Thursday, January 12, 2012

Take Two


That's "Take Two" from July 20, 2008.

This 2008 New Yorker cover inspired not one but three comics. Actually not the cover, the reaction to it.

The cover was a funny send-up, an obvious parody. But the Cult of St. Barack threw a fit and said copies should be burned -- yes, KPFA, on air promoted BOOK BURNING. So-called free speech radio allowed that IDIOT Aimee Allison (the mixed, bi-racial fool) to advocate for BOOK BURNING. What a little ass.

So while that nonsense was going on, I offered three other versions in solidarity with The New Yorker.

People sometimes ask me about the hate I must get from the Cult for what I do? I got in 2008. Not so much now. In part because they know they don't have any effect on me. In part because even they realize Barack was a myth.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Marc Lynch abuses the factual record, State of Law plays Don Rickles, Erdogan continues to warn about a possible civil war in Iraq, and more.
Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy) decides to play Columbus and 'discover' Iraq today. It wasn't pretty.
If the "last American troops officially left Iraq before Christmas," who's guarding the US Embassy in Baghdad?
Phantom Marines?
Why does Nouri al-Maliki say 700 US troops remain in Iraq as trainers?
"Then-candidate Barack Obama promised" 16 months for troops to leave Iraq, starting with when he was sworn in. You can't just rewrite history. Events happened, they took place, and you can't pretend otherwise.
It's not just wrong, it's insane. Why the hell would Barack promise 2011?
Because of the SOFA?
The SOFA wasn't released until after the Iraqi Parliament voted on it. Does Lynch know when that was? Probably not.
That was November 27, 2008. A Thursday. Thanskgiving Day. Only after that vote took place did the White House release the SOFA. So Barack promised to do what the American public didn't know?
How is that possible?
And why would Candidate Barack agree to abide by a SOFA?
Barack's position as a candidate was that Bush didn't have the power to negotiate a SOFA. He objected to it. As did Joe Biden. (And a host of others, but we're talking about the Obama-Biden ticket.) And it wasn't until after the election that Team Obama's vanished the objection to the SOFA from the official website.
These are events that happened and, you, Marc Lynch, have a lot of nerve writing of Iraq "at this point very few care" when you yourself so obviously don't care as evidenced by your very loose living arrangement you have with the facts.
Marc Lynch also wants to share some opinions but when you don't even get the facts right, have you really earned that? I don't think so. You don't ignore your vegetables and then get to have cake and ice cream. So sorry.
Jeremy Herb (The Hill) reports that Senator Ben Nelson has declared in a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that the costs of protecting the US Embassy in Baghdad should be covered by the Iraqi government: "Nelson, who is retiring at the end of the year, pointed to testimony from Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsy at a November 2011 Senate hearing, when Dempsey said that a host nationa has the first responsibility for securing embassies." In Iraq, US Senator John McCain's discussion on Face The Nation (CBS News) Sunday is in the news. Dar Addustour features quotes from the interview but they're not always what McCain said. And, in the case of McCain's remarks on Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, you really can't have two quotes because McCain only made one statement on al-Hashemi, "The Vice President of Iraq is now hiding out in Erbil." So how they're getting two different quotes -- in quotes -- on al-Hashemi from McCain is beyond me. He was noted in one sentence only. Al Mada focuses on the reactions to the statements which include State of Law MP Izzat Shabandar dismissing McCain as an American-Israeli War Hawk. Bahaa al-Araji is with the Sadr bloc and he states that Iraq is not likely to split into three states (McCain: "I think there's clearly an unraveling going on which could eventually lead basically into three different kinds of states in Iraq."). To clear up one point in Al Mada's reporting, Face The Nation airs on Sunday mornings. McCain made those remarks on live TV Sunday. To clear up confusion in other reporting -- it was not a "debate." He spoke one on one with host Bob Schieffer.
Turning to the topic of violence, Reuters notes, "Gunmen wearing military uniforms bombed an equipment storage yard belonging to Angola's national oil company near an oilfield in northern Iraq, police sources said on Thursday." In addition, Reuters reports a Latifiya roadside bombing which left four pilgrims injured, a Baghdad shooting which left 2 police officers dead, a Kifl car bombing which claimed 1 life and left twelve people injured, a Jbela roadside bombing which left five pilgrims injured, a Mosul shooting in which 1 person was shot dead and, dropping back to Wednesda for the last two, a Baaj shooting which left 2 suspects killed and a Baquba roadside bombing which targeted a Sahwa and left three of his children injured.
The pilgrims wounded and killed this week have been observing Arbaee which concludes Saturday. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers explains:
For generations, Muslims used to commemorate the anniversary of the Arba'inya by walking from everywhere in Iraq and Arab land to the holy shrine in Karbala in spite of many kinds of danger basically death. Many rulers tried to prevent people from going to Karbala by many ways. During the Abbasian era which lasted for over a century, the caliphs imposed taxes to prevent people from going to but people paid happily. When they found out that money is not enough to stop people, they ordered to cut one hand from every pilgrim but again, they failed because people gave their hands. At the end the authorities ordered to kill one from every ten pilgrims and one more time, they failed because sacrificed their souls. During the modern history, things didn't change a lot. In Saddam's era, Arba'inya visit meant certain death. Even after 2003, the situation stayed the same. The pilgrims are still a target but this time not for the authorities in Iraq but for the Islamic extremists. The only change was the method. Instead of cutting the hand of pilgrims or killing one of ten, the insurgents chose to kill the biggest number of pilgrims by car bombs, suicide bombers and even poisoned food and drinks. Thousands of men, women and even kids were killed by brutal attacks in all the Shiite cities just because they love Imam Hussein. In fact, the attacks targeted even the Shiite people in others countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan. But did the extremists succeed? One more time, the answer is no.
Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link is video and text) reports on the pilgrimage and speaks to Said Duraid Mohammed who is making the holy journey. He tells her, "We are used to bombings. It is normal for us to face that in our daily life. And for the pilgrimage and Imam Hussein, we are ready to step on the bombs." Abdelamir Hanoun (AFP) notes officials estate 15 milliion will make the pilgrimage to Karbala by Saturday.
Turning to the non-sacred, Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has spent the last few days noting the dangerous political crisis in Iraq and calling on efforts to address it. From Tuesday's snapshot:
Vestnik Kavkaza reports, "The US has made a big mistake by withdrawing from Iraq, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, reports. Erdogan met his Norwegian counterpart Jens Stoltenberg and reminded him that he had warned US president and vice-president about repercussions from such step. The Turkish premier noted that the situation in Iraq remains tense and inter-religious conflicts may arise at any moments. Turkey is a neighboring state and cannot remain indifferent to the situation. He added that Iran is planned to be involved in the process." KUNA also notes Erdogan making public statements of concern about what's taking place in Iraq and they offer this context, "Erdogan made these remarks amidst political conflict between the Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's rule of law coalition and the Iraqiya List after a judicial committee issued an arrest warrant for vice-president Tareq Al-hashimi on terrorism charges."
Thomas Seiberg (The National) reports, "Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime miniser has started a bid to end the power struggle in Iraq, warning that religious strife had turned the neighbouring country into a 'sea of blood'. Mr Erdogan was scheduled to talk to Nouri Al Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, by telephone yesterday. There was no word on whether a statement would be released afterwards." Today's Zaman adds, "In a telephone conversation late on Tuesday, Erdogan told Maliki that transformation of mistrust into animosity toward a coalition partner will negatively affect democracy in Iraq, a veiled warning to the Iraqi prime minister that his latest arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi is a blow to democracy in the war-torn country." Hurriyet Daily News reports on a speech Erdogan gave Tuesday "to his party's parliamentary group" in which he alluded to Nouri al-Maliki, "Without naming him directly, Erdo─čan slammed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, saying 'a positive outcome cannot be expected from a mindset which is sending tanks to besiege the homes of ministers from his own coalition'." Nouri started that as soon as he returned to Iraq after his meet up with Barack Obama in DC. Saturday, December 17th, Liz Sly (Washington Post) reported, "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders." Nouri received praise yesterday as well, Al Mada reports. The militant group Army of the Mujahideen declared support for Nouri and his efforts to form a "single and unified Iraq" . . and that they claimed that they had been behind the rocket attack on the Green Zone ceremony celebrating the creation of the Iraqi Army.
The response from Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law political slate? Aswat al-Iraq notes National Alliance MP Ali al-Shalah declared, "Iraq is not an Ottoman province, and never will be." Of course, factually, Iraq was once part of the Ottoman Empire until the British (via the League of Nations) divided it up in 1920. al-Shalah suggested the Turkish prime minister should "attend [to] the Turkish internal affairs, where some Turkish quarters suffer racist violations." If you use the link, you'll be saying, "Uh, you're wrong, he's National Alliance." He's State of Law. And Aswat al-Iraq knew that recently. For example, last week. In addition, yesterday Aswat al-Iraq reported State of Law MP Ibraheem al-Rekabi declared that Turkey was "responsible for the latest crisis among the political entities." This blame everyone else approach echoes not only Nouri's style but the 'diplomatic' approach State of Law's has been practicing for weeks now such as the December 30th when Dar Addustour reported State of Law MP Yassin Majid declared that Erdogan should keep "his nose" out of Iraqi political matters. Political matters? Aswat al-Iraq terms it "a major political crisis." If State of Law thought they could bully Erodgan into silence, they were wrong. Today's Zaman reports he met today with Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) to express "that he is concerned over possible chaos in Iraq caused by anti-democratic and sectarian approaches" and feels that civil war in Iraq is a possibility if the political blocs can not reach an understnding.
The sale of arms to Iraq (remember Iraq?) -- $11 billion worth of almost everything, fighter jets, battle tanks, cannons, armored personnel carriers, armor and helmets, even sport utility vehicles -- is going to move forward even though it makes little sense from multiple points of view, including U.S. geopolitical interests. As far as I can tell, the sale is going to go through because "war persists" -- or something persists, a force invisible to reporters and beyond the control of diplomats (at least those who speak on the record).
"The Obama administration is moving ahead with the sale . . ." the Times informs us, "despite concerns that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is seeking to consolidate authority, create a one-party Shiite-dominated state and abandon the American-backed power-sharing government."
Well, so much for democracy. So much for talking about anything noble. Excuse me if I seem to be speaking as though I'm surprised. The only thing that surprises me is how quickly and thoroughly our pretenses disintegrate once we're done with them, and how baldly we get on with business as usual. Or rather, business as usual gets on with us.
Maliki's agenda is to cut the Sunnis out of the government, and the Iraqi military has "evolved into a hodgepodge of Shiite militias more interested in marginalizing the Sunnis than in protecting the country's sovereignty," creating conditions ripe for civil war, which the arms sale would grease. Well, moral concerns always play second fiddle in these matters.

Nouri al-Maliki caused the political crisis by targeting members of Iraqiya, his political rivals and the winners of the 2010 elections (State of Law came in second). The targeting included demanding that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his position (hasn't happened yet) and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested for terrorism (ibid). Al Mada reports that al-Mutlaq issued a statement declaring no regrets over criticizing Nouri and stating he was behaving like a dictator. In the new statement, al-Mutlaq also declared that Nouri lacks wisdom and State of Law MP Yassin Majid -- apparently the Don Rickles of State of Law -- or at least their Joan Rivers -- responded by calling al-Mutlaq incompetent. Aswat al-Iraq notes that al-Mutlaq met with the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler and al-Saleh's office issued a statement declaring, "Mutlaq has called during the metting of the United Nations to shoulder its responsibility, highly assessing Kobler's role to settle the problems and find understandings to strengthen democracy in Iraq." Meanwhile State of Law MP Salam al-Maliki took to the airwaves of Alsumaria TV to proclaim that al-Mutlaq must apologize to Nouri or propose a candidate to take over his (al-Mutlaq's) job.
Alsumaria TV notes, "Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and his Parliament Speaker Osama Al Nujaifi agreed, in a meeting in Sulaymaniyah on December 27, upon holding a national congress for all Iraqi political parties in order to deal with state governance issues and bring forth related solutions." This week, steps have been taken to get the ball rolling on that. Yesterday came news that KRG President Massoud Barzani would not be attending if the conference is in Baghdad (that's where it's supposed to be held currently). Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Barzani's announcement is still being discussed. Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman states that among the reasons for Barazani's refusal to attend a Baghdad conference the failure of Nouri al-Maliki to implement the Erbil Agreement is chief among them.

Which takes us from political crisis to the Political Stalemates. Political Stalemate I began following the March 2010 elections when Nouri refused to give up power -- despite the fact that his term as prime minister was over and despite the fact that State of Law came in second, Iraqiya came in first. Per the will of the Iraqi people and the Constitution, Iraqiya should have had the prime minister-designate (prime minister-designate becomes prime minister if he or she is able to name a Cabinet in 30 days -- nominate the ministers, get Parliament to vote to approve each one).

The White House decided to back Nouri -- and not the Iraqi people or democracy which makes Barack's ridiculous statements about Iraqi elections obscene -- and when efforts were started to get the UN to appoint a caretaker government, the US blocked those efforts. Nouri was already repeatedly caught running secret prisons. Pretty much every year, Ned Parker would report for the Los Angeles Times on another just discovered secret prison. Nouri would deny it for a couple of weeks. Then, once Iraqi outrage died down, Nouri would allow that it was the only one. And then another would be discovered. And then another. The secret prisons weren't day spas. That's not why they were kept secret. They were off the book locations where torture took place. Under Nouri's command. The White House elected to back a torturer. When some idiot like David Shorr whimpers, "Why should you say Barack owns Iraq?" -- the reply is because he backed a known torturer and not the Iraqi people. And US allies objected to the White House about backing Nouri -- including England and France.

Without the White House's backing, Nouri would have been forced out of the post (his term had expired) and not hung on to it for eight months after the elections.

Political Stalemate I could have continued forever. Nouri was very happy with it. He fired his Minister of Electricity and did so with no oversight from Parliament. He illegally named another Minister of Electricity (he farmed out the duties to the Minister of Oil) again without oversight from Parliament. He did whatever he wanted.

The Erbil Agreement ended Political Stalemate I. The US brokered agreement gave Nouri the post of prime minister. In return, Nouri was supposed to do many things including hold a referendum on Kirkuk (something the Constitution required him to do by the end of 2007 but Nouri ignored the Constitution throughout his first term -- and, again, this is who Barack Obama decided to back for a second term), create an independent national security commission to be headed by Iraqiya's Ayad Allawi, and more.

Nouri got what he wanted and then trashed the agreement. He still could have been stopped -- and should have. 30 days to form a Cabinet. Failure to do so, per the Constitution, means the President (of Iraq -- maybe the use of the term "president" confused Barack?) names another person to be prime minister-designate and they have 30 days. (Actually, the wording is such that the President could conceivably name the same person to another 30 days -- if he or she was willing to put up with any political heat.) Nouri failed to come up with a full Cabinet. He could have been stopped at the end of December 2010 as his 30 days expired. But the US government had made clear he had their backing.

And that was the start of the (ongoing) Political Stalemate II. The failure on Nouri's part to honor the Erbil Agreement.

This week Asawat al-Iraq reported that Iraqiya MP Liqa' al-Wardi stated that Nouri's inability to fill the security ministries was responsible for the deterioration of Iraq's security. She focused on the Minister of Defense and the Minister of Interior. The third security ministry post is also empty, Minister of National Security. All three are Cabinet positions. All three were never filled (although he was required to). When he refused to fill them at the end of December, Nouri critics declared this a power grab and stated Nouri wasn't filling them so he could control them. US outlets usually insisted that Nouri would fill the posts in a matter of weeks. It is one year and one month later. The posts remain empty and have never been filled. Guess US outlets got punked and Nouri critics were correct.

And finally, in the US, as December (and 2011) came to a close, Senator Amy Klobuchar's office issued the following:

U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced today that President Obama has signed into law provisions she and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) authored supporting survivors of sexual assault in the military as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The Klobuchar-Collins provisions will require the Department of Defense to develop a coordinated policy to ensure the preservation of documents connected with sexual assault reports in the military and provide full privacy and identity protection for the victim. In addition to the provisions, Klobuchar also included an amendment requiring the Department of Defense to guarantee storage of most documents connected with reports of sexual assaults in the U.S. military for an estimated 50 years.

"If an American in uniform suffers the horrific trauma of sexual assault while fighting for their country, they shouldn't have to fight to receive care and pursue justice," Klobuchar said. "This important legislation will now become the law of the land and help ensure survivors of sexual assault have the support they need and deserve."

"Senator Klobuchar's amendment is an important milestone in continuing efforts to establish a sound DOD policy for records preservation vital to veterans seeking VA benefits for conditions related to military sexual trauma (MST)," said Donald L. Samuels, National Commander of the Disabled American Veterans. "The veterans community salutes her leadership and determination on this important issue."

"VFW applauds Senator Klobuchar for her efforts to provide improvements within VA and DOD in cases of sexual assault documentation -- She has been at the forefront of the fight for MST victims. Her amendment will help provide many victims the evidence to validate claims for VA disability for MST," said Ray Kelley, Legislative Director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).

Until today there has been no coordinated policy across the U.S. service branches to ensure the preservation of medical and other reports connected with sexual trauma. Each service branch has been left to develop its own policy, resulting in inconsistent recordkeeping and frequent destruction of records. Long-term preservation of records can help a victim seek medical and disability assistance, and certain records can also be used as evidence in a later crime involving the same perpetrator.

In recent years there has been an increase in reports of sexual assaults in the military. According to the Department of Defense, there were 3,158 official reports of sexual assaults in the military in 2010. Because most incidents are not reported to a military authority, the Pentagon estimates this number represents only 13 to 14 percent of total assaults -- making the total estimated number of sexual assaults in the military over 19,000 in 2010.

Research has shown that sexual trauma not only hurts the victims, but can also take a toll on their fellow servicemembers by severely undermining unit cohesion, morale, and overall force effectiveness.

Klobuchar's and Collins' Support for Survivors Act, much of which is included in the National Defense Authorization Act, will:

· Require the Department of Defense to develop a policy to ensure the preservation of documents connected with reports of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military.

· Ensure full privacy and identity protection for both the victim and the perpetrator, if known.

· Grant the VA access to documents only at the request of a servicemember, for the purpose of assisting with the processing of a disability compensation claim.

· Allow the Department of Defense to review the data (but not the names of the individuals mentioned in the reports) to improve research and reporting.

Senator Klobuchar's efforts to support military sexual assault victims have been supported by the Disabled American Veterans, The American Legion, AMVETS, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, and the Wounded Warrior Project. The Support for Survivors Act was also endorsed by the Service Women's Action Network.


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