Tuesday, October 28, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the White House speaks of two US soldiers who died in Iraq yesterday . . . even though there were no reported deaths, the treaty continues to create tensions as does the US attack on Syria, and more.
Yesterday in Turkey, Hurriyet reports, General Ilker Basbug became "the first Chief of General Staff to ever attend a cabinet meeting" when he briefed the Council of Ministers on the country's "ongoing fight against terrorism". Deutsche Welle notes, "The Turkish Air Force conducted bombing raids Tuesday on suspected Kurdish separatist positions in nothern Iraq in the latest upsurge of violence between the two sides." RTT News adds, "The army said that its warplanes succssfully carried out a bombing operation on Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) hideouts in the regions of Hakurk, Avashin-Basyan and Zap in northern Iraq. The army said that the air raid was backed by heavy artillery firing, but did not mention the causalities among the rebel ranks." Iran's Press TV reminds, "Turkey has stepped up operations against PKK since the rebels attacked a Turkish border outpost in October 3 and killed 17 soliders." Middle East Online does the math, "It was the sixth Turkish air raid in nothern Iraq since October 3 when PKK rebels crossing from their base in the region attacked a Turkish border outpost, backed by heavy weapons fir from the other side of the border." At the US State Dept today, spokesperson Robert Wood declared, "Look, we, our case, look, the PKK is a terrorist group, we've said over and over again that it needs to go out of business, our position hasn't changed on this." AFP notes, "Earlier this month, Turkey's parliament extended by one year the government's mandate to order cross-border military action agains the PKK in northern Iraq, which has been in effect since October 17, 2007." The tensions and attacks have been going on since the start of the illegal war; however, this month was supposed to see some changes including alleged talks between Ankara, Baghdad and DC according to Ali Babacan, Turkey's Foreign Minister. Hurriyet explains potential changes, "The weekend U.S. raid into Syrian territory will hamper Turkey's efforts to create a more stable Middle East through mediating between rival Israel and Syria, according to experts." Hurriyet maintains Turkey had no advance knowledge of the attack on Syria and notes, "Turkey has so far hosted four rounds of indirect talks between Israel and Syria with the aim of bringing the bitter enemies together for direct talks. The fifth round, originally scheduled for Septemeber, was postponed after former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigned amid corruption claims. . . . Washington has remained silent on the Olmert-led Israeli government's initiative to engage in indirect talks with Syria under Turkish auspices."
This is the Bully Boy of the United States speaking to the United Nations September 23rd:
Sixty-three years ago, representatives from around the world gathered in San Francisco to complete the founding of the Charter of the United Nations. They met in the shadow of a devastating war, with grave new dangers on the horizon. They agreed on a historic pledge: "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, and unite their strength to maintain international peace and security."
This noble pledge has endured trying hours in the United Nations' history, and it still guides our work today. Yet the ideals of the Charter are now facing a challenge as serious as any since the U.N.'s founding -- a global movement of violent extremists. By deliberately murdering the innocent to advance their aims, these extremists defy the fundamental principles of international order. They show contempt for all who respect life and value human dignity. They reject the words of the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, or any standard of conscience or morality. They imperil the values of justice and human rights that gave birth to the United Nations -- values that have fueled an unprecedented expansion of freedom across the world.
To uphold the words of the Charter in the face of this challenge, every nation in this chamber has responsibilities. As sovereign states, we have an obligation to govern responsibly, and solve problems before they spill across borders. We have an obligation to prevent our territory from being used as a sanctuary for terrorism and proliferation and human trafficking and organized crime. We have an obligation to respect the rights and respond to the needs of our people.
Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker (New York Times) cite the above (beginning with "As soveriegn states . . .") as what unnamed "administation officials" cub "the clearest articulation" of the White House's position. The clearest articulation is international law and the US is in violation of it when it enters another country without the host country's permission to conduct any activity. The idea that unnamed weasels can point to remarks made regarding "sovereign states" without anyone (including Schmitty and Shanks) pointing out that "sovereign states" have "sovereignty." But what's to be expected when Schmmitty and Shanks writes, "This month, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former top commander in Iraq, said that the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq has dwindled to less than 20 a month from a peak of more than 120 a month a year ago." Really? The US is now only sending 20 a month? Because, pay attention Boom-Boom Boys, the US make up "foreign fighters." All non-Iraqis security/military forces on Iraqi soil are "foreign fighters." But you have to write with a strong sense of entitlement if you're not going to cite any legal objections to the created-out-of-whole-cloth 'logic' for bypassing a nation-state's sovereignty. The first clue that there's no real legal underpinning is that the writers have to cite Israel as an example -- actions condemned widely in the international community.
Unnamed officials whispering to the press say that the illegal raid was targeting 'terrorists' and some say it was CIA-led. Were that the case, it would need to be addressed with the American people frankly as would the White House's notion that they can create their own legal 'understanding'. If you factor in recent remarks by Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden -- on how if Barack Obama's elected president he will be tested and you won't like his 'solutions' but you must go along like good soldiers and you will eventually see the wisdom of his ways -- the attack on Syria is even more appalling and even more frightening. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports Syria's response today included closing an "American school and cultural center in Damascus" and she reports that Ali al-Dabbagh, speaking on behalf of the Baghdad government, "denounced the helicopter raid" declaring, "The Iraqi government rejects the U.S. aircraft bombardment on Syria territory, considering that Iraq's constitution doesn't allow its land to be used as a base for launching attacks on neighboring countries." At the US State Dept today, Robert A. Wood briefed the press and, asked about the closings, stated, "I've seen, actually heard about the reports but we have not been officially notified by the Syrian government. So until we do, I don't have much further to say on it." Wood then attempted to stick with his intent not to comment stating, "I'm not going to comment on it" and then, "Nothing to add." However, he then went on to make a statement.
Robert A. Wood: No, I don't. But let me just say as Sean [McCormack] said yesterday with regard to, you know, the flow of foreign fighters across the border. The Syrians have made in the past, taken some steps in the right direction, but there's a lot they need to do. And we have spoken to Syria about what they need to do. One of those things that we'd like to see happen is for them to better screen individuals coming inot Damascus Airport. For them to better patrol their borders. And, uh, you know, we want them, third, on this third point, we want them to deny foreign fighters safe haven in Syria. And so Syrians know what they need to do. We want to see those things happen. And that's just a general overview of what we'd like the Syrians to do with regards to foreign fighters.
"These are things we've been saying for some time," Wood declared when he was asked why the State Dept couldn't make those comments yesterday and he added that this is general policy with regards to Syria and has been "for some time."
Wood was also asked about the treaty masquerading as Status Of Forces Agreement in terms of had the Iraqis proposed any changes and he stated t
Robert A. Wood: As we've said many times, as I've said over and over again last week, this is a good agreement. It was carefully negotiated by both sides, if the Iraqis have some concerns about the text, they can certainly compile those recommendations and forward them on to us officially. That has not yet happened. There are lots of voices in Iraq that you know have problems with various aspects of the agreement. That's understandable. Iraq's a democracy. But until the Iraqi government compiles these concerns into a, you know, onto a piece of paper and forward it to us officially I can't really respond.
He then went on to declare, "I never talk about deadlines on anything but we obviously have a December 31st deadline, that's the only real deadline." December 31st is when the United Nations mandate that allows foreign fighters to be on the ground in Iraq. Without the mandate, there is no legal basis for the US to remain in Iraq. At the White House this morning, spokesperson Dana Perino was asked about any "Plan B" should the treaty not go through and would they pursue a renewal of the United Nations mandate?
Dana Perino: It's certainly not our preference. It wouldn't be what we want to do. We want to be able to move forward with both a strategic framework agreement that we've organized with the Iraqis that talks about the broad contours of our relationship, both economic and diplomatic and also political. So we want to be able to move forward with that with them. But when it comes to the strategic -- I'm sorry, the Status Of Forces Agreement, we remain confident that we'll be able to get one. However, if we don't, there will be consequences for that. And Secretary [of State Condi] Rice and Secretary [of Defense Robert] Gates have both talked about that. And I don't think there are Iraqis -- I don't there are any Iraqis who think that they are ready to do this all on their own -- deep down. They might say that and it might help politically for them in their own country domestically to be able to say that they could do it on their own, but even just yesterday we saw two of our soldiers who were killed in a suicide bombing, So Iraq still has a lot of violence that they have to deal with. Our soldiers are the ones who are there to help them deal with it, and they're going to need our help for some time. And that's how we got to the agreement that we have, with the broad outlines that you've seen reported in the press. So we'll continue to work with them. We'll see what the amendments say. There might be something that we can work with, it might not. So I need to see those amendments and I need to hear from Abassador Crocker before I say any more.
Before we got any further, what is Perino speaking of regarding "yesterday"? ". . . even just yesterday we saw two of our soldiers who were killed in a suicide bombing . . ." She said that today. There's been no announcement of any US service members dying in Iraq yesterday. What is she talking about? Are their two deaths that haven't been announced? Did she misspeak? ICCC lists the last US service member death as having taken place October 24th (Cody J. Eggleston). (4188 is the current total of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.)
Returning to the treaty, Wood wants something in writing before he will comments. He may soon get it. Mariam Karouny and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) report that amendments to the proposal were drawn up today and "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki will now send U.S. negotiators the proposed amendments to the security deal, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports of the amendments, "Iraq has demanded a clear commitment from the US that its forces will have left its soil by the end of 2011. The stance was revealed in a newly toughened-up version of a draft military pact that could eventually see the US presence forced to make their exit much sooner." CNN states it's "unclear" when the proposed amendments would be submitted. Today Leila Fadel updates her Sunday report with Roy Gutman "U.S. threatens to halt services to Iraq without troop accord" (McClatchy Newspapers) which informs that Gen Ray Odierno is the heavy throwing around threats to Iraqis that they'll lose $6.3 million in US aid as well as "$10 billion a year in foreign military sales" if they do not accept the treaty (or the UN mandate is not renewed) and that the US would no longer share intelligence "and would cease to provide air traffic control, air defense, SWAT team training or advisers in government ministries". And that's only one of the pressures on the puppet government regarding the treaty. The attack on Syria has created another and Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) covers the bind al-Maliki is thought to be in with regards to Iran: "If Maliki pushes the U.S.-Iraq security agreement through parliament without support from his Shiite partners, 'the Iranians will turn his life into hell. He will have no chance of winning in the south,' Attiyah, the political analyst, said. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Iraqi people have a 'duty' to resist the Americans. The Iranian parliament speaker, Sli Larijani, wanred of 'unpleasent impacts' is Iraq sings the deal. And a senior cleric with ties to Iraq's Shiites, Ayatollah Kadhim al-Husseini al-Haeri, has pronounced the accord 'haram,' or forbidden under Islam."
US Secretary of State Condi Rice met with Massud Barzani, president of Iraq's Kurdish region, in DC today. AFP quotes him stating, "The issue of the strategic agreement was the main theme of the meeting." Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reported this morning on the failure of the oil law which was rejected and on the Kurds rejection of al-Maliki's efforts to create a new form of "Awakening" Councils for the areas that the central government in Baghdad and Kurds dispute: "It has become an article of faith for Kurdish political leaders that the Kurds have a right to fold Kirkuk into Kurdistan. The Kurds are also seeking to maintain influence over a number of other disputed areas along their borders with the rest of Iraq. The centeral government has long opposed Kurdistna's claims to Kirkuk because it wants access to the region's oil wealth, and also because historically many other people have lived there: Turkmens, Arabs and Christians, many of them Assyrians." The paper's Sam Dagher reported that "al-Maliki is squeezing out Kurdish units of the Iraqi Army from Mosul, sending the national police and army from Baghdad and trying to forge alliances with Sunni Arab hard-liners in the province, who have deep-seated feuds with the Kurdistan Regional Government led by Massoud Barzani." On the issue of Iraqi Christians in that region, Dagher notes:
Mr. [Atheel al-] Nujaifi and his brother Osama, a member of Parliament in Baghdad, blame the Kurds for instigating a campaign against the Christians in Mosul to deflect the central government's pressure.
One Kurdish leader called the accusations "ludicrous," and the United States military said it was most likely the work of militants linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
But a group of Christian leaders who met with General Thomas last week in the town of Qosh, outside Mosul, blamed the struggle between the central government and Kurdistan for the plight of their people. Sweeping out both sides, they said, may be the only way to restore calm and trust.
"You have done a great job removing Saddam's regime," the Rev. Bashar Warda told the general. "Continue with removing this regime, and start over again."
Meanwhile Reuters reports that Yunadim Kanna (MP, Christian) states "a few hundred" of the approximately 2,200 Iraqi Christian families who fled Mosul have returned to their home while Jawdat Ismail of the Displacement and Migration Ministry in Mosul places the number as being around eighty.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left four people wounded, another that wounded three people, a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 3 lives and left thirteen more people wounded, a second Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left five more injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing that injured two people, a Tuz roadside bombing targeting LT Col Shamal Mohammed (who survived), a Diyala Province roadside bombing that wounded three people and an Al Anbar Province bomber ("explosive vest") who took his/her life as well as the lives of 2 police officers with three more wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Nineveh Province attack on police recruits in which 4 recruits were killed and four more were injured, an armed clash in Kirkuk that resulted in two participants being injured, also in Kirkuk a driver for an "Iraqi Christian lawmaker" (Yonadim Kanna) was wounded in a shooting,
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
China's Xinhua notes 20 corpses were discovered in Nineveh Province ("80 km west of the provincial capital of Mosul") and they remind that 34 corpses were discovered last week outside of al-Qaim. Hammouci explinas they were found in a house's basement on a tip "from local residents." Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Tal Afar and another (police officer) was found in Hilla.
Next week the US elects a new president. The Republican presidential candidate is John McCain, Sarah Palin is his running mate. Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that Joe Wurzelbacher -- better known as "Joe the Plumber" -- has made his endorsement: "Wurzelbacher campaigned for McCain in Columbus, Ohio this morning. He said Barack Obama wants to redistribute wealth and would make America a socialist nation, according to the Associated Press. He also said he believes Obama will raise taxes on the middle class, despite Obama's promises to cut their taxes." Jake Tapper and Matthew Jaffe (ABC News' Political Punch) report that Joe Biden introduced himself in Florida stating, "I'm Joe -- not the plumber -- Joe the Biden." Tapper and Jaffe also note a polling setback for Barack and wonder how that . . . "Oh, right …his running mate said the world would test the mettle of a young President Obama with an international crisis and it wouldn't be apparent initially that the Obama response was the correct one." Scott Conroy (CBS News) reports weather and bus breakdowns on the road with the Palin camp. Conroy also notes that Governor "Palin will deliver a policy speech on energy security Wednesday morning in Toledo, Ohio". Will that get coverage? Her speech Friday on special-needs children didn't. And let's be really clear that the press refusal to cover that and instead focus on a woman's clothes said much more about their own bias and immaturity.
The McCain - Palin campaign has released a new ad:
McCain-Palin 2008 Launches New Television Ad: "Compare"
ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, McCain-Palin 2008 released its latest television ad, entitled "Compare." The ad highlights the clear choice Americans have at the polls this year. For higher taxes, policies that spread the wealth around, increased government spending and pain for small business, Barack Obama is the clear choice in this election. For policies that promote economic growth, help working Americans, lower taxes and eliminates government waste, the choice is John McCain. The ad will be televised in key states.
In other political advertisement news, Ralph Nader's independent presidential campaign announces their own media buy:
Today is a big day for Nader/Gonzalez.
Thanks to you, beginning today -- our radio ads will air in 22 markets in 12 states.
Click here to listen to the 30 second version and 60 second version of the radio ads.
Today through election day -- the ads will run six times a day on radio stations in the following areas:
Please forward these radio ads to your address book, friends and family.
Also, we'd like to move these ads into as many markets as possible.
We can make it happen.
But we'd need to raise a boatload of money.
So, if you haven't given yet, please donate whatever you can to Nader/Gonzalez today.
Our goal is to hit $4 million by election day.
We're about $190,000 away.
So, let's crank it up.
Onward to November.
We need your videos.
And we need them now.
With one week to go, we need your help to convince undecided voters to vote for Nader/Gonzalez.
Over the last seven months, we've received countless stories and written testimonials from you -- our loyal supporters -- about why you plan to vote for Nader/Gonzalez.
Now, we need you to help us show the country the full spectrum of Nader/Gonzalez supporters -- among them Independents, Republicans, Democrats and Greens.
So, we've come up with a video contest.
You send us your video testimonial telling us why you are voting for Nader/Gonzalez.
We'll pick our favorite ones and post them to our official Nader/Gonzalez YouTube channel.
And then we'll send them to our supporters to forward to their friends.
So, here is how it's going to work:
In your video, tell us your name, where you live, a little bit about yourself and your family, and most importantly, why you are voting for Nader/Gonzalez.
Your video testimonial should be 60 seconds or less.
Make the video.
You can do it from your webcam on your computer, from your videocam, high quality, low quality -- it's the message, not the quality, that we're looking for.
We need your video testimonials to convince America that it's time to break away from the corrupt two political parties.
So, send along your "Why I'm Voting for Nader/Gonzalez" videos now.
And we'll post the best ones later this week.
Ralph's running mate is Matt Gonzalez. Ralph gets some attention at CBS News' website via a reposting of William Greider from The Nation, "Why Ralph Nader Runs:"
Nader stood at the podium and read from a lengthy speech describing the corporate dominance of politics, the stranglehold exercised on dissent by the two-party system, the presidential candidates packaged like soap and cars, the failure of left-liberal progressives (including The Nation) to demand conditions on their support for the Democratic candidate.
"The hypocrisy of liberals, which may in some ways be unconscious, is empowering the forces that are destroying our nation," Nader asserted in an even-tempered voice. "The left in this country has been successfully cowed by the Democratic Party," he continued. "The votes of progressives are taken for granted by Democrats.... By allowing ourselves to be manipulated, we have demonstrated that we have no moral substance. We have no line that can be never be crossed, no stance so sacred and important that we are willing to stand up and fight back."
So long as progressives are willing to settle for the "least worst" alternative, they will remain ignored and excluded from power, he suggested.
This kind of talk from Nader drives some people to rage against him. He returns the favor by discussing "the rage that many in our nation feel towards liberals." Barack Obama, he insists, does not intend to alter anything fundamental about the causes. "This rage is a legitimate expression of very real betrayal," Nader explained. "The working class, most of whom do not vote, watch Democratic candidate after Democratic candidate run for office promising to support labor and protect jobs and then, once elected, trot off to Washington to pass the corporate-friendly legislation drawn up by the 35,000 lobbyists who work for our shadow government."
Meanwhile Lance Selfa (Socialist Worker via Dissident Voice) calls out the 'progressives' insisting upon providing non-stop cover for Barack:
What has unfolded is a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, minimize or ignore Obama's gestures or actions that fly in the face of progressive values. On the other, accentuate the differences between him and McCain, no matter how small they might be on particular issues.
A good example of the former was the reaction of Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) to the recent Wall Street bailout bill and Obama's support for it.
To its credit, PDA opposed the legislation as a "sellout to greedy fat cats," as PDA National Director Tim Carpenter called it in an October 2 press release. Carpenter pointed out that Senate changes to the bill (what he called "lipstick") and renaming it a "rescue plan" didn't change its essence as a "blank check bailout."
Yet two days later, Congress passed that blank-check bailout. The administration's efforts to round up support got a boost from Obama, who campaigned for the bill and persuaded leading members of the Congressional Black Caucus to switch from "no" to "yes."
In many ways, Obama and the congressional Democratic leadership led the way to the bill's passage. And what did PDA say about that? Nothing. Its next official press release, dated October 10, quoted Carpenter as saying, "We're stepping up our efforts during these closing weeks to elect Obama and a more progressive Congress. We've already started. New-voter registration coordinator Bruce Taub and a team of Massachusetts volunteers just returned from a four-day trip to Pennsylvania."
Given that PDA and other progressive Democrats are invested in an Obama win and substantial Democratic coattails, it's unlikely they would have taken the opportunity to denounce Obama or the Democrats.
But then, that's not their modus operandi anyway. Progressives for Obama initiator Tom Hayden even explained: "I have no problem with Barack Obama supporting the bailout package as long as it keeps him on track to the presidency. He needs to be critical, to offer amendments, and to promise to return to the crisis the day after November 4."
[. . .]
This is the way "progressive" politics oriented on the Democratic Party is played -- because when all is said and done, it is no more than liberal gloss on the politics of the "lesser of two evils."