Thursday, October 25, 2012

Future of the Court

Future of the Court

From May 26, 2009, that's "Future of the Court."  The point of this comic was that Judge Anna Diggs Taylor stood up for the Constitution while Bully Boy Bush was in office and should have been rewarded by Barack for that.

Instead it was push centrist Elana Kagan.  Imagine how great it could be if we'd gotten
Anna Diggs Taylor on the Court.

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, WikiLeaks has a new document release, a War Hawk rushes to embrace Barack, not a great deal of interest in Iraq in the US presidential election and more.
In the US presidential race, incumbent Barack Obama notched up a high profile endorsement and, were I British Socialist who let my freak flag fly in alternatve UK publications but pretended to be New Labour when writing for a daily paper, I'd be all gaa-gaa-goo-goo.  But not having whored my soul out thus far, I'll instead note that Barack has received the endorsement of War Criminal Colin Powell.
2008 pledged delegate for Barack to the DNC Norman Solomon described Collie Powell's past this way at ZNet in 2003
Tacit erasure of inconvenient history -- including his own -- is integral to the warm relationship between Powell and U.S. news media.  There's a lot to erase.  For instance, in January 1986, serving as a top aide to Pentagon chief Caspar Weinberger, he supervised the transfer of 4,508 TOW missiles to the CIA, and then sought to hide the transaction from Congress and the public.  No wonder: Almost half of those missiles had become part of the Iran-Contra scandal's arms-for-hostages deal.
As President Reagan's national security adviser, Powell worked diligently on behalf of the contra guerrillas who were killing civilians in Nicaragua.  In December 1989, Powell -- at that point the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- was a key player behind the invasion of Panama.
The Gulf War catapulted Powell to the apex of American poliical stardom in early 1991.  When he was asked about the Iraqi death toll from the war, Powell said that such numbers didn't interest him.
The numbers of the dead didn't interest him?  In 2003, Jack Kelly (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) reported on demographer and Carnegie Mellon University professor Beth Daponte's estimates "that 158,000 Iraqis -- 86,194 men, 39.612 women and 32,195 children -- had perished in the war and its aftermath."  Those numbers don't interest Colin, not even the children, not even the 32,195 children.   American Everyman covers today's endorsement with a post entiteld "Liar, Neocon, War-Criminal Colin Powell Endorses Obama -- 'I think we ought to keep on the path we are on'."  In 2008, Collie endorsed Barack as well leading Joe Mowrey (Dissident Voice) to revisit some of the high water marks (waterboarding marks?) on Powell's criminal record:
Powell is the guy who, as a bright young 31 year old Army Major, did his level best to keep information about the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam from becoming public. Specifically, he was charged with investigating a letter from a whistle-blowing soldier giving detailed accounts of many of the atrocities committed by U.S. military personnel in Vietnam under the auspices of the Phoenix Program. That program was a lovely little package of war crimes intended to "identify and neutralize (via infiltration, capture, or murder) the civilian infrastructure supporting the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (the Viet Cong)." In other words, it was a U.S. and South Vietnamese death squad operation which rampaged through the country side slaughtering civilians and burning down entire villages. You know, capturing the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. Powell summed up his investigation of the whistle-blower's accusations by saying, "In direct refutation of this portrayal is the fact that relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent."
Well that's enough for me. If Powell endorsed the rousing success of the Phoenix Program, what more do we need to know? Queried about his participation in the attempted white wash of My Lai, some 40 years later Powell said, "I mean, I was in a unit that was responsible for My Lai. I got there after My Lai happened. So, in war, these sorts of horrible things happen every now and again…" Personally, I think he sounds really sorry. And he's seems to be bashing Republicans these days, so I like him a lot.
Fast forward to 2003. Then Secretary of State, Powell, made a triumphant speech to the United Nations outlining the urgent need for us to invade Iraq in a war of aggression in order to eliminate the massive amounts of weapons of mass destruction which Saddam Hussein was going to use to invade and destroy the United States. Thank Buddha that Powell was able to use his dignity and gravitas to convince the world of the imminent danger. Imagine where we might be today without his steadfast endorsement of that magnificent war crime. I don't know about you, but I wasn't into wearing a turban and having Saddam Hussein's picture on the one dollar bill. I shudder to think of Brittany Spears in a burka. Of course, it's a bit unfortunate that Powell's speech to the U.N. was a pack of outright fabrications and lies. But I've forgiven him by now, especially since he's decided to come out in favor our Our Guy Obama.
Iran-Contra, My Lai, the Iraq War -- he's sort of like the Forest Gump of Death and Destruction. But with Collie, there's never enough room to include all the harm he's done.  For instance, few writers bother to note the way he savaged Bill Clinton's plan to allow gays to serve openly in the military.  Collie was the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff back then.  Today, we realize how awful homophobia is.  If Collie hadn't stood in Bill's way, think of how much better life could have been for LGBTs that much sooner.  Think of the people who wouldn't have been kicked out of the military.  Collie's never apologized for his homophobic.  He dropped his objection a few years back and for that we're all supposed to be grateful? 
Earlier this year, when Collie needed some media attention and was flirting with endorsing Barack, Bill Perdue (FireDogLake) observed, "The fact that Powell is once again endorsing Obama means that Powell feels safe that he won't be indicted as a war criminal as long as Obama continues wars of aggression and that he agrees with Obama's war policy, which will enlarge and expand these wars causing more deaths and putting the finishing touches on the destruction of our economy and standard of living."
Collie The Blot Powell.  Having sold the Iraq War with a lying testimony to the United Nations, Collie appeared shocked that illegal war might go wrong.  As he rushed to get out of a sinking administration in the fall of 2005, he sat down with mother-confessor Barbara Walters to serve up more self-serving half-truths.  As Ava and I noted after that aired:
Walters says, unable to look at him while she does -- oh the drama!, "However, you gave the world false, groundless reasons for going to war. You've said, and I quote, 'I will forever be known as the one who made the case for war.' Do you think this blot on your record will stay with you for the rest of your life?"

Powell: Well it's a, it's a, of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United Nations, uh, United States, to the world. And it will always be uh, part of my, uh, my record.

Walters: How painful is it?

Powell: (shrugs) It was -- it *was* painful. (shifts, shrugs) It's painful now.

Has a less convincing scene ever been performed?
Medea Benjamin and Charles Davids ( observed last June that Powell continues to refuse to take accountability for his actions, "In other words, according to Powell, the fact that he lied to the American public as well as the international community on the eve of a disastrous war is not his fault — heavens no — but the fault of his anonymous underlings, the allegedly timid State Department staffers who lacked the courage to speak truth to their courageous boss. Like many of Powell's anecdotes, it's a tidy little story about leadership that's about as truthful as his U.N. speech."  And just last June, Veterans for Peace, Chapter 92 ("Greater Seattle")  geared up to protest Colin's visit to the area, "Please join members of Greater Seattle Veterans For Peace as we protest the Seattle appearance of former US Army General and Secretary of State Colin Powell. Powell will be the guest of Seattle's City Club and is promoting his new book, It Worked For Me."  I don't know which is worse: Getting the endorsement of a War Criminal or being unable to call out a War Criminal who's endorsed you.
Last night, Rebecca noted that Terry O'Neill and NOW were in violation of the law with the mailing Terry sent out yesterday.  NOW cannot send that mailing and it cannot be listed as coming from NOW.  This is is explained in number 8 of NOW's Faqs online, "NOW's Political Action Committee, or NOW/PAC, supports candidates in federal elections (for Congress and the Presidency.)  You must be a member of NOW to contribute to NOW/PAC.  NOW/PAC is the only part of the national organization that can endorse federal political candidates."  That's pretty damn clear to everyone . . . except Terry O'Neill.  So Terry sent out an e-mail tarring and feathering Mitt Romney for what some other Republican in a race stated.  Guilt by association was the card Terry played.  Colin Powell endorsed Barack.  Despite NOW's supposed (post-Mother Of Us All) commitment to LGBT equality, don't expect NOW or Terry to utter a word.  The endorsement is both offensive and telling.  But you can buy the silence of whores.
And expect many to be silent today as the Butcher of Baghdad himself, Collie The Blot Powell, makes an endorsement and expects the world to take him seriously.  Colin Powell is a War Criminal.  He shouldn't be making endorsements, he should be serving hard time behind bars.  Why might Barack embrace a War Criminal?  Because they're two of a kind?  Timothy P. Carney (Washington Examiner) observes:
President Obama has killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia through a drone war aimed at exterminating the suspected terrorists on his unprecedented and ever-expanding "kill list" — a list that has included U.S. citizens.
In Iraq, Obama tried to perpetuate the U.S. occupation past his promised date for withdrawal, and after Iraqi leaders wanted American troops to leave.
In Libya, Obama illegally intervened in a civil war, sending U.S. fighter jets and missiles to kill a dictator who posed no threat to America. The aftermath of this unauthorized war: a coup in neighboring Mali paired with the rise of al Qaeda in that country, and a terrorist attack in Libya ending in the death of four Americans.
Amid real successes — such as the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, and ultimately ending the occupation of Iraq — Obama's foreign policy has been riddled with failures, scandals and mistakes. But if you watched this week's debate or follow this election cycle's media coverage, you would assume Obama has been throwing a perfect game around the planet.
While Barack makes nice with War Criminals, he continues to attack whistle blowers.  In a smart move by WikiLeaks, they're back in the news.  Charles Miranda (News Limited Network) reports,  "The whistleblowing website tonight released five restricted files from the US Department of Defense, including the standard operating procedure manual for Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay.  Over the next month, the website will publish more than 100 classified documents covering operating procedures at detention camps in Iraq and Cuba."  Reuters quotes Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, stating, "'The Detainee Policies' show the anatomy of the beast that is post-9/11 detention, the carving out of a dark space where law and rights do not apply, where persons can be detained without a trace at the convenience of the U.S. Department of Defense.  It shows the excesses of the early days of war against an unknown 'enemy' and how these policies matured and evolved."
Julian Assange's attorneys should pay attention.  This is how you make people give a damn about WikiLeaks, not by resting on past glories.  The past is the past and can't be taken away.  You want to make the case for Julian Assange's supposed importance, you do it with what WikiLeaks can do, not what it did a few years ago.
Turning to the topic of violence, Jeanette Torres (ABC News) sees violence increasing (for the month) as Eid al-Adha approaches and notes, "Since Sunday, 36 people have been killed in Iraq, more than the combined total of deaths reported during October's first 15 days."  Regardless of whether the pattern holds, violence did continue today.  Alsumaria reports a Mosul motorcycle bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured today.  Alsumaria adds a Tirkt bombing  claimed the life of 1 cousin of Misan al-Jabaari.  AFP notes 15 people died from violence yesterday and calls it the deadliest month of October in Iraq.  Yesterday,  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported a Falluja suicide bomber attacked the home of the father of Rafei al-Essawi (Minister of Finance) leaving 1 woman dead and five more injured (and the suicide bomber dead).  Rafei al-Essawi is a Sunni (not noted in yesterday's coverage) and a member of Iraqiya.   This was not the first attack this year on the al-Essawi family.  Dropping back to the January 3rd snapshot:

 Another member of Iraqiay that Nouri has been targeting is Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi whom Jack Healy and Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) profiled Saturday and noted that Nouri had tried to get the Cabinet to toss him out but the Cabinet had refused. al-Esawi told the New York Times, "Maliki now wants just to get rid of his partners, to build a dictatorship. He wants to consolidate power more and more. Someone else should be prime minister." The day after the comments ran, there was an attempt on al-Essawi's life.  Press TV reported he was the target of a roadside bombing Sunday which left "three of Essawi's bodyguards, two officers and one soldier" wounded. Dan Morse (Washington Post) reports Essawi is calling for an investigation and Morse writes, "Essawi is widely regarded in Iraq as a moderate official."

All Iraq News reports MP Khalid al-Alwani has denounced the attack on al-Essawi's father.  All Iraq News quotes MP Walid al-Mohammadi stating that the targeting of the fathr of an official sets a dangerous precedent. The attack may be (or may not be) part of the continued assault on Sunnis and/or Iraqiya.
The political crisis?  Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai (Center for Strategic and International Studies) have a draft paper on Iraq that notes the following on the political crisis:
While many had hoped that 2012 – and US withdrawal – would mark an era in which Iraqi leaders would focus on solving the numerous problems their country faced, such hopes were quickly dashed by increased political instability and the threat of more violence.
The severity of Iraq's deep political divisions, and the coming intensity of Prime Minister's struggle for power with his rivals became apparent just days after President Obama praised Iraqi democracy progress in a December 2011 White House press conference with Prime Minister Maliki. With the withdrawal of US troops, it became clear that US-Iranian competition in Iraq was to play out in an increasingly uncertain and unstable environment. By late January 2012, New York Times was already reporting that "finally confronting the social, economic, and religious divisions that were papered over by the presence of American troops" posed a far greater challenge than previously anticipated.
The ethnic and sectarian tensions that have driven these recent divisions have been apparent ever since Iraq's founding as a state, but the current crisis has is direct origins in Iraq's March 2010 parliamentary elections. A range of rival political and sectarian factions sought power. Two factions – Ayad Allawi's Iraqiyya bloc and Maliki's State of Law coalition – emerged as the leading factions with only a small majority favoring Allawi. The end result was a post-election power struggle for control over the government, and for control over Iraq's political system, security forces, and oil wealth.
This political struggle continues and has become more violent and divisive. If left unresolved, it could lead to the collapse of Iraq's fledgling democracy and serious civil conflict. The struggles at the top are being compounded by a broader growing Shi'ite split with the Kurds and Sunnis. There is no way to predict how sectarian and ethnic internal violence will emerge out of the power struggles now going on in Iraq. However, the current levels of violence are high, Data from the US National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) show that Iraq had a consistently higher level of violence than Afghanistan during 2009-2011, with no consistent reduction in violence since mid-2009.

So that's their take on the political crisis.  Iraqiya came in first in the March 2010 parliamentary elections (Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law came in second).  Nouri has targeted both Iraqiya and Sunnis -- when the two overlap, they tend to get run out of the country.  Among the targeted by Nouri, Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi who is both a member of Iraqiya and a Sunni.  All Iraq News reports he gave an interview in which he stated Nouri had attempted to send security officials into Turkey to kill him.  Shortly after Tareq arrived in the KRG in December 2011, Nouri accused him of terrorism and had a warrant issued.  Tareq has moved on to Turkey and Nouri's court has found him guilty of terrorism.  Tareq states in the interview that the verdict isn't to be taken seriously because (a) he was tried in absentia, (b) he was not allowed to present defense witnesses and (c) when the judge refused to rule the way Nouri wanted, the judge was replaced.  He also states that the solution to the ongoing political crisis is not Nouri because Nouri is the root of the problem.  He speaks of returning to Iraq.

The political crisis continues as does Nouri's power-grab.  He's refused to honor the Constitution and implement Article 140.  He was supposed to do that in his first term as Prime Minister.  It's written into the Constitution that it's implemented by the end of 2007.  Why anyone would think Nouri would do in a second term what he refused to do in a first -- US-negotiated contract or not (Erbil Agreement) -- is a puzzler.  Al Mada reports that he is attempting to swarm Kirkuk with Operation Tigris. (Operation Tigris has been going on for weeks now.)  Nouri has declared that the Peshmerga (Kurdish force) is in violation of the law and the Constitution by providing protection and refusing to surrender areas to his army.

Those who've paid attention will remember that General Ray Odierno warned of this.  It's a shame the White House refused to listen to him and took the word of the idiot Chris Hill instead.  (Yes, I know, after Robert Gates set up a meeting between Odierno and Hillary Clinton, she took the issues to the Cabinet.  By then, however, it was too late.)

Kirkuk is disputed territory.  This issue of Nouri sending in forces to disputed territory has raised its head before.  In the past, the US military would mediate.  What happens now?

Dar Addustour quotes Nouri declaring that his army should be free to cover every inch of Iraq.  You better read that the way Nouri intended it.  Meaning the US and foreign press will merely repeat that or ignore it.  But what it is actually is a threat to the KRG.  The Peshmerga are their forces and now Nouri is trying to occupy the disputed territories and claiming he can occupy any place in Iraq which, yes, does mean he's claiming he can send the Iraqi army into the Kurdistan Region despite it being semi-autonomous.  In a fair fight, it's very likely Kurdish forces would repeal Nouri's attempt to seize control.  That's because (a) Iraqi forces wouldn't favor such a move and many would check-out (as many did when Nouri used them in early 2008 to attack Basra), (b) the Kurds would fight to death on the KRG and that would be Iraqi Kurds and Kurds from surrounding areas -- the KRG is the closest thing to a homeland the world's most displaced population has, and (c) the nothern region is not like the rest of Iraq and the KRG would have an advantage because they know the terrain.

But it wouldn't be a fair fight.  Nouri's been on a weapons shopping spree, remember?  4.2 billion dollars to Russia for weapons and 1 billion dollars to the Czech Republic.  And then 18 more fighter jets from the US for a a total of 36.  Do you get now why KRG President Massoud Barzani has objected to these purchases?  Why he's noted these weapons could be used on the Iraqi people?

Al Mada reports President Barzani noted the ongoing political crisis and stated that dialogue is the only way to address these unresolved problems.  Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports Parliament is considering passing a bill that would end the 'acting' positions.

What's are they talking about?

To move from prime minister-designate to prime minister, an individual must put together a Cabinet -- that's nominating them and getting Parliament to vote in favor of them -- within 30 days.  This isn't a partial Cabinet.  If it was partial, why the 30 day limit? This is a full Cabinet.

Nouri never did that.  He got away with violating the Constitution because his second term was guaranteed not by the Constitution (nor by the will of the Iraqi people) but by a contract the White House negotiated (the Erbil Agreement).

Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." 

Those positions were supposed to be filled in Decmeber 2010.  Go back to press as late as January 2010 -- US and European -- and you will see claims that Nouri would do so in a matter of weeks.  He never did.  Currently, he's made people 'acting' ministers.  An acting minister -- which is not recognized by the Constitution -- is a puppet of Nouri's who does what Nouri says or loses the job.  You only have job protection if the Parliament confirms your nomination.  If that takes place, Nouri can't get rid of you without the approval of Parliament (which is difficult to get as Nouri discovered earlier this year when he tried for months to have Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq removed from his post).
The US elections are getting attention outside of the US.  Mustafa Habib (Niqash) examines the interest -- or lack of -- in Iraq:
Over the past two decades the outcome of the US presidential elections has been hotly debated by Iraqis. However this year, the approaching American cliff-hanger hardly seems to interest locals at all. NIQASH asked Baghdadis why. 
In past years, as the US presidential election has approached, the subject has dominated conversations in the coffee shops, clubhouses, restaurants and streets of Iraq, as well the Iraqi media.
Two decades ago, the outcome of such an election meant a lot to the Iraqi people who watched the campaigns and nervously awaited the results. And they did so because they knew the outcome would have a major impact on US foreign policy toward Iraq.
Back in 2004 and 2008, Iraqis were discussing the candidates whenever they could, trying to analyze which candidate would be best for Iraq. Some locals even placed bets.
But this year, it seems, nobody cares as much. The US presidential elections, which take place every 4 years, are scheduled for Nov. 6 and, according to current opinion polls, support for the two candidates, current US President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the candidate for the opposition republican party, is fairly even. It will be a tight race.
A recent BBC poll noted that while Americans may be uncertain, the rest of the world clearly favours Obama. Yet somehow not that many people in Iraq seem to care.
Retiree Mohammed Najeeb told NIQASH he's more worried about politics and security in Iraq than he is about anything going on in the US. "Neither Obama nor Romney can do anything to help the Iraqis," said the local who doesn't like watching television. "We only want the US to leave us alone."
The Voice of Russia notes, "Turkey is a strategic ally of the USA.  At the same time, Ankara's actions don't always fit in with Washington's ambitions in the Middle East.  How can the current relations between Turkey and the US be characterized  And will they change after the presidential elections in the US?  What is the future of the Turkish-American relations?"
Maybe there is no future relations?  Recent events call into question the sincerity of the US government?  As noted in October 17th snapshot, for some unknown reason US Ambassador to Turkey Frank Ricciardone (above) decided to reveal secrets that now leaves the Turkish government in an uncomfortable position.  Press TV explained:

On Tuesday, Francis Ricciardone revealed to Turkish journalists that the US had offered Turkey its military technology to hunt down the PKK leaders.
However, the Turkish government turned down the offer, saying it would continue battling with the PKK "on the basis of its laws and experiences."

This is leading to charges by opposition parties that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a puppet.  Ricciardone's revelations are causing problems within Turkey and will most likely result in Erdogan having to maintain -- if not increase -- the dropping of bombs on northern Iraq in order to not appear 'weak' at a time when the opposition is attacking him as a puppet.  Please remember, 1980 is not that long ago.  That's when Turkey has a military coup.

In addition, the PKK issue is a huge issue for the region.  Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk."

This is a decades long conflict and war and more war hasn't been the answer.  Tomorrow, we won't all wake up to a world where magically war and more war suddenly becomes the answer. The US government either got the Turkish government -- an ally -- into trouble due to incompetence or due to a desire to stab Turkey in the back.  If it was incompetence, why hasn't anyone been publicly reprimanded?

Read on ...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Cult of St. Barack

The Cult of St. Barack Holds Feet to the Fire

From May 17, 2009, that's "The Cult of St. Barack."  The who of what?

Like several other magical phrases of the last years, that one was coined by Ava and C.I.  They came up with it while Barack was still a senator.

Mike has a great line.  I didn't get it the first time because I'm not Catholic.  

Mike explained it to me and then I really laughed.

"The Cult of St. Barack The Big Sissy."  It's a reference to some saint of Assysia or some town.  (Mike did explain it and I understood it but we're dropping back to 2008.)

The cult refers to the columnist, bloggers, etc. who worshiped Barack instead of doing their job.

The cult is huge.  I have other comics after this that show a larger cult.

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

Thursday, October 18, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, ExxonMobil brushes off Nouri, Nouri's son is in trouble, Falluja's victims remain ignored, Nouri spends more billions on weapons, and more.
So I'm at a daily paper visiting a friend who's an editor when a name reporter decides he's going to make small talk while the editor's on the phone and hijacks the computer to show me "something you won't believe.  It's so sad."  Wrongly, I assumed I was about to see the children of Falluja.  Wrong.  I saw a dog from Australia that people around the world are donating to because it lost its snout saving a child.  And the dog's coming to -- or now in -- the United States with a friend and will have surgery at one of the UCLAs (Davis?) and, turns out, the dog's also got tumors and a sexually transmitted disease and -- On and on, it went.  Now I love dogs.  And if someone wants to send a terminal dog across the globe for  reconstructive surgery of a snout, that's their decision.  But I do think it's very sad that people want to pull up a picture of this dog and oh-and-ah over it and these same people will not even look at the children of Falluja.  
Monday, we noted a new study by the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. The study documented the miscarriages and the birth defects and the huge increase in both.  The linked study even has photos of the children.  But that didn't become an internet sensation.  What does that say about us that we can feel for an injured dog but ignore suffering children?  If you're a citizen of the United States, especially what does that say about us?  These birth defects are a result of weapons the US used. 
Fred Mazelis (WSWS) noted the study yesterday and explained:
A study published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology focuses on an extraordinary epidemic of congenital birth defects in Iraqi cities over the past decade, particularly in Fallujah and in the southern city of Basra, assaulted by British troops in 2003.
This study has been released only one month before a broader survey is due to be released by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO report has looked at nine areas in Iraq and is also expected to show increases in birth defects.
As summarized in the British newspaper The Independent, the first study, entitled "Metal Contamination and the Epidemic of Congenital Birth Defects in Iraqi Cities" and published online on September 16, pinpoints statistics for Fallujah and Basra that add up to a public health crisis that is as serious as any other around the world.
More than 50 percent of all births surveyed in Fallujah were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010, the newspaper explains. In the 1990s, Falllujah had a birth defect rate of 2 percent. This rose to about 10 percent in the early years of the twenty-first century, and then exploded in the years following the siege of Fallujah in 2004.
The data on miscarriages was also significant. Before the 2004 attacks on Fallujah, both in April and in November-December of that year, about 10 percent of pregnancies ended in miscarriage. This rose to a rate of 45 percent in the two years after the bombings. It fell as the most drastic attacks subsided, but the rate still remained high, at one in six pregnancies.
If today's conversation had taken place anywhere but a newsroom and involved people other than journalists, I wouldn't be writing about it.  But in the supposed information industry, not only did the reporter not know about the above, when I pulled up the study to show the photos, his response was "Eww, gross."  No, not "gross," tragic.  Those poor children who never hurt anyone and who suffer now because of an illegal war.  I think, my opinion -- I could be wrong, I often am -- that we've soaked up enough entertainment, gossip and cute animals online.  I think it's really past time we learned to actually care -- especially when the harmed are harmed because the actions of our government.
Early this morning, Laura Rozen (The Back Channel) reported, "Oil giant Exxon Mobil is expected to soon announce that it is pulling out of non-Kurdish Iraq, an energy expert source told Al-Monitor Wednesday on condition of anonymity.  The decision would not apply to Exxon's contracts in Kurdish Iraq, which has been a source of on-going tension with Baghdad authorities for the company, the source said."  Ahmed Rasheed and Patricky Markey (Reuters) state the corporation didn't inform "Iraq of its interest in quitting the country's West Qurna oilfield project" according to unnamed sources.  Sometimes unnamed sources lie.  This may be one of those times.  This is very embarrassing for Nouri and his government and feigning surprise may be their effort to play it off.  'How could we have stopped it?  We didn't even know it was coming!'   That would explain why the 'big surprise' that isn't is being played like it is.  Derek Brower (Petroleum Economist) has been covering this story for over 48 hours (including a source that stated ExxonMobil had informed the Iraqi government) and he notes that ExxonMobil will be focusing all their "efforts on upstream projects in Kurdistan instead."  In addition to the claim in Rasheed and Markey's piece about  Iraq having had no meeting on this, Brower notes that a meeting took place today at the Ministry of Oil.  It would appear Nouri's spinning like crazy in an effort to save his faltering image.  (Nouri can certainly spend billions -- as he proved last week on his mad shopping spree for weapons, he just doesn't seem able to maintain releations with those who help Iraq generate large revenues.)
This Reuters story notes that unnamed US officials stated Iraq was informed and it adds the Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, "told Reuters in an e-mail that Baghdad was sticking to its line that all contract signed with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without the approval of Baghdad were illegal."  ExxonMobil has long had problems with their deal with Baghdad.  In March,  Emily Knapp (Wall St Cheat Sheet) explained, "Foreign oil companies involved in Iraq's oil expansion generally prefer to be compensated for capital expenditure and service fees in oil because cash payments are more complicated to arrange. Now the parties have reached an agreement in which they will be paid in crude. Exxon and Shell spent $910 million on West Qurna-1 last year, and were repaid $470 million in cash."  Hassan Hafidh (Wall St. Journal) adds today, "Exxon's 2010 deal with the Iraqi central government to improve production in the West Qurna-1 field was never expected to be lucrative under the best circumstances, the person said.  The government had agreed to pay Exxon Mobil and its partners $1.90 for each additional barrel of oil they pumped after refurbishing the already producing field.  The fees would barely be enough to cover the companies' costs."
And there is the issue of the nature of the contracts.  The KRG is offering production sharing ones while Baghdad sticks with the less return-friendly technical service contracts.  Dropping back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot:
In Iraq, things are heating up over an oil deal. Hassan Hafidh and James Herron (Wall St. Journal) report, "ExxonMobil Corp. could lose its current contract to develop the West Qurna oil field in Iraq if it proceeds with an agreement to explore for oil in the Kurdistan region of the country, an Iraqi official said. The spat highlights the political challenges for foreign companies operating in Iraq" as Nouri's Baghdad-based 'national' government attempts to rewrite the oil law over the objection of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Tom Bergin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) offer, "Exxon declined to comment, and experts speculated the move could indicate Baghdad and the Kurdish leaders are nearing agreement on new rules for oil companies seeking to tap into Iraq's vast oil reserves." UPI declares, "The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could cost Exxon Mobil its stake in the giant West Qurna Phase One mega-oil field in southern Iraq." Salam Faraj (AFP) speaks with Abdelmahdi al-Amidi (in Iraq's Ministry of Oil) declares that the Exxon contract means that Exxon would lose a contract it had previously signed with Baghdad for the West Qurna-1 field.  Faraj sketches out the deal with the KRG beginning last month with Exxon being notified that they had "48 hours to make a decision on investing in an oil field in the region."  Exxon was interested but sought an okay from the Baghdad government only to be denied.
November 11th, things heated up and they never cooled down.  For months, Nouri's people sent angry letters to ExxonMobil.  The multi-national corporation chose not to respond leaving Nouri looking like an angry, spurned lover.  Or a stalker.  Nouri's people continued to send those letters with no response.  And we pointed out how ridiculous Nouri was looking and making Iraq look throughout that period.  There were threats of lawsuits, there was barring ExxonMobil from auctions, it was ridiculous.  First of all, it didn't build confidence among the international business sector that Iraq had its act together.  Second of all, those remaining acutions?  In the February 22nd snapshot we noted what was being offered by Baghdad in the March acution  was "a dingo dog with fleas." Were we wrong?  The auction was a bust.  They had no takers.  Instead of grasping that Nouri had created a serious image problem for Iraq, they decided they just needed to have the same auction all over again.  So they scheduled it for two days at the end of May.  From the May 31st snapshot:

Iraq's two day energy auction ended today. Yesterday brought one successful bid. W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) explain, "Iraq on Thursday closed a landmark auction of energy exploration blocks with just three contracts awarded out of a potential 12, dampening hopes the sale would cement its role as a key global supplier." The offerings weren't seen as desirable and the deals offered even less so. But big business began sending signals this auction would not go well over two months ago. (And we've noted that at least three times in previous months.) That's due to the instability in Iraq caused by Nouri -- and it is seen as caused by Nouri in the oil sector because he is the prime minister, he did pick a fight with Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he did order Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested. All the instability in recent months have not helped. His attacks on ExxonMobil and their deal with the KRG has not helped. Nouri al-Maliki is bad for business. If Iraq had the arrangement they did under Saddam Hussein, Nouri could get away with that. But he's going to have to grasp real soon that state oil isn't what it was under Hussein. The economic model (imposed by the US) is mixed. And if Iraqis hadn't fought back, it would be strictly privatized. Nouri's not yet learned that his actions impact Iraq's business. (And, in fairness to Nouri, this is a new thing for Iraq. Saddam Hussein could do anything and it wasn't an issue unless the super powers decided it was. But, again, it's a mixed model now. Nouri might need to bring in some economic advisors from out of the country.) W.G. Dunlop and Salam Faraj (AFP) report Iraq's response to the poor showing at the auction is to declare that they will hold another one.
Well one is greater than zero.  But not worth the cost of putting together one auction, let alone two.  Following the twin embarrassments of March and May, Nouri had a new 'brilliant idea:'
get the White House to tell Exxon "no."  So he made noises and made public letters to the White House.  Then, on July 19th, Nouri al-Maliki insisted that the White House had conveyed, in a letter, their support for his attempts to cancel the October contract the Kurdistan Regional Government signed with ExxonMobil.  No such thing happened.  But damned if some in the press reported differently.  The US does not have state-control over oil companies -- certainly not over multi-national ones like ExxonMobil -- "multi-national" meaning more than one nation.  Like so many of Nouri's brilliant plans, that one fell apart.  Derek Brower explains, "Pressure has been building on the central government to punish ExxonMobil for its investment in Kurdistan, he said.  The government knows it could not win a court case if it stripped the US firm of its contract, he said, but could make operations intolerably difficult." It couldn't win a court case.  What the KRG and ExxonMobil did, for all of Nouri's pouting and foot stomping, ws legal.  Thomas W. Donovan (The National) explains:
The most urgent need is for a comprehensive federal law to regulate the hydrocarbons industry. At present, petroleum operations are governed by a collection of laws from previous regimes and by the 2005 constitution. This legal hodgepodge gives no guidance on the interplay between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), nor does it set out any rules for oil-revenue sharing between the central administration and the regional governorates.
A draft law to govern oil and gas production was tentatively agreed upon as far back as 2007. However, disputes between Baghdad and the KRG blocked enactment of a law, and today there are three draft versions, none of them likely to win approval anytime soon.
2007 is a key date. Not just because Nouri was prime minister (but he was -- the US government installed him in April 2006).  In the lead up to the US 2006 mid-terms, Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress lied to the American people, swearing, "Give us back one House of Congress and we'll end the Iraq War."  The American people trusted that they were being told the truth and did something pretty amazing -- turned both house of Congress over to the Democratic Party.  That was so surprising that even Pelosi and company hadn't been pushing it as a possibility.  Afraid the Democrats might be telling the truth and might pull the funding on the illegal war, Bully Boy Bush quickly devised a series of benchmarks in 2007.  He signed off on them, Nouri al-Maliki signed off on them.  This was the tool by which, the White House insisted, progress could be measured in Iraq.
Because the US press is as stupid as the US Congress (well, the Congress didn't want to end the Iraq War, let's be honest, so they weren't stupid so much as they were pretending to be), no progess was always somehow turned into success.  In April of 2007, Mike Peska (NPR's Day By Day -- link is text and audio) decided to grade the progress on the benchmarks.  He should have just stuck to putting happy face stickers on each one.  Needing people to help him deceive, he enlisted the master of deception Philip Zelikow (adviser to Condi Rice, betrayer of 9-11 Jersey Widows and others who thought they'd get a real investigation into the events of 9-11) and the Brookings Institution's Carlos Pascual.  Here's how the 'brain trust' graded the 'progress' on the oil law:
Pres. BUSH: Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.
PESCA: Both Pascual and Zelikow said this is happening as we speak. Details are still to be worked out, but sharing oil revenue is something the Iraqis can point to as an area of real progress, much more so than the third plank that the president touch on.
They needed to pass legislation.  And Pesca 'reported' that his hand-picked brain trust said "this is happening as we speak."  Seriously? 
It was a lie then, it's a lie over five years later.  Happening as we speak?  It never happened.  The press sold the Iraq War.  Not just the start of it but all of it.  There has never been accountability for any of these actions.  No one's ever done their update of, "Remember when we said . . . Well, turns out . . ."  And let's remember that Mike Pesca was just on Weekend Editon Sunday ridiculing the New York Daily News' Filip Bondy for being creative with languge in his description of a home run.  That home run mattered to baseball fans.  Those benchmarks?  All the press whores that lied -- that includes Pesca -- provided cover for Nouri and Iraqis suffer because of Pesca and his ilk.  Filip Bondy's descriptive powers didn't have a fly.  Pesca might need to remember that before he takes to NPR next to slam another journalist.  And Rachel Martin might want to think about who she goes on air with to mock other journalists.
Having agreed, in writing, to pass an oil and gas law and never having accomplished it, over five years later, Nouri's got no standing to whine about what the KRG is doing.  If he doesn't like it, he should have kept his word and passed an oil and gas law.  Didn't do it, so the current law(s) allow the KRG to make the deals they're making.  Considering the money involved, you'd think even a semi-functioning government would have taken this seriously.  The Ministry of Oil notes on their website, "The ministry of oil of Iraq declared that the daily oil exports for September 2012 rose to 2.6 million barrels with 8.4 billion dollars outcome [. . .]"
All that money and Nouri still can't turn on the lights.  The Iraqi people still have to use generators because daily electricity isn't 24 hours, it's more like six to twelve.  And Nouri can't provide potable water -- despite all the billions the Iraqi government takes in each month.  That's why Iraq keeps having the cholera outbreaks.  Just this week, Al Mada reported that UNICEF declared that the cholera problems will not go away in Iraq while the poor sanitation continues.  The World Health Organization explains, "Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  It has a short incubation period, from less than one day to five days, and produces an enterotoxin that causes a copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given.  Vomiting also occurs in most patients." Also this week, AFP noted that there have been 4 deaths and 272 confirmed cases including thirty-one that are children in the last weeks.  And Nouri can't even give a portion to the people.  He recently declared there wasn't any to give and Moqtada al-Sadr expressed doubt and disapproval.  All Iraq News explains that Moqtada and his poltical bloc have not let the matter die or just resorted to words, they're actively working with the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and the Minister of Planning Ali Shukri to find oil money that can go to the Iraqi people with plans to set aside 25% of future revenues for that.
Six years as prime minister and he can't fix the basic needs and public services?  But last week he could fly to Russia and sign a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal and then on to the Czech Republic to sign a $1 billion weapons deal.   And today?  Suadad al-Salhy, Patrick Markey and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report that Iraq's signed a deal for another 18 F-16 fighter jets and since the "financial details" are the same (according to the Ministry of Defence), that means the deal will cost Iraq at least $3 billion.  AFP reports Nouri didn't just place an order, he also wants the US to speed it up.  And while he spends on weapons, the Iraqi people are left to depend upon charity from other countries.  The Camden New Journal reports, "The Highgate hospital recently brought new cervical screening equipment and decided to give the old machinery to the women of Iraq."
Yesterday's snapshot noted a press release from the White House on the Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough's visit to Iraq.  I didn't have a link and couldn't find it online.  The link is here (thank you to my friend for supplying that).  ANI reports on it hereAFP here, and KUNA here.
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 103 deaths in the country by violence this month. 
Alsumaria reports 1 person shot dead today near his Mosul home and an Enaimah car bombing (south of Falluja) left four Iraqi soldiers injured. All Iraq News adds a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured.  In addition, Alsumaria also notes a Mosul attack in which a Ministry of Intelligence officer and his son were shot dead and the corpse of 1 Peshmerga was discovered in Kirkuk.
Like the violence, the polticial crisis continues.  Iraq had a political stalemate that lasted a little over 8 months following the March 2010 elections when Iraqiy came in first and Nouri's State of Law came in second but Nouri refused to honor the results and allow Iraqiya to move to establish a cabinet.  The White House tossed the will of the Iraqi people, democracy and respect for elections to the side to back Nouri.  The country was at a standstill for months as the US government shamed the various political blocs for standing in the way of second place Nouri and worked the guilt angle pretending that they -- not Nouri -- was the one keeping Iraq from moving forward.  They also negotiated the Erbil Agreement which ended the political stalemate in November 2010.  This contract gave them various concessions in return for their allowing Nouri to have a second term as prime minister.  Nouri signed the contract and used it to get his second term and then trashed the contract and refused to make good on what he'd promised in exchange for holding on as prime minister.

It was fairly obvious that he was trashing the agreement but the US government and the press covered for him repeatedly.  Such as when he failed to nominate people to head the security ministries.  Iraqiya rightly labled that a power grab.  The press (I'm referring to the US and European press) rushed in to insist it was no such thing and Nouri would name people to head the ministries in a matter of weeks.  The three year mark is closing in and Nouri's still not nominated people to head the seucrity ministires.  It was, indeed, a power grab.

In 2011, he tried an even greater power grab.  He wanted control of two bodies the Constitution has made independent of the prime minister: the Electoral Comission and Central Bank.  Unreast in the region and protests in Iraq resulted in Nouri fearing his own ouster.  He quickly promised (lied) he wouldn't seek a third term as prime minister (about 24 hours after the foreign press had run with that, it was announced that Nouri reserved the right to run for a third office, but he'd already gotten his headlines and his praise from stupid -- as opposed to skeptical -- reporters) and backed off that power grab.

For a brief moment.

This week, charges were brought against Sinan al-Shabibi, the governor of the Central Bank, and he was replaced.  Al Mada reports that Parliament's Legal Committee is saying the actions were both rash and illegal.  Nouri does not control the Central Bank and he cannot fire a governor with it.  They point to Article 103 of the Iraqi Constitution which has two clauses pertaining to the Central Bank:

First: The Central Bank of Iraq, the Board of Supreme Audit, the Communication and Media Commission, and the Endowment Commissions are financially and administratively independent institutions, and the work of each of these institutions shall be regulated by law.
Second: The Central Bank of Iraq is responsible before the Council of Representatives.  The Board of Supreme Audit and the Communication and Media Commission shall be attached to the Council of Representatives. 

The second clause puts the Parliament over the Central Bank.  (The third clause, not quoted, puts the Cabinet over the Endowment Commission.)  Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) reports an arrest warrant has been sworn out for "Sinan al-Shabibi and 15 of his colleagues."  Peel also observes, "While no evidence has yet been produced about the allegations, analysts and business people have raised concerns about the way the government has handled the case.  Some observers see it as an extension of efforts by Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister, to extend his control over important security and financial institutions, a charge the governmnet denies."
In more bad news for Nouri, Al Mada reports Ahmad al-Maliki, Nouri's son, can't get along with other employees (we'll assume the problems are more than that) and the complaints have led Nouri to freeze his son's salary in the hopes that this will let the matter die down.

In even worse news for Nouri?  Remember last month's assault on the Tikrit prison that left many dead and wounded and over 100 prisoners escaped?  Dropping back to the September 27th snapshot:
The latest day's violence includes a prison attack BBC News reports assailants using bombs and guns attacked a Tikrit prison.  AFP quotes a police Lieutenant Colonel stating, "A suicide bomber targeted the gate of the prison with a car bomb and gunment then assaulted the prison, after which they killed guards" and a police Colonel stating, "The prisoners killed one policeman and wounded (prison director) Brigadier General Laith al-Sagmani, the gunmen took control of the prison, and clashes are continuing."  Kitabat states two car bombs were used to blow up the entrance to the prison and gain access and they also state 12 guards have been killed. Reports note the riot is continuing.  Alsumaria reports four guards have died, 1 police officer and the injured include two soldiers and the prison director al-Sagmani.  There's confusion as to whether a number of prisoners were able to escape in the early stages after the bombing and during gunfire.  Reuters goes with "dozens" escaping which is probably smarter than the hard number some are repeating. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports 5 police officers killed and another two injured -- the numbers are going to vary until tomorrow, this is ongoing -- and state over 200 prisoners escaped with 33 of them already having been recaptured.  If you skip the English language media, what's not confusing is why it happened and why it was able to happen.   Alsumaria reports that there are approximately 900 inmates in the prison and that many have death sentences.  Alsumaria does even more than that.  It notes the recent prison violence throughout the country and ties it into the death sentences.  These aren't just happening at random, this is about the many people being sentenced to death -- a fact the English language press either doesn't know or doesn't think people need to know.

That was an extremely violent act.  And apparently one that was preventable.  Alsumaria has an exclusive report that the police chief in Salahuddin Province had warned the Ministry of Interior over 3 days in advance -- in writing -- that there were serious problems and the possibility of a prison break.  Why is that so damning to Nouri especially?    Three months ago,   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." 
 With no minister nominated to Parliament and approved by Parilament, Nouri controls the Ministry of Interior.  If the Ministry had information over 3 days ahead that something was supposed to have happened and nothing was done to try to prevent it, that goes to Nouri's leadership.
Read on ...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Useless Blogger


From May 3, 2009, that's "The Useless Blogger."

The background here is that after multiple delays, the ringleader (Steven D. Green) in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl and the murder of her parents and kid sister, this man was finally on trial.  And just as the mainstream media blacked it out so did bloggers like Ann Barlow.

I found that disgusting and still do.

But these days I'm used to them being hypocrites.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues his shopping spree, cholera continues in Iraq, Barack's lies to voters about Iraq get noted, we return to the hearing about the attack on the US Consulate in Libya, and more.
Yesterday the House Oversight Committee gathered for a hearing.  What was the hearing about?
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:  On September 11, 2012, four brave Americans serving their country were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya.  Tyrone Woods spent two decades as a Navy Seal serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Since 2010, he protected the American diplomatic personnel.  Tyrone leaves behind a widow and three children.   Glen Doherty, also a former Seal and an experienced paramedic, had served his country in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  His family and colleagues grieve today for his death.  Sean Smith, a communications specialist, joined the State Dept after six years in the United States Air Force.  Sean leaves behind a widow and two young children.  Ambassador Chris Stevens, a man I had known personally during his tours, US Ambassador to Libya, ventured into a volatile and dangerous situation as Libyans revolted against the long time Gaddafi regime.  He did so because he believed the people of Libya wanted and deserved the same things we have: freedom from tyranny. 
Issa also noted that some Americans were injured in the attack. Appearing before the Committee were the State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Programs Charlene R. Lamb, the State Dept's always less than truthful Patrick Kennedy (Under Secretary for Management), Regional Security Officer Eric Nordstrom, and the US military's Lt Col Andrew Wood.   In yesterday's snapshot, we covered a portion of the hearing.  In addition, last night Kat reported on the hearing with "What we learned at today's hearing," Ava reported on it with "2 disgrace in the Committee hearing" and Wally reported on it with "The White House's Jimmy Carter moment."  What does this have to do with Iraq?
A great deal.  No other foreign country has such a large group of people with the US State Dept in it.  Two weeks after the Consulate in Libya was attacked, rockets were launched at the US Consulate in Basra   The White House falsely blamed the attack in Libya on an "angry mob" that got out of control while protesting a video on YouTube.  There was no protest in Libya -- and as Issa noted in yesterday's hearing, the State Dept stated they did not believe there was and did not advance the notion that there was.  But there was a protest at the US Embassy in Baghdad.  Some may scratch their heads over that.  That embassy is in the Green Zone, a heavily guarded section of Baghdad that most Iraqis cannot even enter.  The protest at the US Embassy was one lone person, an MP with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.  Whether it has to do with the lies the White House repeatedly told or with the realities of what went down, the events in Libya could have taken place at the Basra Consulate or at any other location across the globe. As Issa noted in the hearing yesterday,  "[. . .]  there are hundreds and hundreds of facilities similar to this around the world, there are thousands of personnel serving this country who -- at any time, in any country -- could be a target." A point made even clearer today with Jeffrey Fleishman and Zaid al-Alayaa (Los Angeles Times) reporting, "A Yemeni security investigator at the U.S. Embassy here was shot and killed Thursday by masked men on a motorcycle in the latest assassination by militants of political and security targets in cities across the country." (Cedric and Wally covered the Yemen violence this morning.)  
I had no interest in the Democratic Committee members yesterday.  As Ruth pointed out in her post last night, PBS' The NewsHour missed the news from the hearing because they instead focused on turning the hearing into a horse race.  There were not equal sides in the hearing.
You had one side focused on finding out what happened and how.  You had another side focused on creating drama -- drama is what PBS focused on leaving their audience highly uninformed.  I was being kind and just emphasizing what mattered in the hearing -- no Democratic contribution to the hearing mattered.  But if you're not getting how bad it is -- from Wally, Ava and Kat's reporting -- then let's note that nonsense began the minute a Committee Democrat spoke.
Ranking Member Elijah Cummings:  Thank you, very much, Mr. Chairman.  And let me be very clear, you said that your side of the aisle grieves the loss of our fellow countrymen.  It's not just your side of the aisle, Mr. Chairman, it's this side of the aisle and our entire country.
Cummings came in spoiling for a fight.  Issa didn't say "my side of the aisle."  He didn't even say "aisle."  Does Cummings need a hearing aid or is "dais" an unfamiliar term?  The Committee members face the witnesses table.  The Committee members are on a raised platform -- a "dais," Cummings -- and at higher level than the witness -- for psychological intimidation, to be honest.  So Chair Darrell Issa stated, "We join here today expressing, from this side of the dais, our deepest sympathies for the families," and the term was "dais."  This side.  That means all the Committee members (and staff) seated and facing the witness table.  Is that clear now?
So which is it, Cummings?   Do we need to buy you a hearing aid or a dictionary?  Let us know and maybe don't use your time to lecture others that "we should listen carefully" unless you're trying to pay homage to Gilda Radner's Emily Latella.
DC Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton is a joke and makes DC a joke.  Don't give us all a lecture about how the right questions need to be asked when you never ask a question and yield your time.  Don't think an hour into the hearing when you want to speak again that you're bringing up Mitt Romney -- no one else had -- is seen as anything but what it was, partisan whoring.  If you're supposed to represent DC, starting acting a hell of a lot more mature, start being a lot more professional.  We've already had Eleanor offer junk science and get smacked down by the FBI during Barack's term.  She seems bound and determined to top that.  You'd think she'd be interested in trying to appear professional.  Instead, she makes herself -- and DC statehood by proxy -- a joke.  Over 20 years in office, over 75 years old, maybe it's time for her to consider retirement?
Only one Democrat did not self-disgrace, US House Rep Dennis Kucinich.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  Mr. Kennedy has testified today that US interests and values are at stake in Libya and that the US is better off because we went to Benghazi.  Really?  You think that after ten years in Iraq and eleven years in Afghanistan that our country, the US would have learned the consequences and limits of interventionism.  You would think that after trillions have been wasted on failed attempts at democracy building abroad while our infrastructure crumbles at home, Congress and the administration would re-examine priorities.  Today we're engaging in a discussion about the security failures of Benghazi.  There was a security failure.  Four Americans including our ambassador, Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed.  Their deaths are a national tragedy.  My sympathy is with the families of those who were killed.  There has to be accountability.  I haven't heard that yet.  We have an obligation to protect those who protect us.  That's why this Congress needs to ask questions. The security situation did not happen overnight because of a decision made by someone at the State Dept.  We could talk about hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts for funding for embassy security over the last two years as a result of a blind pursuit of fiscal austerity.  We could talk about whether it's prudent to rely so heavily on security contractors rather than our own military or State Dept personnel.  We could do a he-said-she-said about whether the State Dept should have beefed up security at the embassy in Benghazi.  But we owe it to the diplomatic corps who serves our nation to start at the beginning and that's what I shall do.  The security threats in Libya including the unchecked extremist groups who are armed to the teeth exist because our nation spurred on a civil war destroying the security and stability of Libya. And, you know, no one defends Gaddafi.  Libya was not in a meltdown before the war.  In 2003, Gaddafi reconciled with the community of nations by giving up his pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the time, President Bush said Gaddafi's actions made our country and our world safer. Now during the Arab Spring, uprisings across the Middle East occurred and Gaddafi made ludicrous threats against Benghazi.  Based on his verbal threats, we intervented.  Absent constitutional authority, I might add. We bombed Libya, we destroyed their army, we obliterated their police stations.  Lacking any civil authority, armed brigades control security.  al Qaeda expanded its presence.  Weapons are everywhere.  Thousands of shoulder-to-air missiles are on the loose.  Our military intervention led to greater instability in Libya. Many of us, Democrats and Republicans alike, made that argument to try to stop the war.  It's not surprising given the inflated threat and the grandiose expectations inherent in our nation building in Libya that the State Dept was not able to adequately protect our diplomats from this predicatable threat.  It's not surprising.  And it's also not acceptable. It's easy to blame someone else -- like a civil servant at the State Dept. We all know the game. It's harder to acknowledge that decades of American foreign policy have directly contributed to regional instability and the rise of armed militias around the world.  It's even harder to acknowledge Congress' role in the failure to stop the war in Libya, the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Pakistan, the war in Yemen, the war in Somolia and who knows where else?  It's harder to recognize Congress' role in the failure to stop the drone attacks that are still killing innocent civilians and strengthening radical elements abroad.  We want to stop the attacks on our embassies?  Let's stop trying to overthrow governments.  This should not be a partisan issue.  Let's avoid the hype. Let's look at the real situation here. Interventions do not make us safer. They do not protect our nation.  They are themselves a threat to America.  Now, Mr. Kennedy, I would like to ask you, is al Qaeda more or less established in Libya since our involvement?
Patrick Kennedy: Mr. Kucinich, I will have to take that question for the record. I am not an intelligence expert.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Oh.  You don't have the intelligence, you're saying?  Well I'm going to go on to the next question --
Committee Chair Darrell Issa: Mr. Kucinich, I think the other two may have an opinion.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  Well I wanted to ask Mr. Kennedy.  Next question, Ambassador Kennedy, how many shoulder-to-air missiles that are capable of shooting down civilian passenger airlines are still missing in Libya?   And this happened since our intervention.  Can you answer that question?
Patrick Kennedy: No, sir. I'll be glad to provide it for the record.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: You're saying you do not know?
Patrick Kennedy: I do not know, sir. It's not within my normal purview of operations with the State Dept.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  Does anyone else here know how many shoulder-to-air missiles that can shoot down civilian airliners are still loose in Libya?  Anyone know?
Eric Nordstrom:  The figures that we were provided are fluid but the rough approximation is between ten and twenty thousand.
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:   The gentleman's time has expired.  Did you want them to answer anything about al Qaeda growth?
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:  If anyone there knows.
Committee Chair Darrell Issa:  If anyone has an answer on that one, they can answer and then we'll go on.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:   Yeah, is al Qaeda more or less established in Libya since our involvement?
Lt Col Andrew Wood:  Yes, sir.  There presence grows everday. They are certainly more established than we are.
Only Dennis Kucinich conducted himself in a consistent manner.  Regardless of was in the White House, Dennis would have made the same remarks to the same events. 
The rest of the Democrats came in eager to attack the Republicans on the Committee and eager to discredit the hearing.  It was not pretty and did not speak to the better qualities of the United States of America.  It did not speak to 'obstructionist Republicans.'  It did demonstrate that members of the Committee on the Democratic side were more interested in covering for the White House than they were in demanding answers as to how four Americans ended up dead.  It was not a glorious moment for DC.  Since we're spending a second day on the hearing and since we've already done one day's worth of work on this issue, we can take a moment to note that the Democrats were disruptive and distractive.  And that's about all that's worth noting about their embarrassing behavior.
Let's do two excerpts from the hearing for when the State Dept's Lamb was being questioned. 
Chair Darrell Issa: Ms. Lamb, yesterday you told us in testimony that you received from Mr. Nordstrom a recommendation but not a request for more security and you admitted that in fact you had previously said that if he submitted a request, you would not support it.  Is that correct?
Charlene Lamb: Sir, after our meeting last night, I went back and re -- At the time --
Chair Darrell Issa: First, answer the question.  Then I'll let you expand.  Did you say that yesterday?  That you would not support it if he -- if he gave you the request?
Charlene Lamb:  Under the current conditions, yes.
Chair Darrell Issa:  Okay.  And then last night, you discovered what?
Charlene Lamb:  I went back and reviewed the July 9 cable from which I was referring and that was not in that cable.  I've been reviewing lots of documents.
Chair Darrell Issa: Well we have a July 9th cable.  It's one of them that I put in the record --
Charlene Lamb: Yes.
Chair Darrell Issa: -- that in fact has the word "request."  It doesn't meet your standards of perhaps what you call a formal request, you described that, but it does request more assets.  If you looked at the July 9th cable -- and this less than 60 days, roughly 60 days beforehand -- it says summary and action request, "Embassy Tripoli requests continued TDY security support for an additional 60-days."  Now yesterday you told us, under penalty of perjury essentially, that it wasn't a request, it was a recommendation.  Does the word request mean request?  And are you prepared to say today that they requested these assets above and beyond what they had on September 11th rather than that they simply recommended?
Charlene Lamb: Sir, we discussed that there was no justification that normally comes with a request.  That cable was a very detailed and complex cable outlining --
Chair Darrell Issa:  Right. Well we've now read that cable.  And you're right, it is detailed and in several more places expresses concerns.  The September 11th cable from the now deceased Ambassador expresses current concerns on that day.  Repeatedly in the cables that were denied to us, what we see is people telling you that al Qaeda type organizations are coming together.  Now the problem I have is that the State Dept is basically saying that, "Mr. Nordstrom didn't do his job, he didn't make a formal request with justification. The Ambassador didn't do his job.  He didn't make a good enough case."  And that's what you're standing behind here today?  In addition to saying, "Well there were five people there therefore --"?  A embassy -- a compound owned by us and serving like a consulate was in fact breached less than 60 days before -- aproximately 60 days before -- the murder of the ambassador in that facility.  Isn't that true?  
Charlene Lamb: Sir, we had the correct number of assets in Benghazi at the time of nine-eleven for what had been agreed upon.
Chair Darrell Issa: Okay, my time has expired.  To start off by saying that you had the correct number and our ambassador and three other individuals are dead, people are in the hospital recovering because it only took moments to breach that facility somehow doesn't ring true to the American people. 
We'll jump ahead to right after Patrick Kennedy confirmed that privately he was terming the attack a terrorist attack. 
US House Rep Dan Burton: [. . .] because today, as I listen to people, and you, Ms. Lamb, have described these attackers in a number of ways but you don't mention terrorist at all?  Why is that?  I mean the compound had been attacked once before and breached.  And these people had all these weapons -- projectiles, grenades.  All kinds of weapons.  Why would you call this anything but a terrorist attack?  And why do you call them attackers?
Charlene Lamb:  Sir, I have just presented the fact as they've come across. I am not making any judgments on my own and I am leaving that --
US House Rep Dan Burton: Okay.  Well let me ask a couple of other questions. There were 16 troops that were there at that compound and they requested them to be kept there.  And they sent a suggestion to you that they be kept there.  And then you responded saying that if that was presented to you, you would not accept that.  Was that your sole decision? 
Charlene Lamb: Sir, they were not in Benghazi.  They were in Tripoli.  I just want to make sure that we're --
US House Rep Dan Burton: I understand.
Charlene Lamb: Okay.  And when the cable came in where RSO Nordstrom laid out all of his staffing requirements and needs, I asked our desk officer to go back and sit down with him or through e-mails and telephone conversations to work out all the details and line up exactly how many security personnel, armed security personnel did he need --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Okay, okay.  But you did not agree with that assessment that they needed those there.
Charlene Lamb:  No, sir.  We had been training people --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  I just --
Charlene Lamb:  -- people, Libyans to replace them.
US House Rep Dan Burton:  No.  Did you not say that if that was presented to you, you would not accept it?
Charlene Lamb:  He was posing --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Did you or did you not say that?
Charlene Lamb:  Yes, sir, I said that personally I would not support it.  He could request it --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Why is that? Why is that?
Charlene Lamb:  Because --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  You know about all these other attacks which had taken place.  There had been twelve or fourteen.
Charlene Lamb:  We had been training the local Libyans and arming them --
US House Rep Dan Burton:  Well now --
Charlene Lamb:  -- for almost a year.
US House Rep Dan Burton:  -- let me interrupt to say that the local Libyan militia that was there, many of them that were there were supposedly told by friends and relatives that there was going to be an imminent attack on that compound.  And so many of them left.  They didn't want to be involved in the attack --
Charlene Lamb:  Sir, with due respect -- Wait-wait-wait.
US House Rep Dan Buton:  -- so I don't understand why you say out of hand that there was no need for those 16 troops to be there.
Let's move to the man the Democrats on the Committee thought they were serving -- when, in fact, they're supposed to serve the people and they take an oath to uphold the Constitution.  Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor have an important new book entitled The Endgame.  It's a major book that should be inspiring discussions and agreements and disagreements, the op-ed pages and public affairs programs should be focused on this book.  Instead it's largely greeted by silence because the authors commit a mortal sin: They dare to criticize Barack.
But you can't tell the story of Iraq without taking on Barack and his craven nature.
Maybe it would just be considered a venial sin if it weren't an election year?  But here are Gordon and Trainor telling the story of how Barack lied to people and what a big fake he is.  For example, you may remember then-Senator Hillary Clinton came out against the Status Of Forces Agreement in theory (it had been written at that time).  She stated, rightly, that treaties go through the Senate per the Constitution.  She said it and Barack, who never had an independent or original thought of his own had to play myna bird, began repeating it.  Others were in agreement as well.  Senators Joe Biden, Russ Feingold, the entire Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  That's because the Bush administration was going to by-pass the Senate.  And Congress -- House and Senate -- didn't approve of that.
And then Barack got the nomination and created a little page at the website where he and Joe were going to continue to oppose this.  The Constitution, he insisted, must be honored.
Until, of course, that pesky Constitution might cause a problem for Barack.  From the book:
Another important step to facilitate an agreement [with Iraq] was quietly taken by the Obama team.  Throughout the campaign, Obama and his aides had publicly insisted that the SOFA needed to be subjected to Congressional review.  But that raised the possibility that the Iraqis might make politically painful concessions only to see the Americans balk.  Colin Kahl, a political science professor who had been advising the Obama campaign, had been invited by Odierno to Baghdad to participate in a strategy review in October  And he soon concluded that it was in the campaign's interest to support the negotiating efforts in Baghdad.  The SOFA the Bush administration was working on was consistent with Obama's approach and if it failed now the new president would need to spend the first few months of his administration trying to resurrect the agreement -- or dealing with the chaos in Iraq that might result from a hasty American pullout.  Kahl sent the Obama campaign an email urging that it avoid criticism of the agreement.  "If we win the election we don't want to have our Iraq policy consumed by renegotiating the agreement in the early portion of 2009," he wrote.
Suddenly, the Constitution no longer mattered.  But thought this became campaign strategy in October, please note, Barack (and Joe) would wait until after the election to strike the promise from the campaign site. 
What is easiest for Barack is the road to take.  Protecting the Constitution was the road not taken.  Treaties go through Congress and Barack was a constitutional professor (he was no such thing, but the press did love to lie).  Barack was going to restore the Constitution!  Yet before he even won the election, he'd already decided to screw over the Constitution because heaven forbid that his administration might have to do some heavy lifting and negotiate a treaty if the Bush one fell apart in the Senate.
The deceit never ended with Barack.  The first thing I'll do, my first day in office -- he loved to say that, remember?  He loved to say it.  He just never meant it.  Again, before the election Barack and his enablers found a way to screw over the voters who believed he'd made a promise to pull all troops out of Iraq in 16 months, one brigade a month.  From the book.
While the candidate had billboarded the sixteen-month deadline, Kahl was familiar with the fine print.  There was wiggle room to be had and in a confidential memo to the new White House team Kahl pointed it out.  In accordance with sound bites from the campaign, the White House Web site noted Obama's timeline, but notably did not set a start date.  Aligning the start of any withdrawal with the day the president announced his Iraq plan -- not inauguration day -- would add a month or so.  What is more, Obama had never committed himself to the pullout of all American troops from Iraq.  The candidate had discussed retaining some kind of residual force in Iraq to protect American diplomatic personnel and to target terrorists. 
Gordon knows that because Gordon conducted that lengthy interview.  But most voters only knew the tent revivals Barack offered as he channeled Burt Lancaster's Starbuck in The Rainmaker as he went town to town running his con.
The book's a very important document.  People should be reading it, discussing it, arguing over it.  But it's an election year and the Cult of St. Barack has decreed that thou must not question the Christ-child.
And no one must question why Iraq's on a spending spree and not bringing any of those petro-dollars to the US which, you may remember, has still not recovered from the Great Recession.  Dar Addustour notes Nouri al-Maliki left Moscow yesterday for Prague.  In Russia, Iraq's prime minister and chief thug completed weapons deals valued at $4.2 billion.  RIA Novosti observes, "Arms industry analyst Ruslan Pukhov of the Center for Analysis of Strategy and Technologies, a Moscow-based think tank, said the deal showed Baghdad's desire to break Washington's monopoly of arms supplies to the new government there." Defense Industry Daily offers up "Baby Come Back: Iraq is Buying Russian Weapons Again:"

The first challenge the deal must overcome is Parliamentary. Maliki can sign the deal, but Iraq's legislature has to authorize the money for the purchases in its budgets. There has already been some pushback from that quarter, and time will tell how Maliki fares.
The next challenge will involve fielding, though this an easier hurdle. Iraq never really stopped operating Russian weapons, including tanks, artillery, helicopters, and guns. Some were scavenged and restored from the Saddam-era military. Others were provided by US allies. Still others, like Iraq's Mi-17 helicopters, were bought using the USA itself as an intermediary. What's different about these buys is that they involve a direct relationship with a new source for support, and also involve new roles within Iraq's reconstituted military. Working our those kinks, and training to use their equipment's full capabilities without endangering their own forces, is going to take work and time.

At The National Interest, Paul Pillar is more interested in figuring out what the deal means:

We can draw several implications from this news. One is that it fills in further the picture of what legacy was left in Iraq by the U.S. war that ousted Saddam. The regime that emerged from the rubble is not only increasingly authoritarian and narrowly sectarian and not only chummy with Iran; it also is becoming a client of Moscow. A trifecta of failure.
A second lesson concerns the notion that committing military support to a new regime in the making is essential for having a good relationship with it and to be considered a friend rather than a adversary once such a regime comes to power. This idea is being heard increasingly as an argument for doing more to assist rebels in Syria. We need to get in on the ground floor with the new bunch and accept risks and commit major resources, it is said, in order to be held in favor by whatever regime emerges from that rubble. But the United States got in on the ground floor more than once in Iraq—with the Baathists in 1958 and with the successors to Saddam after he was overthrown. In the latter case it did so with the expenditure of enormous resources. And look how much friendship and influence it bought.

BBC's Rami Ruhayem shares, "Until recently, Mr Maliki seemed to possess a magical ability to keep both Washington and Tehran happy.  But recent events suggest Baghdad could eventually face the unnerving possibility of having to choose one or the other." All Iraq News reports that Nouri has met with the Czech Republic's Prime Minister and explained that they wish to increase economic and military ties.  In Prague today, he's also declared that he hopes to work with the Czech Republic in building oil refineries in Iraq.  AP adds, "The prime ministers of the Czech Republic and Iraq say their countries are negotiating a possible deal for the Iraqi military to acquire Czech-made subsonic L-159 military airplanes."  AFP quotes Nouri declaring, "A certain agreement has been reached."  

As Nouri goes on a weapons spending spree, Iraq still can't provide its people with the basics.  Electricity goes in and out.  Potable water is a dream in many areas.  Potable water is especially an issue this time of year as the annual cholera outbreak arrives in Iraq.  All Iraq News reports that water trucks are being used in Baghdad.  These trucks contain potable water -- safe drinking water.   Al Mada reports that Baghdad is very afraid of a cholera outbreak as Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk have seen outbreaks and at least two people have recently died due to cholera.  Alsumaria reports that local government in Babylon is assembling a body to address any cholera outbreaks.  A national plan to address the health crisis remains absent -- this despite the fact that the cholera outbreaks are now a yearly occurrence and have been for years now.  Only in Nouri's Iraq.  But, hey, Nouri is stockpiling weapons.
As usual, what Nouri can't address, the KRG has to.  Press TV (link is transcript and video) reports:
Government ministries in Iraq's Kurdistan Region are pulling together to prevent the spread of cholera. Over 70 people are being tested for cholera every day amid an epidemic in the region's Sulaymaniyah province. Those affected are scattered throughout the province, making it difficult to pin point the exact source of the outbreak.
Turning to violence,  All Iraq News reports that 1 lawyer, Mohammed Mjul Sultan, was shot dead in Mosul today and a Mosul roadside bombing left four police officers injured. Alsumaria reports another Mosul bombing left two police injured, another Mosul roadside bombing left 2 dead, 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul, the son of  a Kirkuk police director was kidnapped, and mass arrests saw 77 Iraqis hauled from their homes.
In other news, Focus Information Agency notes the Turkish Parliament voted today to continue -- for at least another year -- "the government's mandate to order military strikes against Kurdish rebels holed up in neighboring Iraq."  Hurriyet Daily News explains, "Parliament authorized cross-border operations into northern Iraq in 2007 and has extended the mandate each year since then. The motion would authorize the government to determine the scale, scope and timing of military action. The current mandate of the motion expires Oct. 17."  The Voice of Russia says Turkish war planes again bombed northern Iraq today.
Meanwhile, it's not up there with one of Chris Hill's many infamous tantrums while he was the US Ambassador to Iraq but it is rather disturbing.  AFP report that Robert Beecroft, the new US Ambassador to Iraq arrived in Iraq today "and was sworn into his new position."  To quickly recap, Brett McGurk couldn't keep it in his pants and he ended up losing his nomination.  (Most were surprised that Barack would ever nominate someone who had savaged him in a column but that's Barack, he only respects the people who don't give him love -- ah, Daddy issues.)  September 11th, the White House announced they were nominating Beecroft for the post.  Despite many being out of DC to campaign for re-election (a third of the Senate seats will be elected in November), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair John Kerry moved heaven and earth to get a hearing up and going for September 19th.  Days later, September 22nd, Beecroft was confirmed by a voice vote.  Good for Kerry for pulling it off -- the hearing, the vote -- and so quickly but while he was busting his butt, did anyone realize Beecroft was not in any hurry to get to Iraq.  September 22nd he was confirmed and October 11th he arrived.  He has now topped Chris Hill's travel record (however, unlike Hill, he did not tell the Committee that the minute he was confirmed he would hop a flight to Iraq -- Hill did make that promise, Hill did break that promise).
In the US, there's a presidential election weeks away.  The Green Party candidate is Jill Stein.  Libby Liberal is supporting her.  Libby has an action she'd like others to take part in:
I am proposing several actions for citizens troubled by the NewsHour's blackout of third party candidates. A blackout of the issues of the constituencies of third party candidates.
I propose similarly concerned fellow citizens:
Boycott the PBS NewsHour between October 15th and 19th, 5 broadcast days.
Email a complaint to the NewsHour about the lack of coverage of third party candidates (come on, it will only cost you a few minutes):
Send a U.S. snail mail complaint (again a matter of minutes and a stamp):
MacNeil/Lehrer Productions
2700 South Quincy Street
Arlington, VA 22206
Contact PBS Ombudsman, Michael Getler:
Getler's address & phone:
Public Broadcasting Service
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
She has an analysis of PBS that you should read but I'm stopping her suggestions there.  She goes on to suggest local PBS stations be contacted.  Great idea if it were the summer.  It's too late for your local stations to do anything.  A few months back, they might have some pull.  But with the elections weeks away, PBS content supplier is the one to contact, not your local stations.  (However, contacting local stations may help local Greens get covered and that might be what Libby's going for.)
Read on ...
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