Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 9, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Bully Boy lies about the illegal war (again), the puppet 'government' continues their tag sale on Iraqi resources, Kuwait is all over the map, Iraq's Parliament resumes sessions, Ralph Nader has big news, and more.
Today Bully Boy spoke at Eisenhower Hall at the National Defense University.  He hailed the 'handover' of Al Anbar Province as a "remarkable event," referred to the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr as "Shia extremist groups" and more blah blah before he got to the only reason anyone was paying attention to him: drawdowns.  "By November," he declared, "we'll bring home a marine battalion that is now serving in Anbar Province. And in Feburary of 2009, another army combat brigade will come come home.  This amounts to about 8,000 additional American troops returning home without replacement."  Reality, Bully Boy leaves the White House in January.  Anything done prior to that he is over, anything after that, he can't promise.  So today's announcement went beyond what many were expection in that he's promising a marien battalion will be brought back in November without a replacement sent back in.  And that's the only thing he announced regarding Iraq.
Thom Shanker (New York Times) reported before the speech and didn't grasp that Bully Boy cannot make any promises regarding what the incoming president will do.  Not only does Bully Boy not have that power, considering stop-loss and tour extensions, reporters should be a little less quick to repeat hollow 'announcements' when it is the service members and their families that are harmed when 'announcements' don't come to pass.  Dan Eggen (Washington Post) demonstrated how you report 'announcements' of events that would take place after a new president was sworn in: "President Bush will announce today that the number of U.S. combat brigades in Iraq will remain steady until after he leaves office, deferring any further decisions about troop withdrawals to his successor, according to a copy of his speech released by the White House."  That is what Bully Boy did, he left it in the hands of the next president.  The illegal war he started over five years ago is one he will leave office without ending and without any major reductions in the number of US troops stationed in Iraq.
The point is not lost on all.  CQ Politics reports, "Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton, chairman of the House Armed Services commitee, said the president's action merely defers decisions until the next administration."  The point is lost on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who is quoted foaming at the mouth, "Given the increasingly violent situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, I am stunned that President Bush has decided to bring so few troops home from Iraq and send so few resources to Afghanistan."  146,000 US service members are stationed in Iraq and Harry Reid's big concern is not ending the illegal war it's getting them out of Iraq . . . to ship them off to Aghanistan. 
Let's drop back to the 90s, via Caroline Frost (the BBC), to remember what War Hawk Democrats (Reid is one) really think: "UN ambassador Madeleine Albright asked him, 'What's the point of having this superb military you're always talking about if we can't use it?' For General Colin Powell, this most military of politicians who has watched men die, the answer was, and remains, simple. 'American GIs are not toy soldiers to be moved around on some global game board'."  Someone needs to tell that to Harry Reid -- not Powell, of course, he destroyed his name long ago.  At the White House today, Dana Perino had laughs at Harry's expense with remarks during a press briefing which included: "Look, I don't know who briefs Senator Reid and I don't know what sort of staff work he gets or the updates he gets.  . . . Well, you know, when Senator Reid becomes Commander-in-Chief he'll have a little bit more credibility on that score."   Also during the briefing, Perino was asked why Bully Boy didn't announce a large draw-down and she pushed US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Admiral Mike Mullen and Gen David Petraeus' recommendations before declaring, "So I can't say why he didn't choose something else.  But he accepted their recommendation."  Asked why the number of the draw-down wasn't larger after the White House has repeatedly sold the 'success' in Iraq (and Bully Boy sold it in his speech today) which resulted in a jumbled response by Perino: "Well one thing President Bush has said, and he asked his commanders, is how do we make sure that the gains that we have made in security are cemented enough so that when we do pull back, it won't be -- it won't mean that terrorists come back and fill that space. So President Bush thinks that taking 8,000 troops out is the recommendation from the Pentagon, and the one that is prudent right now.  And Secretary -- I'm sorry, General Petraeus believes that further reductions are possible in the first half of 2009, but it's going to have to depend on conditions on the ground. And so we'll continue to look at it. I think that either way, the President -- people would question -- should he send more/should he send less? He thinks that he hit it just right, that the Pentagon's recommendation was about the right size."  What she eventually gets out are the talking points the White House repeats over and over.  The news is in the stumble it took for her to arrive at them.
Like Thom Shanker, CBS News fails to grasp that the Bully Boy has no control over the next presidency so his 'promises' for 2009 are meaningless.  They do point out that prior to the escalation (the so-called 'surge'), the US had 136,000 service members stationed in Iraq.  Ther are approximately 146,000 stationed in Iraq today.  Not only does what Bully Boy can promise not bring the number down to pre-'surge' levels, even including what he 'promises' someone else will do does not bring it down to pre-'surge' levels.  AFP notes, "The decision means the president's successor will take office in January with the US military presence in Iraq at about 140,000 troops -- still a bigger deployment than two years ago despite the deep unpopularity of the war."
US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi bungles it with her statements almost as badly as Reid does, "After five and a half years of war, President Bush will leave office with nearly as many U.S. troops in Iraq as were there before the 'surge' began in January 2007.  The continued heavy commitment of U.S. forces is hampering our ability to fight the real war against terrorism in Afghanistan, is hurting our military readiness, and is extending the strain of long deployments on our military families.  The President is incapable of finding a way to make our troops the beneficiaries of whatever improvements there have been in security in Iraq."  Pelosi, facing a serious challenge in the November election from Cindy Sheehan, had no reason to toss in Afghanistan.  Strip that out and her only word problem is minor (there will be more US forces in Iraq than prior to the 'surge'). The larger problem -- that she herself has done little (though Pelosi blames that on the US Senate) -- may make her statements hard for many to believe in but when she starts playing the idiot on Afghanistan, she's begging the eighth district to send Cindy to Congress.
And let's drive this point home because not only can Bully Boy not make promises for the next president, the situation changes all the time and the ones hurt are the service members and their families.  For those with short (or non-existant) memories in the press corps, August 2006, AP reported: "About 300 Alaska-based soldiers sent home from Iraq just before their unit's deployment was extended last month must now bo back, the Army said Monday, setting up a wrenching departure for troops and families who thought their service there was finished."   So instead of propping up a lame-duck on his way out, the press should be very careful about how they 'report' announcements.  Bully Boy can turn around tomorrow and decided that the November return (the only one in his speech he has any control over) won't happen.  The same urge to treat every stammer out of his mouth as gospel was present in the lead-up to the illegal war.  Wasn't the press have supposed to learned from that?  For those still confused, follow the example of Demetri Sevastopulo (Financial Times of London): "George W. Bush plans to withdraw 4,000 troops from Iraq before the end of his presidency as the Pentagon starts to shift its focus to Afghanistan, the White House said yesterday."
While on the topic of service members, yesterday the US Defense Dept announced a new service, Wounded Warrior Resource Center for service members and their families who "have concerns or other difficulties during their recovery process" and the WWRC can be contacted via e-mail at wwrc@militaryresource.com or by phone at (800) 342-9647. 
Turning to the topic of fleecing, the US installed puppet government continues signing deals on behalf of the occupied country of Iraq.   Nicholas Spangler and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report  an agreement was reached "with Royal Dutch Shell to exploit the immense amount of natural gas in souther Iraq".  AFP notes the deal is to be finalized in October and "Royal Dutch Shell will form a gas venture with energy-rich Iraq worth up to four billion dollars, the oil ministry said Tuesday of the first Western oil major to do a deal with the central government since the 2003 invasion."  Yesterday the Jerusalem Post noted, "The United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Kuwait are sending ambassadors to Iraq, and other countries are considering following suit."  Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports today that Abdullah Ibrahim al-Shehhi, UAE's Ambassador to Iraq, arrived in Baghdad today and was welcomed by Iraq's Sunni vice-president Tareq al-Hashemi who stated, "It is a message to all states which are still hesitant to open their diplomatic missions in Iraq.  This new, heavy diplomatic presence in Iraq is proof that Iraq has started to recover from the last five years of crisis."  But let's not pretend it was all about the diplomacy and not about the coin.  Azzaman explains, "Foreign investors from Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq are offering to set up oil refineries in southern Iraq."  And the renewal of diplomatic ties also comes as UPI reports, "Officials in the United Arab Emirates are examing a proposal to build a $200 billion, 112-mile canal to transport oil around the volatile Strait of Hormuz."  Staying with the topic of coin, Erica Goode and Muhafer al-Husaini (New York Times) note the Sunni thugs who stopped attacking the US and Iraqis when the US put them on the payroll ("Awakening" Council) heard Brig Gen Tarek Abdul Hameed declare that the puppet government in Baghdad would indeed pick up their payrolls.
Meanwhile on the legislative front, Iraq's Parliament is back in session after their summer recess.  Robert H. Reid (AP) observes, "Tuesday's session was held in the Baghdad Convention Center inside the U.S.-protected Green Zone, despite an announcement last June that the assembly would meet in the former National Assembly building outside the zone."   Mohammed Abbas and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) report Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Speaker of Parliament, is calling a meeting of "the heads of political parties" tomorrow to address the stalled provincial elections.  Meanwhile Sunday Nicholas Spangler (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that Iraq sent their finance minister to Kuwait today re: Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1991 in order to discuss "payment of debts and compensation" for that action.  The visit was put on holdCNN reports Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammed al-Ahmed al-Sabah, Prime Minister of Kuwait, will visited Baghdad "soon".  Well that is interesting . . . as is [PDF format warning] this: "The Defense Security Cooperation AGency notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale to Kuwait of AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM Missiles as well as associated equipment and services.  The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $178 million. . . . The proposed sale will improve Kuwait's capability to meet current and future threats of enemy air-to-air weapons.  Kuwait will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense. . . . The prime contractor will be Raytheon Missile Systems Corporation, Tucson, Arizona."  
Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) report on yesterday's attack on civilians in Baghdad, "Bodyguards of the minister of displacement and migration, who has been telling Iraqis it is safe to come home after five years of war, were involved in a rush-hour shooting Monday that police said killed a woman and injured six other people. Circumstances surrounding the incident were unclear. The ministry said traffic police fired toward the minister's convoy and that the bodyguards only fired into the air. Police said the bodyguards were trying to clear traffic by shooting into the air and that one of them accidentally aimed his gun into nearby cars. Witnesses said the shooting was the result of a dispute between the ministry bodyguards and traffic police."   Nicholas Spangler and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) quote an eye witness (unnamed police officer) who states, "I saw guards carrying maching guns shooting randomly.  First, they killed a woman who was trying to cross the intersection.  After that they opened fire on the traffic policeman who was doing his job.  They shot him twice and he was injured.  He fell down on the street.  Then they left the cards and were walking with machine guns and pistols in their hands."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the latest assasination attempt on an official via a Baghdad bombing targeting Gen Hasen Maeen ("Prime Minister's office") that wounded him "and two of his security personnel" while journalist Jawad al-Hattab ("bureau chief of al-Arabiyah") was targeted with a car bombing as well but discovered it before it detonated and was unharmed, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left six people wounded and a Salahuddin Province bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more wounded.
Reuters notes 1 person shot dead and another wounded outside of Mussayab, 1 "local aid agency" official shot dead in Mosul, 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul, 1 person shot dead in Kut and 1 person shot dead outside Suwayra.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.
Turning to the US presidential race.  Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader can announce that the plan for the Nader-Gonzalez ticket to be on the ballot in 45 states by September 20th happened nine days early.  Ralph and his running mate Matt Gonzalez (and their team of supporters) have already advanced the independent run further than in 2004 and have had to jump through obstacles of ballot access that no one should have to. 
In addition to that news, Team Nader picked an endorsement, from Jaclyn E.'s "Ralph Nader for President" (Teen Ink):
Choosing between the ­Republican and Democratic candidate would mean choosing the lesser of two evils. Instead, I prefer to align myself with a candidate who shares my views on stabilizing the economy, preventing war, and downsizing the government. This candidate is Ralph Nader.  
Nader is the only presidential candidate who has experience running his own business. He has applicable knowledge of the economy and strives to distribute wealth equally. He was quoted on "Meet The Press" as saying: "There is a two-tier economy where the top 10 percent is doing quite well, the top one percent spectacularly. But the top one percent of the richest ­people in this country have financial wealth equal to the combined 95 percent of the American people. That's a very ­unhealthy inequality." In order to fix this, Nader proposes to repeal the Bush administration tax cuts and adjust the federal income tax. This shows that he is driven to help the average American survive the current ­economic slump. 
Nader also wants to help America move past Congress's war-happy regime. He proposes a "draft from the top," meaning when an administration approves a war, the service-aged children of all members of that Congress and Cabinet will be the first to serve. This would ensure that elected officials think carefully before declaring war. Nader also supports pulling out of Iraq within six months and trying to negotiate with Iran. He wants to take our men and women in uniform out of Iraq and bring them home where they belong. 

Drop $11 on Nader/Gonzalez. 


We're celebrating. 

At the beginning of this campaign, we made a promise: 

Nader/Gonzalez on the ballot in 45 states by September 20.  

Today -- Tuesday, September 9, 2008 -- eleven days ahead of schedule -- we declare victory. 

We have completed our ballot access efforts and we're set to be on in 45 states. 
On in more states than in 2000 (43). 

On in more states than in 2004 (34). 

On in 45 states. 

Now, the American people will have a choice. 

To vote for a campaign free from corporate influence.  

But, as you probably have figured out by now, we are not a campaign that rests on its laurels. 

So, today we are proud to announce the launch of our eight-week Nader/Gonzalez Get Out the Vote drive. 

We need to raise $80,000 by September 17. 

This money will be used to reach out to Americans throughout this country. 

We're planning on deploying 30 full-time field staff.   

Ordering tens of thousands of lawn signs.   

Printing hundreds of thousands of pamphlets.  

And making hundreds of thousands of phone calls. 

To inform the American people that they now have a choice in November. 

And to get them to vote for Nader/Gonzalez. 

Want health care for all? Vote Nader/Gonzalez. 

Need a living wage? Vote Nader/Gonzalez. 

Want to transform the country to a solar energy economy? Vote Nader/Gonzalez.

Want to reverse course in the Middle East? Vote Nader/Gonzalez. 

Help us celebrate this historic opportunity the only way we know how.  

With action for a change.  

So, donate $11 now to the Nader/Gonzalez Get Out the Vote Fund.  

(If you give $100 or more now, we will send to you In Pursuit of Justice, the 520-page book of essays by Ralph Nader -- essays on corporate power, the Constitution, and transforming our country. If you donate $100 now, we will send you this historic collection -- autographed by the man himself -- Ralph Nader. (This offer ends at 11:59 p.m. September 17, 2008)) 

So, let's start to spread the word. 

Nader/Gonzalez on in 45 states.

Time to crank it up.  

And get out the vote.  

Let's get it done.   Onward to November.