Friday, October 31, 2008

Syria, Iraqi Christians

Tens of thousands of Syrians turned out Thursday for a massive government-orchestrated protest against a deadly U.S. raid near the Iraqi border Sunday.
A mile away, hundreds of Syrian riot police formed a protective ring around the closed U.S. Embassy, but the crowds dispersed peacefully after a couple of hours.
Also Thursday, Syria demanded a formal apology for the attack, which it says killed eight civilians, and threatened to cut off cooperation on Iraqi border security if there are more American raids.
There has been no formal acknowledgment of the raid from Washington, but U.S. officials have said the target was a top figure in al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The above is from the Syria section of the Washington Post's news brief roundup "Around the World" and Jordan's Al Bawaba reports Syria has announced it is severing "diplomatic ties with Iraq". Iraq's Alsumaria adds, "However, Government spokesman Ali Al Dabbagh denied in a statement to Alsumaria reports about cutting off relations with Syria hoping it would not reach that point." Farrah Hassen's "A bumpy ride for the US over Syria" (Asia Times) offers perspective that the US media can't bother to provide:

The details of the attack remain murky and the White House has declined to comment. Not so murky is the fact that eight Syrian civilians, including a farmer, three children, and a fisherman, died as a result of the strike. They were all victims of collateral damage, like the Iraqis and Afghans who have perished as a result of Bush's reckless wars.
Numerous questions abound about the timing, purpose, and legality of the strike. Was the attack directed specifically against Syria, which has cooperated with the United States in the "war on terror" and the Iraq War, or is it more of a desperate pre-election move by the Bush administration to showcase the image of stability and US resolve?
Other pundits have called the attack a "parting shot" from Bush and neo-conservatives in his administration, who have long advocated but failed to bring regime change to Damascus, particularly in response to Syria's early opposition to the invasion of Iraq.
By violating Syrian airspace and apparently not consulting the Syrians about its supposed intelligence on Abu Ghadiya ahead of the attack, the Bush administration has confirmed, yet again, its disdain for international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter.
Indeed, the United States, in the name of fighting "terrorists", has carried out other cross-border raids in recent months, including against the Taliban along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In justifying the Syria attack, a senior US official told The Washington Post: "You have to clean up the global threat that is in your backyard, and if you won't do that, we are left with no choice but to take these matters into our hands."
Does this standard apply to other countries and legitimize their counter-terrorism operations? Imagine if Cuba offered a similar justification for going after scores of Cuban exiles in Miami who have acted anti-former Cuban president Fidel Castro, including Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles, who carried out the October 6, 1976, bombing of a Cuban civilian airliner, killing all 73 passengers and crew members on board.

Meanwhile, Leila Fadel's "What to do with the detainees?" (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers) explores the issue of Iraqi prisoners held by the US:

Following the killing of 17 civilians last year by Blackwater, security contractors that protect diplomats, the Iraqi government could do nothing. When a teenage girl was raped and her family killed, south of Baghdad, by a U.S. soldier, the Iraqi government could do nothing.
While the negotiations continue and seem to be hitting a wall we've forgotten about the detainees.
Right now the U.S. military is trying to pare down the number of Iraqi detainees in custody before the U.N. mandate expires at the end of the year. They've reduced the number by almost 10,000 since last year; currently there are 17,000 people in U.S. custody. Most are detained and are never charged or go on trial, many are held for months or years until they are no longer deemed a threat. If and when a security agreement is actually in place the U.S. will have to transfer the remaining detainees to Iraqi custody.

On the subject of the attacks on Iraqi Christians, the Saudi Gazette notes that Professor Ekmeledding Ihsanoglu (Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference) declared, "As we have consistently demanded that the rights of Muslim minorities be respected all over the world, we do emphasize the need to respect the rights of all minorities across the Islamic world." UPI reports:

The government of Iraq needs to take all necessary actions to bring a halt to the targeted killings of the Christian minority population, U.S. lawmakers said.
Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Carl Levin of Michigan, along with Republican Sens. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Mel Martinez of Florida, called on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take the steps needed to end the violence plaguing the Christian community in northern Iraq.
"This violence is emblematic of a larger pattern of severe persecution by extremists that threatens to deprive Iraq of her non-Muslim citizens," the senators wrote. "It also highlights the possibility of increased violence ahead of provincial elections (in January)."

Turning to the US presidential race. Dana notes this from Team Nader:

The Final 100 Hours: Get Out the Vote


The Final 100 Hours: Get Out the Vote .

In the final 100 hours before the election, we need your help to implement our get out the vote (GOTV) plan.

To make tens of thousands of phone calls, knock on doors in hundreds of communities, and pass out thousands of flyers and leaflets.

To remind voters that Nader/Gonzalez is the independent choice on November 4th.

It’s a simple five step process.

Here’s what you need to do:

Step One: Vote for Nader/Gonzalez. Get your friends and family to vote for Nader/Gonzalez. Vote early. Vote on election day. But vote independent. Vote Nader/Gonzalez.

Step Two: Connect with Nader Supporters in Your State. Go to our state-by-state map. Connect with your state, regional, community, and campus coordinators to find out how you can help.

Step Three: Spread the Word. Great Nader/Gonzalez literature is available in every state. Click here to see the location of the campaign literature nearest you. You can download GOTV flyers to help pass out in your local community. You can knock on your neighbors’ doors. Canvass door to door, telling your neighbors why you’re voting for Nader/Gonzalez. Urge them to do the same.

Step Four: Create Visibility. Help us distribute Nader/Gonzalez buttons, window signs and more. We’ve unloaded all of our materials to our coordinators around the country. Click here for people with campaign materials in your state. To find a state or local coordinator with bumperstickers and other Nader/Gonzalez merchandise, click here.

Step Five: Join our Nationwide Phone Bank. Are you willing to help phone bank supporters and independents across the country? If yes, please contact to sign up for our national GOTV phone bank effort. Over the next 24 hours we’ll be sending them information on how to vote for Nader/Gonzalez in your state and sharing with them a GOTV video from Ralph that he shot last night on why they should join the GOTV effort.

That’s five simple steps.

History will look back on this effort as the end of the two party domination in this country and the beginning of a new era of citizen politics.

We can’t make that happen unless you help us get millions of votes for Nader/Gonzalez on November 4th.

Onward to November.

Jason Kafoury
National Campaign Coordinator
The Nader Team


Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate, Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. Ryan notes this from Team Nader:

Breaking Point: Voting for the First Time in 40 years...for Nader!


Breaking Point: Voting for the First Time in 40 years...for Nader! .

Voting for the first time in 40 years – for Nader!

My husband, Rick, and I are overjoyed you have decided to declare your candidacy for President! In 2000 I fell into the trap of voting for Al Gore even though I knew you had what it takes to turn this nation around for the better. I won’t make the same mistake again.

This time around you have my vote and would still have it even if it were Barack Obama against Dick Cheney. Too many people are looking at who is more likely to win for their party, and the result is too many people compromising what is important for their lives and their values. ALL your stands on the issues and your values are our dream for what we wish this nation could be. You have already done so much for this country, not only by voicing your stands to steer this country in the right direction, but also with all the improvements in safety for the public that you have championed.

Rick is so turned off by politics in America that he hasn’t voted in more than 40 years. He hasn’t registered to vote since we were married 39 years ago. He tried to get me to vote for you in 2000, but was still feeling too cynical about the election procedure back then to register to vote himself. Now with your candidacy he will register once again in order to vote for you. We both have never felt worse about this country than we do now, and your candidacy will be a motivating factor in getting him to register.

Thank you!

—Amy and Rick

If you haven’t reached your breaking point, visit
Send me your Breaking Point story to share at, so the growing numbers of independent voters can join our voices, and together, we can change the system.

Loralynne Krobetzky
Communications Director
Nader for President 2008


And Becky notes this from McCain - Palin:

In Case You Missed It: "Reality Check: The Cost Of Obama's Pledges"

"The fact is the savings Obama has identified do not cover his spending. According to a CBS News estimate, he's around $90 billion short. The Obama campaign disputes this, saying everything including the stimulus is paid for over 10 years. But other analysts say - even presuming Obama saves money in Iraq and chops the federal budget as promised - he falls short." -- CBS News' Wyatt Andrews

"Reality Check: The Cost Of Obama's Pledges"
Wyatt Andrews
CBS News
October 29, 2008

Without question, the Barack Obama infomercial served as a very slick and powerful recitation of the biggest promises he's made as a presidential candidate. But the very bigness of his ideas is the problem: he seems blind to the concept his numbers don't add up.

Obama has already proposed a new stimulus package of $188 billion over two years. His tax cuts will cost $85 billion a year. His "army of new teachers": $18 billion; Renewable energy: $15 billion. CBS News and various independent experts estimate Obama's total first year spending could exceed $280 billion.

Still Obama repeated his claim he can find the money to pay for every proposal.

"I've offered spending cuts above and beyond their cost," he has said.

The fact is the savings Obama has identified do not cover his spending. According to a CBS News estimate, he's around $90 billion short. The Obama campaign disputes this, saying everything including the stimulus is paid for over 10 years. But other analysts say - even presuming Obama saves money in Iraq and chops the federal budget as promised - he falls short.

Let's break all of this down, starting with his highly suspect, and widely discredited, claim that he can find federal "spending cuts beyond the costs" of his promises. Very few independent economists believe he has identified the savings needed to offset his remarkable list of tax credits, tax cuts and spending pledges.

Fact: Even if you believe Obama intends to fix health care, most independent analysts say the cost is massive - $1.2 trillion over ten years, according to the highly respected Lewin Group. When the new Congress wakes up next year to a $1 trillion deficit, and answers the overwhelming new demands for another stimulus package, will the leadership really bite on a health care reform package that digs the deficit hole so much deeper?

And that's just the beginning of what Obama would spend.

Fact: The tax cuts he promises, which are mostly refundable tax credits (code for cash back), will cost $60 billion just in year one, according the National Taxpayers Union, though the Obama campaign's own estimates in July put that figure at $130 billion.

Fact: His new promise to give businesses a $3,000 tax credit for each new job created will cost $40 billion. But economists say this credit is far more likely to benefit companies already planning to expand and will likely not be enough to help companies create new jobs or forestall layoffs.

Fact: Obama's claim he will lower health care premiums by $2,500 is: 1.) guesswork, which is 2.) based on health care savings that might, in a perfect world, happen over 10 years - a fact Obama neatly glosses over.

Fact: Obama, when referring to savings he can make by leaving Iraq ($90 billion, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates), has spent these savings several times over, across several different promises depending on the crowd he's addressing.

Most of the time he spends the Iraq savings in the context of the roads he wants to build; sometimes it's for the teachers he wants to hire. Tonight, he riffed rhetorically on the savings, asking how many scholarships could be funded, or how many schools could be built. In the end though, presuming he really saves $90 billion, he can only spend it once.

Remember he also mentioned rebuilding the military ($7 billion/yr); his education initiative ($18 billion/yr); and his energy initiative ($15 billion/yr). He did not mention the $188 billion that he would spend on the brand new stimulus package he has proposed.

If he closes every loophole as promised, saves every dime from Iraq, raises taxes on the rich and trims the federal budget as he's promised to do "line by line," he still doesn't pay for his list. If he's elected, the first fact hitting his desk will be the figure projecting how much less of a budget he has to work with - thanks to the recession. He gave us a very compelling vision with his ad buy tonight. What he did not give us was any hint of the cold reality he's facing or a sense of how he might prioritize his promises if voters trust him with the White House.

Read The Article

John McCain is the GOP presidential candidate, Sarah Palin is his running mate. And Ava and I were talking yesterday about writing something on the topic above for Third. The garbage in today's New York Times makes it all the more likely.

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