Friday, September 19, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, September 19, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, a US air strike results in the deaths of Iraq civilians, the US State Dept gears up for a big push in Iraq, and more.
At the US State Dept today, deputy spokesperson Sean McCormack announced US Secretary of State Condi Rice was meeting with the Prime Minister and President of Kuwait "to talk about regional issues" and to "encourage the establishment of full diplomatic relations between Iraq and Kuwait."  Asked about the status of the treaty between the US and Iraq (wrongly called a SOFA) McCormack fell back on, "I'm not going to talk about the substance of the negotiations.  They continue.  There have been a lot of ups and downs in these negotiations.  But we still believe that we will be able to come to some agreement."  US troops are currently legally covered by a United Nations mandate which expires at the end of the year.  When that expires, if nothing is in place to replace it, as US Senator Joe Biden (also the Democratic vice presidential nominee) declared in a Senate session in April, then US troops would have to leave.  McCormack was asked about instead of attempting a new agreement, attempting to yet again extend the UN mandate.  McCormack dismissed the idea and stated, "The focus is still on getting an agreement between the United States and Iraq."  McCormack stated that the State Dept's David M. Satterfield would be returning to Iraq ("leaving again Monday" for Iraq).  Satterfield's title is Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for Iraq.
While McCormack's trip will focus mainly on the treaty, it's part of a diplomatic push on the part of the State Dept in the final days of the current administration.  Rice trip is part of that push.  In recent weeks, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have all appointed ambassadors to Iraq; however, only the UAE has stationed their Ambassador to Iraq in Baghdad.  (The continued violence has prevented the other countries from doing so.)
The push comes as puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki makes noises against the treaty.  As Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reported yesterday and also on Wednesday (see Wednesday's "Iraq snapshot"), al-Maliki went on Iraqi TV Wednesday   Steven Lee Myers and Sam Dagher (New York Times) discover the remarks today and report that al-Maliki declares the sticking point is over immunity for American troops in Iraq and that al-Maliki floated the idea of asking for an extension of the UN mandate declaring, "Even if we ask for an extension, then we will ask for it according to our terms and we will attach conditions and the U.S. side will refuse.  U.S. forces would be without legal cover and will have no choice but to pull out from Iraq or stay and be in contravention of international law."
While al-Maliki raises that issue, one-time (and possibly current) CIA asset Ahmad Chalibi makes news.  As one of the proponents (and liars) in the lead up to the illegal war, Chalabi continues to garner attention.  UPI reports that he declared to the Islamic Republic News Agency that the treaties being proposed between the US and Iraq are an attempt by the US to push permanent bases.  He is quoted stating, "Within the framework of the security pact, the United States does not wish to merely have open military bases (in Iraq), rather secret military bases (there). If a security deal is not signed … by Dec. 31, regarding the recent U.S.-Russia row over Georgia and the Iraqi government's decision not to extend the U.S. forces' presence in Iraq for another year, the U.S. presence in Iraq will come across with difficulty in terms of the law."
Turning to the US Congress, Senators Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and John Ensign (Republican) are proposing a plan regarding Iraq's oil to the US State Dept.  Ben Lando (UPI) reports that the two senators are proposing that an oil trust fund be created for the Iraqi people and quotes an aide to Clinton explaining the proposal is similar to the Alaska model which "was 'inspiration for the idea of an oil trust' but that the State Department 'should develop a plan for Iraq so it fits Iraq's needs and provides several options'."  Lando reports the State Dept's reaction: "The department said Iraqi leaders don't feel the time is right for such a trust fund, which demands too much from Iraq's fragile bureaucratic and financial systems."  Lando adds that actions "continue to repair damage from storms in southern Iraq and a pipeline bomb in northern Iraq, bringing exports closer to the 1.9 million barrels per day averaged in August" and that an October 13th oil meeting will take place in London that "is expected to unveil the fields put to tender and the legal and technical specifics. The bidding for the fields is expected to be the first of many opportunities for international investment in Iraq's oil sector."
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (All Things Considered) reports on the move for Baghdad's puppet government to take control of "Awakening" Councils next month with "at least 20 percent of the militiamen [due to be brought into] into the state security forces and find civilian jobs for the rest" and the reaction to the Sunnis about that plan which has left them suspicious following the targeting of Sunni "Awakening" leaders by al-Maliki. "Awakening" leader  Khalid  Ibrahim declares, "They [the US] should have consulted us before taking any decisions so we could have given our opinion. Instead they have treated us like a commodity that can be moved at will from one place to another. . . . The aim is to get rid of us. Why? Because of the upcoming provincial elections and then national elections. They fear that we will get power."  The provincial elections were due to take place this month; however, the inability to comes to terms with a basic agreement makes it unlikely that any elections will take place before year's end.  The United Nations is working on a proposal which they hope to present either by the end of this month or the start of October.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a US air strike today which claimed mutliple lives in Al Dour.  McClatchy's Leila Fadel explains that the deaths number at least eight "all from one family and including women," that the US military claims their helicopter only attacked 'terrorists' and that eye witnesses and Iraqi police disagree with the US military's statements including "Khaleel al Doori, a neighbor, [who] said his home was raided during the operation and that the American forces had used a loudspeaker to order people not to leave their homes. Doori said the U.S. troops shot a man and his wife."  AP spends paragraph after paragraph parroting the US military's claims which is made all the more strange in paragraph seven: "U.S. airstrikes and conflicting claims about whether civilians have been killed have been common throughout more than five years of war as the Americans seek to minimize civilian casualties on the ground."  Yes, they have repeatedly tried to minimize and fortunately for them AP joins them in minimzing today.  AP quotes Sheik Faris al-Fadaam explaining the deceaded father (Hassan Ali) had been a Sunni police officer until the family had to leave Baghdad and that, "The family was very poor. The family came here and we helped them to rent that house. It was an extended family. They did not have any political affiliations. They did not engage in any hostile activity or have any connection with gunmen." Reuters does not give six opening paragraphs to the US military version of events, it gives one opening paragraph and then offers this: "A local Iraqi police officer put the death toll at eight. He said all were civilians from the same family and included three women. A helicopter air strike levelled the house at Dour, 140 km (85 miles) north of Baghdad, in Salahuddin province, he said."
Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded six people and a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded two people.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul home invasion in which both parents were killed and four other members of the family were wounded.  Reuters notes 1 woman shot dead in Tuz Khurmato.
The number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war currently stands at 4168 with 17 for the month thus far. Since Thursday of last week, there have been 13 announced deaths.
 Independent journalist David Bacon latest book (just out this month) is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). Bacon also explores migration in "Displaced People: NAFTA's Most Important Product" (NACLA Reports):

Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993, the U.S. Congress has debated and passed several new bilateral trade agreements with Peru, Jordan and Chile, as well as the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Congressional debates over immigration policy have proceeded as though those trade agreements bore no relationship to the waves of displaced people migrating to the United States, looking for work. As Rufino Domínguez, former coordinator of the Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB), points out, U.S. trade and immigration policy are part of a single system, and the negotiation of NAFTA was an important step in developing this system. "There are no jobs" in Mexico, he says, "and NAFTA drove the price of corn so low that it's not economically possible to plant a crop anymore. We come to the United States to work because there's no alternative."
Economic crises provoked by NAFTA and other economic reforms are uprooting and displacing Mexicans in the country's most remote areas. While California farmworkers 20 and 30 years ago came from parts of Mexico with larger Spanish-speaking populations, migrants today increasingly come from indigenous communities in states like Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero. Domínguez says there are about 500,000 indigenous people from Oaxaca living in the United States, 300,000 in California alone.
Meanwhile, a rising tide of anti-immigrant sentiment has demonized those migrants, leading to measures to deny them jobs, rights, or any pretense of equality with people living in the communities around them. Solutions to these dilemmas-from adopting rational and humane immigration policies to reducing the fear and hostility toward migrants-must begin with an examination of the way U.S. policies have both produced migration and criminalized migrants.
Turning to public television. This weekend (Friday in most markets), NOW on PBS will offer a look at women and politics:

How have women in politics changed America and the world? NOW on PBS investigates with an hour-long special hosted by Maria Hinojosa: "Women, Power and Politics: A Rising Tide?"See the show on television this weekend or watch online STARTING SATURDAY
[. . .]
Show Description: Given the hoopla surrounding Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's historical political ascendance, why does the U.S. rank so low among countries for percentage of women holding national office? On Friday, September 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), in a one-hour special, NOW's Maria Hinojosa talks to women leaders around the world and here in the United States for an intimate look at the high-stakes risks, triumphs, and setbacks for women leaders of today and tomorrow. Among these women are President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, the first woman leader in Latin America who did not have a husband precede her as President, and former New Hampshire Governor Jeanne Shaheen, now in a tight race for a seat in the U.S. Senate.We also travel to Rwanda, where, 14 years after a horrific massacre left nearly one million people dead, women make up nearly half of parliament; and to Manhattan, where ambitious high school girls are competing in a high-stakes debate tournament."Women, Power and Politics," is also about the personal journey of mother and award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa as she strives to answer the question: "What does to mean to be a woman in power?"Watch a preview and excerpt of this special program at
this web address:Use this directory tool to find out where the show is airing in your area:
The NOW website ... will feature web-exclusive commentary from noteworthy women including Maria Bartiromo, Sandra Cisneros, and Tina Brown; a personal essay from Maria Hinojosa; an interactive debate over Sarah Palin's candidacy; as well as opportunities for all women to post and share their stories of ambition, success, and discouragement.(The "interactive debate" over Sarah Palin's candidacy is live now ...)

Bill Moyers Journal (check your local listings, begins airing on PBS in most markets tonight, it also streams online -- transcript, video, audio) guests will inclue Gretchen Morgenson (New York Times) will be on to discuss the economic meltdown and Kevin Phillips (whose most recent book is Bad Money). PBS' Washington Week finds Gwen sharing opinions with David Wessel (Wall St. Journal), Charles Babington (AP)  and John Maggs (National Journal) along with one other who desperately trolled the streets in an attempt to purchase an opinion from someone, anyone, so she didn't arrive empty handed.
(Babington was not booked this morning, the plan then was to have the bad writer for the NYT who also 'reports' for MSNBC on instead).
In the US presidential race, Team Nader notes:
In the Public Interest 
Statement On Auto Industry Bailouts 
by Ralph Nader 
The Big Three are in big trouble, and they have themselves to thank for it.
Ford and General Motors have reported substantial losses in the second quarter amounting to $15.5 billion, and $8.7 billion, respectively, while Chrysler, which was bought off last year by a private equity firm, Cerberus, refuses to reveal its financial standing.  
It is no wonder why their lobbyists were spotted schmoozing with members of Congress at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, liquoring up in their plush suites and private parties while they made their case for direct government loans which, if approved, would likely add to our federal deficit.
Last December, Congress approved a $25 billion loan to automakers and their suppliers under the Energy Independence and Security Act, though it has yet to be funded. That bill includes a modest requirement for automakers to increase their average vehicle fuel efficiency to 35 mpg—a benchmark we should have set decades ago, and would allow the companies to have their way with virtually no oversight or accountability. 
This corporate Congress cannot be expected to issue serious demands, set tough conditions, or impose strict rules on the auto companies to ensure their workers receive fair pay and benefits, and prevent their fat-cat executives from making off big while leaving their companies in shambles.  
Such blatant giveaways have become the norm in Washington since the corporate stranglehold of Congress and the White House have smothered the forces seeking worker, consumer and environmental justice. 
But this recent example should not discount our long history of dealing with corporate failures in more public and effective ways than just ponying up billions on demand at any big corporation's whim. 
In 1979 when Chrysler was on the verge of bankruptcy, the automaker came crying to Congress for a bailout, which they eventually got, but Congress wasn't as much of a pushover. 
Back then, at least the corporate chieftains were grilled by Congress and had to agree to give something back for Uncle Sam bailing them out--good jobs and pensions for their workers, and more efficient cars to reduce reliance on foreign oil and reduce prices at the pump. 
Now the CEOs don't even have to leave Detroit and they get much more money for almost no return commitment to America, while they outsource jobs and pollute our environment.  
During discussion on a proposed loan bill to bailout Chrysler in October 1979, Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) who chaired the Senate Banking Committee issued his opposition to Chrysler;s request and noted: "We let 7,000 companies fail last year--we didn;t bail them out. Now we are being told that if a company is big enough… we can't let it go under." He went on to call the proposed deal "a terrible precedent."  
Raising the government's demand for performance standards, President Carter's Treasury Secretary William Miller told Chrysler officials, "it's going to be so awful, you'll wish you never brought the whole thing up." 
Today, we rarely hear such candid opposition to corporate orders shouted at their congressional servants who lack the fortitude to put serious restraints and conditions on mismanaged, reckless big business and their overpaid CEOs seeking tax-payer salvation.  
As a part of the Chrysler deal in the late Seventies, the government took out preferred stock warrants and after the company turned itself around and repaid its loan seven years early, the government ended up cashing out, receiving $400 million in the appreciated stock.  
And Congress made clear to Chrysler that it had specific conditions the company had to meet before receiving the loan guarantee. It forced the company to contribute $162,500,000 into an employee stock ownership trust fund geared to benefit at least 90 percent of its employees, design more fuel efficient autos to help reduce consumption of foreign oil, and prohibit wages and benefits from falling below a level set three months before the legislation was passed.
Today, congressional actions to grant multi-billion dollar loans to the corporations lack the reciprocity some in Congress demanded 30 years ago. Before Congress irresponsibly dips into the public piggy bank, this time it would be wise to look back at how the government once dealt with Chrysler's dilemma, require clear benchmarks to deliver on the next generation of green collar jobs, improved fuel efficiency and gain a substantial return on its investment, not just in monetary value, but in the long-term viability of the domestic motor vehicle fleet.
Congress needs to call on the auto industry to innovate their way out of this morass into which they've engineered themselves. A sensible strategy would be to issue stock warrants to the government, like in the 70s, which would create an incentive for Congress to keep pressure on the auto industry to improve. Public Congressional hearings are a must.  
Will Congress echo its actions of 30 years ago when it scrutinized corporate demands, grilled company executives, and imposed conditions to ensure fair compensation and safety for workers? Or will Congress continue down the road of corporate servitude, refusing to stand up for workers, consumers, taxpayers and the environment in its session-ending stampede and flight away from auto industry accountabilities?