Monday, September 15, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, US Secretary of Defense Gates goes to Baghdad, tensions flare within Iraq and more.
Al Jazeera reports Gen David Petraeus is back in Baghdad as he gets ready "to hand over his role to general Raymond Odierno, his second-in-command." Over the weekend, Jim Michaels (USA Today) reported that Gen David Petraeus, eager to assume control of CENTCOM and no longer be the 'top [US] commander' in Iraq, managed to send off "a farewell letter issued Saturday". At Baghdad Bureau (New York Times Iraq blog), [PDF format warning] the letter is posted. In the second to the last paragraph, Petraeus notes Odierno, "Your new commander is precisely the right man for the job. General Ray Odierno played a central role in the progress achieved during the surge. He brings tremendous skill, experience, and understanding as he returns to Iraq for a third tour and takes the helm of MNF-I just seven months after relinquishing command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq. I have total confidence in him, and I will do all that I can as the commander of Central Command to help him, MNF-I, and our Iraqi partners to achieve the important goals that we all share for the new Iraq." Publicly, Odierno's role was largely to repeatedly insist that Iran was guilty of whatever the charge being pushed was and demanding that there was hard proof. But when asked to provide the evidence, Odierno would have to backtrack.
Julian E. Barnes and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) report that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was in Baghdad both for the handover between Petraeus and Odierno and to insist on "a cautious approach to cuts". Gates, Petraeus and Odierno all attempt to sell the escalation ('surge') as a success. But even Martha Raddatz was noting on Friday's Washington Week (PBS) that there will be more US service members in Iraq than before the escalation started. While the US sees an increase, other countries see the opposite. Friday night, Tina Susman (Babylon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times) explained that, "The coalition of the willing has become the coalition of the dwindling in Iraq, where non-U.S. forces now number about 7,000 compared with the 146,000 American troops here. More than half the non-U.S. troops are British, with Poland, Romania and South Korea being the other main providers to a multinational force that at its height numbered 49 countries and more than 200,000 troops." Simon Assaf (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) observes:
The US is now confidently predicting that it will finally be able to start drawing down its troops. The "surge", Bush's gamble to stabilise the occupation, is being paraded as a success.
But in fact Iraq is poised to enter a new era of instability -- and the US is finding itself trapped by a series of dirty deals that are coming back to haunt it.
Foremost among these is the deal the US hoped it could forge with the Shia‑dominated Iraqi government.
This deal, known as the "status of forces agreement", would have granted the US the right to stage military operations inside Iraq without Iraqi government approval, and the right to launch wars on other countries from permanent bases on Iraqi soil.
But progress towards the agreement has been grindingly slow. Talks on Iraq's oil resources, electoral reform and amnesties for members of Saddam Hussein's regime have all stalled.
Meanwhile the Kurds are blocking constitutional reforms that will claw back the autonomy granted to them in the earlier phase of the occupation.
AFP reports that Gates praised Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker "during a dinner at Petraeus' headquarters in a former Saddam Hussein-era palace on the outskirts of Baghdad" while Ryan Crocker told Petraeus, "It's been one heck of a ride, buddy." The US military notes that Iraq's "Ministry of Defense held a ceremony today to say goodbye to U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, the outgoing commanding general of Multi-National Forces-Iraq. . . . Iraqi Minister of Defense Abd al-Qadir congratulated Petraeus on his next assignement and expressed his regret to lose a man he called a close friend to himself and the Iraqi people." Petraeus is scheduled to take control of CENTCOM October 31st. Tim Albone (Times of London) reports, "The outgoing Bush Administration and both US presidential candidates promised to send thousands of US reinforcements to the country, although the nature of the conflict was very different."
Sunday Hala Jaber (Times of London) reported on his Beirut conversation with Sheikh Ahmad Fartusi who claims credit both for attacks on British soldiers in Basra and for being "able to halt the onslaught last year in a secret deal negotiated with British officials in his cell" but who now claims that "British forces had reneged on the deal that allowed them to withdraw peacefully from central Basra to an airbase outside the city, reportedly in return for the release of 120 Mahdi Army prisoners. The agreement had been broken, he said, when the British returned to Basra last March following Maliki's 15,000-strong 'charge of the knights' to seize control from the Mahdi Army and other militias." Fartuis now promises attacks will resume.
Saturday BBC reported, "A roadside bomb killed six Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Khanaqin town in Diyala province, north-east of Baghdad." Sam Dagher (New York Times) observed that the Saturday bombing increased "tensions with the Iraqi government and local Arabs over the Kurds' presence in the area. The Kurdish presence in Khanaquin, and in other nearby areas, has been a growing source of tension. Kurdish forces have been moving the borders of their semiautonomous region in northern Iraq, in what they say is an effort to improve security. But the move has been viewed by many Iraqi and American officials as a threat to stability in areas that are already prone to violence." Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) reported before the bombing, "Kurdish leaders have expanded their authority over a roughly 300-mile-long swath of territory beyond the borders of their autonomous region in northern Iraq, stationing thousands of soldiers in ethnically mixed areas in what Iraqi Arabs see as an encroachment on their homelands. The assertion of greater Kurdish control, which has taken hold gradually since the war began and caused tens of thousands of Arabs to flee their homes, is viewed by Iraqi Arab and U.S. officials as a provocative and potentially destabilizing action." An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy (at Inside Iraq) reviews the benefits for the Kurds and wonders if "is it right to cause a state to collapse into entities to realize your dream?" The correspondent notes how the Peshmerga appears to decide what they will do and which areas (Kurdish or non-Kurdish) they will 'patrol.' Of oil-rich Kirkuk, the correspondent notes that Kurds compose only an estimated 40% of the city's population but have "taken control of it and the Pershmerga handle the security there". Of the Iraqi Constitution, the correspondents notes that "the Kurds objected to the statement that read 'Iraq is an Arab state and part of the Arab nation' pointing out that there are other ethnic groups that would be offended. So the statement was struck out -- as if by a magic wand disregarding the other constituents of the Iraqi population. Arabs constitute 84% of the population."
Journalists were murdered over the weekend in Iraq. Reporters Without Borders noted:
"Reporters Without Borders is appalled and saddened by the murder of four employees of privately-owned TV station Al-Sharqiya yesterday in the northern city of Mosul. Al-Sharqiya's news director noted that the murders followed a smear campaign against the station by state TV broadcaster Al Iraqiya. 'We condemn the abduction and murder of the three Al-Sharqiya journalists and their driver and we call for a thorough investigation into the circumstances,' Reporters Without Borders said. 'The comments by Al-Sharqiya's news director make such an investigation all the more urgent'." Nicholas Spangler and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that the foru were bringing "gifts that had come to be the trademark of their reality show: some basic household appliances and a delicious supper to break the Ramadan fast for a family of little means." Meanwhile Caesar Ahmad and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) report on the diminishing press freedoms in Iraq and among the stories included is Saad Khalaf's -- he is a photograph who was harassed by the military, threatened with arrest and had his camera taken from him: "Col. Ali then ordered the soldier to return the cameras. Khalaf, thinking that Ali was afraid the photographers had taken pictures of the soldiers, said he had been taking shots only of the burning car that carried the bomb. That did not satisfy the colonel, who shouted back. 'In this neighborhood under my jurisdiction, no one is allowed to shoot any photos. I don't care what others say, but Col. Ali bans any pictures here'." There was also a verbal assault on the press in Iraq over the weekend. As noted in "Naeema al-Gasseer: the United Nations' embarrassment in Iraq" (here) and "The UN's embarrassment in Iraq" (Third Estate Sunday Review) a press conference was held Friday in Baghdad supposedly to address cholera. Participating were Iraq's Minster of Health Dr. Salith al-Hasnawi, Dr. Tahseen al-Sheikhly and WHO's Dr. Naeema al-Gasseer. They attacked the press verbally throughout. The worst was al-Gasseer because she's an employee of the United Nations -- a fact she frequently forgot while speaking (saying "we" and then having to back up and clarify she meant the Iraqi government). She blamed the cholera outbreak on Iraqi women, on lack of cleanliness, made comments that were insulting and non-medical. She ignored the fact that the puppet government sits on billions and does nothing to repair the infrastucture. But in ten years, some of it will be up and running, it was explained. In ten years. al-Gasseer blamed Iraqi women for not boiling water and apparently she doesn't grasp that not only is electricity 'iffy' in most areas of Iraq, fuel for heating is expensive. al-Gasseer repeatedly lectured such as with this gem: "Your role is to deliver the information rapidly in order to help us stop spreading the disease." For all their faults, the media does know their role. al-Gasseer's the one who seems to have forgotten that she's an allegedly neutral party. Instead, she gave cover for the government that does nothing, attacked the media and ignored the real roots of the problem. It was an embarrassment. Among the roots of the problem is the issue of sanitation. Click here for Zaineb Naji (Wall St. Journal) writing about the huge trash piles.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad car bombings resulting in 12 deaths with thirty-seven wounded. Reuters notes a female bomber killed herself in Diyala Province and claimed 20 other lives (with thirty wounded). Al Dulaimy notes 22 dead from that bombing and, "The attack occurred at a feast to celebrate the release of police sergeant Adnan Shukri, released yesterday from a U.S. detention facility."
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 3 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
Sunday the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Center Soldier died this morning of non-combat related causes." And they also announced: "A second Multi-National Division - Center Soldier died this morning of non-combat related causes. The soldier died of wounds Sept. 14 at a Coalition forces Combat Army Support Hospital."
Turning to the US race for president. Senator Hillary Clinton campaigned for Barack Obama, Democratic presidential nominee, in Ohio. It's among the many states Hillary won during the primaries. Translation, among the many big states Barack lost in the primaries. Toby Harnden (Telegraph of London) reports a large crowd turned out for Hillary in Akron and the ones he spoke with after have no plans to vote for Barack which would explain why Hardin observers that "the response to her remarks about him" Barack "was relatively muted." Many speak of hoping for a 2012 run by Hillary, Sandy Wierzbicki wishes Hillary had been picked at the v.p. nominee, and Paul Barry may speak for a number when he declares, "I'll probably stay at home. It's all a media love fest with Obama. It's like it's 'American Idol' to choose the president. I don't like all the mystical, transcendental stuff from him. Anyone can be in favour of change and brotherly love. Yes, he's inspirational. So why not give him his own show after Oprah? I'm into reality. I want to know the facts about what he'll get done. We need the meat and the potatoes, not just pie in the sky."
Riverdaughter (The Confluence) writes for many who will not vote for Barack, "One of the things that sets PUMAs apart from other Democrats is our built-in BS detectors. The other thing is that we were supporters of Hillary Clinton because we saw her as the true Democrat in the race. We liked her stands on the issues, her ability to reach out to every voter and her grace under pressure. But the PUMA movement is not about Hillary. It is about us, the voters. The Obama campaign, the DNC and the media targetted *US*, Hillary's voters, for a peculiar brand of derision, disrespect and disenfranchisement this year." Meanwhile Peggy Simpson (WMC) reports, "The Sarah Surge is unmistakable. GOP presidential nominee John McCain's support rose markedly after he named Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate--although after two solid weeks of Palin-all-the-time media attention, McCain still hasn't broken 50 percent. Republicans now are far more fervent backers of McCain, a candidate that the religious right and social conservatives opposed in past races and were lukewarm about in this one. Post-Palin, Republicans' strong backing of McCain nearly has doubled, from 39 percent in July to 71 percent in September, in a Newsweek poll." Dr. Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) has compiled a series of quotes by Palin on feminist issues. While Socks compiles what Palin has said, Joseph (Cannonfire) focuses on what was left out of an interview last week: "ABC News deliberately edited the interview with Governor Palin to make her appear bellicose and ignorant. You'll be shocked when you see what they left out. " Palin was a hit in Carson City, Nevada Saturday. Scott Conroy (CBS News) describes it as a "rally in front of a raucus crowd of several thousands" Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times) has posted the transcript which includes Palin noting one person attending, "I'm honored to hear that we have with us in our midst, so many of us who admire, Chuck Yeager, and I hear that he may be here. (Cheers, applause.) Now, he is a true American hero and maybe the first man to break the sound barrier. Hopefully he has a good idea maybe how that first woman can break the glass ceiling once and for all! (Cheers, applause.)"
Jo Freeman's "The 1976 Republican Convention" (JoFreeman.com) is a photo essay of a historic convention:
In this fractious atmosphere women and women's issues took a back seat to the Presidential campaigns. Feminists, acting through the Republican Women's Task Force (RWTF) of the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), were part of the Ford campaign. The anti-feminists, acting through Phyllis Schlafly's STOP ERA, were Reagan supporters.
These two groups fought over whether support for the Equal Rights Amendment should remain in the Republican Party Platform. It had been in the Platform from 1940 until 1964, when it disappeared without actually being removed. Even though all of the candidates for the 1964 Republican nomination (Goldwater, Rockefeller, Scranton, Smith) supported the ERA, a decision to write a very brief platform that year caused removal of many planks which had traditionally been in the Platform. In 1972, Republican feminists put it back in without opposition. Serious opposition to the ERA emerged the following year as the states debated whether or not to ratify the proposed Constitutional amendment.
Both Ford and Reagan had supported the ERA when it was sent by Congress to the states on March 22, 1972. Between then and 1976, Ford strengthened his support. His wife, Betty, was an ERA champion. While Governor of California, Reagan had also supported the ERA. When he decided to run for the 1976 nomination he switched sides to court the large number of conservative women who did not like it.
Again, it's a photo essay with many photos from her own personal collection. (She covered both the Democratic and Republican 1976 conventions and may be posting a photo essay of the Dems shortly.) Staying with photos and journalism, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). He is in the midst of a book tour and some of the upcoming dates include:
Photography exhibition and reception, 6:30PM
Living Under the Trees
Santa Paula Family Resource Center
940 E. Main Street, Santa Paula, CA
Book discussion, Illegal People, 2:30PM
Transborder Institute, University of San Diego
5998 Alcala Park, San Diego, CA
Presentation at REFORMA Conference, 10AM
National Association to Promote Library and Information Services
to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking,
El Paso, Texas
Book presentation, Illegal People,12:30PM
Fall for the Book, Grand Tier III, Center for the Arts,
Photography exhibition, Johnson Center's Gallery 123, 9/21-26
George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
Book discussion, Illegal People, 6PM
World Affairs Council, 312 Sutter St., #200, San Francisco
Book discussion, 7:30PM
Illegal People and The Accidental American, by Rinku Sen
Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia St., San Francisco
Last week, Bacon appeared on Democracy Now!:
JUAN GONZALEZ: And the spread of these huge raids over the last few years, it seems almost in response to the immigrant rights protests that developed a couple of years ago, when you saw this new movement developing in America, and suddenly the federal government all across the country begins clamping down and raiding factories, communities, stopping buses and trains, boarding buses and trains, even Amtrak trains and regular commercial buses, checking IDs all over the place.
DAVID BACON: That's right. These are-as you say, Juan, these are terror raids, really. The purpose of these raids is really to terrorize and frighten immigrant communities, partly because, I think, the government is afraid of people asserting their rights and asserting their existence in the country through the marches and through other kinds of immigrant rights activities, organizing unions in plants and so forth. But also, I think the government has an agenda here. In fact, it's pretty open. Michael Chertoff keeps saying it over and over and over, and that is that he says we're going to shut the back door and open the front door. And what that means is that ICE is trying to push for the establishment of new guest worker programs, so that people can come here as workers, but only as workers, without rights, without eventually getting political rights, without becoming citizens, certainly without voting, but whose labor is going to be used in the economy. And so, these raids are a way of terrorizing people and saying to people: don't think that you're going to be able to come to the United States; don't think that you're going to be able to work in any other way other than through these programs.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And I think one of the things that you raise in your book and in a lot of your articles is that the movement for comprehensive immigration reform, even among Democrats, is divided in terms of the purposes of that immigration reform, that there are groups that are really representative of business interests who are looking for that front-door situation. Could you expound on that?
DAVID BACON: Sure. The comprehensive immigration bills that we saw in Congress in a lot of ways were labor supply bills. These were bills that were really intended to supply guest workers to industry and then an enforcement program to kind of drive workers into those programs. So, the difference of opinion, I think in the Democratic Party, especially, is between people who sponsored those programs and other people like Sheila Jackson-Lee, the congresswoman from Houston, who said instead of having a guest worker program, what we need is people to be able to come here with green cards and with permanent residence visas. And also, the thing I think that she said that was really a pioneering idea, and that was that we also need a jobs program. We need to couple immigration reform with jobs programs. So she said, let's take the fees that people pay when they're normalizing their status and use that to set up job creation and job training programs in communities with high unemployment, so that all communities can have some kind of benefit out of these bills. You know, these labor supply bills, comprehensive immigration reform bills, what they do is they pit communities against each other over jobs, over wages and so forth.
Freeman's essay provided us with the transition into Bacon. Some might have expected us to go to Cynthia McKinney next and I would love to. But I've gone through about 30 articles and blog posts on or related to her that were published over the weekend. Not interested. That's nothing against Cynthia. I have a lot of respect for her. But if she has female supporters, they need to start making themselves heard because if I see one more article or blog post about how she's not a woman, she's a ___ (whatever compliment), I'm not even going to bother to try to highlight the campaign again. And notice, it's men writing these things and men being quoted in them. Again, if she has female supporters, they need to start speaking up. Reality, Cynthia is indeed a woman and it's nothing to run from. I won't highlight any articles or blog posts that claim or suggest it is. Cynthia has an amazing personal story and an amazing legislative record. She is also a "she." And all three things can and, in fact, do go together. Some of those pieces are so bad they read like the writers want to strap down her breasts, paste a mustache on her and insist she's really "Sidney McKinney."
Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate (Cynthia is the Green Party candidate). His running mate is Matt Gonzalez. This is the latest from Team Nader:
On this momentous Monday, September 15, 2008, we make a simple request.
The prudential choice for 2008.
We woke up this morning early.
Turned on C-Span radio.
And heard Brian Lamb quoting Ralph Nader.
From years ago.
With Ralph warning about extravagance, recklessness, and excessive compensation on Wall Street.
Warning years ago about the undue influence of Fannie and Freddie on Democrats and Republicans alike.
Warning about the failure of our government to protect small investors.
Throughout his career, Nader has strong been a strong advocate for due diligence.
For protecting shareholder rights.
For prudential regulation.
And strict oversight of the markets.
While the Democrats and Republicans have bent to the whims of their corporate masters and Wall Street's bottom line imperatives.
Nader has been steadfast in his advocacy for safety, regulation, and protecting the little guy.
Unfortunately for the nation and for investors, his warnings have gone largely unheeded.
On this momentous Monday, as we watch the fallout from the failed policies, greed and extravagance of the corporate political class unfold, we make this simple note.
Due diligence, prudential regulation, and strict oversight of the markets -- Nader-style -- would have gone a long way to averting the disaster currently hitting Wall Street.
Instead, it was short-term fast and dirty profits, muzzled politicians, and throw caution to the wind.
And so now, the American people are learning the hard way about the consequences of a reckless corporate dominated political economy.
But thanks to your hard work, we are in a position to give America a choice in November.
For strict oversight.
Right now, we're in the stretch drive of our $80,000 fundraiser -- to help fund our get out the vote drive.
To get Ralph Nader into the presidential debates.
To let the American people know that they don't have to settle for corporate rule.
There will be a choice in November.
But first, we need to reach $80,000 by September 17th.
We're at $50,000.
We have three days to reach $80,000.
We haven't missed one fundraising goal yet.
And we don't plan to start now.
So, please, drop $15 now on Nader/Gonzalez.
Help shift the power.
From Wall Street and the corporate giants.
Back into the hands of the American people.
Together, we are making a difference.
Wednesday's snapshot noted a Feminist Wire Daily news item. Some e-mails ask where is it? Ask them. Here's the item they took down:
Donny Deutsch recently made sexist comments about Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and former Democratic Presidential contender Hillary Clinton.
Deutsch appeared on CNBC's Squawk the Street (Watch the video here) and made several misogynistic comments including praising Palin for earning respect through her ability to make men "want to mate with her" and calling Senator Clinton's loss in the Democratic Primaries a direct result of the fact that she "didn't put a skirt on."
Deutsch also said that "if you were gonna sell a new concept, a Woman in Power, to the American people, if it was a cereal, was a product, what ingredients would you put in? Hillary Clinton never figured it out. She (Sarah Palin) figured it out." Later, he said that it was a "huge lesson that if you have a woman candidate "you gotta first sell her as a woman" before you can sell her as a candidate.
The blogosphere quickly responded to Deutsch's comments. A CNBC blogger wrote that, "to imply men want to sleep with [Palin] as a reason for her popularity is about as chauvinist as it comes." A blogger on Feministing posed the question, "Would he even think to talk about packaging a product in quite so demeaning a way if he were talking about McCain?"
Media Resources: Feministing 9/8/08; Shakesville 9/8/08; ThinkProgress 9/5/08
That's their brief in full. Again, ask them where it went. Also this Friday's NOW on PBS will be an hour long special broadcast and will examine women -- in the electorate and in office