Thursday, December 18, 2008

Barack and that 16-month 'pledge'

Turkey continues bombing northern Iraq, the journalist remains in jail and Barack's okay with breaking yet another 'pledge'. Starting with Muntader al-Zeidi, the journalist who tossed two shoes at the Bully Boy of the United States on Sunday. Wisam Mohammed (Reuters) reports puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki says Muntader has apologized for throwing the shoes. And he did so in writing! While Muntader can apologize or not, it's very interesting that a written apology shows up in light of the refusal to allow people to meet with Muntader and the fact that he was repeatedly beaten and kicked on Sunday before he disappeared into Iraqi 'justice.' Randall Joyce's "Iraqi Justice System Swallows Shoe-Thrower" (CBS News) documents some of the realities going on:

He has disappeared into an Iraqi legal system that is deeply flawed and, at times, intentionally confusing. If transparency is the standard for a good court system, then Iraq's is the opposite. Opaque doesn't begin to describe it.
Today's proceedings are a good example of just how hard it is to navigate the system. Our crew just returned from Baghdad's Central Court, where al-Zeidi did not appear as expected. His family and a team of defense lawyers hired by his employer, Baghdadiya TV, had been told that his preliminary hearing would take place today, and they arrived at court with the reasonable expectation that they could see the accused and provide legal representation for him.
Instead, they were given a second-hand account of a hearing that had already taken place. The Central Court judge told al-Zeidi's lawyers that one of his colleagues had finished the investigative proceeding against the accused yesterday, in a session that took place in the heavily-fortified Green Zone.
[. . .]
Al-Zeidi's family was informed at today's hearing that he is being held in a jail in the Green Zone, but when our crew went to that facility they were told he had never been there. So far, no member of his family has seen him and we have no idea of his physical condition.
There is no explanation so far as to why the hearing took place a day earlier than planned at a secret location without the presence of al-Zeidi's legal team or family.

The so-called coalition continues shrinking. Bulgaria's troops left Iraq yesterday and Retuers reports Bosnia has withdrawn their approximately 290 troops.

Meanwhile, as press outlets focus on what was most likely a power-grab on al-Maliki's part (the arrests from the Ministry of the Interior), Reuters reports a US "pre-dawn raid" on the Ministry of Trade has resulted in accusations that US forces killed three workers for the Ministry: "They said the troops killed several security guards, burnt the guards' offices and searched files and computers."

Delphine Strauss (Financial Times of London) notes Turkey continued air strikes on northern Iraq -- targeting the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) for the second day in a row. UPI adds, "The Turkish General Staff said it bombed several positions in the Qandil Mountains belonging to the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK." Despite statements of joint-commissions -- Iraq, Turkey and the US -- being set up to address the issue of the PKK -- designated a terrorist organization by many nations including the US as well as by the European Union -- no such committee has yet to be created. Reuters observes, "Around 40,000 people have been killed in fighting between the PKK and the military since 1984, when the PKK took up arms to establish an ethnic homeland in southeast Turkey." Hurriyet reports that Hoshyar Zebari (Foreign Minister) is among the Iraqi officials expected to travel to Turkey shortly and Sunni vice president Tariq al Hashimi is another but that Turkish President Abdullah Gul suffers from "an ear problem that makes flying difficult." Zebari most recently (December 16th) met with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayied Al-Nhayan, the United Arab Emirate's Foreign Minister, at the UN as part of the Ministry's continued diplomatic outreach.

The Washington Post reminds everyone of president-elect Barack Obama's words last January:

And when I am President, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home; we will finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan; we will care for our veterans; we will restore our moral standing in the world; and we will never use 9/11 as a way to scare up votes, because it is not a tactic to win an election, it is a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the twenty-first century: terrorism and nuclear weapons; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease.

That's what got supported. Alleged 'peace' types supported the continued war on Afghanistan. They pretended there was a difference between overt 9-11 scare tactics and what Barack was doing. They pretended not to notice that while he said "bring our troops home" from Iraq, at his website he always stated "combat troops" only.

His words are worth noting as Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker (New York Times) report that Barack's 16-month pledge appears out the window as Generals Ray Odierno and David Petraeus' proposals were presented to Barack:

The plan, completed last week, envisions withdrawing two more brigades, or some 7,000 to 8,000 troops, from Iraq in the first six months of 2009, the military officials said. But that would leave 12 combat brigades in Iraq by June 2009, and while declining to be more specific, the officials made clear that the withdrawal of all combat forces under the generals' recommendations would not come until some time after May 2010, Mr. Obama's target.
Transition officials said the plan was described in only general terms to Mr. Obama by Robert M. Gates, who is staying on as defense secretary, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when Mr. Obama met for five and a half hours with his national security team on Monday in Chicago. They said all participants had sidestepped the details of how to reconcile Mr. Obama's timetable for withdrawing combat forces with the more extended one recommended by the generals. A transition official said that in future meetings, "the military will get a chance to articulate their preferences."
In the campaign, Mr. Obama said he would not hesitate to overrule his commanders. By early December, however, he signaled some flexibility when he said that he still wanted combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months but that he would also listen to the recommendations of his generals. Mr. Gates has expressed confidence that he and Mr. Obama might reach common ground. But in discussing the new plan, senior military officials nonetheless made clear that they were not comfortable with the time frame Mr. Obama articulated in the campaign. "Sixteen months is going to be tough," said one senior military officer who was briefed on the plan. "We are not quite there yet."

Megan notes Chris Hedges' "The Best and the Brightest Led America Off a Cliff" (Truth Dig via Information Clearing House):

The multiple failures that beset the country, from our mismanaged economy to our shredded constitutional rights to our lack of universal health care to our imperial debacles in the Middle East, can be laid at the feet of our elite universities. Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford, along with most other elite schools, do a poor job educating students to think. They focus instead, through the filter of standardized tests, enrichment activities, advanced placement classes, high-priced tutors, swanky private schools and blind deference to all authority, on creating hordes of competent systems managers. The collapse of the country runs in a direct line from the manicured quadrangles and halls in places like Cambridge, Princeton and New Haven to the financial and political centers of power.
The nation's elite universities disdain honest intellectual inquiry, which is by its nature distrustful of authority, fiercely independent and often subversive. They organize learning around minutely specialized disciplines, narrow answers and rigid structures that are designed to produce certain answers. The established corporate hierarchies these institutions service -- economic, political and social -- come with clear parameters, such as the primacy of an unfettered free market, and with a highly specialized vocabulary. This vocabulary, a sign of the "specialist" and of course the elitist, thwarts universal understanding. It keeps the uninitiated from asking unpleasant questions. It destroys the search for the common good. It dices disciplines, faculty, students and finally experts into tiny, specialized fragments. It allows students and faculty to retreat into these self-imposed fiefdoms and neglect the most pressing moral, political and cultural questions. Those who defy the system—people like Ralph Nader—are branded as irrational and irrelevant. These elite universities have banished self-criticism. They refuse to question a self-justifying system. Organization, technology, self-advancement and information systems are the only things that matter.
"Political silence, total silence," said Chris Hebdon, a Berkeley undergraduate. He went on to describe how various student groups gather at Sproul Plaza, the center of student activity at the University of California, Berkeley. These groups set up tables to recruit and inform other students, a practice know as "tabling."
"Students table for Darfur, no one tables for Iraq. Tables on Sproul Plaza are ethnically fragmented, explicitly pre-professional (The Asian American Pre-Law or Business or Pre-Medicine Association). Never have I seen a table on globalization or corporatization. Students are as distracted and specialized and atomized as most of their professors. It's vertical integration gone cultural. And never, never is it cutting-edge. Berkeley loves the slogan 'excellence through diversity,' which is a farce of course if one checks our admissions stats (most years we have only one or two entering Native Americans), but few recognize multiculturalism's silent partner -- fragmentation into little markets. Our Sproul Plaza shows that so well—the same place Mario Savio once stood on top a police car is filled with tens of tables for the pre-corporate, the ethnic, the useless cynics, the recreational groups, etc."

Independent journalist David Bacon latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) and it has created a stir. Three strong reviews of the book appear at Foreign Policy in Focus. Yesterday's snapshot noted Laura Carlsen's review and I and incorrectly stated that two more reviews were at that link. My apologies. At the top of the review, you see the links for the other two reviews: "(Editor's Note: Mary Bauer also responded to Michele Wucker's review of David Bacon's book Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Immigration and Criminalizes Immigrants.) " From Bauer's piece:

What Bacon's book does better than anything I have read before is to explain the cycle of that structure and how it leads inevitably to the abuses he catalogues. He starts at the beginning of the cycle -- the forces in Mexico and other nations that drive people northward from the homes they love. Bacon often focuses on Oaxaca and the agricultural life, rich in tradition and culture, if not money, that had been possible for many before the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He describes the breakdown of that life that NAFTA pushed into place, making small farming in rural Mexico impossible. After the NAFTA "reforms," longtime peasant farmers found that there was literally no market for their product, and there was thus no possibility for earning income in their home communities.

Last night, Stan offered "Margret Kimberley, The Black Apologist" and other community posts (swiping from Stan's site -- his blogroll lists the most recent posts):

Meanwhile Jimmy Orr proves just how bad things are at The Christian Science Monitor. He offers "Rick Warren to deliver Obama invocation - gay community furious" which needs a fact checker (unless it's meant to announce the final death of CSM). And someone needs to break it to Orr that he can leave his mental ghetto. The LGBT community is upset -- rightly so. However, they are not alone on this. How nice of Orr to push it off on the victimized community and pretend it's 'their' problem. People For The American Way, for example, has protested and its diversied membership includes LGBT and straight. Rick Warren is an offense to all, it goes beyond sexuality. Don't try to ghettoize this or push it off as 'their' problem. That's shameful.
From PFAW, "People For the American Way 'Profoundly Disappointed' that Rick Warren Will Give Invocation:"

People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert responded today to the news that Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church will deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama:

It is a grave disappointment to learn that pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Pastor Warren, while enjoying a reputation as a moderate based on his affable personality and his church's engagement on issues like AIDS in Africa, has said that the real difference between James Dobson and himself is one of tone rather than substance. He has recently compared marriage by loving and committed same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia. He has repeated the Religious Right's big lie that supporters of equality for gay Americans are out to silence pastors. He has called Christians who advance a social gospel Marxists. He is adamantly opposed to women having a legal right to choose an abortion.
I'm sure that Warren's supporters will portray his selection as an appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching across traditional divides. Others may explain it as a response to Warren inviting then-Senator Obama to speak on AIDS and candidate Obama to appear at a forum, both at his church. But the sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of millions of Americans.
Rick Warren gets plenty of attention through his books and media appearances. He doesn't need or deserve this position of honor. There is no shortage of religious leaders who reflect the values on which President-elect Obama campaigned and who are working to advance the common good.

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