Thursday, November 09, 2006

Other Items

. . . Military Families Speak Out, along with some Iraq war veterans, will attempt to deliver a petition to Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, calling for an end to the extension of troops that have already served one or more tours in Iraq -- a "back-door draft," they call it. "They don't want a draft, so they are overusing the troops that are there," says Richardson. One of the member families from Tennessee has three sons and two grandsons who, combined, have spent more than 90 months in Iraq.

The above, noted by Anne, is from Bella English's "Their Children Are Soldiers, but They're Fighting the War" (Boston Globe via Common Dreams). This happens today (if you use the link, you'll see "Tomorrow" because it was published yesterday). To read the petition, in PDF format, click here.

As noted on KPFA yesterday by Sandra Lupien, The KPFA Evening News, Cindy Sheehan was arrested yesterday outside the White House when she and others attempted to deliver a petition with at least 80,000 signatures on it. The petition was calling for an end to the war. The arrest signals that nothing has changed at the White House (but what do they do when they order out?). Think back to the summer of 2005 when the Secret Service refused 'acceptance' as well.

This will be added to later.


While the White House refuses to accept petitions from the people, violence continues in Iraq. Qais al-Bashir (AP) notes:

Bomb attacks on markets in predominantly Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad killed at last 16 people, among 38 Iraqis killed or found dead across the country on Thursday in the latest outbreak of sectarian violence.

Gareth notes Simon Jenkins' "Republican defeat means the Iraqi insurgency has won" (Guardian of London):

They all have one item of unfinished business. A CNN exit poll of swing issues suggested Iraq, terrorism, the economy and corruption were of equal concern to voters, with the Republicans scoring badly on them all. The politics of fear has lost all its post-9/11 traction. Republicans mouthing dire threats of "Islamicists" under every bed are simply scorned. The most ferocious television ad I saw had a voice incanting that Americans were less popular, terrorism was worse, people were less safe, gasoline was more expensive, soldiers were dying and Osama bin Laden was still free -- all because of the Iraq war.
Over 60% of electors want US troops withdrawn from Iraq now or soon. Reports from Baghdad indicate expectation and relief that American policy in that country is about to change. The US army wants to leave. The government ran on a pro-war ticket and suffered a resounding rebuff. At this point the insurgency knows it has won, however long it takes the occupying power to go. Retreat in good order is the best hope. An era of ill-conceived, belligerent interventionism has come to an end -- by democratic decision, thank goodness.

A number of e-mails came in regarding Rebecca. Two camps: 1) Where is she? and 2) Beta?

On the first, she has missed a day of posting during the week before. She did post last night. (The second camp saw it.) She posted at Kat's site (click here for Rebecca's entry, here for Ruth's from last night and here for Betty's from Monday). So, first question, she did post last night.

Beta? Rebecca did the Blogger/Blogspot switch yesterday. As was noted in Polly's Brew Sunday, there is a switch that all using Blogger/Blogspot will have to do. Switching to Beta is not an option. Shortly, all sites will have to switch over. Rebecca got the message yesterday that she could switch now so she did assuming it would take a few minutes. It didn't. The e-mail(s) announcing the switch was complete (she says 10 -- "Spammed by Blogger!") arrived at five a.m. her time juding by the time stamp. She started the swith sometime after 7:00 p.m. That's about ten hours. Those who saw Rebecca's post last night are wondering about this site's switch?

If we're a given a choice (we may not be), we will go with the Saturday Rebecca mentioned in her post. That's the only day we could get away with being down for that long. If it takes longer than that? We have a mirror site.

Rebecca's cross-posted last night's post to her own site this morning. She finds some parts of Beta confusing and some easier. She noted that publishing her post was "immediate." We can go 20 or more minutes here with our entries (in the publishing). So that would be a benefit.

Again, we may not be given a choice.

Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights and co-host of Law and Disorder) and Robert Parry (Consortium News) are among the guests on today's Democracy Now! discussing Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates. We'll be noting Parry on yesterday's Flashpoints in the snapshot later.

If you've made it through 'community business,' you do have a reward. Pru highlights Ed Harriman's "The Least Accountable Regime in the Middle East" (London Review of Books):

American military spending on Iraq is now approaching $8 billion a month. Accounting for inflation, this is half as much again as the average monthly cost of the Vietnam War; the total spent so far has long surpassed the cost of the entire Apollo space programme. Three and a half months of occupation costs the equivalent of Iraq’s estimated oil revenues for the current financial year. We now know, thanks to the leaked report of James Baker's Iraq Study Group, that if US troops withdrew, they would in all probability be redeployed to neighbouring countries, increasing the already massive expenditure and inevitably threatening new arenas of conflict. Here's an unimaginable alternative. If the US army left the region, and if the money was instead handed out to every Iraqi man, woman and child, they would each receive more than $300 a month.
They need it: Iraq has run out of reconstruction money. The funds in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq -- some $20 billion of Iraqi money -- were spent by Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority in the first year of the occupation. The US Embassy in Baghdad has spent virtually all of the $18.4 billion that Congress appropriated for 'rebuilding' the country; $5.6 billion of it was used to run the embassy, promote American 'values' and set up the new armed forces and police. Most of the American money never even gets to Iraq. The bulk of it has gone to American consultants, or into American contractors' international bank accounts.
'Most of the projects planned in sewerage, irrigation, drainage and dams have been cancelled,' the auditors of the US Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction (SIGIR) report. Others have been 'descoped'. A 238 km canal brings fresh water to Basra from the Gharraf river, a tributary of the Tigris. The long neglected banks of the canal are crumbling. There was a plan to line its entire length with concrete; the idea now is merely to repair one badly damaged 20 km stretch. This is what 'descoped' means. In July, SIGIR could find no evidence of emergency repairs or even routine maintenance. According to the increasingly implausible State Department, Iraq's basic utilities -- its electricity, oil production and water supply -- have reached standards close to or above those under Saddam. The US General Accountability Office (GAO), however, says these claims are meaningless, since they are based on numbers of completed projects, without indicating how much has been done of what was originally planned.
One thing is certain: the Coalition has created and fostered the least accountable and least transparent regime in the Middle East. It's impossible to say whether it's also the most corrupt, because so little is known about how Iraq's ministers spend their government’s revenue. The US Embassy says it's trying to find out, but it hasn't had much success. Paul Bremer handed over $8.8 billion in cash to the interim government in the first year of occupation; it has never been accounted for. American auditors are also still in the dark about Iraq's reconstruction budget for the two years that followed: another $14 billion. 'SIGIR has no further information about how much of these funds has been expended.' Iraqis don’t know either, since there are no meaningful public accounts.
Public opinion polls show that Iraqis list corruption as one of their three biggest worries, along with power cuts and violence. The inspector general for the Ministry of Health recently estimated that corruption costs Iraq $4 billion each year. World Bank officials told the GAO that putting contracts out for tender is still an 'alien concept' for Iraqi ministries. There are countless allegations of 'ghost employees' on ministry payrolls, of kickbacks, cronyism, nepotism and fraud that reach right up to the president, Jalal Talabani. SIGIR says that 'corruption is a virtual pandemic in Iraq.' The embassy's 'expenditure on anti-corruption has been modest' -- some $65 million, or 0.3 per cent of its reconstruction budget. It's spending more than $1 billion on 'democracy building' activities, however, such as pro-American propaganda and PR.
The propaganda keeps quiet about the torture of prisoners in secret jail cells, and about the infiltration of the security forces by sectarian militias. These activities are overseen by the Interior Ministry, which reportedly employs at least a thousand ghost employees, whose wages amount to more than $1 million a month. The US Embassy has lost track of the weapons, radios and other hardware it has supplied over the past two years, and the auditors talk of 'uncertain property ownership' and 'political difficulties'. The ministry's audit director, who is responsible for police activities throughout Iraq, has six staff and one computer. Much of the equipment intended for government use is probably with sectarian militias, or has been sold.

Finally, Zach asked that we again note:

Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States will be presented this Thursday at 7:30 pm, Berkeley Community Theatre (1930 Allston Way) and participants will include Alice Walker, Mos Def and others.

That's tonight.

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