Friday, September 12, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 12, 2008.  Chaos and violence continues, the theft of Iraqi oil is still pursued, tensions remain between the puppet government and the "Awakening" Council, Charlie Gibson makes a huge error in his interview with Sarah Palin, and more.
Starting with Iraqi oil.  Edward S. Herman (ZNet) noted at the start of this month, "On the oil front, in late June the newspapers featured the announcement of the Iraqi oil minister Mohamad Sharastani that contracts had been drawn up between the Maliki government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq. No competitive bidding was allowed and the terms announced were very poor by existing international contract standards. The contracts were written with the help of 'a group of U.S. advisers led by a small State Department team.' This was all in conformity with the Declaration of Principles of November 26, 2007, whereby the 'sovereign country' of Iraq would use 'especially American investments' in its attempt to recover from the effects of the American aggression."  Thursday Andrew E. Kramer and Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reported on a Tuesday press conference, held by Hussain al-Shahristani (Iraq's Minister of Oil) at OPEC's meet-up, where it was announced that the contracts with western corporations (including Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP) were being cancelled which the coporations "confirmed on Wednesday."  Ernesto London (Washington Post) reports on the cancellations today and notes that the companies "are expected to submit bids in coming weeks for deals" and explains it was not just public outrage that killed the contracts, "The oil companies were not surprised by the Iraqi decision, given the political sensitivities raised by the issue, according to an executive at one of the five companies. Speaking on the condition that he not be identified further, the executive said the deals had become less attractive because Iraqi officials had shortened the proposed length of the contracts from two years to one in response to criticism." The cancelled contracts aren't the only bad news for those hoping to play Let's Steal Iraqi Oil! Not all that long ago, with much happy gasbagging in the press, Iraq announced Iraq's Energy Expo and Conference to be held October 17th through 19th. Ben Lando (UPI) reports that, woops, no one bothered to think about construction -- the convention center's not done yet -- so the Expo's dates have been moved to December 3rd through 5th. The puppet government can't get it together to hold provincial elections and they can't even pull off a conference they got a ton of positive press for when they announced it.  And Andy Rowell (Oil Change International) offers, "Oh it's so good to be back. After a 35 year absence Shell has become the first western oil company to land a major deal with the government in Baghdad since the invasion of the country five years ago. They will be smiling in the Hague and London. Shell has been awarded a $4bn contract in the south of the country to supply gas for Iraqi domestic use but also for export. Shell's project is intended to make use of the gas flared off by the oil industry in the south of Iraq. In that region alone, an estimated 700m cubic feet of gas is burned off every day -- enough to meet the demand for power generation in the entire country."
Yesterday's snapshot noted the Thursday meet up between the puppet government in Baghdad and the "Awakening" Council members. Saif Rasheed and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) report on it today noting,the supposed impending melding of "Awakening" Council members and the Iraqi 'government': "Leaders of the so-called Sons of Iraq disputed Iraqi plans to absorb only 20% of the fighters into the Iraqi military and police, and they expressed doubts that their members would be protected when the U.S. military turned over responsibility for the units to Iraqi officials. . . . The plan worries many Sons of Iraq leaders, who say Maliki's government already has begun a campaign of arrest and intimidation against them. U.S. officials, who embraced the program last year as a way to turn around the Sunni insurgency, now say the Iraqi government has the right to arrest fighters it suspects of crimes."
Today's bombings include an attack in Salaheddin Province.  AFP puts the death toll at 31 plus the "suicide bomber" whom they note "detnoate his explosives-filled truck near the police station of the central Iraqi Shiite town of Dujail".  AP says the count rose to 32 dead (forty-three wounded) citing police and hospital sources. Reuters adds, "They said casualties were a mix of civilians shopping at a nearby market as well as police."  While Al Bawaba notes, "Police said the bombing occurred just before dusk, when many people were on the streets before the breaking of the fast during the month of Ramadan."  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) provides the historical background, "The mainly Shiite city is best known as the site of a campaign of vengeance by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein following an assassination attempt against him there in the 1980s. After the attempt on his life, the Sunni leader ordered the roundup of young Shiite boys and men and destruction of homes in the town. Hussein and six others were convicted in 2006 in the killings of 148 Dujayl residents, and Hussein was hanged for the crimes later that year."  Al Jazeera goes with more recent history, "The last major suicide attack occurred on August 26, when a  bomber thwarted a security checkpoint in Jalawla, a police recruiting centre, and blew himself up, killing at least 25 people."
In other reported violence today . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombng that left five people wounded, a Baghdad grenade attack that injured thirteen people, a Nineveh bomber who killed themselves outside a Shi'ite mosque and claimed 3 more lives with fifteen more people injured and a Salahuddin Province car bombing which claimed 27 lives with forty more wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion that resulted in the deaths of "parents and their son".

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Turning to the US presidential race and starting with indepdent presidential candidate Ralph Nader who appeared on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer (CNN) Wednesday (click here for transcript).  Blitzer asked Ralph his goal in the election?
RALPH NADER, INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well if we're in the presidential debates, it might be a Jesse Ventura, three-way race. But
-- yet today, we put together --  

BLITZER: Three presidential debates, but the Presidential Debate Commission has set a bar that's pretty hard for you to overcome.     

NADER: Yes, since it's controlled by the two parties, as you know.  Today I think is an historic day because we, Ron Paul and the candidate for the Green Party, the candidate for the Constitutional Party, and me, and Bob Barr, agreed on four major areas: foreign policy -- get the soldiers back, end the war in Iraq, stop being imperialistic, privacy, deal with the repeal of the Patriot Act; the revision of FISA -- Military Commissions Act and you know, get rid of torture; and a third is the national debt. Deficits are now used for reckless government adventurism. The --

BLITZER: The national debt has nearly doubled over the last --

NADER: Yes, and the Iraq war is financed from deficit spending.

BLITZER: And the fourth issue?

NADER: And the fourth issue is the Federal Reserve is now a government within a government. It is totally out of control. Congress doesn't control it. It's funded by the banks. And we either have constitutional government or we don't because of this. Well -- here's the question: Is there anything left for the American people to decide about their country?
Is there anything left to decide?  Earlier this week, Steve Horn (The Badger Herald) hit on similar points:
We've been conditioned by the mass media to believe there are only two political parties worthy of our attention. Because only the Republican Party and the Democratic Party receive significant coverage, especially during election cycles, it's easy to forget that other parties do indeed exist.
Case in point: While Democratic presidential-nominee Barack Obama filled the Kohl Center to an over-capacity crowd of over 17,000 during his trip to Madison in February prior to the Wisconsin presidential primaries, Independent candidate Ralph Nader, running for president for the fifth time, struggled to fill the small Orpheum Theatre this past Friday on State Street, which has a capacity that is only 10 percent of the Kohl Center at 1,700. 
Most students here probably didn't even know Nader would be speaking at the Orpheum, and those who did know scoffed at the idea of him running for president again. The situation is shameful -- because over the past eight years, the two mainstream parties have failed us and no one really seems to care, nor do they really want to do anything about it. 
With wars on two fronts both deemed failures by the general public and key congressional leaders involvement in Jack Abramoff's money laundering scandal, the odds were rightfully stacked against the Republicans for the 2006 midterm elections. And indeed, they resulted in sweeping changes in the United States' political landscape from the local level all the way on up. 
Democrats gained 31 seats in the House of Representatives and five seats in the Senate, drastically altering the landscape of Congress. Democrats won these seats under the premise that Washington -- under the leadership of the Republican Party -- was broken, and a change in leadership was necessary to fix it. Two years later, looking at the voting records of the spineless Democrats, they have, by-and-large, failed us.
On the campaign trail, Ralph will be heading to New Orleans September 17th where he will speak at Tulane University where he will hold a press conference at the Freeman Auditorium starting at 2:30 p.m. and a rally starting at 3:00 p.m.
Turning to Sarah Palin who is John McCain's running mate on the GOP ticket.  This is a quote from her when she was speaking to her church:
Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right.  Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God.  That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan.
That's what Palin said in her church.  Here for text (Glen Beck, CNN), here for audio (KPFK's Uprising -- and Sonoli Kolhatkar notes that the clips are cutting off short during the segment).   Note it because Charlie Gibson distorted her words.
ABC News has the first interview with Governor Palin.  Charlie Gibson conducted the interview.  One segment aired 'dealing' with Iraq.  Russell Goldman (ABC News) summarizes it as follows:
Palin defended a previous statement in which she reportedly characterized the war in Iraq as a "task from God."  
Gibson quoted her as saying: "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God."  
But Palin said she was referencing a famous quote by Abraham Lincoln.  
"I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words. But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side."   
Actually, Goldman, Gibson got what she said wrong.  Click here for World News Tonight's official transcript, click here for the video.
GIBSON: You said recently, in your old church, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God." Are we fighting a holy war?   
PALIN: You know, I don't know if that was my exact quote.  
GIBSON: Exact words.  
PALIN: But the reference there is a repeat of Abraham Lincoln's words when he said -- first, he suggested never presume to know what God's will is, and I would never presume to know God's will or to speak God's words.  
But what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side.   
That's what that comment was all about, Charlie. And I do believe, though, that this war against extreme Islamic terrorists is the right thing. It's an unfortunate thing, because war is hell and I hate war, and, Charlie, today is the day that I send my first born, my son, my teenage son overseas with his Stryker brigade, 4,000 other wonderful American men and women, to fight for our country, for democracy, for our freedoms.   
Charlie, those are freedoms that too many of us just take for granted. I hate war and I want to see war ended. We end war when we see victory, and we do see victory in sight in Iraq.
GIBSON: I take your point about Lincoln's words, but you went on and said, "There is a plan and it is God's plan."  
PALIN: I believe that there is a plan for this world and that plan for this world is for good. I believe that there is great hope and great potential for every country to be able to live and be protected with inalienable rights that I believe are God-given, Charlie, and I believe that those are the rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
That, in my world view, is a grand -- the grand plan.  
Charlie quoted Palin stating, "Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God."  That wasn't a sentence, that was part of a sentence with additions to it by Charlie Gibson.  Again, what Palin actually said:
Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do what is right. Also, for this country, that our leaders, our national leaders, are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan.
When Palain said, "I don't know if that was my exact quote," Gibson insisted, "Exact words."  No, they were not.  Gibson was also wrong when he stated, ". . .  you went on and said, 'There is a plan and it is God's plan'." She did not say that, she asked her church to pray that there was.
Even Sarah Posner told Sonali, "I mean, in a way, she was right with respect to the words that Gibson was quoting."  And note that MSM Gibson got it wrong and did not play clips of Palin's remarks while left-wing Sonali was more than happy to play the clips and allow a discussing (with Posner) and for listeners to make their own judgments.  If Gibson had access to a recording of Palin's remarks, then he lied.  If Gibson was using a secondary source, he practiced bad journalism.  Sonali showed more fairness than he did (not at all surprising considering Sonali's track record, but it needs to be noted).   
Staying with the topic of religion, US House Rep and Idiot Steve Cohen was back in the news this week.  Jake Tapper (ABC News, link has video) points out, "Last seen in election 2008 comparing Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to the villain played by Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" -- having survived an anti-Semitic primary challenge -- Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., feels liberated to come on the House floor and say that 'Jesus was a community organizer, Pontius Pilate a governor'." No, JPT, that's not what Cohen said.  The video shows Cohen stating, "Barack Obama was a community organizer like Jesus, who our minister prayed about, Pontius Pilate was a governor."  So Cohen -- that would be Jewish Cohen for those not paying attention -- was 'endorsing' Barack on the House floor by comparing him to Jesus?  Or as the Jews might say, "You know, him."  Jewish people do not believe in or pray to Jesus (unless they are "Jews For Jesus").  Exactly what belief does Cohen have left and, if there is one, has put a price tag on it already?  And for the record, Christian theologians will dispute Cohen's crackpot claim re: Jesus and historians will say, "Not so fast" on the Pilate claim.  Meanwhile Laura Strickler (CBS News) provides a fact check on several rumors about Palin currently making the rounds while Women's Media Center highlights Republicans for Choice's Ann E. W. Stone weighing in on the meaning of Sarah Palin's being the GOP's choice for v.p.:
Also, we are incensed by the petty and misogyny of the small-minded statement the Obama campaign released totally dissing her background! Couple that with Obama telling the Hillary folks to "get over it" and I would think disenchanted Hillary supporters should flock to the GOP.  
We need to reach out to Palin and try to find common ground--social issues are not her front and center agenda. No nonsense, no BS--Palin is a doer, not a talker, and not afraid to take the boys on.   
Did we mention she is a feminist for life?  Again, her position on abortion means we will never endorse her, but even her selection advances all women.   
The Democrats stood by while the media and others, including extreme elements in our own party, trashed Hillary Clinton and did not speak up to defend her.  Many were baseless attacks and jabs having to do more with her hairstyle or clothing than with her policies.  That stops now.  
As Sarah Palin said when she thanked pro-choice Democrat icons Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton during her first speech upon being selected, they led the way but women are not finished yet and we will crash through the glass ceiling.  
Tell it to the The Daily Toilet Scrubber -- and their squeaked voice tiny-tot 'leader' -- which continues their smears on Palin.  The latest recalls what Bully Boy did to McCain in 2000 -- spreading lies about John and Cindy McCain's daughter Bridget.  The trash being spread shouldn't be surprising, Toilet Scrubber is not left.  Joseph (Cannonfire) explores that latest nonsense and notes, "This is the first election that finds me observing Democrats 'from the outside.' My god. My good god. Have we always been this foolish, this clueless, this self-defeating? Have lefties always gone so far out of their way to alienate huge voting blocs?"
"I try to take the reigns and lead me somewhere better, I try to keep on moving on," sings I Am Three ("I Try") which sums up World Can't Wait's Sunsara Taylor who hides in no political closet and refuses to silence herself in the latest in the never ending Quiet Game To Elect Democrats.  Taylor spoke in Denver during the DNC convention (no, she didn't speak to the convention) and Revolution has an edited transcript:  "I know Recreate '68 had to go up against this. I'm going to be really blunt because it matters. United for Peace and Justice, Leslie Cagan, she said maybe we should call off the protest today and advocated instead that we should mingle with the delegates. I'm all for going and talking to order to get them to join us in the streets, okay? But Code Pink, Progressive Democrats of America, where were they today? . . .  I'm not going to prettify this. We are in the belly of an empire. It is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. They have legalized torture and both parties, the whole system, is involved in that. History is going to judge us by how we act. If your allegiance to the Democratic Party is bigger than your allegiance to the people of the world then you have foreclosed your right to call yourself an 'anti-war leader'."  Use the link to read all of Taylor's strong speech.
Turning to public televsion,  NOW on PBS begins airing tonight on most PBS stations (and it will stream online) with topics that include: "Are tactical mistakes by Obama going to cost him the election? Maybe, says psychologist and Democratic political consultant Drew Westen. The author of "The Political Brain," talks to NOW's David Brancaccio about how appealing to voters' emotions reaps bigger electoral rewards than hammering home policy proposals. Westen is a Professor of Psychology at Emory University and the founder of Westen Strategies, LLC, a political and corporate consulting firm."  PBS' Washington Week (begins airing tonight, check local listings) features Gwyn being joined by ABC News's Martha Raddatz, Time's Karen Tumulty, the New York Times' Jackie Calmes and Slate's John Dickerson.  And Krystalline Kraus has an article on an important topic.