Wednesday, January 7, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, al-Sadr reportedly issues a call for violence, a US commander calls out the refusal of al-Maliki to fund reconstruction in Anbar, Iraq War veteran and war resister Kimberly Rivera is informed she's to be deported from Canada, and more.
Starting with the press. As Kat noted last night, incoming and outgoing White House occupants love their fake news. For some strange reason, people are looking the other way. Carol Marin (Chicago Sun-Times) explained Sunday that she and her colleagues in the press have been "[d]eferential, eager to please, prepared to keep a careful distance" and that at Barack's 'news' conferences, "The press corps, most of us, don't even bother raising our hands any more to ask questions because Obama always has before him a list of correspondents who've been advised they will be called upon that day." For those who've forgotten, the staged, fake 'news' conference has a direct relationship to the Iraq War.
"This is scripted," joked Bully Boy in the Mrach 6, 2003 press conference (link has text, audio and video) and it was one of the most pathetic performances by the press ever. It was so bad Saturday Night Live parodied it having Rachel Dratch play the dean of White House correspondents Helen Thomas trying to ask real questions and being prevented. "How can you justify bombing innocent Iraqis for oil" led to Helen being chlorformed and she gets hit with a poisoned dart when she points out, "Mr. President, you have not dealt with the main issue! You have yet to speak on the fact that half the people in this country do not want this war!" You can see the dart at NOW on PBS when that bit of the skit was played during David Brancaccio's profile January 16, 2004 of Helen Thomas. The New York Press offered, "After watching George W. Bush's press conference last Thursday night, I'm more convinced than ever: The entire White House press corps should be herded into a cargo plane, flown to an altitude of 30,000 feet, and pushed out, kicking and screaming, over the North Atlantic. . . . Abandoning the time-honored pretense of spontaneity, Bush chose the order of questioners not by scanning the room and picking out raised hands, but by looking down and reading from a predetermined list. Reporters, nonetheless, raised their hands in between questions -- as though hoping to suddenly catch the president's attention. In other words, not only were reporters going out of their way to make sure their softballs were pre-apporved, but they even went so far as to act on Bush's behalf, raising their hands and jockeying in their seats in order to better give the appearance of a spontaneous news conference."
That was an important moment and the PRESS FAILED. They failed in their jobs, they failed journalism, they failed the country and they failed democracy. Was it just too difficult of a moment for them?
The press that caves today and play-acts a 'news' conference for Barack before he's even sworn in is telegraphing that they will not stand up for a free press any more than they did during the last eight years. It is disgusting and it needs to be called. Barack also needs to be called out for his fraudulent practices. That is deceitful. And he's demonstrating that he is just as craven as his predecessor. The press wants to tie a bow around the Iraq War or -- more likely -- shove it in a Hefty trash bag and leave it out on the street, they want to insist they're done and the war is over. That is not reality but it will benefit a president who never technically promised to withdraw all US troops (expect Barack to get a lot of "It depends what your definition of 'is' is" jokes in two years) and has no plans to end the illegal war.
Staying with the responsibilities of the press, the US broadcast networks want to end their coverage from Iraq. Paul J. Gough (Hollywood Reporter) reports that ABC will hand-off day-to-day coverage for the American Broadcasting Company to the BBC, increasing the ties between the two in sharing coverage that began in 1994: "ABC News president David Westin announced the change Wednesday morning in Baghdad in an email to employees obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. He wrote in the email that Iraq would continue to be an important story for ABC News and 'we will devote all the resources necessary to do the story justice.' ABC hopes that the expanded partnership will free ABC News' resources from daily stories." When Brian Stelter (New York Times) reported on the move by ABC, CBS and NBC to pick up shop in Iraq and move their on-air correspondents to Afghanistan and Pakistan, he noted that a deal for BBC to pick up the slack for ABC might be in the offing but that no one was talking about that at the time. And we'll note this from article: "Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces."
From the December 18th snapshot: "The Committee to Protect Journalists released their end-of-year analysis today and 'the deadliest country in the world for the press' is . . . For the sixth year in a row, the 'honor' goes to Iraq". Yesterday the International News Safety Institute (INSI) released their numbers and they "counted 109 casualties in 36 countries" -- guess who came in first? Iraq with 16 deaths counted by INSI and they note, "A total of 252 news personnel, most of them Iraqi, have now died covering that conflict since the U.S.-led invasion of 2003."
Still on the issue of the press, but turning to Iraq's press. Alive in Baghdad wonders, "Iraq's Free Press?" in this week's report. Nabeel Kamal and Huda Muhammad explain at the start of the report, "Since Baghdad fell in April 2003, all manner of newspapers have become commonplace. Every opinion or issue has its own newspaper, and many Iraqis are wondering, is this what a free press looks like?" They then ask Iraqis, "What is the impact of these newspapers since 2003?"
Male Iraqi newspaper vendor on the street: There are good and bad, some were good for people, although most of their topics are taken from the internet or satellite TV, and most of the news is fake, most of the time their talk is irrational. It's hard to find in any of the daily newspapers something to educate people about elections, or cholera, or anything that helps people.
Iraqi Male #2: There were still four newspapers before the regime's fall, then there were more coming. I can say the number increased in a terrible way. It's "chaos." Chaos with unlimted freedom, and the difference was clear, due to the shortage of media.
One of the most specific critiques
Iraqi Male #3: We need opposition journalism, journalism that shows the truth. We need journalism to show the suffering of this population. I don't mean to keep talking about the bad things during the ex-regime, but also now there are many bad things, with any government's fall there are plenty of bad things that come to the surface or facilities that break down, so we need true journalism that can clarify the facts and show the destruction, the corruption that is happening, now we need this journalism to educate a new culture.
Their press fails them and refuses to provide the information they need. So democracy never took hold in Iraq but the US did manage to export its press system. Timothy Williams and Suadad al-Salhy (New York Times) note the upcoming provincial elections scheduled for January 31st, "Provincial councils are roughtly the equivalent of state legislatures in the United States, and the balloting for them is expected to correct underrepresentation in local governments among Sunni Arabs, particularly in areas where there has been heavy insurgent and sectarian violence, including Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala and Nineveh Provinces. Sunni Arabs largely boycotted the 2005 provincial elections." Provincial elections were declared a benchmark by the White House. As 2007 came and went without them, they began pretending otherwise. In September of 2007, Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "Largely gone from the president's speech Thursday was his January insistence that the Iraqi government meet 18 benchmarks and sort out its differences on the most divisive issues in Iraq. In January, the talk was tough: 'America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced,' Bush said then. 'I've made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act'." This was the so-called "New Way Forward" and it was quickly abandoned. Bully Boy will leave the White House this month and will do so before the January 31st elections are held (if they're held -- this is a puppet government that most recently called of New Year's Eve at the last minute -- damaging a local hotel industry that can't afford to absorb any more losses). The same month Bully Boy was suddenly ignoring the benchmarks (his 18 benchmarks), the US Government Accountability Office was reporting, "The government has not enacted legislation on de-Ba'athification, oil revenue sharing, provincial elections, amnesty, and militia disarmament." That's September 2007. Let's jump a year forward to the September 16, 2008 snapshot for that day's US House Committee on the Budget hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and this exchange is between US House Rep Lloyd Doggett and the GAO's Joseph A. Christoff:
Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir. And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again. You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year. We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.
Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.
Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.
Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before. Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything. Right?
Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that. On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?
Joseph Christoff: That's correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark. On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?
Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met. Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.
Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's an open --
Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.
Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it. Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.
Joseph Christoff: The commission was established. The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.
Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.
Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.
And even if the provincial elections take place January 31st, they will not be in all the provinces. Iraq has 18 provinces. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported in October, "Iraq's presidency council passed a critical law Wednesday to organize provincial elections that were originally scheduled for Oct. 1 and now are likely to be held sometime early next year. . . . Despite the law's stated deadline of Jan. 31 for elections in 17 of Iraq's 18 provinces, there may be a further postponement, according to the Independent High Electoral Commission." Not only will the January 31st elections not take place in Kirkuk, they also will not take place in Irbil, Dohuk or Suleimaniyya. Only 14 of the 18 provinces will be holding elections and, no, that's not meeting the benchmark even after Bully Boy is out of the White House. Andrea Stone (USA Today -- link has text by Stone and USA Today video by Stone adn Rene Alston) reminds, "And there is the threat of violence. Two candidates have been killed in the northern city of Mosul, including one who was gunned down in a cafe on New Year's Eve. Friday, a suicide bomber killed 23 people at a campaign event south of Baghdad."
The US House Committee on the Budget hearing noted earlier was exploring how very little the puppet government in Baghdad had spent. At that time it was expected/estimated by the GAO that Iraq's oil revenues for 2008 would be somewhere between $73 billion and $86 billion (the oil prices dropped significantly after that hearing). Mariam Karouny (Reuters) reported Monday that "Iraq earned about $60 billion from average crude oil sales of 1.85 million barrels per day (bpd) in 2008, a top Iraqi oil official said on Monday." Qatar's Gulf Times gives the figure as $60.9 billion and notes this is a 49% increase from the oil revenues the country brought in for 2007. Also on Monday, UPI reported, "Iraq's Oil Ministry has opened a new pre-qualification application process for firms that didn't pass the cut for the first round of oil and gas field bidding." Along with filling out papers, [PDF format warning] Iraq's Oil Ministry notes that each applicant must pay a $10,000 non-refundable fee ("USD or their equivalent in Iraqi Dinars"). And the never ending illegal war demands more and more money. Andrea Shalal-Esa, David Morgan and John O'Callaghan (Reuters) report, "U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has told members of Congress he believes the Pentagon will need another $69.7 billion to finance the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of the federal fiscal year." Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg News) examines the monies and notes that "Congress approved $171 billion in fiscal 2007 and $187 billion in fiscal 2008 to fund the war on terror. Costs in Iraq and Afghanistan alone in fiscal 2008 averaged $13.6 billion per month, $10.9 bill of that for Iraq". Newsday adds up the 2009 fiscal year totals: "Military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan would cost almost $136 billion for the 2009 budget year that began Oct. 1 if they continue at their current pace, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says. He told top lawmakers in a New Year's Eve letter that the Pentagon would need nearly $70 billion more to supplement the $66 billion approved last year."
Meanwhile the assault on Gaza continues. Iraqis have taken to the street to protest and officials statements have been issued. December 30th, the Kurdish Regional Government issued the following:
Unfortunately the recent events in the Gaza Strip have led to violence and war, resulting in the death of a large number of people and heavy damage to properties. This can only increase the humanitarian suffering on both sides and move us farther away from a just and lasting solution.
The Kurdistan Regional Government expresses its concern over the escalating violence and our sadness for the loss of life on all sides. We believe that dialogue and a commitment to peaceful negotiations are the only way to resolve these disputes and we hope that all parties will cease violence and open discussions on a cease-fire immediately.
The Foreign Ministry issued the following December 29th:
Foreign Ministry Condemns Israeli Brutal Aggression on Palestinians
The Foreign Ministry of the Republic of Iraq condemns the Israeli brutal attack against Palestinians that caused many civilian casualties. The act of the Israeli authorities is incompatible with basic international human law and human rights.
The Foreign Ministry calls for the United Nations, Arab League, other organizations and the International and Human institutes to stop this aggression. We call for the Palestinian parties to join forces with all good people in the world to protect the rights and interests of the Palestinians and enable them to practice their legal rights according to International Law.
And December 31st, they issued:
Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari "We Support any Effort Agreed by Arab States Concerning the Israeli Bombing"
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that Iraq supports any effort by Arab states on the Israeli shelling of areas in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas in a statement to Al-Jazeera on Saturday and that the Iraqi stance is with Arab solidarity and what the Arab countries agreed upon.
Today, AFP states Moqtada al-Sadr has declared that Americans in Iraq are targets as a result of the DC support for the assault on Gaza and they quote him stating, "I ask the Iraqi resistance to engage in revenge operations against the United States, the biggest partner of the Zionist enemy." Asked about the statement in a US State Dept press briefing today, spokesperson Robert Wood stated, "Well, I mean, obviously -- I mean -- any call for attacks against Americans is outrageous and, frankly, not worthy of much more comment. Look, what we're trying to do, as I've said and as Sean [McCormack] has said, is to try to see what we can do diplomatically to reach a long-term solution to this problem. And the Secretary [of State Condi Rice]'s been working very hard on this, others have been, and these types of efforts take time. They're not easy, obviously. And we're going to continue to work with our partners -- and the Secretary has got a full schedule of meetings -- as you can see -- and try to do what we can. But outside calls to attack Americans for what's going on in the region are outrageous." Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports, "A spokesman for the cleric said the words were not intended for all members of the Mahdi Army, a militia loyal to Hojatoleslam al-Sadr which has been turned into more of a social services network. Instead, he said, the call was to members of a special unit of fighters that has been maintained."
While al-Sadr reportedly issues that call, another warning comes from a US Maj Gen. Chelsea J. Carter (AP) interviews Marine Maj Gen John F. Kelly who states that the central government in Baghdad's refusal to spend reconstruction money in Anbar Province qualifies as, his words, "a mission failure." Kelly states, "What the Iraqi government in Baghdad should have done is said Anbar is getting peaceful, let's commit. It drives me to distraction. I would count it as a mission failure."
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a motorcycle bombing that wounded five people and, dropping back to yesterday, 2 Mosul roadside bombings which wounded four people.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul today and 1 yesterday.
Turning to legal news. Yesterday, the five Blackwater mercenaries charged in the September 16, 2007 Baghdad slaughter appeared in court and entered not guilty pleas. Del Quentin Wilber (Washington Post) reports, "The guards did not speak during their arraignment on 14 counts of voluntary manslaughter, 20 counts of attempting to commit manslaughter and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence. They will face a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years if convicted of the firearms charge." Jesse J. Holland (AP) reports the date set was January 29, 2010 and notes the five charged: "former Marines Donald Ball of West Valley City, Utah; Dustin Heard of Knoxville, Tenn.; Evan Liberty of Rochester, N.H.; and Army veterans Nick Slatten of Sparta, Tenn., and Paul Slough of Keller, Texas." James Risen (New York Times) teams the five appearing in court yesterday with former Blackwater mercenary Andrew J. Moonen whose attorney received a letter of the feds intent to charge him in the shooting death of Iraq's Shi'ite vice president bodyguard (the guard's name was Raheem Khalif). In addition, AP notes that US Sgt. John E. Hatley is being charged in the murders of 4 Iraqis and will face a court-martial and they note that war resister Kimberly Rivera has been ordered to leave Canada by January 27th ("unless the order is reversed"). Rivera is an Iraq War veteran and the mother of three including six week old Katie. Rivera, from the North Texas area originally, self-checked out and went to Canada with her husband and (then) two children. She has spoken out against the war to the Canadian press since February 2007. At her site, she explains, "I love my family and would do anything for them. I am a pasifist. I believe in the WAY! I am a activist. I do not condem, only one can do that. I know that people have the Will to change and are not inheratly bad as i use to think." Kimberly Rivera was the first female war resister to go public once in Canada.
Totally unrelated but Michael Yon covers Iraq and a recent article of his reports on his friend Aew who was visiting the US from Thailand and the stunts, intimidation and harassment 'Homeland' 'Security' put her through ("Mr. Knapp hides behind a badge bullying a woman whose only activities are Yoga, reading, travel, and telling me what is healthy and unhealthy to eat. Knapp is a face of Homealnd Security. How many other officers at Homeland Security bully 90-pound women, but are afraid to give their own names?"). And we'll go ahead and grab another Iraq topic that relates to security. US Senator Dianne Feinstein is doing her job and getting slammed for it. As Stan noted about Feinstein last night (not related to this topic), we have called her out loudly when we thought she was wrong or failing and we've tried to give her credit when she earned it. (Rebecca's 'miss diane girl-senator' is probably the best example of calling her out.) I know Feinstein very well and that didn't prevent me Monday from posting the information about the protest at her local office. I'll call her out to her face (and have) and will thank her to her face (and have). So this isn't my rushing to rescue someone I know (before the drive-by e-mails come in on that). I know Leon Panetta as well and have never had an ill word or thought about him. There is some hugely sexist coverage going on regarding Dianne Feinstein. Woman-hater Glen-Glen feels she's being 'petulant' and whenever he launches a sexist attack, everyone follows on the premise, "Well he's gay. He can't be sexist right?" Glen-Glen's a pig-pig. To be clear, I'm not referring to press reports like Karen DeYoung and Joby Warrick (Washington Post), I'm referring to the Bloggy Boize. Dianne Feinstein is a US Senator. She is the state's senior senator and she is now the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Before she's next trashed in sexist terms, someone might want to stop a moment and grasp that the Senate will confirm the next head of the CIA and if another 9-11 takes place on US soil, the American people will want answers. A position like that must be vetted.
Dianne is doing her job. By contrast, Ron Wyden (who thought he'd be president this time in 2006 -- seriously, he really believed that stood a chance of happening) is an idiot. The Post quotes him stating, "Obama trusts [Panetta] -- that's a huge plus"! Really? Okay, Ron, if there's another 9-11 and you're asked to justify your support for Panetta, remember your response was "Obama trusts him!" Presumably, Barack trusts everyone he plans to nominate -- even those that may have withdrawn their names. If that's the criteria for judging whether or not someone's qualified, why do we need the Senate to confirm any of these appointments.
You better believe, and Dianne knows this, if October 3, 2009, there is an attack on US soil, the questions will immediately go to, "Who was in charge of the intelligence?" If it's Panetta, the immediate follow up will be, "His resume showed no background in intelligence. Why did Barack pick him and why did the Senate confirm him?" And there may be answers to both of those last questions. Valid answers -- not Wyden's Barack-trusts-him! -- and those will come out in the confirmation hearing. (My own personal belief is the CIA should be disbanded.) Feinstein is the chair of the committee. On her shoulders rest the bulk of the responsibility for vetting the nominee. She takes that responsibility very seriously. There is nothing in her public remarks to justify the sexist attacks (and, yes, they are sexist, especially when they portray her as a woman scorned and forget to note, oh, yeah, Jay Rockefeller -- the outgoing chair -- was also surprised the transition team did not approach the committee beforehand). Here is Dianne Feinstein's public statement in full:
I have been contacted by both President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden, and they have explained to me the reasons why they believe Leon Panetta is the best candidate for CIA Director. I look forward to speaking with Mr. Panetta about the critical issues facing the intelligence community and his plans to address them.
Feinstein can be criticized, she can be called out. People should be calling out her backing of Dennis Blair. But in terms of the Leon Panetta, she is doing her job and it's amazing that Glen-Glen and the others are, in effect, slamming her for doing her job. On war monger Blair, see ETAN or click here. Feinstein is also correct about Senator Roland Burris. wowOwow (The Women on the Web) quotes Feinstein stating yesterday, "Does the governor [Rod Blagojevich] have the power, under law, to make the appointment? And the answer is yes . . . If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America. Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been attorney general, he has been controller and he is very well respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has been the one blocking Senator Burris from being seated. Reid has repeatedly urged the appointments of White people to Senate posts such as Caroline Kennedy and Tammy Duckworth. Ruben Navarrette Jr. (San Diego Union-Tribune via San Jose Mercury News) points out, "Maybe we should broaden the criteria a bit. Let's say that, if you scheme to put your own interests above the interests of a particular racial group relying on racist assumptions about who is electable so the end result is that you exclude members of that racial group, then some might call you a racist. With that as the standard, Reid might have a shot at the title. The Senate majority leader should face facts, seat Roland Burris and salvage what's left of his reputation." The White sheet clad Harry Reid is still stating that Burris will not be seated unless Illinois Secretary of State signs off on Blagojevich's paperwork. Reid asked Jesse White not to sing off on it. And Wendell Hutson (Chicago Defender) reports, "Attorney General Lisa Madigan, acting on behalf of Secretary of State Jesse White, filed a motion with the state Supreme Court that not only said White still would not sign a certification form, as required by the U.S. Senate Rules Committee, but that there is no legal basis to force him to do so." That's a cute little shell game Harry's got going. Tell the state's Sec of State not to sign off on the paperwork, then say you won't seat Burris unless the Sec of State signs the paper. Now the State's AG is declaring, 'That sign-offs, that's US Senate rules! We don't have to follow them!' UPI reports that Barack sent signals today that "the Senate will seat former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris as the junior senator from Illinois."
the new york times