Sunday, May 13, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

It has not even reached parliament, but the oil law that U.S. officials call vital to ending Iraq's civil war is in serious trouble among Iraqi lawmakers, many of whom see it as a sloppy document rushed forward to satisfy Washington's clock.
Opposition ranges from vehement to measured, but two things are clear: The May deadline that the White House had been banking on is in doubt. And even if the law is passed, it fails to resolve key issues, including how to divide Iraq's oil revenue among its Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni regions, and how much foreign investment to allow. Those questions would be put off for future debates. The problems of the oil bill bode poorly for the other so-called benchmarks that the Bush administration has been pressuring Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government to meet. Those include provincial elections, reversing a prohibition against former Baath Party members holding government and military positions and revision of Iraq's constitution.

The above is from Tina Susman's "Iraqis resist U.S. pressure to enact oil law: Foreign investment and Shiite control are the primary concerns. A White House deadline for passage is in doubt." (Los Angeles Times). The fire sale on Iraq's oil may not go through? It shouldn't go through. It's appalling and it's sad that many consider it a situation that can be ignored (as one said on a radio program, one opposed to the illegal war, whatever happens with the privatization of Iraqi oil can be fixed in ten or so years). But the reality is that although good for Big Oil that's backed Bully Boy and lousy for Iraqis, privatizing the oil (a 'benchmark' also offered by the Democratic leadership in Congress) has nothing to do with ending the illegal war or ending the daily chaos and violence. It will likely incite further violence because there has always been a feeling on the part of many Iraqis that the whole point to the illegal war was for the US to get their hands on the oil.

So what's really going on? Why has Bully Boy staked this as an issue? And why has Democratic leadership (in their faux attempts to end the illegal war) latched on to it as well? A benchmark isn't, for instance, providing childhood immunizations though the United Nations and various charity organizations have noted the actual need for that. A benchmark isn't returning Iraq to its status as one of the bread baskets of the region. Dick Cheney and Condi Rice have both made recent high profile visits, stressing the need for Iraq to pass the law allowing for a theft of its own resources.

It didn't matter, one said on the radio, because it could be 'fixed' in ten or so years. That's an ahistorical statement for starters. The US government has a long history of aggressive action when countries attempt to undo legislation that's unfair. Look at the all the war cries and aggressive posture going on currently with regards to Hugo Chavez. It's equally true that a country that already suffered under economic sanctions, one that has been torn apart by a second war, doesn't really have the 'luxury' of giving away their main means of profit. The idea that it can be 'fixed' in ten years also fails to grasp how difficult it is in any country (including the US) to undo legislation once it has been passed.

It's even more true that a puppet government, installed by the US, shouldn't be allowed to 'make decisions' for the Iraqi people. 'Make decisions' because the puppet's ministry didn't write the Iraq oil law. They were handed it and they rubber stamped it.

In "For Five Years We've Called It Blood for Oil" (AfterDowningStreet), David Swanson notes:

And we've been right. The first of the five "benchmarks" in the war funding bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 10 requires Iraq to pass an oil law.
The law has long been drafted, and it opens up two-thirds of Iraq's oil to ownership by foreign corporations (widely expected to be dominated by U.S. corporations). Congress Members who voted against the bill are speaking out against this as theft of Iraq's oil:
Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Rep. Lynn Woolsey.
If that sounds familiar, it's because the peace movement has been saying it for five years. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you,
then they attack you, then you win.
Oil workers in Iraq are threatening to
strike over this proposed law. And the Iraqi government is listening.
We have a chance to listen too, because from June 4 to June 29, Iraqi labor leaders will be
touring the United States to talk about this issue.

Susan notes this from Patrick Cockburn's "State of Surge" (CounterPunch): "The Sunni guerrillas are trying to isolate Baghdad from the rest of the country as truck bombs exploded on three important bridges killing 26 people. A sedan blew up in a queue of cars on the old Diyala bridge just south of Baghdad collapsing a span and two minutes later a large fuel truck exploded on a newer bridge over the same river. North of Baghdad at Taji, long a centre for insurgents, a third vehicle bomb damaged and made impassable a bridge linking Baghdad with northern Iraq." How does the 'benchmark' address that? It doesn't.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3376. Tonight? 3396. And on this, the 13th day of May, how many for the month? 45. Today, the US military announced: "An 89TH Military Police Brigade Soldier was severely wounded by animprovised explosive device at approximately 7:15 pm Friday south of Al Iskandariyah. The Soldier was evacuated for treatment at the Coalition medical treatment facility atFOB Kalsu but later died of his wounds."

Martin notes Peter Beumont's "Call for 'More troops' as Iraq killings soar" (DemocracyRising):

The US military surge in Iraq, designed to turn around the course of the war, appears to be failing as senior US officers admit they need yet more troops and new figures show a sharp increase in the victims of death squads in Baghdad. In the first 11 days of this month, there have already been 234 bodies -- men murdered by death squads --- dumped around the capital, a dramatic rise from the 137 found in the same period of April. Improving security in Baghdad and reducing death-squad activity was described as one of the key aims of the US surge of 25,000 additional troops, the final units of whom are due to arrive next month.
In a further setback, the US military announced yesterday the loss of an entire patrol south of Baghdad, with five soldiers dead and three others missing, after they were ambushed by insurgents in the town of Mahmoudiya.

When Beumont wrote the above, it was thought that five were dead. It's since been revealed that four are confirmed dead and the fifth was an Iraqi translator. Scott Canon (McClatchy Newspapers) reports:

While some 4,000 American troops searched Sunday for three comrades who disappeared after a pre-dawn ambush Saturday, a Sunni Muslim insurgent group claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi Army translator.
Though it offered no proof, the Islamic State in Iraq, which has called for a separate Sunni Muslim state in Iraq and is believed to have ties to al Qaida in Mesopotamia, said on a Web site Sunday that it was responsible for the pre-dawn raid near Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.

In today's violence Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports: "Around 4.45 a.m., an American plane used its machine gun on one of the roofs of Sadr city neighborhood, killing a woman and a child while a man was injured, all of them from one family who were sleeping on the roof escaping the hot weather indoors, having no power supply in the whole neighborhood. U.S. spokesman Lt. Col. Chris Garver said he didn't have specific information about the civilian deaths in Sadr City." In addition, Kadhim notes US forces, conducting a house raid in Baghdad, killed an Iraqi, five people were shot dead in a Mahmoudiya factory by unknown assailants, a Baghdad car bomb claimed 5 lives (40 wounded), 22 corpses were discovered in Baghdad, a Kirkuk rocket attack claimed one life (one more person was wounded), a Makmour truck bombing left 37 dead (115 wounded), an Iraqi was shot dead in Baquba, an Iraqi was shot dead in Khalis (another kidnapped), and at a fake checkpoint "between Baghdad and Baquba" one person was killed and three more inured.

Reuters notes the Makmour bombing death toll has risen to 50, an Iraqi translator was shot dead in Suwayra, two people were shot dead in a Wahda market,and a roadside bombing in Najaf left four police officers wounded. All together (including corpses discovered in Baghdad), that's over 88 dead today. "Over"? I'm tired. There also may be two mass shootings in Mahmoudiya -- one that claimed 5 lives and another that claimed 6. "I'm tired" is a good place to pause and note "What's Next for the Peace Movement?" (Foreign Policy in Focus) which is a feature with various people sharing their thoughts on the peace movement. Marcia noted it Thursday and I shared my thoughts then but forgot to include a link. (My apologies.) Remember that Tuesday morning, Marcia will be sharing her thoughts on the various suggestions, opinions and critiques in Hilda's Mix. In addition, though not intended to be, it became the focus of "Roundtable" (The Third Estate Sunday Review). On the topic of The Third Estate Sunday Review, Cal e-mailed to remind me we were supposed to have addressed Bob Herbert's lovey-dovey look at hacktor Gary Sinise and the psuedo group he front as The Third Estate Sunday Review? We were, a week or two back. It's one of the things that fell through the cracks. But for those wanting to know the latest on the front group, they can read David S. Cloud's report (New York Times) on the latest scandal. There are other things that fell through the cracks including one feature I've been pushing for three weeks now. The reasons something falls through the cracks can include: (a) we forget, (b) we do an attempt and it's just not working out, and (c) time runs out. The one I've been pushing for three weeks now is one that time ran out on the first weekend, last weekend, we attempted it but it wasn't working and this week I forgot all about it until we were posting the features. Another reason, as Elaine points out in "Mailbag" is that something planned earlier in the weeks ends up being addressed elsewhere [she strongly recommends Laurie Hasbrook's "This Minute and Then the Next" (CounterPunch)].

Along with Foreign Policy in Focus addressing peace, movies are in the pipeline that will address Iraq. From Borzou Daragahi "Iraq war spreads to Hollywood" (Los Angeles Times):

WAR'S mysterious allure drew U.S. Marine Cpl. Elliot Ruiz back to the parched plains where he nearly lost his life. Last time he was in the Middle East he wound up lying in a pool of his own blood on the pavement near Tikrit, clinging to life after an insurgent attack that badly damaged his leg.
This time, four years and countless hours of physical therapy later, he returns as Cpl. Ramirez, one of the lead actors in "Battle for Haditha," an upcoming feature movie exploring the complexities of the Iraq war even as the real conflict rages on.
"The character I play is kind of like me," says the 24-year-old actor, a Philadelphia native who now lives in Sherman Oaks. "He's a good Marine. But he watches his friend die and he just loses it. He kills a bunch of people."
With little fanfare, Hollywood has begun chronicling and critiquing the Iraq war even before it has ended.
"Haditha" is among several upcoming films about the conflict. The most high-profile and conventional is "No True Glory: The Battle for Fallujah," set for a 2008 release and starring Harrison Ford as the general leading the 2004 charge into the western city controlled by insurgents. "Glory," which is still in pre-production, resembles the straightforward tales of heroism Hollywood turned out during World War II.
But almost all the other upcoming projects reflect the zeitgeist of a nation increasingly opposed to a conflict that has already cost tens of thousands of lives and shows no signs of abating.
One, director Kimberly Peirce's "Stop Loss," stars Ryan Phillippe as an Iraq veteran who refuses to return to the country when ordered to do so. A project in the works for 2009 is "Sweet Relief," starring Kirsten Dunst as Marla Ruzicka, the American aid worker killed in a suicide car-bomb blast near the Baghdad airport in 2005.

Those aren't the only films (from original or adapted screenplays, as opposed to documentaries).
I'm not seeing it noted in the article (it may be in there and I'm missing it) but Anna Paquin
plays a war resister in Blue State and Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones reteam (The Client was a previous film), and join Charlize Theron, for Paul Haggis In the Valley of Elah as the parents of AWOL soldier. And those aren't the only films.

Two things on that. First, Denzel Washington may make a huge mistake and film a movie that will most likely blow up in his face (if it gets a greenlight) because it's more myth than reality. The flare up over A Beautiful Mind will be nothing compared to what could happen this time round. Washington's currently directing a movie. That's a large chunk of time (that last long after filming ends) and the project is still being shopped around. In this instance, it's based on a previous work (no screenplay has been written). He would like to both direct and star in the film. By the time he's done directing his current film and acting in other films scheduled, much time could pass. (He is pushing it already on the age factor for the lead in the film we're referring to.)

Second, the film may never get set up at a studio. Many do not. Many get set up and then are dropped (or put in turnaround) which makes it unlikely (though not impossible) that another studio will grab it. (If one backs out, everyone else is wary: "What did they see that I'm not seeing!") The point here is that films that reach the screen go through a long process to get there. Ava and I have made that point repeatedly at The Third Estate Sunday Review and I've made it here as well. In the last year (and leading up to this year's Oscars) it was very popular for some to trash "Hollywood" for not weighing in on the war. First, they had weighed in. In support and those films bombed. Repeatedly. Film goers didn't want to see that. Many arrived after the public was turning against the war or had turned against the war and they were big budget flicks that needed huge openings to make any kind of a profit. (Opening weekend is more important to the studios. They get a larger share of the box office take. Unless a special deal is made for a film, such as one by George Lucas, after the first week, their percentage of the box office drops each week as the theaters percentage increases. That's one reason that opening weekends are so important to the studios. And a reason that films with legs -- Sandra Bullock's had many -- are popular with the theater owners. They know X means people will come in during the week and after opening weekend to see the film and that they will get a higher take on that -- than on a film which opens big and they're stuck with for multiple weeks even though ticket purchases nose dive.)

The criticism argued (wrongly) that the film industry was sitting the war out. Due to the (bad) box office for the rah-rah films, it made it that much harder for any film (rah-rah, indifferent, against, whatever) to be made. People were very leery. You needed more than a pitch, you needed at least a treatment (and that was if you were a name or had a name signed or heavily interested) just to get into serious talks. Scripts are not generally written in 30 days (other than from Sy Field's cookie-cutter graduates). After that, the meetings take place. If the studio is interested, there are logistics to plan for (where to film), insurance issues, casting and crew issues. While everyone was saying that the film industry was sitting it out, they weren't. (Which is why I have harped on that repeatedly here.) Just because you went to your multi-plex and didn't see anything didn't mean there was no interest. TV is a much quicker process (and has a much quicker shooting schedule). As Daraghi points out, there are films that will be coming out. Those aren't the only films. (Nor are the two I've listed the only two that may not be in his article.) In the article, Daraghi somehow fails to note Coming Home (which won multiple Oscars including Best Story, Best Actress and Best Actor -- and a film whose influence is rarely grasped in terms of sound though you see few movies today that don't owe a huge debt to Coming Home) and also floats that, unlike the three films about Vietnam that he notes, this time there's no waiting for the troops to come home before addressing the topic. To clarify that, besides B-movies that nodded to Vietnam, a major film was released in 1973 entitled Two People that starred Peter Fonda and Lindsay Wagner (Fonda played a war resister who was turning himself in). ("Films" in all of the above does not refer to documentaries. Obviously many documentaries have been made on the Iraq war already including Danny Schechter's brilliant WMD. And obviously the amazing Hearts & Minds was released before the last US troops left Vietnam -- even despite the year long delay of the film's release in this country.)

Pru highlights, "Jailed for revealing Bush/Blair memo" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

On the day Tony Blair was forced to resign two people were jailed for attempting to reveal the Blair’s relationship to George Bush and their plans on how to carry out the war in Iraq.
David Keogh, a communications officer at the Cabinet Office leaked a highly secret document about a meeting between Bush and Blair to "expose the president as a madman." He was jailed for six months for breaking the Official Secrets Act.
And the man he gave the memo to -- Leo O'Connor, a researcher for Labour MP Anthony Clarke -- was jailed for three months.
Old Bailey judge Justice Aikens told Keogh, "Your reckless, irresponsible actions could have cost the lives of British citizens. It was a gross breach of trust of your position as a Crown servant."
He told O'Connor, "You chose to take this letter. You could have refused it.
The memo about a Blair-Bush summit on Iraq in April 2004, marked "Secret and Personal", was sent by secure fax to the Cabinet Office at No10.
The four-page document to then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw began, “This letter is extremely sensitive. It must not be copied further and must be seen only by those with a need to know.” It should have been forwarded only to key figures at the Ministry of Defence, MI6, our ambassador in Washington, the UN and British representatives in Iraq.
Keogh handed a copy to O'Connor – who told police Keogh believed it exposed Bush as a "madman". Keogh's QC told the court he "acted out of conscience" to reveal Bush's "abhorrent" comments about the war.
He hoped it could be used to raise questions in the Commons and wanted it passed to presidential candidate John Kerry.
O'Connor put it among Clarke's papers. The MP was so horrified he sent it straight back to No 10, earning praise from Blair.
Much of the trial was held behind closed doors after the judge said that “some individuals or groups in the Middle East might react very unfavourably to the contents of the letter”.
In 2005 the Daily Mirror had alleged the "top secret" memo recorded a threat by Bush to "unleash 'military action' against Al-Jazeera" – the Middle East television station. Justice Aikens, the trial judge, referred to the newspaper article in a ruling last year setting out his reasons for allowing parts of the evidence to be heard in secret. He suggested that the article was "inaccurate about the contents of the letter."
The Stop the War Coalition said, "We condemn the prison sentences passed on David Keogh and Leo O'Connor. While not a single government minister has been held to account for the disastrous policy of war in Iraq, a journalist and a researcher are imprisoned for trying simply trying to shed some light on Tony Blair's relationship with George Bush.
"On the day that Blair, one of the instigators of the disastrous war in Iraq, resigns as leader of the Labour Party with much fanfare, we should remember the many victims of his policy. The prison sentences are another sign of the double standards perpetrated in relation to the war. Blair's own spin machine is well known for leaks, but when other people try to expose secret documents they are met with the full force of the law."
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