Thursday, September 04, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, September 4, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, we're back to Waiting on Petraeus, the 'dodgy dossier,' and more. 
Gordon Lubold (Christian Science Monitor) reports that the US Congress still wants Gen David Petraeus to testify before Congress about Iraq while the US Defense Dept continues to refuse "that request, ostensibly because of scheduling issues.  But as the Pentagon struggles to muster more troops for Afghanistan, officials worry that the general's testimony on Iraq will upstage other needs."  Dropping back to the August 27th snapshot:
At the US Pentagon today Gen James Conway declared that there might be a drawdown of some marines because "to do more in Afghanistan, our marines have got to see relief elsewhere". No, that would not be withdrawal, no that would not be troops home.  Now or later.  It is an acknowledgement -- public -- by a marine commander ("The Commandant of the Marine Corps," says the Defense Dept) that the US military is stretched to the limit fighting two illegal wars that neither the White House nor the Congress has the guts or desire to end. 
Lubold notes that "public plea" and quotes "one official close to the debate on troop levels within the government" stating of Conway, "He's the first four-star who ha sopenly challenged Dave Petraeus's view of Iraq."  Meanwhile Thomas Harding (Telegraph of London)  quotes Petraeus stating "Conditions permitting, yeah," to the question of whether 16,000 US service members could be withdrawn by July 2008.  There are approximately 146,000 US service members currently in Iraq.  16,000 is supposed to pass for something?  Apparently the press is too excited lining up their final interviews with Petraeus as commander in Iraq (he becomes CENTCOM Commander this month).  Patrick Walters (The Australian) lands "an exclusive hour-long farewell interview" -- why, it's like Carson's last show.  (Johnny Carson.)  Petraeus tells Walters, "We will see in the coming week that we can get to the point where we have the confidence to make some additional recommendations."  Is that what 'we' will see?
"I believe that we have marched as far as we can go; signed as many petitions as we can; knocked on too many Congressional office doors; and sang too many verses of 'We shall overcome.' This campaign is the most significant action an anti-war person can be involved in until November 4th."  That's Cindy Sheehan explaining why she's running for the US Congress from California's 8th district.  Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) interviews her about her decision to run for the seat currently occupied by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Cindy explains, "I decided to target Pelosi because she is the number one Democrat in Congress and she was the number one obstacle to ending the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.  My reasoning was and is that if she refused to hold Bush accountable, then someone needed to hold her accountable. I am not the kind of person to wait for someone else to do something that needs to be done. So here I am."  In other elections news, Iraq's Shi'ite vice president, Adel Abdul-Mahdi has declared that even if the Iraqi Parliament does not pass a law for provincial elections this year, they will take place.  Reuters quotes him stating, "The elections will take place at the end of this year.  If the parliament doesn't approve the (new) elections law, there is an old law.  The government cannot delay the elections."  That would mean ignoring the issue of oil-rich Kirkuk, as well as the United Nations which has stated they were working on a proposal that would be released shortly.  Deborah Haynes (Times of London, link has video) reminded everyone of the realities of Kirkuk at the end of last month, "Yet there is no sewerage system, the roads are cracked, rubbish is strewn all over the pavements, unemployment is as high as 40 per cent and there is no sign of any improvement. Even more worrying - to the Government as well as to the US-led coalition - is that the city is being pulled between different ethnic groups, making it the most dangerous issue facing Iraq."  How the Kurds would respond to a move to push through elections with Kirkuk unresolved is not an issue raised in today's reports.
In England the focus is on the recent past.  Though the New Statesman has nothing up thus far, they'll probably be hitting the topic in the coming days.  For background we'll drop back to Chris Ames' "Secret Iraq dossier published" (New Statesman) from February:
The secret first draft of the Iraq WMD dossier written by Foreign Office spin doctor John Williams has finally been published after a ruling back in January under the Freedom of Information Act. 
The document contains an early version of the executive summary of the next draft, which was attributed to Intelligence chief John Scarlett. The document places a spin doctor at the heart of the process of drafting the dossier and blows a hole in the government's evidence to the Hutton Inquiry. 
Last month the Foreign Office was ordered by the Information Tribunal to hand over the Williams draft, which I first requested under the Freedom of Information Act in February 2005. 
From the time that the row first erupted over Andrew Gilligan's allegations that the dossier had been sexed-up, the government has claimed that Scarlett's draft, produced on 10 September 2002, was the first full draft and produced without interference from spin doctors. But the Williams draft, dated a day earlier, shows that spin doctors were sexing up the dossier at the time the notorious 45 minutes claim was included.
That was February.  Today's development?  Sky News reports, "The Government has been ordered to release more detail relating to the 'dodgy dossier' that may have exaggerated the case for the Iraq war.  The ruling by the Information Commissioner follows a three-year battle by journalist Chris Ames to obtain drafts of the dossier, as well as comments made about them by officials and spy chiefs in the run-up to its publication in September 2002." James Macintyre (Independent of London) adds, "Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, has told civil servants to release undisclosed material which could provide 'evidence that the dossier was deliberately manipulated in order to present an exaggerated case for military actions'."  Jon Swaine (Telegraph of London) reminds, "The dossier, which detailed claims that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, was published on 24 September 2002 and set out the Government's case for the war commenced the following March. Its production was overseen by the then head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir John Scarlett."  Nicholas Cecil (Evening Standard) gets a bit more specific than Swaine, "The dossier, which included the claim that the Iraqi dictator could launch WMDs within 45 minutes, sparked a huge row between the BBC and the Government over claims that it had been 'sexed up'.  Dr Kelly, a biological weapons expert, committed suicide in July 2003 after being named as a source of a BBC story about the document. He was questioned by the Commons foreign affairs select committee over his role."  Cecil also quotes journalist Chris Ames stating, "The commissioner has laid bare the Government's farcical cover-up, which included shamelessly playing the national security card.  He has also given a strong hint that the Government has concealed evidence of sexing-up to save political embarrassment."
Today,  Erica Goode (New York Times) reports on "Awakening" Council 'commander' Ali Abdul Jabbar who fretted throughout Wednesday that Iraqi forces would arrest him.  Left unexplored was the issue of 'warrants' and how the Iraqi 'government' appears to have a host of warrants already drawn up and ready to be issued at a moment's notice.  Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition) reports that "Awakening" Council member Mullah Shihab also worrieds that he'll be arrested. and that his "name, along with hundreds of his fighters, is on an arrest warrant -- and the only ones safeguarding them now are the very people they used to fight against."  Again, this seems to be a pattern in the Iraqi 'government,' always have a warrent at the ready for anyone who might become a political enemy.  Ask Moqtada al-Sadr or Ahmed Chalabi.  Tina Susman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) note that yesterday's 'friendly fire' incident claimed 7 Iraqi lives and observe, "Wednesday's deaths were likely to rev up debate among Iraq's leaders about the issue of immunity for U.S. forces in this country. Though soldiers are immune from prosecution for incidents that occur on combat missions or that are deemed not the result of negligence or wrongdoing, friendly fire incidents invariably arouse anger among Iraqis who feel that American forces don't do enough to prevent such mistakes."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded four people, a Diyala Province roadside bombing that claimed 1 life.  Reuters notes a Baghdad grenade attack that wounded three people.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Iraqi troops wounded in a Baghdad shooting, a Mosul shooting that claimed the life of 1 police officer and, dropping back to yesterday, a "Kurdish child" shot dead in Mosul late Wednesday in Mosul and Nabeel Abdul Hasan Muhsin ("general director of the projected department in the ministry of transporation") in Baghdad.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldiers were killed while on patrol as a result of a terrorist attack using an improvised explosive device in eastern Baghdad at approximately 12:15 p.m. Sept. 4."
Turning to US presidential politics, Ralph Nader makes an ill informed remark to John Nichols ("My Running-Mat is More Qualified," The Nation) that Matt Gonzalez is more qualified than Sarah Palin.  Matt Gonzalez was not the mayor of San Francisco -- he did run for it, he did lose to Gavin Newsom. Gonzalez has many strong qualities, being mayor is not one of them and to imply that mayor and Board of Supervisors President is the same thing is to ignore that we elect different people to those posts and we decided not to elect Matt.  That is the way it went. While president of the board is an important position, it is not mayor.  And it's a real shame Ralph allowed himself to be put in the position of doing Team Obama's work for them. It scores no points for Nader to get into that conversation.  It allows the attacks to be launched on him -- attacks people like Kim Gandy are more than willing to make.  He put himself in a very bad position and shouldn't have done so.  Repeating, since the issue was raised elsewhere, we could have voted Matt Gonzalez mayor of San Francisco, we chose to vote Gavin Newsom into that office. Those of us who voted in that election made the decision.  When Ralph makes the comment, "San Francisco is a lot bigger than Wasilla," he takes it into a penis measuring contest whether he intends to do so or not.  And he does it over someone (Gonzalez) who has never been mayor.  It's not the same thing and all the boys need to stick their privates back into their pants before they do more damage to their images.  If you get sick of the whose-is-bigger commentary that the mainstream and panhandle media traffic in, Catherine Morgan has and is compiling a resource list for women bloggers.   She explains, "Answering the question…Where are all the women political bloggers? I decided to take some time today and surf the Internet for as many women blogging on politics that I could find. The refreshing thing about women political bloggers is their diversity…and here are 100 300 500 of them."
Amanda Hess (Washington City Paper) notes, "Tonight, Nader will not only stage a rally, but a 'Super Rally,' pulling out even superer celebs: Sheehan. Ventura. Rovics*--in an attempt to get to the $100,000 mark--only 10,000 $10 bills."  Team Nader notes:
We knew you wouldn't let us down.
We're rapidly approaching our goal of $100,000 by midnight tonight.
Now, we're in striking range.
Just a little over $10,000 away.
That's just 1,000 of you -- our loyal supporters -- contributing $10 each now.
Then, tune in tonight 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. EST.
Live from Minneapolis.
It's Ralph Nader.
Then, tune in tonight 7 p.m. Central, 8 p.m. EST.
Live from Minneapolis.
It's Ralph Nader.
And Matt Gonzalez.
And Jesse Ventura.
And a lot more.
In the belly of the Republican beast.
The Nader/Gonzalez Open the Debates Rally.
If you are in the area, hope to see you there at Orchestra Hall.
If not, you can watch it the live stream here at 8 p.m. EST.
(Sorry it didn't work out with the Denver stream. We'll try and make sure this one works.)
As you watch, keep an eye on the last day of our $100,000 fundraising campaign.
We're so close, we can almost touch it.
So, as you watch Ralph Nader rip into the corporate Republicans and Democrats.
Ask yourself this:
Who else is in this election year is standing for the American people?
Who else is standing against the candidates of perpetual war?
Who else is standing for shifting the power from the corporate goliaths back into the hands of the American people?
And if you answer Ralph Nader, then drop $10 -- we need 1,000 of you -- our most loyal supporters -- to do that today.
And we'll reach our goal.
Watch the event.
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 tonight at 11:59 p.m.)
Onward to November
The Nader Team
Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has multiple events tomorrow and Saturday in Wisconsin including a lunch (10:30 a.m.), a town hall (Walden III School, Racine) at one p.m., and a Park Six meet and greet starting at 4:30.  Saturday she will be speaking at the Fighting Bob Festival (Baraboo, Wisconsin at 10:20 in the morning and will be hosting another meet and greet this time at High Noon Salloon in Madison beginning at 5:30 p.m.).