Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bully X-mas


December 25, 2007, that's "Bully X-mas." That's Barbara Bush in the corner. The joke there was that Babs was always drunk herself and we usually saw her from behind unless it was just her speaking directly to us -- in which case it was a mountain range of wrinkles.

Big Babs was a fun character to bring in.

Bush and Barack are War Criminals. But otherwise, they are different as night & day and Barack's always staring in the mirror singing, "Hey there lonely girl, lonely girl . . . "

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, talk of withdrawal or not withdrawal continues, Nouri's political bloc storms out of Parliament, Tirkit is slammed with bombings, a 9 to 5 moment in Iraq?, and more.
Starting with the Libyan War, yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Excerpt.
Kevin Pina: We turn our attention back to what is happening on the ground in Tripoli, Libya with our special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroaya. Mahdi is also a research assistant with the Centre for Research on Globalization based in Montreal, Canada. Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Thank you, Kevin.
Kevin Pina: So obviously there are a lot of developments. We hear that the United Kingdom, no big surprise there, has finally recognized the rebels in Libya. We also hear that they have expelled all of the Libyan diplomats that were representing the Libyan government from their country. Has the news hit the ground there yet?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes, it's has caused a state of shock here. I-I personally, I'm not shocked but there are a lot of people here who were shocked by it and bothered by the events in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Also at the same time as the recognition of the Transitional Council by the British government as the legitimate government of Libya and the expelling of the Libyan envoys there, the IMF has also expelled the Libyan envoy in Washington which is an illegal move. So these two things have happened. A lot of of emphasis here and a lot of focus has been on the British expelling the Libyan envoy there and the diplomatic staff there but not that much has been put on what happened with the International Money Fund in DC. I think that is also very crucial and very important for listeners to understand. This is tied to currency. It's tied to the economic agenda involving the NATO war against Libya.
Kevin Pina: Well I'm also wondering is is it possible that NATO will not back down over Ramadan? That maybe the rebels might get a couple of fatwas from a couple of mullahs to say that it's okay for them to fight a continuing jihad against the illegal government, as they'll probably term it, in Tripoli?
Mahdi Nazemroaya: That actually could be a possibility. That very well could happen. Yes, I wouldn't rule that out. In fact, I talked to some people who are worried that something is going to happen, that there's going to be a big push possibly. They are worried that there might be unexpected move involving the so-called Transitional Council and its armed forces as well as NATO against the government here and against the Libyan people so that is a strong possibility. And Abdul Fatah Younis -- who is the former Interior Minister of the regime in Tripoli, who is now the Defense Minister of the -- and one of the military officials of the Benghazi government, the Transitional Council -- is also very close to Tripoli. He's gone to the west, to the western mountains and he's been reported to be near the frontlines, so they think something might be in the works. And you are right about clerics, muftis, mullahs, sheiks, whatever you want to call them making fatwahs and saying go ahead and attack, this will not break any religious observances for the holy month of Ramadan. This has happened in the past and, in fact, in Egypt it happened, there was Fatawahs, there's been Fatawahs in the last year that are politically motivated. There are a lot of politically motivated clerics who are and subordinate to political authorities and this would not surprise me.
Kevin Pina: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and you're listening to Mahdi Nazemroaya, direct from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi is Flashpoints' special correspondent there as well as a research assistant at the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal, Canada.
As the day was starting in the US, Tikrit had already been slammed by bombings. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports there were two bombings -- a car bombing and then a suicide bomber and that 10 people died (besides bomber) and thirty were injured. Al Jazeera counts 12 dead as does Lara Jakes (AP). Jakes also counts this as "the fourth major attack" in Tikrit since the start of 2011. Al Bawaba counts 15 dead and thirty-eight injured. By the evening Muhanad Mohammed, Ghazwan Hassan, Patrick Markey and Karolina Tagaris (Reuters) were also counting 15 and quote police officer Assam Dhiyab stating, "Just a few minutes after I entered I heard a huge explosion, we ran outside to see what was happening, I saw bodies and the wounded all over the place." Ed O'Keefe (Washington Post) reports, "Moments after the car bomb exploded, as a crowd gathered and ambulances and other emergency vehicles arrived, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated another bomb, police said." AKI notes the bombings took place "outside a bank where soldiers and police had gathered to collect their pay." Hassan Obeidi (AFP) reports, "A witness said the state-owned bank is close to the city's wholsesale food market, which was crowded with people shopping for Ramadan that begins early next week." AGI identifies it as the Rafidain Bank. Tim Arango (New York Times) quotes farmer Majeed Mohammed who was injured in the explosions stating, "We didn't expect this to happen here, because most of the people were just ordinary citizens. Even we didn't know that this is where the Army receives their salaries." Lara Jakes (AP) explains, "Television footage of the blast showed a huge white cloud over the two-story bank, followed by thick black smoke." Yang Lina (Xinhua) adds, "The provincial authorities imposed curfew on the city until further notice, and police vehicles were seen moving across the city calling for people to stay at their homes for fear of further attacks, the source said."
The Tikrit suicide bomber isn't the only person in an Iraqi security forces uniform doing harm in Iraq. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports Kirkuk police arrested a suspected kidnapping ring and that "some of those in the ring were soldiers in the Iraqi Army and had committed crimes while in uniform" but though they ring may (or may not) have been busted, an elderly man was kidnapped in Kirkuk today "by men wearing military uniforms." In addition, Aswat al-Iraq quotes the Kirkuk Joint Coordination Center stating that "armed men, dressed in military uniform have abducted a citizen, called Adnan Khalaf Bayat, born in 1976, from al-Hajjaj district in Kirkuk. After a police force headed to the house of the abducted man, it found out that the abductors had fastened the hands of the man's family with steel bars, but the family members gave the descriptions of the abductors, that were sent for all inspection points to chase them." Hasan Obeidi (AFP) also notes that "in Baghdad's orthern Waziriyah neighbourhood, seven people were injured by a car bomb that destroyed 11 liquor store." Aswat al-Iraq reports last night an armed clash in Mosul resulted in the deaths of 2 Iraqi soldiers.
The Council on Foreign Relations' Fellow for Conflict Prevention Micah Zenko weighs in with a piece today entitled "It's Hard to Say Goodbye to Iraq: Why the United States Should Withdraw this December" (Foreign Affairs):
Yet Baghdad seems unable to make up its mind. Some political leaders privately lobby for U.S. troops to stay, but only in training and advising roles. Still, most Iraqis and many members the Iraqi parliament are weary of a continued American military presence, which is problematic since U.S. officials insist that an updated SOFA be approved by the parliament. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani had requested that Baghdad's fractious political blocs decide by last Saturday whether to ask for an extension of U.S. troop presence into next year. They were unable to reach a consensus and have postponed additional negotiations on the topic "until further notice."
Still, according to anonymous U.S. officials, the White House is prepared to keep 10,000 ground troops in Iraq after the end of this year. It apparently has two reasons. The first is to prevent Iran from supplying improvised explosive devices and rockets to Shia militants in Iraq who have used such weapons to kill U.S. troops. According to U.S. officials, nine of the 15 U.S. soldiers who were killed in Iraq in June died from such attacks. The second is that somehow the mere presence of 10,000 U.S. troops will mitigate Iran's long-term influence in Iraq, which has been a proxy battlefield between Washington and Tehran for decades.
There are a few problems with this logic. For starters, it does not make sense for the United States to keep soldiers in Iraq to prevent Iranians from providing Iraqi Shias with weapons to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq. As the Pentagon noted in its "Measuring Security and Stability in Iraq" report last summer, "Iran will likely continue providing Shi'a proxy groups in Iraq with funding and lethal aid, calibrating support based on several factors, including Iran's assessment of U.S. Force posture during redeployment." In other words, Iran will continue its behavior as long as there are U.S. soldiers in Iraq to target, which suggests that the surest and fastest way to prevent further bloodshed is to withdraw the remaining U.S. soldiers on schedule.
Okay, for a new development (press wise), let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot for withdrawal talk:

Iraq's Foreign Minister is Hoshyar Zebari and he is in the news today with regards to withdrawal. Few appear able to figure out what he said today on the topic. Press TV puffs out its chest to insist that no US forces will be on the ground in Iraq after 2011 and that Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) emphasizes other details of today in Iraq and mentions Zebari only in passing. So what happened?
Press TV is wrong. AFP and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) get it right. AFP reports Zebari raised the issue of withdrawal and the yquote him stating, "Is there a need for trainers and experts? The answer is 'yes.' I think it is possible to reach a consensus on this. The Iraqi government alone cannot reach a decision on this issue. It needs political and national consensus; it's an issue all political leaders should back." Sinan Salaheddin explains, "Zebari and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appear to be preparing the public for some type of American military presence in Iraq past 2011, but have been trying to paint it as a training force as opposed to combat units."

A few e-mailed that the video at Press TV wasn't working. (The story had a video if you clinked on the link. I didn't say "link has text and video" because the video wasn't working.) New development: It is working now and the video report contradicts the written report. It also contradicts itself. In the video, we're told that extending the presence of the US military it's not just getting the approval of Parliament and three presidencies (they mean the president and two vice presidents) "and if it happens the extension would not be longer than two or three years." So it's not just that. Hmm. Well what does it involve? The reporter informs later in the segment, "The government cannot take such decision by its own the extension needs the approval of the Parliament, the prime minister and the president and this is not easy." Oh. Okay. So the only thing they added to the equation was . . . the Prime Minister.

Yes, that is rather ridiculous. They also fall for the claim that extending the SOFA or creating a new agreement is like setting a date for the elections and needs the same body to approve it. Nouri became prime minister in 2006. At the close of that year and at the close of 2007, he demonstrated he could extend the US military presence without the approval of anyone. (Parliament objected both times but did not punish him and by refusing to do so they've allowed this to be a power of the prime minister.) Today Lara Jakes (AP) reports Nouri posted a message to his website stating that it was up to Parliament and that he had spoken of the issue with US Vice President Joe Biden yesterday. AFP quoted a statement from Nouri's office yesterday on the phone call, "The prime minister assured Mr. Biden that in the end it is up to the parliament to decide whether the country needs American forces to stay or not after the end of this year." Alsumaria TV notes the statement from Nouri also said "he expects the leaders of Iraqi political blocs to reach an agreement in this regard during their upcoming meeting. On the other hand US vice President stressed that the USA support Iraq government in facing different challenges in the inside and the outside and stressed on the necessity of ongoing strategic relations between the two countries."

Ali Abdel Azim (Al Mada) reports on a meeting yesterday between State of Law (Nouri's political slate) and Iraqiya (Ayad Allawi's) in which both sides are stating efforts were made in anticipation of Saturday's big meet-up at Jalal Talabni's. Iraqiya's excited that the defense ministries were discussed. Dar Addustour notes that the rumor is Abdul Karim al-Samarrai, currently Minister of Science and Technology, will be nominated to be Minister of Defense. However, meet-ups don't always take place. Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf Tweets:

jane arraf
Whether the meeting takes place this weekend or not, one thing is being extended. The United Nations Security Council notes:
The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for another year as it welcomed recent security improvements in the country but stressed the need for further progress on the humanitarian, human rights and political fronts.
In a resolution adopted unanimously, Council members agreed to continue the work of UNAMI for a period of 12 months, in line with the latest report of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the work of the mission.
The resolution noted that Iraq's security situation had improved "through concerted political and security efforts" and added that further advances will be made through meaningful political dialogue.
All communities in the country should be involved in the political process, refrain from statements or actions that aggravate tensions and reach "a comprehensive solution on the distribution of resources," according to the resolution.
Council members urged the Government to continue to promote human rights, including by supporting the country's Independent High Commission for Human Rights and by developing strategies to ensure that women can play a much greater decision-making role in society.
As noted earlier, State of Law is said to have played nice with Iraqiya in a meeting yesterday. They had every reason to. They needed support on a measure. Today they were set to take to Parliament in an attempt to do away with the Electoral Commission. However, Dar Addustour reported that Iraqiya decided yesterday not to vote to sack the chair of the EC or its members. What does the Electoral Commission matter? It's regularly cited as a body that can be trusted. It's independent. Nouri attempted to seize control of it a few months back but there was push back (including from the committee). In March 2010, Nouri declared himself the winner of the March 7th elections via his own polling (which he released to reporters -- some like NPR presented it as fact and did not credit where they were getting their numbers) before the votes were even counted. When the votes were counted, his State of Law came in second to Iraqiya. Even with relatives on the Commission and even with his veiled threats and explicit whining, the Electoral Commission refused to change the results enough to call State of Law a winner. Had they not been present and independent, there would have been no block on Nouri at all or even the pretense of fair elections. Before what happened today, a refresher -- Iraqiya got the most votes in the March 7th elections. Shortly after Political Stalemate I ended, a small group of Iraqiya members broke with the larger group. This smaller group is known as White Iraqiya. With that in mind, Aswat al-Iraq reports State of Law made their move in Parliament today as planned and they did not have much support. As their proposal went down in defeat what did Nouri's group do? Did you guess tantrum time? You are correct. They stomped their feet and stormed out. An unnamed MP tells Aswat al-Iraq, "The State of Law Coalition and the White al-Iraqiya Alliance have withdrawn trust from the Elections Commission" and when others did not support them, the two groups withdrew from the session.
As Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin) tells Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda) in 9 to 5, "Well, I'll be damned. Just look who got paid off for services rendered." Yesterday Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported 50 members of tubby tyrant Moqtada al-Sadr's encounter group won prison release despite being convicted and behind bars "for crimes including murder, kidnapping and attacks on U.S. troops." The convicted were pardoned "by President Jalal Talabani at the request of the Prime Minister Nouri Maliki" -- no doubt to allow the convicted to self-empower themselves in the cut-throat 'new' Iraq. Mini-blowhard Moqtada insisted and spat that US forces would not remain in Iraq beyond 2011 or he was going to get his Mehdi militia back together. Then he infamously did a complete turn around on the issue stating he would not reform his militia. Why? Again, "Just look who got paid off for services rendered."
The Vice President today called Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani to offer condolences on the loss of President Barzani's mother, Hamayil Khan, who passed away Wednesday. The Vice President told President Barzani that he wished he could have paid his respects in person and that his thoughts and prayers are with the Barzani family at this time.
Aswat al-Iraq reports that Jalal Talabani attended the funeral today and spoke warmly of Hamayil Khan and her "important role in the Kurdish people's struggle."

Yesterday the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee examined the costs of war. Kat covered it at her site last night with "Soldiers aren't gods," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "Senator Johnny Isakson (Wally)" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Scott Brown in the Committee spotlight ." The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair is Senator Patty Murray whose office notes:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Murray Press Office

Wednesday, July 27, 2011 (202) 224-2834

VETERANS: Senator Murray Chairs Hearing to Examine the Human and Financial Costs of War

Hearing shines a light on the often overlooked long-term costs that must be paid to support veterans and their families and how we must protect and plan for this lifetime of care in the current budget climate

· WATCH the hearing

· The full text of witness testimonies can be viewed here.

· Senator Murray's opening statement MP3 audio file can be found here.

· Crystal Nicely's opening testimony MP3 audio file can be found here.

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, held a hearing to examine the real human and financial costs of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how as a nation we need to plan to keep our promise to these veterans for the rest of their lives.

"As we all know, when our nation goes to war, it's not just the costs of fighting that war that must be accounted for. We must also

includ the cost of caring for our veterans and families long

after the fighting is over," said Senator Murray. "No matter what

fiscal crisis we face, no matter how dividied

we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, and

no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets

-- we must remember that we can't balance our budget at the

expense of the health care and benefits our veterans have

earned. Their sacrifices have been too great. They have done every-

thing that has been asked of them. They have been separated

from their families through repeat deployments. They have

sacrificed life and limb in combat. And they have done all of this

selflessly and with honor to our country. And the commitment

we have to them is non-negotiable."

At the hearing, Senator Murray heard from Crystal Nicely, the wife of Marine Corporal Todd Nicely, a quadruple amputee veteran of the War in Afghanistan. Nicely described the lifetime of support her and her husband will require and about the red tape she has already faced in her daily struggle to provide Todd with the care he needs. She also discussed their continued frustration over the lack of consistent care and attention her husband has received.

The Senator also heard testimony from Paul Rieckhoff, the Executive Director and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Rieckhoff outlined the high unemployment rate for new veterans and highlighted the wide range of specific skill sets they hold that translate to civilian trades. Reickhoff also called on the public, private and nonprofit sectors to work together in order to ensure returning servicemembers are able to easily transition into the American workforce.

Finally, the hearing featured the views of budget experts from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office and the RAND Corporation on the long-term costs associated with providing mental and physical health care, supporting caregivers, maintaining prosthetics, and providing benefits.

The full text of Senator Murray's opening statement follows:

"Welcome to today's hearing, where we will examine the lifetime costs of supporting our newest generation of veterans. As we all know, when our nation goes to war, it's not just the costs of

fighting that war that must be accounted for. We must also

includ the cost of caring for our veterans and families long

after the fighting is over.

"And that is particularly true today, at a time when we have more

than half-a-million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the VA health

care system -- an over 100% increase since 2008.

"This presents a big challenge - and one that we have no choice

but to step up to meet if we are going to avoid many of the same

mistakes we saw with the Vietnam generation. But it's more

than just the sheer number of new veterans that will be coming

home that poses a challenge to the VA.

"It's also the extent of their wounds -- both visible and invisible

-- and the resources it will take to provide our veterans with

quality care.

"Through the wonders of modern medicine, service members

who would have been lost in previous conflicts are coming

home to live productive and fulfilling lives. But they will need

a lifetime of care from the VA.

"Today, we will hear from the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, the RAND Corporation and

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, in an effort to help

us quantify and understand those costs, and to ensure that we

can meet the future needs of our veterans.

"But today's hearing is also important to better understanding

the social and economic costs borne by veterans and their

families. And today we are so fortunate to be joined by one

of those brave family members -- Crystal Nicely -- who is not

only a wife but also a caregiver to her husband, Marine Corporal

Todd Nicely.

"Todd was seriously injured by an I.E.D. in the southern

Helmand Province of Afghanistan and since that time has

come home to fight every day, focus on his recovery, and I

even heard yesterday that he has already started to drive


"I want to take a moment to say thank you so much for your

service to our country. You have shown bravery not only as

a Marine in Afghanistan, but also through the courage you have displayed during your road to recovery. I invited Crystal here

today because I think it is incredibly important that we hear

her perspective.

"The costs we have incurred for the wars in Iraq and

Afghanistan -- and will continue to incur for a very long time --

extend far beyond dollars and cents. And when I first met

Crystal last month while touring Bethesda Naval Base her story

illustrated that. Crystal is here today to talk about the human


"And that cost is not limited exclusively to the servicemembers

and veterans who have fought and fighting these wars, but it

also is felt by the families of these heroes who work tirelessly

to support their loved ones through deployments and re-

habilitation -- day in and day out. Many, like Crystal, have given

up their own jobs to become full time caregivers and advocates

for their loved ones.

"Last month, while testifying before the Senate Appropriations

Subcommittee on Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of

Staff, Admiral Mullen told me that 'without the family members

we would be nowhere in these wars.' I couldn't agree more --

and after we hear Crystal's story that will be even more clear.

"As the members of this Committee know, over the course of the

last few hearings we've examined how the veterans of today's

conflicts are faced with unique challenges that VA and DoD are

often falling short of meeting.

"We have explored mental health care gaps that need to be filled,

cutting edge prosthetics that must be maintained, a wave of new

and more complex benefit claims that are taking too long to

complete, the need to fulfill the promise of the post 9/11 GI Bill,

and the need to support veterans who are winding up out-of-work

and on the streets.

"All of these unmet challenges come with costs. Some costs

we will be able to calculate. Some will not be fully known for

decades. But today's hearings will be a reminder that in order

to meet these costs we must safeguard the direct investments

we make in veterans care and benefits, get the most value out

of every dollar we spend, and start planning today -- at a time

when critical long-term budget decisions are being made.

"As we all know, there is no question that we need to make smart decisions to tighten our belts and reduce our nation's debt and


"But no matter what fiscal crisis we face, no matter how dividied

we may be over approaches to cutting our debt and deficit, and

no matter how heated the rhetoric here in Washington D.C. gets

-- we must remember that we can't balance our budget at the

expense of the health care and benefits our veterans have


"Their sacrifices have been too great. They have done every-

thing that has been asked of them. They have been separated

from their families through repeat deployments. They have

sacrificed life and limb in combat. And they have done all of this

selflessly and with honor to our country. And the commitment

we have to them is non-negotiable.

"Not just today, but far into the future.

"Thank you all for being here today, I will now turn to Senator

Brown for his opening statement."

Read on ...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Bully Boy and Pelosi Christmas


From December 16, 2007, that's "A Bully Boy and Pelosi Christmas."

It was inspired by Nancy and the House giving Bush the illegal war funding.

They caved so quickly. They talked so big all the way through the lead up to the 2006 mid-tems and then they caved so very quickly.

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Jalal Talabani prepares to host another house party, Political Stalemate II continues, US officials think discussions about the US military staying in Iraq could go on for months, and more.
Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Flashpoints Radio airs live on KPFA from 5:00 to 6:00 pm PST, Monday through Friday. Excerpt.
Kevin Pina: And now we are joined once again by our special correspondent Mahdi Nazemroaya direct from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, welcome back to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Thank you, Kevin, good to hear your voice again.
Kevin Pina: Well listen, overnight everything has changed. It wasn't but yesterday and two days ago that the Obama administration and France and the NATO coalition were saying 'No solution to this unless Muammar Gaddafi stepped down.' Today they've completely reversed their position and changed their tune. They're saying now that that is not a prerequisite to negotiating a deal. You actually called it on the ground yesterday.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes, yes, Kevin, I've seen the negotiators they've been sending. And to be very frank with you, there are journalists here who are acting in the position of feelers, let's say. The journalists here -- Okay, let me qualify what I'm going to say. One of the reasons I came to Libya was as a member of a fact finding mission for the current events in Libya. This is part of an international group. People came from all over including ex-Congress member Cynthia McKinney. People have come from all over western Europe, Africa, all over the world, Canada included. And studying the media has been a point of mine. My notebook was actually mysteriously disappeared, so my original documents disappeared in the Rixos Hotel which is where the international journalists stay. But I want to point out that a lot of the journalists are way far more than just journalists. They're here for other things like mapping social relationships. I even suspect they're trying to see how they can find Gaddafi and report it back to Brussels or Washington for assassination. Now going back to what --
Kevin Pina: Woah, woah, woah, Mahdi. That's a very serious allegation. You're saying that journalists there are actually acting as espionage agents for certain foreign governments.
Mahdi Nazemroaya: Yes, yes. I'm very serious about what I said. I believe even yesterday I told you that a German gentleman was kicked out for suspicion of spying. Like I'm being very cautious with my words here but he came here presenting himself as an expert on Depleted Uranium. He had no qualifications whatsoever. He came to the fact finding commission. He brought machinery with him that he claimed could find DU. It was right after the really strange bombings of the previous night which I said the bombing was not like before. And he was very eager to see the weapons used and if any weapons remained. And he insisted on going to the sites. And how they caught him was he made some stories that didn't follow through. Yes, I'm dead serious about this. The media center has been watching journalists. They're been journalists who've applied to come here with fake passports. I haven't seen these obviously but I've been told that passport pictures are not even proper. They've looked up some of these journalists' backgrounds. It does not even concur with the nationality or the place of birth they've presented. So, yes, I'm saying that they sent spies. Whether you want to say CNN, Sky News -- The mainstream media's here far more than just to cover the news, they make the news. Number one, they make the news. They're not here to report the news at all. So I'm going to emphasize that. They're here to make the news. They've sent [CNN's] Ivan Watson from their Istanbul bureau. I was at the fact finding commission when he came. And they sent Jomana Karadsheh [also CNN]. She's a producer based in Baghdad. Look, I'm going to point it out. She told us that she's Lebanese at the fact finding commission but her background says she's Jordanian. So she was dishonest right there. The questions they brought were not about finding facts, they were more like negotiating points. These people are here on a very ominous standing and it has to do with the fact that the Obama administration, Barack Hussein Obama, Hillary Clinton and NATO are on very weak footing. France's prime minister -- this is an official position when France's prime minister or president make these statements -- said Gaddafi could stay. They are in a very weak position and everybody in Libya and in Libyan capitol Tripoli on the Mediterranean Coast knows that full well.
Turning to Iraq, Ed O'Keefe and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report that Iraqi and American officials are both stating that the 'deadline' for informing the US that they want the US military to stay will not be kept. That deadline was Jalal Talabani's deadline. Set and announced by Talabani. Among the problems O'Keefe and Alwan state is that there is some speculation, on the American side, that "a request might not come until March." For those late to the party, the Status Of Forces Agreement extended the US military occupation of Iraq by three years -- unlike the UN mandates which had been used previously and only covered one year at a time. December 31st of this year, the SOFA (negotiated by the Bush administration) expires. If it is not extended it can be replaced with a new agreement or all US forces (except those protecting the sprawling US Embassy in Baghdad and the US consulates sprouting up all over Iraq) can leave.
The White House's primary plan is to reach an agreement and keep the US military in Iraq as is -- meaning under the Pentagon. The back-up plan is sliding them over to the State Dept and keeping them in that way. With Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio), John Glaser discussed the US military staying in Iraq. Excerpt:
John Glaser: Whatever sort of contingent forces remain in Iraq -- there surely will be some amount -- they're going to be in combatant capacity despite the denials of US officials that are saying right now they're going to be noncombat and so on and so forth. They will have to continue to fight against an insurgency whose main aim is to get them out of the country. There's no -- There's really no indication that the national security state in America will treat Iraq any differently than they've treated the many other countries which they continue to okay. Why would they treat it any differently than South Korea where we still have 50,000 some odd troops. There's just no indication that they would. And so we need to either come to grips with the fact that they will be there and they will continue fighting or -- I'm not really sure what the alternative is.
Scott Horton: Yeah, well, I'm already making bumper sticks that say: "End The Iraq War: Ron Paul 2012."
John Glaser: Right.
Scott Horton: Cause Obama sure ain't doing it.
John Glaser: No, absolutely not. I'm glad that Ron Paul is running again. I think he sort of invigoarted a d a distinct class of antiwar and I think he'll build on that this time around and we'll get some more colleagues in that endevaor.
We'll come back to withdrawal and the 'trainers' but they were talking about Ron Paul and yesterday Judy Woodrfuff conducted an interview with US House Rep Ron Paul (who is running for the GOP presidential nomination). Excerpt:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Let's go to some of the international issues you touched on very quickly. You want to bring troops home. What should the U.S. footprint be internationally? What is the U.S. role in the world?

REP. RON PAUL: Well, it should be a footprint of trade and friendship, as we were advised and as the Constitution permits. The footprint shouldn't be a military footprint. It shouldn't be -


REP. RON PAUL: The footprint we're leaving now - our drone missiles dropping bombs and killing innocent civilians, launched from the United States with computers. That's not the kind of footprint I want.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Afghanistan. How quickly would you bring the troops home?

REP. RON PAUL: As quick as the ships could get there. It's insane on what we're doing. And I'll tell you one thing about this business about the military: We just had a quarterly report, and they listed all the money that all the candidates got from the military. I got twice as much as all the other candidates put together on the Republican side, and even more than Obama got, which tells me that these troops want to come home as well because they know exactly what I'm talking about.

Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reported earlier this week on Kirkuk, "Nowhere, Iraqi and U.S. officials say, is the argument for keeping American troops in Iraq past Dec. 31 stronger than in Kirkuk." He quotes stating the Governor of Kirkuk Najmeldeen Kereem, "The Iraqi security forces do not have the ability to secure Iraq's borders, its airspace or its sole seaport in Basra." The governor wants the US military to stay on.
While Kirkuk might want the US to stay on, supposedly the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq) will be keeping US troops. Al Rafidayn reports the Iraqi president gave an interview to China Central Television in which he explained that the Kurdistan region is planning to keep US forces. And what of outside the Kurdistan region? In the rest of Iraq? Well there are a few problems, Jalal explained. See Iraqi has trouble protecting itself. It can't, he declared, protect its own air space, the land or the sea. I'm confused, what does that leave? By air, land or sea. What else is there? How does that passage in the US Marines' Hymn go?
From the Halls of Montezuma
To the shores of Tripoli
We fight our country's battles
In the air, on land, and sea

What else is there?
I guess we could go Wiccan and talk the four corners? Earth, Air, Water and Fire? So Jalal would be saying that Iraq has the capacity to protect the fire?
Who knows but it's pretty clear that if you're the president of the country and you're maintaining your forces can protect your country . . . except by land, air and water, you've just tossed out a huge "but" and, no, your forces can't protect your country. (Or, at least, you don't think they can.)

To keep the US military in Iraq, Jalal Talabani hid behind "trainers." That's the lie that the Iraqi government currently thinks it can trick the Iraqi people with. The US will remain in "a limited number" as "trainers." Strange. I don't see how "trainers" can protect your air space, or your waters, or your land. Al Sabaah also notes Talabani's non-stop use of "trainers." Phil Stewart (Reuters) notes, "Legal safeguards for U.S. troops could become a major stumbling block to any potential deal with Iraq to keep some American forces in the country beyond a year-end withdrawal deadline."
Nizar Latif (The National) reported at the end of last month that a number of Shi'ites were worried about a possible US departure and fear that civil war could return and they worry about the Mahdi militia of Moqtada al-Sadr: "Critics now worry that the militia, which supporters claim can call up 150,000 fighters will pick up weapons if a new security vacuum opens up when Iraq's army and police take over the departs." Moqtada al-Sadr made many threats to rain down fire and brimstone should the US military stay in Iraq. Then he announced he wouldn't oppose such a decision. NPR's Kelly McEvers (All
Things Considered) reported on the issue on yesterday. Excerpt:
KELLY McEVERS: This is the issue with Sadr's organization. Despite its new image as a political player, it still maintains a militant wing that stands ready to threaten or even fight its rivals. In the case of Hezbollah in Lebanon, the ostensible reason for keeping guns is to resist Israel. For Sadr, it's to resist the U.S. But what happens when the enemy occupier leaves? Here's Thanassis Cambanis again.
Professor THANASSIS. CAMBANIS: If the logic of resistance is what defines you as a movement, you're going to have a lot of trouble shifting to some other footing when the enemy you resist is gone.
McEVERS: That's why following the Hezbollah model too closely might eventually be Sadr's undoing, Cambanis says. Two decades after its civil war, Lebanon remains volatile and divided, and Hezbollah, he says, is losing credibility. In the short term, though, Cambanis says, as long as Iraq's weak and incomplete government remains unable to provide security and basic services, Muqtada al-Sadr will remain a reasonable alternative.
Staying on the topic of Moqtada al-Sadr, we have maintained that he would back down on his 'vow' to reform the Mahdi militia to attack US soldiers. The 'vow' (empty threat) was similar to ones he had made before and not followed through on and there was also the issue of hs long stay in Iran while he was supposedly a 'leader' to 'his people.' More and more US, European and Arab opinion (intelligence and diplomatic community) was that Moqtada had lost hold of 'his people' and was at a very weak point -- one similar to 2008 when the Bush administration elected to attack him (with Nouri joining in) and allow him to play 'dangerous rebel' and up his prestige and 'cred.' By remaining out of Iraq after being seen as strong (after the 2008 attack), he lost what he'd gained. That's what we based our opinion on.
Events have backed up that view. Gareth Porter has a different take on why Moqtada changed his mind. He explains it in his article "What Is Sadr's Game on Future US Troop Presence" (IPS via Dissident Voice) which we've noted twice this week. And he explained it in his conversation with Scott Horton (Antiwar Radio). We noted that interview twice this week. Read his piece but my summary of it is that Moqtada realized he will be the next prime minister and is now interested in perserving the system and not destroying it.
Gareth Porter could be correct. The opinion we've offered here could be completely wrong. But Gareth's opinion really doesn't make sense. And even Scott Horton seems to sense that as he returns to that topic (such as in the interview we noted earlier). It's possible that Moqtada had an about face on this because Jalal Talabani, who's been meeting with everyone, pointed out the details Gareth presents. And hearing that from Talabani, Moqtada did an about face. For Gareth's version to be correct, it appears to require someone points out to Moqtada all that 'will happen.' If Moqtada had come to the realization on his own, the sudden about face makes no sense.
So maybe something like that happened. Gareth could be correct. But I don't think it makes sense and I'm sticking with what we've argued for months. In that scenario, Moqtada has little to command because his refusal to keep 'skin in the game' by staying in Iraq, loosened his hold on his organization and all of its aspects. That hypothesis may be backed up by Moqtada's own remarks that he had to bring the Mahdi militia under control. This is again hit upon today in a report by Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters):
Anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army has spawned dozens of renegade splinter groups which frequently assassinate Iraqi officials on behalf of foreign sponsors, Sadrist and security officials say.
[. . .]
A popular Shi'ite cleric who leads the militia as well as his own political bloc, Sadr has repudiated the splinter groups, describing them as "murderers" and "criminals", and has called on Iraqi security forces and tribes to expel them.
"They have turned into mercenary groups which have no ideology or specific agenda. They are more like contract killers," said Major-General Hassan al-Baidhani, chief of staff for Baghdad's security operations command.
While Moqtada spent the last years in Iran, time did not stand still and common sense will tell you that if Ida is the leader but Ida's out of the county and Jose, Mia and Bill have to do all the wok in country -- including risking arrest, including risking death -- Jose, Mia and Bill aren't going to be thrilled when Ida pops back into the country three years later and expects everyone to listne to her. Moqtada can't run a 'revolution' by remote.
Gareth Porter may be right and I may be wrong. Wouldn't be the first or last time that I was wrong. But the yarn being told does not add up and that's why Scott Horton's trying to suss it out in his conversation with John Glaser. That's why he keeps returning to it trying to figure out what Moqtada is thinking. Because it doesn't add up.
Why the sudden turn around by Moqtada? In Gareth's version it's because Moqtada realized he would be the next prime minister in a couple of years and realized he couldn't afford to tear down the system he would command. Okay. Well why did Moqtada all the sudden realize that? Every step on the ladder begs another question because on the most basic level -- human nature -- it does not make sense. We've excerpted from Gareth's article and we included lengthy quotes on this from his conversation with Scott Horton. There's a link to his piece several paragraphs up. I'm not trying to distort what he's saying. But what he's saying doesn't currently make sense. It may be missing a step or it may be invalid. I don't know. But my opinion is that Moqtada lost control of his group -- and we've argued that repeatedly pointing to the low turnout for parades and Moqtada's sudden decision to turn a parade into a march by his armed supporters. Moqtada's own remarks appear to back up that he's lost control (but his remarks indicate also that he thinks he can take back control -- maybe he can).

At present, he really shouldn't matter but he continues to be a focus. Largely because he's a press created object -- like a bad actor who sleeps with his director to get that big break and gets the Vanity Fair cover and then, two to three years later, people ask, "What ever happened to . . ." and "What did anyone ever see in . . ." (For those playing guessing games, that actually describes two actors on the cover of Vanity Fair in the last two decades.) At some point, maybe an interviewer will ask him if he's still relevant? Who knows. But he's taken himself out of the conversation of should Iraq keeps US troops or not by his own statements.

Dar Addustour reports Jalal's got another house party planned. And that they will again discuss implementing the Erbil Agreement but that Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) is making warning noises about what might happen if the agreement is not implemented (this agreement was signed off on in November and ended Political Stalemate I). Al Mada adds that Iraqiya is floating the prospect of a vote of no confidence in the current government. What does that mean? A call for early elections. The country is in Political Stalemate II and Reidar Visser (Carnegie Endowment) offers these thoughts on it:

When Iraqi politicians finally formed a new government in December 2010, nine months after the parliamentary elections, many voices in the international community were congratulatory. Observers emphasized that the Iraqis had managed to create an "inclusive government" in which all the different ethno-sectarian groups in the country were represented. Critics of the deal that led to the formation of the second government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pointed out that it simply papered over persisting conflicts among Iraqi politicians. It also produced an oversized, ineffective, and unstable government with lots of unnecessary, bogus ministries (including such portfolios as civil society and the southern marshlands), whereas ministries that were truly needed, especially relating to national security, remained unfilled.

Eight months on, it seems the critics got it right: the government remains incomplete and lacks key ministers for the interior and defense, whereas the strategic policy council (celebrated by the United States as a key power-sharing instrument of the government-formation deal) has yet to even be formed. Much of 2011 has been spent agreeing on three unnecessary deputies for the ceremonial presidential office (one of whom has already resigned), while progress on the debate between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad over oil exports has been limited to a pragmatic agreement to export from two fields -- and the pending parliamentary agreement on oil and gas laws still seems a long way off.
And yet we constantly hear half-truths and fantasies of 'progress' in Iraq. Sometimes 'progess' is nothing but a repeating PR stunt. Case in point, Al Sabaah reports that Iraq's Museum will be opening in the next three months. And there's a nice little picture of the museum. We do love it when the museum's 'opening' is in the news. Remember February 24, 2009:

"As for when the rest of Iraq will be able to see the museum, that's unclear. Iraqi guards Monday afternoon told journalists it would be a couple of months," notes the Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond (credited that way here and in the snapshot yesterday because no writer is named in the blog post). That's really the heart of the story. Yesterday, you had a limited, for-show opening. Sudarsan Raghavan and K.I. Ibrahim's "Six Years After Its Pillage, Iraqi Museum to Reopen" (Washington Post) reports puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki insists the 'opening' indicates an "embrace of democracy" -- embrace by who and of what by whom? Democracy for invited guests only?

It was an opening of sorts, a one-day opening. It's all smoke and mirrors to establish 'progress' in Iraq. If we all agree to be stupid or lie, we can be Ad Melkert and claim progress in Iraq (see yesterday's snapshot).
Iraqis who can't find their loved ones wouldn't argue 'progress' in Iraq. At the heart of the protests in Iraq has been the wives, mothers and daughers whose husbands, sons and fathers have disappeared into the Iraqi 'justice' system. Wednesday NPR's Isra' al Rubei'i and Kelly McEvers (Morning Edition) reported on the women who take part in the Baghdad protests. (And please note, the women can be found all over Iraq and have been protesting throughout Iraq since January.) They speak with Umm Haidar whose son Haider was taken away by US troops five years ago and she has searched for him ever since, "All I want to know is if my son is dead or alive."

McEvers notes the women say "we've searched the prisons and morgues" and that they come to Baghdad's Tahrir Square "as a last hope." Nouri did come up with a program to help these women back in February.
KELLY MCEVERS: Earlier this year, as uprisings around the region toppled some leaders and forced others to announce reforms, the Iraqi government said it would launch a new program to search for the missing. The plan was that the Iraqi Army would take requests from families at a battalion headquarters like this one. Then a joint civilian-military committee would search prison rosters, hospitals, and lists from newly discovered mass graves. At this station alone, some 600 families registered.
Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)
MCEVERS: This soldier, who doesn't want to give his name, worked on the new committee. He says the registration is now closed, and nothing has been done with the list of the missing. The soldier says the program was simply a way to placate anti-government protesters.
Unidentified Man: (Through translator) People who we received in the beginning, are coming now and asking us, what did you do? And we tell them, nothing. We couldn't find anyone.
A soldier states Nouri's 'plan' was "simply a way to placate" and to defuse the protests. That's 'progress'? The inability to name a Minister of National Security, a Minister of Defense or even a Minister of Interior all these months after becoming prime minister-designate is 'progress'? (Those posts were supposed to have been named within thirty days of Nouri being named prime minister-designate, per the Iraqi Constitution.)
As the security ministries remain without ministers to head them, as Political Stalemate II continues, violence has increased. Reuters notes today's violence includes 1 government employee being shot dead in Kirkuk, a Najaf bombing injuring three children, a Kirkuk roadside bombing claiming 1 life and leaving two more people injured, and, dropping back to last night, a Mosul grenade attack on an Iraqi military checkpoint which claimed the life of one soldier.
And ETAN gets the last word:

ETAN Urges Secretary Clinton to Condition Security Assistance to Indonesia on Rights

Contact: John M. Miller,,+1- 917-690-4391

July 20 - As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton travelled to Bali, the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) urged her to condition U.S. security assistance to Indonesia on real improvements in human rights by Indonesia government and genuine accountability for violations of human rights.
restoration of assistance to Indonesia's notorious Kopassus special forces announced a year ago should be reversed," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN. "Kopassus training was meant to be the carrot to encourage respect for rights. There is no evidence it has done so. U.S. law bars cooperation with military and police units with such egregious human rights records. The U.S should set an example by following it's own law."
On the eve of Secretary Clinton's visit, ETAN issued the following statement:

In her February 2009 visit to Indonesia,
Secretary of State Clinton praised democratic reforms since the fall of the U.S.-backed Suharto, saying "Indonesia has experienced a great transformation in the last 10 years." While Indonesia has made progress since the dark days of Suharto, crimes against humanity and other violations of human rights continue. U.S. policy has largely focused on narrow strategic and economic interests that have little to do with the well-being of the Indonesian people. Meanwhile, progress has stalled. Human rights remain under threat. The military continues to find ways to maintain its influence. The pleas of the victims of human rights crimes in Timor-Leste, Aceh, West Papua, and elsewhere in the archipelago are ignored. Senior figures responsible for the worst abuses prosper.

In recent years, the U.S. has provided substantial assistance to both the Indonesian military and police. This assistance is said to come with lessons on human rights. The human rights lessons are not being learned. People see the police as abusers, not protectors and military impunity prevails. Indonesia's security forces are learning is that U.S. will assist them no matter how they behave.

Over the past year,
horrific videos and other reports of torture, the burning of villages and other crimes offer graphic proof that the people of West Papua and elsewhere continue to suffer at the hands of military and police. Soldiers prosecuted for these and other incidents receive light sentences. Just this past week, four civilians, a women and three children, were wounded when Indonesian troops shot into a hut in the Puncak Jaya area of Papua.

As many as
100 political prisoners remain jailed: prosecuted and jailed for the peaceful expression of opinion. In many regions, minority religious institutions are persecuted, often with the active or tacit assistance of local security officials. Vigilante groups, like the Islamic Defenders Front, seek to enforce their own extra-legal version of morality, again with the backing of officials. Journalists, human rights defenders and anti-corruption activists are threatened and occasionally killed. The organizers of the 2004 poisoning of Indonesia's most prominent human rights lawyer, Munir, remain free and seemingly above the law.

In recent years, the U.S. has provided
substantial assistance to both the Indonesian military and police. This assistance is said to come with lessons on human rights. Lessons that are not being learned. People see the police as abusers, not protectors and military impunity prevails. Indonesia's security forces are learning is that U.S. will assist them no matter how they behave.

We urge the U.S. to condition its security assistance on an end to human rights violations and to impunity. The U.S. should heed the recommendation of Timor-Leste's
Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in Timor-Leste (CAVR), which urged nations to "regulate military sales and cooperation with Indonesia more effectively and make such support totally conditional on progress towards full democratisation, the subordination of the military to the rule of law and civilian government, and strict adherence with international human rights, including respect for the right of self-determination." Indonesia does not yet meet this standard.

The U.S., as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, should work to establish an international tribunal to bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights crimes committed during Indonesia's 24-year occupation of Timor-Leste. This would provide a measure of justice to the victims and their families and serve as a deterrent to future human rights violators. A tribunal is supported by the many victims of these crimes and by human rights advocates in Timor-Leste, Indonesia, the U.S., and elsewhere.

Finally, we urge Secretary Clinton to apologize to the peoples of Indonesia and Timor-Leste for U.S. support for the Suharto dictatorship. Her visit offers the U.S. a chance to decisively break with past U.S. support for torture, disappearances, rape, invasion and illegal occupation, extrajudicial murder environmental devastation. Clinton should offer condolences to Suharto's many victims throughout the archipelago and support the prosecution of those responsible.

ETAN was founded in 1991 to advocate for self-determination for Indonesian-occupied Timor-Leste. Since the beginning, ETAN has worked to condition U.S. military assistance to Indonesia on respect for human rights and genuine reform. The U.S.-based organization continues to advocate for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste and Indonesia. For more information, see ETAN's web site:
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