Monday, November 3, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the treaty is still iffy, Syria still wants answers, Article 50 comes back . . . maybe, a Democrat 'explains' Barack's mentor, and more.
Starting with the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quotes Iraqi news editors Ahmed Abdul-Majid ("Out coverage of the U.S. election is not heavy because we believe that the result of the elections will not have a direct impact on the future of Iraq") and Adbul-Halim Saleh ("In the end, strategic policies made in the United States will not be affected by the changing of the administrations") on the US election and explains, "The agreement, under negotiation for months, would keep American troops in Iraq for three more years but give Iraqis a greater role in deciding U.S. military operations." China's Xinhau notes al-Sabah (Baghdad newspaper) is reporting three of the five amendments have been agreed to by DC. Among the rejected are supposedly the issue of immunity for US troops and among the agreed to changes is that US forces would leave in 36 months and that the treaty will be called "agreement on withdrawal of US forces." Indo-Asian News Service adds, "British Ambassador in Iraq Christopher Prentice told the Kurdish newspaper al-Taakhi that Britain was keen on reaching an agreement with the Iraqi government since 'very little time remains until the end of this year'." The United Nations mandate allowing foreign forces to be on Iraqi soil expires December 31st. Without something in place, there is no legal authorization for foreign forces on Iraqi soil. This mandate covers the occupation, there was no mandate that allowed for the illegal invasion. The UN Wire notes the Washington Times story that "American officials are looking to the UN Security Council to extend the mandate for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq beyond Dec. 31 as direct negotiations with Iraqi officials on a deal remain plagued by 'numerous' differences." At the White House today, spokesperson Dana Perino addressed the negotiations and talk of seeking an extension on the UN mandate:
We are working towards responding to the Iraqis. Our negotiating team, led by Ambassador Crocker, is finalizing that and we expect to be talking with the Iraqis over the next week. And I think that their parliament is back in session starting next Tuesday, so hopefully we'll make some progress soon. And I think reports about us looking at an alternative are overwritten. We are focused on getting this agreement done. I think the Iraqis recognize that it is their interest, and it's certainly in America's national security interest for us to finalize it. So we're working through all the requested changes that they had, and there might be some that we can support, there might be some that we won't be able to support. I'll just let the negotiators work that out with them privately.
At the US State Dept today, spokesperson Robert Wood said of the SOFA, "Nothing new to report. We're taking a look at the material we got from the Iraqis last week, and we'll be replying in due course. But I don't have anything further than that." Iran's Press TV maintains the treaty allows for attacks on foreign countries: "Under the US -sought agreement, American military and civilians planes will be able to use Iraqi airspace without Baghdad's oversight." The treaty faces more hurdles as a result of the US creating a crisis two Sundays ago by attacking Syria, AP reports that Walid al-Moualem, Syria's Foreign Minister, has used the word "painful" to describe the responses from Syria to the US should the White House and its agencies continue to stonewall regarding the attack. Iran's Press TV quotes al-Moualem stating: "Syria may resort to more painful measures if the United States does not give an official explanation for the attack." Meanwhile AKI reports that the US Embassy in Syria reopened yesterday (it was closed Thursday due to protests and closed Friday as well although the State Dept maintained that was due to a holiday). The US school has been closed and Sami Moubayed (Asia Times) explains, "A belated victim of the United States raid on Syira on October 27 was the American school in Damascus. The institution has been a controversial satellite of US interests in Syria since its founding more than a half-century ago, and it has often been featured as political football during the two nations' turbulent, often bitter relationship." In the US, the White House, Defense Dept and State Dept have refused to speak publicly about the attack -- despite the fact that the US is supposed to be a democracy with leadership answerable to the people -- and Phil Sands (UAE's The National) explains that the stonewalling has taken place in Baghdad as well:
US officials would stand in the safety of the Green Zone and lecture journalists -- lecture Iraqis -- about all the progress that was being made even as, out there beyond the concrete barriers, the country collapsed and descended into a sectarian chaos that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.
Regardless of what was actually said, however, the Americans were at least willing to stand up and publicly answer questions. It was something. Last week, however, they finally made a mockery of even that basic principle.
The usual press conference was held, as planned, on Wednesday afternoon and was attended, as always, by the dwindling Baghdad press corps. Brig Gen David Perkins, the US military spokesman for Iraq, sat down in front of an American flag and read out a bland statement. It mentioned the Status of Forces Agreement negotiations, interference by Iran and progress in training Iraq's security agencies.
He failed to address just one small issue: the cross-border attack into Syria by US forces that took place on the Sunday before.
Given that the airborne assault, which left at least eight people dead, was carried out from Iraqi soil and supposedly targeted an al Qa'eda figure who was helping launch attacks inside Iraq, you might consider it worth talking about. In light of the fact that it was technically an act of war by both the US and Iraq on Syria and made international headlines, you might imagine something would be said. Instead, there was a deafening silence.
After reading his opening statement, Brig Gen Perkins asked if there were any questions. One of the Iraqi reporters duly asked about the attack on Syria. The officer's response was brief and to the point: "Umm," he said, "I've nothing to add on that."
A few minutes later, another reporter, this time an American, asked about the poor quality of water supplies in Iraq and the US attack on Syria. Brig Gen Perkins entered into a lengthy treatise on the improving security situation and reconstruction efforts, before stating: "I have nothing to add on any other subjects."
In the course of the press conference, two more reporters asked about the raid inside Syria and Brig Gen Perkins simply pretended as if the questions had not been asked. He did not so much as acknowledge them.
The US Embassy in Syria remains the only US outlet issuing statements. Last week, it announced the Embassy would be closed due to protests (and later that day the State Dept refused to confirm that announcment). Today the Embassy's website displayed: "Public Announcement, November 3, 2008 In response to the Syrian government's request, the American Cultural Center is unavailable to the Syrian public as of October 30, 2008 until further notice, and classes at the American Language Center have been cancelled until further notice." Asked about it and if that meant that the Cultural and Language centers were only closed to Syrians, Robert Wood declared, "Well, that's right. It is closed to the Syrian public. But we still -- we have, you know, officers, officials there." Associated Press' Matthew Lee pursued this.
Matthew Lee: What if you're not Syrian? What if you're -- if you're not a Syrian citizen and you happen to be living in Damascus, can you still go to the American Cultural Center?
Robert A. Wood: Well, if -- it's closed to the general -- the Syrian general public and so --
Matthew Lee: Yeah, but I -- you know, I'm sorry. When the Syrian government came to you, they didn't just say to close it to the Syrian public, did they? They said to close it down.
Robert A. Wood: Well, it's -- let me just say, Matt, it is closed to the Syrian general public, as far as I know, to the general public at large. But our work continues. We have people who are there who work at the Cultural Center, and they'll continue to do their business. But it is closed to the public.
Matthew Lee: So your interpretation of their request is not that they told you to close the thing down, but rather they just told you to close it to the public.
Robert A. Wood: THe only thing I can say, Matt, is it is closed to the public.
Meanwhile IranVNC reports that country's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, visited Syria today for a meet up with Bashar al-Assad (Syrian President) and Faroq al-Shar'a (vice president) during which he declared, "Instead of being a show of American strength aiming to weaken Syria, this action demonstrates Washington's own weakness and desperation." Yesterday Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced: "Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed Al Moallem, made a phone call with His Excellency Foreign Hoshyar Zebari on Saturday 1st November, 2008. Both sides discussed the ways to encircle and contain the repercussions of U.S. military raid against the Syrian region Albu Kamal. The two sides stressed their joint keenness to support and strengthen the bilateral relations between both brotherly countries and peoples and the need to pass the tension on the relations after the raid. The understanding between both sides was discussed on the practical measures to correct the path of Syrian-Iraqi relations and placing those relations in its proper frame to serve the interests of both brotherly countries."
The unrest comes at a time when the puppet government tightens the economic belt (around the neck of the average Iraqi) and when the security situation grows more iffy internatlly. Yesterday the New York Times finds Suadad al-Salhy and Katherine Zoepf explained the price of oil per barrel going up and slightly down has Iraq's concerned about their budget for next year and have cut it by $13 billion dollars. And what do they plan on cutting? It's not detailed; however, Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) reported: "The Iraqi government plans to cut salaries for the estimated 100,000 members of the Awakening movement whose revolt against Al Qaeda in Iraq played a key role in bringing about the sharp fall in violence in Iraq. The move is certain to aggravate building tensions between the Sunni volunteer force and the Shiite-led government, which assumed responsibility for the Awakening movement from the U.S. military earlier this month."
Sly notes $300 is how much members were paid but leaders were paid $400 to $500 a month and that both are being cut. Gen David Petraeus (now over Centcom but until recently the top US commander in Iraq) has credited the "Awakening" movement with the fall in violence as has US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker. October 1st, the central government in Baghdad took over payment of approximately 50,000 "Awakening"members and one month later (next checks go out November 10th), they can't even maintain the payment level. It's not as if they didn't know how much the US was spending. So obvioulsy, just as they never planned to absorb the "Awakening" into police, military and security forces, they never intended to pay them. Sly notes the hopes of one "Awakening" who believes the US will pick up the difference. However, that's not going to be the case according to the article. That, however, was supposed to be the case when the handover was made. That was one of the promises the US made to the "Awakenings." Not even a month later and the handpicked and handtrained "Awakenings" are seeing the US go back on their word.
Now might not be the best time for Iraq to monkey around with it's internal security. Iraqi Christians have been under attack since they protested the dropping of Article 50 in the provincial elections law. Hurriyet reports: "Iraq's parliament voted on Monday to guarantee religious minorities seats on provincial councils to be selected next year, but drew ire from Iraqi Christians by setting aside fewer spots than a U.N. proposal had urged." China's Xinhau provides the breakdown the vote (106 out of 150 MPs voted for it) and notes that it's six seats: "A seat will give to each Christians and Sabeans in Baghdad, and a seat for each Christians, Yazidies and Shabak in Nineveh, and a single seat for Christians in Basra." Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the religious minorities say the number is too small and quotes Yonadem Kanna (Assyrian Democratic Movement) stating, "They failed in the examination of democracy. . . . Getting nothing is better than this insult." On the topic of Iraq's Christians, CNN reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has promised $900,000 (US equivalent)will be spent in some manner on protecting Iraqi Christians and that the distribution of the money will be supervised. Saturday in London, there was a demonstration in support of Iraqi Christians. Independent Catholic News reports protestors marched to No 10 Downing St on behalf of Iraqi Christians. A petition was presented and citizens and residents of Great Britain who wish to sign the petition can click here.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing not far from Sahib Salman ("under secretary of the oil ministry") which wounded Salman and "one of his guards," 4 Baghdad roadside bombings that claimed 6 lives and left twenty-nine people wounded, 2 Baghdad sticky bombings that wounded five people, 2 Mosul roadside bombings that claimed 2 lives and left four wounded and a Baquba roadside bombing that wounded nine people.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 man shot dead in Baghdad. Reuters notes 1 "tribal sheikh" shot dead in Mosul.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 corpses discovered in Saadiya and 2 corpses in Mosul.
Turning to the US presidential election. To The Contrary's Bonnie Erbe (US News & World Reports) notes, "The only prediction I have made, and with which I shall stick, is that Tuesday is going to be a long, long night." Erbe also notes, "If nothing else is obscene about this presidential election (and plenty is IMHO), then the fact that together the candidates will be spending $8 per vote to win the White House clearly meets and exceeds the obscenity descriptor." Erbe's referring to the Democratic presidential ticket and the Republican ticket only. There are other candidates. But starting with the Republican presidential ticket, John McCain is the nominee and Sarah Palin is his running mate. Scott Conroy (CBS News) reports Palin's agenda today was "six cities in five states" and that she flies late tonight back to Alaska to vote Tuesday morning only to fly to Phoenix later Tuesday. At the McCain - Palin '08 blog, Matt Lira offers:
This is a historic election and, because of your activism and support, we will achieve victory on Election Day. Our campaign has defied expectations, not because of beltway pundits, but because of people like you who have always been there when it mattered most.
Click here to find your voting location and to get out the vote for John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin.
Cindy McCain (disclosure, I know and like Cindy) is John McCain's spouse and they have four children -- one of whom, Meghan McCain (McCainBloggette), wrote the following at her site yesterday:
"America is worth fighting for" is my favorite line of my father's speech. I think it is so poignant, and essentially, it captures the reason why I have always loved, supported and believed in my father. It is why I believe he would be the best President for our country now, at a point where we face many challenges abroad and also at home, where so many of our fellow Americans are going through difficult times. The fact that our country is and always will be worth for fighting for is the essence of why I have been so inspired to participate in this campaign, and throughout this process I have been even more inspired by the people and the places I have encountered along the way, around our great country.
We are truly the luckiest people in the world, and I have been very fortunate to be a part of this experience on the campaign, and to be able to share it with so many of you. The next three days will fly by and no doubt be pretty crazy, so let me just say thanks right now for getting involved too. This is what was at the heart of what I hoped to achieve with my blog, and it has gone beyond my expectations. Stay tuned for more from the trail tomorrow!
John and Cindy McCain issued a statement today: "We offer our deepest condolences to Barack Obama and his family as they grieve the loss of their beloved grandmother. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them as they remember and celebrate the life of someone who had such a profound impact in their lives." Meanwhile Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that Democratic Party presidential candidate Barack Obama finally found an 'issue' he could sink his teeth into: "Having said that, brothers should pull up their pants. You are walking by your mother, your grandmother, your underwear showing. What's wrong with that? Come on." Come on, indeed. Barack with an issue that matters to him and finally a concrete plan for an issue. It only took until the day before the election for the fashionista and Men's Vogue cover boy to find an issue.
But the press bias towards Obama doesn't represent a simple revulsion for the Republican party. It was on display in the Democratic primaries with the persecution of Hillary Clinton. Worst of all, in the primaries, the press let the Obama campaign get away with continuous insinuations below the radar that the Clintons were race-baiters. Instead of exposing that absurd defamation for what it was - a nasty smear - the media sedulously propagated it.
Clinton made the historically correct and uncontroversial remark that civil rights legislation came about from a fusion of the dreams of Dr Martin Luther King and the legislative follow-through by President Lyndon Johnson. The New York Times misrepresented that as a disparagement of King, twisting her remarks to imply that "a black man needed the help of a white man to effect change". This was one of a number of manipulations on race by the Obama campaign, amply documented by the leading Democratic historian, Princeton's Sean Wilentz. Clinton came close to tears in a coffee shop in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which many thought helped her to win an upset victory there. MSNBC television gave a platform to the Chicago congressmen, Jesse Jackson Jr, where he questioned her tears and claimed that she'd not shed any tears for the black victims of Katrina, and that she'd pay for that in the South Carolina primary, where 45% of the electorate would be African-Americans.
In fact, MSNBC ran a non-stop campaign for Obama propelled by the misogyny of its anchors, Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann and David Shuster. Chelsea Clinton joining Clinton's campaign prompted Shuster to report she was "pimping" for her mother.
Meanwhile Democrat Jerry Nadler raised the issue of Jeremiah Wright in Florida. Jake Tapper (ABC News -- link has video) quotes Nadler stating, "Think of the history here. You have a guy who's half-white, half-black. He goes to an Ivy League school, comes to Chicago . . . to start a political career. Doesn't know anybody. Gets involved with community organizing -- why? Because that's how you form a base. OK. Joins the largest church in the neighborhood. About 8,000 members. . . . Why did he join the church? . . . Because that's how you get to know people. Now maybe it takes a couple years [before Barack's thinking] 'Jesus, the guy's a nut, the guy's a lunatic.' But you don't walk out of a church with 8,000 members in your district. . . He didn't have the political courage to make the statement of walking out."
Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. Tomorrow Ralph will be holding a one-word response press conference:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
*NOTE CHANGE OF DATE
Special questioning/interview opportunities for members of the foreign media
Many people will be breaking the two-party strangle-hold. Team Nader periodically highlights voices who have made the break and here is the latest:
-- Pat Sweeney
Independent journalist John Pilger (Information Clearing House) speaks the harsh truth many so-called 'independent' journalists refuse to:
Obama's job is to present a benign, even progressive face that will revive America's democratic pretensions, internationally and domestically, while ensuring nothing of substance changes.
Among ordinary Americans desperate for a secure life, his skin colour may help him regain this unjustified "trust", even though it is of a similar hue to that of Colin Powell, who lied to the United Nations for Bush and now endorses Obama. As for the rest of us, is it not time we opened our eyes and exercised our right not to be lied to, yet again?
And finally, Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party presidential candidate and Rosa Clemente is her running mate. We'll again note Kimberly and Ian Wilder's "Vote Green Party On Tuesday!" (On The Wilder Side):
November 1, 2008
This is an exciting time for us! The Green Party has never been as relevant
as it is today. As Congress offers trillion-dollar bailouts to Wall Street,
people living on Main Street struggle to stay in their homes and pay for
basic needs. Why is Congress bailing out corporations while the public
slides into economic insecurity? Because the industries that will benefit
from the bailout are some of the largest campaign contributors to political campaigns.
But never fear because you can VOTE GREEN on Tuesday and choose People Power over corporate power. Support Cynthia McKinney for President and
Rosa Clemente for Vice President; and, support other Green candidates
running in your community. Greens are running for office across the
country for 60 types of office. Check them out! To find out who's
running in your community, click here.
Once elected, Greens will not betray the public interest for corporate
cash. We accept no corporate money because we believe corporate
influence is what's wrong with politics.
If you believe healthcare is a right for all, not to be governed by the
profit motive of insurance companies, support the Green Party and
our campaign for Single Payer Healthcare.
If you believe offshore drilling furthers our national addiction to fossil
fuels; and want to see positive solutions like renewable energy, local food production, local businesses and better public transportation- Help
elect Greens who will make it a reality.
If you believe every vote must be counted, that higher education should
be available to everyone, that climate change is real, that the war on
drugs is racist, and that the privatization of public goods and services
is wrong and that we need to BRING OUR TROOPS HOME NOW stand
up and support the party that will stand up for you The Green Party.
If you want to see a clean, healthy future for our children, make sure
we have a strong Green Party today