Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 26, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the treaty vote is postponed, the US military announces more deaths, Alissa J. Rubin wins the Who Wants To Be The Next Judith Miller non-reality show, and more.
Starting with the treaty which was due to be voted on today by Iraq's Parliament.  Adam Ashton, Jonathan S. Landay and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) become the first of big media to report the reality that there are two versions of the treaty masquerading as a Status Forces Of Agreement: the US version and the Arabic version Iraqis peruse.  The three reporters explain: "The Bush administration has adopted a much looser interpretation of several key provisions of the pending U.S.-Iraq security agreement than the Iraqi government has, U.S. officials said Tuesday -- just hours before the Iraqi parliament was to hold its historic vote.  These provisions include a ban on the launch of attacks on other countries from Iraq, a requirement to notify the Iraqis in advance of U.S. military operations and the question of Iraqi legal jurisdiction over American troops and military contractors.  Officials in Washington said the administration has withheld the official English translation of the agreement in an effort to suppress a public dispute with the Iraqis until after the Iraqi parliament votes." 
The differing versions were noted in the November 19th Congressional hearing.  Why others can't report is a question they should have to answer on the record.  They should also have to explain why they offered no skepticism (a trait reporters are never supposed to forget to pack) when this is totally expected.  During the April 10th US Senate's Committee on Foreign Relations hearing the chair, Joe Biden, explained: "The Administration tells us it's not binding, but the Iraqi parliament is going to think it is."  You didn't have to be pschyic, you just had to pay attention.  Look at how Ghana Broadcasting Corporation reports on the treaty: "Iraq's parliament has agreed to put a controversial deal allowing US troops to stay in the country for another three years to a public vote."  Even accepting that it's a three year treaty (when it's not) they see it as a three-year extension, not as a withdrawal.  It takes a lot of stupid to see only what you want to see.   Alissa J. Rubin and Campbell Robertson (New York Times) proved they're bag-men for the adminstartion but they aren't reporters.  They did so in print this morning with nonsense about how the treaty "would be a road map for the complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in three years."  One wonders what they packed for the Green Zone that was so all important it required ditching their skepticism?  Online, Rubin showed up this morning to break the news that today's vote has been "delayed by at least 24 hours" and to lie that the treaty "would lead to the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in three years."  America, meet the new  Judith Miller, Little Miss Alissa.  Can't tell the truth and can't even remain detached.  Alissa whose only concern isn't "What does the treaty say?" but instead, "What does the White House want me to say? Call Crocker!  Ask Crocker what I should type!" 
She can't read the US version of the treaty.  She can't read Arabic and she can't apparently handle the English translation well enough to grasp what it says and what it doesn't.  For example, what will or will not happen in 2011 is meaningless in any contract that truly runs for one year (this one runs for 2009) but allows it to be renewed if both parties desire to renew it (for 2010 and 2011) and it can also be modified for both of those years if renewed.  So the only thing concrete is 2009.  It's tough for glorified general studies majors when they slam into the basics of contract law but real reporters know that they don't just scribble down what the US Embassy tells them.  They know that something beyond their education requires they utilize what journalism calls "sources" to walk them through.  Alissa can't be bothered. 
She doesn't know s**t about how the US Embassies are run throughout the world.  What an idiot.  Seriously.  She's heading the paper's Baghdad division and she doesn't know about US Embassies?  Can we say someone's a little too green and needs to be stationed somewhere else to ripen?  Every US Embassy, EVERY ONE, has US troops stationed at it to provide protection.  EVERY ONE.  So, Alissa, how will there be a complete withdrawal of all US troops in 2011 when the US Embassy will remain in Baghdad?  How?  No, don't go run to Ryan Crocker.  You're a reporter and an editor, you damn well should have already known the answer to the question.
CNN lied the nation into an illegal war back in 2002 and 2003 so it's not a big surprise they continue to lie today and maintain that the treaty would "set a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops".  No, LIARS, it does not.  A one-year extension for the occupation of Iraq was needed and that's what the treaty does.  Every year, the United Nations Security Council has passed a one-year mandate which legalizes the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.  This one expires December 31, 2008.  It needs to be renewed or a new arrangement needed to be reached.  That it what the treaty covers.  And only the first year cannot be broken by either side.  So stop lying, LIARS WHO LIED US INTO WAR.
It's a damn shame that so few in so-called independent media will call the treaty out.  But remember that in 2011, file it away.  Remember who lied in Big Media and remember who couldn't be bothered with the topic in Little Media.  Remember that United for Peace & Justice & Uselessness couldn't even mount an objection. 
Of organization, only the American Freedom Campaign got active:

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
And for the beggars of Panhandle Media, let's be really clear that after the treaty is rammed through is TOO DAMN LATE to finally get around to raising objections.

What is known is that there are two versions and they differ.  That was known last week and addressed in the Congressional hearing.  Credit to Youssef, Landay and Ashton for reporting that now.  The tell-Iraq-one-thing-but-do-another aspect was noted by Joe Biden, the incoming v.p., back in April.  The UN mandate expires at the end of this year and another yearly agreement is needed to legalize US forces being on the ground in Iraq.  A treaty is going through the process in Iraq but in the US the Congress will be circumvented.  If the treaty does not go through a one-year extension of the mandate will be sought.  The treaty covers only 2009.  Every thing coming after 2009 is optional because it can be modified or either party (Iraq or US) can cancel out on the full treaty. 
That is known.  So the liars and the fools in the press corps who continue to insist that this one-year treaty means ALL US troops withdraw in 2011 have either been played or think they can play you.  They got away with it when they 'reported' the lead up to the illegal war and they're getting away with it right now because they're not being called out.  Where are those supposed 'brave' voices?
Norman Solomon, who allegedly gives a damn about Iraq, can write two fan club mash-notes to his wet dream Barack this week but can't write a damn thing about the treaty.  Remember that. [Cedric and Wally have spoofed Norman's nonsense this week in "Norman tells all!" & "THIS JUST IN! NORMAN SEES PEE-PEES EVERYWHERE!" and in "Norman discovers his girlish side" & "THIS JUST IN! NORMY LOVES BARACK!"]
The vote has been delayed.  Allegedly it will take place tomorrow.  CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer observes "that the ruling Shiite and Kurdish parliamentary blocs have enough votes to approve the agreement, but the government wants it to win by a convincing margin -- in part because one of this country's most influential Shiite clerics, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has said he can accept the agreement, provided it has broad public support."  AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra explains that the Kurdish and Shi'ite blocs have indicated their willingness "to hold a national referendum on the deal in 2009. That amounts to a concession to many Sunni Arab legislators, who have said they would support the security pact Wednesday if it was put to a nationwide vote next year."  Raheem Salman and Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) note demands by Sunni legislators and they observe: "The delay, coming after days of political bargaining and cajoling, underscored Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's concerns about passing the controversial Status of Forces Agreement without a wide margin. The legislature's main Shiite Muslim and Kurdish blocs support the deal, virtually ensuring it would win the 138 votes needed to pass the 275-seat parliament. But Shiite Muslim leaders want to ensure sufficient Sunni votes to guarantee its legitimacy in the eyes of Iraq's Sunnis."  Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) states, "Sunni Lawmakers also said that their new stipulations, formulated just Tuesday, semmed from discontent over growing Iranian influence across Iraq and a belief that a new administration in Washington may not honor the terms of the deal" and "In exchange for their support for the security agreement, a wide variety of Sunni, Kurdish, and even Shiite parliamentarians are insisting on a political reform package that would increase checks and balances on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Shiite-led government. For the Sunnis, fears of empowering Iraq's Shiite-dominated security forces underpins much of the opposition."  On the referendum, Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) adds, "But they have agreed to make the pact subject to a national referendum next year that could require a complete American troop withdrawal by July 2010 -- 18 months ahead of what the agreement now envisions.  The referendum was a last-minute concession to Iraq's largest Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, which has long demanded that the agreement be put to a nationwide vote."  "Political theater" Rainia Abouzeid (Time magazine) calls today's delay and notes the recent repeated delays in voting on the treaty and explains puppet Nouri al-Maliki "personally lobbied recalitrant parliamentarians at the nearby Rasheed Hotel" today "in exchanges that degenerated into fiery rows, according to a Maliki aide who was present."
What if the vote goes through tomorrow (or some day) and the referendum is attached?  Reuters quotes US Secretary of State Condi Rice declaring, "My understanding is that nothing here delays the entering into force of the agreement and that's really the important point."  McClatchy's Adam Ashton agrees: "That's because the vote likely wouldn't take place until July, and the security agreement requires each side to give the other notice of at least one year before ending the pact."  OH GOODNESS!  The treaty can be modified or cancelled!  Who would've guessed!  (Yes, that point has been made in the snapshots repeatedly for too long to count.  That is why it is a one-year treaty, not a three-year one.  A one-year treaty is being signed which can be extended if both parties desire to do so.)
What some desire . . . Reports are that the current US Secretary of Defense -- pro-'surge' Robert Gates -- will remain Sec of Defense under incoming president Barack Obama.  File it under "Slogans That Bit You In The Ass."  Stan and Rebecca covered this topic last night.
While Barack offers more of the same, UN High Commisoner for Refugees Antonio Gueterres is visiting Iraq and declared today, "We are no expanding our presence inside Iraq.  We will have a pressence in 14 governorates by early next year, including here in Ramadi."   Gueterres arrived in Baghdad yesterday and his visit continues tomorrow.  Sarah Chynoweth and Ada Williams Prince (Washington Post's PostGlobal) report on Iraqi refugees in Jordan and note, "Although life in Jordan is free of gunfire and explosions, it is not free from fear, particularly for Iraqi women and girls. If you are an Iraqi woman in Jordan, your life is filled with dread and uncertainty. Since Iraqis do not have legal status there, they are afraid of being caught by the authorities and deported back to Iraq--even though this does not occur very often. Because of this, many are afraid to come forward to receive health care, even if the services are available and accessible.
If you are a poor Iraqi woman in Jordan, your life is even more difficult. There are tremendous barriers to getting adequate health care: women with limited financial resources often have less knowledge of what medical services are available and how to access them."  The Iraq War has created the world's largest refugee crisis and over five million Iraqis have been displaced internally and externally.  Total Catholic notes, "The flood of Iraqi refugees into Syria has produced big changes for the Church in the country.  Caritas Syria, the local affiliate of the international umbrella group of Catholic aid agencies, has expanded its outreach.  Today, it manages more than 2 million [British pounds] a year in projects targeting vulnerable Iraqi refugees, and it co-operates in ecumenical programs with the country's Orthodox community."  Derek Gatopoulos (AP) notes that Human Rights Watch released a report today that.  HRW explains, "Greece systematically rounds up and detains Iraqi asylum seekers and other migrants in dirty, overcroded conditions and forcibly and secretly expels them to Turkey" and offers:
An Iraqi Kurd from Kirkuk who was among the scores interviewed by Human Rights Watch, made five attempts to cross from Turkey to Greece and was beaten and summarily expelled from Greece. He was also beaten and detained by the Turkish authorities. After the Greek authorities finally registered him, they used detention to deter him from seeking asylum. "They told me that if I asked for asylum and a red card that I would need to spend more time in jail beyond 25 days, but if I didn't want asylum and a red card I could leave detention after 25 days. So, I refused the red card and after 25 days they released me. I got a white paper telling me I needed to leave the country in 30 days.  
"I wanted to go to another country to seek asylum, but a friend told me that because they took my fingerprints, they would send me back to Athens. I have now been here a month without papers. Now I am in a hole. I can't go out. I can't stay. Every day, I think I made a mistake to leave my country. I want to go back, but how can I? I would be killed if I go back. But they treat you like a dog here. I have nothing. No rights. No friends."
Despite the widespread fear among Iraqis of being deported, relatively few are officially deported from Greece.  In 2007 Greece deported 405 Iraqis out fo the 9,586 Iraqis who were "arrested to be deported."  Since Greece has not been able regularly to deport Iraqis directly to Iraq, this presumably reflects deportations to transit countries, such as air arrivals from Jordan.  Because there are now direct air connections between Athens and Erbil through Viking Airlines, a private Scandinavian company that runs charter flights, it appears that some direct deportations from Greece to Iraq have taken place.  However, since this connection is not permanent and flights are often interrupted, Greece has mainly sought to deport Iraqis to Turkey on the understanding that Turkey would be more likely to accept Iraqis and (Iranians) than other nationalities under its readmission agreement with Greece because of the relatively cheap and easy option of deporting them by bus across its southeastern land border.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports four Baghdad roadside bombings which claimed 2 lives and left eighteen people injured.
Today the US military announced: "One U.S. Marine and an U.S. Military Transition team Soldier were killed in a small-arms fire attack while conducting a humanitarian assistance operation near Biaj Nov. 25.  Two Marines and three civilians were also wounded in the attack.  While in the midst of the unit conducting the mission the unit came under fire by two men, one of whom appeared to be wearing an Iraqi uniform.  The Iraqi Security and Coalition forces immediately cordoned off the area.  'The attack appears to have been unprovoked, said Col. Bill Bukner, spokesman for the Multi-National Corps - Iraq.  'It is unknown if the attacker was an Iraqi soldier or an insurgent in disguise.'  The incident is under a joint investigation."   The announcement brings to 4207 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who argued fruitlessly five years ago that Canada should join George Bush's invasion of Iraq, was eager to deliver the first deportation of an Iraq War resister. The order to arrest Robin Long came from the top. It was Harper's insurance policy. If he couldn't deport Glass, he would deport Long.

While the Canada Border Services Agency shuttled Robin Long from one prison to another, keeping him isolated from friends and supporters, a last-ditch attempt to stop his deportation was mounted by Vancouver lawyer, Shepherd Moss. A hearing was scheduled in Federal Court in Vancouver for Monday morning, July 14. But Robin Long's luck ran out when his case was assigned to Judge Anne McTavish, the author of damaging decisions against Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey, the first two GIs to seek refugee status in Canada.

Canadian authorities had failed to inform Long of his pending deportation, thus denying him his right to appeal. But Judge McTavish refused to delay Long's deportation. The legal reasons for Corey Glass's were not yet published and could potentially apply to Long. Such was the rush to deport a war resister, however, that Judge McTavish was willing to risk having opposing court decisions on the same issue, within a one week period.

"Here, we've got a deserter for you."

Robin Long was not allowed to attend his own hearing and he was not informed of its outcome. Instead, on the morning of Tuesday, July 15, Canadian immigration police drove him to Canada's border with the U.S. near Blaine, Washington, and loudly announced to their U.S. counterparts, "Here, we've got a deserter for you."

Stephen Harper and the Bush Administration got what they wanted, international headlines trumpeting, "Canada Deports U.S. Deserter."

The Canadian people learned about the deportation of Robin Long from sketchy media reports. The Canada Border Services Agency, citing "the Privacy Act," refused to give the media any details. How was the deportation carried out? Where did it occur? Who handed Robin Long over to whom? Where was Long held in Canada? Where was he being held in the U.S.?

The Privacy Act, enacted to protect the privacy of individuals, was abused by the Conservative government in order to isolate Robin Long and keep Canadians in the dark. Why didn't the Conservative government want Canadians to know the details of this deportation? The word "deportation" connotes an unfortunate but orderly and lawful procedure. What Canadian and U.S. authorities did to Robin Long was more like a "rendition," an extralegal government-to-government kidnapping supposedly reserved for terror suspects. Canadians will be outraged when they hear the truth.

War Resister Assaulted and Threatened in Canadian Jails

Robin Long was arrested unlawfully on false grounds and for political reasons. He was held incommunicado. Over a ten-day period, he was transferred to three different Canadian jails. In the Kamloops Regional Correctional Centre, Long was assaulted twice by a group of prisoners who objected to his dreadlock hairstyle. Although he is short and slight, Long was able to fight off his attackers once, and a guard halted the second assault. But Long decided to cut his hair.
That's the definitive piece on Long and thank you to a mutual friend who first called to ask, "Why are you ignoring Gerry?" and then steered me to that essay which I wasn't aware of.  Gerry Condon ends his essay noting that you can write Robin care of Courage To Resist and that "You can also contribute to Robin's brig account that he uses to pay for phone calls to friends and family."  And for those wondering if Robin is due to be released before the holidays, Fort Carson Public Affairs Office's Karen Linne explained here August 22nd that he had been sentenced to 15 months and would be credited for "about 40 days" for the time he was held at the Criminal Justice Center in El Paso County prior to the court-martial.
Moving over to US politics, Marie Cocco (Washington Post Writers Group) observed last week, "It is time to stop kidding ourselves.  This wasn't a breakthrough year for American women in politics.  It was a brutal one."  With that in mind, we'll note John Ross' election observations via Counterpunch:

I don't buy Barack Obama as the Messiah. I didn't vote for him (I voted for another Afro-American) and I haven't filed an application to join his regime. He ran a duplicitous, multi-million dollar campaign that masqueraded as a social movement and because it was a gimmick and a shuck, will thwart and demoralize the re-creation of real social movement for years to come.  
The suckers packed shoulder to shoulder in Grant Park on Election Night were not a movement. 40 years ago, the Left stood in that park and were burning American flags, not waving them - although the reasons were equally specious. Back then, it was the denial of another false Messiah's rightful place on the Democratic Party ticket. We ran a pig for president to underscore our disdain for the electoral process and when Mayor Dailey's cops kidnapped and barbecued our candidate, we turned to yet another Afro-American who was also not the Messiah. In August 1968, the Mayor of Chicago, whose son is now Barack Obama's most trusted political advisor, sent in the real pigs to beat us into the Grant Park grass like so many baby harp seals.   
Now that was a social movement… 
Eduardo Galeano does not get it. When he tells Amy Goodman that he has high hopes for El Baracko because black slaves once built the White House for which the president-elect is now measuring the drapes, he does not consider that Obama himself is a slave, a slave to Wall Street and General Motors and Big Oil and Big Ethanol, a slave to the War Machine and U.S. Imperialism and Israel, a slave to We're Number One jingoism, avarice, and greed and the American Nightmare, a slave to the free market and free enterprise and free trade and the flimflam of corporate globalization, and most of all, a slave to the Democratic Party puppet masters who now move his strings.  
Galeano doesn't seem to recall that Afro-Americans can be mass murderers too. Condi is a killer and Barack's big booster Colin Powell once obligated the United National Security Council to cover up a reproduction of Picasso's "Gernika" before he could lie that contaminated body in the eye about Saddam's make-believe WMDs and jumpstart a war that has now taken a million Iraqi lives. So far. The bloodletting has hardly abated. 
We are in garbage time. The adulatory garbage being spewed about the virtues of Barrack Obama are a toxic trick on the peoples of the earth. One glaring recent example: 100,000 marched from sea to shining sea in the U.S. last weekend (Nov. 16th) in support of same sex marriage and no one had the moxie to even mention that Barack Obama does not support same sex marriage.  
On the issue of equality, Ruth, Kat and Marcia covered the Florida circuit judge overturning Anita Bryant's ban on gay adoption yesterday.  Elaine noted US House Rep Rosa DeLauro's Congressional work on breast cancer and Mike covered the judge who yelled "tyrant."   Independent journalist David Bacon covers immigration and Obama in a new article at The Nation:
So far, the choice of Janet Napolitano is not encouraging. The Tucson "Operation Streamline" court convenes in her home state every day, and the situation of immigrants in Arizona is worse than almost anywhere else. Napolitano herself has publicly supported most of the worst ideas of the Bush administration, including guest worker programs with no amnesty for the currently undocumented, and brutal enforcement schemes like E-Verify and workplace raids.

But Obama does not have to be imprisoned by the failure of Napolitano to imagine a more progressive alternative. In fact, his new administration's need to respond to the economic crisis, and to strengthen the political coalition that won the election, can open new possibilities for a just and fair immigration policy.

Economic crisis does not have to pit working people against each other, or lead to the further demonization of immigrants. In fact, there is common ground between immigrants, communities of color, unions, churches, civil rights organizations, and working families. Legalization and immigrant rights can be tied to guaranteeing jobs for anyone who wants to work, and unions to raise wages and win better conditions for everyone in the workplace.