur at significantly faster speed and greater scope.

Senator Tom Harkin's statement notes thanks to those who have and are serving in the Afghanistan War, the death of Osama bin Laden and the disruption of the Taliban before noting that a real withdrawal is needed:
We cannot justify the continued loss of life when we have already lost thousands of men and women in our military, including 71 Iowans since 9/11; we also can't sustain the nearly $10 billion we are spending each month in Afghanistan this year.
The President is taking the right action in redeploying troops from Afghanistan, but as I and several other senators urged him earlier this month, there should be more troops coming home sooner.
Not all senators had something worth saying. At the Senate Foreign Relations hearing this morning, for example, Senator Barbara Boxer (one of my two senators) made a point, while questioning Hillary Clinton to giggle -- yes, giggle -- about Afghanistan. If she thinks death and dying is funny, she ought to check out her eye make up in a hand mirror, that should really have her howling. Having giggled, she then declared that her role, as a US senator, "we have to be humble if we don't agree." I'm sorry, I missed that 'humble' attitude when Bush was in the White House. Barbara Boxer's a fool and her tired and embarrasing self needs to be out of the Senate.
From the Senate to the House, US House Rep Mike Honda's office has sent out this statement from theh Congressional Caucus Peace and Security Taskforce (which he co-chairs with Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey) and from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (which he co-chairs with Raul Grijalva):
The Co-Chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Taskforce call on Congress and the President to immediately end our war in Libya. The US has been engaged in hostilities for over 90 days without congressional approval, which undermines not only the powers of the legislative branch but also the legal checks and balances put in place nearly 40 years ago to avoid abuse by any single branch of government.
We call on our colleagues in Congress to exercise their legitimate authority and oversight and immediately block any funding for this war. Before the Executive branch further weakens the War Powers Resolution, and before we attack another country in the name of our "responsibility to protect," we must recommit ourselves to our Constitutional duty and obligation to hold the purse strings and the right to declare war. For decades, the House recognized the need for appropriate checks and balances before another war was waged. We must do the same.
We call on Congress to exhibit similar foresight by promptly ending this war and pledging to uphold the laws that characterize America's commitment to democratic governance.
US House Rep and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement which included, "It has been the hope of many in Congress and across the country that the full drawdown of U.S. forces would happen sooner than the President laid out -- and we will continue to press for a better outcome." In 2004, when everyone was taken in by Barack, Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) saw through that hideous DNC speech. He should have been primed, in 2008, to see through more nonsense. He missed all that but does regain his footing with a firm critique of yesterday's speech which includes:
The president's rhetoric, overall, was hideous. "The tide of war is receding," he said, and he repeated the "tide" metaphor a little later on. But war is not a fact of nature, like an ocean. It is a rash act of rulers.
Obama all but claimed to be clairvoyant, saying, "The light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance." I'm not sure what telescope he's using, but I wouldn't rely on that, either in Iraq or in Afghanistan.
Then, when he decided to draw the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama fed the American superiority complex. "We must embrace America's singular role in the course of human events," he said. He told us not to succumb to isolationism -- a spiel that echoed George W. Bush. The only difference was that Obama stressed the need to be "pragmatic" about the way the United States responds, arguing that often "we need not deploy large armies overseas" or act alone.
While Barack 'saw' progress, reality has begged to differ. Tom Engelhardt (CounterPunch): "Here's the funny thing though: a report on Afghan reconstruction recently released by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority staff suggests that the military and foreign "developmental funds that have poured into the country, and which account for 97% of its gross domestic product, have played a major role in encouraging corruption. To find a peacetime equivalent, imagine firemen rushing to a blaze only to pour gasoline on it and then last out at the building's dwellers as arsonists."
I'm sorry that I don't have time for lengthy statements and am editing down some of the releases sent. This is from the national Libertarian Party:
WASHINGTON - Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle responded to President Obama's June 22 speech with the following comments today:
"President Obama's speech was disappointing, but not surprising. The withdrawals he announced are painfully inadequate. Obama's withdrawals, even if they are carried out as he described, will still leave about 70,000 American troops in Afghanistan, probably for years to come. The president is commander-in-chief of the military. He has the power to end the war now, and withdraw all American troops, and that's what he should do.
"The U.S. has no business fighting a war in Afghanistan. Nearly three years ago, our Libertarian National Committee adopted a resolution calling for the withdrawal of our armed forces from Afghanistan. We are saddened and angry that there are now more troops there than ever.
"Obama talked about 'ending the war responsibly.' I think the word 'responsibly' is a weaselly escape hatch in case Obama doesn't want to withdraw more troops later. He will just say, 'That would be irresponsible -- I need to keep the war going strong.'
"This war causes the Afghan people to justifiably feel a greater hatred toward America. It makes American taxpayers poorer. And it emboldens other would-be aggressors, who can point to American intervention in Afghanistan whenever they feel like doing the same elsewhere.
"There are two big winners from the continuation of this war: Our military-industrial complex, which seems to have the president in its back pocket, and the Afghan government, which continues to enjoy tremendous benefits at the expense of the American taxpayer.
"If anything, Republican reactions to the president's speech were even more ridiculous than the speech itself. Republican Senator John McCain fretted that this withdrawal was not 'modest' enough. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, feeling the need to criticize Obama despite the fact that they basically agree on everything, complained of an 'arbitrary timetable.' Republican House Speaker John Boehner worried about losing our 'gains' in Afghanistan. All these comments show an inability to comprehend an intelligent, modest foreign policy, as well as a serious lack of respect for American taxpayers."
Though the Green Party didn't e-mail a statement, I did check to see if they had one. As has been the case so frequently since Bush departed the White House, when the Green Party should have been speaking out, they elected to be silent. Their silence is duly noted and if they're not a real political party, it's not my job to note or cover their candidate for president in 2012. For more on the nonsense of the Green Party, please visit Trina's site tonight for a guest post. In this community, Elaine weighed in on the speech with "The lousy speech" and Stan weighed in with "That awful speech." The most amazing thing about today was to watch who whored. Among the saddest was Tom Hayden who keeps insisting this is a 'victory' for the peace movement. At some point, you really need to consider seeking help. Truly. The thing that should have been done today was to take Barack's 'promises' on Afghainstan and put them through the Iraq prism. For example, in 2014, Barack 'promised' last night, all US troops will be out of Afghanistan. And that lie should have cause reflection on the Iraq War. Barack said 16 months and 16 months came and went. He didn't keep that promise. He swore all US troops would be out of Iraq in his first term. And yet the White House is attempting to extend the SOFA and to also keep US troops in Iraq by moving them from Defense Dept to State Dept.
Instead of whoring like Tom Hayden did, real leaders would have been stepping up and saying, "He told America ___ last night and yet when you look at his promises on Iraq versus what he has actually done . . ." We don't have a lot of real leaders. We've got a lot of liars. We've got a lot of cowards. And we saw that today as so many tried to spin this into good news. What it felt like to me? It felt like the moment the peace movement knew they couldn't trust LBJ -- that no lie or spin or promise out of his mouth would secure the votes needed for re-election. Ameen Izzadeen (Daily Mirror) weighs in:
Righting the wrong is part of civilized behaviour. But it is not known whether the Nobel committee believes in this norm. If it does, it should request United States President Barack Obama to return the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize and the prize money.
The call to strip Obama of his Nobel peace prize is as old as the decision to award him the prize. At that time, the president, just eight-month in office, had hardly proved his peace credentials except for rhetoric. But the committee in its defence said Obama's speeches had revived the hope for peace in a conflict-ridden world. It cited Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples".
Far from being so, in retrospect, it appears that the committee has only given a veneer of legitimacy to the United States' wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover it has given a licence to the Obama administration to launch wars in Libya and if necessary in other places where the US interests are in jeopardy or where resources, especially oil, gas and minerals, make US capitalists salivate.
When Obama decided to join the war on Libya in March this year, Bolivia's socialists President Evo Morales asked: "How is it possible that a Nobel Peace Prize winner leads a gang to attack and invade? This is not a defence of human rights or self-determination."
Morales was right, the decision to attack Libya was taken well before the peaceful means of conflict resolution were fully exhausted.
A US civilian died in Iraq today as Baghdad was slammed with multiple bombings. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) counts three bombs and 33 dead. Posting just a little later, Rebecca Santana and Saad Abdul-Kadir (AP) count 40 dead and 4 bombs. They state that, before seven at night, three bombs went off in one southwestern neighborhood and, an hour later, a fourth one went off in the same neighborhood. Tim Arango (New York Times) quotes Dr. Mustafa Saoih stating, "Everyone was screaming and crying and everyone was covered in blood." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) adds, "The blasts also damaged some civilian vehicles and shops nearby. Windows of adjacent houses were blown out and shards of flesh and blood could be seen at the scene, the source said." AFP states that three bombs were packed in "shopping carts" and that the location was a local market. Rawya Rageh filed a (video) report for Al Jazeera:
Rawya Rageh: Three explosions took place roughly around 7:00 pm time here, in a crowded market using three carts, shopping carts -- wooden carts that are often used here to haul around merchandise in markets in Baghdad. The three carts were placed at the entrance of the market -- two of those -- and one at the heart of the market. The market was quite crowded actually. This is Thursday evening preceding the Muslim weekend here.
Rageh counts over one hundred injured. Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) quotes local teenager Sijad stating, "I was on my way to the market when the first bomb blew up. People ran to see what was going on and the second one blew up. Suddenly there were bodies everywhere around me, most of them women and children, and their things were scattered everywhere." Ned Parker quotes survivor Ahmed Dandar stating, "I was drinking juice from a shop together with some of my friends when the first explosion happened. It was near mosque as worshippers were entering. We saw a ball of fire and people started to run."
Though the biggest attack in Baghdad, it was not the only attack in Baghdad or Iraq. The US State Dept's Victoria Nuland issued the following statement this afternoon:
The United States condemns a terrorist attack in Baghdad today that claimed the life of international development and finance expert Dr. Stephen Everhart and wounded three others. Dr. Everhart was an American citizen who was working in Iraq for an implementing partner of the United States Agency for International Development's Mission in Iraq. He was killed while working on a project to introduce a new business curriculum to a Baghdad university in a program supported by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education. His support of efforts to advance a modern and efficient financial sector has benefited the people and business enterprises of Iraq and his lifelong dedication to public service has improved the lives of countless people around the world.
We are saddened by this tragedy and extend our thoughts and prayers to Dr. Everhart's family and loved ones, and to the three other injured victims and their families.
In addition, Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi security forces, 1 person was shot outside his Mosul home, a Kirkuk sticky bombing injured one person and an al-Zab flashlight bombing injured an Iraqi soldier.
Today Al Sabaah reports that a "tentative deal" has been reached on keeping US soldiers ("a limited number") in Iraq beyond 2011 according to an unnamed "senior" US source. This was addressed, according to the source, by President Jalal Talabani and US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and would cover only the US military forces being shoved under the State Dept umbrella. As addressed here many times before, they would still have the same duties. But they would be under the State Dept and not the Defense Dept. Their presence would be covered by the Strategic Framework Agreement and would not need an extension of the SOFA or a new treaty. The article notes that Jeffrey is also meeting with MPs to press for an extension of the SOFA. If that's confusing, the State Dept umbrella is choice 2. The preferred choice of the White House is an extension of the SOFA. But either way, US forces are not leaving Iraq.

On the preferred choice, Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that a member of Parliament's Committee on Defense and Security has told the paper that "lack of readiness" on the part of Iraqi forces will be used to explain the SOFA being extended. The article cites numerous press reports (Arabic press, the US press has ignored these reports) on the talks and secret meetings that have taken place over extending the US military's stay in Iraq. The Dialogue Front is said to be a firm supporter of extending the US military presence while Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) is said to be playing it close to the vest and insisting he must have answers from DC before he makes a decision. The article runs through the other players. (As noted here before, the Kurdish officials want the US military to stay.)

While these discussions continue (some say a deal has already been reached on extending the SOFA), Alsumaria TV reports, "Basra provincial council voted on a decision to prevent US Forces from entering the province, Al Sadr Front's Ahrar Bloc said on Wednesday. Basra provincial council called to withdraw US Forces from Basra International Airport and affirmed that the council's decision stipulates compensating damaged citizens from US military operations." Meanwhile Walter Pincus (Washington Post) speaks with US Lt Gen Frank G. Helmick. I trust Pincus, I don't trust a word from Helmick. He's either out of the loop or he's lying. Not only is he wrong about forces (and that may be intentional -- the article may be directed towards Iraqi politicians, an attempt to force them to make a move), he's wrong about discussions and his comments regarding Iraq's airspace and radar, while accurate, conflict with something that happened in Iraq yesterday. I was begged to note and I said we don't include Operation Happy Talk. I'm surprised other outlets didn't notice it. But Iraq and air and the US had a little announcement yesterday. It was pure spin but that's never stopped the press from running with it before and since the US military was pimping that story, it's difficult to grasp why a general wouldn't also be promoting it to Pincus.

The Iraqi political scene is one of stalemate and foot dragging. A story that best telegraphs that? Al Mada reports reports that journalists were not allowed access to the day's hearing due to the fact that a dog was 'out sick.' (Actually, the contract with the security company had expired.) The dog detects bombs. Dar Addustour covers the story here.

This morning the Iraqi press is full of reports that Ayad Allawi is not ill -- Al Mada here, Dar Addustour here and Alsumaria TV are only three examples. Dar Addustour not only notes the denial that Allawi is ill but also quotes Iraqiya insisting the rumors are attempts to disempower Iraqiya and to disrupt life on the Iraq street -- to discredit the political slate in the eyes of the people. Dar Addustour also notes that State Of Law has already broken an agreement to cease attacks in the press (see yesterday's snapshot for more on that).

Nouri attempts another power grab in the meantime. Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri has ordered the Electoral Commission to leave the Kurdistan region and walk out on UNHCR. The Electoral Commission has said no and responds that only Parliament has the authority to stop UNHCR work. Nouri has repeatedly attempt to gut the rights of the Parliament and he's making another attempt today. Aswat al-Iraq reports that Nouri "has criticized on Thursday the process of legislating the laws by the Parliament, saying that 'they had been slow and weak,' demanding putting a time ceiling for the legislation of laws." That's really something. Nouri criticizing others as being slow? That's really something. On the day when Iraq sees non-stop violence and multiple deaths, Nouri criticizes the Parliament as slow -- the same Nouri who was supposed to appoint a Minister of Defense, a Minister of the Interiror and a Minister of National Security back in November when he was made prime minister-desigante. It's June now, getting close to July, and he's still failed at that basic duty. Someone who cannot make appointments doesn't need to be prime minister. And maybe he won't be. There are rumors that he's on the outs with the Iranian govenment (which is eyeing another Shi'ite) and his relationship with the US government is currently strained. If both backers dump him, another prime minister may emerge. Possibly with the last name Hakeem. Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports that Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council leader Ammar al-Hakeem delivered a speech yesterday to SIIC's Cultural Forum stressing the need for all political blocs to continue conversations.
Still on Iraqi politicians, one was in DC yesterday. The White House issued the following yesterday:

Vice President Biden met today with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. The Vice President praised the Speaker's stewardship of Iraq's legislature and offered continued support for the development of Iraq's democratic institutions, including a national partnership government. The Vice President also thanked the Speaker for his work to secure approval for a $400 million compensation package for American victims of the Saddam Hussein regime. The Vice President and the Speaker discussed our shared interest in an enduring partnership between the United States and Iraq, across a range of sectors, under the Strategic Framework Agreement.

Despite the fact that al-Nujaifi made public and clear before he left Iraq that he intended to press the White House on the missing $17 billion, the White House statement made no mention of it. Briefly, money (Iraqi money) from the oil-for-food program is missing. How much can not be determined as yet due to the refusal of the Federal Reserve to share information with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) which the US Congress mandated to provide oversight in Iraq. Aswat al-Iraq quotes from Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's statement:

"Nujeify has conferred during his current visit to the United States, with U.S.
Vice-President, Joe Biden, demanding him to "open an official investigation about the fate of Iraqi Fund, estimated at US$17.5 billions (b), withdrawn from Iraq's Development Fund in 2003-2004 and after that, without the appearance of any documents showing the reason for the withdrawal," the statement said, adding that Nujeify "had asked the United States to help in achieving that mission."
He said that "there are efforts, exerted by the financial observation bodies in both Iraq and the United States, to gather information and uncover the details of the said issue."

al-Nujaifi's statments were carried by the Iraqi press and throughout the Arabic press. They were also covered by many US outlets. AP offers this morning, "But US officials trying to trace the funds say the Iraqi government is not cooperating and has so far not allowed them access to bank records they need to determine whether any of the money was misused." The editorial board of Gulf News observes, "The US had a duty to safeguard this cash and not being able to answer to the Iraqis is simply unacceptable. It is hoped that a serious investigation is started so Iraq can recover its money."

Read on ...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Donald Kerr on the job


That's "Donald Kerr on the job" about the then-Deputy Director of National Intelligence from November 13, 2007. And the big surprise? He's still in the same post. But then Barack was always going to be No Change.

Now here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, June16, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, US companies rake in the dough in Iraq, Allawi accuses Nouri of terrorism, a power player in Iraq praises Nouri and then cuts him off at the knees, the US press corps disgrace themselves to publicly slobber over Robert Gates and they all agree to keep it off the record (I didn't), Iraqi activists gear up for tomorrow's protests, Moqtada's fading strength is noted, and more.

Today Aaron Smith (CNNMoney) reports the International Energy Agency has issued a new report which finds that demand for oil will be more than the supply available. The report is entitled "Medium-Team Oil and Gas Markets 2011" and IEA's Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka says, "This report shows that oil's twilgiht as an industrial fuel continues, and it becomes ever more concentrated in the transport and petrochemical sectors. Gas on the other hand continues to increase in power generation as well as industry and space heating. In terms of market structure and pricing, oil is a genuinely global commodity, while gas markets, although globalising, remain bound by some key regional constrations, not least in terms of transportation." The report notes, "Growth in oil supply capacity through 2016 averages 1.1 mb/d [million barrels a day] annually, as higher prices unlock new supplies. Iraq, UAE and Angola lead growth prospects from OPEC, while Brazil, Canada, Kazakhstan and Columbia drive non-OPEC increases." This evening, Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times) reveals that although US companies didn't do so well in those public options, they will enrich their own coffers, "In fact, American drilling companies stand to make tens of billions of dollars from the new petroleum activity in Iraq long before any of the oil producers start seeing any returns on their investments." Yesterday afternoon, Kadhim Ajrash and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) reported, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the army to boost protection of the country's pipelines and refineries from sabotage." Nouri first became prime minister in 2006 and throughout his first term and his just begun second term he's never shown much interest in or desire to protect the Iraqi people but he'll make sure the oil is safe. For example, Al Rafidayn reports today on some Iraqis who fled their homes during the ethnic cleansing of 2006 and 2007 and relocated elsewhere in Iraq and they continue to live in fear, some "in houses built out of stones and reeds" and Jassim Jubayr Ugaili states he does not want to go back into Baghdad because he was threatened and three of his brothers and one of his nephews were killed. His 18-year-old son Mohammad adds that it would not make any difference for the family to move back because they would just be one or two returning since most families will not return due to the continued violence.

Then again, maybe being spared Nouri's efforts at protection is actually a blessing for the Iraqi people. No, we're not implying Nouri is the "huge snake" Dar Addustour reports hid under rubble and allegedly ate two children and four cats in a Nasiriyah neighborhood. We're referring to Roy Gutman and Laith Hammoudi's (McClatchy Newspapers) report that Nouri al-Maliki declared on "live television broadcast late Tuesday" that assassinations on government security officials were being carried out by a "militia" which has infiltrated the ministries -- he names Interior and Defense specifically.

Gutman and Hammoudi have a strong article that's sketches out what happened. Let's explore why. Human Rights Watch, more than any other organization, is getting under Nouri's thin skin. And primarily because they observe the reality of what an assailant was wearing -- often official security uniforms (such as a police uniform). In 2008, the press was very good about identifying what assailants were wearing when they were in official clothing. And then some of that got dropped. HRW continues to note it and it's becoming harder and harder for Nouri to fall back on his 2006 excuses of 'they're fake uniforms!' and 'a warehouse in southern Iraq housing uniforms was broken into!'

Going public with the fact that a lot of these officially garbed assailants are working for the government, Nouri gets to be seen as more honest and, he hopes, gets to inject a falsehood into the narrative the press will then repeat.

The narrative? Nouri declared on "live TV" that this infiltration has taken place and: "Those who have destroyed the Ministries of the Interior and Defense are we, the (political) parties, who come with a list and tell the officials, 'Employ these people'."

That little statement's not innocuous or an aside. It's Nouri's main point. And part of his efforts to convince the Iraqi people that not only is he the only thing keeping them 'safe' but that he needs more power and the ability to rework the current government.

The only real flaw in Gutman and Hammoudi's article is that they repeat Nouri's assertion and fail to provide perspective. The two reporters go on to say that some feel the tensions between Nouri and Ayad Allawi are harming the country but that's not the main issue. Here's the point they should have made, one that would have made their article much stronger: 'Today Nouri al-Maliki accused other political parties of destroying the Ministries of Interior and Defense by demanding that their people staff the agencies; however, if the two ministries are in disarray that blame would be shared by Nouri who refused to appoint a Minister to head either of those ministries and has instead declared himself the temporary head of those two ministries as well as the Ministry of National Security.'

Those are the facts. If the two ministries have been infiltrated, then that goes to the
fact that they have no permanent head. If the two ministries are in trouble or struggling, that goes to Nouri who's decided he can be prime minister and head three ministries. Of Nouri's lousy job performance, Francis Matthew (Gulf News) offers:

He promised that officials at any level would be sacked if their performance did not match standards, and he spelt out that "the performance of the government and the ministries will be evaluated separately in order to know the extent of success or failure in carrying out the duties given to them". He also made it clear that each minister would have to be responsible for stopping corruption in their ministries.
Despite the drama of his announcement, nothing happened. This week, at the end of his 100-day deadline, Al Maliki met his cabinet (no one had been sacked). He later claimed to the public that each ministry now has a four-year plan, and he seems to be insisting that he has achieved all his goals, and he claims "massive progress" in the 100 days.
It seems unlikely that all Iraq's ministries have just become models of efficiency, and that its famously corrupt officials have all stopped taking bribes. The opposition does not agree with Al Maliki's rosy view of what has happened, and its leaders have called for renewed protests to start this weekend.
It remains to be seen if they can get the people back onto the streets, and also if Al Maliki's large and very tough security forces will let them march again. The events this weekend will indicate how political life in Iraq might run for the next few months.

Nouri took 100 Days, he reset the clock and he accomplished nothing. Repeatedly. Of course, he had help in his incompetence. The 100 Days was a device which attempted to derail the protest movement in Iraq. Aiding him at that time was Moqtada al-Sadr who occasionally breezes through Iraq but prefers to reside in Iran. He fled Iraq when he feared Nouri would use the arrest warrant to put al-Sadr behind bars (the arrest warrant is for murder -- that's a warrant, not a conviction and even were it a conviction we don't mistake Iraqi 'justice' in the puppet, US-imposed system for actual justice). He did a few pop-over visits recently and, as a result, his influence has waned. His big 'protest' in May? We focused on the absurdity of calling observers participants -- he had his militia march through Sadr City and he and many in the press counted as 'participants' people who stepped out of their homes to watch the march go by. But equally ridiculous was the fact that the 100,000 present in Baghdad number was coming from . . . a telephone interview . . . with a Sadr loyalist not in Baghdad but in Najaf -- in Najaf, where he could survey all in Baghdad with the naked eye, apparently. But the most ridiculous thing about that 'protest' was the efforts to make it appear Moqtada was present. Oh! Look! It's his car! Everybody run to it! Oh! Look! It's pulling away!!! Oh, Moqtada . . . No, he wasn't present. (The same Najaf spokesperson insisted to the press that Moqtada was present but his followers were just too enthusiastic to allow Moqtada to safely exit his car. Yeah, right.) If you missed any of that crazy, read Mohamad Ali's report for AFP, they were the most grounded of the outlets reporting on the 'protest.' As we've long noted, US intelligence and that of England's, France's and two countries neighboring Iraq's all say Moqtada's influence has waned. Today Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) speaks to Mehdi militia members and finds that's the case. What if Moqtada declares war -- as he says he will if the US military stays beyond 2011? One member explains that he's focused on college and becoming an attorney, he needs three years without "any trouble" and he's got the life he wants. Oops, Moqtada can't count on that one. Abu Sadiq (whom al-Salhy describes as a "senior Mehdi Army leader in Sadr City") maintains, "Despite his huge number of supporters, if Moqtada decided to fight now, only a few would fight. The only ones who will fight are those who have not become contractors, or parliament members or gained salaries, cars, homes or government posts." And what about the assertion we've repeatedly noted, that there's real competition among those still dedicated to the cause and they aren't likely to see the Iran-bound Moqtada as 'representative' of their needs and interests? Abu Moqtada ("former Mehdi fighter") tells al-Salhy, "The danger that Moqtada faces is from his leaders who are competing with each other for wealth and positions." al-Salhy adds, "The biggest splinter group, Asaib al-Haq, is already challenging Sadr, eroding his militia from within by infiltrating the top echelons of his organization, Sadrist sources say." (To be clear, this is not, "I was right!!!!" I am not intelligence for any country -- and there are those who know me who would never connect my name and intelligence or intelligent together in the same sentence. But we did note what people were saying -- especially from diplomatic circles -- that their countries' intelligence was saying regarding Moqtada's influence. And if I'm hearing it -- from several sets of people -- I really didn't understand why the press wasn't aware of it even if they weren't reporting on it. And in fairness to reporters in Iraq, any such reports would more likely have been expected to come from reporters in DC or in the capitals of other countries.)

There are a number of political moves taking place and the most intriguing may be what Al Mada is reporting. One of Iraq's power brokers is Ammar al-Hakim. And while he inherited his position (head of the Islamic Supreme Council) after his father died, you can't inherit power. al-Hakim has established himself as powerful in his own right. So any moves he makes are worth following. Today, Al Mada reports, he gave a speech in Baghdad in which he praised Nouri for holding public meetings with his Coucil to review the 100 Days. And al-Hakim also notes that the 100 Days didn't begin to deal with what the people said they needed: electricity, potable water, etc. He also spoke of the violence in Iraq and noted with regret the attack on the provincial council building in Diyala Province this week (click here for Laith Hammoudi's McClatchy Newspapers report), noting how when acts of violence and terrorism become the response of groups "in broad daylight" it indicates serious problems which need to be addressed. He declared, "Denying the decline in our security does not solve the problem." Nor, he added, does it fill the vacancies in the security ministries. As noted earlier in the snapshot, there are no heads for the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of National Security or the Ministry of Defense. Nouri has never appointed anyone to those posts. Nouri is 'temporarily' (he says) filling them. And doing a lousy job of it. Back to al-Hakim, he stated that peaceful means and a peaceful process were necessary for a stable Iraq and spoke with displeasure about the incident last Friday in Tahrir Square ("Liberation Square") where the Youth Activists and other peaceful protesters were attacked by pro-government non-activists who tore up posters of Ayad Allawi, attacked women (hitting them with their shoes) and assaulted others. (The pro-government non-activists brought posters of Allawi with them -- posters they had defaced.) al-Hakim is a major player and that's a major speech. It will be interesting to see how Nouri responds.

As part of the continued propaganda effort, David Ali (Al Mada) reports, Nouri and company are working to stage a pro-Nouri rally in Tahrir Square this Friday. The pro-government non-activists showed up last week and attacked the real activists. This appears to be an effort at propagandizing the world population (a successful one when you think about the press attention the pro-government non-activists got last weekend when you contrast that with how little attention the real Friday activists have been receiving all these months later) and also an effort to run off the real activists. A Youth Movement activist states that if they have to leave Tahrir Square, they will continue their protests elsewhere. This Friday will find them attempting to rally in Tahrir Square. The Great Iraqi Revolution asks, "Between PUNISHMENT FRIDAY AND THAT OF DECISION & DEPARTURE WHO DO YOU THINK WON? THE KNIFE OR THE CAMERA WHICH EXPOSED THEM?????" They note that this Friday is Determination Friday.

Dar Addustour reports that the tensions between Nouri and Allawi have led to a dialogue between Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani with the two said to be working on a way to resolve the crisis. The crisis can be traced back (most recently) to the failure by the parties (Nouri) to abide by the Erbil Agreement which was reached when all the major parties came together in Erbil (all major political parties in Iraq plus the US) and divided up this and that to move the nine month and counting stalemate along. The crisis can be traced back even further to the refusal by the UN and the US to appoint a caretaker government. Had that been done, the stalemate would not have continued for nine months and Nouri would not have been able to abuse his position and remain as prime minister.

But the US White House wanted Nouri to remain prime minister (Samantha Power came up with a lengthy list of 'reasons' why it was 'the only sane thing to do') and with the US and Iran backing him, everyone else -- including the people of Iraq who actually thought they'd have a say in their government -- got stabbed in the back. Ben Van Heuvelen (The Atlantic) reports on the conlict:

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has accused Iraqi security forces of imprisoning and torturing a political opponent of current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, part of an alleged effort to frame Allawi as a sponsor of terrorism. Allawi, in an interview with, presented as evidence a letter that he said was from Najim al-Harbi, a member of his own political party. The letter describes months of detention and brutal mistreatment by government forces, who told Harbi they would relent if he accused Allawi of organizing terrorist attacks against the Iraqi government. Though allegations of abuse have swirled around Maliki's tightly controlled security forces for years, Allawi's charge of a political conspiracy is unprecedented.
Allawi and Maliki were on opposing sides of a months-long political crisis in Iraq after their respective political parties nearly tied the March 2010 national elections. Though the stalemate ended in November with Maliki retaining the Prime Minister's office, the split has raised tension and distrust in Baghdad politics. Allawi's allegations and Harbi's letter are impossible to verify, but the former Prime Minister's accusations against his own government reveal the level of animosity and suspicion that remain in Iraqi politics.
Last fall, after losing the premiership to Maliki in a post-election contest of back-room coalition building, Allawi stood aloof from the gritty politics of government formation, preferring to spend time in London and other foreign capitals in a sort of self-imposed exile reminiscent of Al Gore's bearded soul-searching following the 2000 elections. Allawi felt he had been robbed. A power-sharing agreement was supposed to give him a high-level post in Maliki's administration. Instead, Maliki had cherry-picked allies from Allawi's coalition, sidelined Allawi himself, and consolidated power.
Allawi finally returned to Baghdad shortly after I had left. I had written him several weeks earlier requesting an interview, and he agreed to a phone call. Our conversation, part of Allawi's entrance back onto the political stage, consisted mostly of accusations against the prime minister. But when I asked Allawi about his exclusion from the government, he brushed the topic aside. Instead, the former prime minister accused Maliki of using his control of the armed forces to intimidate, arrest, and even torture his political opponents.
"The Parliament is being terrorized," Allawi told me.

In the Parliament today, Aswat al-Iraq reports, Khalid al-Assady was sworn in as an MP replacing Khudhier al-Khuzae who is a Vice President. May 12th, Iraq's three vice presidents were officially appointed to their posts: Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Tareq al-Hashimy and al-Khuza. Abdul-Mahdi and Tareq al-Hashimy were returning as vice presidents. The decision was made to increase the number to three; however, at present there are only two since Abdul-Mahdi has turned in his resignation.

In today's violence, Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk ("signs of torture and gunshot wounds"), 1 man shot dead in a Mosul vegetable market, 1 man shot dead outside his Mosul home, a Hilla home invasion resulted in the death of 1 Iraqi contractor "and his Indian maid and his Turkish engineer guest" and 1 Iraqi police officer was left wounded in a Baghdad shooting.

Last week, 6 US soldiers died in Iraq. (Two have died this week.) Five of last week's soldiers who died were killed in an attack in Baghdad and one of the five killed was Spc Christopher Fishbeck. Paige Austin (Patch) reports "According to his loved ones, Fishbeck, a former wrestler and football player at Kennedy High School in La Palma, was a playful and mischievous young man with 'spunk,' but he was also a solemn soldier, who studied missile trajectories, worked in intelligence and expected to die in Iraq. [...] Fishbeck is survived by his wife of three months, Stephanie Kidder, his mother and father, his sister Rene Gutel of Paris, France, and his sister Randi Jean Fishbeck of Anaheim." The memorial service will be this coming Monday, St. Irenaeus Church in Cypress at eleven and Paige Austin notes that the public is welcome to attend. Both Austin and Michael Mello (Orange County Register) note that the public is also welcome Friday for Hero Mission starting at 11:30 in the morning -- his body is scheduled to retun at noon Friday and Hero Mission is a recognition provided by Honoring Our Fallen. Also killed in that attack was 20-year-old Spc Emilio Campo Jr. Matt McCabe (St. James Plaindealer) reports Campo's services will be Friday "at the Calvary Cemetery in Madelia, Services at St. Mary's Catholic Church begin at 1:00 p.m." and McCabe also has an article about the reactions of those who knew Emilio Campo Jr. like his teacher Donna Roesch who he visited with even after he graduated, "He came in his uniform once, I thought those buttons were going to pop right off of there. He was so proud. He was proud of what it stood for and he was proud to be doing something for his country that he loved so much." The soldier killed last week on Wednesday was 22-year-old Matthew J. England. The Baxter Bulletin reports his memorial service "is scheduled for 3 p.m. Sunday at First Christian Church in Gainesville [MO]." The two who died in Iraq this week were identified yesterday by the Defense Dept:

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation New Dawn.
They died June 13 in Wasit province, Iraq, of wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device. They were assigned to the 6th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Killed were:

Staff Sgt. Nicholas P. Bellard, 26, of El Paso, Texas; and

Sgt. Glenn M. Sewell, 23, of Live Oak, Texas.

For more information, the media may go to

Sig Christenson (San Antonio Express-News) reports
on the late Glenn Sewall and quotes his father Mike Sewell who states, "He was a great man; he was a warrior. He was a man among men, fearless." Christenson notes, "A guitarist and member of the Judson High band, he was known for yarns and a sense of humor. It showed in a Christmas message from Kabul in 2008 when he told his mom, 'I know the mustache looks terrible, but it will be gone by the time I get home'."

When a US service member -- or a member of the US diplomatic corps, for that matter -- dies overseas, it is news. Some may choose to gobble down gossip instead, but it actually qualifies as news. The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley began (with Scott Pelley as anchor) June 6th when 5 US soldiers died. On that night, Pelley covered the story when Diane Sawyer 'forgot' it on ABC World News and PBS' NewsHour was under the mistaken notion that you bury 5 US deaths in a war in a brief headline while chasing down 'scandals' and gossip. Only NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams also managed to cover -- not read a 3 sentence headline the way The NewsHour did -- the 5 deaths. In the time since, Pelley's broadcast has continued to cover the deaths and to cover actual news while others have made like the Ethel Mertz of the global village. Pelley's focus is getting attention and applause (as it should). Today David Bauder (AP) notes the focus and quotes PEW's Mark Jurkowitz stating, "The message of last week could be reclaiming CBS as a more serious-minded news organization." And Bauder notes, "CBS was encouraged that viewership for Pelley's first week was up 6 percent over the same week in 2010, according to the Nielsen Co."

US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates continued The Robert Gates Farewell Tour today with a press conference at the Pentagon. As even he noted, "These past few weeks have truly been the long goodbye" -- try months.

And the key is how do we complete our mission, as we have largely done in Iraq, in a way that protects American national security interests and the American people and contributes to stability? I think most people would say we've been largely successful in that respect in Iraq. I think we're on a path to do that in Afghanistan. The costs of the wars is huge, but it is declining. The costs of these wars will go down between FY '11 and FY '12 by $40 billion, from $160 (billion) to less than $120 billion. There's every reason to believe that between FY '12 and FY '13 there would be another significant reduction. And, of course, with the Lisbon agreement, the size of our forces left in Afghanistan in December of 2014 would be a small fraction of what they are today. So I think that -- I understand the impatience. I understand the concern and especially in hard economic times. We also have to think about the long-term interests, security interests, of the country. And that's where I come out on this.

Iraq was barely mentioned. It was even the real basis for a question. Real basis? A reporter asked why 800 troops from the Oklahoma National Guard that were supposed to go to Afghanistan have instead been diverted "to Kuwait to help with Iraq?" All she wanted to know was what it meant for Afghanistan and had the drawdown already begun in Afghanistan and apparently just wanted to sound like a raving loon. If troops are being diverted (and 800 are) from Afghanistan to Iraq, the drawdown in Afghanistan really isn't an issue. Supposedly all US troops leave Iraq at the end of 2011 (they don't -- whether there's an extension or not, they don't). That's supposedly a hard date, it supposedly can't be massaged. But the Afghanistan one is a soft date. So your story wasn't acting like a crazy idiot and whining about Afghanistan and was Barack lying about when the drawdown started. Your story was, "What does sending an additional 800 troops to the Iraq War -- troops who were supposed to go to Afghanistan -- say about either the supposed withdrawal at the end of this year or about the US military leadership's concern over the increased violence in Iraq?" (The 800 are supposedly "trainers.")

If you think that was embarrassing, you need to have been present. At the end of the press conference, Gates, Adm Mike Mullen who is the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Hoss Cartwright who is the Vice Chair exited. So that was the end, right?

Wrong, an announcement was made (I believe by Bryan Whitman but I don't attend Pentagon briefings often enough to swear to that) as some of the press began standing (some already knew what was coming), "I want everybody to sit tight. Let's kill the cameras. He'll come back out in one moment and we'll say goodby indvidually and so forth with photos for you guys. This is off the record." Oh my goodness! This is so exciting! Is Bobby Gates going to sign the waistband of Yochi Dreazen's BVDs?

What the hell was that? You should have seen the supposedly mature press corps turn into a bunch of giddy little school children,jumping up and down as if the Jonas Brothers were about to perform. And the ones who had to go last? You could watch them breathe with relief as the slow line suddenly began moving. As if they were thinking, "Oh, no! Oh, no! He's going to get on his tour bus and leave before I get my picture taken with him!!! I missed out on Selena Gomez, now I'm going to miss out on Bobby Gates too!"

Point of fact, this entire embarrassing moment (and I'm being kind and not listing all their names -- many of whom are known from TV) did not speak well for either the individual journalists or the outlets they were with. As awful as the photo posing was, so were the remarks being made -- remarks which indicate no one has any job duty other than to repeat whatever Robert Gates tells them too. My friend with ___ [outlet] who I went into the press conference with said I can't be specific here.

So I can't.

Be specific.


But I made no promises about my column in the gina & krista round-robin. So look for that to be the topic and for photos of the press embarrassing themselves (I took those photos with my camera phone) to run with my column. This was disgusting. This demonstrated there was no wall between reporting and government announcements, it demonstrated that there was no objectivity. In fact, there are people like Andy Worthington who've been fired (he was fired from the New York Times, click here for Scott Horton's Antiwar Radio interview with Andy Worthington in which Andy discusses what it was like to work for the Times for less than 24 hours) because they weren't seen as objective. As you look at the pictures and read the column, tell me how anyone pictured can truthfully claim to have ever been objective when reporting about Robert Gates.

If you wonder how the US military has managed to switch policies and now issue death announcements for incidents without noting the number wounded in the same release (the policy throughout the Bush adminstration and the policy with Barack until January of this year) and not get called on it, well you missed the Bobby Gates love-fest. You missed a bunch of middle-aged adults who damn well should have known better, gushing in public (off the record!) about how much they loved Robert Gates, about how his leadership was the best and you'd have to go back to WWII to find anyone who could even match him and blah, blah, blah. It was disgusting. Some might say, "It was a goodbye party." You have a goodbye party for your friends. You have a goodbye party for your co-workers. All that moment did was underscore just what lackeys the US press enjoys being. It was truly shameful.

We'll go out with this from David Swanson's "Obama's Libya Defense Makes Bush's Lawyers Look Smart" (War Is A Crime):

The arguments made to "legalize" war, torture, warrantless spying, and other crimes by John Yoo and Jay Bybee and their gang are looking rational, well-reasoned, and impeccably researched in comparison with Obama's latest "legalization" of the Libya War.

Here's the key section from Wednesday's report to Congress:

"Given the important U.S. interests served by U.S. military operations in Libya and the limited nature, scope and duration of the anticipated actions, the President had constitutional authority, as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive and pursuant to his foreign affairs powers, to direct such limited military operations abroad. The President is of the view that the current U.S. military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorization, because U.S. military operations are distinct from the kind of 'hostilities' contemplated by the Resolution's 60 day termination provision. U.S. forces are playing a constrained and supporting role in a multinational coalition, whose operations are both legitimated by and limited to the terms of a United Nations Security Council Resolution that authorizes the use of force solely to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under attack or threat of attack and to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve the presence of U.S. ground troops, U.S. casualties or a serious threat thereof, or any significant chance of escalation into a conflict characterized by those factors."

Whatever the president's "foreign affairs powers" may be, they do not, under the U.S. Constitution, include the power to launch "military operations" or "hostilities" or "wars." Nor has the distinction between "military operations" that involve what ordinary humans call warfare (blowing up buildings with missiles) and "hostilities" that qualify for regulation under the War Powers Resolution been previously established. This distinction is as crazy as any that have come out of U.S. government lawyers in the past.

The War Powers Resolution forbids unconstitutional wars unless the United States is attacked.

Read on ...
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