Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, December 31, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, hype passes for hope and neither are realistic, and more.
Today the US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died, Dec. 31, in Balad, Iraq from injuries sustained during combat operations, Dec. 30."  And they announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died from wounds sustained during a mortar attack in Baghdad Dec. 31."  The announcements bring the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4221.  The toll for the month thus far is 14.  You could say, "The death toll so far is the same as the media reported for October" but . . .  14 was the October death toll; however, the media rushed to insist it was 13. So it'll be cute to see if anyone references the October death toll in their reporting and, if so, how they do it.  If your outlet reported 13 and never corrected it, you're really pushing it to just say, "The same number as in October."  13 was the death toll for July -- the lowest monthly death toll for 2008.
Speaking of bad reporting . . . The Philadelphia Inquirer's Trudy Rubin wrote a laughable column (another one) that was published in the US on Christmas Eve and was published Monday in Taiwan.  Trudy sees "signs of change on the streets of Baghdad" but, silly fool, she also believes that the US treaty with the puppet government in Baghdad will be followed.  There are puppets in Baghdad smarter than Trudes.  Where to start?
The "US Troops Withdrawal Agreement" is what the treaty was called by al-Maliki and what foolish idiots believed it was.  It was no such thing.  The treaty was needed to grant another one-year extension.  The United Nations' Security Council could have extended the mandate for a year but the White House didn't want that.  (Nor did al-Maliki who had -- two years in a row -- already gone around Parliament to get the mandate extended twice.) The treaty needed to cover a year.  When the US began addressing it (in 2007), they frequently spoke of that reality.  Trudy (and Patrick Cockburn) must have been sleeping.  2009 is the only year that both sides have to follow.  2010 can find the contract altered or cancelled.  The same with 2011.  In 2010, both parties may choose to replace it with a new treaty.  It is a one-year contract with two options for renewal. 
In mid-November, al-Maliki took to Iraq TV (state TV) to declare, "The pact stipulates that U.S. troops are to withdraw from cities and towns by June 30, 2009.  And it is a deadline that will not be extended.  It also says that [the US] should withdraw from Iraqi land, water and air space by January 1, 2011 -- which is a deadline that will not be extended."  That was back when he was calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement."
Nouri and Bully Boy were shoulder-to-shoulder recently.  Remember that?  At al-Maliki's palace?  Maybe people forget because the one-shoe, two-shoe incident attracted so much attention?  But check the transcript at the White House and see what al-Maliki's calling it?  Is he calling it the "US Withdrawal Agreement"?  No.  He's using the same term the White House did "SOFA" -- Status Of Forces Agreement.  It's not a withdrawal agreement.  And at the December 20th Green Zone press conference, Iraqi Maj Gen Qassim Atta called the treaty the "US Withdrawal Agreement"?  No.  He referred to the June 2009 'withdrawal' as being "according to what's been said during -- the agreements, an agreement, the security agreement". 
The US Withdrawal Agreement was just a brand al-Maliki slapped on it in November when he was attempting to pressure Parliament to vote for it.  Since then, that 'term' is no longer used, not even by al-Maliki.  Now let's deal with the June claim Trudy's pimping.  From the December 22nd snapshot:
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."
So that means we've taken care of The Trudys and their "withdraw from major cities in June!" nonsense.  (And it's already been learned that even the private contractors/mercenaries clause may not stand.)  With the well known history of US treaties, you really had to be naive to think it would work out any differently.  Naive or a liar.
So let's back up to this 'safer' claim.  The same  December 20th Green Zone press conference found Maj Gen Atta expounding on what's in store for the coming year: "The year of 2009 is going to witness a lot more coordination between Baghdad Amanat and the BOC and also the traffic police to reopen all the closed roads and streets and to also lift or remove all the concrete barries or security barriers, and [. . . .]"  Really?  And the security's going to hold?  Hmmm.  It's very likely that some of the news outlets pulling reporters from Iraq and sending them to Afghanistan may have to alter those plans at some point in the new year.
Meanwhile Campbell Robertson (New York Times) reports on some things that actually are planned to happen. On January 1st, warrants will be needed. Arrest warrants and detention warrants. The former must be received before arrests, the latter can be granted as late as 24 hours after a detention. So, Robertson explains, the US military is doing the house-to-house searches and other activities they can still do before the January 1st date when they will (may)be required to consult the Iraqi judiciary.

Robertson notes that Company C of the "First Battalion [,35th Armor Regiment] has been trying to complete missions, like general house-to-house searches, that will soon become far more complicated, if not impossible" but, this month, as they were attempting to gather the backing that they hoped would result in a warrant being issued in January on one suspect, they came across him and "did what they had been doing freely for nearly six years: they detained him on the spot."

"(may)be"? As Capt Lloyd B. Osafo points out in the article, "Who knows if the Iraqis are going to follow all of this to a T? That's my personal opinion about all of this: who knows?" And the doubt is only increased by Iraqi Maj Hasson S. Hussein al-Zoubadi whining about how the Iraqi military will now have to follow these new rules. Robertson points out, "Actually, the agreement changes almost nothing for the Iraqi security forces: they are supposed to have been operating under the warrant-based system since 2007." When they haven't been it backs up Osafo's opinion.
Also expected in the new year is the holding of provincial elections.  They are scheduled for January 31st and Maj Gen Atta was talking them up in the December 20th press conference as well.  Missy Ryan and Andrew Dobbie (Reuters) report Mowaffaq al-Hamdani was shot dead in a Mosul cafe today and that al-Hamdani was "a candidate for the Sunni Arab party Iraq for Us".  Following the shooting, police pursued the killers and 1 police officer was shot dead while another was injured.  The reporters note, "The results of the vote, which will choose provincial council leaders in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, will set the tone for parliamentary elections due at the end of 2009.  The government of Nineveh province, where Mosul is located, has been in the hands of minority Kurds since many of the Sunni Arab majority boycotted the last provincial elections in 2005."
Turning to some of today's other reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing that followed another bombing (apparently the first was to draw people in for the second bombing) that left 4 dead and seven people wounded while a Sinjar car bombing claimed 5 lives and left forty-five wounded.
Reuters drops back to Tuesday to note 1 corpse discovered in Mosul and another just outside of Mosul.
CBS and AP note that New Year's Eve is being celebrated around the world.  But not in the allegedly 90% democracy Iraq, Sam Dagher  (New York Times) reports that Baghdad residents will not be allowed to celebrate the New Year tonight. It's been outlawed.Dagher  explains that hotels and clubs have been ordered to close down (and cancel reservations). Why? Shi'ites have a holiday. Remember the back-patting al-Maliki just received last week? "Christmas is a legal holiday in Iraq for the first time ever!" was what the headlines screamed at many outlets. Murharram is going on! All must be placed on hold for this Shi'ite religious period (Shi'ite but not Sunni).
Turning to US politics.  Roland Burris has been appointed to the US Senate by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich is governor and the state constitution gives him the right to appoint the replacement for Barack Obama who has left the Senate for the White House.

The Illinois legislature has already taken the issue of Blagojevich to the state court and the court took a pass. The legislature had it in their power to impeach Rod Blagojevich and still might. However, they have yet to impeach him.

He has appointed Burris. That appointment can't legally be overturned. And though the Illinois Secretary of State insists he will not confirm Burris, that's not really allowed in the state constitution.  The Secretary is not allowed to override a governor's choice.  Those egging the SoS on should be ashamed because they're applauding the subversion of the law. 

On the front page of today's New York Times, Monica Davey offers up "Defiant Illinois Governor Names Pick for Obama Seat" which includes an offensive statement:

The choice of Mr. Burris immediately injected the issue of race into the appointment process, which may very well have been party of the governor's calculation. Representative Bobby L. Rush, Democrat of Illinois, who was called to the lectern at the news conference by Mr. Burris said he did not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate."

The offensive statement is Davey's first one and we'll be using "Black" and not African-American in this entry, just FYI.

Barack Obama is a person of color, he is bi-racial. He was the person holding the seat. Of course a person of color should have been considered to replace Barack. More importantly, appointments have often been a traditional road to address disenfranchisement. What's especially offensive about Davey's sentence is that she writes for the New York Times. New York which has their first Black governor, David Paterson. And they may have Hillary's Senate seat up for grabs but no one at Davey's paper has advocated for the governor to appoint a person of color to the Senate seat should Hillary become the next Secretary of State. Not only has the paper refused to advocate for it, they haven't even suggested it. (Marcia has raised the issue here and she's noted a qualified woman of color here.)

Blagojevich may or may not be innocent. The courts will decide that. But the state legislature could have removed him if they had the votes and the will to do so. They did not. His powers include naming a replacement senator. If they didn't want him to do so, they should have impeached him (or at least tried).

Blagojevich has exercised his powers and named the new US Senator from Illinois: Roland Burris. It is too late now and no loophole should give the legislature a second chance. They have had weeks and weeks to take action and they haven't done so. Too bad if they don't like the results.

Shouldn't have dragged their feet.

Talk of not seating Burris is offensive. The Times offers Carl Hulse's "Democrats Seek to Black Appointee to Obama's Seat, but Authority Is in Question" which addresses the disgraceful efforts now with Burris and in 1969 with Adam Clayton Powell. It really doesn't matter what Harry Reid thinks he wants, he is not the governor of the Illinois. Rod Blagojevich is and he acted within his (state) constitutional duties in appointing Burris who is qualified. The US Senate is being offensive with their threats and their claims now that they'd do this with anyone appointed by Blagojevich. No they wouldn't. And they probably won't be able to do it with Burris. The only thing that could have stopped the appointment was for the governor to be impeached. The legislature didn't do that.

Roland Burris is Black. And if they're going to try to deny him his Senate seat -- which he was legally appointed to -- they are going to look very offensive and very racist. Barack Obama -- bi-racial -- has already issued a statement saying Burris shouldn't be seated. A bi-racial man with all the breaks, spoiled from youth and barely out of his youth, wants to deny a Black man who took part in the Civil Rights struggle of the sixties? He wants to deny a Howard University graduate? He better check himself real quick because this will not play well and someone better remind Barack that racism allows him to be considered "Black" but that's a day pass, a temporary one, and it can be pulled at any point. Attempting to deny Roland Burris a seat in the US Senate could result in some of the most pointed criticism Barack's yet to receive.

Roland Burris will be only the fifth Black person to become a US Senator. Hiram Revels was the first (1870, from Mississippi), Blanche K. Bruce (1874, Mississippi),
Edward Brooke (1967 - 1979, Massachusetts) and Carol Moseley Braun, the first Black woman elected to the US Senate (1993-1999).

Barack is bi-racial, he is not Black. (That's why we're using "Black" and not "African-American" for this entry.) Burris would be the fifth Black US Senator. And someone thinks he can be denied just because they're all huffy over Rod Blagojevich?

What Blagojevich did was legal and within his rights. Efforts to deny Roland W. Burris his Senate seat will be seen as racism due to the historical pattern.

Trivia note, like Burris, Edward Brooke was a Howard University alumni.

Andrew Malcom's blog post "Inside Blagojevich's bold, brash &*%$^# pick to replace Obama" (Los Angeles Times' Top of the Ticket) does a better job than Davey's overly long article in addressing some of the realities involved. As Mike wrote last night, "I hope he does well by his state and its citizens and I say, 'Congratulations, Senator Burris'."

Disclosure: I've known Bobby Rush for years (and years). The only participant in this (that I'm aware of) whom I know. (I don't know Burris, I don't know Blagojevich.)
Barack remains in the news despite his tropical vacation.  While he vacations, Gaza is under assault.  Rebecca has been following that and noted last night Cynthia McKinney joined doctors and human rights activits on the Dignity to take medical supplies and help to the Palestinians however the ship was attacked by the Israeli navy.  Black Agenda Report  points out:
President-Elect Obama has been silent on the Israeli attacks, while President George Bush has supported Israel's actions.
"I would like to ask my former colleagues in the United States Congress to stop sending weapons of mass destruction around the world," said McKinney, who was the Green Party's presidential candidate in November. "As we are about to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, let us remember what he said. He said that the United States is the greatest purveyor of violence on the planet. And guess what: we experienced a little bit of that violence, because the weapons that are being used by Israel are weapons that were supplied by the United States government."
Vacationing Barack also remains dogged by the controversy he created when he invited homophobe Rick Warren to preside as some sort of anti-gay activist at the inauguration.  Margaret Kimberly (Black Agenda Report) observes:
Obama has been courting Warren and other conservative evangelicals for some time. In June of 2006 Obama gave a speech that purported to show Democrats how to reach out to religious voters. At that time he had not yet officially declared himself a presidential candidate, but he very clearly showed his strategic hand and his political plans. He smeared religious progressives by saying that they didn't even exist and he smeared all progressives by claiming that they were hostile to religion. The much talked about speech consisted of one right wing talking point after another.   
The Warren invitation is vintage Obama. Like Bush, Obama believes that he is the decider and that opinions differing from his own are to be ignored. Unlike Bush, he is savvy enough to pretend otherwise, and his smooth talking feel goodism fools many into maintaining a vow of silence about anything he does. The Warren invitation is yet another instance of the patronizing Obama telling the left that they shouldn't worry their pretty little
I wrote about the Warren thing when it broke, and noted at the time that -- ahem -- there's a hell of a lot more wrong with the guy than just the gay marriage thing. But who am I kidding? Women's rights don't matter. My Google news feed is full of articles and editorials on how Warren's presence at the Inauguration is an insult to right-thinking liberals everywhere -- but only because of his homophobia. There is no mention of the sexism. Thinking that women are born-to-obey is fine, apparently, but the anti-gay thing is just beyond the pale. Golly, Richard Cohen's sister even canceled her Inauguration party.
And you know what? Homophobia is awful. It's ugly primitive bigotry. Kind of like racism, which is also awful. Ridiculous to think that skin color or sexual orientation makes some humans inferior to other humans.     
But sexism? Thinking women are inferior? Even preaching that women were put on earth to serve men? Eh. Whatever. Different strokes.         
Forty years after the Second Wave started, and we're still at the back of the bus.
Socks' point is valid but it also needs to be noted that homophobia effects women.  It effects women who are lesbians, it effects women targeted for being or suspected of being lesbians.  It effects women with LGBT friends and family members and Richard Cohen's sister is a lesbian which is why he emphasized the homophobia when writing of his sister's decision to cancel a planned party to celebrate president-elect Barack's inauguration
"2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary -- went up yesterday and Ruth's "Ruth's 2008 Public Radio Report" went up today.