Saturday, October 06, 2007

Susan Blake, NYT provides more State Dept cover, etc.

Today, the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldier was killed and three others were wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated during combat operations in the southern region of the Iraqi capital Oct. 6."

In the past weeks, Iraq has been the location for attacks on officials -- both foreign and domestic ("domestic" refers to Iraqi officials -- the US is the "foreigner" in Iraq). Local and province heads get barely a headline in the US press but one story they did seriously (or 'seriously') cover this week was the assassination attempt on Poland's ambassador to Iraq, General Edward Pietrzyk. 'Seriously'? AP reports now that the claims that Pietrzyk suffered superficial wounds were a bit like the claims in Sleeper that the leader was fit and robust (only his nose was still around, for those who haven't seen the movie). AP reports the ambassador is now "kept in an artificial coma after suffering severe burns" and that his condition is "serious but stable." Rather different from the rash of reports insisting superficial wounds, all is fine, go on about your business -- which was the press gave over and over this week.

Yesterday's snapshot included the following:

Turning to the Iraqi puppet government Susan Cornwell (Reuters) reported: "Widespread corruption in Iraq stretches into the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, an Iraqi investigating judge told U.S. lawmakers on Thursday, and an American official said U.S. efforts to combat the problem are inadequate. Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, who was named by the United States in 2004 to head the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, said his agency estimated corruption had cost the Iraqi government up to $18 billion." Renee Schoof (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "Enormous sums of oil revenues ended up in the hands of Sunni and Shiite militias, he said. Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, who is seeking U.S. asylum because of death threats against him, said that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government prevented al-Radhi's U.S.-backed Commission on Public Integrity from taking action against top national officials."

Puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki, has weighed in. From Tina Susman's "Maliki denounces Iraq's top anti-corruption judge" (Los Angeles Times):

The prime minister's office today denounced testimony given in Washington by Iraq's top anti-corruption judge, who told U.S. lawmakers that the Iraqi government blocked his efforts to pursue corrupt officials.
In a statement, Prime Minister Nouri Maliki called Radhi Hamza Radhi's claims "false statements" aimed at tainting Maliki's reputation. The statement accused Radhi of a professional and ethical breach, saying he abandoned his job and left the country without Maliki's approval.
Maliki said Radhi had left Iraq after coming under suspicion for corrupt activities himself.

Also noted yesterday were reports [click here for Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) and here for AFP] of the civilian fatalities (24) and wounded (27) from a US air raid on Baquba. Today the US military announces: "Media have been reporting that the 25 individuals killed in an operation early Friday morning at a location near Baqubah were innocent civilians. This is not true." Whew, what a relief! They "were criminals" insists the US military and surely the elderly man and the women were active criminals and the children already demonstrating criminal inclinations that would only become more pronounced as the years passed. Thank goodness that every US missile fired and bomb dropped comes with a special honing device that allows it to determine criminality (I believe it's hard wired to the Supreme Court where Clarence Thomas -- when not viewing 'adult' videos -- makes the call) and only take out the guilty, the tried and convicted.

Dominick notes Ian Bell's "Iraq won’t be an ‘issue’ until we make it one" (Scotland's Sunday Herald):

Iraq has been going for a while, it's true. To the casual reader and viewer it seems to have been going on in much the same vein for a very long time. It is difficult, believe it or not, for even the best reporters to make this week's appalling death toll more arresting than the death toll last week.
Repetition - another bombing, another assassination, another solemn promise that things are improving - dulls audience interest. When it comes to a choice between real carnage recycled and the average TV soap, there is no contest. Politicians know it, too. When wars drag on, people switch off. Who still notices the British casualties in Iraq, or in Afghanistan, far less the dead natives?
Americans at least have the distraction of George W Bush in mid-surge. Thanks to their president and their own voting habits, they also have 140,000 of their fellow citizens at risk. Britain remains a minor player in this foul game. That does not explain why Iraq has moved to the inside pages and faded from screens. It does not explain why Brown has felt the need to tidy away this non-issue before the election in which, we are promised, it will play no part.
The prime minister went to Baghdad in the middle of the Tory conference last week, infuriating the opposition. Downing Street denied that it was a cheap electioneering stunt, even if the trip took the Ministry of Defence by surprise. Downing Street also had to attempt to clarify why Brown should be in Iraq, rather than in the Commons, to announce that 1000 troops will be "home by Christmas", especially since the planned withdrawal of 500 was old news, more especially since 200 squaddies had already been flown out. Or do I mean evacuated? Are we getting out of Iraq, finally, or are we not? If we are, should we thank Brown? If we are not, what comes next? If we are leaving, will the prime minister explain why we got into the thing in the first place, with his support? If we are staying, even in reduced numbers, does this mean that our Basra patch is insecure, semi-secure, or merely in need of watching?

Meanwhile, John M. Broder (New York Times) creates the impression that something is happening (even if he doesn't know what it is -- nod to Dylan) re: Blackwater insisiting the US State Department is addressing the crimes of the mercanary group by "its own personnel as monitors on all Blackwater security convoys in and around Baghdad" and by placing "video cameras in Blackwater armored vehicles to produce a record of all operations". Broder may not be an idiot, but he certainly writes like one. On the subject of "personnel monitors," he seems unaware that the incidents in question that happen during transportation are when Blackwater is transporting . . . State Dept employees. So they already are along for the ride. Regarding "video cameras," so what? All that means is the State Dept will have yet another recording (this time visual) that they'll refuse to share with Congress.

From CNN's "Iraqi corruption showdown brewing:"

The report comes alongside Rep. Henry Waxman's warning of a "confrontation" with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice over how much Americans should be able to learn about corruption in Iraq.
In a sharply worded letter, Waxman demanded Rice turn over a long list of documents related to the contractor, Andrew Moonen.
"Serious questions now exist about whether the State Department may have withheld from the U.S. Defense Department facts about this Blackwater contractor's shooting of the Iraqi guard that should have prevented his hiring to work on another contract in support of the Iraq War," wrote Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

[. . .]
Waxman earlier accused Rice and the State Department of a cover-up of what he called "an epidemic of corruption" in Iraq in general.
He branded the State Department's anti-corruption efforts "dysfunctional, under-funded and a low priority."

Waxman further blasted the department for trying to keep secret details of corruption in Iraq, especially relating to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
"Corruption is increasing in Iraq, and the State Department can't keep us from knowing that -- can't censor that -- just because it might embarrass or hurt our relationship with [al-]Maliki," Waxman said at the House committee hearing.

The only thing of limited value (CNN does it better) Broder contributes is this bit:

The former guard, Andrew J. Moonen, is now living in Seattle after being dismissed from Blackwater and sent home from Iraq 36 hours after the shooting, with the approval and help of the State Department.
But within weeks of losing his job at Blackwater, Mr. Moonen was hired by a Defense Department contractor and sent to Kuwait to work on logistics related to the Iraq war, a spokesman for the company, Combat Support Associations, said today. Mr. Moonen worked for the company from February until August of this year, said the spokesman, Paul Gennaro.

If it wasn't the DoD, one wonders if it would even make it into today's paper? And if Broder wasn't so busy carrying water for the State Department and so awed over Blackwater CEO Erik Prince's hair and wardrobe, he might remember what Prince actually told the committee in Tuesday's hearing:

What Prince left out was that the employee didn't just leave. He was proud that the employee's security clearance was pulled. But he failed to show the public his pride over the fact that Blackwater hustled the employee out of Iraq before any serious questions could be asked. Prince -- noting he watches crime shows on TV -- begged off ruling whether it was murder, homicide or manslaughter but didn't quibble that, in fact, it was a crime. That being the case, why an employee who had committed a serious crime was being whisked out of Iraq is a question he should have been asked repeatedly.

For those who missed it, Prince stated to Congress that the mercenary (now identified as Mooney) had his security clearance pulled. So exactly how does someone without a security clearance end up working for the DoD? Broder quotes the attorney for Mooney stating that the record showed Mooney was in violation of operating a gun while drunk (nothing about the killing). That's really besides the point. If Prince wasn't lying (big if), then Mooney's security clearance was pulled. How did he, weeks later, end up employed by DoD? A report (as opposed to the lustful Broder) might try looking into that.

Green Party activist Kimberly Wilder notes Carl MacGowan's "Susan Blake, 54, Amityville singer, activist" (Newsday):

Susan Blake, a singer and activist considered by some the heart and soul of the Long Island peace and justice community, died Tuesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 54.
Blake, of Amityville, died at a friend's house in the Westchester County town of Goldens Bridge, said her sister, Nancy Jane Blake, of Peekskill.
For more than 30 years, Blake fought the Shoreham nuclear power plant and protested wars from Vietnam to Iraq through the Amityville activist group PeaceSmiths. Blake organized coffeehouse concerts and discussion forums on topics such as environmental issues and affordable housing.

At her site, Kimberly Wilder has a moving tribute entilted "Susan June Blake" (On The Wilder Side):

Updates: Info about upcoming memorial events.
Our dear friend Susan Blake passed away at 8pm on Tuesday, October 2, 2007. She was staying upstate at a friend’s house. When I called Monday, I spoke to Susan’s sister, Nancy Blake, who was there having dinner with her.
We will keep everyone updated on information about a memorial service. We have made a page for updates about events for Susan:
Susan Blake was the force behind PeaceSmiths, Inc. Susan was careful with words, and uncomfortable with titles. So, she always corrected me when I called her the director or leader of PeaceSmiths. I hope that her commitment will open the door to the whole PeaceSmiths community feeling empowered to keeping that work alive. Members of the PeaceSmiths board actually met with Susan on Monday, and they are planning on moving forward full steam ahead with their work for peace and justice.
The work of PeaceSmiths includes a hotline for activist events, a monthly forum, and the "PeaceSmiths monthly Topical A-Typical Folk Music, Poetry, and Whatever Coffeehouse", held in Amityville, at what songwriter Sonny Meadows dubbed "the last church on the left" in a song. (Susan loved that!) And, of course, the work of PeaceSmiths included Susan attending an impossible amount of demonstrations, cultural events, networking events, and workshops to support every good cause in the world.
Many of the causes Susan supported are listed on the fairly recent, bright, multi-colored PeaceSmiths banner that she hung at each coffeehouse. But, a smattering of causes Susan worked for would include: peace, anti-militarism, human rights, labor rights, the environment, anti-death penalty, ballot access (she included local politicians at candidate events, but also write-in candidates and third party candidates), immigration rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, holistic medicine, vegetarianism, independent media, intellectual freedom, and dignity and justice for all. The PeaceSmiths banner proclaims: "We're Pro Humanity"

PeaceSmiths is a United for Peace & Justice member group so, hopefully, UPFJ will have something up next week remembering Blake. I don't know Blake and only learned of when Kimberly Wilder e-mailed. I'd prefer not to note deaths here due to my own health scare but last month we saw two deaths and we saw people rush out to note one and not really on the other. The death with less attention was the woman's death. So we will continue to note the passing of women who work for peace. On males, it will be case by case depending (honestly) on my mood at the time. When a friend passed and got a ton of coverage we largely avoided it until Dexy Filkins tried to pass himself off as the heir-apparent which was so blatantly laughable and offensive . . .

Kimberly Wilder is working hard on getting the word out about Susan Blake's passing. From what I've read this morning, Wilder shouldn't have to be working so hard. But the culture still notes the male over the female and still notes the 'warrior' over the peace maker. Ideally, the two links (Wilder's and Newsday's) will appear in Monday's snapshot. If not, they will be noted later in the week.

McClatchy Newspapers' Inside Iraq is a blog run by their Iraqi correspondents and one of the correspondents notes a personal passing in "Life and Death:"

Yesterday I got a phone call from a friend of mine that made me so upset. Hussam, our former stringer in southern Iraq, told me with torn up words that his mother died just few hours ago. I was so sad for hearing this bad news and I passed my sorrow through the phone praying to God to forgive her having her in paradise and giving Hussam and the rest of the family patience to endure this loss. The point is an ordinary one till now as death is our fate soon or later whether in Iraq or somewhere else.

Karla notes Margaret Kimberley's "Ahmadinejad Sane, Bush Crazy" (Freedom Rider, Black Agenda Report):

It would be the height of folly if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believed for one moment that George W. Bush will ever respect the people, the constitution or the laws of the United States. Bush wants to bug our phones, squander our money and enrich his friends at Halliburton. He will never do anything for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Bush has done everything he ever wanted to do and he has continued to be successful with the help of the party that should be opposing him.
George W. Bush twice cheated his way into the oval office. Ahmadinajad was democratically elected. Iran is not at war with any other nation. Bush has occupied Iraq four years ago and is responsible for the deaths of one million people. Despite the clear differences in behavior and morality, the United States Congress has overwhelmingly approved three separate resolutions that will be used to authorize the warlike nation, America, to attack the peaceful nation, Iran.
When both Ahmadinejad and Bush recently spoke at the United Nations, the horrifying truth of America's insanity and evil could not be denied. An alien from another world would have thought that Ahmadinejad was the very personification of human evil. New York newspapers competed with one another to see who could drum up more hatred of Ahmadinejad and twist his words into outright lies. Like the tawdry tabloids, nearly every presidential candidate competed for the right to be the most hateful and openly threaten the lives of the Iranian people.

And if you want to see truly scary people threatening the lives of others, check out PBS' Bill Moyers Journal. That may be repeat airing or to air in some PBS markets but for most (if not all), it aired Friday night. If you missed it, you can visit PBS' Bill Moyers Journal online and listen, watch or read. A group of Americans calling for the destruction of Iran in order to get to heaven (apparently their own lives have not been lived in a such a way -- according to their beliefs -- that they will see a peaceful afterlife without notching up mass kills). After the report, there's also a discussion on the subject.

And we'll note this from Christoper Torchia's "Kurds Tackle 'Honor Killings' of Women" (AP) but note the headline is 'calming' when the reality is little has still be done on the subject:

Honor killings, driven by the view that a family's honor is paramount, are an ancient tradition associated with Kurdish regions of Iraq, Iran and Turkey as well as tribal areas in Pakistan and some Arab societies.
While the rest of Iraq is preoccupied with the violence that has followed the U.S. invasion of 2003, the more peaceful Kurdish enclave of the country stands out in its attitude to honor killings. Here, officials who long ignored this explosive and deeply personal issue of family pride are seeking to curb the murders.
Civic activists welcome the regional government's condemnations of the custom and warnings of tough penalties, but say much more education and law enforcement is needed.
This year, the British government arranged for a delegation of Iraqi Kurds to travel to Pakistan to talk with officials there about their experience in combating the brutal tradition.
Some reports cite several hundred honor killings or related suicides a year in Iraqi Kurdistan, which has more than 4 million people. But there are no reliable statistics for a crime that is difficult to prove without effective law enforcement and the cooperation of tribal communities.

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