Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, January 13, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, Peter Pace wants to share his final thoughts, Iraq makes noise about evicting squatters, Joe Biden continued his Iraq visit, and more.
Yesterday, Bully Boy showed up for the final without his Blue Book and naked.  Today General Peter Pace wanted to take a crack at getting in his final thoughts in the final days of the Bully Boy's administration.  Lolita C. Baldor (AP) quotes Pace declaring, "I certainly made some wrong estimates.  And I certainly made some recommendations that, if I could take them back and change them, I would."  Noted homophobe Pace was a far cry from his frolicking earlier days as he stood before an oil painting that drawfed him.  In June 2007, Isaiah featured Pace in "Bye-bye" as he quoted the outgoing Joint Cheifs of Staff Peter Pace from less than two years before (April 22, 2005) stating, "This is an incredible moment for me. It is both exhilirating and humbling. It's exhilirating because I have the opportunity, if confirmed by the Senate, to continue to serve this country. It's humbling because I know the challenges ahead are formidable."  Baldor notes that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld attended and she insists, "Both Pace and Rumsfeld were political casualties of the war, losing their jobs as the public became increasingly frustrated with the lack of progress in Iraq and the escalating troop deaths -- now numbering more than 4,200."  On the deaths -- the actual fatalities -- yesterday we noted the death of a US soldier outside Samarra. There was a second death announced late yesterday: "A Multi-National Force – West Marine died as the result of a non-combat related incident here [al Asad Airbase] Jan. 11. The Marine's name is being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the total number of US service members who have died in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4226. The total for the week thus far is 3 announced deaths.
Today the incoming US vice president, Joe Biden, continued his visit in Iraq.  AFP calls it "a trail-blazing visit" and notes that he met today with puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad before moving onto the oil-rich and disputed city of Kirkuk "where he met governor Abdul Rhaman Mustafa and his deputy Rakan Saeed al-Juburi." Timothy Williams (New York Times) notes bombings took place "a few hours before" Biden's arrival.  Al Jazeera observes, "Violence in Iraq has marred a visit by Joe Biden" and notes that "[d]espite the decreasing violence across the country, local police are still being targeted as they take over control of the provinces from US forces" and that continued today with at least two incidents involving attacks on police officers.  Brian Montopoli (CBS News) noted yesterday, "The visit was not officially announced."  Tim Cocks and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) quote al-Maliki stating, "Senator Joe Biden asserted the importance of cooperation . . . to implement the foreign troop withdrawal agreement signed by the two countries."  That would be the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement and that, if true, would be the same treaty Joe Biden loudly opposed throughout 2008, up to the November election.  The treaty extends the US presence to 2011 if both sides agree to exercise the two renewal options and do not alter the treaty.   Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) notes Biden met with Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, the day before and that Senator Linsey Graham was also on the trip to Iraq.  AP adds that Biden also met with "Vice President Adel Abdul Mehdi and Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih." Not listed but he also met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. AP does note that Graham and Biden had dinner with members of Delaware's National Guard including Beau Biden, the vice president-elect's oldest son who delivered a very moving speech nominating his father at the Democratic National Convention last August.
Meanwhile Baghdad residents have received news via e-mail: The price of electricity is going up.  A McClatchy Iraqi correspondent (Inside Iraq) reports, "Most of us in Iraq (Im talking about regular people not officials) have power for four hours a day and you can imagine the crises happening in every house.  There is a specific time for bathing and another time for washing the cloths.  Every single member in the family should follow the schedule.  Breaking the rules means destroying the system which leads the life of the family."  The rate increase comes at a time, as noted, when Iraq still can't count on electricity, when potable water is an issue ignored (until September and October roll around and the cholera outbreak returns), and many internal refugees remain without homes they can call their own.  Iraqi squatters have existed throughout the illegal war.  Some took over the homes of others or abandoned homes.  Others set up homes in abandoned Iraqi buildings.  That group was, in fact, encouraged by the US who gave the okay for it and allowed it to continue.  In the last few years, the puppet has tried to show how 'strong' he is by repeatedly cutting the rations Iraqis depend on and by repeatedly threatening to evict squatters.  An Al Jazeera video report from last July is here. Current context includes that the Ministry of Displacement and Migration does not have the funds for the housing projects they promised and so some construction has been delayed "until 2010". Despite that, IRIN reported last week, "The Iraqi government has decided to evict all people who have been squatting in government buildings or on government land since the 2003 US-led invasion" and quotes a government stating that the decision was made by the Iraqi Cabinet.  That would be al-Maliki's cabinet.  Yesterday they reported a move on the part of the Iraqi Parliament and NGOs to halt the planned evicitions until winter has ended.  IRIN quotes the Parliament's Displacement and Migration Committee's chair Abdul-Khaliq Zankana stating, "The law must prevail, but I do believe the best way to deal with this issue is to postpone the implementation until the middle of the year as it is winter now and we can't turn those people out onto the street.  This will affect the attendance of their children at school."
Meanwhile Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports that, as required by the Iraqi government of all foreigners, she took an AIDS test and she describes what she saw at al-Alwiya Hospital in Baghdad:
. . . it was immediately clear that there was minimal electricity.  The small entrance hall was dark and dirty, with steps zigzagging upstairs.  A couple of elevators on one wall appeard to have been out of action for a while.   
Gingerly climbing up the stairs to the third floor, I was told that the doctor who handles foreigners' blood was running late so "would I sit in the waiting room." 
This compromised a sorry line of chairs in the corridor.  A dustbin in one corner overlowed with empty cans of fizzy drink.  A thin meshing covered the windows, which hung open on rusty hinges, letting a cold draft.   
A tatty-looking poster warning people about the perils of smoking hung from one wall, while a couple of feet away a make-shift snack stall on a rickety table sold packets of cigarettes as well as piles of biscuits, sweets and nuts."
While Iraq's services and infrastructure remain largely non-existant the US did set up the thugs in Iraq the same way they went to the war lords in Afghanistan.  Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) reports on Nadhim Khalil, the thirty-year-old wonder-thug who was "on the losing side" (attacking the US) but has seen where the money is . . . for now and has set himself up as the war lore of Thuluyah: "His formula is simple: With God, guns and money, he is now the authority in town."  Shadid quotes him stating, "I'm sure the Americans will leave after a little while, and there's nothing I achieve by kililng them now.  I could kill them anytime, anywhere, and so what?"  The thug controls the town and waits.  To do what?  Who knows?  Shadid reports:
The elected city council can only watch and complain -- in whispers -- about a man they fear. The town's elders scoff at his age and pedigree, with a wayward glance.  
"My opinion?" asked Abdullah Jabbouri, a council member and former general. He paused, smiling a little sheepishly.
"Anyone who has absolute power becomes dangerous, even to himself," he said.
As US Senator Barbara Boxer noted of thugs on the US dime in a Foreign Relations Committee hearing last April, "You cannot count on them."  Or why the incoming vice president questioned these sudden 'allies'.  As Anna Badkhen (San Francisco Chronicle) pointed out, found, "Sen. Jospeh Biden, D-Del., said these U.S.-funded militias may one day 'turn their guns on us'."
Moving over to medical care.  Yesterday's snapshot noted, "The CBS Evening News reported (link has text and video) on PTSD December 26th and noted, 'There were 115 military suicides last year, and 93 through just August of this year'."  Suicide among the military is in the news today.  Starting with Marines and dropping back a bit to when Ann Scott Tyson (Washington Post) reported on the 2004 Marine suicide rate (reported Feb. 25, 2005) noting it had increased by 29%, that 31 Marines had taken their own lives and 83 more had tried to do so.  Tony Perry (Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond) reports there are 41 "possible or confirmed [Marine] suicides" for 2008.  As Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) points out, none of the 2008 numbers are final yet.  Zoroya tells Army combat soldier and Iraq War veteran Josh Barber's story of taking his own life because the "smell of death" couldn't be escaped and grieved over his PTSD and the military's being unable/unwilling to treat it.  Zoroya explains, "Marines and combat veterans who have killed themselves in recent years, at a time when the Pentagon has stretched deployments for combat troops to meet President Bush's security plans in Iraq. The Marine Corps reported 41 actual or suspected suicides in 2008, a 20% increase over 33 in 2007. In 2007, the Army counted 115 suicides, the most since tracking began in 1980. By October 2008, that record had been surpassed with 117 soldier suicides. Final numbers for 2008 have not been released. Suicides among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans doubled from 52 in 2004 to 110 in 2006, the latest statistics available, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)."  This comes as the Defense Dept and the Dept of Veterans Affairs is in the midst of their multi-day Department of Defense/Veterans Affairs Annual Suicide Prevention Conference in San Antonio (through the 15th).  Michael Tolzmann (Defense Media Activity) notes that Dr. Loree K. Sutton (Army Brig Gen) explained that "toxic leadership" creates stigmas "that can kill" such as when "[a]n Army staff sergeant who had lost Soldiers in the war zone was called a coward, a wimp and a wuss form a leader when he mentioned he might need psychological help."
Meanwhile Iraq War veteran Nathan Ryan Smith is AWOL in the US.  Scott Michael (ABC News) reports he is "charged with kidnapping, rape, arson and tampering with evidence."  Michael quotes a rape victim stating he allegedly told her, "I have killed several people in Iraq.  I'm crazy in the head, and if I get caught by police I will come looking for you and kill you."  Ian Demsky (Tacoma's News Tribune) reported last week that court records describe the police involvement beginning as follows:
Police responding to a missing persons report Jan. 1 found the woman they were looking for. Her body bore the signs of torture. Rope burns on her arms were "deep and distinct." She had scratches on her back and sharp red lines running across her chest. There was blood inside her coat and on her pants. 
The officers took her to Tacoma General Hospital. 
She told police she had been walking to the store when she noticed a silver pickup truck with a canopy pull into the parking lot behind her. A man got out and shouted for her to come to him. He then grabbed her and choked her unconscious.
She said she woke up in a strange room. She was naked and her arms and legs were bound with plastic zip-ties. She tried to free herself, but a male voice told her, "If you fight, you'll die."   
Her abductor held a butcher knife to her face and promised she'd go home if she cooperated. He picked her up by the ties and carried her to another room. She told police she saw Army patches in a windowsill.   
She said she was dropped onto a bed, gagged, sexually abused and raped. She told police she was tortured with a device hooked up to a battery.  
When the man was done, he let her get dressed. She said he told her he'd kill her and her family if she told anyone.
Turning to some of today's reported violence in Iraq . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad mortar attack that left seven people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded eight people and a Mosul roadside bombing that claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another wounded.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a police officer was "severely" injured in a Mosul shooting.

Reuters drops back to Monday to note 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
The London Review let itself be carried away by an uncharacteristic fit of optimism with the cover line of Patrick Cockburn's latest report on Iraq, 'America Surrenders' (LRB, 18 December 2008). There are nearly 150,000 US troops deployed throughout the country, and while they're perfectly content to let Iraqis do the killing for them (along the lines of Nixon's 'Vietnamisation' strategy), there's no telling when (or if) they'll leave. It's possible, of course, that the Status of Forces Agreement is being ignored in the US because it shows how little America has achieved for its efforts in Iraq. But the failure of the press to report the story fully may also reflect a sensible recognition that Iraq's real future is being written in the streets, not in parliament. How likely is it that SOFA won't end up being as useful a guide to Iraqi reality as Stalin's 1936 Constitution was to Soviet reality? That constitution, which remained in effect until 1977, was described as the most democratic in the world. It included universal direct suffrage and recognised an impressive range of social and economic rights -- and wasn't worth the paper it was written on.
Those late to the party on Patrick Cockburn's maniacal ravings can see The Cat's Blog here and here -- the latter of which notes:
As I wrote in my previous blog, the same day Counterpunch published P. Cockburn's article, Reuters reported, "Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years":
"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," Dabbagh said at a Pentagon press briefing.
But besides what this or that puppet might say, one needs just to stop the flow of propaganda and think; if the US didn't respect the UN Charter and international law when they invaded Iraq, they will certainly not respect any meaningless agreement signed by its own Quisling government. To focus on the SOFA is just another diversion; the US plan, far from being a "total defeat", as Cockburn writes, has been completely successful. Mission accomplished.
The official lib-left intelligentsia must continue its real job as gatekeeper of dissent; its audiences, the most aware, active and willing to stop their governments from continuing to perpetrate crimes against humanity for the sake of elites' profit and power, must be controlled through "friendly" propaganda. When Obama's war machine is preparing to use all its bestial might against the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and with an economic and financial crisis without precedent hitting millions of people, the public opinion in the West needs to be tamed once again. The eunuchs have gladly renounced to their organs in change of a little place at the table of the gods, or maybe they are just happy for some falling crumbs.
eunuchs have gladly renounced to their organs in change of a little place at the table of the gods, or maybe they are just happy for some falling crumbs.
You can also refer to this site's December 11th "Iraq snapshot" and "I Hate The War" for more on Cockburn's fevered prose. 
In US political news, Brian Montopoli (CBS News) notes Senator "Roland Burris will likely be sworn into the U.S. Senate sometime Thursday afternoon, reports CBS News' John Nolen."
In other news, The Women on the Web score an exclusive interview with singer and songwriter Phoebe Snow:
wOw: You and I spoke very briefly between Christmas and New Year's. You were very upset because you missed your daughter, Valerie, who died last year. How are you feeling now, in the New Year?

Phoebe: Well, let's just say I've shifted into neutral. I have a lot of work to do. You know, she was my only child and we had a very unusual, very unique relationship. We lived together for 31 years. I'm very forthcoming about this -- I want people to know about her now, because I sort of kept all this under wraps for most of the time that she was alive. She was a victim of multiple birth injuries. Her brain damage was caused by the birth, by the doctor. There was a gigantic medical malpractice suit that came to trial. It took 17 years to come to trial. I don't want to go there.
wOw: I understand.

Phoebe: Basically her original prognosis was that she would live in a persistent vegetative state -- although they didn't use those words back then -- that she wouldn't be conscious, fully, because she had been so terribly brain damaged that she would probably expire sometime around her first birthday, if even that long. And she lived to be 31 years old. I instantly, and forever, rejected the idea that she would live in any other type of place except with me.

wOw: That's rough, Phoebe.

Phoebe: And for most of this experience I was a single parent. She did live with me for 31 years. And we were ... anyone who knows us will validate this -- we were madly in love with each other. And, you know, her death had nothing to do with any of her other pre-existing medical conditions. She ... I don't want to talk about that right now. But she died very suddenly, very unexpectedly. It was the worst curveball that life has ever thrown me. And, you know, I'm shattered. I'm absolutely shattered. But I'm putting the pieces back together little by little.
Disclosure, I know Phoebe (and many of the women who make up "The Women of the Web").  Recommendation, read the article and get Phoebe's new CD Live.