Friday, January 9, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US did not follow Geneva in Iraq, the puppet government attempts to impose 'conditions' on reporters, KBR and Halliburton find that a spotlight comes with greed, and more.
You Just Need a Dilettante To Know Which Way The Wind Blows. And Tom Hayden is one -- a greying, dottering one, but a dilettante none the less. At ZNet (link provided so you can visit the scene of his crime), Tommy list a series of wants: "our new president to succeed, restore hope, and launch a new New Deal at home, not to be distracted by a quagmire abroad." Tom, you are now as officially nutty as Leslie Cagan and both of you should exit stage right immediately. These are not the voices of peace, these are the hormonally charged teenagers trying to figure out why their panties and briefs get damp when Barack walks by (as outlined in the year in review). Where in Tom's 'noble' laundry list do you see the least bit of concern for Iraqis? Poor Iraqis, Tom's all out of hope for them.
This is not a voice of peace, it's the sound of a suck-up who's finally spent the bulk of his divorce settlement (we always said, "Give it time, it will happen."). And Tom's no longer interested in Iraq. You get that from his praise for Dexter Filkins (the Falluja liar Dexy). You get that from his 'judgment' (don't bring up his record when it comes to judgments, we'll all be laughing for days and never get a thing accomplished). His judgment is that Iraq War is, so, like, totally over, you know, and all the way cool kids are sporting Afghanistan these days. Tom-Tom writes, "The conditions for a massive social movement against the Iraq War are ebbing, for now, unless large-scale fighting suddenly resumes or President Obama unexpectedly caves in to the Pentagon and blatantly breaks his promise to withdraw combat troops in 16 months and all troops by 2011." Poor Tom-Tom, he always rushed-rushed. In all areas of life. And now Tom-Tom ditches Iraq to move over to talking about Afghanistan because he's so very sure it's the next great frontier for the Barack Obama Movement. Not for the peace movement, mind you. And what's with 16-months, Tommy? I certainly haven't forgotten when you took one line of Barack's from that absurd Houston, Texas speech and insisted (in a full column -- fool column?) that Barack needed your votes now (more than ever!) because he'd just offered a new 'plan' -- Withdrawal in 10 months! Remember that? "In his victory speech in Texas Tuesday, Barack Obama promised to end the Iraq war in 2009, a new committment that parallels recent [gas baggery] in The Nation." Remember those words?
He's lied for so long and lied so much, he can't even keep it straight anymore. He's honestly as manic as he was when he was rightly kicked out of the commune. And that's only more obvious when he decides he wants to 'comfort' readers with his opinion that Iraq will now be "a low-visibility counterinsurgency war like those that ravaged Central America in the 1970s." And that, apparently, requires no protest and doesn't disturb Tom Hayden. Poor Iraq War, someone should have told you that Tom-Tom loses interrest in causes as quickly as he does women.
Thanks for playing Tom. Go form a B-O circle jerk with Leslie Cagan. The two of you can argue over whether it's better to stare at the seat of Barack's pants or that really tight crotch. And use the link to laugh. I haven't laughed so hard since his August piece ("Dreams of Obama") where he used his children as accessories to shore up his faltering image but, somehow, forgot his adopted daughter. Was no one supposed to notice? Can we all expect 2009 to bring a Tommy Dearest page turner? Apparently everyone was too busy dropping their jaws at his slur against bi-racial children in that column to notice how quickly he disappeared family. As quickly as he tries today to disappear Iraq.
The Old Sell-Out can't be counted on but thank goodness we have an 'independent' media, right? No, we have a Panhandle Media and somehow FAIR forgot to call out the little stunt taking place January 20th -- see Third Sunday for more on that.
Instead we'll drop back to November 28th when Amnesy International issued this warning, "Thousands of Iraqis detained by US forces are at risk of torture or even execution, following the ratification of a security agreement between the US and Iraqi governments. Under the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which will take effect on 31 December, around 16,000 prisoners held by the US will be transferred to Iraqi custody. Those at particular risk . . ." We'll stop right there. No need to worry because those prisoners will remain US prisoners. They are not being transitioned. Yes, the treaty supposedly guaranteed the handover but no one was foolish enough to fall for the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement, right? Oh, some did. Anyway, Peter Graff, Ahmed Rasheed, Khalid al-Ansary and Jon Boyle (Reuters) report, "Some prisoners held indefinitely without charge by US forces in Iraq may not be freed or given trials, even though U.S. forces lost the authority to hold them at the beginning of this year, a U.S. military spokesman said. . . U.S. forces are holding 15,000 prisoners, most of whom have been detained without charge under the authority of a U.N. Security Council resolution which expired on Dec. 31."
Earlier this week (Tuesday), US House Rep John Conyers, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the "National Commission on Presidential War Power and Civil Liberties" with Jerry Nadler, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Bill Delahunt and Eddie Bernice Johnson among the co-sponsors. The bill argues for the establishment of "a Blue Ribbon Commission comprised of experts outsdie government service to investigate the broad range of policies of the Bush adminstration that were undertaken by the Bush administration under claims of unreviewable war powers." Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Patrick Leahy, released three documents [PDF format warning] from the Office of legal Counsel -- one on the White House authority to use force against Iraq, a second on the UN Security Council from November 8, 2002 and a third entitled "Re: 'Protected Persons' in Occupied Iraq" (March 18, 2004) which is the one we're focusing on.
This memo (25 pages plus Appendix) was written by then Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith. The lie the White House repeated was that Geneva didn't apply to Afghanstian (legally, it should have applied) but Iraq was a war and they were following the Geneva Conventions. That was a lie. They were selectively following it. Goldsmith found, W"e conclude that the following persons, if captured in occupied Iraq, are not 'protected persons' within the meaning of GC article 4: U.S. nationals, nationals of a State not bound by the Convention, nationals of a co-belligerent State, and operatives of the al Qaeda terrorist organization who are not Iraqi nationals or permanent residents of Iraq." The White House honored Geneva selectively. They lied to the American people yet again. Equally disturbing is the legal opinion including pages 22 through 24 where the conditions arguing for the protection of members of a resistance movement are selectively noted by Goldsmith who attempts to impose limitations via revisionary history. Acknowledging the need for resistance against the Nazis, he does allow Geneve would protect Germans but, by his argument, members of the resistance in Germany or Poland who were French would not be protected. The Nazis were not limited to Germany and the resistance movement against the Nazis was an European movement -- a fact Goldsmith is either ignorant of or pretends to be. It's an appalling and shoddy legal opinion. He distorts or selectively ignores historical facts and when you're dealing with the Holocaust, that is especially offensive. This is a glimpse at just how sick the 'minds' at work in the current White House were.
So along with the approximately 16,000 prisoners the US was holding in Iraq that Amensty International was aware of, there are who knows how many others captured in Iraq and taken elsewhere? And, no, the expiration of the UN Security Council mandate does not mean that any of them are now turned over to the Iraqi puppet government.
Staying with legal news and also outrageous, KBR and Halliburton have found new scapegoats for their failures. Laurel Brubaker Calkins and Margaret Cronin Fisk (Bloomberg News) report that the two giant corporations who have made billions in Iraq have decided that the an attack on a KBR truck in 2004 was not due to lack of security provided by the mega-rich corporations, the attack -- resulting in deaths and injuries -- was the fault of "the U.S. Army and Iraqi terrorists". A new low -- even for KBR and Halliburton. Not only is that so grossly insulting to the US service members, the hypothesis can't even hold up under its own weight. Let's throw logic and propriety out the window long enough to not object to the assertion that the US Army failed KBR and deaths and injuries were their fault. How do you lump 'terrorists' in there as well? So the way their little hypothesis works is that the US Army should have provided even more protection and, pay attention, so should terrorists. KBR and Halliburton wanted to make a quick buck on the cheap and risked human lives in order to do so.
The US military had to protect KBR and that wasn't fair to them. When the KBR trucks would have a flat, get stuck or whatever, KBR employees would be able to leave the scene. The US service members would have to stay with the trucks, like sitting ducks. And as Kelly Dougherty (IVAW) has explained repeatedly, they would wait and wait and then finally be told to destroy the trucks and any cargo on it. Which would frequently anger the local populations. In March of last year, Iraq Veterans Against the War held their Winter Soldier Investigation. KPFA carried the hearings live for the bulk of the four days and Aaron Glantz and Aimee Allison were the on air moderators. One of the ways to hear the audio of the hearings is to go to Glatnz' War Comes Home site. [Allison is co-host of the station's The Morning Show and co-author with David Solnit of Army Of None.] March 14th was the first day of panels (the previous day was the opening of the hearings) and one of the afternoon panels was on corruption and war profiteering. Appearing on that panel was Doughtery and we'll note this from the March 14, 2008 snapshot:
KBR was the focus of Kelly Dougherty's testimony. She discussed how she and others serving in Iraq assigned to protect convoys were repeatedly put at risk when a KBR vehicle broke down, how they were told it was an asset to be protected even if that meant killing someone and then they would be told to forget it, to destroy the vehicle and move out. Iraqis desperate for fuel or the contents of the truck were not a concern and, if pressed, the US military command would instruct service members that distributing something in the trucks (before destroying them) could cause a riot. All of which goes to Doughtery's statement of Iraqis, "I'm looking at people I can't even look in the eye." Moving to Kuwait after serving in Iraq and while waiting to be sent back homes, service members were living in a KBR tent city. Doughtery explained, "When we were leaving . . . we were put in these tent cities. Our tents were completely covered with mold on the inside." The tents had bunk beds and not cots so service members were not allowed to (as some wanted) sleep outside the tents to avoid what appeared to be Black Mold. Instead, they suffered from respitory infections. Dougherty noted "this living condition where we couldn't even be in the place were we were supposed to live without getting sick." KBR made a big profit of the illegal war. KBR provided the troops with tents that made them sick. Where's the audit on that?
They were dealing with KBR trucks -- which were worth about $80,000, chump change to KBR. You may remember the stories of contractors abandoning trucks and cars and the cost for new ones (usually on a cost-plus contract) being passed back on to you and me the tax payers.
Doughtery noted that KBR's trucks "would break down a lot, would get in accidents a lot." They'd stop for flat tries or because they got stuck in the mud,things like that as well. The drivers were treated horribly by KBR and were from countries such as Pakistan, India, etc.
The truck would break down, the driver would hop out of the truck and get a ride with someone else in the convoy and the MPs would be called in to secure the abandoned trucks.
Doughtery explained, "For us as miltary police, we're told when we get into Iraq and when we're getting on these convoy missions" that KBR's trucks are United States assets and "need to be protected, with force, with deadly force if necessary."
The drill was always the same: secure the trucks and wait. Then came the call that they couldn't find anyone to come get the trucks so they should just leave it.
That didn't mean, "Hop in your vehicles and leave!"
That meant disable the vehicles (fire grenades into the engine blocks) and destroy whatever cargo it had. That meant setting fuel on fire in front of Iraqis who had no fuel. That meant burning produce in front of Iraqis who were hungry. That meant destroying a brand new ambulance in an area that had none and really needed one. Doughtery explained that even the local sheiks were out on the last one, trying to convince US soldiers that if they would leave the ambulance alone, they (Iraqis) would figure out how to get it off its side and out of the mud.
"That was pretty much a daily occurence," said Dougherty. "Where we were abandoning vehicles by KBR contractors on a daily basis."
And KBR and Halliburton have the nerve today to blame the US service members? KBR's always in the news. Julie Sullivan (The Oregonian) reports that there are now 48 ("at least 48) soldiers in Oregon who were "assigned to protect contractors rebuilding a water treatment plant near Iraqi oil fields in 2003 [who] were exposed to hexavalent chronicum" which is risk factor for lung cancer. (It most likely causes lung cancer. Everyone's being careful with their words.) Sullivan notes, "Concern for Oregon soldiers was first raised by Lt. Col. B.J. Prendergast, who served as executive officer of the 1st Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment in Iraq in 2003. His soldiers had already been reassigned when he saw a command e-mail alert about the exposure. He immediately demanded an occupational health assessment for the troops. They were evaluated in Kuwait, and their history was noted in post-deployment reports at Fort Lewis, Wash. No blood or urine tests were conducted." And Laura Strickler (CBS News) reports that "the Senate Armed Services Committee has requested a new investigation into the multi-billion dollar military contractor Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR). The investigation request is based on accusations from a retired Army official who managed the contractor's work in Iraq."
Today puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki made a statement. Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reports that at police ceremony, al-Maliki declared, "Frankly, before there was no confidence (in the police) because of (militia) infiltrations, but great efforts have ended these and closed the doors to those who infiltrated. . . . We changed the police from a broken apparatus, based on sectarianism . . . into a coherent, professional one." Well, he says so anyway. There's no check on his decree. At the start of November, the big story was that the "Awakening" Councils had been turned over to Iraqi control (and that Iraq was picking up their salaries). That wasn't the case either. Today David Axe (Wired) reports on the continued handover of the "Awakening" Councils -- still not completed and will go through at least next month as well. The hopes by many were that they would be absorbed by the Iraqi police. ("Many" is both "Awakening" Council members and US commanders in Iraq.) al-Maliki has seen these thugs as a threat to his control after having staffed so many ranks with his own sectarian thugs and has made clear he does not trust the bulk of the "Awakeing" members on the polic force. Axe notes that the "Daughters of Iraq" number "roughtly 800" and were turned over to the central government already. Also today demonstrations took place in Baghdad against the continued assault on Gaza. AFP reports approximately 2,000 supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr demonstrated against the assault. al-Sadr's call for retaliation attacks in Iraq against the US was repeated by a spokesperson who read his statements.
Meanwhile the violence continued today. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left six wounded, a Kirkuk roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi service member and left two more wounded and, dropping back to Thursday night, a Basra rocket attack that left "at least 20 wounded civilians" requiring medical attention at Al Fayhaa Hospital. Reuters notes a Baiji roadside bombing today that claimed the lives of 5 Iraqi service members and 3 Basra rocket attacks today that left four wounded. A total of 6 Iraqi soldiers have been reported dead from bombings today. Yesterday's roadside bombings killed 8 Iraqi soldiers. Timothy Williams (New York Times) draws a connection between yesterday's bombings and the upcoming provincial elections in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, "Although the majority of Diyala's population is Sunni, the provincial council is dominated by Shiites because Sunnis boycotted local elections in 2005. But as new provincial elections, scheduled for Jan. 31, are approaching, tensions between Sunnis and Shiites have increased."
The United Nations has warned for months that violence would increase as provincial elections approached. At the start of this month, Staffan de Mistura, UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, condemned the assassination of candidate Mowaffaq al-Hamdani as "the worst kind of election violence. . . . Campaign violence in Iraq must not be allowed to intimidate candidates or interfere with the right of every Iraqi to exercise their vote on 31 January." At the start of the month, the Independent High Electoral Commission published a list of crimes that could result in as much as year-long prison sentence and they include: 'intimidating or bribing" IHEC "staff or voters" as does using force or threats to interfere in the provincial elections. Kim Gamel (AP) reports that other 'laws' are being pressed. Specifically the puppet government has issued a 14-page conduct code for reporters -- Iraqi and foreign -- that they will need to sign "in exchange for permission to attend this month's provincial elections, riaisng concerns among media analysts that independent coverage could be undermined."
Yesterday the Security Council of the United Nations heard from Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Below are his remarks specifically on Iraq:
Mr. President, in Iraq with the improved security situtation, UNHCR is working hard to help the government create appropriate conditions for the voluntary return and sustainable integration of refugees and internally displaced; however, there is a long way to go. Voluntary return must take place in safety and dignity and it is therefore imperative that states preserve the asylum space that they have made available to Iraqi refugees throughout the past five years in the region and beyond. More than 2 million Iraqis are still hosted mainly by Jordan and Syria in a very generous way and a similar number remains displaced inside the country. I call on the world's most prosperous states to offer full support to those countries and organizations that are bearing the brunt of the Iraqi exodus -- both by means of material assistance and through the expended provision of resettlement opportunities to those vulnerable Iraqis for whom voluntary repatriation will not be a viable option. To prepare for returns, we redeployed UNHCR's representative in Iraq from Amman [Jordan] to Baghdad in March of last . . . year. And we have also established an international presence in Erbil, Mosul and Basra. We have national staff in eleven of the country's governorates and plan to further expand our presence and activities in Iraq as the evolving security environment permits. Beyond security, sustainable return to Iraq will require effective action in the areas of property restitution or property compensation for those unable to go back to their places of orign and full and equitable access to welfare services and public distribution systems.
Yesterday's snapshot also included this: "As Stevie Nicks once sang, 'No one ever leaves, every one stays, close til the fire fades' ('Fireflies,' written by Nicks, on Fleetwood Mac Live). Sidebar: Stevie joins bandmates Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Lindsey Buckingham for the group's first tour which kicks off March 1st in Pittsburgh (March tour dates are up at Fleetwood Mac's site)." That should have been "first tour in five years." My apologies. Public broadcasting notes. Starting with public radio, WBAI on Sunday and Monday offers:
Sunday, January 11, 11am-noon
THE NEXT HOUR
Actor/author/raconteur Malachy McCourt holds forth on issues of
church, art, state.
Monday, January 12, 2-3pm
CAT RADIO CAFE
Producer and Artistic Director Mark Russell on "Under the Radar," a
spectacular international theater festival now in its 5th season;
author/artist Wafaa Bilal on "Shoot an Iraqi: Art, Life and Resistance
Under the Gun," his book about an interactive performance piece; and
pianist/composer Andrew Shapiro on upcoming performances and his new
recording of "Numbers, Colors and People," works for solo piano
merging classical and pop sensibilities. Hosted by Janet Coleman and
Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FM
Streaming live at WBAI
Archived at Cat Radio Cafe
Public television finds NOW on PBS exploring global warming's impact on ocean currents and sea chemistry as they travel "deep into the oceans with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) with help from other researchers for a first hand look at this stunning sea change, and what we can do about." That begins airing on most PBS stations tonight as does Washington Week (check local listings for both) which finds Gwen and the gas bags exploring few topics but pretending they are many. Look for lots of bad puns and what doesn't even qualify as a one-liner. John Harwood (NYT, CNBC) shows up without his twin (John Dickerson), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Mark Mazzetti (NYT) will attempt to grapple with topics (and what passes for topics) while Jeanne Cummings grapples with the English language (stands in front of, stands behind -- it's all so confusing for Jeanne).
And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, 60 Minutes:
The Price Of Oil
The historic swings in oil prices last year were the result of financial speculation from Wall Street and not supply and demand, several sources from the financial and oil communities tell Steve Kroft. | Watch Video
CBS News correspondent David Martin profiles Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.
Wyclef Jean immigrated to the U.S. as a child and grew up to live the American dream as a millionaire rock star. He's now using his extraordinary talents and wealth to help his native Haiti. Scott Pelley reports.
60 Minutes, this Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update:
Obama And The Economy
President-elect Barack Obama is promoting his economic stimulus plan on Thursday in a speech at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Scott Pelley spoke with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson about the economic crisis in October. | Watch Video
Finally, the Illinois Supreme Court stuck with the law. Reuters reports that they have ruled Senator Roland Burris does not need Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to sign off on his appointment to the Senate ("The Illinois Supreme Court on Friday ruled Democrat Roland Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate valid . . .") Joe Barrett (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin says a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court over the credentials of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's Senate appointee has created an impasse and he urged that the filling of Mr. Obama's seat be put on hold pending the outcome of the state senate trial of Mr. Blagojevich." Durbin's disgracing himself in a way he hasn't since his teary-eyed water works after he got smacked down for telling the truth about Guantanamo.
Reuters reports he has stated that a new governor must be sworn in (that would be the Lt. Governor if Rod Blagojevich steps down) and a new appointment made. That's not how it works. This change the line every time you don't like the way the law is only adds fuel to the charges of racism. Roland Burris needs to be seated and Dick Durbin needs to learn what is and is not his business. (Or else the nation will suffer through many more of his weepy apologies.)