Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 2, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, propaganda continues, the US military announces a death and more.
On Monday, Al Anbar Province was 'turned' over to the Iraqis (don't try to define that term -- it's in dispute) and M-NF (Multi-National Forces) issued a press release officially and unofficially in the New York Times via their backchannel boy Dexy Filkins.  There's not a great deal of difference between the two, there never is.  The US military spits and Dexy's mouth is open trying to catch it.  Nowhere in that overly long article does he even acknowledge that the 'handover' was repeatedly announced and repeatedly postponed. It's all rah-rah from Dexy. Reality, the US military long ago realized that they couldn't have any impact on Anbar. Which is why the "Awakening" Councils (Sunni thugs placed on the US payroll) were originally created. If the US couldn't scare the hell of out of the inhabitants, lets put thugs on the payroll, put them in charge and let that scare the hell out of the inhabitants.  It's not a 'success' strategy but, hey, Dexy got to attend a parade and who knows how much praise he'll get from the US military for his 'reporting' this go-round. He certainly got plenty last time and, as Thomas E. Ricks revealed in the Washington Post (after Dexy left Iraq the first time), the US military considered Dexy to be their go-to-guy.  As Christian Parenti long ago noted (2005), the reality is that Dexy of the paper and Dexy in person bear no recognizable relationship to one another.  As if to prove that point made earlier today, this afternoon The Atlantic has published Jeffy Goldberg and Dexy's dishing in Q&A form and there's Dexy saying "I don't think so" (to whether Iraq is a democracy") and offering this on 'progress' and 'safety': "A couple of days later I went to Sadr City, also at dusk. Sadr City is a vast slum that takes in about three million people. It's the stronghold of the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia, and it's been the scene of heavy fighting, as recently as a few months ago. I was with some Iraqi friends. It felt perfectly normal. Then one of my Iraqi friends said to me, 'What do you think would happen if you were alone?' And I said, 'What?' And he and the other Iraqis laughed and said: 'You'd be dead in ten seconds'."  Go down, Dexy indeed.
In order to sell Anbar as 'progress' a number of facts need to be forgotten such as how many times Anbar was already supposed to have been handed over (last June most prominently).  Forgetting is also required of last Thursday's Baghdad press confrence when 'freedom of the press' got a little too 'free' for US Lt Gen Frank G Helmick as he barked "one question, please, at a time" when realities began emerging about Anbar in the questions.  Among the many hard-to-find-rah-rah-in-that statements was Iraq's Interior Minister Jawad al-Bulani's insistence that, "We're having a plan to develop the capability of Anbar police through providing them with arms."  Good to know you're having a plan, to bad it's a bad plan and one that's not even implemented.  AFP quotes US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker (whom they call "US ambassador to Bagdhad" -- which is certainly more telling) declaring limited success with Gen David Petraeus at the Monday events as the Americans cautioned that they were just withdrawing to their base and would still be around 'as needed' should the need arise.  (Think the UK and Basra.)  AP quotes US Maj Gen John Kelly at the same ceremonies declaring, "Al Qaeda has not been entirely defeated in Anbar, but their end is near and they know it."  And, apparently, so does Psychic John.
No one's supposed to notice that Monday's big to do about nothing was to cover the fact that Iraq is no closer to holding provincial elections (a White House imposed benchmark) before the end of the year.  AFP reports that there are exactly two weeks left for Iraqi lawmakers to come to agreement or else there will be no elections until next year,
Turning to the "Awakening" Councils. They are the thugs on the US payroll (men are paid $300 a month, women are paid far less -- and on one lodged an objection to that). They are the thugs who sold their allegience for coin. al-Maliki has surrounded himself with Shi'ite thugs and has always been threatened by the prospect of their Sunni counter-parts. He's made clear that the bulk of them will not be absorbed into any Iraqi body (police or military) and, in fact, has launched attacks on the Diyala Province.  Erica Goode (New York Times) reports the al-Maliki government says it will begin issuing payment at the first of October and she quotes "Awakening" commander in Baghdad Ali Bahjet dismissing all the Happy Talk by noting that he has been "assured" by the US military "that 'our contracts will be renewed for the next six months, beginning Sept. 1'" and quotes him adding, "We are sure that the American will continue financing our program because this program . . ."
Turning to some of today's reported violence.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that claimed 4 lives and left twenty-three wounded, a Ninevah car bombing that claimed 7 lives and left seven peopl injured and, dropping back to Monday, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 child and left his father and brother wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul car bombing that claimed 4 lives (plus the drive) and left six people wounded.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports "a mother and her two children" were kidnapped in Nineveh.
Reuters notes 2 corpses were discoverd in Suwayra.
Today the US military announces: "Multi-National Division -- Center reported a non-combat related death in Baghdad Sept. 2." It's the first death M-NF has announced for Septemeber (which doesn't mean it's the first death, especially considering how often they forget to do their job of announcing) and it brings the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4152.
Barbara Starr (CNN) reports US Secretary of Defense "Robert Gates is expected to present proposals to cut U.S. troop levels in Iraq to President Bush, along with proposals for beefing up American forces in Afghanistan".  Barring some huge change of direction at this week's Republican Party convention, the two major parties will both be offering the American people cuts and calling them "withdrawal."  Turning to the US presidential race, not content to disgrace themselves on the front page of the New York Times today, the press decided to do so at the White House.  "One last question for you," a reporter who will remain nameless asks, "because this is another on that you hear a lot --  this issue is raising a lot of questions and sort of prompting a lot of debate about -- the idea of Sarah Palin, mother of five, soon to be grandmother of one, coming to Washington potentially as a vice president, in the most demanding job one could imagine. Any issues raised there about the whole motherhood-work divide?"  Pay attention to Dana Perino (White House flack) responding because even WMC blows it (and Feminist Wire Daily still doesn't appear to have noticed a woman had been named as a running mate), " You know, I don't think that those questions would be asked if it was Todd Palin that was the nominee. And I think that Sarah Palin has proven that you can choose as a woman to be a mother and be a strong executive, and to have a wonderful, loving family. And that's what she's chosen to do. And I think that's why the party has rallied around her so fully."  Exactly right.  Dana Perino got something 100% right today -- a rare thing for her.  But not only was it rare for her, it's too much for many 'lefties.'  The question WOULD NOT and HAS NOT been asked of a man.  But Palin, John McCain's running mate pick if he gets the GOP nomination, is being 'probed' in what should damn well remind many of the crap Kimba Woods and others had to put up with over 15 years ago.  It wasn't right then, it's not now.  The paper of little record tries to hide behind "Mommy Wars" to 'cover' the non-story.  Susan (Random Thoughts) gets right to the point, noting no one gives a damn about Barak's two children while he's on a ticket but Palin is supposed to be uanble to have kids and run for VP: "The article reeks of sexism. The message is clear: If you're a woman and you've just had kids, don't bother running for high political office."  Joseph (Cannonfire) notes the garbage that's been thrown at Palin already (false rumors) and where it's coming from: The Daily Toilet Scrubber and Andrew Bareback Mountain Sullivan.  Somehow Bob Somerby, covering similar terrain, can only hiss at Andy Sullivan -- well Somerby's always been scared of his own shadow.  As for a non-rumor regarding Palin's family that is also non-news, my opinion is here and Anglachel offers her own here.  It's a real shame that Stephanie Miller (who wants no one digging through her closets) has chosen to demonstrate just how trashy she is on this topic and it's even sadder that Women's Media Center finds her to be a voice worth quoting in an article.  As pointed out here last night, "And 'scoring' a 'win' for Barack via smut only further adds to the perception that he has nothing to run on and no qualifications. Why else would you be tearing into a young girl?"
The RNC is currently holding their convention and will select their presidential nominee (presumably John McCain).  Amy Goodman's already found attention getting stunts to get her name in the headlines.  She could have pulled the same stunts in Denver and faced the same police treatment.  But Denver was about her selling the Democratic Party and Minneapolis is about her tarring and feathering the RNC.  (Most years, we generally let the RNC tar and feather itself.  But it's CrackPot time these days.)  Ava and I addressed Goody's garbage Sunday but two things need to be noted Obama Groupie Patricia Wilson-Smith LIED on air and got away with it.  She said early on (sticking with the talking point) that she was for Hillary originally, as she became more heated she wanted the whole world to know about the work she's been doing: ". . . I've been working so tirelessly over the last year and a half for Senator Obama".  It's not both ways.  Wilson-Smith lied.  Get used to it.  You'll see a lot more woman trying to tell you they were Hillary supporters at the start and then went over to Barack with the implication being that you can as well!  Don't believe liars.  Do what you want, but don't believe liars.  The second thing is that, as noted, there was no convention bounce for Barack.  As Ava and I noted:
The Thursday speech was a whimper (and as we feared last week, no one taught Barack to modulate). The entire week was a Love-In. Only, unlike past love-ins, it wasn't about "us" (however, you define the noun), it was about Barack. 

Try to get it if you support Barack (we don't) because you (his supporters and the media) continue to hurt his chances of winning in November. Americans want to elect a president to work for them. Americans aren't electing a Love God, a Second Coming, a Homecoming King. James Carville has famously (and rightly) called the first night as a disaster. It was a disaster. The disaster continued all week, with few exceptions.  

The convention was supposed to bring America on board. What was being sold? It wasn't the Democratic Party. It wasn't a need to make the country better. It was Barack, Barack, Barack, Barack. Over and over.  

Here's reality that the campaign better start accepting: Barack is not experienced. 

That's a reality. America will gladly take a chance on a candidate if they believe the candidate has something to offer them. You need to accept the reality and you need to drop the testimonials. If you're serious about getting Barack into the White House (we plan to offer advice when we cover the GOP convention as well), you need to start making it about America and not about Barack.  

It was a vanity parade. It was grown adults embarrassing themselves like Baby Soxers. It was never about where American can go, only that Barack could lead.  

"Change to what?" was the question created during the primaries by the campaign refusing to be specific. "Lead us where?" is the question they replaced it with as a result of the convention. And, just like during the primaries, they had no answer to the question their actions raised. Four nights of non-stop infomercials told you there was a product named Barack and that you should buy it. But no one could ever tell you what Barack could or would do. Now people may buy a number of things from infomercials. They might buy a treadmill or a hair care product or anything else. But the infomerical has to tell you what it does. Repeating "It's great!" over and over doesn't sell the product. 

And the convention didn't sell to America. It may have picked up a few converts. It didn't provide what Barack needed or anything he could build on. Four percent is what we're told the 'bounce' was. Four percent isn't a bounce and isn't even beyond the statistical margin of error. In other words, four four days, a non-stop infomercial ran and it didn't sell a damn thing.
Yesterday, Cedric's "The polling doth not riseth" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! CHRIST-CHILD FALTERS!" noted the polls being released reflected no bounce.  This is where reasonable take their heads out of their asses and begin to notice there is a problem -- yes, even if they are Barack supporters.  Someone who is not a Barack supporter is Eric Patton (Dissident Voice) and he demonstrates how the right plays to win and the left plays to lose
The right wing makes their candidates earn their support. They don't beg and plead. On the other hand, it seems like the only thing liberals know how to do is piss, whine, cry, moan, complain -- and especially beg and plead.
If you have to do a "Progressives for ," instead of doing it after the candidate has wrapped up the nomination, a better strategy -- if you really want to win -- would be to pick a candidate like Kucinich (whom I personally am not enamored with for reasons that go beyond the scope of this essay; however, there is no doubt he was the farthest left of the Democratic candidates, and massive left support for him would not have been, I don't think, a bad tactical move) and get behind him strongly at least two years before the election, if not sooner. 
Let's put this another way: Suppose McCain wins, which I think is likely. If you must support somebody, then begin in December 2008 planning for the election in November 2012. Find out if Kucinich is planning on running again. If he is, start your Progressives for Kucinich website then, bust your ass for four years, and see what happens. 
So why didn't the liberals behind Progressives for Obama do that? Because for them, it's not about winning change -- it's about electing Democrats. It's about the home team. It's about the gang colors. As Obama was making his expected (by radicals) moves to the right, the phenomenal left-wing writer Paul Street asked Obama supporters how far was too far?  Their answer was, in effect, that it made no difference.
Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader are running for president and both candidates want a real end to the illegal war, not smoke and mirrors, not word games, just the illegal war ended.  At McKinney's website John Judge outlines the differences between the Green ticket and the Democrat ticket:
As the Democratic National Convention continued, Green Party leaders called attention to sharp differences between the Democratic ticket and Green nominees Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente.
Greens congratulated Mr. Obama on his historic nomination as the first African American presidential candidate of an established party in the US. But Greens noted that the nomination of Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente in July is also historically significant -- the first time a national political party has chosen two women of color. Ms. McKinney is African American and Ms. Clemente is Black Puerto Rican.
"There's a whole list of urgent issues that Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente are talking about, while Barack Obama and Joe Biden remain silent," said Cliff Thornton, co-chair of the Green Party of the United States and co-founder of Efficacy, Inc. (http://www.Efficacy-online.org). "The Democrats don't want to discuss the
devastation caused by the failed War on Drugs, or abuses by the police, courts, and Homeland Security authorities. They won't mention the theft of the 2000 and 2004 elections by the Republicans or address the mass displacement of poor and African American people from New Orleans. For Cynthia and Rosa, these are major issues affecting the future of our country."
Meanwhile, the Ralph Nader-Matt Gonzalez ticket files for the ballot in Kentucky tomorrow and their state coordinator, Jim Wiese, will hold a news conference at the Secretary of State's office at three o'clock in the afternoon tomorrow: "A broad range of issues face Kentucky voters this election. Kentucky has one of the nation's highest illiteracy rates, compounded by fluctuating, and sometimes frozen, teacher salaries. Coal strip mining continues in Eastern Kentucky, despite its devastating effects on the environment. Lastly, a universal health care plan is definitely needed in a state which holds a high incidence of diabetes cases.  The Nader/Gonzalez Campaign offers solutions to these and many other problems facing the working families of Kentucky that Obama /McCain fail to offer. For example, Nader and Gonzalez will guarantee a decent education for all, ban mountaintop removal and launch a "Marshall Plan" to repair the Nation's crumbling schools, clinic, roads, bridges and other important infrastructure, creating millions of new jobs. Nader/Gonzalez favors a Canadian-style, private delivery, free choice of hospital and doctor, public health insurance system."  Team Nader notes:  
The general election campaign kicks off today.  
To rev up our engines, drop $8 on Nader/Gonzalez now.  
That's one dollar a week between now and election day--November 4.  
I've worked on all three Nader campaigns--2000, 2004, and 2008.  
And trust me on this one. This year, we have the best chance to break through.  
  • There's a serious and growing independent movement away from the corporate Democrats and Republicans.   
  • We're going to be on more state ballots this year -- 45 states (plus the District of Columbia) compared to 34 in 2004 and 44 in 2000.  
  • We're heading toward double digits in a number of key state polls.  
  • And because we are going to implement a nationwide get out the vote drive that will put 2000 and 2004 to shame.  
Translation -- we're shooting for a three way race.  
The last sixty days between now and election day will be a blur.  
We have our Minneapolis rally coming up later this week. (If we don't all get arrested first -- apparently the police in Minneapolis arrest you for political organizing.)  
We're in the process of transferring our ballot access crew over to our nationwide get out the vote drive.  
And then it's going to be all out, pedal to the metal --- precinct by precinct drive --- until November 4--to let the American people know that they have a choice.
It's been one helluva year so far.  
And it's going one knock down drag out fight.  
Bring it on.  
But first things first.  
Thanks to your help, we have not missed one fundraising goal this year. And we don't plan to start now.  
We're entering the home stretch of our most recent drive.  
We're at $55,000.  
But we need to hit $100,000 in three days -- by this coming Thursday September 4. That's $15,000 a day. It's go time.  
And remember, if you give $100 or more now, we'll send you three DVDs -- the Denver rally, the Minneapolis rally, and a special debate DVD. (Three DVD offer ends September 4 at 11:59 p.m.)  
Onward to November.  
And what we hope will be a three-way race.     
Jason Kafoury, 
National Campaign Coordinator