Monday, December 22, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces multiple deaths, the New York Times reveals the word-games that Barack Obama hopes will pass for 'withdrawal,' Bully Boy goes to Walter Reed and makes another tone-deaf statement, and more.
Today Elisabeth Bumiller (New York Times) examines the realities of the so-called US withdrawal from Iraq and it's not a pretty sight. Bumiller and Thom Shanker reported last week on how the 'plan' presented to president-elect Barack Obama -- the Petraeus-Odierno plan -- wouldn't allow for that campaign 'promise' of a US withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Friday Julian E. Barnes (Los Angeles Times) reported that word games could allow for the impression that promises were being kept -- including what the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement allegedly promised. For context, Sudarsan Raghavan and Qais Mizher (Washington Post) explained last week, "American combat troops will remain inside Iraqi cities to train and mentor Iraqi forces after next summer, despite a security agreement that calls for their withdrawal from urban areas by June 30, the top U.S. military commander said Saturday." With all that as the backdrop, Bumiller explains today that "a semantic dance" has begun at the Pentagon over what qualifies as a combat soldier and, with regards to the treaty, "Even though the agreement with the Iraqi government calls for all American combat troops to be out of the cities by the end of June, military planners are now quietly acknowledging that many will stay behind as renamed "trainers" and "advisers" in what are effectively combat roles. In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Bumiller notes that "trainers" and "advisers" will be the renaming terms for "combat troops" in order to keep them in Iraq: "In other words, they will still be engaged in combat, just called something else." Of Barack, she notes, "it has become clear that his definition of ending the war means leaving behind many thousands of American troops."
And that might mean the alleged 'anti-war' movement would mobilize. Fat chance. From Third's "Editorial: The Pathetic and Shameful UPFJ:"
For two years, United for Peace and Justice has done nothing to end the illegal war. If you like the faux radical fringe, you could find many of those in 'leadership' on various rag-tag Pacifica stations whoring themselves and the peace movement out as the booed and hissed at Hillary Clinton while insisting Barack Obama was a divine spread, perfect for a sacramental wafer. They all but smacked their lips into the microphones as they insisted "Heavenly delicious!"
So it was no surprise that United for Pathetic and Juvenile issued a purile statement on November 7th that was at once self-stroking and racially offensive. For the record, Barack Obama is bi-racial. We've covered that here. At the allegedly 'progressive' (no one loves that coded word moe than the multitude of political closet cases hiding out at UPFJ). For the record, Barack was never about ending the illegal war in Iraq. But UPFJ was so eager to spread like slutty cheerleaders (male and female) that they ignored that the same way they ignored their own alleged committment to ending the Afghanistan War. Yeah, Afghanistan, the war Barack campaigned on continuing.
So it was not surprising to discover United for Pathetic and Juvenile could sink even lower.
Eric Ruder and Ashley Smith (US Socialist Worker) provide a disturbing look at the recent 'strategy' sessions for UPFJ earlier this month where 'leaders' offered such 'insight' as Barack is 'our' "quarterback" and our role is to "block for him." That's so insulting on so many levels.
But United for Pathetic & Juvenile is so pleased with their 'work' in those December 12th through 14th 'strategy' sessions that they brag they have "adopted the 'Yes We Can' campaign". Debra Sweet (World Can't Wait) notes that she attended the sessions and "worked with others" to demand a DC march and demonstration in March for "the sixth anniversary of the war, Saturday March 21." But UPFJ had other plans. Sweet observes, "Not to directly challenge Obama's escalation of the war in Afghansitan is shameful. On the anniversay of 'Shock & Awe,' and under a new president, the anti-war movement needs to be in Washington. And many of us WILL be there." A.N.S.W.E.R. and other groups have already planned for a March 21st March on the Pentagon:
Marking the sixth anniversary of the criminal invasion of Iraq, on March 21, 2009, thousands will March on the Pentagon to say, "Bring the Troops Home NOW!" We will also demand "End Colonial Occupation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Everywhere" and "Fund Peoples' Needs Not Militarism and Bank Bailouts." We will insist on an end to the war threats and economic sanctions against Iran. We will say no to the illegal U.S. program of detention and torture.
To endorse the March 21 March on the Pentagon, click here. To sign up to be a Transportation Organizing Center, click here.
We will be noting that action again in coming weeks but A.N.S.W.E.R. deserves credit for being the second organization to call out the lies of the treaty:
The idea that the U.S. is in the process of ending the criminal occupation of Iraq is a myth. Washington and its dependent Iraqi government signed a "Status of Forces" agreement, supposedly calling for the U.S. military to leave Iraqi cities by July 1, 2009, and all of Iraq by 2012. But even this outrageous extension of an illegal occupation is just one more piece of deception, as was soon made clear by top U.S. and Iraqi officials.
The ink was hardly dry on the agreement when, on December 12, official Iraq government spokesman Ali al Dabbagh dismissed the idea that U.S. troops would leave by 2012: "We do understand that the Iraqi military is not going to get built out in the three years. We do need many more years. It might be 10 years."
The next day, General Raymond Odierno, commander of "coalition (U.S.) forces" in Iraq, stated that thousands of U.S. troops could remain inside Iraqi cities after July 1, 2009, as part of "training and mentoring teams."
Government propaganda aside, the reality remains that only the people can end the war and occupation in Iraq. To endorse the March 21 March on the Pentagon, click here, and to sign up to be a Transportation Organizing Center, click here.
The other organization that has called out the lies of the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement is the American Freedom Campaign.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Force -- West Marine died Dec. 21, as the result of wounds received in action when he was attacked by an enemy force in al-Anbar province." The announcement follows three deaths on Saturday: Jonathan W. Dean, Coleman W. Hinkefent, and a Marine who has yet to be identified. ICCC's count is 6 for the month of December thus far with 4213 since the start of the illegal war.
Saturday, the Iraqi Parliament shot down the UK agreement (and "others" -- according to Reuters, presumably Australia, Romania, Estonia and El Salvador as well as NATO) stating that there should be a treaty and not merely a law passed. AP noted this weekend that Estonia has 40 troops in Iraq, El Salvador has 200, Romania has 501 and Australi has 1,000. Because the US refused to seek a renewal of the United Nations mandate (the US and their puppet), authorization for foreign troops on Iraqi soil ends December 31st unless a country has created its own relationship/treaty of some form with Iraq. So far, only the US has. The issue of the other countries was supposed to be raised again today; however, it remains in limbo. Al Jazeera reports "a row" took place today over a call for Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and the session was suspended as a special one was demanded to address al-Mahshadani. The issue revolves around last week when statements were made by the Speaker which indicated he was stepping down. From Wednesday's snapshot:
In Iraq, Catherine Philp (Times of London) explains, "Anger at Mr al-Zeidi's treatment erupted none the less, hijacking a legislative session in Parliament, provoking stand-up rows and prompting the resignation of the assembly's notoriously hot-tempered Speaker." She then quotes Mahmoud al-Mashhadani stating, "I have no honour leading this parliament and I announce my resignation." Al Jazeera observes that Muntadhar was one of several issues causing the uproar: "Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, Iraq's parliament speaker, has threatened to resign following house arguments concerning the presence of foreign troops and the imprisonment of a local journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush."
That was last week. Oliver August (Times of London) explains, "The process is further complicated by the uncertainty over when Parliament will resume. . . . Asked what would happen if no agreement was in place by December 31, John Hutton, the British Defence Secretary, said on Sunday: 'That would be a very serious situation and obviously we couldn't let it happen, but I don't think it will happen. We have contingency plans'." David Blair (Telegraph of London) observes, " The Government has played down the problems this may cause." Xinhua reports that a vote by the United Nations Security Council today was unanimous as they "voted on Monday to recognize the expiration of the mandate of the U.S.-led muntlinational force in Iraq (MNF-I) by the end of the year." We'll return to the UK in a moment but the journalist discussed last week in Parliament was, of course, Muntader al-Zaidi who threw two shoes at the Bully Boy of the United States two Sundays ago. He has been imprisoned since and, Friday, an Iraqi judge commented on the abuse Muntader had suffered while 'in custody.' Caesar Ahmed and Ned Parker (Bablyon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times) report that Mntader's family was finally allowed a visitation and his brother Uday states Muntader has "lost a tooth and his nose reqired stiches," that he he has cigarette burns and other signs of abuse. Uday al-Zaidi also states that his brother will never apologize to the Bully Boy and that the 'apology' to al-Maliki the press paraded last week was one "he was forced" to write. BBC reports Muntader's trial is set for December 31st. Xinhua adds that Muntader's head attorney, Diyaa al-Saadi has stated his client is currently charged with "aggression against a foreign head of state during an official visit" and that he hopes to have the charge reduced "because the act was an insult, not an aggression." Marie Colvin and Ali Rifat (Times of London) offer a profile of Muntader based on discussions with his brother Uday who states, "The war changed Muntathar's psyche as a result of the horrific scenes he saw, as well as the cruel tragedies, which led to the scene we all saw at the press conference." Support for the journalist remains strong. Sunday Campbell Robertson and Timothy Williams (The New York Times) reported a sit-in that began Friday "at a Baghdad park" saw 400 people turn out and remain despite Nouri al-Maliki launching a military response to a peaceful sit-in: "Heavily armed soldiers surrounded the small park, and Iraqi Army helicopters circled overhead as the demonstrators were told to leave."
Back to the UK. Brian Swint (Bloomberg News) notes a Sunday Telegraph of London column by "former U.K. military chief General Mike Jackson" that asserts the White House made decisions that harmed the war effort, "This volatile situation was much exacerbated by the security vacuum created by Washington's appalling decisions to disband the Iraqi security forces and to de-Baathify the public administration to a very low levels. These decisions may well have doubled the time it has taken to get to where we are now." Meanwhile the Bully Boy of the United States visited Walter Reed Army Medical Center today where, among other things, he presented Kyle Stipp with two Purple Hearts (click here for Eric Draper's photo) in front of an audience that included Stipp's wife Megan and his father Mitch and he presented Neal Boyd with a Purple Heart in front an audience that included Boyd's wife Joyce (click here for Eric Draper's photo). Bully Boy noted the visit "will probably be my last time coming here as the Commander-in-Chief." In what will strike many as a tone-deaf statement (for obvious reasons), Bully Boy declared, "You know, I oftentimes say being the Commander-in-Chief of the military is the thing I'll miss the most, and coming here to Walter Reed is a reminder of why I'll miss it." Not only was Walter Reed a scandal that plagued the administration repeatedly (expertly detailed by the reporting of the Washington Post's Dana Priest and Anne Hull) but the hospital patients are, of course, the wounded. Bully Boy is stating that, in commanding the military, what he has enjoyed the most is seeing the wounded coming back from the wars he sent them to.
In other news, Saturday Walter Pincus (Washington Post) covered a new report which finds a drop in the number of civilian deaths at the hands of mercenaries in Iraq for the year to date compared to the same period last year (1 this year so far, 72 in 2007): "Improved oversight of the contractors, through a number of changes in procedure, led to the sharp drop in incidents, the department's Middle East Regional Office reported. The State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security has assigned 45 additional special agents to Iraq, and one agent now accompanies most security movements. Cameras and recording equipment have been installed in security vehicles to record all motorcade movements and events, and all trips are tracked and monitored in real time by department personnel in a tactical operations center." The report was once marked "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED." Now red lines appear through that classification and through the paragraph quote above. The thirty-six page report (the last page is just "SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED" on the page twice and the second to last page is a PSA; the report ends with the "Panel Recommendation 15" section on page 36 which is the US Embassy in Iraq's response to the panel's recommendation) is entitled [PDF format warning] "Status of the Secretary of State's Panel on Personal Protective Services in Iraq Report Recommendations."
The US State Dept's Office of Inspector General has one (only one) permanent office not based in the US: the Middle East Regional Office. The State Dept notes, "MERO provides oversight of Department activities and of crisis and post-conflict areas, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries such as Pakistan, Lebanon, and Egypt. The staff conducts audits, program evaluation, and investigations of contracts and grants, contractor performance and procurement issues, as well as program management evaluations. Audits and program evaluations of embassies in the region include security and security assistance, provincial reconstruction teams, refugee assistance, anti-corruption, police training, and rule of law programs. OIG assessments also include the effectiveness of foreign assistance programs in Iraq and Afghanistan and other countries in the region. OIG established an investigative capability in the Middle East and participates in the International Contract Corruption Task Force to address financial fraud involving Department employees, projects, and funds in Iraq, Afghanistan, at other U.S. missions, and in other crisis/post-conflict areas in the region. OIG also provides proactive assistance to the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and stabilization through increased oversight of post-conflict and anti-corruption activities." This week MERO released the third report -- the one Pincus reported on. And, repeating, this third report wasn't originally intended to be widely released to the public as is noted on the front page of the report:
This report is intended solely for the official use of the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, or any agency or organization receiving a copy directly from the Office of Inspector General. No secondary distribution may be made, in whole or in part, outside the Department of State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors, by them or by other agencies or organizations, without prior authorization by the Inspector General. Public availability of th edoucment will be determined by the Inspector General under the US Code, 5 U.S.C. 552. Improper disclosure of this report may result in criminal, civil or administrative penalties.
Also on Saturday, the narrative imploded further on last week's 'big' story. A coup! Against al-Maliki! Multiple arrests to save Iraq!!!! Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) continued their steady probing of the story, "The case provided a window into the intense political differences in Iraq even among Shiite Muslims. Although some Shiite lawmakers and security commanders said they thought the accused men might have helped facilitate terrorist attacks, they rejected reports that the group had been hatching a coup attempt -- a grave worry among the ruling Shiite coalition. The arrests also raised fears among some lawmakers that the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki was using authoritarian tactics reminiscent of Hussein's regime to reinforce its power and thwart rivals." Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post) added, "Critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have described them as a move to gain an advantage ahead of next month's crucial provincial elections, which could alter Iraq's political balance of power. Maliki's aides have denied those accusations. The prime minister and his Dawa party are facing competition from other Shiite parties vying for influence in Iraq's predominantly Shiite oil-rich south. His rivals now include Bolani, an independent Shiite, who recently founded his own political party." Bolani is Jawad al-Bolani and Saturday Campbell Robertson and Tareq Maher (New York Times) quoted him stating of the arrests, "It's because of the competition of the provincial elections. It's just electoral propaganda, and taht's playing with fire." Today Robertson and Suadad al-Salhy report that the Interior Ministry has issued a statement that does not mention the coup but does note "the judge dismissed the charges and ordered the detainees released, but gave no further explanation. The status of the detainees, said by the ministry to number 24, remains unclear, though a ministry official said on Monday that they were still in custody."
Meanwhile Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reports some Iraqis are hoping that they will be able to use the treaty to prosecute US forces, "The security document protects American soldiers so long as they're on U.S. bases or on missions, so it's unlikely that the families can base their claims on it, though they plan to press their case with the help of international lawyers." The meaningless treaty, the same one that the US military declares today is allowing for "property transfers" and that "Coalition forces have returned more than 30 areas and facilities during the past six months to the GoI" [Government of Iraq].
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Mosul mortar attack claimed 1 life.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was injured in a Kirkuk shooting.
In other news The Women on the Web (wowOwow) have named "The 2008 wowOwow Lis of 20 Fabulous Female Firsts" which they summarize as, "Here's to Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, a four-star general and 18 other glass-ceiling-shattering women of 2008." Sample:
Hillary Rodham Clinton: As if you weren't aware, Hillary Rodham Clinton's the first woman listed as a presidential candidate in every primary and caucus around the country. We're sure she'll break even more records in the years ahead!
Sarah Palin: This self-proclaimed maverick shot straight out of Alaska's frontier this year to become the Republican Party's first female vice-presidential running mate. She didn't win, but Palin's now secured her spot as a household name.
Jeanne Shaheen: Shaheen may have thought her political career was over when she ended her six-year tenure as New Hampshire's governor in 2003, but this fierce lawmaker simply couldn't resist a senatorial run. And her win this year makes her the state's first female senator.
Lt. Gen. Ann Dunwoody: Ann Dunwoody joined the Army in 1975 with the intention of staying for only two years. Obviously she liked the experience, because this year she became our nation's first four-star female general. That's something we salute!
Click here for the full list. Feminist Wire covers Jerry Brown (California AG) calling for Proposition 8 to be invalidated -- this is the infamous measure that attempts to overturn the equal rights of all adults to marry in California and restrict marriage to male-female combos only.
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. Thursday'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.
Bacon's latest article is "Why The Union Won At Smithfield" (American Prospect) and we'll close with the opening:
When immigration agents raided Smithfield Food's huge North Carolina slaughterhouse two years ago, organizer Eduardo Peña compared the impact to a "nuclear bomb." The day after, people were so scared that most of the plant's 5,000 employees didn't show up for work. The lines where they kill and cut apart 32,000 hogs every day were motionless.
Yet on December 11, when the votes were counted in the same packing plant, 2,041 workers had voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) , while just 1,879 had voted against it. That stunning reversal set off celebrations in house trailers and ramshackle homes in Tarheel, Red Springs, Santa Paula, and all the tiny working class towns spread from Fayetteville down to the South Carolina border.
Relief and happiness are understandable in North Carolina, where union membership is the lowest in the country. But Smithfield workers were not just celebrating a vote count. They'd just defeated one of the longest, most bitter anti-union campaigns in modern U.S. labor history. Their victory was the product of an organizing strategy that accomplished what many have said that U.S. unions can no longer do - organize huge, privately-owned factories.