Friday, November 21, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Friday, November 21, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the proposed treaty is protested in Baghdad, and more.
Starting with the treaty passed off as a Status Of Forces Agreement.  Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports on yesterday Parliament activity: "Critics of the agreement tried to further put off discussion Thursday, shouting and banging on tables. . . . But lawmakers in the 30-member Sadr bloc, who have been opposing the agreement, failed to stop the legislation's progress.  speaker Mahmoud Mashadani extended the parliament session so debate would continue on Saturday and a vote could still come next week.  He already had canceled a leave that had been scheduled for lawmakers next week to cover several Muslim holidays, saying the vote on the pact was too important to delay further."  However, on the holiday, CNN notes, "If a vote has to be held beyond Monday, Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman said it could be delayed by the annual hajj religious pilgrimage and Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that comes at the end of the pilgrimage."  The Los Angeles Times' blog notes that the treaty needs to be read aloud in the Parliament a third time before going to a vote.  Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) observes, "It is not clear if the endorsement requires a simple, or a two thirds, majority of the 275-member legislative -- the latter a constituational requirement for key legislation.  It is also unclear if the assembly will debate the agreement article by article or vote, as the government wants, on the whole package, or what will constitute a quorum should its detractors try to prevent its passage by astaining or walking out."
Before we go further, in the US you can make your voice heard via  American Freedom Campaign:

Does this sound right to you?  
Next week, the Iraqi Parliament is expected to vote on whether to approve an agreement setting the terms of the ongoing military relationship between the United States and Iraq. So far, so good. A legislative body, representing the people of a nation, shall determine the extent to which that nation's future will be intertwined with that of another.  
Of course, one would expect that the United States Congress would be given the same opportunity. That, however, is not the case. Or at least it is not what the Bush administration is allowing to happen. Shockingly, the Bush administration is not even letting Congress
read the full agreement before it is signed! 
We need you to send a message immediately to U.S. House and Senate leaders, urging them to demand the constitutional input and approval to which they are entitled.  
The administration has asserted that the agreement between the U.S. and Iraq is merely a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and therefore does not require congressional approval. Yet the agreement goes far beyond the traditional limits of a SOFA, which typically set the terms for bringing materials and equipment into a nation and outline the legal procedures that will apply to members of the military who are accused of crimes.  
Believe it or not, the current agreement contains terms that will actually give Iraq a measure of control over U.S. forces. No foreign nation or international entity has ever been given the authority to direct U.S. forces without prior congressional approval - either through a majority vote of both chambers or a two-thirds vote in the Senate in the case of treaties.  
If this agreement goes into effect without congressional approval, it will establish a precedent under which future presidents can exercise broad unilateral control over the U.S. military -- and even give foreign nations control over our troops.  
Congress must take immediate action. Unfortunately, they are about to adjourn for at least a couple of weeks. But it is not too late for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to make a statement, signaling their strong belief that Congress will not be bound by and need not fund an agreement that has not been approved by Congress.  
Please send an E-mail encouraging such action to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid immediately by clicking [here]
This is truly a dire situation and we hope that you will join us in calling for action.  Thank you.   
Steve Fox 

Campaign Director 
American Freedom Campaign Action Fund 
Today White House spokesperson Dana Perino declared on Air Force One that the treaty would be available to the American peoope "soon," "As soon as we possibly can, when we're -- agreement is reached, we'll be able to do that.  You bet. . . .  As soon as we possibly can, when we're -- agreement is reached, we'll be able to do that.  You bet. . . .
I don't know exactly the timing of it.  Obviously, we've provided full briefings to appropriate members of Congress.  I think over 200 members of Congress saw it.  Secretaries Rice and Gates, amongst others -- I think General Lute -- were up on Capitol Hill to provide that information to the citizens, representatives in Congress.  And then as soon as we are able to, we'll provide the English language, sure. . . . .  I actually can't tell you when it will be.  I just don't know."  In other words, no, the treaty isn't being released to the American people anytime soon. 
In Iraq, Campbell Robertson and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) note the Sunni attitude conveyed by MP Aala Maki, "To be clear, it is not the treaty that is the problem. What will be built on the treaty, that is the problem."  They're dancing to get their palms greasedRania Abouzeid (Time magazine) reports, "The discord in Iraq's parliament, and on its streets, over the Baghdad government's Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Washington is over a lot more than the date on which U.S. troops are to withdraw and the rules governing their conduct until then. As the rabble-rousing Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr made clear on Friday, it's also about which Iraqi parties will best leverage the Americans' eventual departure to their own political benefit. Sadr drew thousands of supporters to Firdous Square in central Baghdad on Friday to protest against the draft accord, which awaits a ratification vote in Iraq's parliament on Monday." 
CBS and AP cover the protest and note, "After a mass prayer, demonstrators pelted the effigy with plastic water bottles and sandals. One man hit it in the face with his sandal. The effigy fell head first into the crowd and protesters jumped on it before setting it ablaze." AP's Hamza Hendawi reports the demonstration Moqtada al-Sadr called last week took place today following prayers in Baghdad and that the Bully Boy of the United States was "burned" in "effigy" "in the same central Baghdad square where [US shipped in exile] Iraqis beat a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein with their sandals five years earlier" and the Bush stand-in was also "pelted . . . with plastic water bottles and sandals" and it "held a sign that said: 'The security agreement . . . shame and humiliation'." CNN adds, "The demonstration brought out one of the largest crowds to congregate in Baghdad since protests against the agreement started this year. The square was sealed off and traffic was blocked as thousands chanted 'No no to the agreement,' 'No no America,' and 'Out, out occupation'."  Deborah Haynes (Times of London) quotes Sheikh Abelhadi al-Mohammedawi telling those assembled, "If they [US] do not get out then and those with me are ready to drive them out in the method that we see fit, provided that it does not go against religion."  AFP reports that a statement from Moqtada al-Sadr was read to the crowd and quotes it as follows: "If they don't leave the country I am going to be with you to make them leave in a way that suits you, as long as it doesn't go against the religion.  And if they leave the country and you fear that the enemy coming from outside will transform your land into a battlefield, I and my followers will be a shield for Iraq."  BBC (which has text and video on the demonstration) quotes al-Sadr's statement thusly: "Let the government know that America is and will not be of any use to us because it is the enemy of Islam."  BBC provides a photo essay here.  Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) describe the scene around the demonstration, "Iraqi army snipers perched on rooftops along the broad avenues leading to the square, a public gathering spot in the middle of a traffic roundabout decorated with fountains and greenery.  The effigy of Bush, wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase, dangled for hours as the crowd, which stretched for several city blocks, knelt in prayer and listened to clerics denounce the Status of Forces Agreement."  Reuters photos (such as here) include a caption that notes "Iraqi forces shut streets in Baghdad".  Xinhau notes, "Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area, blocking all the roads leading to the route of the demonstration".  This Reuters photo by Mushtaq Muhammed shows Iraq soldiers frisking a young man holding a sign bearing al-Sadr's photo "before entering the rally site".  This Reuters photo by Kareem Raheem shows an American flag being burned at the demonstration.  Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) explains the catchy tune sung as the rally ended, "Maliki is the new Sadam."
Staying with the treaty, AP's Matthew Lee reports that mercenaries such as Dyncorp, Blackwater, Triple Canopy and KBR have been informed by the US State Dept and Pentagon that the treaty will mean "private Americans and non-Iraqi foreigners working in key roles for the United States in Iraq will lose immunity and be subjected to Iraqi law". AFP adds, "One-hundred-and-seventy-two contractors who provide armed escorts and other security measures to government officials, diplomats and NGOs have been briefed on the new rules."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
CNN notes three Baghdad bombings with 1 person dead and four injured.  Xinhua notes 2 Baghdad roadside bombings that resulted 3 deaths and nineteen people wounded. Sahar
Today the US military announced: "CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- A Multi National Division -- Center Soldier died of non-combat related causes Nov. 20."  And they announced: "A Multi National Division - North Soldier was killed in a non-combat related incident in Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 21."  The announcements brought the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4204.
Bilal Hussein is the Associated Press' Pulizter winning photographer who was imprisoned (for no valid reason) for over two years by the US military.  The  International Press Freedom Award (Committee to Protect Journalism) has picked him and five other winners for 2008:
Congratulations to Bilal.  H. Josef Herbert (AP) notes CPJ "had been among those who had pressed for the release of AP photographer Bilal Hussein, winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for his news photography, including the fighting in Fallujah and Ramadi. . . .  Steven Hurst, former AP bureau chief in Baghdad, said Hussein was taken into custody and held for more than two years without charges. 'He did nothing but his job as a photographer in a war zone,' said Hurst, adding that the military evidently 'didn't like the story that was being told by his pictures'."  Information about Bilal and his false imprisonment can be found at the Free Bilal Hussein Now! website.
In other news, Mickey Z' (at Information Clearing House) prepares for the immediate future:

No, I don't mean that Great Depression. I'm talking about the inevitable moment -- maybe next week, maybe next year -- when the Kool Aid wears off and the Obamatrons wake up to realize their hero offers nothing even approximating hope or change.   
The carefully calculated speeches -- which have always been filled with empty, hollow phrases -- will no longer soothe a battered and desperate populace and the Obamabots will suddenly recognize that the Pope of Hope has never been anything more than a human marketing strategy, a product. This year's iPhone. "Yes we can"? Merely the first three words of a longer phrase: "Yes we can continue to work, consume, and obey authority without question."  
In election news, December sixth, Louisiana's second district elects someone to the US House.  Kimberly Wilder (On The Wilder Side) notes this article on candidate Malik Rehim's recent award and click here for a message from Malik.
Public broadcasting notes. First up NOW on PBS this week looks at the role of credit ratings agencies in the economic meltdown.  The program begins airing tonight on most PBS stations, check local listings, as does Washington Week which finds Gwen sitting down with four including the New York Times' Helene Cooper, Ceci Connolly (Washington Post) and NBC's Pete Williams. Staying with TV but turning to commercial TV, CBS' 60 Minutes offers Scott Pelly examing an assualt "on a facility containing weapons-grade uranium," Bob Simon on foreign widows of US citizens being ordered to leave "because their husbands died" and Lesley Stahl reports on Rex Lewis-Clack ("a musical savant born blind and mentally impaired who, at 13 years old now, is making remarkable strides despite doctors' prediction."
Public broadcasting heads up radio. WBAI Sunday, Monday and Wednesday:

Sunday, November 16, 11am-noon
Andrew Andrew prove two opinions more mindbending than one.

Monday, November 24, 2-3pm
Cat Radio Cafe
Author/editor Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr. on "George, Being George," an
oral history of literary legend George Plimpton; novelist Arthur Nerseian
on "The Sacrficial Circumcision of the Bronx," second of The
Five Books of Moses series based on urban terrorist Robert Moses;
andJordan Roth of Jujamcyn Theatres announces, a new way
to get discounted theatre tickets while saving the world. Hosted by Janet Coleman
and David Dozer.

Wednesday, November 26, 2-3pm
Satire with brand new boxing gloves for the new guys and more ground
for the old guys. With transition team Janet Coleman, David
Dozer, John McDonagh, Marc Kehoe, Scooter, Moogy Klingman, Paul
, The Capitol Steps, Prince Fari and the great Will Durst.

Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FM
Streaming live at WBAI
Archived at Cat Radio Cafe