Friday, February 06, 2009

'Iraq Can Wait,' cries Barack

In case you missed it, I'm not a Barack cheerleader. Nor, if another Democrat or Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney, were in the post, would I be a cheerleader for a presidency. The president works for you, not the other way around. JFK's nonsense of "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" was nothing but hogwash intended to distract the people who should have, in fact, been asking, "What is our country doing? What are you authorizing? What are you keeping from us?" I toss all that out there for the drive-bys who may think I'm some sort of Barack enabler or apologist. Nancy A. Youssef's "Military Iraq withdrawal plans include 19-, 23-month options" (McClatchy Newspapers) argues that the military commanders preparing 19 and 23 month 'withdrawal' options is "the first indication that the Obama administration may be willing to abandon a campaign promise of a 16-month withdrawal." Really?

No, I'm not debating the "first indication" -- although we could. There have been many indications. I'm stating that they were asked to prepare multiple options and they did. And that's not even news -- although the press has largely elected to ignore that request. But that Barack would ask for multiple options does not in and of itself indicate that he may be willing to break a 'promise.'

Youssef never gets around to spelling out what the 'promise' is which is why so many of us who see Barack as the Corporatist War Hawk that he is can anticipate the reaction when the uninformed supporters who flocked to him discover 'withdrawal' is not withdrawl. It is "combat" troops only. The White House unofficially says the number left behind would be approximately 70,000. That's not withdrawal.

There is something alarming in the story, a detail that Youssef could have hung the story around and said, "This is an indication." She lets that reality just slide by. See if you can catch it:

. . .The commanders and Crocker didn't recommend an option, but instead spelled out the pros and cons of each timetable.
Obama is likely to announce his strategy for Iraq by mid-March, a senior administration official told McClatchy.
Aides to Obama who were involved in the policy review stressed that the president has made no decisions. . . .

"Obama is likely to announce his strategy for Iraq by mid-March, a senior administration official told McClatchy." That's your indication. That's the disturbing moment.

Let's dip a toe into Hopey Changey:

Iraq Image

Blueprint for Change -- Iraq

Three Facts about Barack Obama and Iraq

  • Barack Obama will responsibly end the war in Iraq:

    Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased.

  • Encourage political accommodation:

    Obama and Biden will press Iraq's leaders to take responsibility for their future and to substantially spend their oil revenues on their own reconstruction.

  • Increase stability in Iraq and the region:

    Obama and Biden will launch an aggressive diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive compact on the stability of Iraq and the region. They also will address Iraq's refugee crisis.

See the problem Nancy Youssef misses? Three facts -- Hopey Changey used "facts". And what did they promise? "Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased." Mid-March? Mid-March is "immediately upon taking office"? Immediately upon taking office was when Barack was sworn in. That was last month. It's February. And a White House source is telling McClatchy it will be mid-March before anything's announced. Another case where "Barack kicks the can" and here he's promised "immediately upon taking office". (I have no idea who Nancy Youssef spoke to and this morning I'm being told that is not correct and that Barack will be making an announcement "this month" on Iraq. He may or he may not. But Youssef didn't make up that source. Even if an announcement is made this month, as two insisted this morning, the fact that some White House insider would tell Youssef it wouldn't be until mid-March goes to how unimportant Iraq is in the Obama White House.)

The photo above is of Nawal Al Samarrai whom Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite Network reports has resigned as the Minister of Women's Affairs over the fact that her job is for-show and contains no real power to improve anything. Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Katie Nguyen report Reuters exclusive interview with al-Samarai:

Iraq's minister of women's affairs resigned on Thursday in protest at a lack of resources to cope with "an army of widows, unemployed, oppressed and detained women" after years of sectarian warfare.
Nawal al-Samarai said her status as a secretary of state and not a full minister reflected the low emphasis given by the government to the plight of women in Iraq, once one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East for women's rights.
"This ministry with its current title cannot cope with the needs of Iraqi women," said Samarai, who was appointed in July.

The Times of India adds, "Samarrai, who took office in July 2008 and had recently chaired two committees on improving the conditions of women and another on the breast cancer, said she would seek a position where she could actually help women. "

We last noted war resister Andre Shepherd in Wednesday's snapshot. That was the day he was making his case for asylum to Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Andy Eckardt (NBC News) offers a strong report on Andre:

The ring tone on Shepherd‘s mobile phone is James Brown singing "I feel good. I knew that I would," and he sounds just as enthusiastic and confident about his asylum case when he answers questions from journalists.
"When I enlisted in 2004 and later was sent to Iraq, I believed I was doing the right thing," he said. "But then, like other comrades around me, I started questioning why we were there and what we were fighting for."
Shepherd was not directly involved in combat missions during his deployment to Iraq. As part of the "attack and lift unit" of the 412th Aviation Support Battalion, Shepherd’s mission was to repair and maintain AH-64 Apache helicopters.
"My job was harmless until I factored in the amount of death and destruction those helicopters caused to civilians every day," Shepherd said.
"The government made us believe we would be welcomed as heroes in Iraq, but we saw nothing but hostility from the Iraqis that came to work for us, they wanted to kill us," Shepherd said.
His base outside of Tikrit was shelled almost every night, which he said also left him unsettled.
"It is not the military itself that is bad," Shepherd said. "In fact, our unit did a lot of good things, giving schools books and bringing clothes to children." Those actions helped ease his conscience a bit, but he still questioned whether the Iraqis would have needed the aid if the United States had not invaded Iraq in the first place.

An action begins today. It will be noted in the snapshot but the snapshot will go up long after the action starts. Military Families Speak Out explains:

Come to Washington February 6-9 to demand "The Change WE Need"
President Elect Obama opposed the war in Iraq before it started, calling it a "dumb war." But he and his advisors have also said that they plan to spread the return of combat troops from that "dumb war" out over sixteen months and to keep tens of thousands of other troops on the ground in Iraq indefinitely.
So from February 6-9, MFSO will be traveling to Washington to bring the new President and new Congress the message that it is long past time to bring all our troops home from Iraq. The four days of events will include:
* A teach-in featuring the voices of military families, veterans, and Iraqis, explaining the need for an immediate and complete end to the war in Iraq -- and the human impacts of continuing the occupation. Friday, February 6 from Noon - 3:00 p.m. at Mott House, 122 Maryland Avenue.
* A solemn procession from Arlington National Cemetary to the White House beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, February 7. Meet at the front gate of the cemetery right outside the exit of the Arlington Metro stop. Please arrive early.
* A "Meet and Greet" and Legislative Briefing from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, February 8 at the Mariott Metro Center.
* Lobbying members of Congress to end the war in Iraq. Meet in the cafeteria of the Rayburn House Office Building at 9:00 a.m. Monday, February 9.

The teach-in takes place this afternoon. Actions continue through Monday.

In the New York Times, Lizette Alvarez' "Army Data Show Rise in Number of Suicides" covers the news that a record number of US soldiers in the Army committed suicide last month (it may be as high as 24, Alvarez reports, 7 are confirmed and another 17 are still being examined): "If confirmed, the suicide count for last month would exceed those killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during the same period. In January 2008, five soldiers committed suicide."

Gen Peter Chiarelli is quoted stating, "Each of these losses is a personal tragedy that is felt throughout the Army family. The trend and trajectory seen in January further heightens the seriousness and urgency that all of us must have in preventing suicides." If you mean your words, do something. If not, stop boring us. The military's had more than enough time to notice the suicides and to do something about it. It's done nothing other than a few pamphlets and a 1-800 number. The change has to come from the top in the military because it is a top-down command. Chiarelli wants to change the culture? Great. Otherwise, it's just him using a tragedy to look sympathetic. And if that's harsh, it's harsh that so many suicides have repeatedly taken place and the military has ignored the problem. Or lied about it. It wasn't all that long ago CBS News was catching the VA lying about the number of suicides.

This week (tonight on most PBS stations) NOW on PBS offers:

Is there a solution to the foreclosure mess that's destroying communities?
Across the country, cities are in crisis because of the fallout from the mortgage mess -- property taxes are way down, and abandoned homes are bringing down property values, inviting crime, and draining government coffers. Neighborhoods are being destroyed. Yet the federal bailout money is not going directly to desperate communities and homeowners, but to local and national banks.
This week, NOW investigates the innovative way some cities are fighting back. The city of Memphis, Tennessee is suing major national lenders and banks for deceptive and discriminatory lending practices in an effort to recoup the cost of the financial mess. Other cities suing lenders for their role in the mortgage mess include Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Birmingham.
With desperation climbing alongside debt, can the strategy help these blighted parts of America?

Washington Week also begins airing tonight on most PBS stations and joining Gwen this installment is Ceci Connolly (Washington Post), Charles Babington (AP), Michael Duffy (Time magazine) and Jackie Calmes (New York Times). And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:

Saving Flight 1549
Hero pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and his flight crew together reveal for the first time the sights, sounds and physical sensations they experienced as they pulled off an incredible water landing last month, saving the lives of all 155 people aboard US Airways Flight 1549. Katie Couric reports. (This is an extra-length story. | Watch Video
The British rock group that has taken its place among the most popular bands in the world gives 60 Minutes a rare look inside its world that includes a candid interview with frontman Chris Martin. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video
60 Minutes, Sunday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
60 Minutes Update
Beckham Leaving The L.A. Galaxy?
David Beckham wants to leave the Los Angeles Galaxy and stay with AC Milan after his loan to the Italian club is scheduled to end next month. The 33-year-old English midfielder announced his intentions Wednesday after playing in Milan's 2-2 exhibition tie at Glasgow Rangers. Beckham is about two years into a $32.5 million, five-year contract with Major League Soccer. In March 2008, CNN's Anderson Cooper profiled Beckham for 60 Minutes, discussing his widely publicized move to Los Angeles. | Video

And a friend at NPR asks that I note the following and point out that the live concert series continues:

Live Friday: Dr. Dog In Concert

Listen Online At Noon ET

Dr. Dog 300
courtesy of the artist

Dr. Dog.

WXPN, February 5, 2009 - Filtering classic rock and pop hooks through a willfully lo-fi aesthetic a la Pavement or Guided by Voices, Philadelphia's rapidly rising Dr. Dog sounds both timeless and immediate. Return to this space at noon ET Friday to hear Dr. Dog perform live in concert from WXPN and World Café Live in Philadelphia.

Formed in 1999 as a recording project for two members of the more traditional indie-rock band Raccoon, Dr. Dog became a full-time gig when Raccoon folded in the early '00s. Dr. Dog's first two records, 2001's Psychedelic Swamp and 2002's Toothbrush, were both self-released but failed to make an impact outside of the Philadelphia area. Still, the group's fortunes changed when My Morning Jacket's Jim James handpicked Dr. Dog to open for his band on its 2004 tour. Subsequently picked up by an indie label for 2005's Easy Beat, the group won raves for its fascinating combination of psychedelic pop hooks and Beach Boys-esque vocal harmonies.

As Dr. Dog's national reputation continues to grow -- its fifth album, Fate, was a critics' darling in 2008 -- the band remains true to its bouncy rock style, which mixes intricate harmonies with '60s pop beats. Dr. Dog wasn't afraid to come back with another concept album: This one is built around the titular theme of fate.

Related NPR Stories

NPR Music has many things worth streaming and a wonderful music archive. If you stream online and haven't checked it out, please make a point to. Streaming, it should be noted, includes not only audio but video from time to time. They have folders at the site for various artists so you can also search by your favorite artist and, chances are, find an interview or a concert for many of them. (Many, not all.)

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