Thursday, December 4, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces more deaths, the presidency council passes the treaty, and more.
Starting with the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. Last Thursday (Thanksgiving in the US) the Iraqi Parliament passed the treaty (and, after its passage, the White House finally released some version of it to the public). Monday's snapshot included those developments for any playing catch-up after the holiday. The treaty is back in the news today but for those who need a memory jog, Great Britain's Socialist Worker offered the following on Tuesday:
The Iraqi parliament has approved the Status of Forces Agreement that sets a date for the withdrawal of US combat troops from the country by 31 December 2011.
The deal is being presented as an end to the US misadventure in Iraq.
But it does not mark the end of the occupation.
The US has had to back down on a series of Iraqi demands, including ending the immunity of the mercenaries who spread terror throughout the country, and giving Iraqis greater control over military operations.
The Iraqis were also able to set a timetable for withdrawal despite the objections of the neo-cons.
But although the deal gives the US an exist route from Iraq, thousands of US soldiers will remain in "advisory roles", and combat troops could return if the country was threatened by "internal revolt" or external threat.
It is no wonder that George Bush is said to be happy with the pact.
Both the Sunni resistance organisations, headed by the Association of the Muslim Scholars, and Shia Muslim supporters of rebel cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have denounced the deal as "legitimising the occupation".
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Having passed the Parliament the only way it could be stopped this year was for the presidency council (made up of Iraq's president and two vice presidents) to have nixed it (which would have only required one of them saying "no"). [Next year, the treaty can be nixed if a referendrum vote -- promised, but what does that mean really? -- takes place.]
Today Reuters reports the presidency council's given the thumbs up to the treaty between the White House and the puppet government. CNN notes: "The three-member presidency council -- Kurdish President Jalal Talabani, Shiite Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi and Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi -- approved the agreement unanimously a week after the Iraqi parliament passed the measure." The presidency council also approved the Strategic Framework Agreement. Iran's Press TV explains, "The controversial agreement replaces a UN mandate -- which covers the presence of foreign forces in Iraq and is due to expire at the end of 2008 -- which was approved by Iraq's parliament last month after months of wrangling." Asked at the White House today about the referendrum and whether it could allow the treaty to be tossed aside, spokesperson Dana Perino responded, "I know that they were thinking about having a national referendum, but since it was just finalized this morning around 7:00 a.m. our time, I haven't seen for sure. But if there is a national referendum, Iraq is a soveriegn country and they could decide to do lots of different things with it. But I think that the fact that their representative leadership has signed this agreement today, that they recognize that they are going to continue to need our help for the next little while."
What's going on? The White House is laughing their asses off at Iraqis foolish enough to go along with the 'referendum.' The UN mandate expires December 31st. They need a renewal for one year. They got it. Or, as Barack's team might put, they got what they wanted. If a referendum is held and Iraqis vote to break the treaty, what does that mean?
The treaty operates for (minimum) the year they need. The referendum is a sidebar and it is not mentioned in the treaty. The treaty signed off on by both parties (we'll come to the US Congress in a moment) states what for breaking the treaty? Either the US or Iraq can do it at any time. However, after making their intention known, the treaty runs one year. They have to give one year's notice. July 2009 is often mentioned for the referendum vote to be held. Using that date, if July comes and Iraqis say, "Get out now!"? July 2010 would be the soonest the treaty could be broken due to the one-year notice required. So Pernio's lack of concern today centered around the fact that the referendum is really meaningless in terms of order US troops out of Iraq 'quickly.'
The US Congress has not had input in the treaty. The White House has circumvented the Constitution.and the Congress is apparently not going to stand up for either themselves or the Constitution. When the press reports the treaty as a done-deal now due to the passage of it by the presidency council, the reason they report it as such is because Congress has done nothing since US House Rep Bill Delahunt chaired a hearing back in November. There have been no statements issued to the press, there has been no talk of special session to address this, there has been nothing. Where are they? Has Iraq fallen off their radar?
One could argue it's fallen of the US State Dept's radar. Today Robert Wood started the department's press briefing with, "Good morning, everyone. I don't have anything. We can go right to your questions." This was the same morning that the treaty has been passed by the presidency council. How little does the war in Iraq matter to our federal government? Near the end of the briefing, Wood would try to pass the blame off onto the press, "Oh, by the way, one thing I should note -- I've been meaning to note -- since no one asked the question, I thought I would just raise it. Toady, as you know, is the ratification of the -- by the presidency council of the Strategic Framework Agreement and the security agreement. So we welcome it, and there will be an exchange of diplomatic notes -- and then the agreement will go into force January 1, 2009." The fact that Congress refuses to do its job -- its sworn duty -- goes a long way towards not only explaining how Wood could forget to mention the treaty but also how he could declare the process finalized.
On a related topic, a little truth makes it into print in the New York Times. Thom Shanker reports that president-elect Barack Obama has backed up from his 'pledge' to have all 'troops' out within 16 months of being elected: ". . . as he moves closer to the White House, President-elect Obama is making clearer than ever that tens of thousands of American troops will be left behind in Iraq, even if he can make good on his campaign promise to pull all combat forces out within 16 months." Huh???? Well it was never ALL US forces out of Iraq. Barack loved to stand before his adoring and slavish crowds offering the meaningless, "We want to end the war in Iraq!" cry. Yeah. And? Want to? He didn't promise to. His plan was "combat troops" out of Iraq within 16 months of being sworn into office (in Houston, Texas -- in February -- Barack dropped it down to 10 months after he was sworn in).Shanker quotes the Christ-child Barack stating, "I said that I would remover our combat troops from Iraq in 16 months, with theunderstanding that it might be necessary -- likely to be necessary -- to maintain a residual force to provide potential training, logistical support, to protect our civilians in Iraq." Translation, no withdrawal. Surprised? Take it up with the liars who lied for Baby Barack from day one. Take it up with ALL THE LIARS who insisted he was the anti-war candidate and he was going to end the Iraq War and blah, blah, blah. Now, as Mike and Elaine point out, some were little bitty babies. Hillary wouldn't apologize for her vote! She said it was a mistake and she wouldn't do it again if she had to do over. What more did people want? And, point, where was the peace movement asking Barack about his votes on Iraq? If he was against it and wants credit for his puny (and bad) 2002 speech (the reason it was 'recreated' was because it was so damn underwhelming -- the woman in the red t-shirt is especially unimpressed as she and the tiny crowd listen to him drone on) where he said he loves war, really loves it, but feels if one is started with Iraq, it may hurt the war he wants right now in Afghanistan, well he should have been asked to admit it was a mistake to vote to fund the illegal war. He wasn't in the Senate in 2002 but he sure voted for every war funding bill he could until late 2007. Why wasn't he asked if that was a mistake? Why didn't CODESTINK insist he apologize for them?
Or are we all supposed to ignore how PATHOLOGICALLY SICK Medea Benjamin and company have become as they target Hillary over and over even more so than they did the White House occupant who started the illegal war? And the pattern continues among the deranged. The incoming administration will not be run by Hillary. It's as though Christopher Hitchens just birthed a litter of Baby Hitchys.
Barack is the incoming president. It is what Panhandle Media wanted -- at some point they might try getting honest about why -- and they need to grasp that Americans are not going to put up with four years of their demonizing Hillary and calling that 'sticking it to the president.' She's not the president. Barack is. He's the one responsible and they better start tailoring their critiques to that or admit that they're nothing but the most vile women haters of all time. (Amy Goodman confessed to that when she decided Larry F**nt's H**tler magazine was a 'magazine' to publish in.)
Today the US military announced: "Two Multi-National Division - North Soldiers were killed as a result of an attack from a suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosives device while conducting operations in the city of Mosul today." The announcement brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4209. And regardless of who is named Secretary of State, the president of the US will make the decision regarding when US service members leave Iraq. Barack Obama is now the one who will continue or end the illegal war and the critiques need to be directed at him.
Iraqis have violence directed at them all the time including today. Laith Hammoudi and Mohammed Al Dulamy (McClatchy Newspapers) report Falluja was rocked by two bombings today with over one-hundred people left wounded and 15 killed. On one of the bombings, they note, "At the Hdheri police station in central Fallujah, officers saw the attacker approaching them in a truck. They reportedly ordered him to stop, and shot him when he continued driving. The truck exploded, damaging houses and injuring many." Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) adds, "Abass Alwan, who witnessed one of the blasts, said a suicide bomber drove a truck at high speed toward the police station and rammed its main gate. Alwan said there was an elementary school next to the police station and that many of the injured were children." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) explains, "The Fallujah blasts targeted police stations in the east and west of the city, once an al-Qaeda stronghold, before tribal leaders turned against the militants and sided with the US military two years ago. Six police officers were among the dead." Al Arabiya offers, "Iraqi police said that two suicide bombers carried out the attacks from one car near a police station in west Fallujah while the second truck bombing targeted a police station in the police district east of the town."
In some of today's other reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bomber who killed his/herself and 8 other people, a Baghdad sticky bombing that claimed 1 life and left two people injured, a second Baghdad sticky bombing that left four people injured and another Baghdad bombing that resulted in two people being wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul and another wounded.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 21 corpses discovered in Diyala Province. Reuters ups the count to 80 corpses.
Meanwhile Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) explores the continued tension between the puppet government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government. She terms it "a power struggle" and focuses on Kurdish objection to 'tribal councils' ("Awakening" for the north) and al-Maliki's objection to what is seen as Kurdish efforts to expand their territory. She questions al-Maliki's assertion that the 'tribal councils' are unarmed since "every adult male" in Iraq "is permitted one gun." She notes Jalal Talabani's objections to al-Maliki's proposed 'councils'. Talabani is the President of Iraq and he is Kurd. He has stated al-Maliki's efforts are extra-Constutional and is calling for the Federal Supreme Court to intervene. al-Maliki says (basically), "Nah-nah-nah, I'll create what I want and who cares if it's mentioned in the Constitution or not." Xinahua quotes from al-Maliki's letter to Talabani that "there is no practical or legal justification to dissolve the support councils after they managed to provide security, stability and backed the national reconciliation efforts in Iraq." Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) observes al-Maliki "has recently picked fights with his Kurdish allies, his Shi'ite opponents and his Sunni partners over a variety of issues." Abouzeid notes:
The acrimonious exchanges between Maliki and the Kurds are rooted in the economic and territorial ambitions of both parties, and they threaten to widen the broadening Arab-Kurd schism. Maliki's recent call to amend the constitution to beef up the central government's powers at the expense of Iraq's 18 provinces did not spare the semiautonomous three-province Kurdish region in the north. It has not only stoked tensions with the independence-minded Kurds but has also drawn fire from his Shi'ite coalition allies in the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, who want to set up a similar semiautonomous region in the Shi'ite south. On Monday, the Kurdish regional government strongly condemned Maliki's governance, basically equating it to Saddam Hussein's. Maliki wants to "take the people of Iraq back to a period we are desperately trying to get beyond," the statement read. "A period where the excessive concentration, or centralization, of economic and political power condemned all Iraqis to unimaginable suffering."
It may an emotional argument that the Kurds are using, but it's also grounded in regional self-interest -- which is the Prime Minister's case against those who oppose him. Maliki has lambasted the Kurdish regional government for unilaterally signing oil deals with international companies and cutting Baghdad out of the loop, as well as opening representative offices overseas. He has also pushed back against the Kurds' attempts to extend their military presence into territory south of their regional border. "The central government thinks the Kurdish regional government behaves like a state, and the Kurds think Maliki wants to flex his muscles and go back to a strong central government with him as the strongman," says Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish parliamentarian.
Meanwhile Iraq's Foreign Ministry continues establishing diplomatic ties. Sunday, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met with Hani Khalwaf (Arab League Representative in Baghdad). Monday morning found Zebari receiving Russia's Ambassador to Iraq Valerian Vladmiri Wavij Shofayif during which "Shofayif expressed his country's commitment towards the relations with Iraq". Monday Zebari also met with Sayon McDonald, advisor to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. While the Foreign Ministry works on increasing Iraq's interaction with other countries, Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) notes a ceremony held in Iraq today for Tonga who "became the latest member of the 'coalition of the willing' to end its mission in Iraq." (Tonga had 55 service members stationed in Iraq.)
Yesterday, KBR was in the news for imprisoning workers in Iraq and now Scott Bronstein and Abbie Boudreau (CNN) report KBR is being sued by 16 members of Indiana's National Gaurd who served in Iraq and maintain that KBR knew a water treatment plant (which the soliders were assigned to) exposed them to dangerous chemicals such as the carcinogenic sodium dichromate. David Ivanovich (Houston Chronicle) explains, "In their suit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Evansville, Ind., the plaintiffs contend KBR knowingly allowed them to be exposed to sodium dichromate, a chemical used as an anti-corrosive but containing the carcinogen hexavalent chromium. The alleged exposure occurred while the guardsmen were providing security for KBR workers at the Qarmat Ali water plant in southern Iraq." Rajini Vaidyanathan (BBC) elaborates, "The soldiers say that they and other civilian contractors there were repeatedly told there was no danger, and that when they reported health problems such as nose-bleeds to their bosses, they were told they were simply 'allergic to the sand'. The court papers claim that these symptoms were the early side-effects of the chemical, and that some who served on the site went on to suffer severe breathing problems and nasal tumours." Meanwhile Kelly Kennedy (Army Times) noted at the start of the week, "Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, has asked that the co-chairs of the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs Oversight Committee begin a review of environmental toxins - including those coming from burn pits -- at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. . . In November, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., asked Gen. David Petraeus for an investigation into whether troops are being exposed to harmful fumes from burn pits." With an update on the KBR workers stranded/imprisoned in Iraq, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) explains they are calling on the intnerational community to take action: "America why are you silent? Human rights organisations why are you silent? United Nations where are you?" One of the many signs carried by those tricked into coming to Iraq for jobs that do not exist and now trapped in that country.
Today the Institute of Medicine released a report on traumatic brain injury. Amanda Gardner (HealthDay) reports, "The committee found evidence of a causal relationship between penetrating TBI and unprovoked seizures as well as death, and between severe or moderate TBI with unprovoked seizures." Alex Nussbaum (Bloomberg News) informs that the report "found a link between moderate and severe injuries and rising depression, memory loss, aggression, Parkinson's-like tremors and social problems that hinder employment." Benedict Carey (New York Times) notes approximately 5,500 US "military personnel have suffered brain injuries from mild to severe. The wounds account for an estimated 22 percent of all casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq -- about twice the rate in Vietnam." Rick Rogers (San Diego Tribune-Tribune) reports, "The committee's major recommendations include urging the Defense Department to establish a baseline for identifying pre-and post-deployment mental health problems by assessing the mental well-being of all troops before they start their combat tours. The panel also asked VA leaders to include uninjured service members and other comparison groups in its fledging Traumatic Brain Injury Veterans Health Registry."