Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, November 4, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the illegal war is not ending anytime soon judging by most signals, Talabani and Barzani continue to have conflict, the treaty is said to be progressing . . . to a national referendum (?) and more.
In the US voting takes place today.  It does not mean life stops or that the entire world does.  Gina Chon (Baghdad Life, Wall St. Journal) writes of "Samir Ahmed, a government employee, said he had also once assumed a different U.S. administration would mean a different policy towards Iraq.  The presidential race he was thinking of was between Bill Clinton and the first George Bush.  Mr. Clinton won, but continue a tough stance against Iraq.  Today, he expects that no matter who wins the current race, American policy toward Iraq will remain the same."  Mariam Toma agrees and tells Chon, "Both of them will not withdraw U.S. forces.  In contrast, maybe the will actually find another reason to stay even longer in Iraq."  Meanwhile Stephen Farrell, Mudhafer al-Husaini and Abeer Mohammed (Baghdad Bureau, New York Times) did a snap-poll, "an informal snapshot of Iraqis living or working in the Green Zone.  Of 200 Iraqis spoken to after they streamed out of two Green Zone exists into the 'real' Baghdad on Monday, just over a third of them wanted the Americans to leave Iraq as soon as possile while just under half wanted them to stay.  The remainder offered options somewhere in between." These are Green Zoners and they do fear the fall of the Green Zone and the puppet government.  They're protected while,  everywhere else, Iraqis aren't so lucky. 
Meanwhile Germany's increasingly pathetic Der Speigel (which has been justifying and supporting the illegal war for sometime if you'd bothered to pay attention) runs the craked musings of Peter Ross Range who just knows Barack will win the presidency and calls for him to "revise" the 16-month 'plan' for 'withdrawal.'  PeePee Ross Range is a DLC-er (Der Spiegel calls him "moderate") and he cheerleader the illegal war before it started and justified it for years and years.  As late as July 22, 2005, he was whining that 'liberals' and 'progressives' needed to praise Saddam being disposed and be less criticisl ("Liberal's War" published in the DLC bible). January 8, 2004, he was writing that the US shouldn't withdraw or even "pull-back" ("Remembering the Middle Class," ibid).  October 21, 2005 PeePee was whining, "Many war opponents, often still traumatized by Vietnam, are preoccupied with what invading Iraq says about America rather than what it does for the Iraqis" ("War of Conscience"). Der Spiegel's become an embarrassment but for those who know PeePee's work, it's probably worth a chuckle -- September 30, 2002, he was wondering if Germany was "Anti-American" or "Anti-Bush"?  Translation, the two deserve one another.
Barack's 'plan' for withdrawal?  Are we actually back to that lie?  Droping back to a Third editorial from June:

Stephen Sackur: You said that he'll revisit it [the decision to pull troops] when he goes to the White House. So what the American public thinks is a commitment to get combat forces out within sixteen months, isn't a commitment is it?

Samantha Power: You can't make a commitment in whatever month we're in now, in March of 2008 about what circumstances are going to be like in January 2009. We can'te ven tell what Bush is up to in terms of troops pauses and so forth. He will of course not rely upon some plan that he's crafted as a presidential candidate or as a US Senator.
When Power gave that interview, she was still his foreign policy advisor. And backing up her claims that promises weren't really promises, here's Barack speaking to Candy Crowley June 5th on CNN when asked about his 'promise' to withdraw (combat troops):

Well, you know, I'd never say there's 'nothing' or 'never' or 'no way' in which I'd change my mind." Obviously, I'm open to the facts and to reason. And there's no doubt that we've seen significant improvements in security on the ground in Iraq. And our troops, and Gen. Petraeus, deserve enormous credit for that. I have to look at this issue from a broader perspective, though.

In April Power tells the BBC that Barack's 'pledges' and 'promises' on Iraq are non-binding and, if elected, he'll decide what to do then. June 5th, Barack echoes that to CNN. And Panhandle Media works overtime to ignore reality.  And if you like being played, you'll love what they have planned.
--- End of excerpt.  Get it.  No 'plan,' no 'promise.' That's reality.  So why is PeePee asking Barack to rethink a non-pledge?  Because PeePee's audience isn't Barack, it's you.  PeePee wants to soften the public up to the idea that Barack in the White House doesn't have to mean an end to the illegal war.  If elected, Barack can't break what so many wrongly believe was a 'promise' on his own.  He needs a lot of liars who can soften up public opinion.   
There's no rush to leave Iraq or even a desire.  That needs to be grasped.  Iraqi General Nasier Abadi made that pretty clear during Sunday's press conference in the Green Zone.  Questioned by the Washington Post's Mary Beth Sheridan as to when the Iraqis would be able to handle "their own internal security . . . how many years are you away from reaching that goal," Abadi tried to distract by listing duties before declaring, "We have no duties or missions to protect the air on the borders of the country.  But in case we have this responsibility, there is a brief that -- to the minister of defense, if he ask us to -- task us with that, a reportw ent also to the Prime Minister, what are the capabilities and the army's specifics to do those duties?"  Asked how many years again, he responded, "Building an aerial force, building an Army is not easy, but it's still easier than building naval and air force.  The naval force, as I said before, that the first ship will come in 2009 and the fourth will arrive in . . . at the end of 2011.  In regard to 200- . . . Air Force, the first aircraft we will receive in 2011 until 2015.  And that depends on the support and the help that the coalition forces can secure to Iraq so we can be able to maintain and defend our airspace and territories.  Without that, there will be also agreements with the neighboring countries on the security of Iraq.  But it's possible that we will go with those missions without having an air force or naval force because this is a common battle, it's not just an army's duty."  Setting aside the naval force and focusing only on the air, if the period they'll be taking possession of aircraft will last from 2011 through 2015, how likely is it that they will be prepared to handle their own airspaceby the end of 2011?
At the Pentagon today, spokesperson Bryan Whitman informed reporters that there was a plan in place for transition from the Bully Boy to the winner of today's election. A comparison was rightly made between LBJ and Tricky Dick.  Nixon didn't end the illegal war, he only continued it.  Whitman declared, "One of the important components of this is ensuring that we've identified and highlighted some of the key department events, actions, milestones that a new administration will face in its first 90 days."
Turning to the topic of the Status Of Forces Agreement masquerading as a treaty, CNN reports Sami al-Askari (Nouri al-Maliki adviser) states that the White House "has signaled to Iraqi officials that it is seriously considering proposed changes to an agreement that would set the terms for U.S. troops in Iraq".  Al Jazeera notes that al-Askari has no official response from the White House and that Iraq's Sunni vice president Tareq al-Hashemi is advocating that the treaty be put up for approval to all Iraqis (not just the Parliament), "This agreement is an important and sensitive subject . . . Iraqis should have their say."  Khalid al-Ansary, Missy Ryan and Kevin Liffey (Reuters) add that al-Hashemi is indicateing that the agreement be placed on the ballot with "provincial elections scheduled to take place by the end of January."  At which point, who would be in Iraq?  The United Nations mandate that governs the occupation expires December 31st at which point, if no new agreement has been reached, there is no legal authority for foreign forces to be on Iraqi soil.  The White House has attempted political blackmail insisting that they will cut off this and that if Baghdad won't sign off on the treaty. Richard Tomkins (UPI) notes, "Iraq, with no air control capability at present, nonetheless would have to take over air traffic control and also assume total responsibility for guarding its borders."  Al Bawaba notes that today's "Baghdad edition of the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat said the Americans had agreed to three of the five latest changes proposed by Iraq.  It said, quoting unnamed sources, that Washington had dropped the clause that authorises Baghdad and Washington to seek an extension for retaining troops in the cities beyond 2009 and in the country beyond 2011."  Maria Appakova (UPI) explains:
However, Americans are in no hurry to raise this question at the U.N. Security Council.  Staying in Iraq in accordance with an international mandate is one thing, but having a strategic partnership treaty and receiving dividends from it is quite another matter.   
Yet Washington has no choice -- it cannot take offense at Iraqis and pull out its troops from Iraq.  It won't be able to attach the blame for withdrawal to Russia, since Moscow does not mind Americans continuing their presence there for a while, and Russia is not in favor of an upsurge of terror in the region, after all.
[. . .]
[US} House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton stated that he is "deeply concerned" with what he heard.  Skelton is referring to the agreement's provisions that recently leaked to the press, which include, for example, the Iraqi government's ability to put American servicemen and private security companies' personnel on trial for cirmes they committed while on leave and outside military bases. 
It must be said that if this provision really has been included in the draft, it is quite a victory for the Iraqi government.
Meanwhile Gulf Daily News notes continued conflict between the Baghdad government and the Kurdish one with the country's President Jalal Talabani stating the US cannot set up bases anywhere in Iraq "without the approval of the central government" in Baghdad which was a strong rebuke to KRG president Massud Barzani who stated last week that, should the US and Baghdad not sign off on a treaty, the US could just set up bases in the Kurdish region.  The tensions between the Kurdish region and Iraq are never not on display.  Last Wednesday, at the White House, Barzani was being translated when he cut in to correct the translator:
Translator: And in terms of SOFA, we do believe that it is in the interest of the Iraqi government --
Massud Barzani: Iraqi people.
Translator: -- it's in the interest of this country and we have been and we will continue to support it and support its ratification.
Hoda Abdel-Hamid (Al Jazeera) notes that the US popularity in the Kurdish region is sinking (after years of sucking up) and quotes Barzan Mohamed stating, "America was not honest with the Kurds.  They've let them down in the past and they only follow their interests.  They can leave the Kurds any time and I don't trust having an alliance with them or even friendship.  Yes, they rid us of dictatorship, but they came here to control the region and the Middle East."  Iran's Press TV states that Talabani made a point to praise Iran Sunday for their help with Iraq's security and that Talabani also cited Syria and that, on the treaty, Talabani "said that Iraq is a unified country and no one has the right to object the Iraqi government's decision, should it refuse the security deal.  Talabani was referring to a recent interview by Massud Barzani, the president of the local government of Iraq's Kurdistan during which he said that the Kurdistan region would provide the U.S. with military bases if Baghdad refuses to sign the security deal with Washington."
We've noted the Iraqi Air Force twice in today's snapshot.  1) It's not due to be ready until 2015 at the earliest and 2) the US is using the lack of one to threaten Baghdad into signing off on the treaty.  For those not grasping how "shambles" is too mild a word to be applied to IAF, let's drop back to October 24th.  M-NF trumpeted "Iraqi Air Force celebrates another milestone."  Sounds good, right?  Yeah, as long as you don't go beneath the headline.  If you do, you find: "The Iraqi Air Force surpassed another milestone Oct. 22 when an all-Iraqi flight crew took to the air in the King Air Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft for the first time in support of an Iraqi Special Operations Forces training exercise."  Five years after the start of the illegal war (six this March) and that's where the IAF is?  They've just finished their first "all-Iraqi flight crew" flight? 
Moving on to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bomb wounded three people (all family members), another Baghdad sticky bombing reulted 1 person being killed and seven more wounded, a third Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left five wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing resulted in 4 deaths and eight people being wounded and another Baghdad bombing claimed 7 lives with eighteen people wounded. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) updates the seven dead by 4 for eleven and notes that the bomb was "hidden in a car at a bus stop" (wounded rose to twenty-one). Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left one person wounded and another Mosul roadside bombing resulted in five people being injured and a Mosul "suicide car" bombing left four police officers injured.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Iraqi police officer was shot dead in Baghdad (three more wounded) and 1 "Lieutenant Colonel working for the ministry of interior affairs" was shot dead in Baghdad. Reuters notes 2 police officers was shot dead in Mosul while 2 civilians were shot dead in different incidents.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses were discovered in Nineveh Province.
Today Michael Birnbaum (Washington Post) reports that DoD "announced yesterday the death of Pfc. Bradly Shane Colemn of Mratinsville, VA, who had been serving in Iraq" and whose October 29th death is under investigation.  His death brings the toll to 14 for the month of October.
Meanwhile Scott Fontaine (News Tribune via Seattle Post-Intelligencer) reports that the Fort Lewis Stryker's "3rd Brigade is getting ready to make its third deployment to Iraq next year."  This as Will Dunham (Reuters) notes, "More than 2 million U.S. children have had parents deployed to fight in Iraq since 2003 or in Afghanistan since 2001."
As Katharine Q. Seelye (New York Times) points out, "The fact is, there is plent of mystery -- nad there is only one poll that counts." It is election day and anything can happen. Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) will live blog the election tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. EST. So check out her site which will go beyond the D and R to include other letters in the alphabet. Including "G" (Wilder is a Green.) 

Starting with independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and his running mate Matt Gonzalez.  Team Nader notes:
We're having a party!
A Nader/Gonzalez party!
Tonight, we celebrate.
If you are a skeptic, you might be asking -- what, pray tell, are you celebrating?
To which we answer --
The power of the people.
The power of you -- our loyal supporters.
Against all odds -- and in the face of a major media blackout -- together, we have given the American people a choice today.
For the Nader/Gonzalez shift the power agenda.
With eight months of hard work, we have put that agenda on the ballot in 45 states and the District of Columbia.
Ralph has campaigned in all 50 states.
And together we have organized a network of American citizens to press onward for single payer health insurance, a living wage, a cut in the bloated, wasteful military budget, for a reversal of U.S. policy in the Middle East -- everything the Nader/Gonzalez campaign stands for.
So, today, if you haven't already done so, vote with pride for Nader/Gonzalez.
And then, no matter what the outcome tonight, celebrate!
With the coming disintegration of two party domination of our politics, you have chosen to be on the winning side of history.
So, celebrate tonight!
And while celebrating, follow Ralph's results on the net or television.
(Unfortunately, most of the major news outlets apparently will not include third party and independent candidates in their result totals -- but Fox News' map apparently will (fair and balanced?) -- county by county and nationwide.
And finally, only 500 copies left!
Let's move them today!
Get one of the last copies now!
It's autographed by Ralph!
And is bound to be a collector's item!
Of course, we're talking about the 40th Anniversary edition of Unsafe at Any Speed -- Ralph's classic expose of the American automobile industry.
And we have only 500 copies left!
If you donate $100 or more today -- up to the legal maximum of $2,300 -- we will ship to you one of the last copies we have of this classic -- autographed by the man himself.
Let's move the last 500 copies today -- and
hit our goal of $4 million by midnight tonight.
What is your opinion of Obama? "Clever."
What is your opinion of Palin? "Developing."
How much money did you raise for your campaign? "Insufficient."
Why do you keep running for president? "Justice."
Will you be elected president? "No."
When do you think you will win? "Sometime."
What should Bush do on his last day in office? "Surrender."
Will Obama be able to provide tax cuts to 95 percent of the population? "Impossible."
What is your opinion of the media? "Servile."
John McCain is the Republican presidential candidate, Sarah Palin is his running mate.  John and Cindy McCain have four children and Meghan McCain is the one who blogs online (at McCainBloggette.com and has also written a book for children about her father) and she notes today:
 What a long strange journey it's been. Dad I love you so much and am so proud to be your daughter every day. If you need to know why you should vote for Dad, click here. Thank you to everyone for everything... And yes, we will be posting about election night. You didn't think I would leave my loyal readers hanging, did you? Now get out and vote!
After campaigning coast to coast on Monday, Sarah Palin caught a few winks on a red-eye flight to her home state, where fresh snow glistened in the early-morning moonlight as the temperature hovered around 14 degrees.

Palin voted early this morning inside the tiny City Hall building where just six years ago she presided as mayor of this once unknown frontier town outside Anchorage. Proudly donning her "I Voted Today" sticker, the Alaska governor delivered a short statement to reporters and took a few questions before she heads to Phoenix to find out whether she'll become the first female vice president of the United States.

It's been a whirlwind couple of months for Palin, who has fallen under perhaps more scrutiny than any vice presidential candidate in the nation's history. But as usual, she portrayed an almost mystifying sense of calm, considering all that she has been through in such a relatively short time.
And Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) notes, "Green Party Presidential Candidate Cynthia McKinney will be spending Election Night with California Congressional Candidate and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. There will be live streaming here starting at 8pm."